The Bourne Again Identity

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My Musings – In charades, we make the sign “sounds like.”  I recently noted the following on the internet. “The English language is hard, but can be understood through tough thorough thought though.”  Perhaps its only how we Americans have corrupted it “though?”  Some will say they “know” that this is true, while others will say “no” there is no “colonel” of truth to this claim.   Okay, so maybe we Americans can’t be blamed for that “won.”

Here are a few more similar words, with similar consequences if relied upon without being “identified” with Christ.

Indivisible – Impossible to divide or separate. The word indivisible, as used in the pledge of allegiance, is intended to convey that the United States is rock solid in its unity and cannot be broken apart.  Sadly, there is move divisiveness today than perhaps at any other time since the Civil War.  What makes this particularly troubling is that we all face a common enemy, the coronavirus, yet to a large extent we are divided in how we should respond.  This even happened in the shadow of Israel’s golden age under King Solomon, and the kingdom was divided.

The king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the LORD, to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite. When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king:  ‘What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, O Israel! Look after your own house, O David!’”  (1 Kings 12:15–16, NIV 1984).

Invincible – Too powerful to be defeated or overcome.  The United States is the only remaining military superpower. Yet, in all its might, it has been unable to completely vanquish terrorism, and there is no weapon in its vast arsenal that can conquer the stealth of the coronavirus.  Madeline Albright, Secretary of State in the Clinton administration once claimed, “if we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see the danger here to all of us.” Did we see far enough to prepare for the danger of the coronavirus?  In the face of this silent killer, such a claim has proven to be mere hubris.  Such trust is ultimately misguided.  We are not first “world” superpower to have such misguided reliance.

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD.   Yet he too is wise and can bring disaster; he does not take back his words. He will rise up against the house of the wicked, against those who help evildoers. But the Egyptians are men and not God; their horses are flesh and not spirit. When the LORD stretches out his hand, he who helps will stumble, he who is helped will fall; both will perish together.”  (Isaiah 31:1–3, NIV 1984).

Indispensable – So good or important that you could not manage without. A claim similar to Secretary Albright’s was made by President Obama. “When a typhoon hits the Philippines or schoolgirls are kidnapped in Nigeria or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine, it is America that the world looks to for help. So the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century past and it will be true for the century to come.” But we are turning inward (“America first”), during this current health crisis, making ourselves largely “unavailable” to the rest of humanity facing a plague that knows no boundaries. Soon we may not be able to help anyone, as the financial resources of the most prosperous nation on earth, very well may be strained to the point of national bankruptcy.  Pray to God that we do not also become morally bankrupt and lose our national “soul.”  What becomes of the “wealth of nations” that are not rich toward God and others?

The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”  (Luke 12:16–21, NIV 1984).

Invisible – Cannot be seen or readily perceived.  National unity, military invincibility, and indispensable economic resources — largely impotent to a microscopic virus that is invisible to the naked eye.  Such a turn of events is not unprecedented in human history.

This is what the LORD says concerning the king of Assyria:  ‘He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the LORD. I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’  That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.”  (2 Kings 19:32–36, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Unity can dissolve.  Power may disintegrate.  Wealth can disappear. Where can we “identify” hope that does not disappoint?  In the “Bourne” Again Identity.

In reply Jesus declare[s], ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’  ‘How can a man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, You must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going [it’s invisible]. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’”  (John 3:3–8, NIV 1984).

To Those Not Waiting

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He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.  (Hebrews 9:26–28, NIV 1984).

My Musings – “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Never a popular subject, but in these uncertain days it’s the “elephant in the room.”  The recent events has placed it squarely before us.  We all have that appointment “to die once.”  But one appointment we need not face is the second death.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.   (Revelation 20:11–15, NIV 1984).

Second death, another unpopular subject.  And if we avoid this subject now, it will be unavoidable in the end (“after that to face judgment“).   The old adage, born once – die twice, born twice – die once, is true.

Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them.”  (Revelation 20:6, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Are you one of “those who are waiting for Him?”  You are if you’ve been born twice (born again).  If not, what’s waiting for you is the second death.  This need not be.  Check out my “The Born Again Experience” musings to find out how.

Begin With The End In Mind

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Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”  (Matthew 7:21–23, NIV 1984).

My Musings – The second habit in Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” is begin with the end in mind.  The gist is, if you do not know your destination, how in the world are you going to get there.  This applies on various scales.  No one would begin to build a house without first visualizing what it should be like.  Its dimensions, number of rooms, construction materials, where to best locate it, etc.  Once these are determined (planned out), the actual building begins. Unfortunately, few visualize the totality of their lives that way. We may have a one and five-year plan, a plan to provide for retirement, a plan for life in retirement, and a plan for what we want to pass on in our estate. But these individual components do not add up to the totality of our lives.

“I know what I’m gonna do tomorrow, and the next day, and the next year, and the year after that. I’m shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then, I’m comin’ back here to go to college and see what they know. And then I’m gonna build things. I’m gonna build airfields, I’m gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I’m gonna build bridges a mile long.” – George Bailey, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Think for a few minutes about your funeral, the people that might attend, for instance.  What is it that you would like them to say about you.  “He sure had his five year plan well thought out.”  “Nobody planned for or lived their retirement like she did.”  “He sure left his children well off.”  As good as these things might be, are they really our legacy?  Not really.  What we really want, if we think hard about it, is to be remembered for the kind of person we were.  The life we lived. The lives we touched. The differences we made.

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”  Clarence (the angel), “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

But as we plan for and live our lives, do we begin with this end in mind?  For many, maybe most, probably not.  We begin with making a living in mind rather than beginning with making a life in mind.  At your funeral, will people be talking about the places you visited (Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum), the things you built (airfields, skyscrapers a hundred stories high, bridges a mile long), or how many other lives we touched, the awful hole we will leave?

My Advice – But even these are not the totality of our lives.  For, “just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”  (Hebrews 9:27–28, NIV 1984).  There will be many who will have lots of kind and heartfelt things said about them at their funerals for the fine things they did in this life, only to hear Christ say “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!

You see, it’s not what we did, it’s who we know.  What we did, our good works, can never atone for the sin in our lives.  But who we know can, because of what He did.  “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”  (Isaiah 53:5, NIV 1984).

So, if you really want to begin with the end in mind, don’t just think about what other people will say about you at your funeral.  Think about what He will say to you when you stand before Him.  It can be, “come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”  (Matthew 25:34, NIV 1984).  But only if you have been born again.

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”

 

 

A More Perfect Edition

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They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” (Daniel 6:3–5, NIV 1984).

My Musings – What do you want on your tombstone?  If you live in the U.S., you’ll remember that this was a clever slogan for Tombstone Pizza, popularizing the concept that you could have whatever you wanted on it.

But on a more somber note, people do not always get what they would like on the tombstone that marks their grave. How will people remember you?  How would you like to be remembered?

American icon Benjamin Franklin composed his own epitaph, presumably the way he wanted to be remembered, with a touch of levity and a bit of irony:

The body of B. Franklin. Printer.  Like the Cover of an old Book. Its contents torn out, and stript of its lettering and guilding, lies here. Food for Worms. But the work shall not be wholly lost. For it will, as he believ’d, appear once more in a new & more perfect edition.  Corrected and amended by the Author.

Sometimes, the way we would like to be remembered, and the reality of how we will be remembered are quite a different matter.  Hopefully, Ben Franklin’s belief was centered on Christ as his Redeemer, and he will indeed appear in a new and more perfect (glorified) edition. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV 1984).

For Daniel of the Old Testament, they were one in the same.  Though his enemies tried to find fault in him, “they could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.”  The only fault they could find was “something to do with the law of his God.”  What an enviable legacy!

My Advice – I can’t improve on this advice from the Apostle Peter.  “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12, NIV 1984).

An Inconvenient Truth

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Several days later Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.”  (Acts 24:24–25, NIV 1984).

My Musings – “When I find it convenient.”  We do know he sent for Paul frequently, hoping to be offered a bribe (verse 26).  So it seems likely that it was not the time that was inconvenient.  It was the truth. Perhaps, he never had any intention of finding a more convenient time for the truth?  Perhaps he kept putting the truth off, feeling he would some day have a convenient time? Sadly, we do not know if Felix ever found it convenient.

My Advice – Of course we know that for some, the truth will never be convenient and they will flat out reject it.  For others, they find the truth convenient (they are definitely interested), but for whatever reason, the time is not.  That is a mistake.  They may not have “two more jumps” (or even one) at the truth.  We have no assurance there will be another opportunity.  That’s the inconvenient truth.  “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”  (2 Corinthians 6:2, NIV 1984).  He’s “coming down here” and the time will not be convenient if we are not ready.

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Want to become a Christian? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

Called Out Of Darkness

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My Musings – “The future ain’t what it used to be.”  (Yogi Berra).  It certainly isn’t.  Hopelessly lost and separated from our Creator, with no hope for reconciliation by our own efforts.  Facing an eternity apart from God in Hell.  No Exit. His righteousness demanded it.  That was our future.

Where there was no hope, God provided hope.  Where there was no way, God provided a way.  The possibility of being reunited with our Creator because He made it possible for us to be a new creation through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.  His grace satisfied His righteousness.  The opportunity to spend eternity reunited with God in Heaven.  This can be our future.

My Advice – Which future do we want?  This should be an obvious choice.  Yet so many stumble over it.  Yes, Jesus is the only way, because His sacrifice was the only possible way to satisfy God’s righteousness.  But whoever calls on His name will be saved.  He’s calling us out of darkness.  Will we respond?

And It Was So

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My Musings – Perspective.  It’s easy to lose sight of it amongst all the scientific jargon and mumbo jumbo.  But if you step back to get a better perspective of the big picture it is beyond awesome (a much overused word).  And yet, “these are but the outer fringe of His works; how faint the whisper we hear of Him!” (Job 25:14).  Outer fringe?  Faint whisper?  Now that’s perspective for you.

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Beginning – That “singular point” that scientists call “The Big Bang”, in which all matter, energy and time “sprang” into being, was God speaking it all into existence. This was the beginning of time (for us), a period of remote and unknown antiquity, hid in the depths of eternal ages, before the world began.  After all, what is 13.8 billion years (more or less), to a God that was preexistent (to exist beforehand, before time) for all of eternity past (infinite)? And if this all preceded, and was in preparation for, what occurred on the seven “days” of creation that followed, there is no controversy in the aging of the “building materials” that God created, whether is was 13.8 billion years ago or 6000 years ago. “The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began.” (Proverbs 8:22-23, emphasis added).

Created – The Hebrew word is “bara,” which in the Old Testament is used exclusively for divine activity (Yahweh is always the grammatical subject). This implies that people cannot create in the way God creates [true], and no lesser “god” can claim to be creator. The term also conveys the idea of ordering and determining function (e.g., underlying physical and thermodynamic laws and principles) to the cosmos. While it always describes the divine activity of fashioning something new, fresh, and perfect, it does necessarily describe creation out of nothing (for example the creation of man), it often stresses forming a new, reforming, renewing (initially the earth was void and without form). Clearly the initial “big bang” was creation out of nothing, but not from nothing. It was from God. After all, what is creating something out of nothing to a God who is omnipotent (having unlimited power; able to do anything)? “By faith we understand that the universe was formed (had a beginning) at God’s command (caused), so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible (began to exist).” (Hebrews 11:3)

Heavens and Earth – This expression is frequently employed to denote the world, or universe, for which there was no single word in the Hebrew language; the universe consisting of a twofold whole. The opening (heavens) and closing parentheses (earth) that encompassed the entire creation (cosmos). From God’s perspective (the heavens) to man’s (the earth). From the one sending the revelation to those receiving it. Keeping in mind that those originally receiving the message had not developed scientifically and could not be expected to understand any of that. God was attempting to communicate what, not necessarily the details of how, because the details at that point in time were not necessary. It is, however, interesting to note how man’s advancing scientific “big bang” theory of the beginning (previously the claim was there was no beginning, the universe always existed), has drawn closer to that rudimentary description God originally provided. Interesting, but not surprising. After all, what is the entire cosmos to a God that is infinite (has no boundaries or limits, not confined to the universe He created in time or space)? “The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you.” (1 Kings 8:27).

Formless and Empty – In the more poetic King James Version, “void and without form.” What else might one expect from the “letting loose” from a single point of origin and in the “blinking of an eye” of all matter and energy to form a universe that stretches to an observable edge of 45.34 billion light-years in radius? After all, what is 45.34 billion light years (times two) to a God that is omnipresent (present everywhere)? The two words (formless and empty) designate a state of material devoid of order, prior to God’s meticulous work on it. There was nothing in it desirable to be seen, for it was “confusion and emptiness,” an alternate translation. It was shapeless, it was useless, it was without inhabitants, without ornaments. Not even the shadow or rough draft of things to come (other than in the mind of the Creator). First, He created the building materials, then He set to building and furnishing it. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalms 8:3-4)

Darkness – Scientists surmise that until around a few hundred million years or so after the Big Bang, the universe was a very dark place, with no stars and no galaxies. God did not create this darkness. Light was not necessary until something was made that might be seen by it. For what is light, to a God’s whose glory and holiness is so bright that no living creature can gaze upon it and live? “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5).

Over the Surface of the Deep – The Hebrew word is tehom, which refers to the primordial or primeval sea—the cosmic waters of chaos. The coincides with the scientific theory that in its beginning, the earth was a giant, red hot, roiling, boiling sea of molten rock – a magma ocean. As the earth began to cool, water vapor began to escape and condense in the earth’s early atmosphere. Clouds formed and storms raged, raining more and more water down on the primitive earth, cooling the surface until it was flooded with water, forming the seas. “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41).

Spirit of God Hovered Over the Waters – In the darkness of this chaos (darkness, formless, emptiness) the Spirit of God moved to prepare for the effectual creative Word of God. The Hebrew translated as “hovered” or “moved” means “to brood over; to incubate.” How much of that sense might be attached here is hard to say, but the verb does depict the presence of the Spirit of God moving about mysteriously over the waters, presumably preparing for the acts of creation (Days one through seven) to follow. The earth was formless, so God formed what He wanted. The earth was empty, so God filled up what He had formed. Regrettably, scientists, in general, have no place for the Holy Spirit in what precedes or what follows. Science on the other hand, as we will someday fully appreciate, welcomes its Creator. “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6).

My Advice – Simply this, praise God!

References

  1. All Scripture references, unless otherwise indicated are from the New International Version, 1984.
  2. https://www.space.com/25126-big-bang-theory.html
  3. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 17). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  4. Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 1:1). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  5. Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Ge 1:1). Biblical Studies Press.
  6. Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (1996). Commentary on the Old Testament (Vol. 1, p. 29). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.
  7. https://www.businessinsider.com/size-of-the-universe-2016-8.
  8. Hamilton, V. P. (1995). Genesis. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, p. 11). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
  9. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 4). Peabody: Hendrickson.
  10. https://jwst.nasa.gov/content/science/firstLight.html
  11. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 4). Peabody: Hendrickson.
  12. Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 1:2). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  13. http://www.extremescience.com/earth.htm.
  14. Ross, A. P. (1985). Genesis. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 28). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  15. Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Ge 1:2). Biblical Studies Press.
  16. Wiersbe, W. W. (1993). Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament (Ge 1). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.