Monday, July 29, 2013

SMALLVILLE THEOLOGY - BLAME GOD


                                                      Jesus Superman


        Having grown up reading Marvel and DC comics, I have a natural affinity to comic book heroes, especially Batman and Superman.  Up until recently, I either ignored or was oblivious to the blatant similarities between Superman and Jesus Christ.  Much has been written on this topic and I will not take the time to rehash it all here, except to point out one major device used in the Man of Steel film.  At least twice, Superman is referred to as the son of El, once by his mother and once by General Zod, the film's villain.  "Big deal!" you may say, well El is the Hebrew, shortened version, of the name Elohim, the very name used for God in the first verse of the Bible.  Genesis 1:1 reads "In the beginning, God (Elohim) created the heavens and the Earth."  Here are just a few references from scripture where El is used in referencing God:

1. EL SHADDAI - God all sufficient

2. EL ELYON - God most high

3. EL YESHUATI - God of my salvation (notice the Hebrew name of Jesus, Yeshua)

       These are just a few of the references to God in scripture where El is translated God.  Clearly the filmmakers knew what they were doing as the Messianic references were numerous. Also referenced throughout this film was the television show Smallville.  The first episode of Smallville purposely portrays Clark Kent as divine in at least 2 scenes.  The first, Clark Kent is in a cemetery where he steps in front of a statue of an angel seen here:



The second is even more blatant as it depicts Clark Kent as being crucified:



         

This is all fine, except,(as I finally get to my point) in as much as Smallville portrays Superman as a savior of mankind, it also goes on to make the point that the only salvation man needs is from the mess Superman has created in the first place.  Upon his arrival to earth, in Smallville, Superman's space pod arrives amidst a meteor storm that kills numerous people.  This results in many adventures in which Clark Kent must use his super powers to undo the negative affects of his arrival.  It seems that every villain he fights is made a villain due to exposure to Kryptonite, brought here along with his own craft.  The inference is that if Superman had not come to earth, there would have been nothing to save mankind from in the first place. This is classic "Blame God" theology.

     So often, we hear people ask, "why does God make bad things happen to good people", or "if God is so loving, (or good) why is there so much evil in the world."  The real question people are asking, what is really in the heart of those questions is, "If God is all powerful, the world would not be in this mess..." or even more personally, "If God is so loving and powerful, I would not be experiencing this pain in my life."  We want to blame God, and then ask Him to fix it.

     Before we blame God, we have to look at the origin of sin and suffering.  In the first chapters of Genesis, we see that God created a perfect world and called it "good."  It was not until man decided he would like to be "as God" and rebeled against God that the world began it's descent into chaos. Once we begin to entertain thoughts of blaming God for problems, global and/or personal, we diminish His character.

     We live in a society where personal responsibility has been all but vanquished.  We are led to believe that there are no, nor should there be, consequences for bad behavior, especially since we cannot necessarily judge anyone's behavior as bad anyway.  We are told that people should be free to choose to live however they please and that a Biblical view of sin and the consequences of sin is antiquated at best and downright mean and hateful.  Society wants us to believe that the only thing holding up progress is the narrow minded few who take a literal view of the Bible.

      While society wants to blame God for all the ills of the world, those of us who have been born again understand that God is the solution.  The evil intent of the hearts of men is the problem, we, as humans, are naturally selfish and greedy.  God offers us regeneration through Jesus Christ, the true Son of El.






Wednesday, July 24, 2013

REFLECTIONS OF GOD - TOO BE A FULL MOON FOR THE LORD

While preparing to lead our Thursday night study group, I was looking over the passage in Matthew 5 speaking of our being the light of the world:

Matthew 5:14 - 16  "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

As I read this passage it made me begin to consider what it truly means to be the light of the world.  We are not light by nature, nor do we generate light, but in I John 1:5 we are told that "God is light..."  This made me consider that we are the light of the world by proxy, meaning we are light in place of God meaning that we merely reflect the light that God shines on us.  In Psalm 118:27 we see, "The LORD(YHWH) is God and has made His light shine upon us."  We, as believers, reflect the light of God much the same way as the moon reflects the light of the sun and shines that light on the earth.


God is the true light, our lives should reflect that light, as we live and love in obedience to Him.  I pondered the sun and moon analogy further and realized that the moon, for the most part shines only at night.  In context, the world we live in is plunged in darkness due to sin, we are in a way living in a world of night.  The light we reflect form God is the only light in the world right now.

The moon passes through phases in which there are times when it give more light than others.  As the moon is positioned in just the right way every month or so, we get a full moon meaning the moon is reflecting the maximum amount of light due to it's position in relation to the sun and the earth.  We are the same way.  There are times when we reflect maximum light from the Lord and times we reflect very little, if any.  The times when we reflect the most are when we are positioned right with God and right in our relation to the world around us.  When we are truly pursuing God and fleeing from the draw of sin we give maximum reflection, in other words, we are most effective in christian walk.  When we are neglecting our relationship with God, when we are indulging in the pleasures of the flesh our reflective ability is greatly hindered.

My desire is to be a full moon, reflecting maximum light from God, every day.  I fail more than I care to admit, but God is just and faithful to forgive me and help me up each time.  Let's encourage each other to be the light of the world as we live our lives dedicated to serving the One who saved us.  Let us allow God to shine His light on the darkness of this world that we might be a guide to the lost helping them find their way to Jesus.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

SPIRITUAL UNITY MEANS BEING A CHRISTIAN FIRST

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed by the following minister are not necessarily the views and opinions of this blog or it's author.

Recently, a minister from New York spoke to his congregation concerning the George Zimmerman trial and it's outcome.  What he said made me think about the divisions of people in America.  We divide ourselves by all sorts of titles and groupings, some harmless and some detrimental to the very fabric of our nation and even sadder, to the detriment of our calling to fulfill the Great Commission.  Please take the time to view the video on the link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CUNUVhzFAQ

In the above sermon, the message is that the people in this particular congregation have identified themselves as a particular group and therefore their worldview is shaped, even dictated, by that identity.  The minister's point is that before they can think clearly, they have to identify with Christ and see themselves as Christians before they see themselves as any other group.  That message makes a great point and goes way beyond the context in which it is expressed.

As I considered the message and it's point that our self-identity affects our worldview it made me think of denominational division within the church.  It made me think about how we are so busy identifying with our particular brand of Christianity that we often lose sight of the Christianity part and get hung up on the brand name.  This is not a new problem, actually, the Apostle Paul had to address this very issue in the Corinthian church as some of them were hung up on certain Apostles rather than focusing on Christ.


1Corinthians 1:11- 17  For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 
 What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ." 
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?   I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 
  so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 
 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)   For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

I find it remarkable how often people I meet, when asked about their belief system, will name a particular denomination rater than identifying with the name of Christ.  " I'm Lutheran, (I follow Martin Luther), I'm Baptist (I follow the SBC), I'm Methodist (I follow Wesley), I'm Catholic (I follow the Pope) etc.  Paul explained to the church in Corinth that it was Christ who died for them, and with Him they should identify and follow.  These divisions can have some very dire consequences.   Just a few hundred years ago, representatives of the Roman church, in the name of the Pope, persecuted and killed other Christian sects who would not bow to the Papacy.  The following excerpt from Wikipedia shows just one example:

St. Bartholomew's Day massacre[edit]

An Eyewitness Account of the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre by Fran├žois Dubois (1790 - 1871).
In what became known as the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 24 August – 3 October 1572, Catholics killed thousands of Huguenots in Paris. Similar massacres took place in other towns in the weeks following. The main provincial towns and cities experiencing the Massacre were Aix, Bordeaux, Bourges, Lyon, Meaux, Orleans, Rouen, Toulouse, and Troyes.[24] Nearly 3,000 Protestants were slaughtered in Toulouse alone.[25] The exact number of fatalities throughout the country is not known. On 23–24 August, between about 2,000[26] and 3,000[27][28][29] Protestants were killed in Paris and between 3,000[30] and 7,000 more[31] in the French provinces. By 17 September, almost 25,000 Protestants had been massacred in Paris alone.[32][33] Outside of Paris, the killings continued until 3 October.[32] An amnesty granted in 1573 pardoned the perpetrators.

Not very long ago, Irish Catholics and Protestants were blowing each other up..in the name of ...What?  Could either side in Ireland have possibly been followers of Christ in anything but name only?  Could a person or group who is identified with and is committed to Christ kill in His name?  Impossible, Jesus NEVER taught us to kill our enemies or those with whom we disagree.  Jesus taught us to love one another, to bless those who persecute us, to repay evil with good.  How different would the world look if the church got just that right?  

Where does change begin?  It begins with me, it begins with you, it begins as those who claim the blood of Christ actually identify with Him first and foremost.  It begins when churches full of people begin to realize that their brand is not necessarily right about everything and we knock down the walls of denomination and division that keeps us from true fellowship and even more important, true evangelism.  Discipleship unto Christ is the key, but first we must become true disciples ourselves and that starts when we see ourselves as belonging to Christ rather than a certain group.  



Monday, July 8, 2013

AN OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK OF ZEPHANIAH

                                      
The book of Zephaniah opens introducing the prophet as the great great grandson of King Hezekiah. This means that he is the distant cousin of King Josiah, the king reigning over Judah at the time of this prophecy. This book follows the same pattern of many prophetic writings which first pronounce judgment on Israel, then judgment on Israel's enemies and then God's blessing poured out on Israel. This follows the same pattern that will play out when the anti-Christ takes power. First Israel will come under great persecution and judgment, then Christ will return and pour judgment out on the enemies of Israel and then He will set up a kingdom on earth centered in Jerusalem where Israel will be blessed and served by all nations.

Judah had become very sinful in the years after the death of King Hezekiah. Certainly Zephaniah grew up hearing of all the reforms Hezekiah brought to Judah and how Hezekiah brought the people back to the LORD. Hezekiah's son, Manasseh, led Judah into more sin than any other king before him. Even though Manasseh repented at the end of his reign, it was too little too late as the hearts of the people were bent on sin and idolatry. Manasseh's son Amon followed in his father's footsteps and sinned in the sight of the LORD. Amon only reigned 2 years when he died and Josiah became king at the age of 8. It was under Josiah's reforms that Judah turned back to the LORD and postponed His wrath. God was furious with the people of Judah because they had turned so strongly to pagan practices that the judgment was sealed. Due to Josiah's dedication to God and undoubtedly, the effects of the prophecies Zephaniah, the people turned their hearts back to God, if only temporarily, and enjoyed a brief time of peace before being dominated and overthrown by Babylon.

The judgments in the first chapter Zephaniah deal specifically with idolatrous behavior. The prophets of Baal are addressed as is the god Milcom and various pagan practices. It seems that as a culture, the Jews were still holding on to a form of worship for God, yet mixing in all the evil practices of the nations around them. This is reminiscent of the modern church in America. We know all the right things to say at our religious gatherings and on our religious holidays but the rest of the time we are indistinguishable from the world around us. The first chapter of Zepheniah clearly shows what God thinks of such behavior. God pronounces terrible judgment on Judah and that judgment does not just affect God's people but the whole world would be negatively impacted.

This worldwide impact draws a great parallel to the events described in Revelation concerning the time of the great tribulation. This time is referred to as the time of Jacob's trouble by the prophet Jeremiah. During this time, Israel will be punished for rejecting God as a nation. For 7 years, Israel and the whole world along with it, will suffer the wrath of God poured out on the earth. The book of Zephaniah was written as a dual prophecy, one concerning immanent events and one concerning the times of the end.

As we look at the second chapter of Zephaniah, we see that at some point, God turns His attention and wrath on the enemies of Judah. Specific nations are named as being marked for destruction. These nations are the very nations that came against Judah during God's chastisement. This shows that even though God is willing to allow His people to suffer for a period of time in order to bring them back to Himself, He is not willing to allow those who harm them to go unpunished. God's judgment on Judah is not to destroy them form the face of the earth, but to teach them that He demands that they be holy and committed to Him. God made too many promises concerning Israel to allow them to be wiped from the earth. Even though there was about 1878 years that the nation of Israel did not even exist, God reestablished the nation in 1948, specifically because of promises made to Abraham and David.

This portion of Zephaniah's prophhecy also testifies to the end time events, namely, the battle of Armageddon. At this time, all the enemies of Israel will be gathered together in order to destroy Israel from the earth once and for all. Jesus will return and annihilate the armies of the enemies of Israel. These enemies will be completely destroyed and not one who is opposed to God or Israel will be permitted to live or enter into the new kingdom ruled by the LORD Himself. Revelation 19 describes this incredible event as Christ comes down from heaven to rescue His beloved Israel. In Matthew 25, Jesus describes how those who enter the kingdom will be chosen. Not one who is unworthy will enter.

The final chapter of the prophecy of Zephaniah shows God's heart and intention toward His nation. God not only promises to rescue Judah from their enemies but to bless them abundantly as a nation. We see in this passage that God will not only pour out His blessing on Judah when the time of chastisement is over, but other nations will bless and honor Judah as well. Zephaniah declares that there will be great rejoicing in Judah because of God's deliverance and blessing!

The duality of the prophecy points directly to the time when Christ will reign from Jerusalem. At that time, all the nations of the earth will come and pay tribute to Christ and His people Israel. Israel will receive all the land promised to Abraham by God, David will reign alongside king Jesus and rule over the people as God had promised that David's throne would be everlasting. The nation of Israel will be at peace and rest for 1000 years of joy and prosperity. God's faithfulness to His people will be proven and all those that hope in Him will be vindicated.


The overall message of this prophecy is that God demands holiness and purity from those who are called by His name. When His people fail to live up to their calling, He will discipline them. Though God is not adverse to causing His people anguish to correct bad behavior, He will not allow others to bring harm to His people. Those who attack God's people will be destroyed. And finally, God will remain true to His word and bless his people and establish Israel as His kingdom to be served by all other nations on the earth.