Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The doctrine of the Trinity: origins

The word “Trinity” is used to explain the eternal relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Theophilus, sixth bishop of Antioch, Syria, is the first person known to have used the word “Trinity” in his work, Refutation of Autolycus (A.D. 168).

The following early church leaders and/or writings all defended the doctrine of the Trinity (the following dates are approximate):

A.D. 96 Clement, the third bishop of Rome
A.D. 90-100 The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles, the “Didache”
A.D. 90? Ignatius, bishop of Antioch
A.D. 155 Justin Martyr, great Christian writer
A.D. 168 Theophilus, the sixth bishop of Antioch
A.D. 177 Athenagoras, theologian
A.D. 180 Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons
A.D. 197 Tertullian, early church leader
A.D. 264 Gregory Thaumaturgus, early church leader

More than 60 Bible passages mention the three Persons together.

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." (Matt. 3:16-17)

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19)

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Cor. 13:14)

“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph. 4:4-6)

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.” (Titus 3:4-6)

Some other verses:
John 3:34-35
John 14:26
John 15:26
John 16:13-15
Romans 14:17-18
Romans 15:13-17
Romans 15:30
1 Corinthians 6:11
1 Corinthians 6:17-19
1 Corinthians 12:4-6
2 Corinthians 1:21-22
2 Corinthians 3:4-6
Galatians 2:21-3:2
Galatians 4:6
Ephesians 2:18
Ephesians 3:11-17
Ephesians 5:18-20
Colossians 1:6-8
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5
1 Thessalonians 4:2, 8
1 Thessalonians 5:18-19
2 Thessalonians 3:5
Hebrews 9:14
1 Peter 1:2
1 John 3:23-24
1 John 4:13-14
Jude 20-21

Also see my past posts on the Trinity

Monday, December 29, 2008

What sort of New Year’s Resolution should a Christian make?

"The practice of making New Year’s resolutions goes back over 3000 years to the ancient Babylonians. There is just something about the start of a New Year that gives us the feeling of a fresh start and a new beginning. In reality, there is no difference between December 31st and January 1st. Nothing mystical occurs at midnight on December 31st. The Bible does not speak for or against the concept of New Year’s resolutions. However, if a Christian determines to make a New Year’s resolution, what kind of resolution should he or she make?

Common New Year’s resolutions are: to quit smoking, to stop drinking, to manage money better, and spend more time with family. By far the most common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, in conjunction with exercising more and eating healthier. These are all good goals to set. However, 1 Timothy 4:8 instructs us to keep exercise in perspective: “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” The vast majority of New Year’s resolutions, even among Christians, are in relation to physical things. This should not be.

Many Christians make New Year’s resolutions to pray more, to read the Bible every day, and to attend church more regularly. These are fantastic goals. However, these New Year’s resolutions fail just as often as the non-spiritual resolutions, because there is no power in a New Year’s resolution. Resolving to start or stop doing a certain activity has no value unless you have the proper motivation for stopping or starting that activity. For example, why do you want to read the Bible every day? Is it to honor God and grow spiritually, or is it because you have just heard that it is a good thing to do? Why do you want to lose weight? Is it to honor God with your body, or is it for vanity, to honor yourself?

Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” John 15:5 declares, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” If God is the center of your New Year’s resolution, it has chance for success, depending on your commitment to it. If it is God’s will for something to be fulfilled, He will enable you to fulfill it. If a resolution is not God honoring and/or is not in agreement in God’s Word, we will not receive God’s help in fulfilling the resolution.

So, what sort of New Year’s resolution should a Christian make? Here are some suggestions: (1) Pray to the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5) in regards to what resolutions, if any, He would have you make; (2) Pray for wisdom as to how to fulfill the goals God gives you; (3) Rely on God’s strength to help you; (4) Find an accountability partner who will help you and encourage you; (5) Don’t become discouraged with occasional failures; instead allow them to motivate you further; (6) Don’t become proud or vain, but give God the glory. Psalm 37:5-6, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”

(the above is from GotQuestions.org)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Persecution Watch: from Voice of the Martyrs

INDONESIA - Riots Erupt in Indonesia over Christian Teacher's Alleged Blasphemy

On Dec. 9, riots broke out in Masohi, Central Maluku province, Indonesia, after Welhelmina Holle, a Christian elementary school teacher, allegedly made comments that insulted Islam while tutoring a Muslim student. News of the incident spread throughout the Muslim community, sparking the Indonesian Ulema Council to file a complaint with the police against Holle. Approximately 500 Muslims protested outside the Central Maluku Education Agency, accusing Holle of blasphemy and calling for his dismissal. The mob then gathered outside the Central Maluku Police headquarters and demanded to meet with the police chief, but when informed that he was not on the premises, the Muslims dispersed.

However, confrontations between some of the Muslims and police officials incited violence. Police and soldiers were eventually able to intervene but two churches, a health clinic, several vehicles and approximately 65 homes were burned. At the time of the report, Holle remained in detention. He is reportedly being charged with blasphemy, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Ask God to strengthen Holle. Pray for those who have lost property in the riots. Pray that Christ will equip Indonesian Christians to follow His example and remain faithful to Him.

PAKISTAN - Young Christian Woman and Her Father Imprisoned

Twenty- year-old Sandul Bibi and her father Gulsher are in prison in Pakistan, charged with violating section 295-B of the Pakistani legal code, the “blasphemy” law. Sandul is falsely accused of ripping pages from the Quran. On Oct. 9, a large crowd of Muslims attacked Christian families at a church, throwing stones and firing guns. They were shouting, “Kill Gulsher and his daughter Sandul.” Sandul and her father, Gulsher Masih, were arrested after a mob from the local mosque surrounded their house. Loudspeakers from different mosques broadcast accusations that Christians had disgraced the Quran, calling Muslims to attack and burn their homes. The angry crowd threw stones and set fire to Sandul’s home. Christians believe Sandul and her father were targeted and arrested because they were aggressively winning villagers to Christ.

Sandul has written several letters to her family from prison. In her latest letter she says, “I am praying a lot that God releases me from here and I can meet you, but I don’t know when. He will give answers for our prayers. Please pray for me.” If convicted, Sandul faces at least four years in prison. She and her family desperately need your prayers and encouragement.

The Voice of the Martyrs has supported Sandul and her family both financially and spiritually through this difficult time. VOM encourages you to lift this family up in prayer and ask God to encourage them.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Statistics on Gays, AIDS and other STDs

In one study, 70% to 78% of gays reported having had a sexually transmitted disease. However, approximately 25% of people in the United States who are infected with HIV do not know they are infected. A new study in the United Kingdom has revealed that homosexuals are about 50% more likely to suffer from depression and engage in substance abuse than the rest of the population, reports Health24.com. Those who treat AIDS patients are at great risk, as are those who are housed with AIDS patients. That, combined with shared needle drug use with homosexuals who had AIDS, contribute to spreading AIDS to non-homosexuals. In addition, gays get other diseases and problems. The proportion with intestinal parasites (worms, flukes, amoeba) ranged from 25% to 39% to 59%. Dr. Max Essex, chair of the Harvard AIDS Institute, warned congress in 1992 that "AIDS has already led to other kinds of dangerous epidemics...If AIDS is not eliminated, other new lethal microbes will emerge, and neither safe sex nor drug free practices will prevent them."

(Note: MSM = gay)

In the United States, HIV infection and AIDS have had a tremendous effect on men who have sex with men (MSM). MSM accounted for 71% of all HIV infections among male adults and adolescents in 2005 (based on data from 33 states with long-term, confidential name-based HIV reporting), even though only about 5% to 7% of male adults and adolescents in the United States identify themselves as MSM.

In the 33 states with long-term, confidential name-based HIV reporting, an estimated 19,620 MSM (18,296 MSM and 1,324 MSM who inject drugs) received a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, accounting for 71% of male adults and adolescents and 53% of all people receiving an HIV/AIDS diagnosis that year.

The number of HIV/AIDS diagnoses among MSM (including MSM who inject drugs) increased 11% from 2001 through 2005. It is not known whether this increase is due to an increase in the testing of persons with risk factors, which results in more HIV diagnoses, or due to an increase in cases of HIV infection.

An estimated 231,893 MSM (207,810 MSM and 24,083 MSM who inject drugs) were living with HIV/AIDS.

Transmission categories of male adults and adolescents with HIV/AIDS diagnosed during 2005:

- 67% had male-to-male sexual contact
- 5% had male-to-male sexual contact plus injection drug use (for a total of 72% being gay)
- 13% was merely from drug use (and, if needles were shared, some or all of that could have originated from gays using the needles)
- 15% was from high-risk heterosexual contact
- 1% was listed as "other" (could that include beastiality??)

Note: Based on data from 33 states with long-term, confidential name-based HIV reporting. Because of rounding, percentages may not equal 100.

Sexual risk factors account for most HIV infections in MSM. These factors include unprotected sex and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

* STDs, which increase the risk for HIV infection, remain an important health issue for MSM. According to the Gonococcal Isolate Surveillance Project, the proportion of gonorrhea-positive test results among MSM increased from 4% in 1988 to 20.2% in 2004. Rates of syphilis among MSM have increased in some urban areas, including Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. In the 9 US cities participating in the MSM Prevalence Monitoring Project, the rates of STDs and HIV positivity varied by race and ethnicity but tended to be highest among black and Hispanic MSM. In addition to increasing susceptibility to HIV, STDs are markers for high-risk sexual practices, through which HIV infection can be transmitted.

Approximately 25% of people in the United States who are infected with HIV do not know they are infected.

Through its National HIV Behavioral Surveillance system, CDC found that 25% of the MSM surveyed in 5 large US cities were infected with HIV and 48% of those infected were unaware of their infections.

HAART has enabled HIV-infected MSM to live longer. However, HAART’s success means there are more MSM living with HIV who have the potential to transmit the virus to their sex partners. This emphasizes the importance of focusing prevention efforts on those who are living with HIV.



The vast majority of young gay and bisexual men in the United States who were found to have the AIDS virus in a new study were unaware of their infection, according to findings reported as the 14th International AIDS Conference opened here today.

The rates of unawareness among minority gay men ages 15 to 29 in the study were staggeringly high. Among those found to have H.I.V., the AIDS virus, 90 percent of blacks, 70 percent of Hispanics and 60 percent of whites said they did not know they were infected.

Most of these infected men perceived themselves to be at low risk of being infected, despite having engaged in frequent high-risk sex like unprotected anal intercourse, said Duncan MacKellar, an epidemiologist from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which conducted the study.

'The study shows that the very men who are at greatest risk of H.I.V. infection are those who are least likely to think they are at risk,' Mr. Wilson said.

In presenting an overview of the AIDS epidemic in the United States at the conference, Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, an AIDS official at the disease centers, described what he said was a growing apathy about the H.I.V. epidemic in the country.



Among men who have sex with men, there has been a steady rise in new infections since the early 1990s.

It is thought that more than one million people are living with HIV in the USA and that more than half a million have died after developing AIDS.

American HIV surveillance data are not comprehensive so many statistics must be based on reports of AIDS diagnoses. In interpreting such AIDS statistics, it is important to remember that they do not correspond to new HIV infections. Most people live with HIV for several years before developing AIDS.

At the end of 2006, the CDC estimates that 448,871 people were living with AIDS in America. This number includes all people who have ever been diagnosed with an AIDS-defining condition and are believed to be alive, including many people who have recovered their health by taking antiretroviral therapy.

Around 77% of adults and adolescents living with AIDS are men.

An estimated 3,775 children aged under 13 were living with AIDS at the end of 2006. The vast majority of these children acquired HIV from their mothers during pregnancy, labour, delivery or breastfeeding.

At the end of 2006, the CDC estimates that there were 509,681 people living with HIV/AIDS in the 38 areas that have a history of confidential name-based HIV reporting, based on reported diagnoses and deaths2. However, the total number of people living in the USA with HIV/AIDS is thought to be around 1.1 million3. The discrepancy between these figures is due to several factors including:

* confidential name-based reporting of HIV diagnoses has not yet been implemented in all states4
* anonymous tests, including home tests, are excluded from case reports
* one in every five people living with HIV has not even had their infection diagnosed, let alone reported.5

During 2006, an estimated 36,817 new diagnoses of HIV infection were reported from the 38 areas with a history of confidential name-based reporting, a number that has remained relatively stable since 2001. Of these cases, 73% were among adult or adolescent males, 26% were among adult or adolescent females, and less than 1% were among children under 13 years of age. Recent HIV reports represent a mixture of people with recent infection and others who may have been infected in the past but are only now being diagnosed.

It is estimated that around 56,300 Americans became newly infected with HIV in 2006.6 The number of new infections peaked in 1984-85 at around 130,000 per year, fell to a low of around 49,000 in the early 1990s, peaked again at around 58,000 in the late 1990s, and then declined slightly to its current level. This overall pattern masks variation between exposure groups.



25% of white gays admitted to sex with boys 16 or younger as adults. In a 9-state study, 33% of the 181 male, and 22% of the 18 female teachers caught molesting students did so homosexually (though less than 3% of men and 2% of women engage in homosexuality).

Fear of AIDS may have reduced the volume of gay sex partners, but the numbers are prodigious by any standard. Morin reported that 824 gays had lowered their sex-rate from 70 different partners/yr. in 1982 to 50/yr. by 1984. McKusick reported declines from 76/yr. to 47/yr. in 1985. In Spain the average was 42/yr. in 1989.

Death and disease accompany promiscuous and unsanitary sexual activity. 70% to 78% of gays reported having had a sexually transmitted disease. The proportion with intestinal parasites (worms, flukes, amoeba) ranged from 25% to 39% to 59%. As of 1992, 83% of U.S. AIDS in whites had occurred in gays.

Those who treat AIDS patients are at great risk, not only from HIV infection, which as of 1992 involved over 100 health care workers, but also from TB and new strains of other diseases. Those who are housed with AIDS patients are also at risk. Dr. Max Essex, chair of the Harvard AIDS Institute, warned congress in 1992 that "AIDS has already led to other kinds of dangerous epidemics...If AIDS is not eliminated, other new lethal microbes will emerge, and neither safe sex nor drug free practices will prevent them."

Unfortunately, the danger of these exchanges does not merely affect homosexuals. Travelers carried so many tropical diseases to New York City that it had to institute a tropical disease center, and gays carried HIV from New York City to the rest of the world. Most of the 6,349 Americans who got AIDS from contaminated blood as of 1992, received it from homosexuals and most of the women in California who got AIDS through heterosexual activity got it from men who engaged in homosexual behavior. The rare form of airborne scarlet fever that stalked San Francisco in 1976 also started among homosexuals.



After analyzing 25 earlier studies on sexual orientation and mental health, researchers, in a study published in the medical journal BMC Psychiatry, also found that the risk of suicide jumped over 200% if an individual had engaged in a homosexual lifestyle.

These findings strongly support the results of similar studies conducted in the United States, which have unveiled the severe physical and psychological health risks associated with homosexual behavior. Drs. Paul and Kirk Cameron of the Family Research Institute revealed in 2007 that research shows that the lifespan of a homosexual is on average 24 years shorter than that of a heterosexual. As a health threat, even smoking pales in comparison, as studies show smoking can shorten one's life by only 1 to 7 years on average.

While the Health 24 article suggested that homosexuals may be pushed to substance abuse and suicide because of anti-homosexual cultural and family pressures, empirical tests have shown that there is no difference in homosexual health risk depending on the level of tolerance in a particular environment. Homosexuals in the United States and Denmark - the latter of which is acknowledged to be highly tolerant of homosexuality - both die on average in their early 50's, or in their 40's if AIDS is the cause of death. The average age for all residents in either country ranges from the mid-to-upper-70s.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

America as a Religious Refuge: The Seventeenth Century

"Many of the British North American colonies that eventually formed the United States of America were settled in the seventeenth century by men and women, who, in the face of European persecution, refused to compromise passionately held religious convictions and fled Europe. The New England colonies, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland were conceived and established "as plantations of religion." Some settlers who arrived in these areas came for secular motives--"to catch fish" as one New Englander put it--but the great majority left Europe to worship God in the way they believed to be correct. They enthusiastically supported the efforts of their leaders to create "a city on a hill" or a "holy experiment," whose success would prove that God's plan for his churches could be successfully realized in the American wilderness. Even colonies like Virginia, which were planned as commercial ventures, were led by entrepreneurs who considered themselves "militant Protestants" and who worked diligently to promote the prosperity of the church."

(from Religion and the Founding of the American Republic

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Religious Founding of America

"...Many of the colonies that in 1776 became the United States of America were settled by men and women of deep religious convictions who in the seventeenth century crossed the Atlantic Ocean to practice their faith freely. That the religious intensity of the original settlers would diminish to some extent over time was perhaps to be expected, but new waves of eighteenth century immigrants brought their own religious fervor across the Atlantic and the nation's first major religious revival in the middle of the eighteenth century injected new vigor into American religion. The result was that a religious people rose in rebellion against Great Britain in 1776, and that most American statesmen, when they began to form new governments at the state and national levels, shared the convictions of most of their constituents that religion was, to quote Alexis de Tocqueville's observation, indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions."

(from Religion and the Founding of the American Republic

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Errors Concerning the Trinity

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Trinity is of the devil, and that Jesus is a 'lesser god' than Jehovah God (they also believe that Jesus is Michael the Archangel).

Mormons believe that God the Father is made up of flesh and bone, and is an evolved human being, and that a 'good Mormon' can someday become a god and create their own universe. If you accuse them of polytheism (worshiping many gods), they will deny it and say that they only worship one god, because they only worship the god of THIS universe. But in fact, they actually are taught that there are countless billions of gods. They believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers, and that Jesus was sexually conceived by Jehovah God having sex with one of his many wives. They believe that the Holy Spirit is merely a force.


Although cults completely deny the Trinity, or change it into something completely different, many Christians get the Trinity wrong as well, and fall into error. There are various errors concerning the Trinity that Christians fall into. One such example is called Modalism.

Modalism is probably the most common theological error concerning the nature of God. It is a denial of the Trinity which states that God is a single person who, throughout biblical history, has revealed Himself in three modes, or forms. Thus, God is a single person who first manifested himself in the mode of the Father in Old Testament times. At the incarnation, the mode was the Son. After Jesus' ascension, the mode is the Holy Spirit. These modes are consecutive and never simultaneous. In other words, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit never all exist at the same time, only one after another. Modalism denies the distinctiveness of the three persons in the Trinity, even though it retains the divinity of Christ. Present day groups that hold to forms of this error are the United Pentecostal and United Apostolic Churches. They deny the Trinity, teach that the name of God is Jesus, and require baptism for salvation. These modalist churches often accuse Trinitarians of teaching three gods. This is not what the Trinity is. The correct teaching of the Trinity is one God in three eternal coexistent persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Did Jesus exist before his human birth? What or who was Jesus before his incarnation? Was he the God of the Old Testament?

In order to understand who Jesus was, we first should understand the basic doctrine of the Trinity. The Bible teaches us that God is one and only one being. This tells us that whoever or whatever Jesus was before his human incarnation, he could not have been a separate God from the Father.

While God is one being, he exists eternally as three coequal and coeternal Persons, whom we know as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In order to understand how the Trinity doctrine describes the nature of God, we must keep in mind the difference between the words "Being" and "Person." This distinction has been put in the following terms: there is but one what of God (that is, his Being) but there are three whos within the one being of God, that is, the three divine Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Being we call the one God has an eternal relationship within himself of Father to Son. The Father has always been the Father and the Son has always been the Son. And, of course, the Holy Spirit has always been the Holy Spirit. One Person in the Godhead has not preceded the other, and neither is one Person inferior to the other in his essence. All three divine Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—share the one being of God. The Trinity doctrine explains that Jesus was not created sometime prior to his incarnation, but existed eternally as God.

There are, then, three pillars to the Trinitarian understanding of God’s nature. First, only one true God exists, who is Yahweh (YHWH) of the Old Testament or theos of the New Testament—the Creator of all that exists. The second pillar of this teaching is that God is made up of three divine Persons, who are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father or Holy Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father or the Son. The third pillar tells us that these three distinct (but not separate) persons equally share the one divine being, God, and that they are eternal, co-equal and co-essential. Thus, God is one in essence and one in being, but exists in three persons. (We must always be careful not to understand the "Persons" of the Godhead like persons in the human sphere, where one person is separate from another.)

It is acknowledged that there is something about God as Trinity that transcends our finite understanding. Scripture does not explain how it is that the one God can exist as the Trinity. It only affirms that this is so.

Granted, how the Father and the Son can be one being seems difficult for us humans to understand. That’s why it’s important to keep in mind the distinction between person and essence, which the doctrine of the Trinity makes. This distinction tells us that there is a difference between the way God is one and the way that he is three. Simply put, God is one in essence and three in persons. If we keep that distinction at the front of our discussion, we will avoid being confounded by the seeming (but not real) contradiction in the biblical truth that God is one being in three Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

A physical analogy, though an imperfect one, might help us understand. There is but one pure light, and that is white light. But white light can be broken down into three primary colors—red, green and blue. Each of the three primary colors does not exist apart from the other primary colors—they are included within the one light, which is white. There is but one complete light that we call white light, but this light contains three distinct but not separate primary colors.

The above explanation gives us the essential basis of the Trinity, which provides the perspective to understand who or what Jesus was before he became human flesh. Once we understand the relationship that has always existed within the one God, we can proceed to answer the question of who Jesus was before his incarnation and physical birth.

Jesus’ Eternality and Pre-Existence in John’s Gospel

The pre-existence of Christ is clearly stated in John 1:1-4: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life…" It is this Word or Logos in Greek who became incarnate in Jesus. "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us," John tells us (verse 14).

The eternal, uncreated Word who was God, and yet was with God as one of the Persons of the Godhead, became a human being. Note that the Word "was" God but "became" a human being. The Word never came into being, that is, he didn’t "become" the Word. He always was the Word, or God. The Word’s existence is open-ended. He has always existed.

As Donald Macleod points out in The Person of Christ: "He is sent forth as one who already has being, not as one who comes into being by being sent" (page 55). Macleod further states: "In the New Testament, Jesus’ existence as a man is a continuation of his previous or prior existence as a heavenly being. The Word who dwelt among us is the same as the Word who was with God. The Christ who is found in form as a man is the very one who previously existed in the form of God" (page 63). It is the Word or the Son of God who takes flesh, not the Father or the Holy Spirit.


In the Old Testament, the most common name for God is Yahweh, which comes from the Hebrew consonants YHWH (called a tetragrammaton). It was Israel’s national name for God, the ever-living, self-existent Creator. In time, the Jews began to consider the name of God, YHWH, as too sacred to be pronounced. The Hebrew word adonay ("my Lord") or Adonai was substituted. Hence, in English Bibles, we see the word "Lord" used where YHWH appears in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Yahweh is the most common name of God found in the Old Testament, being used over 6800 times in reference to him. Another name for God in the Old Testament is Elohim, which is used over 2500 times, as in the phrase "the Lord God" (YHWH Elohim).

In the New Testament, there are many scriptures where the writers apply to Jesus passages that were written in reference to Yahweh in the Old Testament. The practice of the New Testament writers is so common that its significance may escape us. By using Yahweh scriptures for Jesus, these writers are implying that Jesus was Yahweh, or God, made flesh. Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised that the writers make this comparison, because Jesus himself explained that Old Testament passages applied to him (Luke 24:25-27, 44-47; John 5:39-40, 45-46).

John makes a clear connection between Jesus and Yahweh, the name of God in the Old Testament. But John does not equate Jesus with the Father (and neither do the other Gospels). Jesus, for example, prays to the Father (John 17:1-15). John understands that the Son is distinct from the Father—and he also sees that both are distinct from the Holy Spirit (John 14:15, 17, 25; 15:26). Since that is so, John’s identification of Jesus as God, or Yahweh (if we think of his Hebrew, Old Testament name), is a Trinitarian explanation of God’s being.

"I Am"

In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples: "I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He" (13:19). The phrase "I am He" is translated from the Greek ego eimi. The phrase occurs 24 times in John’s Gospel. At least seven of these are said to be "absolute" in that they are not followed by a predicate, such as in John 6:35, "I am the bread of life." In the seven absolute cases, no predicate follows, and the "I AM" phrase comes at the end of the clause. This indicates that Jesus is using this phrase as a name to identify who he is. The seven places are John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6 and 8.

If we go back to Isaiah 41:4, 43:10 and 46:4, we can see the background for Jesus’ reference to himself in John’s Gospel as ego eimi ("I AM"). In Isaiah 41:4, God or Yahweh says: "I, the Lord…I am he." In Isaiah 43:10 he says "I am he," and later says, "‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘that I am God’" (verse 12). In 46:4, God (Yahweh) again refers to himself as "I am he."

The Hebrew phrase "I am he" is translated in the Greek version of the Holy Scriptures, the Septuagint (which the apostles used), by the phrase ego eimi in Isaiah 41:4; 43:10; and 46:4. It seems clear that Jesus’ made the "I am he" statements as references to himself because they directly connected to God’s (Yahweh’s) statements about himself in Isaiah. John said, in effect, that Jesus was saying he was God in the flesh (John 1:1, 14, which introduces the Gospel and speaks of the Word’s divinity and incarnation, prepares us for this fact.)

John’s ego eimi ("I Am") identification of Jesus can also be carried back to Exodus 3, in which God identifies himself as the "I Am." Here we read: "God [Hebrew, elohim] said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: "I AM has sent me to you"’" (verse 14).

John repeats Jesus’ identification of himself as the "I AM" of the Old Testament. Since there is but one God, and John would have understood that, then we are left with the proposition that there must be two persons sharing the one nature that is God. With the Holy Spirit, also discussed by John in chapters 14-17, we have the basis of the Trinity.

To put aside all doubt about John’s identification of Jesus with Yahweh, we may quote John 12:37-41, which says:

Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: "Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" For this reason they could not believe, because as Isaiah says elsewhere: "He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them." Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

The quotes above that John used come from Isaiah 53:1 and 6:10. The prophet originally spoke his words in regards to Yahweh. John says that what Isaiah actually saw was "Jesus’ glory" and that he "spoke of him." For John the apostle, then, Jesus was Yahweh in the flesh; before his human birth he was known as Yahweh.

(Most of the above information is from: http://www.wcg.org/lit/jesus/whowas.htm)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Great White Throne Judgment vs. the Bema Seat


If a person is not saved and dies in their sin, they will be judged at the "Great White Throne judgment" following the Millennium.

"Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:11-14)

Since all of us are sinners, if a person has not turned their life over to Jesus and accepted Him as their personal Savior and the Lord of their life, they will remain unforgiven, and will spend the rest of eternity paying a sin debt that they can never pay off (because a sinner cannot pay for sin, any more than a poor man can pay a steep fine). If a person does not have Jesus as their Defense Attorney, they will be found guilty and will be cast into Hell. No person stained with sin can enter Heaven; only those with pure white robes of righteousness, which can only come from Jesus Christ, can enter Heaven.


The "Bema seat" was an elevated seat located in Corinth. At this seat in the square, Roman magistrates would sit and administer justice. Athletes may also have appeared here and received rewards for having distinguished themselves.

In other words, the king sat in the Bema Seat at the stadium in Corinth to present the winning athletes their crowns, judging them victorious. So it is with the judgment of Christians. It’s more like an awards ceremony for the Christian. Since we aren’t saved by our works, but by our faith, this judgment is not related to salvation, but to the things the Christian has done since becoming saved that have furthered the work of the Kingdom. The “race we’ve run,” so to speak. Those things done solely out of gratitude for the free gift of salvation that the Christian has received, with no thought for personal gain, will earn the Christian various crowns. Those things the Christian has done for earthly credit or recognition or in an attempt to earn points with God, will be disqualified. In effect, 1 Cor. 3:15 states that even if all our earthly work for the Lord is disqualified for improper motives, we’ll still be saved and welcomed into the Kingdom.

"If his work is burned up, he will suffer loss. However, he himself will be saved, but it will be like going through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:15)

Some Christians may tend to think that, since they are saved, they can live as they please. However, via the Bema Seat judgment, there are rewards for the believer that can be lost if the believer is not living for Jesus.

At this Bema Seat judgment, the Christians must give an account of their life and what they did or did not do for the Lord. The believer's service to God will be reviewed and rewarded. For his lack of service or doing certain things, he will suffer loss. The Christian will be held responsible for how well they lived for Jesus. Every hidden thing will be made known. Every secret thing the Christian said will be proclaimed; nothing will be hid. All believers must appear before this Bema Seat judgment.

Many Christians today seem to think that doing this or that worldly thing is more important than spending time in God's Word, in prayer, in witnessing to others, and in dying to self and helping those (either physically or financially) who are more needy than you. At this judgment (the Bema Seat), we should indeed see how unimportant so many things we did really were. All of the time spent watching mindless TV programs or other pointless entertainment may cause us to lose rewards for eternity, because we squandered our time in non-productive or worldly activities, instead of spending our time accomplishing things that had eternal value. All of the extra time that we wasted and spent doing so many meaningless things, such as running after money, pleasures, cares of this life (those things that were not of Jesus), could have instead been spent storing up riches in Heaven. The Bema Seat judgment is a judgment of receiving rewards and suffering loss of rewards. A Christian's true desire should be to hear the words "WELL DONE, THOU GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT" (Matt. 25:21). Paul said, "...I COUNT ALL THINGS BUT LOSS FOR THE EXCELLENCY OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST JESUS MY LORD: FOR WHOM I HAVE SUFFERED THE LOSS OF ALL THINGS, AND DO COUNT THEM BUT DUNG, THAT I MAY WIN CHRIST" (Phil. 3:8). No matter how important some worldly things or pleasures seem to the Christian now, how worthless they will be at the Bema Seat judgment. As a Christian, we need to live to please Jesus and not ourselves. We need to ask ourselves concerning whatever we do, "What fruit for Jesus is in it? Is what I am doing pleasing to the Lord? Does this have eternal value?"

Saturday, December 13, 2008

America: 17th Century: the Spanish and French: A History Lesson

When Columbus discovered America in 1492, he was not just looking for a new route to the Indies, but he was also hoping to discover new sources of wealth to finance another Crusade against the Muslims and also to ally with leaders in the Far East to help against the Muslims in the Middle East. When he encountered the non-Christian natives of the New World, his religious inclinations predominated again, as he and Ferdinand put forth efforts to protect, convert and educate the Native American Indians.

Spanish priests began to accompany the explorers and conquerors. A bishopric was established at Santo Domingo in 1512 (now the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic, and the second largest in the Caribbean). Bartholomew Columbus, brother of Christopher Columbus, founded the settlement and named it after Saint Dominic.

Another bishopric was established in Cuba in 1522, and then others followed in rapid succession. The University of Mexico and the University of San Marcos (in Lima, Peru) were both founded in 1551. Others were built in Latin America as well. When you consider that the Spanish usually sent their sons back to Europe for their education, you realize that these New World institutions were mainly for the training of the natives.

Although it is true that the Spanish also oppressed and mistreated the Indians over the centuries, it is also true that the church put forth sincere and expensive efforts to protect the natives in the early days. Shortly after the death of Martin Luther, the Spanish settled Florida (St. Augustine, 1565). From there, they went to New Mexico and Texas. In fact, they were establishing their missions in California while Jefferson was writing the Declaration of Independence. Portuguese settlement in Brazil began in 1532, so the Roman Catholic church was established there as well. All of Latin America and part of the U.S. responded to religious efforts of Spanish and Portuguese priests.

The French, on the other hand, were not able to establish a permanent colony until 1608, which was in Quebec, Canada. The scarcity of French settlers in the New World, inadequate colonial policies, and the defeat of French forces ultimately brought an end to the French Empire in North America in 1763, as well as the effects of French Jesuit work, except for Quebec and Louisiana.

(Information for this article is from “Exploring Church History,” by Howard F. Vos, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1994. Some information is from Wikepedia.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My ideal church

I just left a comment on the blog site "Redeeming the Time." I'm posting the same comment here as well, because it reflects a brief, summarized view of what I believe an ideal church would be like. Following is the comment that I posted over at "Redeeming the Time:"

Many churches in America seem to have an introverted, withdrawn perspective, where their focus and outlook is limited to the boundaries of their own four walls. More churches should become acutely involved in world missions, including sponsoring full-time missionaries, indigenous missionaries and short-term missions trips. Furthermore, too few churches reach out in regular, active service to their community (giving out food, visiting hospitals and nursing homes, fixing things for people who cannot afford to pay to have them fixed, doing yard work or house work for specific needy individuals in the community for free, etc.). And, most scarce of all I think, is the fact that very, very few churches walk the streets of their neighborhood and spread the gospel. If more churches would go door-to door in their neighborhood, hand out gospel tracts in malls or movie theaters or sporting events or Fairs or Carnivals, and/or have members go out and do some open-air preaching on the streets, then more people would get saved, the churches would grow more, and the church would have a greater positive effect on the community. And, though I feel like I'm almost getting too idealistic and less realistic here, I believe that a church should not just give out gospel tracts, but also have some sort of discipleship program for those new believers that the members have led to Christ. Such a thing, I fear, is pretty much non-existent in almost all churches, at least here in the U.S.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Worst of Sins

by Ray Comfort

"In December of 2008, a report which studied to conduct of 30,000 high school students found that 30 percent of students admitted to stealing from a store within the past year, a two percent rise from 2006. More than one third of boys (35 percent) said they had stolen goods, compared to 26 percent of girls. An overwhelming majority, 83 percent, of public school and private religious school students admitted to lying to their parents about something significant, compared to 78 percent for those attending independent non-religious schools. "Despite these high levels of dishonesty, these same kids have a high self-image when it comes to ethics." Some 93 percent of students indicated satisfaction with their own character and ethics, with 77 percent saying that "when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know."

These are violations of God’s Law--lying, stealing and dishonoring of parents. It’s significant that the religious schools had higher rates of Lawlessness and that self-righteousness was rampant. While experts and philosophers suggest a multitude of reasons as to why this is happening, it traces itself back to a lack of the fear of God. Their concept of God doesn’t include retribution for transgression of His Law. Idolatry is probably the hardest to detect, but it is undoubtedly the worst of sins, because of the door it opens."

(the above article by Ray Comfort can be found on the Christian Worldview Network website.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Getting a Handle on the OBAMA Birth Certificate “Conspiracy”

By Douglas J. Hagmann

"7 December 2008: Based on extensive research and review of nearly 1,100 pages of court documents filed within the last 60 days, the Northeast Intelligence Network has identified 19 lawsuits filed in various venues across the U.S. by a variety of Americans against Barack Hussein OBAMA, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Secretaries of State of several states, and other related parties.

The common issue of each lawsuit confronts the eligibility of Barack Hussein OBAMA to become America’s 44th President on January 20, 2009. Of the 19 lawsuits researched, thirteen-(13) remain active or somewhat active, meaning that the courts in the various venues in which they have been filed are considering the merits of the individual cases. At least six others have been dismissed or can otherwise be described as “dead-on-arrival” due to a number of different and wide ranging issues. Of the 13 remaining cases, however, three-(3) stand out from the rest based on the nature of their claims, each providing somewhat different perspectives relating to one core issue:

the constitutional eligibility of Barack Hussein OBAMA to take office as President of the United States
based on his citizenship status."

(You can read the rest of the article on the Northeast Intelligence Network website)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Attention Wal-Mart Shoppers

by Ken Connor

"If actions speak louder than words, what do recent events at a New York state Walmart say about the state of American culture? On "Black Friday," two thousand people burst through the doors of a Walmart store in Long Island at five a.m., trampling an employee to death in a mad dash to get to sale items before the person next to them. Signs of America's rampant consumerism have existed for decades, but this tragedy takes the cake.

With only minutes to spare before the discount store opened, the crazed crowd pushed through the doors, knocking Jdimytai Damour down and breaking the doors off their hinges. As the crowd surged, people stepped on Damour and knocked over other employees who struggled to help him. Two thousand ravenous shoppers, many of whom had no idea what was going on, shoved and pushed each other in a mad rush. The selfishness is clearly seen by one employee's experience: "When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling 'I've been [in] line since yesterday morning'... They kept shopping."

This tragedy points to the selfishness of the human heart and demonstrates that greed is not confined to the scions of Wall Street. Quite the contrary, these Main Street shoppers pursued their own materialistic impulses at the expense of the needs of those around them. They were focused on themselves, intent on getting to the deals first. Their trampling of Mr. Damour, each other, and the employees who were trying to help him, exhibits hearts that care more about saving $50 on an HDTV than about the health and safety of their fellow man.

Sadly, this event is not unique. Just a couple of weeks ago, a number of people watched a teenager commit suicide live via webcam. Some, with ghoulish delight, goaded him on as he took a large dose of antidepressants, saying things like "Oh, that's not enough to kill you" and "Go ahead and do it." Only after the young man had been lying on his bed for hours did someone finally contact the police. The anonymity of the internet enabled many of these voyeurs to engage in a perverse form of entertainment. Their "fun" contributed to the death of a young man.

This self-centered disregard for human life reminds us of another episode of pathological neglect that occurred in 1964 in Queens, New York. Catherine Genovese was knifed in the alleyway leading up to her apartment. She screamed for help, but none was forthcoming. Several lights went on in the windows of the neighboring apartment complex. One man shouted from the safety of his apartment, "Let that girl alone!" But no one bothered to call the police until more than fifteen minutes after the attack. By the time the police arrived, it was too late.

Why wouldn't these neighbors place a simple phone call when they heard the young woman's screams? One man, who eventually called the police "after much deliberation," explained, "I didn't want to get involved." Another man saw the killer attack the woman again from a crack in his door, but didn't call the police. His reason? "I was tired.... I went back to bed."

There is a common thread that runs through this 1964 case of willful abandonment, the sordid online suicide, and the Walmart trampling: these tragedies occurred because individuals were looking out for their own interests rather than that of their fellow man. Their actions led to the deaths of their neighbors, and for what? A couple of hours of "fun" online voyeurism? A little extra sleep? $50 off of a tv?

How did we get to this point in "the home of the brave"? Why do so many Americans exhibit so little concern for their neighbor? Doubtless, there are many causes, but prominent among them is our willingness to sacrifice core principles of human dignity on the altar of convenience. We live in a culture that is so self-centered that we are no longer expected to deal with the "inconvenience" of an unwanted baby. Nor can we be bothered to care for our aging parents. Just stick them in a nursing home at government expense and forget about them—or better yet, encourage them to take the "dignified" way out. We selfishly maintain that our "progress" must continue through "scientific research" free of ethical restraints, notwithstanding that such "progress" kills or debases nascent human life. Our convenience, our comfort, our self-centeredness trumps the value of someone else's life.

Mother Teresa well understood the destructive impact of radical selfishness. Regarding abortion she declared, "[I]f we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? ... Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of peace and love is abortion." Mother Teresa rightly understood that when one form of killing is accepted on the basis of personal convenience, other forms of violence will inevitably follow.

The trampling of Jdimytai Damour should be a wake-up call to each one of us. It should cause us to pause and consider whether we place too high a value on our own convenience and our own possessions. We should examine our hearts and ask ourselves whether we any longer have the capacity to sacrifice our own desires for the good of another. We are missing the big picture if events like these capture our attentions just long enough for us all to gasp and say, "How awful!", then turn back to our shopping carts and our self-centered lives.

Jesus warned us, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV) Jesus' words were a repudiation of materialism and an exhortation to value those things that endure throughout eternity. In our consumer-driven age, we would do well to heed his words."

This is from a post on Townhall.com

Friday, December 5, 2008

Taking a personal look at a few of the Early Church saints: continuing with Romans 16

”Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them.” (Romans 16:15)

In A.D. 95, some Roman aristocrats had become Christians, including Flavius Clemens and his wife Domitilla, a woman who gave her name to the earliest Christian graveyard in Rome. Flavius was executed after being charged with “atheism,” which was, interestingly, a common charge used in those days against Christians. Domitilla was not executed, but was merely banished to the island of Pontia, her 'lighter punishment' probably due to the fact that she was the niece of Domitian, the reigning emperor. But she was released the following year. Since the fourth century, the Church has associated Nereus of Romans 16:15 with this Domitilla, so it could even be that Nereus was the one who brought the gospel to this prominent household and eventually led to the many Christian martyrdoms in Rome.

When we examine Romans 16 closely (see my previous two posts), we begin to get a sense of how close these people were to Paul, even though they were many miles apart. We see how much Paul loved them, as he calls them “beloved” and praises them for their faithful service to one another and to him, and for their labors in the Lord. All born-again (regenerated) Christians, no matter whether they are Reformed Baptists or tongue-speaking Charismatics, or whether they are an all-black congregation or an all-white congregation, are all members of the one body of Jesus Christ, and should be loved and appreciated by all others who are true Christians.

”Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:4-5)

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)

Speaking of concern and love for other Christians, many Christians in the United States are often unaware of the Christians in other countries who suffer horribly on a daily basis because of their faith in Christ Jesus.

Christians in other countries, especially Muslim and Communist countries, have been persecuted, tortured, imprisoned, and martyred ever since the first century, and even much more so today (though it would go completely against the anti-Christian agenda of the liberal news media to report any of it). Even back in the 1980’s, I was keeping up with reports of some of the Christians in the former U.S.S.R. who were being attacked, poisoned, tortured by electrical shock treatments, imprisoned, etc. Following is one of the latest reports of Christian persecution, this one in China:

CHINA - House Church Leader Sentenced to "Re-education Through Labor"

On Oct. 30, house church leader Pastor Zhu Baoguo was sentenced to one year "re-education through labor" on charges of being an "evil cult" leader, China Aid Association reported. Pastor Zhu and four other leaders were detained by authorities during a church service in Dushu village, Henan province on Oct. 12. While the other four leaders were sentenced to five days of administrative detention, Pastor Zhu was sentenced to 15 days.
Two days after Pastor Zhu's release from detention, he was sentenced and taken to a labor camp in an unknown location. There is considerable concern for his health as he suffers from heart disease.

(the above report is from Voice of the Martyrs)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Rufus: Some speculation

Romans 16, which is basically Paul’s greetings to some of the members of the Early Church, may seem like a boring chapter to read. But there are some interesting tidbits we can pull from these seemingly boring verses.

“Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.” (Romans 16:13)

Mark 15:21 mentions a Rufus. It says that a Cyrenian man named Simon was forced to carry Christ’s cross when Jesus was too weak to carry it. It also mentions that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus. Why would Mark mention the names of his parents? Likely because Alexander and Rufus were well-known, and also because Mark’s gospel was especially written for the church at Rome, which gives a probable identification for this Rufus mentioned by Paul in Romans. So, very likely, this Rufus that Paul mentions was the son of the man who carried Christ’s cross.

If so, then Rufus’ dad, Simon, was a Jew. To be forced by a Roman soldier to carry the cross of a condemned man would have been a bitter experience for him. But something may have happened to Simon during that experience. Instead of holding a grudge and hating this Roman soldier for forcing him to do a despicable job that was beneath him, he may possibly have been struck by the person of Jesus, and may even have (possibly out of awe or curiosity) remained to watch the crucifixion. And, just as one of the thieves on the cross next to Jesus accepted Jesus as Lord and God and Savior, Simon may also have done the same, as he watched Jesus being crucified. If this is true, he would likely have returned to Cyrene and told his family about his experience, which may have led to his family becoming Christians.

Acts 11:20 says that it was "men from Cyprus and Cyrene” who came to Antioch and first preached the gospel to the Gentiles. Could Simon have been one of these men from Cyrene? And was Rufus with him?

In Ephesus, people who served Diana of the Ephesians instigated a riot, and the crowd would have killed Paul if they could have gotten to him. But in Acts 19:33, a man by the name of Alexander is “pushed to the front.” Could this be the brother of Rufus mentioned in Romans 16:13? And is it the same Alexander mentioned in Mark 15:21? And if so, how did their mother be “as a mother” to Paul? Maybe she comforted or helped him in time of need when his own family was unable or unwilling to do so.