Thursday, August 29, 2013

The 10 Commandments Revisited

It seems that everyone has heard of the Ten Commandments. But have you looked at them lately? 'The Message' is a more recent translation of the Bible. Let's see how the ten commandments sound in that version. It's found in Exodus 20:1-17

#1. I am God, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of a life of slavery.No other gods, only me.
#2. No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. Don’t bow down to them and don’t serve them because I am God, your God, and I’m a most jealous God, punishing the children for any sins their parents pass on to them to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation of those who hate me. But I’m unswervingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments.
#3. No using the name of God, your God, in curses or silly banter; God won’t put up with the irreverent use of his name.
#4. Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work—not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day; he set it apart as a holy day.
#5. Honor your father and mother so that you’ll live a long time in the land that God, your God, is giving you.
#6. No murder
#7. No adultery
#8. No stealing
#9. No lies about your neighbor
#10. No lusting after your neighbor’s house—or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don’t set your heart on anything that is your neighbor’s.

Here's my condensed Christian version of the Ten Commandments.
#1. There is only one true God
#2. Don't worship anything but the Lord, or put anything above Him in importance or priority
#3. Don't use the name of God, or Jesus, in a senseless, meaningless, irreverent way
#4. Make the Lord's Day a special day - attend a worship service with other believers
#5. Always respect your parents
#6. Do not kill another person
#7. Do not commit adultery
#8. Do not steal
#9. Do not lie to anyone
#10. Do not desire anything or anyone that is not yours

And here's how I sum up the Ten Commandments, in paragraph style....

We must believe there is one true God, and He must be the highest priority in our lives. Our faith, our hope, our security, and our trust must be in nothing or no one else. Even His name is holy, and when we use the name of God or Jesus in a meaningless way, like an expression of surprise, or as a curse word, it's offensive to Him, and shows disrespect. Make sure that for you, each Sunday is considered to be the Lord's Day, and make it a priority to attend a worship service to purposely focus on Him. Respect your Mom and Dad. Family is important. And realize there are some basic things that are absolutely wrong in God's sight - like murder, adultery, stealing, or lying. And be content with what you have. Don't lust after what someone else has. That not only includes their possessions, but their spouse as well! God is a loving God, but He is also a just God. And to those who are in an obedient, loving relationship with Him, He extends His love, His mercy, and His faithfulness. 

Yes, I know, the Ten Commandments were in the Old Testament. But these principles still have truth and value. And it's true, we must remember the context. God needed to sustain a nation - the nation of Israel. That's because a Messiah was to come through that nation. So God gave laws to try to keep the nation of Israel from falling apart. He did everything to keep them intact through the ages, including miracles. It was all so that Jesus could come through that nation, fulfilling all the prophecies, and complete the plan - dying on the cross to bring us a way of salvation and forgiveness. And bringing us into a new era  - the era of grace, not law.

So, take the Ten Commandments as foundational principles that still are relevant. The God that gave these commandments is the same God that exists today. And Jesus did not do away with the Ten Commandments, He expanded on them. As a matter of fact, when Jesus was on earth, someone asked Him what He thought was the most important of all the commandments. Jesus gave a great answer that covered everything like an umbrella, for if we follow the answer that Jesus gave, everything else falls in place under it, including the principles of the Ten Commandments. 

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”  “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)

Friday, August 16, 2013

Why Did God Create Mosquitos?

I read a headline the other day..."Man's Most Dangerous Insect: The Mosquito". It's true! That disgusting, blood-sucking mosquito! Because of that nasty insect, millions of people have died from the deadly diseases it carries, such as malaria and yellow fever. And people in countries such as Africa are still dying. 

We, in America, don't realize what a threat malaria is to people in other parts of the globe. People in Africa can't believe that we don't deal with the terrible disease of widespread malaria here. To them it sounds impossible, unimaginable. They deal with it all the time. But guess what's creeping in right here in the United States? The West Nile Virus. And guess who spreads it? That's right, the deadly mosquito.

When you think about it, the mosquito is a totally disgusting insect. Sucking out your blood!! And who's blood was it sucking before it got to you? That's revolting. And what about the after effects of a single mosquito bite? Not only does this wicked creature suck your blood, its sting causes welts that itch like crazy. And still worse, the possibility of it carrying disease.

To top it off, this insect can fly. And it's aggressive. It's after you! It sneaks up on you. Yuck! I hate these creatures. And if there are a group of people standing around, outdoors, at night, guess who the mosquitos attack first? That's right, me!

When I was in Tanzania, Africa, we slept inside mosquito nets at night. They are made of fine mesh, and placed like a tent over your bed. Even though we were taking anti-malaria drugs, we were still frightened of those lousy insects. Fortunately, for the three weeks we were there, we didn't get bit once! But we were cautious and fearful of them buggers. 

So why would God create such an insect? He is the creator of all things, so why? Here's one man's scenario. It's possible that in the Garden of Eden, where everything was peaceful, pleasant, and perfect, the mosquito was not a sick-minded, blood sucking, vampire menace, but a nice, friendly, good-natured, nectar  feeding creature. It could be that the sound of it's wings sang out pleasant melodies at night. Maybe in harmony with hundreds of others. OK, maybe that's a little too much. 

Then came the fall of man - the sin of Adam and Eve - they ate fruit from the only tree in the garden that they were forbidden by God to eat - the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

"But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:17)

When sin and corruption came into the world, everything changed, and went downhill from there. All of creation was affected, not just Adam and Eve. That's when that lousy vermin, the mosquito, first turned on us. And Adam and Eve were their first victims. Can you imagine what they thought when they received their first bite? "What's going on here?"

Not only did the mosquito turn on them, everything seemed to be against them. Because of their sin, all creation was cursed, plants, animals, and humans! Disease, sickness, pain and death entered the world. Even the ground started to produce thorns and thistles. They never had thorns and thistles before! O, the consequences of sin! 

And to the man he (God) said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. (Gensis 3:17-18)

Yup, thorns and thistles started to grow. Thanks a lot, Adam and Eve! And that's not all. Because of their sin, all women from then on will have pain in childbirth, as part of this curse!

To the woman he (God) said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)

Because sin entered the world, Adam and Eve no longer lived in a perfect world. The tree of life was cut off, and their lives, as well as the lives of all humans to come, would end in death.

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19)

Because of the fall of man - the sin of Adam and Eve - when they disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit, all Hell broke loose, sort of literally. Satan had accomplished his goal, to influence Adam and Eve, and tempt them into sinning against God, causing all kinds of consequences. And Satan is still at work today. 

So, it's not that God created mosquitos to bite, annoy, and kill millions. It's that sin corrupted the world. And because of the influence of Satan, everything is corrupted, including the nasty mosquito. That's the problem....we have corrupt mosquitos! So kill as many of those varmints as you can. It's war! And as for Satan, you'll get yours in the end!

"Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay." (Romans 8:20-21)  ......and freedom from mosquitos!!!!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Will There Be Music In Hell?

We know there will be music in Heaven. But will there be music in Hell? I mean, in Heaven, there is a vision given to us in the book of Revelation showing praise and worship around the Throne. There are harps mentioned. There are songs being sung. There is great positive participation. But in Hell? No mention of music. We can just it simply the fact that Hell is void of music? Or could it torture!!!

Think about it. Is there a song that you just can't stand? Is there a song that prompts you to immediately change the channel at the exact moment it comes on? Do you cringe, cover your ears, or even run out of the room when a particular song plays? Could it be, for those who descend to the pits of Hell, that not only is there torture, fire, and torment, but your most hated song continually plays, over and over and over and over. For eternity. Non-stop.

Now, sometimes, if you're like me, when a song you can't stand unexpectedly comes on, you cover your ears and hum. I've got news for you. No humming allowed in Hell. 

This is not to say that there is no singing in Hell. Most likely, there is a strong possibility that you will actually be forced to sing your most hated song. That's right, you will be forced to sing the song that disgusts you the most! At the top of your voice. Over and over and over and over. For eternity. Now that's torture! 

In Heaven, there are nice, new songs being created all the time. "And they sang a new song....." (Revelation 5:9). Everything is fresh and pleasant. But in new songs! Just the old ones, over and over again. And I've got news for you. These old songs won't be all your favorite oldies. They will all be a collection of songs that you hate with a passion. 

Now in Heaven, beautiful harmonies are sung by massive choirs. But let me ask you this. Have you ever sang next to someone who is actually a worse singer than you? (I know for some of you that's not possible.) Well, in Hell, everyone around you is not just singing your most hated song along with you. They are singing off key as well. 

By the way, in Hell, there is actually some background music playing all the time. In Heaven, there's also background music, but it consists of beautiful melodies. On the other hand, in Hell, all the background music, as well as all music there for that matter, is extremely out of tune. If it's one thing that is absolutely annoying, it's listening to an instrument that's out of tune. You guessed it. In Hell, everything is out of tune.

How about the genre of music, the style of music? What music genre do you like the most? Country, Bluegrass, Jazz, Classical, Opera, Rap, etc? Forget it. You won't be hearing any of your favorite stuff in Hell. No. Playing constantly in the background is the style of music you absolutely loathe. And when you hear your most hated songs being sung in the background, guess what? They will be sung by a voice that sounds exactly like whatever particular artist's voice you couldn't stand here on earth (In some cases, it may be sung by the actual artist). 

In Heaven, the instruments are beautifully made, and wonderfully played. The harps are probably made of solid gold with precious stones as decorations, and the sound is breathtaking. In Hell, the instruments are junk. Or worse, they are instruments you can't stand to listen to. For me, I can't stand the sound of bagpipes. I'm making extra sure I'm not going to Hell just so I won't have to deal with that! Maybe for you, it's an out of tune violin, or a screeching bugle, or a whatever is most detestable to your ears. Yes, that's what's waiting for you if you end up in the flaming abyss.

One more thing. In Hell, while all these terrible songs are being played or sung, there's an annoying, loud, disruptive sound every 15 seconds or so. Sometimes a horn, or a gong, but most likely a siren. And guess who's behind making these crazy noises? Satan himself! All the while laughing and taunting you. 

So, the next time you hear a song starting to play that you really hate, just remember, you're just experiencing a quick glimpse of what Hell will be like! And believe me, you don't want to go there!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

How We Got The New Testament

The New Testament is an ancient collection of letters by Christian authors, written in the first century. Writing these letters wasn't an easy task. Back then, durable parchments had to be made from papyrus, a reed that was harvested, cured, dried, and pressed before it could be written on. Vellum was also used because of its high quality and long lasting durability. It's the skin of a young calf that had to be carefully cleaned, cured, dried, and stretched before it was ready to be written upon with special ink. Whether parchment or vellum, the preparation process could take weeks. And then the meticulous task of writing would begin by a scribe, letter by letter, following strict guidelines. 

Some of the New Testament books are huge. For example, the book of Luke has nearly 26,000 words! Can you imagine how long it took to write it? Obviously, each one of these New Testament writers were compelled to record for posterity what they knew and what they witnessed. Most of the letters began to be written around 30 years after Jesus died. It's no doubt by this time, the writers began to realize they wouldn't be around forever. The truth needed to be spread and preserved. Writing was the only way to do it with any confidence at all. Certainly, word of mouth wouldn't do for long, before it was changed, corrupted, and lost. 

Now these guys were well equipped. First of all, Jesus promised to his disciples that when He left, the Holy Spirit (the Advocate) would be sent to them, and would remind them of everything Jesus said. They would be able to recall and quote His exact words with some miraculous, supernatural ability, regardless of how much time had lapsed.

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:25-26)

Secondly, they had the uncanny ability to sense exactly what God wanted them to write. In other words, the Holy Spirit was able to place in their minds what words to use. The writers were the vehicle that God used to communicate what He wanted us to know. This is true of all the Bible writers.

“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)

“If you claim to be a prophet or think you are spiritual, you should recognize that what I am saying is a command from the Lord himself.” (1 Corinthians 14:37)

“And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13)

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

With all that said, we can still get some additional insight as to why some of the New Testament Bible authors wrote what they did. For example, the Apostle John wrote the Gospel of John so his readers would believe in Jesus, and by believing, have life in His name. Thank you, John. Thanks for writing your book. It's certainly helped me believe.
“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”  (John 20:30-31)

Luke wrote his Gospel as a careful, truthful account of the events surrounding Jesus. Thanks Luke for your attention to detail. “Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.” (Luke 1:1-4)

Peter wrote his letters to get his readers thinking and remembering.  Thanks Peter for your great insight and understanding. “This is my second letter to you, dear friends, and in both of them I have tried to stimulate your wholesome thinking and refresh your memory. I want you to remember what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles.”  (2 Peter 3:1-2)

   This is how we got the New Testament. When the authors that were recognized as inspired wrote letters, the writings were highly treasured, and began to be circulated among the Christian churches. Then they were meticulously and carefully copied and circulated more and more. After while, a specific group of letters were considered to be Canon, those recognized as official, inspired writings. By the time the writers had died, in the second century, this collection of books began to be solidified and confirmed by scholars of the day to be legitimate. This collection developed into what's now called the New Testament. 

“After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.” (The Apostle Paul - Colossians 4:16)

  “I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.”  (The Apostle Paul - 1 Thessalonians 5:27)

All the ancient manuscripts confirm that the New Testament we have today is the correct collection of inspired writings. And because all the Epistles were actually written to Christians, it still applies. Thank you Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, James, Jude, and Paul for taking the time and effort to write for posterity - to write for us to read, learn, and believe, even in this day and age. It means all the difference in the world.