Christianity, current events, God, religion

The Superman Questions

Charlie Rose: “What are we talking about then? Must there be a Superman?”
Senator June Finch: “There is.”
Dialogue from the movie “Batman v. Superman” (2016)

In the Batman v Superman movie, there is a scene where various contributors discuss the Superman question and its implications. What does it mean to have a being in your midst whose power transcends and overshadows anything humanity has? The very possibility of such a reality is frightening. Vikram Gandhi raised the point that while most people believe in a higher power, when a savior character actually does come, we want him to abide by our rules. Andrew Sullivan was concerned about what, if any, moral constraints this person would follow. Glen Woodburn rightly points out that humanity has often followed after powerful people into great atrocities. Niel DeGrasse Tyson points out how having a Superman challenges our place in the universe, and shows that mankind doesn’t hold a special place in the universe after all. Charlie Rose and Senator June Finch are concerned about Superman’s interventions in human history because he acts as he sees fit (unilaterally) rather than by the consent and will of the people. These are all interesting contributions, but let’s examine the question Charlie Rose asks Senator Finch.

Must there be a Superman? Yes, because humanity has a depravity problem and we cannot solve this problem with our own power and wisdom. People don’t get along well with each other, and there should be no argument on this point because there is so much empirical evidence to support it. People malign one another and gossip about others. People divide themselves into groups based on ethnicity, economic status, etc., and are suspicious and even hostile to outsiders. When they don’t have what they want, they quarrel and fight one another to get it. We have seen rulers throughout history rise to power and then become depraved and murderous. This all points to the work of depravity, and something that is missing in the human condition, an empty place in every human heart that needs to be filled to make us complete so that we can overcome the effects of depravity: So that we will stop using our words to destroy other human beings and lift them up instead. So we come together in true unity and not divide into cliques and groups. So that leaders will rule wisely and well, and the people won’t live in fear of a government that has gone out of control. Humanity has been plagued by its problems for thousands of years, and to paraphrase the Humpty-Dumpty fairy tale, “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t make humanity whole again,” even though they have tried for throughout time. Since we cannot solve our own problems with our power and wisdom, it follows that we need someone who has power and wisdom that is greater than humans who can solve the problems of depravity. The good news is that there really is a Superman today, but this person isn’t a man in a cape flying around saving the day. The real Superman has powers that far exceed anything the creators of the caped Superman could ever conceive of.

The real Superman and the most powerful man the world has ever known is our Savior, Jesus, and as such it is not surprising that He is also a figure of controversy. Throughout the centuries since He walked among us, He has been loved by some, vilified by others, and misunderstood by many. When Jesus asked His disciples who the people said He was, some said He was John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Then He asks the disciples “who do you say that I am?” and Peter replies “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16: 13-16). When Peter identifies Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, he shows us that Jesus is not an ordinary man. Jesus is the “theanthropos,” the God-man. He is fully human and fully divine. Jesus’ life and works also testify that He is no ordinary man. In John we read this about His divine identity:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4, NASB)

John goes on to say: “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him” (John 1: 10 NASB). Can you imagine that? The Creator of everything came down to Earth and lived among us! He created us in His image, and He took on the form of man when He came down to us. He was God in the flesh, the theanthropos! Listen to what the writer of Hebrews tells us about Him; it’s truly awesome:

But of the Son He says ‘THY THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. THOU HAST LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, THY GOD, HATH ANOINTED THEE WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE THY COMPANIONS.’ And ‘THOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING DIDST LAY THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; THEY WILL PERISH, BUT THOU REMAINEST; AND THEY WILL BECOME OLD AS A GARMENT, AND AS A MANTLE THOU WILT ROLL THEM UP; AS A GARMENT THEY WILL BE CHANGED. BUT THOU ART THE SAME, AND THY YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.’ (Hebrews 1: 8-12, NASB)

Since God walked among us in human form, this is the reason we can say there really is a Superman.

We have all heard the saying “truth can be stranger than fiction,” but in this case, truth is much more wonderful and amazing than fiction. The fictional Superman could bend steel and leap over tall buildings, but the real Superman did the impossible: When thousands can to hear Him speak and He wanted to feed them, He used a few loaves and fishes to miraculously fed them all from what would only have been enough for one person (Matthew 14: 13-21; 15: 32-38). When people needed any kind of healing, He spoke the word and they were healed (John 4: 46-54; Matthew 8: 5-13). When demons oppressed and tormented people, He drove them out by His word and authority (Matthew 8:16-17, 28-34; 15: 21-28). Even death doesn’t have the last word because He has the power to raise people from the dead (John 11: 1-44; Luke 7: 11-15). When a storm threatened to sink the boat He was travelling in, He caused a great calm when He rebuked the wind and waves (Matthew 8: 23-27). He knew what people were thinking and what was in their hearts (John 2: 24-25; Matthew 12: 22-25). His sacrifice made it possible for people to be forgiven and born again (Luke 23: 34; John 3: 16-17). There is nothing He cannot do, which is what makes a real Superman; this is the one who has the power to solve humanity’s depravity problem and fill our hearts with His presence.

Towards the end of the Batman v Superman movie, there is a scene where people are honoring and remembering Superman and his life. The words written about Superman say “If you seek his monument, look around you.” These words remind people that Superman’s legacy can be seen in the lives he affected and changed while he was alive. Superman's monumentUnlike the fictional Superman, the theanthropos Jesus cannot die. After He was crucified and buried, He rose from the dead; if you were to seek His monument, it would be an empty tomb. He lives on as our High Priest, always making intercession for us before the Father in heaven. His perfect sacrifice made it possible to have friendship with God again and overcome the power of depravity that has caused so much suffering in our history. His presence fills the empty void in our hearts and makes us content in whatever circumstance we are in. His power to change lives is found in the Gospel message:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith. (Romans 1: 16-17, NASB).

He lives in the hearts of millions of people and still interacts with us today. Just ask any of His people to tell you their story about how they met Jesus and what He did for them. Then ask them what He can do for you today!

Who do you say Jesus is? This is the Superman question Jesus asks of us, and everyone must answer. Will you believe the Gospel and come to Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins? If you will take that step of faith today and come to Jesus, the real Superman, you will find forgiveness, mercy, and grace. All your sins and mistakes will be forgiven and you will start life anew. Come by faith believing that He is the Son of the living God and pray this prayer:

Lord Jesus, I confess that I have done many things against you. I confess that I have sinned and been rebellious, and for that I am truly sorry. I repent of all of this and I ask for your mercy and forgiveness (You can list specific things to ask forgiveness for if you want). I believe you are the Son of God, and I place everything in my life under your control. I ask you to come and live in my heart. Create a clean heart in me and give me a right spirit so that I may always do what is right in your eyes. Thank you for saving me Lord Jesus!

If you have prayed this prayer, you are a new creation, and your old life is over. Your new life has begun! Congratulations and welcome to the family of God! The important thing now is to find a good body of believers to fellowship with for discipleship and spiritual growth. Now the adventure begins!

Av 22, 5776

1 John 1 9

Standard
Christianity, current events

Thoughts on this Shemitah year of 2015 (5775)

January 16, 2015

Tevet 25, 5775

Koli El Adonai

Not everyone is familiar with the concept of the Shemitah year, especially those who have been influenced by replacement theology. We are already well into the current Shemitah year, so I will give a brief summary of the Shemitah year. I also have some applications to honor the Shemitah year and put its principles into practice that I would like the audience to prayerfully consider. There are five points I would like to mention about the Shemitah year.

First, the Shemitah year can be described as a Sabbath year. Just like the week includes six days for work and one for rest, every seventh year was a Sabbath year:

The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired servant and the sojourner who lives with you, and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.

Lev 25:1-7 (ESV)

Sowing and reaping were prohibited during the Shemitah year; the land was to rest and enjoy its Sabbath. The land became public domain during the Shemitah year because everyone was free to take whatever grew of itself in the fields for food during this year. There was no stockpiling during the Shemitah year; you were allowed to only take enough for your daily needs. This is similar to the command God gave concerning the manna (Ex 16: 16).

Second, the Shemitah year was a year of release. There was an old song by Tennessee Ernie Ford that said “I owe my soul to the company store,” and it expressed the despair of always being in debt and never being able to get out from under it. The Lord did not intend for perpetual debt to exist in Israel, and the Lord commanded that all debts be cancelled at the end of the Shemitah year:

At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the Lord’s release has been proclaimed.

Deut 15:1-2 (ESV)

The last day of the Shemitah was Elul 29; all debts were cancelled at sundown on this day  and everyone got a fresh start. No matter how bad your situation was, you would never “owe your soul to the company store” in Israel. This also brings me back to God’s command about the manna. The Israelites were commanded to take an omer apiece from the manna, and they were warned that if they left any over until the next day, it would breed worms and stink. In the same way, any debts that that survived the Shemitah year were also unacceptable before the Lord. The Shemitah is therefore an R & R year (rest and release).

Third, the Shemitah year reminds the people that everything belongs to God, and we are just stewards of His resources. A brother may agree to work for you to pay off a debt, but even if the debt has not been paid in full, he is released on the Shemitah. If you buy the fields of another man, they also have to be returned one day. You really don’t own anything, and you certainly can’t take it with you.

Fourth, the Shemitah year reminds us of our dependence on God and builds our faith. Sowing and reaping stopped during the Shemitah year, so the people had to depend on God to provide for all their needs until the next harvest is gathered. And just like the Israelites in the wilderness, they had to have faith that the manna they needed would be there at the start of the day. The Shemitah causes people to look up to the Lord for their provision, not to the fields and the strength of their own efforts.

Fifth, the Shemitah is a blessing or a judgment. When the Shemitah was observed, the Lord’s blessing chased after the people and overtook them. It causes a nation to be exalted and its enemies to be abased. On the other hand, when the Shemitah was disregarded, tragedy overtook the nation. When that happens, the nation is brought down and its enemies are strengthened.

Does the Shemitah have any relevance for us today? Replacement theology would tell us no because we are under grace and not the Law. I don’t think we should dismiss the Shemitah so quickly however, especially since the effects of the Shemitah still impact us today. The last two Shemitah years have been particularly bad for our nation. In 2001 our nation experienced the attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, and there was a subsequent stock market crash on September 17, which was Elul 29 on the Jewish calendar. Then on the next Shemitah year of 2008, there was another devastating stock market crash on September 29.

This does not necessarily mean that we are in for another stock market crash, but considering that the time of this Shemitah year also includes four blood moons, the Daniel’s among us who can read the writing on the wall are rightly concerned. When America’s hedge of protection was breached and the Twin Towers fell, Senator Tom Daschle’s reply included Isaiah 9: 10. If you read this passage by itself, it does appear to be a message of hope after a tragedy. But if you read the previous verses, you learn that these words were spoken from a heart filled with pride and arrogance. Instead of repenting and reconciling with God, the people of Israel (and America) have distanced themselves even more from God. As the behavior of the people in riots associated with Ferguson, MO and New York, NY shows, the love of many has grown cold. Lawlessness, division, and anarchy are increasing. The quality of state and national government is no better. It has recently been revealed that Jonathan Gruber, the architect of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), boasted that lack of transparency, voter ignorance, and deception were strategies used to pass this legislation. It has been reported that a Virginia politician  has been elected to office in spite of the fact he is currently in jail for a scandal involving a teen. America’s moral and spiritual condition has gotten worse since 9/11, not better.

Our nation needs to repent and reconcile with God while there is still time, and I pray that all of my readers will pray for their nation and be obedient to God’s direction for our lives. We know that when Israel disregarded the Shemitah year, it lead to the Babylonian captivity of the nation. With this in mind, it is prudent to focus on the Shemitah year itself and honor its principles. We can still honor the Shemitah year, and in at least some small way we can realign our lives and a small part of our nation back to God. For now, I am proposing that we follow the Shemitah mandate for rest and release.

Rest

There was to be no sowing or reaping during the Shemitah year, but since most of us do not live on or near farms like the people of ancient Israel, what does that mean to us? It is true that we are not primarily an agrarian society anymore, but I believe the principle of sowing can still apply. Sowing does involve seeds for a harvest, but sowing is not limited to seeds. We can also sow money (as in investments in a new business venture), time, resources, etc. I would ask you to consider not sowing into anything that can give you a return (or harvest) during the Shemitah year. This allows you to honor the prohibition against sowing without actually being a farmer. If you are a businessman or are involved in investments, this can be particularly challenging since your livelihood depends on this the same way ancient Israel depended on their harvests. I have already mentioned that the Shemitah can be a faith builder. Do you believe God will bless you for not sowing during the Shemitah? Then prayerfully consider honoring the Shemitah and don’t sow for a harvest (or a return on an investment). There is one exception to this that I want you to be aware of.

Good works Scripture

I will not say that all sowing must cease, because I must acknowledge that good works must not cease, even on the Sabbath or the Shemitah. The Lord Yeshua talked about these things when He walked among us:

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” He went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”— so that they might accuse him. He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Matt 12:1-12 (ESV)

If you have an opportunity to do good and bring glory to God, do it with all your might! The Shemitah principle doesn’t stop us from sowing for a harvest of righteousness. It pleases the Lord for us to sow good works into the lives of others to bring in a harvest of righteousness, even during the Shemitah year. Good works never go out of style!

Release

I also propose that we honor the Shemitah principle to release those in debt to us. The Shemitah mandate calls for all debts to be cancelled on the Day of Remission. On the Jewish calendar, that day is Elul 29, but on our calendar it will fall on September 13, 2015. As the sun sets on this day, cancel all debts, and not just the material ones. Here are some examples: Does someone at work owe you a favor (even if it’s a big one)? Release them. Did you loan some DVDs to a neighbor? Don’t ask for them back. Does someone owe you a lot of money? Cancel the debt and honor the Lord’s release. Did someone offend you? Forgive and set them free. Forgive all debts whether they are material or immaterial. If you are hesitant to forgive material debts, is it because these possessions are more important than honoring God’s Shemitah? Don’t let your possessions possess you.

Being set free

Set the captives free.

I think this is the best part of the Shemitah, because you can set someone free. When you confessed your sins to the Lord Yeshua and received forgiveness, didn’t that feel wonderful? Why not pass that feeling along to others? Jesus came to set the captives free, and when we honor the Shemitah and release others who are indebted to us, we are doing the same works He did. We are called to walk as He did, so let’s release our debtors!

I did mention that unforgiven debt is unacceptable to the Lord because it dishonors the Shemitah, but there is one debt that we are allowed to keep in force; it is the debt we have to love one another. Always keep this debt in force: Love the Lord you God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Those who love fulfill the Law!

Please prayerfully seek the Lord for His direction on what He wants you to do this Shemitah year, and then pursue it with everything you have. Remember also that you don’t have to wait until September 13 to cancel debts; you are free to cancel them at any time as the Lord leads you. When you are obedient to the Lord’s commands, you make Yeshua real, and the invisible God becomes visible to the world when we do His works. His light shines in the world through your obedience and good works, so let there be light!  Friends, I encourage you to sow good works among your neighbors. I will close with the Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6: 24-26) and song to encourage you.

He came to set the captives free

 

 

 

Standard
Uncategorized

Come over here and help us: A call to stand in the gap.

Scripture text:

And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none. Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord God.

Ezek 22:30-31 (ESV)

There have been many articles written about militant groups such as Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hamas, and ISIS. They are violent and inflexible about their beliefs and objectives, and they have used terror tectics, murder, persecution of Christians and minorities, kidnapping, slavery, building invasion tunnels and firing rockets at civilian targets to achieve their goals. These acts offend the sensibilities of peaceful people, but now that these groups are active, what can we do about this?

Possible solutions have been proposed at the government level, but these solutions depend on the actions of man divorced from faith in God. As such, any results they may achieve are limited and transitory. The fact is that the weapons, wisdom, and power of the world cannot bring the lasting change needed for true healing and reconciliation. If we want to solve the problems created by these terror groups, we need to stand in the gap.

We must realize that God cares about the people in these terror groups, and the story of Jonah is a good illustration of this. The ancient Assyrians were just as violent and cruel in their day, but God graciously sent Jonah to warn them that they would be destroyed if they did not repent. Jonah really wanted to see Nineveh destroyed, and after he preached his warning to Nineveh, he waited outside the city to see what would happen. As he waited, the Lord caused a plant to spring up to give Jonah shade and relief from the heat, but the next day the Lord sent a worm to destroy the plant. As Jonah became faint from the heat, he told God he preferred to die rather than live. God spoke to Jonah:

But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” And the Lord said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

Jonah 4:9-11 (ESV)

God cared about the people of Nineveh because He cares about those who oppose Him; He is concerned for their welfare. Jesus makes this very clear:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matt 5:43-48 (ESV)

If we hate, it’s the same thing as murder. And we know that a murderer does not have eternal life. Lastly, there is this:

Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel?  For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.

Ezek 18:31-32 (ESV)

God wants people to repent and live; He takes no pleasure in their death. Seeing that these things are so, what should we do to bring about change? Is there anything we can do to help? Yes there is!

The people of faith can make a tremendous difference in the world we occupy. Long before the occupy movement became commonplace, God made His people the original occupiers. In order to maintain our occupation, God gives us powerful weapons to use, and used properly, they enemy has no recourse against them. The most powerful weapons we have are prayer and faith. The story of the centurion’s servant is a wonderful example:

When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

Matt 8:5-13 (ESV)

As we can see in this account, Jesus was able to bring healing to the centurion’s servant by faith from a distance away. Faith pleases God and is not limited! Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see. C. S. Lewis wrote that faith is an invasion of the supernatural into our natural world, and it’s true! Faith is a terrifying thing to the enemy because he cannot stop it. By faith God’s people tear down his strongholds, set the captives free, remove stumbling blocks, heal all manner of diseases, and do many wonderful things. If we could see the damaged caused by prayers in faith to the enemy’s kingdom, I think we would see Satan falling from heaven like lightening (Luke 10: 18). As the account of the centurion’s servant demonstrates, we don’t even have to be in the same place to cause change. We can pray for God to deliver the people of Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hamas, and ISIS from the power of darkness in our prayer closets. That’s the power God gives us to work with. Scripture tells us: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” James 5:16 (ESV).

The power of God is so great that He can totally change the worst of sinners and change what was meant for harm into something good. In Paul’s previous way of life, he admitted that he persecuted the church and tried to destroy it (Gal 1: 13), yet God met him on the Damascus road and changed him into one of the greatest Apostles. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, yet God used this as a way to save many people from death (Gen 50: 19-20). If God did all this before, He can do it again.

It is a fearful thing when there is no one to stand in the gap for a land, as Ezekiel 22: 30-31 tells us. I ask all of God’s intercessors to pray for the people of Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hamas, and ISIS so that they will be delivered from the power of darkness and reconciled with God. Pray that the Son set them free so that they will be free indeed! We must love them and pray for them so we will be the children of our Father. Their souls are still precious to God, and He does not want them to perish. We must stand in the gap so that they won’t be destroyed. God wants to be merciful and be reconciled with all of them; please help make this happen with your prayers. Bring light and life to these peoples in darkness with your fervent, effectual prayers!

Standard