Friday, August 31, 2012

12 ways Jesus claimed deity

There are those who maintain that Jesus never claimed to be God but prefer to believe he was merely a good teacher and that his disciples added the belief of deity at a later date. However the notes below, which are a summary of Daniel Doriani’s journal article: "The Deity of Christ in the Synoptic Gospels" (link below), clearly show that Jesus did claim deity. Furthermore the Jewish leaders of the day had him crucified because he was claiming to be God.

1. Jesus claimed the divine right to judge mankind. “Depart from me you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:31-46).

2. Jesus claimed the divine right to forgive sins. “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Luke 5:21-25).

3. Jesus claimed the divine right to grant eternal life. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”…”Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me” (Mark 10:17-21).

4. Jesus claimed omnipresent. Jesus' presence is God's presence. “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).

5. Jesus claimed that a person’s eternal destiny was based on their response to him. “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33).

6. Jesus identified his actions with God's actions. “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.” (John 12:22-25).

7. Jesus taught the truth on his own authority. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away (Matthew 24:35).

8. Jesus performed miracles on his own authority. "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus reached out his hand and touched the leper. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean." Immediately he was cured of his leprosy (Matt 8:2-3).

9. Jesus received worship or obeisance. "One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, 'Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?' Then he said to him, 'Rise and go; your faith has made you well'" (Luke 17:15-19).

10. Jesus assumed that his life was a pattern for others. “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:44-45).

11. Jesus applied to himself Old Testament texts that describe God. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes”, replied Jesus, “have your never read, "From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise" (Matthew 21:16 based on Psalm 8:2 which is addressed “O LORD, our Lord”).

12. Jesus identified himself with a father or king who represents God in several parables. "What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love…but when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’…The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. (Luke 20:9-19).

For more examples and further explanation see: Daniel Doriani, "The Deity of Christ in the Synoptic Gospels," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 37:3 (September 1994):339-40. Click here

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Devotional Thought : Hebrews 1:1-2

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son. Hebrews 1:1-2

God took the initiative to reveal himself to us. He was the one who spoke to our forefathers through the prophets, and not just once but many times and in various ways. He was persistent and creative. Even this wasn’t enough so he sent His son, who has spoken to us not only through his words but even more powerfully through his actions in dying for us. God has gone to extraordinary lengthens to make Himself known.

In Mark 6 Jesus describes, from a slightly different perspective, how God sent many servants but they returned empty-handed and were treated “shamefully” (6:3-4). It is the parable of the tenants and in the end we read “so He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son’” (6:6). God had every right to expect his people to listen to his son but mostly they did not. Generally God’s people had not responded well to the many prophets that God sent and in the end they kill his son.

Surprisingly God did not give up! His unchanging purpose (Hebrews 6:17) was to have a people for himself who chose to be in relationship with him. Constable in his commentary on Hebrews writes: “If God had not spoken, we would not have known about him.” It is not people who take the initiative but rather it is God who calls us to himself. Often we are slow to recognise his voice yet if we are open to the possibility, he will allows us to find him.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

On having hope

I was listening to a news program last week and Tim Costello, from World Vision, was asked how he manages to maintain his faith in view of all the suffering he sees in the world. I thought he answered quite well but it made me think, how would I answer?

My answer, somewhat influenced by Tim, would go something like this: My faith gives me hope. Hope that this world is not all there is. Hope that one day God is going to bring justice on the earth and then there will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain. In actual fact, facing suffering without this hope would be more difficult if I didn't have faith.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Devotional Thought : Acts 28:2

They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand…But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects.
Acts 28:2-5

This is quite a different picture of Paul to the one we are familiar with. Normally we picture Paul as standing before crowds preaching the gospel (Acts 17:22); or reasoning in the synagogue on the Sabbath (Acts 17:2); or teaching daily in the lecture hall (Acts 19:9); or singing in jail (Acts 16:25); or fighting wild beasts in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 15:32); or even making tents to provide his own support (Acts 18:3). We don’t normally picture Paul doing something so ordinary like collecting fire wood.

Paul didn’t think collecting fire wood beneath him. He didn’t wonder about whether it was his gift or his calling. He simply saw something that needed doing. It was as he went about being helpful God performed a miracle. A poisonous snake fixed itself to his hand but Paul suffered no ill effects. Paul didn’t even draw attention to this event, it was the locals who noticed. This incident then provided Paul with an opportunity to minister to those who were sick on the island.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). We can follow Paul’s example by being helpful, doing the mundane without complaining, and not needing to be the centre of attention. As we go about “doing good” (Acts 10:38) being helpful, showing kindness, and not showing off we may even find God performing miracles and providing us with unexpected opportunities to minister to those in need.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On being illogical

There are lots of philosophical questions that roll around the internet, such as, can God create a rock so heavy that he could not lift it? The answer is no, he could not. God also cannot lie, or act in a way that is contrary to his character. Does that somehow make him less than God? Does that mean I am prevented from saying, God can do anything? Or, nothing is impossible to God? I don’t think so, because these philosophical questions are not logical questions and for God to act in a way contrary to his character would also not be logical.

Likewise if God gives us free will we must be able to choose wrongly and our choices must matter, otherwise it wouldn’t be genuine free will. Without free will we would be no more than robots or puppets. Therefore God cannot logically give us free will and remove evil.

As a Christian when I say that God is all powerful I don’t feel it necessary to add the disclaimer, except when it comes to the illogical.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Devotional Thought : Acts 27:13

When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. Acts 27:13

These sailors thought they had “what they wanted” but soon found themselves in a huge storm. Likewise we can think we have what we want only to find ourselves with a huge problem.

Paul had warned these men of the dangers of proceeding with this journey: “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also” (v.10). But Paul was overruled.

These people weren’t the only ones in the Bible to find themselves in the middle of a storm after thinking they had found “what they wanted”. Jonah thought he had found what he wanted when he arrived at Joppa and there was a boat headed for Tarshish (Jonah 1:3). However Jonah also found himself in the middle of a major storm.

The problem is our limited view. We are short sighted and earth bound when it comes to make decisions about the future since our decisions are based on limited information. Whereas God sees the future and is aware of the best plans for our lives so we would be wise to allow God to direct our paths.

Nevertheless we still may find ourselves in a storm. Paul was a prisoner when he warned of the impending danger. He had no choice but to board the boat. On the other hand Jonah wilfully chose to disobey God. Yet in both cases God was with them working for their good. Similarly God will be with us in the storms of life, working for our good as we seek to follow his plans for our lives.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Quote by Augsburger

I read this the other day:
People judge others' actions by their effects and their own actions by their intentions.
~ Augsburger
Usually we judge our intentions to be good so we discount the effects our actions or non-actions have on others. We excuse ourselves for not following through on things we said we would do because we are busy or stressed. Yet we often don’t give others the same latitude. We expect others to fulfil their obligations regardless of how busy or stressed they are.

As Christians, God expects us to treat others the way we want to be treated. So there are two things to consider: To what extend do my actions fail to match my intentions? And do I appreciate the intentions of others when their actions fall short of my expectations?

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Devotional Thought : Acts 26:26

The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. Acts 26:26

Of all the world’s religions Christianity is the only one based on historical events and the accounts of these events were written down within the life time of those who were alive to witness them. Christianity is able to be verified by eternal sources. It was not concocted in secret or "in a corner".

Other religions are based on the dictated writings of a prophet or on an enlightened teacher or the visions of mystic leaders. However with Christianity Peter was able to say to Cornelius, "You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee…" (Acts 10:36-37). Paul was able to say to Festus, "The king is familiar with these things" and "What I am saying is true and reasonable" (v.25).

Christianity claims that at a certain point in history, Jesus was born, lived, claimed to be God, died and rose again. In the reports and letters that were written following these events they quoted names of actual people and places; leaving behind a great wad of information they could be checked. Christianity leaves itself wide open to be investigated and many have. They have found much which confirms the Biblical accounts, including accounts of Jesus’ life quoted in histories outside of Biblical sources.

While this is encouraging to us as Christians, our faith is not based on historical evidence; rather it is based on a personal encounter with Jesus. Christianity is not about filling out minds with historical facts but rather it is about having a relationship with God made possible by the life and death of Jesus Christ.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Book Review : If I were God I'd end all the pain

John Dickson is a historian and a Christian apologist who has written many books. He is also an Anglican minister and popular speaker, and in case you hadn’t notice, I’m a big fan! (I have previously reviewed many of his other books here, here, here and here). In this book, If I were God I'd end all the pain, he addresses the issue of evil and suffering.

Dickson begins by acknowledging that he doesn’t have all the answers but also points out that neither do the Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims or atheists and in the final analysis Christianity is the best, though not entirely satisfactory, explanation.

Dickson logically points out that the existence of suffering does not disprove the existence of an all-powerful and all-loving God. All it does is introduce the possibility that God must have loving reasons for permitting suffering. Dickson discusses free will and notes that while we may want God to stop the evil that others inflict we don’t often consider the evil we inflict. Do we want God to stop us spending $30 on a CD in order to give the money to relieve the suffering of someone in a third world country?

Dickson discusses the final outcome of suffering and how one day God will "balance" the scales of justice and how this knowledge provides us with comfort. Finally he looks at the wounded God – Jesus. We have a God who knows what it is like to suffer and while we don’t always understand God’s plans and purposes, we "can always trust his motives".

Overall I found this short book very helpful as it addresses the main areas people struggle with in regard to suffering.

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Devotional Thought : Acts 25:11

If the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar! Acts 25:11

Paul appeals to the secular authorities. There are times to accept injustice with a Christ like attitude but there are also times to appeal to the justice system of the land. However we need God's wisdom to know when to do this.

Paul’s appeal to Caesar is during his trial before Festus. It was in response to Festus wanting to send Paul back to Jerusalem. In v.3 we read, “They (the chief priests and the Jewish leaders) requested Festus, as a favor to them, to have Paul transferred to Jerusalem, for they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way.” It is remarkable that these Jews who claimed Paul didn’t abide by the Law of Moses didn't abide by it themselves – perverting the course of justice and trying to kill Paul.

In the end Paul’s case goes before King Agrippa who comes out with the ridiculous statement, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar” (Acts 26:32). The overwhelming injustice of this statement is an ignorant remark intended to annoy and discourage Paul. Later Paul explains to the Jews in Rome he had to appeal to Caesar to avoid being sent to Jerusalem and killed by the Jews on the way. “I was compelled to appeal to Caesar” (Acts 28:19).

Sometimes we find ourselves in similar circumstances, whatever course of action we decide to take is criticised by those around us or in authority over us. At such times, like Paul, we have to trust that God is ultimately in control and whatever the outcome we know his plans will prevail.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Science without answers

There is a growing number of people who claim that the only things that exist are what we can see, hear and touch. That is, the universe is purely a physical universe. This is a dubious claim for several reasons. Science cannot explain love, justice, beauty, goodness, wisdom. These are things that we cannot see or hear yet we know exist but there is no scientific experiment that can prove their existence. Science can’t answer why the universe is here at all when there could have just as easily been nothing. Likewise how do we prove the past? How can we prove that the universe didn’t just “pop up” 200 years ago and that it arrived in a decaying state? Science cannot explain the self-sacrifice of many of our heroes. Nor the sense of right and wrong that exists in almost every culture, and the similarity of the things that are considered wrong, murder and adultery, for example.

Another consideration is that materialism tells us that we are only physical beings and that belief is just a structure of protons. Evolution is only about adaptable behaviour and doesn’t care about truth. It modifies protons based on survival. It would mean we could not trust our cognitive faculties because these faculties would not be based on truth but only on what is helpful to our survival. Therefore it could be argue that atheistic belief is merely a survival tactic and given the amount of people who have lost their lives because of their faith this would be a logical conclusion.

Science also cannot answer all our questions because science works on observation and experimentation. There are many things in the universe that we still have not been able to observe or been able to conduct suitable experiments to prove. Many times we cannot provide a perfect control group. So the demand for proof is unrealistic, even scientists don’t expect to be able to prove anything. Mostly they are satisfied if they obtain a high degree of probability with a low margin for error.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Devotional Thought : Acts 24:22-27

Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way…He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus…Felix was afraid…he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe…Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison. Acts 24:22-27

According to Josephus (Jewish historian) Felix was removed from office. It seems Felix had problems with all three of the major issues that confront leadership: sex, money and power. Things could have turned out so very differently for Felix. He was “well acquainted” with Christianity. He heard the gospel from one of its best expository preachers, Paul. Yet in the final analyse he was more interested in gaining temporal fame and wealth than in his eternal salvation.

It seems Felix was initially challenged by Paul’s preaching, “Felix was afraid and said, ‘That’s enough for now!’” (v.25). He procrastinated and the longer he put off making a decision for Christ, the less able he was to make that decision. Though “he sent for him frequently and talked with him” (v.26), Felix actually became less receptive to the gospel as he became accustom to stealing his heart against Paul’s message. His desire for a bribe overtook his desire to be saved.

So Paul is left in prison which, although it provides him with a measure of protection from those who were trying to kill him, was clearly a miscarriage of justice. Felix had the opportunity to do the decent thing for Paul and release him but clearly his self-serving motives had hardened him against even doing this.

Felix’s life is a warning which teaches us that we can be well acquainted with the gospel message and regularly hear good preaching but miss out on salvation because procrastination will harden our hearts over time.

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Monday, August 06, 2012

Book Review : Worship Matters

I read this book as part of the course I am studying at Bible College.

Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin is written primarily for worship leaders but is also a useful resource for pastors, musicians, singers, and even congregational members. Kauflin thoroughly covers all aspects of worship in terms of church services.

Kauflin divides the book into four parts: the leader, the task, healthy tensions and right relationships. In the first section Kauflin addresses the attitude, skill and life style of the worship leader. In the second section we are given a definition of a worship leader and Kauflin indicates how this leader can take the people to a deeper place in God through singing worshipfully. The third section describes facets of worship leading that must be kept in tension. For example: We’re to pursue theological depth and passionate expression. The last section teaches that having right relationships with family, church members and leaders is vitally important to be an effective worship leader.

I found Kauflin’s approach to this subject instructive. He addresses all the usual concerns of worship leaders and brings valuable insights to the role. For someone like me, who is not a worship leader, I found this book easy to read and a useful resource for understanding the role and responsibilities of worship leaders. As a result of reading this book I feel better equipped to support and encourage worship leaders.

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Saturday, August 04, 2012

Devotional Thought : Acts 23:11

As you have testified about me in Jerusalem so you must also testify in Rome. Acts 23:11

God doesn’t bother to mention that Paul will actually be imprisoned when he first testifies in Rome! Or that there will be a two year delay or a ship wreck where he nearly dies three times (27:20,42; 28:6). When Paul eventually does arrive in Rome he is under house arrest for another two years. It seems that God will stop at nothing to give everyone the opportunity to hear the gospel. God’s heart is that everyone will have the opportunity to respond to the gospel; that everyone will have the chance to repent. As Peter writes: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Many have suffered much hardship and loss in order to bring the gospel message to those who have not heard. Many have suffered for translating the gospel message into a language that others could understand. Then there are thousands who have silently made huge sacrifices to teach, support and encourage the believers who became the missionaries, translators and trail blazers. Sacrifices that perhaps only God knows. It makes us realize God’s commitment to his mission is huge.

God has the advantage of seeing the end result of all our missionary endeavours. He knows it is worth the pain and struggle that his people endure in this present life because “the wedding banquet” is coming and God wants it full of people who have heard and responded to his invitation (Matthew 22:1-10). So even if God’s people end up in unpleasant, uncomfortable situations, the invitation must be sent out to the ends of the earth.

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Friday, August 03, 2012

The "New" Atheists

Describing Dawkins, Hitchens, Onfray, etc. as "new" atheists is a strange description for me to use since there have been atheists throughout history. However it is a useful title for these people who have recently published books on their atheistic views.

Supporters of these atheistic writers generally accept their writings without hesitation, which is surprising because these supporters usually claim to value intellectual scholarship. However Dawkins’, Hitchens’ and Onfray’s material contains a number of historical errors. Their historical research is either appallingly shallow or deliberately deceptive. They present material from marginal writers as if they were mainstream. They present non-canonical texts as if they had the same level of historical validity as canonical texts. For example, Dawkins mentions the Gospels of Thomas, Judas etc. as if they were historically similar to the Biblical accounts. But they are dated much later and don’t have the historical reliability of the gospel accounts that are found in the New Testament. Quoting unreliable sources throws into question the credibility of these authors and actually shows they are intellectually dishonest.

Prof Graeme Clarke of the Australian National University has stated: “Frankly I know of no ancient historian/biblical historian who would have a twinge of doubt about the existence of a Jesus Christ – the documentary evidence is simply overwhelming” yet Dawkins, in his book, The God Delusion, quotes Professor G.A. Wells of the University of London who believes Jesus didn’t live. He is a professor of German language! Why doesn’t Dawkins quote a Professor with a PhD in history? Probably because he couldn’t find one!

I suspect these atheistic writers have another agenda, after all, it is financially very profitable to write these kinds of books.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Devotional Thought : Acts 22:21

Then the Lord said to me, "Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles." The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, "Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!" Acts 22:21

"Until he said this." Mentioning the Gentiles was the trigger that sent the crowd into a frenzy. Yet this was not a new thought to the Jews. All through the Old Testament God promised to bless all nations through Israel. At times he sent prophets to pagan nations and in Isaiah we read, “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6). So why was the crowd’s reaction so violent?

The crowd realized that Paul was going to invite Gentiles into relationship with God without these people first becoming Jews. It would place Gentiles before God on the same standing as Jews. This was an affront to Jews. They placed so much value and importance on their traditions as a means of approaching God that it was unthinkable that others could simply bypass their customs and have access to God.

Are there things in our culture, our past, our traditions that we hang onto at the expense of others? Rather than make it easy for others to come to Christ do we put obstacles and non-essentials in their way? Obstacles such as Christian jargon, dated liturgies, dress codes, abstinence from alcohol etc. These things may have been important in our Christian walk and growth but they may not be necessary for the next generation of believers.

How comfortable are we with new believers ignoring what is valuable to us and having a relationship with God that does not include our customs?

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