Monthly Archives: July 2015

Data vs The Work of God

I recently received a call from a research group asking questions about discipleship. I suspected the underlying purpose was for the sake of marketing. I decided to participate, just to see if I could insert something edifying into the conversation. The questions were involved and thorough. The phone conversation took quite some time.

One reason for this research has to do with marketing for the sake of finding a sellable product. Making money would be the objective in this case. Another reason could have to do with trying to find an effective way to enhance the church, an altruistic motive. In summation, we have two reasons: 1. making money, 2. finding an effective way to enhance the church. The two overlap when the need to make a profit intertwines with spiritual ideals. Neither are right because they end up subordinating the Scriptures to the product of man’s wisdom, whether for profit, altruism, or both. As a result, the method of man is glorified rather than the wisdom of God.

God Himself has given the church what is needed for its work and sustenance. Here is a description of God’s objective for the church:

“to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him” (Ephesians 3:10-12).

His wisdom is made known by His people, the church. The apostles of Jesus Christ and the prophets are in the church’s foundation. God used them to establish the scriptures of the New Testament. The church is ruled by Christ. He has accomplished God’s eternal purpose for the sake of the church, and through the church He carries it out. Jesus Christ fuels the life of every member: “we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.” This is boldness and access to God, the giver of life and purpose. It is the only way we can realize our own potential and do our work in the church.

The apostle prayed

“that He [God] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:16-17).

In practical terms, “strengthened with might” is a matter of becoming godlier in all attributes of life; our thinking, perception, self-control, habits, and overall behavior. This fruit of faith comes through trusting God. We either apply ourselves to it, or we do not.

What God gives has no place for religious actuaries. Who can measure your life? The formulas for success are not measured by data accumulation derived from questionnaires. (Data which is then reconstructed into a product and sold for the churches’ success.) These are the devices of man’s wisdom. If there is any accounting, let it be upon each of us individually to examine ourselves in the light of Jesus Christ. The only way we can be assured of the light is to go to the Bible. When we are convicted by the good example in a member of Christ, we learn because the Bible provides the standard of measurement. This is a work of faith for which we are responsible.

To me, it seems that the programs of man appeal to pride. This is done through humiliation, to make the soul feel puny and meager. In order to better do “the work of Christ” one has to buy the product and get with the program. This appeals to our pride; “Is your church growing as it should?” “What can you do to make it better?” “When was the last time you . . . ?” Who are they to ask such questions? If we allow it, these questions can cut at the very heart of what God wants cultivated: humility. Humility is a genuine diminution of our standing before God. Jesus will commend souls such as these:

“Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?” (Matthew 25:37-39).

These are not people remunerating their successes. Jesus depicted the faithful as a people concerned about their own adequacy before God. On the other hand, the programs of man tend to offer the promise of a “well done” for the here and now.

The promises of packaged programs are many: increased membership, team development, and effective leadership. Of course, these things are packaged with the name of Jesus and His church, and are constituted as Bible based, Spirit filled, loving, whatever . . . all packaged and prepared for our use. These things do come with a price. What do we lose in the payment? We lose the simplicity and beauty of what God has offered.

On the other hand, the scriptures have a way of humbling us to lift up our heads in hope. They point to high expectations given from our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

“That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).

These high expectations are humbling because they seem so far beyond us. Yet they are so ennobling because they show how deeply God loves us. It points to what we are becoming through faith, the product of His creation.

Let us not look to man for the hope of what we might fulfill. Let us look to God.

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

~ Louis Garbi

Dinosaurs in the Bible

The biblical description of the origin of the universe has several significant implications, one of them being that dinosaurs and humans co-existed. In fact, the Bible explicitly says humans and all land-dwelling creatures (including dinosaurs) were created on the same day (Genesis 1:24-31). While not the most important lesson learned from the first chapter of Genesis, discussions like this are still essential in the larger conversation on the origin of earth and the credibility of the Word of God. All this leads to the inevitable question: “Why doesn’t the Bible talk about dinosaurs?” In fact, the Bible does speak of dinosaurs, perhaps more often than we might imagine.

BEHEMOTH AND LEVIATHAN

The references in the book of Job to these two magnificent creatures should be compelling evidence in itself. God describes these giants in Job 40 and 41. The creature he names behemoth is called “first of the ways of God.” He is the greatest. He eats grass like an ox (40:15), yet no one dares disturb him (40:23). His power is evident in the strength of his muscle and bones. He has a tail that he moves like a cedar tree (40:16-18). Leviathan is equally impressive and unlike any creature we might lay eyes on today. He is violent and untamable. He is unaffected by snares, hooks, and harpoons (41:1-7). To lay a hand on him is regrettable (41:8). The scales of his skin cannot be penetrated by any of man’s devices. He blows fire from his nostrils (41:19).

These were real, terrifying creatures. No one could tame them. Their size and proportions were in themselves intimidating. What was behemoth? A hippopotamus? An elephant? What was leviathan? An alligator? Unfortunately, these modern creatures just don’t fit the bill. Not even close. Even if we allow for significant poetic hyperbole, we still have no reasonable explanation for the descriptions of these beasts. What modern creature could appropriately be described as breathing fire from its mouth? The fact that God is describing two species of dinosaur is the easiest and most obvious explanation.

TANNIYN: The Hebrew Word for Dinosaur?

If behemoth and leviathan aren’t enough for you, here is another tantalizing idea. The ancient Hebrew language might have had a word for dinosaur: “TANNIYN” (Strong’s #08577). The noun tanniyn is not well defined, but in the Bible it is used to describe a variety of creatures that otherwise would not seem to have much in common. Consider the uses of this word in the following scriptures.

Genesis 1:21: “So God created great sea creatures (tanniyn) and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”

Exodus 7:9: “When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Show a miracle for yourselves,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your rod and cast it before Pharaoh, and let it become a serpent (tanniyn).’” (see also Exodus 7:10, 12)

Deuteronomy 32:33: Concerning the unfaithfulness of Israel, “Their wine is the poison of serpents (tanniyn), And the cruel venom of cobras.”

Psalm 74:13: “You divided the sea by Your strength; You broke the heads of the sea serpents (tanniyn) in the waters.”

Isaiah 27:1: “In that day the LORD with His severe sword, great and strong, Will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan that twisted serpent; And He will slay the reptile (tanniyn) that is in the sea.”

Jeremiah 9:11: “I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a den of jackals (tanniyn). I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without an inhabitant.”

Jeremiah 14:6: “And the wild donkeys stood in the desolate heights; They sniffed at the wind like jackals (tanniyn); Their eyes failed because there was no grass.”

Micah 1:8: “Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked; I will make a wailing like the jackals (tanniyn) And a mourning like the ostriches.”

The single noun is used to describe a diverse set of animals: monstrous sea-creature, snake-like sea creatures, land-dwelling wailing animals, a land-dwelling venomous snake-like creature, and in Isaiah 27:1, leviathan is actually called a tanniyn.

As evidenced above, the true definition of the word tanniyn has been evading translators for centuries. Older translations, such as the KJV and even the Septuagint, simply translate the word “dragon”. Newer translations do not even attempt consistency and just render the word as some modern animal that fits the immediate context, such as jackal, serpent, whale, etc. Despite the confusion ushered in by modern translators, a tanniyn is not a specific creature but is a type of creature. How else could the term apply to animals that are both giant and small, marine and terrestrial, snake-like and wailing? What class of creatures could all be marked by these descriptions? Dinosaurs.

The case is not at all closed on the meaning of tanniyn, but the evidence certainly suggests that we might be missing something in our English Bibles. At a minimum, the use of the word throughout the Old Testament allows for the not-so-surprising possibility that the Bible actually makes numerous references to a group of creatures that we know today as dinosaurs.

~ Tad Morris

Who Sinned?

In the city of Jerusalem Jesus saw a man who had been blind from birth. The process by which He healed the man was uniquely different than other miracles of healing recorded in the Scriptures. We know Jesus could have spoken a word, or merely touched the man, but on this occasion He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva and anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. Then He gave the blind man something to do. He said to him, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam.”

We are not told in what part of the city they were when Jesus anointed the man’s eyes or how far they were from the pool, but the Pool of Siloam is perhaps the most ancient pool in Jerusalem.   In the days of King Hezekiah, for the sake of having a water supply in the city in case of enemy invasions, a 1,750 feet long underground tunnel was hewn through rock from the Gihon Spring outside the city wall to bring water to the Siloam Pool inside the wall.

It was to this pool the blind man went, but he came again seeing. Naturally those who knew him were impressed. It was the Sabbath and the man was taken to the Pharisees. After considerable interrogation and his respectful comments about Jesus, they cast him out. The story of this healing is recorded in the ninth chapter of the Book of John.

In the first part of the account, the disciples asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” It seems that there were some people who believed in reincarnation, the belief that after a person dies, they may be born again in a different body and the previous life could determine what kind of body they received. Jesus did not use the occasion to teach against the false doctrine of reincarnation, but simply answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” He was not saying that the man or his parents had never sinned, but that it was not their sins that caused the man’s blindness. His blindness was just another opportunity for Jesus to show the mighty power of God.

Every person who has passed the age of childhood innocence is guilty of sin. “Man’s heart is evil from the days of his youth” (Genesis 8:21). “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). “All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Who sinned? I did. You did. We have all sinned.   But thanks be to God and His Son, Jesus Christ, God’s grace and the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary’s cross has made possible the forgiveness of our sins and the salvation of our souls if we will believe and obey the gospel!

But we would do well to realize that our life pattern not only determines our destiny, but does indeed affect people around us and even future generations, not by reincarnation, but by the influence and results of our behavior. For example, whether children are reared in a home where self-gratifying indulgences are the focus of the lifestyle, or in a home where the Scriptures are taught and faithful service to the Lord and the church are the focus. The pattern of life set by the parents may be the pattern for the children. Godly instruction and examples of morality, honesty, kindness, courtesy and love establishes a better foundation for life than homes where these things are lacking. Children that grow up in homes where alcohol is freely served, or smoking is the norm, experimenting with drugs is frequent, or even where there is laziness, indifference and profanity, these may be habits that are passed on from one generation to another. What people are taught definitely influences what they believe and how they live, whether they are taught the Holy Scriptures and truth, or taught false doctrines, superstitions and lies.

Sin has been with us since Adam, and all men have sinned, even those whom we generally consider good men. Noah is spoken of as “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5) but he became drunk after God had saved him and his family (Genesis 9:21). God Himself spoke of King David as “a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22) but we also remember David’s awful sin of adultery with another man’s wife and then after learning of her pregnancy arranging the death of her husband (see 2 Samuel 11).   Peter, one of the twelve apostles, denied that he even knew Jesus. (Matthew 26:69-75).

All men sin, either by doing things we ought not to do, or by not doing the things we should. The only man who did not sin was Jesus Christ the Son of God (Hebrews 4:15). Therefore, God considered Him to be the only one qualified to be a sacrifice adequate to compensate for our sins and make possible our redemption and salvation. Christ is our only hope of eternal life. “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). God has spoken and the Holy Scriptures reveal to mankind His conditions for our salvation. We can choose to believe and obey and have His promise of eternal life or we can disregard the Scriptures and burn in hell. Don’t take the decision lightly.

~ Thomas D. Dennis