Thursday, November 27, 2008
Nothing could beat that picture of thanks giving. Or could it? Is there something even better that could come to mind when the word thanksgiving is spoken? What does the bible say about it?
The bible has many many verses discussing giving thanks. Some are simply commands to give thanks. But there are also those that tell us how, when, where, and why to give thanks.
Psalms 100:4, Colossians 1:12, Colossians 3:17, Colossians 3:15, Colossians 4:2, Hebrews 12:28
How to Give Thanks
Psalms 28:7, Psalms 105:1, Psalms 147:7, Isaiah 12:4, 2 Corinthians 4:15, Ephesians 5:20
We are to give thanks by making known to the nations what God has done. We are to call on the name of the Lord and sing songs of praise in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our thanksgiving should overflow.
When to Give Thanks
Psalms 30:12, Psalms 119:62, Ephesians 5:20
We are to give thanks always and forever. This is emphasized Ps. 119:62 where it tells us to give thanks at midnight. If we are commanded to give thanks at midnight we can know that 'always' is literal. We are to give thanks at all times of the day. This might be confusing to some, for how can we always be thanking God and do other things as well? Though we can not be constantly saying thank you, we can be in a constant state of thanksgiving. One void of grumbling and complaining.
Where to Give Thanks
Psalms 95:2, Psalms 100:4, Psalms 35:18, Isaiah 12:4
We are to give thanks while we stand before God. As we enter His gates, and as are in His courts. And while in the great assembly. If we left it there it would seam that as long as we were not at church or worshiping God is some way, we are 'safe'. We don't have to worry about being thankful. That is why Is. 12:4 is so important. It tells us that we must also give thanks where the nations can see us. That means at school, where peer pressure is overwhelming. On the Job, where fellow employees are watching and may well be critical. Anywhere and everywhere we are, we are commanded to give thanks.
Why to Give Thanks
Psalms 7:17, Psalms 75:1, Psalms 106:1, Psalms 107:1, Psalms 107:15, Psalms 107:21, Psalms 107:31, Psalms 118:1, Psalms 118:21, Psalms 118:28, Psalms 118:29, Psalms 119:62, Psalms 136:1, Psalms 136:2, Psalms 136:3, Psalms 136:26, Isaiah 12:4
We should give thanks because we serve a good, righteous God who's unfailing love endures forever. He is our God and his name is near. His laws are righteous. He answers us and has become our salvation. Isaiah 12:4 tells us why by the phrase, "what He has done". Now of course it is impossible to list all that God has done. His works are to numerous for us to count. I would, however, like to highlight a few. Some that are rather obvious and should be enough of a reason to give thanks even without all the rest.
God creates life.
God preserves life.
Luke 2:4-7, John 19:30, Matthew 27:57-28:10
God redeemed life.
Those are just three out of many things that God has done to deserve our thanks. But they alone are awe inspiring and should cause us to give thanks. We must remember what He has done. If we forget, we will cease to be thankful.
So what are you going to do this Thanksgiving? Are you going to think about the feast you'll be eating with family and friends? Or will you put yourself in the spirit of giving thanks, reflecting and contemplating what God has done for you. This is the true reason for the holiday. We as Christians have just lost site of it's true meaning and once again allowed the world to influence our outlook on life. Let's start something old and again appreciate this day as it was meant to be appreciated. And when they day is over, don't stop being thankful. We are called to be thankful everyday of the year, at all hours of the day.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The back cover of The Divine Comedy says, "Dante is the greatest of Italian poets, and his Divine Comedy is the finest of all Christian allegories". What is meant by this statement? Are Dante's writings a source of Christian theology? Can he be trusted as a proponent of Biblical teaching? Does his writing portray a worldview parallel to the Bible? As Christians, it is important to understand the meaning behind what people say and write; everything must be tested against a sound Biblical worldview before it should be accepted as fact. Because Dante's work is considered by most to be accurate Christian theology, it is especially necessary to test it against the truth of God's word. The first, and most logical comparison to make while testing Dante's accuracy against the Bible, is the views on life after death, this being the topic of The Divine Comedy.
According to the Bible, what happens to man after death?
Hebrews 9:27 - Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,
Romans 14:10b - For we will all stand before God's judgment seat.
Romans 2:2 - Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.
After death, man must face judgment. All men will stand before the God's judgment seat and there God will determine based on truth where they shall spend eternity. Those found washed in the blood of Jesus will spend eternity in Heaven with God. However, those that have not accepted God's gift of eternal life will spend eternity in the anguish and torment of Hell. What of Dante? What do we know of his view of life after death?
The fact that he wrote a three part book describing in great detail what happens to man after death indicates that he must have thought a great deal about it. The question is, what is it he thought? In his allegory, Dante describes ferrymen. One of the ferrymen ferried souls to Hell, and the other ferried them across the sea into Purgatory. The souls which had died without faith in God were taken to Hell where they would be led to the level equated with the atrocity of their sins; whereas the souls which had died in God were taken to the shores of Purgatory where they could pay for their sins. According to Dante, heaven could only be attained after the climb of Mount Purgatory was complete. Dante's belief in Purgatory brings the sufficiency of Christ's death into question.
Is Jesus Christ’s death on the cross totally sufficient to pay for the salvation of all of mankind? Must anything be added to it to complete it?
John 14:6 - Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 19:30 - When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Titus 3:5 - 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,
Ephesians 2:8 -For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
Jesus is all sufficient. Jesus death is in fact the only thing equal to the price of salvation. When he died, salvation's price was paid in full. There was nothing left to be done. Jesus said Himself that all was finished and complete. Because of His mercy, He did it all. Christ left nothing for us to do, not even our faith is our own. Mankind is completely deprived and must remain in complete dependence on God. What did Dante think about Christ’s death and human dependency and reliance on His finished work?
Dante only saw Christ's death as the first step toward salvation. In his view it was the first separating factor between Heaven and Hell. However the death of Jesus Christ was not the end of the journey toward Heaven, instead it was only partially sufficient. His death did not pay the price of sin. Sin was paid for by each individual in the climbing of Mount Purgatory. For each sin, a time and punishment was allotted and there was no escaping it. Christ's death did not ensure that the 'saved' souls would spend eternity with God. Even though they were in heaven, the levels of heaven were separate. Dante’s heaven was not the heaven described in the Bible. Dante seemed to indicate that there was still separation from God in heaven. The worse a sinner you were in life, the farther you resided from God in heaven. These are just the start of the flaws in Dante’s work.
It would be far easier to let Dante’s work rest in peace, but flaws in theology can never go unnoticed. One of the biggest mistakes Dante made was the mixing of Christian and classical thinking. Specifically, he mixed the ideas of the Greek and Roman philosophers with those of the Bible. In writing an allegory supposedly based on Biblical theology, Dante did not make good character choices. His choice of Virgil, a non-Christian poet, as his guide through the afterlife was especially unwise. Similarly, for readers not grounded in the Bible, the many references to Greek and Roman deities can be confusing. The mixing of Greek, Roman, and Christian thinking gives the reader a sense that each perspective is equal.
Along with his overuse of classical thinking Dante also dwelt far too much on the figure of Beatrice. In his work she was the guide through heaven. He saw her as a moral paradigm and one of the threefold images of divine grace. He spent an inordinate amount of time lingering on her character, though he relayed only a few distinct details to us in his repetitious descriptions. He gave her more credit and attention than he did God. In doing so, he was setting her up as his god.
The underlying problem with Dante's work is the removal of God’s significance in our lives. By raising man to God's level and refusing to give glory where glory is due, he undermined the finished work of Jesus Christ in our lives. Twisting the Bible to fit his own beliefs, and mixing it with classical thinking caused him to lose touch with what was really true. As Christians it is important to be mindful of truth so we do not fall into the same trap. Through critical reading and the testing of everything against scripture, we can stay strong in our faith and not be swayed by everything that comes our way.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Death is a subject pondered by all at some point or another. Some await it with trepidation. Others are fascinated by it's mystery. And then there are those that try to simply not think about it at all. But all have thought on the result of death to some extent.
Is death the empty beginning to nothing? Is it the end, with nothing on the other side? Or is it just the passing into another form? Will we live again on this earth creature befitting the behavior of our previous life? Is there a Heaven or Hell? If there is, how do I know which will be my future home? The list of questions goes on. Do we as Christians have answers to these questions? The answer is yes. We can be completely calm about death. We don't need to fear the unknown because it's not an unknown. We have the answers in the Bible.
Jesus gave us glimpses of what heaven will be like in His parable about Lazarus and the Rich man. Luke 16:19-31
The first thing to notice about these two men is their status on earth. The rich man was just that, rich. He was dressed in fine linen and spent every day in the luxuries that accompanied one of his wealth. Lazarus on the other hand was a beggar. He was starving and ready to accept the scraps from another man's table. Talk about losing you dignity. On top of that, his body was covered in sores and these sores were licked by dogs. A pretty miserable situation. Now, you are most likely sitting there thinking "What on earth does this have to do with death?" Verse 22 answers that.
Luke 16:22 - The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried.
"Ok? So what? What are you trying to get at?" Simply this, EVERYONE DIES!!! That's right. No sugar coating. It doesn't matter how rich or how poor you are, YOU ARE GOING TO DIE! Now that that's settled, we can really get down to business. What lies on the other side of that unspeakable abyss we call death? What happened to these men who lived such different lives?
The rich man, after death, entered Hell, where he was tormented. Lazarus, however, was carried to Abraham's side. The rich man seeing this former beggar pleaded with Abraham and in his pleadings he gave us a small peak at what Hell is like. He calls for Lazarus to put water on his tongue which is in agony because of the fire. From this small request we learn a lot. There is fire in Hell. The fire causes agony. There is thirst for those who dwell there. And no water is available to quench this thirst.
How does Abraham respond to the rich mans cry? He reminds him of the good he received in his life and the bad Lazarus received in his. He then tells us something about the passage from Heaven to Hell. It is inhibited by a great chasm. There is no passage from one to the other.
So how did Jesus answer the question"'What happens to man at death?'. In the glimpse that He gave, He showed two possibilities. Heaven, and Hell.
Heaven:What is it like?
Psalms 33:13-14, Matthew 6:9, Acts 1:11
Heaven is God's dwelling place.
John 14:1-3, John 17:5, 24, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17,
A place is being prepared for us in heaven.
2 Corinthians 12:2,4, 2 Corinthians 5:1-8
While only God knows all that is in store for us in heaven, we do know that it will be more wonderful than anything we can imagine. We will be clothed with heavenly dwellings.
Psalms 23:6, Revelation 21:4
Heaven will be without tears, pain, and suffering. It is an eternal home of goodness and mercy.
Revelation 5:6, Revelation 14:1, Revelation 22:4
The Lamb (Jesus) will be enthroned, and all who are saved will be with Him and His father's name will be on their foreheads.
Jeremiah 30:22, Ephesians 2:7, Ephesians 3:9, 1 Corinthians 2:9
That which God has prepared for His people is incomprehensible.
Hell:What is it like?
Matthew 25:41-46 Revelation 20:11-15
Those who's names are not found in the book of life will be thrown into the eternal lake of fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels.
Matthew 8:12, Matthew 13:42,50, Matthew 22:13, Matthew 24:51, Matthew 25:30, Luke 16:23, 1 Thessalonians 5:3, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9, 2 Peter 3:7, Jude 7, 13, Revelations 20:10
Hell is an eternal fire of burning sulfur which is enshrouded in the blackest darkness. It is filled with weeping and gnashing of teeth because of the great torment. There is no water to quench the thirst of those dwelling there. But worse than all these torments is the separation from God.
What does the bible teach about the resurrection?
Psalms 49:15, Psalms 71:20, Hosea 13:14, John 5:25, John 6:40, Acts 24:15, 1 Corinthians 15:22, 2 Corinthians 4:14, 1 Thessalonians 4:16
All will be raised from the dead and taken to God for judgment. Those that have believed in Christ, however, will be raised first. God has ransomed us from the graves power and it no longer has dominion over us.
When you add all this information together you get the answer to the question, 'what happens to man at death'. First, all shall be raised from the dead and taken to the judgment seat of God. There He will judge all men and send them to their eternal home. Those that are redeemed by the finished work of Jesus Christ will spend eternity in Heaven with God. Those that are without redemption will be spend eternity in the fire of Hell.