Faulty Teaching or Bad Language Part 1

I think before I get started it is important for me to preface that I know I am a little weird. I get excited with things like theology, church history, word choices, church structure, and so on. Topics like these make me happy and if brought them up in a conversation you will quickly realize this. That being said, I also think it important to note that I get excited about them because they are highly important.

I was reading an article the other day and it was good. Nothing mind blowing but more of a comforting you can do it too type article. Nothing really jumped out at me except this line “After Jesus ascended into heaven, he was no longer human. He had been fully reconciled to the Father and wasn’t experiencing human emotions and doubts anymore.” At this, I slammed on the brakes. The brakes were hit because there are some large problems with this statement which is actually composed of multiple statements. I am going to give the author the benefit of the doubt and say they did not mean to express what I think this statement says and what it implies.

Here is the statement and some implications broken down:

  • Jesus is no longer human. Statement
  • Reconciliation to the Father removes humanity. Implication
  • Jesus does not have human emotions. Statement
  • God does not have human emotions. Implication
  • God’s emotions and human emotions are different. Implication
  • Jesus does not doubt. Statement

Of these statements and implications, only the last one has a biblical foundation. Jesus (i.e. God) does not doubt. That’s it. I have problems with every other statement and implication brought on by the sentence. I do not want to get long-winded here so I will try to be as succinct as possible while not doing damage to the importance of the problems brought on by these statements.

First, we have the question of the physical body of Christ post-resurrection and ascension but before we can get there we do have to look at the preincarnate and the incarnation of Christ. As Christians, we believe that before Christ walked on the earth He existed as the eternal Son. This is part of what we call the eternality of the Son. He was part of the Godhead along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. John chapter 1 speaks to this in detail. He had full rights as God. What happened at the incarnation was that Jesus came and was born of the Virgin Mary and became a man. He did not lose His deity but instead became a man as well. This is what we call the hyperstatic union of Christ. It means that the two natures (God and man) existed in Christ simultaneously but never mixing or diluting. He did not stop being God but as Philippians says He did not use that His advantage (Phil 2:6). Now there are many questions about this and not a whole lot of agreement on some of the questions brought on about this, but we have a phrase or word for it (hyperstatic union). That being said, it is a mystery. As a side note, a mystery is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If you tell me you can explain or understand everything you believe you are a liar. If you could explain everything about God, you either have the wrong God or you are a little too big for your britches. Either way what we see in the incarnation is God becoming a man.

This was important for multiple reasons beyond substitutionary atonement (Christ died as a substitute for us). Jesus is called the King, Prophet, High Priest, and Apostle of the faith. For Him to be these things He had to have a physical body. If He did not, then, as an example, He could not be king in the line of David. A physical body was and is required for Him to be those things. If when we ascended into Heaven He somehow lost the body He would also lose the ability to be those things because those things require Him to be and remain human. More can be read on that here.

Additionally, to deny a continued physical body by Christ is dangerously close to Docetism which denied the physical body of Christ and said that Jesus only appeared to be human. Colossians 1:15 says “The Son is the image of the invisible God” and Colossians 2:9 says “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Docetism is a form of heresy that was denied at the Council of Nicaea in 325. Now please hear me, I am not saying the author is a heretic. My point is only that we have to be careful of the seeds we plant. I would not plan the seed for an oak tree in the garden that butts up against my house. The seed is small, but it grows into a great tree that would fracture my foundation. We have to follow seeds along their path to know what will grow from what we plant.

Moving on to the next point which is an implication. The author states that Jesus is reconciled to the Father and while I have trouble with this wording I am going to chalk it up to bad writing because reconciliation carries a very specific connotation in Christianity. For us, as Christians, it especially carries the idea of being separated by sin and no longer having free-flowing relationship or fellowship. Christ came to reconcile us to the Father and God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. To say that Christ became reconciled to God would imply He experienced a time when He was out of relationship with the Father which would imply disunity within the Godhead and the whole universe would collapse because Christ as God holds all things together (see Heb 1:3). I suppose I have a bigger problem with the wording than I thought.

Anyway, the other problem with this statement is that it implies that humanity or humanness cannot be connected or near God. That Jesus being reconciled to God meant He lost His humanity would imply the same thing for us. After all the Bible says that we will be raised like Him and while this speaks to union and eternal life I see no reason why a physical body would not be included especially because 2 Cor 5 talks about a new heavenly body which is one that does not see corruption or death. This again is Docetism and Gnosticism which says the physical is evil and only the spiritual is good. This means the flesh can never be good and leads to hedonism. There is a lot more than be said about this, but I think you get the picture.

We will stop here for now and split the rest up into another post. For now, we can summarize what we have. Jesus ascended to heaven and kept a human body. He was glorified (not reconciled) by the Father and then returned to heaven again. The physical or matter is not inherently evil and when we are united with Him in heaven or on the new Earth we too will have new, but still human, bodies. Next time we will talk about emotions. That will be a fun one…

Just a thought,

Mike

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Trading Glory

I’ve been thinking about Psalm 106:20 for a little over a week now and just in case this verse is not in your list of memorized verses (it was not in mine) it says, “They exchanged their glory for the image of a grass-eating ox.” The King James says it almost the same way, but some other versions say something along the lines of “they exchanged the glory of God…” either way I think we get the point.

Two other verses that seem to go along with this are Jeremiah 33:16 and Romans 3:22. These verses are good because they highlight the fact that it is God who is our righteousness and glory. It is Him and faith in Him that provides the blessing. I am intentionally not using Romans 1:23 because that is more about nonbelievers. Anyway, that is the housekeeping portion.

What I want to get at is there are times when we as believers in the Almighty trade His glory which is our righteousness for something else. Sometimes it is as harsh and dramatic as the Israelites making a golden calf and other times it is more subtle but the result is the same. The result is we trade our righteousness and God’s glory for something less. We have this gift as Christians of Christ being our righteousness and our glory. He is the “thing” inside us that makes us something different. The indwelling and filling of the Holy Spirit in us sets us apart and makes us more than we could ever choose to be. His gift to us is Himself and sometimes when we are not careful we trade that for something less. Really that is dumb. Kind of like this story…

We recently moved to Knoxville, so I can work on my degree full-time. The move has been awesome and amazing. God has been lining up all sorts of blessings. Some big, some small, and some just to show off. One such blessing is that the school provides internet. This was an unexpected blessing and will save us about $90 a month. I did not know that when we moved up here, so I had originally ordered cable from another company (rhymes with Bomcast). Today I called to cancel said service. It was easy enough but the young woman I was on the phone with kept trying to get me to keep Bomcast as my service provider. I explained to her a few times that I do not need it because I already get service for free (well I mean at least not a monthly payment) so I don’t want to pay for it. She wanted me to trade my blessing for something I would need to pay for. She was trying to get me to purchase something that had been given to me.

That is what we do sometimes. We have gifts from God and we instead fall into pride thinking we created something. We have blessings and think we need to work for more. We have faith and think work is required to earn more, and so on. We trade our glory and our righteousness for something else.

We must be careful to always turn our eyes back to the Master. We must turn our gaze back to Christ and seek His glory and kingdom and in doing so we lessen the possibility of trading Him for less.

Just a thought,

Mike

Character study – Ananias of Damascus

The first question and a good one I might add is why do a character study on Ananias of Damascus? A good second question might be what is a character study? Another well thought out question dear reader. To answer the former, I will say that the Lord revealed some things about Ananias to me and I thought it only fitting that I share them, and as to the latter I am referring to the character of the man Ananias, not the character named Ananias for that makes it sound more like a study on Bugs Bunny and while interesting that is not my aim and he is not just some character but a real man.

There are two other Ananias’s mentioned in the Bible the first is the man who he and his wife lied to the Holy Spirit, and the second was the High Priest. We are not speaking about either one of these men. The only Biblical references to Ananias of Damascus are found in Acts 9:10-18 and Acts 22:12-16. From this text, we are able to tell some important things about this man.

First, he was a man of faith in the Lord Jesus, verse 10 of chapter 9 tells us he was a disciple of Jesus, and 22:12 tells us he was devout and highly respected. The fact that he was a disciple was evident from his response to Jesus calling his name when he responded with “Yes Lord”, unlike Saul who answered, “who are you.” Ananias knew who it was that was calling him and answered the right way “yes Lord” oh if we would answer that way every time the Lord called our name. If we would say “yes Lord” maybe we would be able to better receive what He wanted to say to us.

Second, he was a man who could be trusted by the Lord to do His will. Not only did Jesus reveal to Ananias what He wanted him to do but Jesus showed Saul in a vision that Ananias would come. He was a man that could be trusted by God to do the will of the Lord. That says a lot about a person, and I can say that I would like to be that person. The kind of man that God can come to and say, “Mike this is what I want you to do, and I have shown someone in a vision that you would be coming.” What a time that would be. Ananias could be counted on.

Thirdly we can see he was an obedient man. When the Lord told him what He wanted, Ananias told Jesus that he knew of this man Saul and that he knew he was there to arrest men like himself. He knew that the man he was being sent to lay hands on for healing had been sent to lay hands on him for imprisonment. This was not an easy task. We sometimes struggle with praying for someone in the body who God directs us to. But this would be like living in Iran and God telling you to pray and lay hands on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei the supreme leader. This man Saul was bad news, he was the one at Stephens stoning, the one who testifies of himself that he persecuted the Way. Ananias’s faith and obedience in this situation should not be quickly overlooked. It is something that we should strive for, something to be sought after.

Fourthly we will quickly look at the fact that he was bold. Acts 22:14-16

“Then he said: ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.

What a statement! Did you catch it in verse 16 get up and get baptized; this was not a man who would dance around the point. He knew what he was directed to do and boy oh boy did he do it. I am not sure if I could accurately convey the point of that passage so I will not try other than again saying that Ananias was a bold believer who knew his mission and would do it.

From these texts, we can see that he was a true disciple who could be trusted, had faith, and was bold in mission for the Lord. What separated him and us? What made him so special? One word…Nothing!

That’s right he lived the life that you can live, the life I can live. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

Did you catch that; He (God) has given (past tense) us everything we need to live the life He wants us to live. We must simply (and I use that word very loosely) walk in it. We must walk in the power He has already bestowed on us. If we want the life of abundance that Jesus promised in John 10:10 than all we have to do is walk in it. That does not mean there will not be hardships, or trials, or difficulties, but it does mean that we can get through all of it by His grace and for His glory.

One last thing about this great man of faith named Ananias; he was martyred in Eleutheropolis sometime in the 1st century. He faced a trial and problem, but he met that one with the same faith as the one in Acts with boldness and faithfulness to his Lord and God. May it so be with us.

Just a thought,

Mike

p.s. this is an older study from about 8 years ago but I just re-read it and thought it worth sharing again.

My Torn Joy

Joy

It was nine months ago that we go the call. It was not the first time we had received the call, but we thought it would be the last, at least for a while. “We have a little boy who needs a home are you available?” yes of course we are. We were prepared and had everything ready. A few hours later we met C. It was love at first sight. He was the most adorable thing we had ever seen. He looked at me shot a little sideways smile and my heart melted. I knew I was in for a world of hurt. Within two weeks we were ready to keep him. We knew instantly that if he needed a permanent home he had one with us. Our goal with fostering is to give 100% of ourselves to the kids because they need it. Granted we have not done this for that long but it was still our goal. So, he got it all. All the love he could handle and trust me he can handle a lot of love.

Everyone who has met this little man has fallen for him. He walks down the hallway at church and almost everyone stops to say hi and give a high five. He puts a smile on everyone’s face and brings joy to everyone he meets. At the grocery store, he is king of the isles. I’ll be honest because we have different skin tone we were so nervous we were going to get questions and stares, so we wanted to keep a lower profile. I would have hated to have to slap a fool. C did not care. He wanted everyone to see him and us. He would kiss and hug me in front of anyone. He just wants to see the whole world smile. And they do.

Today he comes back from a weekend visit and then he will be leaving in a little over a week. I am so glad that he has a family to love him and I am heartbroken that I will not see him anymore. I honestly feel like I am going to die. He brought so much joy into my life for these nine months and I will never forget that, but it does not do much to soften the pain. I wanted to give 100% of myself to him and I did. Now part of me is leaving with him. It was hard when the last placement ended but for different reasons. This is torture. The waiting for him to go. The knowing the end is near and never showing him. Knowing each kiss goodnight is one less I get but making him feel like each one is forever. I have to be honest this hurts more than I ever knew possible. But again, he gave me joy and so much more.

Through C God has shown me more of His love than I ever understood before. Through C God has shown me His heart for me. Even when he is a little punk I love him. Even when he tests I love him. Even when he is just a two-year-old I love him. Nothing will change that. God has shown how He feels that infinitely more towards me. My joy is torn just like this picture C made and then broke. It serves as a reminder of what it means to love. Love means putting yourselves out there being willing to be hurt because it is worth it.

Kids are worth it. People are worth it. People need love and yes, they can hurt you, but they are worth the risk. You cannot reach everyone. Sometimes no matter how hard you try there is just no getting to them, but we cannot let that stop us from loving someone else. We are called to walk like Christ and Christ loved Judas knowing he would betray Him. Jesus loved enough to be hurt and so can we by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I know I am going to be a mess when C leaves but that is because I love him and I am OK with that. Foster care is hard and sometimes it just sucks but they are worth it. Loving people is hard and sometimes you don’t want to do it, but people are worth it. If we just try and protect ourselves from getting hurt we may succeed but at what cost?

Just a thought,

Mike

Reconciliation, Sanctification, and Hot Glue

I just completed repairing a table for someone. It was a good time because I like doing things like that. It was a fairly easy project. I just had to drill out the old dowels, sand off the old glue, cut new dowels, re-glue the seams, and clamp it all together. All in all, it was an uneventful project except for what I felt like God was saying to me…

One of the reasons I like doing little projects like this is because I often feel God speak to me during them. Not in an audible way but in my soul. Some of my biggest revelations about God and myself have come from one project or another. For some reason, God chooses to speak to me through my physical actions. Maybe it’s because I am a bit thick in the head and when I am working on something I am a little freer to hear from Him.

As I was sanding off the old glue I was getting pelted with hot glue bits because apparently a Dremel will melt glue and shoot it at you. This is a good tip for the future but as I was being assaulted with hot glue buckshot I understood something about God and myself on a deeper level. In going to the cross Christ took my sin and that sin was costly, and it hurt. It was brutal, and while my hot glue barrage does not compare but it did make me think. He took that pain because I needed that sin removed. In order for me to have the ability to be reconnected, or reconciled, in a proper and fitting way like the table legs the old had to be stripped away and it did not come without a cost. Now I know this because 1 Peter 1:18-19 among other verses tells me this but it is one thing to know it and another to understand it. We always have to remember that it was for our benefit that Christ died. He was perfectly fine before the incarnation, but He desired us. He desired to reconcile us to the Father. It was that desire and the will to carry it out that gives us life. Jesus desired us so much it moved Him to participate in humanity and literally put some skin in the game.

Now the second thing is that it hurts me too. If the wood could speak (and had feelings) it would tell me that this burns and it is painful. It would probably ask me to stop because this process is uncomfortable, however, because I know what it takes to reconnect the legs in a permanent way I persist. It might be painful for a moment, but that moment will pass, and it will be stronger than it ever was before but first, it must undergo destruction of the old. We are being conformed to the image of the Son and don’t think for a second that is not a painful process. Old things from you are being stripped away and torn off. It is painful and that is OK. God is trying to make you fit where you belong. He is trying to make you fulfill your purpose, but you have so much junk on you that cannot stay that way. Sure, He could patch you up and send you along, but He would rather do things the right way. God prefers to sanctify us. Yes, there is an instant part of sanctification but there is also this ongoing process of maturing and setting apart (sanctification).

I know the Bible says that our righteousness is like filthy rags and I agree but God still created you and built you for a purpose. You are handcrafted and on your own, you cannot do it, but He can. You cannot clean yourself up and make yourself fit with Him. He needs to remove all that sin and selfishness, so you fit like you should. Both Christ and we have skin in this process. That is not something that can be understated.

I am so glad that Christ took my sin and I am so sorry that I still fall short and sin. But I know that He has not given up on me. I know He is working to accomplish His good pleasure in me. I know that He has work for me to do that He has predestined for me to do. I know I am not worthy of it and I don’t even know what it is, but I trust Him. Let’s let Him clean us up. Let’s let Him rebuild us into what we were made to be. Yes, it is painful but never forget it hurt Him first.

Just a thought,

Mike

Time Anxiety

Every once in a while, I like to get a little personal and today is one of those days. Lately, I have realized I struggle with some time anxiety. I hate wasting time. I am not entirely sure why but something about wasting time just feels so wrong to me. I feel like I have so much to do, to learn, to give that wasting time feels wrong. Because of this, I feel overwhelmed by the number of things to do, to learn, and the needs that need to be met. It does not help that I am a doer either. I am able to get things done and usually in a short amount of time. People usually pick up on this (at least at work) and come to me for help and to take things off their plate. This too only exacerbates the problem.

Lately, the problem is only growing because we are getting ready to move to Knoxville. I am going to go to school full time so I can finish up my degree in 2 years. The idea of working at my current job which is very time demanding and going to school full time has sent my time anxiety into overdrive. I have been trying to find a way to not have to work but unless $10-20k shows up in the mailbox I am stuck. So, what do I do? I start spiraling into time issues. I won’t have enough time to study, to fellowship, to learn, to enjoy my wife and daughter, to enjoy the process, and so on. It quickly becomes overwhelming.

It is not that this is a new revelation to me but there is something that is new. Last night I realized this again but also had a thought of “this is not good; God I need you to help me with this.” It was a moment where I realized I had a choice to make. I could again acknowledge my time issues take, God’s grace in the moment, and move on only to face this again next week or I could receive His grace to work through the problem. I want to work through it.

I get two verses of the day. Today they were James 1:5 and Ecclesiastes 7:14.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. – James 1:5

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one as well as the other.
Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future. – Ecclesiastes 7:14

These verses spoke such life into me because I was reminded of three things. First, God listens not looking down on us because we are weak but wants to answer the prayers of His children. Second, I need to seek Him to help me with my problem. Third, time is His to hold and command not mine. I want to enjoy the process, but more than that I want to enjoy God. I want to feel His presence, His nearness and know that even when I don’t feel Him He is near.

So now what? Well, I am a firm believer that God will always continue the good work He starts in someone. So I am going to try and keep coming back to Him every time I start to get overwhelmed. I am also going to try and start coming to God before I get overwhelmed and put my “schedule” in His hands. If I trust Him like I say I do then I need to be willing to give Him everything and that includes my time anxiety.

It does not mean it will all just go away because usually, we find that we are actually working through bigger issues but I am OK with that. I trust that God knows best and that He will lead me through my time anxiety. I trust that He wants to mold me into something better. I trust He is good and that He has a plan. I trust that He is God.

Just a thought,

Mike