In my continuous study of the historicity of the resurrection and the historical Jesus of Nazareth, I find that there are many misconceptions that have been held on to through the years and we've never really quite bothered to correct our perceptions about Him all this time.
First of all, we find that the first message that Jesus proclaimed was not that of salvation, but rather, of the Good News of the Kingdom of God. And He went on to demonstrate it's power by exorcisms, healing the sick, making the lame walk and the revivification of at least three recorded dead persons in the Gospels among many other events that we refer to as miracles.
Second, we fail to recognize that in the gospel narratives, Jesus was carrying a message primarily for the House of Judah, and in doing so, He was assuming the role of an Old Testament prophet to them - as the New Covenant had yet to be fulfilled with His own predicted death on the cross. In the later portions we see that the Gospel was taken to the heathen (the proper translation for "gentiles", as it has become known in most translations), however the primacy of the message's importance has not been diminished for the target that it was originally intended for.
Ben Witherington III gives a very good insight into the circumstances surrounding Jesus' birth and death - things we normally took for granted as correct, yet we actually need to take a second look in order to appreciate the circumstances. First of all, His birth and death circumstances fall nothing short of scandalous. A possibility that Joseph's child sired out of wedlock would have certainly done more than raise the eyebrows of the families of the two that were betrothed to each other, both in Nazareth and in Bethlehem, where they went to be registered in the census ordered by Quirinius. The fact that they travelled to Bethlehem from Mary's hometown Nazareth meant that they were going to be with family in Bethlehem, and considering that they were yet betrothed and her, "great with child" was anything but acceptable in that culture.
Though we assume that there was "no room at the inn" for them, it was quite a common practice to house visiting relatives in parts of the household where they could be accommodated, and having nothing more than a manger to serve as a crib was simply making do given those crowded circumstances.
More so, at the point of death on a Roman cross. Jesus was executed as a criminal. To say it was scandalous would be an understatement. It was nothing less than shameful for both friends and family to be associated with such a person who deserved a punishment such as that at the time.
To have born and died in less than normal circumstances wouldn't quite bode well for a group of people seeking to follow Him under the usual conditions.
Yet, we see a group of frightened followers following the trial, torture and finally the execution of this charismatic person turn bold, insistent and persistent advocates of His divinity because they had seen Him alive after He was entombed in Jerusalem by no less than one of the Sanhedrin at that time. To the point of their own painful deaths, they insisted on repeating the same message - that the historic Jesus of Nazareth returned from the dead and lives, and through believing in Him and His resurrection, anyone will be granted eternal life. Simply by believing in Him.
The thief executed on the same day with Him merely requested Jesus to remember him when He entered into His Kingdom, and for that, he was granted grace for eternity. Without preconditions of a life repented. Just like that.
And as recorded by a Roman historian, the movement took on a new life once again not long after a brief pause following His death by crucifixion. And it never stopped growing since.
Through the centuries, we have managed to complicate the simple message of the synoptic gospels and confuse ourselves with various doctrinal persuasions, but if we bothered to examine the facts and evidence, we see a very simple message: God, who condemned humanity to a death sentence took on a human form to do something He had never done previously, and that was to die Himself. But happily, it did not end there at death. Because He was bodily raised from the dead and lives eternally as King of the Universe, for His selfless, redeeming action of obedience to His Father.
No, Jesus did not come to make bad people good. (I thank Ravi Zacharias for this one.) He came to give all of us with death sentences a chance to be alive again and never to be separated from the God who created all of us , who seeks to have us address Him as Our Father.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
In the quest to understand the perspectives put forth in the continuing theological discussion, it becomes a continuous process to understand the various views and positions taken by the many schools of thought that embrace the faith surrounding the resurrection of the historic Jesus of Nazareth.
The work is by no means tedious, and requires a corollary diligence to understand the principles of philosophy, logic and historicity, among others, to keep pace with the thoughts of the theologians through the years and finally take a position to believe in, most specially because what we believe will have a very important part in the way that we conduct the way we live.
The high concepts, the language and the level of discussion can be very enlightening, and at times, intimidating, most of all if there was no previous diligence that was exercised in studying the disciplines to be able to engage in these enterprises.
However, in light of an encounter with what may very well be considered as a spiritual onslaught from the other side, a careful reconsideration of these views would be very valuable in order to take a closer look at what seems to be positions that can't quite be cast in stone.
Take for instance, the discussion involving the matter of a verse in Jeremiah which quite a lot of believers have drawn strength from: Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.'
Some theological positions argue that this cannot be construed as a message meant for anyone else, except for the Jews in exile in Babylon, as this was a message relayed to them through Jeremiah, in the midst of their exile, and therefore cannot be used as a message for anyone else, regardless of the sentiment felt while they read the verse.
I sometimes wonder whether these theologians ever venture beyond the sterile environs of their desks in their first world homes and having to contend with more real difficulties that the majority of the lesser fortunate believers in the less developed portions of the globe have to deal with on a day to day basis, without the kind of sustenance or support that they enjoy (at an exchange rate skewed in their favor at that!) in order to make such decided pronouncements that cannot be called into question, as what separates them from the rest of us are their Masters or Doctorate degrees in Divinity or Theology.
I recall that that was the same situation that Jesus had found himself in, when dealing with the theological issues of His day, while contending with the PhD's in Divinity of His time: the Pharisees and the Saducees.
Sometimes, what can make a huge difference in a less cloistered environment is a verse from the scriptures just like that, and to take it away, simply because it doesn't make formal theological sense can be mean the difference between hope and desperation for those who have considerably much less to hold on to.
After all, Hebrews 4:12 does describe the Word of God as "living and active" after all. Perhaps these formally trained theologians would do well to consider this remote possibility, after all, the words DO inspire and outline a character of the merciful, Everlasting God who Jesus had portrayed as wanting to be Our Father.
In troubling circumstances, one cannot be choosy with what one can use or read to draw hope from.
In my own experience, I have found that the verse that had come true for me not just once, but twice, was the verse outlined in Isaiah 65:2. Before they even call out, I will respond; while they are still speaking, I will hear.
In the book "The Kingdom Triangle", JP Moreland starts the first chapter with the story of Dr. Helen Roseveare ( the story can be found in this link: http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/h/hotwaterbottle.htm) , who recounts the way that this came true in a very real experience that she had as a missionary in Africa.
Many a skeptic has gone to great lengths to discredit this story as nothing but a rumor or fable but even Snopes.com has acknowledged it's veracity.
As a young believer (and some times at present) I had faced many serious financial challenges. Having put my new found faith in Jesus some twenty six or so years ago, I found myself with just enough money for bus fare one day, to be able to go home and as it was just a few days away from payday, I was struggling with how to get by in the days ahead.
Fortunately my wonderful mother was going my way that day and had offered to let me hitch a ride going to the Makati area in Metro Manila that morning, where I was working at that time. As we were making our way through the metropolis, she told me that she would have to stop by a common friend's office to make a design modification for a requirement for the food company she was working for. Since the person she was meeting was a good friend, I agreed to stop by as well.
We sat down, and chatted for a while and she did her business and we were done in less than thirty minutes. As we arose to leave, my friend asked me if I had come to pick up my check. I was clearly taken aback, as it was obvious I wasn't expecting anything. He told me to go up to accounting and pick up the check that he had just signed. As it turned out, I had done a speculative project for him and was paid a token fee that I didn't know I was going to get.
Happily, my mother allowed me to do so and we went to the bank together to have it encashed and I had a few hundred pesos at that time to tide me over till payday.
Up to today, that remains a very significant high point in my walk with the Lord God most specially as I try to remember how He prepares these things in advance to provide for all of us.
This type of experience manifested itself yet again, just a few days ago, after our recent spirtual onslaught, challenging every fiber of our being to remain true to the qualities of the Spirit's fruit in the face of severe testing.
Having resolved that difficulty and still reeling from the repercussions, our family faces yet another financial challenge of answering for our own needs as we had to give up what we had to answer for the needs of another, who needed the financial support immediately and had nowhere else to go to for that assistance.
Throughout that whole time, there was no business coming in, no payments and just prospects for some business to be done being discussed, and we had no way of being able to meet obligations that would present themselves in a matter of days.
Just a day ago, I had the opportunity to speak with a client that had previously engaged me for some services, and I inquired if there was a chance that I would be paid anytime soon. She said that she would check and get back to me.
Later that night, in an email, she informed me that the check had been issued and the amount had been deposited into my bank account at the beginning of the month. And true enough, it was there, when I checked online. And all this time, I did not know about it. It was as if the Lord God withheld it while we were helping this person who was relentlessly asking us for financial assistance while behaving in such an ungrateful and inconsiderate manner, despite our taking her in, feeding her and housing her and helping her with a problem that we had nothing to do with in the first place.
It may be true that we have yet to find the rest of the resources that we need to make good on our remaining obligations. But the strength of heart that I have now, drawing on these experiences show that the Lord God prepares everything well in advance - over and beyond what we hope or expect.
Small wonder that the Hebrew equivalent for the word used as "faith" in the New Testament is "trust". Substituting the words make a whole world of difference in understanding the scriptures as you read them all over again.
It is these kinds of experiences that I would hope these theologians in their ivory towers would come down and see for themselves - to "taste and see, that the Lord is good", for no amount of doctrinal discourse can ever convince me otherwise of the validity of the truth that the God who stands outside time is interested in our individual affairs, and intervenes in a manner that we cannot ever come to understand or comprehend.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Ephesians 6:12 does well to outline the battleground in which we are to do battle in on a daily basis. Yes, it's a relentless fight.
Some twenty or so years ago, my classmates who joined the Armed Forces used to gather together after a prolonged assignment in the field and many a story would be told of their "encounters", wherein "firefights" and "running gunbattles" would result in "scores" or getting "walloped" - though these were told with such youthful exuberance and a sense of elation of being able to gain a victory over a treacherous enemy, forgetting the fact that the alternative consequences would be quite grim. And we weren't spared from instances when we would hear of a classmate that fell in less fortunate circumstances. These days, we remember them in moments of silence during our infrequent reunion gatherings.
However, we as believers in the King and His Kingdom, have yet to realize that we have been targeted for ambuscades and spiritual harrassment, and if we allow it, destruction, by the more treacherous, and invisible forces of a parallel universe that seek to delude humanity from attaining knowledge of the Almighty God and His Kingdom as proclaimed by our Savior, Jesus of Nazareth.
This is why Paul details this supernatural battle as well in his second letter to the Corinthians, in the tenth chapter.
It is not the power of the Lord God that these dark forces can fight against, it is the knowledge of God that they can dissuade humans from attaining.
And this is why I continue to remain befuddled as to why the large majority of the Christian body chooses to believe ineptly, marginalizing the power that the Lord Jesus Himself had said that His followers would be able to use, and in a greater way.
However, the reality is, a large majority chooses NOT to follow through in that respect as some in the body - people with a high Christology yet - insist on a worldview that is reduced to that of a code of conduct for believers to follow and the unsuspecting majority of us in the body, have been deluded into thinking that this is all there is to the Kingdom, and all we can do is wait for His Coming.
Frankly, I feel that He will be sorely disappointed as He may truly not find faith as He wondered aloud as attested by the gospel narratives.
Happily, there is a growing group of believers in the body that is digging out the truths of the Kingdom and practicing the use of the power that the Holy Spirit imparts in healing the sick, among the many things that the Lord Jesus would want His followers to do.
In coming through a recent test wherein all our mettle and resolve to believe was put through a crucible, I had a sneaking suspicion that my recent quest to add to my knowledge of the Lord God and the Kingdom was being challenged and severely.
I would love to say that we passed that test, though I would have to admit that we were bordering on failing that one, and that there were many moments where our character flaws reared their ugly heads more than once. These storms are not easy to go through.
However, I realized that this also compelled me to pray more, and more intensively. And surprisingly, I have been praying for more people and more intentions as well.
We are in a continuous "running gunbattle" with an enemy that does not run out of ammunition, strength or resolve.
We have no other choice but to fight and fight back with just as much resolve, and though we are guaranteed trouble in this life, He has also assured that He has overcome the evil that has been cornered in what seems to be the last stand.
Yet, how many are aware of this need to bear arms and do battle constantly? And worse, there are those that are convinced (and continue to convince others) that there is no need to fight back.
Studying the gospel narratives, it was when the Lord Jesus was subject to attacks that He fought back in a different manner. Upon learning of John the Baptists beheading, He healed, exorcised, and fed the multitudes. How was that for effective strategy?
Our struggle is definitely not against flesh and blood, "but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.". We would do well to choose the right weapons and revise our strategy and tactics. The war continues. Happily, we already know how it ends.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Chronologically, the Gospel of the Kingdom was the very first public message that was proclaimed by the historic Jesus of Nazareth.
Through the years, though, the Gospel has always been considered to be the message of Salvation through faith in Him and His redeeming work through His death and resurrection, as detailed in the last message in the synoptic gospels, the best of which is reported in Matthew 28:18-20 - All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 28:20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
However, a closer look at the four narratives of Jesus' life, death and resurrection show the highest incidences of mentioning the supernatural as recounted in the scriptures: the existence and exorcism of demons, the healing of the sick, the revivification of dead people and other miraculous works.
The most quoted incident involving the devil is aptly detailed in Job, but other than that, it's mostly inter nation conflict, as a result of Israel's disobedience to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Paul was right on the button in describing the Kingdom in 1 Co 4:22 as best demonstrated in power.
And power they did have, as this is outlined in the book of Acts, all the way down to the 4th century, long after the apostles had been martyred and John dying on the island of Patmos. There is much documentation to this effect, including Augustine's laying an account of at least 16 miracles that he had known about, including one that he had witnessed of his own.
Sadly, this is a view that is either argued against or hesitantly examined by a greater portion of the body of Christian believers today, as if it was almost anathema to want to avail of this Kingdom power that the Lord Jesus had wanted believers to avail of. In the book of John, Jesus Himself had declared that: I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
Truth to tell, in this day where we are fast approaching the day of His return, He may yet validate His own doubt about returning to find His disciples not working within the operational guidelines of the Kingdom that He sent them out to proclaim, simply because most of them argue against it. He may truly not find the faith He would have wished His followers to have when He returns, if that remains to be the case.
However, I take comfort in the teachings of several scholars that are beginning to recognize the truth of the Kingdom's power available to the body of believers and nowhere is it more detailed than in the book written by Prof. JP Moreland, in "The Kingdom Triangle". Since I bought the book, I've been reading, contemplating and renovating my perspectives on my own walk so as to better my spiritual formation and perhaps, one day, exercise the operational power of the Kingdom, given the opportunity to do so.
There is a coming Kingdom, that is true. However, the Lord Jesus also said that the Kingdom is here. Now.
If we seek it, we will find it. With all of our hearts and minds.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
As a soldier, one of the very first things you learn is to adjust the sights of your weapon so it can fire accurately. Note that this adjustment is not done in the heat of combat, but during the lull times in between drills and lectures, when you have the leisure to do so and to test in a firing range for accuracy.
Studying the facts and substance of our faith may be likened to that adjustment, as it allows the student to review the many facts and opinions regarding the Christian worldview and allows him the chance to accept the worldviews that are cogent and cohesive to the messages that were put forth in the historical recount of the nation that the Almighty God chose to send His salvation through and reject those that are questionable.
Note that there are many persuasive scholars that miss the point and continue to remain adamant about their worldviews despite obvious evidence that tend to nullify their theses.
In the heat of a firefight, they may regret their choices but then again, who are we to question their choices of poison. Sometimes I wonder why they insist on reducing the power of Christianity to that of a mere code of conduct. Whatever happened to the Kingdom that is not demonstrated by talk, but by power?
My own experience has allowed me to validate an experience that I can only attribute to that of supernatural, and I can not deny that it happened, even if Doctors of Philosophy in cessationist doctrine argued with such locquacious language that their comparatively weakened worldview is the only valid one. Never mind if my spiritual encounter was for real. It just cannot be possible in their worldview because that's what got them their PhD's.
Countless reports of supernatural causes of visions and dreams of Isa to muslims in various places, resulting in mass conversions, the sick being healed, revivification of clinically dead people in the name of Jesus (and not Allah or Buddha) and of recent, body parts being made whole - these incidents only serve to validate the Kingdom that the risen Jesus of Nazareth was proclaiming. And it's power is working in the age of Obama.
This is probably why we as elements in the Army of the King, are often sent to skirmishes to fight battles. Not just to recover from enemy territory, but also that we become better skilled fighters to do battle for the Kingdom until He comes.
The time to adjust our sights is now, and who better to learn from except from the battle tested veterans of previous engagements. And there's a way of telling who's really been in combat. Their instincts remain sharp, despite their combat fatigue.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
All the facts can add up but...
In this continuing endeavor to learn about the substance that support the faith we have embraced, I have learned one very important thing.
A recent crisis not of our doing, yet we as a family had to be very much involved in finding solutions for, is challenging our mettle in terms of believing in the goodness of the Almighty God that we believe in despite the bedlam it has imposed upon us.
It's wreaked havoc on our family finances, is stretching our individual patience and is pushing us to the brink.
The matter of substance and fact flies out of the window in the face of this adversity.
And there's nothing left but a sheer will to believe despite all the darkness that we face.
I can only attribute this to a process that is renovating our character as a couple, my own and my wife's and the character makeup of our family. But it is not an easy ordeal. And the worst part about it is, there is more that is to come in the years ahead.
Yet I maintain my position that though the subject matter can appear quite trite in the face of all this difficulty, I find no other recourse but to push on and pray more. My mind maintains that the Creator of the Universe, who stands outside time, can and may intervene in the order of these affairs, yet for now, chooses not to for a reason that I and my dear wife cannot see or comprehend.
When will this pass? Only the Intelligent Designer knows. I've held on long enough to know that it will.
I can only take comfort in the advice of my dear, dear friend, Col. Michael Morales, (ret.) Ph.D, whose wisdom helps in dealing with this depressing moment: Do the Drill.
We of course, are familiar with fire drills - or any other drill, which we do during the times when the emergencies are not there, that we may know how to react when the emergency does arise.
This drill is quite simple. Count your blessings.
In his case, he writes down everything that he has known our Almighty God to have blessed him and his family with through the years and at a certain point, his attitude changes to that of gratitude. It may be simple, yet very effective.
I know. Because when I do think of the times when the Lord God just did something over and beyond what we hoped or expected, my despondency vanishes into a mute acknowledgement of His Goodness. These days, I find myself doing the drill quite often. And for that, I'm thankful.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Having been blessed with a wonderful wife and partner, I've become quite familiar to the process of renovation pretty well. Rearranging pieces of furniture, throwing out what's deemed as unnecessary, debating on the quality of the trash - you name it, it's a continuing process.
However, with the complicated issue of the mind, it's not as simple as plan, redesign, dispose and acquire.
There are the issues of replacing habits, displacing what we've been accustomed to, accepting what was once unacceptable and being transformed to a point of view which, to the madding crowd, can be quite revolting. And yes, there are the psychological baggage issues to deal with yet.
But more importantly, it's because of renovating (or "renewing" as we've been accustomed to thinking of it) the mind, that our decision making processes are changed and our lives become transformed - apart from spiritual regeneration and formation, lest I be accused of being self sufficient.
The wondrous thing of this day and age, thanks to vast improvements in communications technology, is that what was once reserved as the domain for the academics and the intellectuals, the mass of men can now have access to materials and resources to help renovate their minds and transform their spiritual lives, depending on the intensity and diligence that they put in to this enterprise.
If you want your life and worldview to change, you can seek and you will find, if you seek with your keyboard and mouse. Try Google. It helps you do that.
These days, I've bookmarked Apologetics 315. http://apologetics315.blogspot.com. (Thank you, Brian!)
Truth to tell, renovating the mind is not as easy as rubbing a blackboard with a wet cloth and erasing all the garbage you've absorbed through the years.
I've long since wanted to find a way to "reformat" my mind and reinstall everything selectively with what I know now.
However, it's not to be.
Just like my friends who golf, and having discovered the proper way to swing their clubs, it takes years to change their approach to the ball to get it to where they want it to lie. (Don't get me wrong. The only thing I do with my friends who smack golf balls on the course is walk with them and talk. I have no intention of acquiring my own set of clubs and pray for an expensive membership to an exclusive golf course.)
Renovating the mind is a difficult process. But it's possible.
And the sooner you begin, the earlier your life transformation process will happen.
These days, I wish the internet and access to the likes of Dr. William Lane Craig, Dr. JP Moreland, Dr. Gary Habermas and Dr. Mike Licona was available when I started walking with the Almighty God some 22 or so years ago.
But, as the saying goes - everything happens for a reason.
Let's get one thing straight.
I'm turning 50 this year, and am starting on a separate business project that hopefully will keep me occupied in the next three to five years.
And the chances for me to get my basic and advanced credentials in Theology, Divinity or Christian Apologetics are just as remote as winning the lottery in this part of the world, considering that most bible colleges on this island don't give the subject matter much emphasis, and quite a lot of them hardly espouse the worldview I've absorbed through the writings of JP Moreland, among many other brilliant apologetics authors.
However, this will be a continuing recount of the adventure I've undertaken and have come to enjoy very much - that is to discover the substance underpinning the belief I have been granted to accept and a spiritual life that I've harbored for 22 odd years, and yet I find that I'm only beginning to discover much of in just the past few months.
The study and art of Christian Apologetics has always been thought to be a contentious enterprise, with accompanying images of debating philosophers discussing arcane subject matter, fit only for academics, intellectuals and philosophers to appreciate.
As I've discovered, it's hardly the case. The whole enterprise logically explains a worldview of a Kingdom that is and that is to come as well. And it's readily available for anyone with a heart, a will and a purpose - and mind open enough to want to discover it by first believing in it's King.
Of course, it's not that easy to understand immediately. There is much reading that is required and with the abundance of available information these days, you will hardly know where to start once the wealth of resources are discovered. However, as I have also found out, the Resurrection of the historic Jesus of Nazareth is a good place to begin, as I will attempt to explain why, moving forward.
I must say, however, that this is by no means, a resource page. However, I will point to the more adequate resource pages where those so inclined may ferret out the books and links that they need to help them in their homework.
There already are more adequate pages on the internet that offer more substantive, and more accurate information. It's all been done before and there's no need to reinvent the wheel.
All that this blog hopes to do is to recount my own experiences in discovering these truths and how it impacts my own life as I begin to renovate my mind and transform, by the Grace of God, and thankfully de-conform (if there is such a word) from the system of this present age.
As I continue in my quest to secure a certificate in Apologetics Instruction, a program of which I am happy to say that I have been accepted to already - it is my purpose to chronicle my personal experiences in this endeavor so that those who seek to do the same may glean yet some more learning, that they may be spared the pitfalls that I've encountered - or should they not be able to avoid them, so that they may extricate themselves in a quicker and less messier way.
Reason is compatible with faith. May we all see that together someday.