Credit

Acts 12:18-24, “18In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.
Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while. 20He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him. Having secured the support of Blastus, a trusted personal servant of the king, they asked for peace, because they depended on the king’s country for their food supply.
 21On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. 22They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” 23Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.

 24But the word of God continued to increase and spread.”

Herod and his family were among the many bad guys of the New Testament. As the ruling family in Jesus’ neighborhood, they played no small part in his trial. They managed to kill John the Baptist. The day before, Peter had miraculously escaped imprisonment.

Still, there were matters of state to attend to. While negociating a peace agreement between him, Tyre, and Sidon, Herod gave a rousing speech. The sort of speech that stirred up everybody. If only there was a person today who gave such rousing speeches to compare him to… At any rate, the people were so impressed they shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.”

Had the ever humble Herod corrected the people, he might have lived longer to rule even more unjustly. However, he let it go to his head. He didn’t praise God. God smote him, to use an Old Testament term.

I wanted to point out the death of Good Old Herod to say this, because he let people think he could speak like a god, God destroyed him. I know some religions out there say “Follow our teachings and you’ll become a god!” Really, is there much difference? Is it possible that in a little while its followers will be destroyed? I know that some people have declared themselves as incarnations of Jesus Christ. They too, will not escape their fate. Finally, there will be one man who will declare himself over anything and everything that is called God (and even any other gods people worship). He will appear to have the power to back up his claims and he will kill all those who refuse to follow him. His destruction is as certain as his rule is short.

Considering, the best thing to do is to give credit where it’s due.

Vision Check-Up

2 Peter 1:5-9, “5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.”

Ineffective: 1 – not producing an intended effect, 2 – not capable of performing efficiently or as expected
Unproductive: 1 – not productive, as in idle, 2 – (Economics) Adding nothing to exchangeable value.
Nearsighted: 1 – able to see near things more clearly than distant ones
Blind: 1 – unable or failing to see

I think a case can be made that American Christians are blind, or at the very least, nearsighted. How many Christians do you know that fit the description of good, knowledgeable, self-controlled, perserverers, godly, kind, and lovers? How many do you know fit only a portion of that description? Even worse is that there are people out there who have forgotten that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

I wonder if Christians are supposed to develop these traits as a result of the respect we have for our Holy God. Somewhere the salvation thing was presented as “Become a Christian and then you’re life will be alright.” If anything, becoming a Christian means ruining your life.

Like Paul, as a Pharisee, he was trained by the best to be the best. Then He me Jesus, was arrested, stoned, run out of town, flogged, etc. Most of the disciples of Jesus were martyred. For generations, being a Christian means risking social stature, possessions, and your very life. Believing in Jesus had always been more important. When the message changed, John the Baptists admonition to “show fruit in keeping with repentance…” fell by the wayside. That’s too bad too, after all, it is still in the Bible and it still applies to us, whether or not it’s still taught in church.

Yarn

(I caught an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies yesterday where it was revealed that Jed likes to say, “Up at five you’re sure to thrive. Wait til six you’re in a fix.” I was definately up before six this morning, walking the dog for the fifth or sixth time before sun-up. In case I haven’t mentioned, she’s an American Boxer and she’s very vigilant about protecting her people. I’ve been watching Stargate SG-1 from season 1 and I haven’t gotten very far. Probably the hardest thing about this move is grasping the complexities of the new time zones. When we moved to Indiana, we lived in an area where there was no time zone until we voted in a new governor. Short lived as the joy of not resetting clocks was, figuring out whether people mean “fast time” or “slow time” can be frustrating down here.)

I was attending the first foreign language and culture fair sponsored at school when it happened. You see, the students operated the booths for the three languages taught, French, German, and Spanish. I hardly recall what booth was my responsibility, but I do remember that the booth next to mine was all about making Ojos de Dios, or God’s Eyes. One student had failed to carefully keep the yarn seperate. Forunately my knot-untying experience proved useful and I got started right away. As the students explained to one family about the meaning of the colors and gave a demonstration while the kids proceeded to make their own eyes, the man tried to atribute the colors to things Christian. He was stuck on teal. I suggested that it should represent living water – like the story of the woman at the well. The man said, “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?” Turns out he was the pastor of a local church.

I wonder if his church ever sang, “They will know that we are Christians by our love…”

How did somebody else peg you for a Christian?

Bitter and Sweet

(It seemed good to us to turn in our ’99 Dodge Durango as a prospect for the Cash for Clunkers program. While still living up in the north, we visited the local Chevy dealership. The young car salesman was too talkative to the utter frustration of my parents who then and there decided to wait until after the move to look into a new car. Our kinfolk in the south had a new car and they told us of a particular dealership that might be more along the lines of what we were looking for. So the parentals made the sixty mile drive to check things out. When all was said and done, we ended up getting a brand new 2009 Chevy Impala. Thanks to a few vouchers, it all added up to paying less than $2000 dollars for the vehicle, most of which was the taxes, much to the sasleman’s dismay.)

Starlight mints: My grandfather kept them in a jar on the dinning room table. Usually. Also, a favorite fast-food joint tends to give them out to burger-buying customers.

Chocolate-covered creamy mints: When I was a little kid, my dad’s lung collapsed – not for the first time, I might add – my aunt told me that these were among his favorite candies as she bought some for him. We were at a farmer’s market in the capitol.

Mini-Reeses Peanut Butter Cups: Probably the one candy that is least safe in this house. All of us have managed to make them dissapear rather quickly.

Are there any candy-related memories you’re willing to share?

Open Door Policy

Luke 13:22-30, “22Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
   He said to them, 24″Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
      “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

 26″Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

 27″But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

 28″There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.””

An overwhelming majority of Americans consider themselves to be Christians. Thousands of churches have sprung up in the countryside and many more have taken root in the cities. In the above passage, Jesus was talking to a Jew. The Jews were the chosen people who could go as wrong as possible, but could never cross God in such a way they’d be off the list. Somehow, America would like to think that because we are a majority who believe in God, we’re on his good side as well. If Jesus was saying that not every individual Jew would be saved on the merit of being a Jew, does that also mean that Americans as a whole must ask themselves if they’ll be saved on their own merit? We might be the Westerners who get a seat at God’s table, but you must be sure that your seat is reserved now.

Paul warned us in Acts 20:28-31, “28Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”

Who could fit that bill? Is there any Christian who seems to have his own following by preaching his own mix of scripture? Do you know anybody who reads all his/her books and seems to ignore the Bible? The point is that despite our massive numbers, Christians aren’t doing the sort of things that first-century Christians managed to get done. We’re not giving so much it frustrates the efforts of the government officials. At this rate, we’re not going to win entire empires to Christianity in the next few hundred years. Either the core beliefs of Christianity have changed, or the numbers of core believers are much fewer than expected.

Good thing that we weren’t only warned about these wolves, but we were told how to identify them. We’ll know them by their fruit. Know any religious leaders in the Christian circle who have been caught acting un-Christian? Furthermore, we’re told not to take stock in anybody who denies that Jesus was God or that He came in the flesh. I’m not saying that every Christian isn’t saved, but a fair number of them are following after things other than Christ. Let us not forget Jesus’ own (paraphrased) words: “It doesn’t matter how many get saved, it matters how many make it through the narrow door.”

Candid Christianity

The vast majority of my blog entries pertain to Bibical Christianity. Imagine my surprise to find a surplus of blogs about religion in general and involving Christianity specifically. I’ve never been much of one to talk about a thing when its a fad. After all, what fads have lasted over the long term? At any rate, an unknown blog about a topic doesn’t carry much weight one way or the other.

I was told that if you told others about the whys of your belief, you know – your story, that it would resonate with people a whole lot better than pulling out verses that condemn them for being themselves. I’ve made no secret that part of my story. God took me in when others rejected me. Over time, I went over those big churchy words, sometimes more than once. If I ever stayed away from a topic it was because I didn’t understand much of it. Better to not say and not know than to say something and ruin the facts or, worse yet, contradict the truth.

One thing eludes me. If you dislike a person, you go out of your way avoid them. If you dislike a religion, you vocally put down its adherents and make fun of its core beliefs. Why is there such hatred? What gives you permission to malign people for disagreeing with you? In fact, Jesus told the disciples that if there was a town that was not receptive to their message, they ought to shake off the dust of that place and go on their way, allowing them to be responsible for their own fate. Ultimately, you are responsible for your own fate, wheather or not you believe as Christians do.

Christians, you’ve probably heard of a few organizations or groups whose sole purpose is to oppose the sorts of things you believe. Your responsility is to pray for them. Not to pray for their failure, not to pray that they’ll suddenly fall ill or drop dead, but to pray that because of your steadfast love for God they might be won over. If you believe as I do that God’s will transcends our understanding, then you well know that some people out there who are not now Christians will eventually become Christians, not so much because of you, but because of God’s love for them even now. Do you think that God loved Saul any less while he was involved in the stoning of Stephen than when he was converted? Do you think that God loves those who rail against him any less?

The Bible is the sort of book people will either love or hate. There’s a reason why it calls itself a double-edged sword. (Not so much itself, but God’s words tend to cut people to the heart.) It’s the history of the Jewish people and the story of the founding of Christianity. A lot of people had a hand in it one way or the other, but there was the same God behind it all. What God said, he meant. To whom God spoke, is as significant as what he said. And as far as Stargate SG-1 is concerned, the belief in God is as important as whether or not He exists.

Four years and counting

(I’ve spent the last few days helping to clean out the house in preparation for putting it on the market. I haven’t had much choice but to eat out, but I’ve been careful as to the food I eat. I’ve had quite a few apple dippers/slices with caramel sauce, so I hope I’ve minimized the damage. Jericho has been more or less my responsibility, but we get along so well he hasn’t been any trouble. After managing to thoroughly clean four bedrooms, two bathrooms, two living rooms, the kitchen/dining room, and the pantry, we were dismayed to discover that the one person whose responsibility was the garage didn’t manage to get it done. We spent the Sunday at our usual church. The pastor talked about God’s plans being like a game of chess, a move here, a move there, overall capturing the enemy king. You will either be instructed to move about or to wait. Waiting does not mean no, it just means “not right now”.)

I failed to mark the occassion of another whole year spent here, forgive me. I have spent four whole years as a member blogging almost daily with the exception of Sundays and any day the computer is out of commission. My last few weeks have been wrapped up in the process of moving. Still, four years. In that amount of time you could get an education that makes you knowledgeable, but you won’t be an expert until you have a few years of wisdom or so. I can’t tell you if the past year was overly successful. Still, I would like to think that much of my knowledge of the Bible has come from my looking up verses to discuss.

Among my most often seen posts:
http://theunmaskedavenger.xanga.com/629804467/iesous-christos-theou-huios-soter/?
http://theunmaskedavenger.xanga.com/623095902/nicodemus-no-longer-in-the-dark/?

Among my favorite series are:
The Boardroom: which was a successful attempt at something quite different from the usual
Worldview 101/OT Minor Prophets/Revelation Review: Which was really getting into the Word

I love that people from all over the States can get a glimpse of information that may be hard to find or inspiration to teach at their own churches. I’m thrilled that people the world over can get some Biblical truth in their life that may not be easily achieved in their day-to-day hustle-and-bustle. That said, I’ve lost some regulars recently. Blogging is a bumpy road with its ups and downs. This is more of a down for me, but it wouldn’t be the first time over these past few years I’ve sped into the valley. At least, it isn’t a roller coaster that always ends up where you begin just to go through it all again and again.

Four years. I’ve learned alot, but there’s still much more to learn.