Monday, November 29

Is The Bible Reliable? Has It Been Altered?

How can we know that the Old and New Testament are the authoritative and true "Word of God?" There are many people who say, "The Bible has been changed and altered over time." How do you know? Actually, it has not changed as much as may be popularly believed. The Abrahamic traditions base some of their beliefs, concepts, and ideals on the Hebrew Bible. Christianity utilizes both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, claiming that Jesus, a craftsman from Nazareth is the Messiah promised in the Hebrew Bible. Further claims are made that Christianity is the fulfillment of Judaism, that when Jesus came, he established a new covenant, fulfilling the old. (See entry: "Covenants: Old and New") The Bible is comprised of 66-72 books (66 in Protestant branches; 73 in Catholicism), by approximately 40 different authors, all of which wrote over a span of 1500-1600 years.

The general story told in the Bible is as follows: we see the breaking and reconciling of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It is replete with battles, poetry, love, prophecy, the movement of peoples, sacrifice, and ultimately, love. In Nothing But Truth, Brian Edwards said this, "The Holy Spirit moved men to write. He allowed them to use their own style, culture, gifts and character, to use the results of their own study and research to write of their own experiences and to express what was in their mind. At the same time, the Holy Spirit did not allow error to influence their writings; he overruled in the expression of thought and in choice of words. Thus they recorded accurately all that God wanted them to say ad exactly how he wanted them to say it, in their own character, style and language."

The 1st century historian Josephus recorded, "For we have an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another [as the Greeks have] but only twenty-one books, which contain the records of all past times; which are justly believed to be divine." (Against Apion, Book 1, Ch. 8) The reason there are only 22 is because Josephus is referring to the Hebrew Bible ("Old Testament"). In the Hebrew Bible, books such as 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings, Ezra and Nehemiah, etc, are grouped together and counted as one, thus he reason he states 21 instead of 39. In the 3rd century BC, the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek. This became known as the Septuagint, meaning "70," as there were supposedly 70-72 men involved in the translation process. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered near Wadi Qumran in 1947 were a very important discovery and evidence for Christianity and the authority of scripture - they were essentially time capsules that had been hidden for 2000 years. Portions of every book of the Hebrew Bible - save for Esther - were discovered, and in the 825-870 writings found, the books are frequently quoted.

We did not need a list of New Testament books until 367 AD by Athanasius of Alexandria, but long before the list, the 27 books were accepted as Scripture. Why did it take so long for the books to be gathered together? The originals had been scattered across the Roman Empire, which spanned from Britain to Persia. It would have taken time for any church to learn about the letters of St. Paul, even gather copies. No scroll could very easily contain more than 1-2 books or letters. Scrolls were not long enough. Also, the first century Christians that the Parousia (return of Christ) would occur within their lifetime, and therefore were not planning the future of the church. Are there any other reasons why it took so long for a list to be made of the New Testament? The early church leaders had already assumed that the Gospels and epistles showed their authority to be self-evident, and therefore did not need a list.

It was when heretics began to attack the truth of the Bible that the importance of canon became an issue. Gnostics began to write their own gospels and letters, their own false writings, such as the Gospel of Judas, though it was not finally shown to the public until 2006. There are many reasons why the Gospel is not included in scripture, but mainly because it changes the role of Judas from a betrayer to savior - which goes against the clear teaching of Scripture - and historical evidence. Now, what do we know for a fact about New Testament canon? There were only four gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - used by the churches for the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Gnostics gospels were immediately rejected by the church. Acts and the letters of St. Paul were all accepted without hesitation, earliest records show. The other books of the New Testament were confirmed as canon and accepted by 180 AD.

However, Long before the end of the first century, St. Clement of Rome quoted and alluded to more than half of the New Testament, claiming that St. Paul wrote "in the Spirit" and that St. Paul's letters were Scripture. There are many other examples of such instances. By 240 AD, Origen of Alexandria used all 27 of the New Testament books as Scripture, and only the 27, alongside the 39 of the Hebrew Bible - 66 books. How were these ancient texts tested? There were give tests a book went through - Apostolic (does it come from an apostle?), followed by Authentic (does it have the ring of truth?), then Ancient (has it been around from the earliest of times closest to dates being described), then Accepted (are most churches using it?), concluded by Accurate (does it conform to the orthodox [correct"] teachings of the church?). Now of course, each test had specific details and things involved, but we will not get into that in this entry. There were other books that were in contention for the New Testament canon, such as the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache, the letters of Clement of Rome, and others. But it was ultimately the 27 books that were agreed upon.

In The Canon of the New Testament, Bruce Metzger says, "There [is], in fact, no historical data that prevents one from acquiescing in the conviction held by the Church Universal that, despite the very human factors.... in their production, preservation, and collection of the books of the New Testament, the whole process can also be rightly characterized as a result of divine overruling." People claim that the Bible is full of contradictions. While this is an important part of lending reliability and credibility to scripture, we must understand that all of the supposed Bible contradictions are easily explained. This is rooted in the idea that the original manuscripts - the "autographs" - are completely different from what we have today. But the idea that the Bible has changed over time comes from a childhood game. We see this happen all the time. One child whispers to his friend sitting next to him, which continues until all the way down the row, by the time it reaches the last person, what was originally conveyed is completely changed. However, this, contrary to popular belief, has not happened with the Bible. We may not have the original documents, but we have copies - and thousands of them.

Since we have thousands of copies of both the Old and New Testament, we can determine that scholars meticulously and careful copied the sacred texts. How? Here's a famous example. One man is given his mother's recipe for chocolate-chip cookies. 50 of his friends want the recipe, so he allows them to make copies. The friends of his friends wants copies, so on and so forth, and eventually, there are over 2000 copies. If the original copy is lost, so does that make all of the other copies incorrect, or changed? No. Why? Here's the reason: say perhaps that one person misspelled a word in the copy process. Say another missed an ingredient, and another intentionally left out some of the directions. That's only three out of fifty who copied the original. That is still 47 true copies. By looking back at the oldest texts available, we find that nothing has changed in the Bible, only the translation. Now, are there inconsistencies and issues in texts in some English versions? Yes, but not in ALL copies. Some copies, such as the KJV, NAS, and NIV are correct, while others, which have come to be known by their glaring typos, spelling errors, or what have you, have not.

For example, the Ears to Ears Bible (1810) states in Matthew 13:43, "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear." It is supposed to be, "He who hath..." and we know this because of Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and other translations, as well as older documents and texts. Another example is the 1653 KJV version (this was fixed later) - in 1st Corinthians 6:9, "The unrighteous shall inherit the kingdom of God." The correct translation says, "The unrighteous shall NOT inherit the kingdom of God." But  we see here is an example of the recipe concept. Merely because a only a few translations "got it wrong," changing a minor thing here and there, certainly does not negate the fact that thousands of other translations have been shown be 100% accurate. The only difference between say, the King James Version, and the New International Version, is language structure. Those who speak English typically do not walk up to someone and say, "How fares thy day, be it good, or be bad? Thou shalt not complain, we all have days such as this." But we may say, "How's your day going? Is it an okay day?" Now that isn't to say that some have more advanced vocabulary than others, but since the structure of our language has changed in the last four hundred years since the KJV was translated, a newer version, better understandable and readable to today's generation had to be made, one of the many resulting translations was the NIV.

Now, going back to this recipe model. Even if each of the 2000 people made one mistake per copy - be it spelling, punctuation, missing or adding a word, or what have you, how would you be able to know what the original recipe looked like? Not every person copying will make the same mistakes. Say for example, chocolate is spelled "chokolate" by one recipe. All 1999 other copy's have "chocolate," so by comparing each copy, we can determine the original. The Dead Sea Scrolls gives us another example. One of the scrolls that was found was Isaiah from 250 BC - to the Masoretic Text of the 11th century AD. Scholars were able to compare and by looking at the 1300 year difference... they found a 99.8% exactly the same language. (The language structure has changed) Many of the other writings from the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed the historicity of the New Testament, confirming the culture, events in the first century, and what have you, giving even more credence to the biblical accounts. Oxford Scholar Eugene Ulrich was quoted as saying, "The scrolls have shown that our traditional Bible has been amazingly and accurately preserved for over 2000 years." The Dead Sea Scrolls showed that the texts were very carefully preserved and copied correctly - down to every punctuation mark. There are other significant translations, the Septuagint and Masoretic Text were already mentioned, The Aleppo Codex from the 10th century AD, and Saint Jerome's 4th century translation now used by Roman Catholic Churches - the Vulgate.

Jesus says in Matthew 24:35, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." Since Jesus was also God, he was stating that his Word, the Word of God, will never pass away. To this day, his words remain true. No matter how many times people have tried to destroy his Word by burning it, or by other means, it is still there. Our earliest manuscripts for each book aren't millenniums removed - they are mere decades, if even. Greek, the language in which the New Testament was written in, is known for careful and meticulous perfection in translating.

So when the Greeks translated the Hebrew Bible, they Greek scholars made sure they had each and every little thing correct, even down to the punctuation. Now, it is true that there are several versions of the English Bible that are odd. We look at the RSV, the NIV, and perhaps the NET. Though all three were translated by different groups with different philosophies - not one "cardinal truth" has changed. All three teach the same thing.

No, we do not have the originals, just imperfect copies. However, we have a tremendous amount of copies of the Old and New Testament. There are 1,000's of copies in Greek alone - and many quotations from both used by different writers throughout the time of the Bible's writing. Since we can look at the earliest manuscripts, along with translations within a few years of the earliest manuscripts - and see that it is self-evident: all show unity.

We have now been able to determine that 99% of the New Testament is accurate. What is the 1%? Name spellings. The name John, for instance, may have been spelled as John or Johnn. That is the only inaccuracy, and that is not due to God's infallible Word, merely a mishap from man - which does not in any sway the reliability and authority of scripture. The name changing for John does not mean much - William Shakespeare's last name was spelled a plethora of different ways until it was decided to spell it Shakespeare.

The Bible has more historical and textual evidence than any other ancient manuscript. What you read is what was written, only not in the same language. The Bible is mostly history, with prophecy, poetry, the like involved, but it is at the most history. We can compare other writings to see that very little of the historical narrative of the Bible is still in question - more and more biblical history is proved, again confirming the authenticity and reliability of God's Word. The seven-inch spike lodged in a man's heel bones was found in a Roman tomb a few years back, confirming that Romans truly did crucify people - and afterwards more evidence was found. The concept put out by critics was that Jesus was tied to the cross, not nailed, as the Bible clearly states, because "Romans did not crucify." We found evidence that they did. Discoveries such as these have provided further credibility to the historicity and reliability of Scriptural corpus.

Troy Hillman

Friday, November 26

Formed From the Dust

According to the creation narrative found in Genesis 2, God formed man from the dust of the earth. This is an interesting notion. Is this passage figurative, or literal? Are there other passages in the Scriptural corpus that speak to this? Is there any science behind this? The relevant passage, Genesis 2:7 says, "Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." Within the narrative, we may infer that man is made of a handful of dust. Why? When a body is cremated, depending on the size of the hands holding it, the amount of dust left is about a hadndful. Following the narrative in the third chapter of Genesis, God tells Adam, "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; emphasis mine). This passage is often quoted on Ash Wednesday, to remind us that we are all in need of reconciliation, and that regardless of what "status" we have in life, our fate is all the same. Thus, it is meant to be a sobering yet humbling thought. In the Wisdom literature, Job says to God, "Remember that you molded me like clay. Will you now turn me to dust again?"(Job 10:9; Photo Credit to: Michelangelo, "The Creation of Adam," 1511)

On a biological level, we see that the human body is made up of minerals - and materials - found in the earth. 63% of the human body is made up of hydrogen, 18% carbon, 25.5% oxygen, and 7% other. There are 59 elements in our bodies, and all 59 of them are from the earth. (Percentages estimated, some research shows that the body is 65% oxygen and 10% hydrogen, others show the reverse.) Aside from the aforementioned elements, it is necessary for our bodies to have tin, silicon, fluorine, and vanadium. Now, the human body is not only made up of "dust" of the earth, but water. The average human body is made up of 75% water - if water was combined with dust, it is only logical that it would produce clay. It is also true that the human body is not only comprised of dust and water. We have bones, muscles, the like. 

Job 10:11-12 says, "[You] clothe me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews[.] You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit." Centuries later, St. Paul said in Romans 9:20-21, "But who are you, a mere human being, to talk back to God? 'Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it,' 'Why did you make me like this?' [from Isaiah 29:16; 45:9] Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for disposal of refuse?" 

We see that the motif of dust and water - clay - is concurrent throughout scripture. When St. Paul is discussing our resurrection body, he tells us in 2nd Corinthians 15:47, "The first man [our current body] was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven." Even Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 12:7 says, "and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it." Psalm 139:13-14 says, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."

On another level, modern science has determined that we are not merely dust, but stardust. The aforementioned elements that make up the human body were formed within a star, long ago. This beautiful insight actually has very intriguing theological implications. Christian theologian Elizabeth Johnson notes, "Understanding the human species as an intrinsic part of planetary and cosmic matter has far-reaching implications for the meaning of incarnation. In this perspective, the human flesh that the Word became is part of the vast body of the cosmos. Theologians have started to use the phrase "deep incarnation," coined by Danish theologian Niels Gregersen, to express this radical divine reach into the very tissue of biological existence and the wider system of nature. Like all human beings, Jesus carried within himself what Jesuit Father David Toolan has called 'the signature of the supernovas and the geology and life history of the Earth.' The genetic structure of his cells made him part of the whole community of life that descended from common ancestors in the ancient seas. The flesh that the Word became thus reaches beyond Jesus and other human beings to encompass the whole biological world of living creatures and the cosmic dust of which we are composed... By becoming flesh the Word of God confers blessing on the whole of earthly reality in its material dimension, and beyond that, on the cosmos in which the Earth exists. Rather than being a barrier that distances us from the divine, this material world becomes a sacrament that can reveal divine presence. In place of spiritual contempt for the world, we ally ourselves with the living God by loving the whole natural world, part of the flesh that the Word became."


Troy Hillman


Sources Consulted
Soriano, Eliseo. "From Dust To Man: A Scientific Proof." esoriano. Wordpress, 05-25-2007. Web. 26 Nov 2010. 

"Only Human?." American Bible Society Presents: Inside the Mysteries of The Bible. 2010: 16-17. Print.

Johnson, Elizabeth. "For God so Loved the Cosmos." Environment. U.S. Catholic, 2013. Web. .

Thursday, November 25

What Are You Thankful For?

Traditionally, around this time of year, people celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving. With its roots in Christianity, each year on the fourth Thursday of November, people from all over recount the story of the Pilgrim's Thanksgiving with the Native Americans. (Second Monday in Canada) Although many Americans assume the first Thanksgiving was celebrated at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621, there is evidence that is may have been celebrated as early as 1565 in Florida and 1578 in Canada. (Photo credit to: CDF Worldview)

However, unlike many other websites, blogs, and other sources today, I will not be covering the history of thanksgiving. I may another time, but it may be best to take a moment, and think. Ask yourself, "what am I thankful for?" Personally, I am thankful for the friends and family that the Lord has given me. As this is a celebrated holiday, let us take a look at what God's Word tells us about thankfulness - and what we can be thankful for. Psalm 31:19 says, "How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of all on those who take refuge in you. In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues; you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues." Amen.

Psalm 95:1-6, "Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and make joyful noise unto him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord God our Maker." Thank you, Lord.

Again, the intention of this entry is merely to think to ourselves, not of the bad in life, because we could complain on and on - but to give thanks, to glorify the Lord. Psalm 100 says, "Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever his faithfulness continues through all generations."

Psalm 107:1, "Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love endures forever." (See entry: "His Love Endures Forever") 1st Chronicles 29:11-13 says, "Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name." 

Again, we ought to examine our hearts and minds. What are we truly thankful for? Is it our job? Our home? Our lives? Our family? Friends? Some are dissatisfied with theirs, others are not. Perhaps we are thankful for the little things. For the ability to breath, to walk, to taste, to breath. To smell, to hear, to whistle, to laugh. Some have impaired ability in these areas, others do not, making us treasure them and be thankful all the more.

Perhaps you are thankful to be simply be alive. Maybe you are thankful for a friend, a family member. Maybe a companion, or perhaps a pet. Maybe you are thankful for God's Creation. We all have different reasons to be thankful.

Regardless of when you may be reading this, be it the day of Thanksgiving, or any other day of the year, I hope you can find something to be thankful for. There is a song, based off of several different Psalms, which I believe fits this entry perfectly. Here are the lyrics - by no one in particular, there are many covers of this song, it is a well-known song:

"This is the day, this is the day
That the Lord hath made, that the Lord hath made
We will rejoice, we will rejoice
And be glad in it, and be glad in it
This is the day that the Lord hath made
We will rejoice and be glad in it
This is the day, this is the day
That the Lord hath made"

"I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart
I will enter His courts with praise
I will say this is the day that the Lord has made
I will rejoice for he has made me glad"

"He has made me glad, He has made me glad
I will rejoice for He has made me glad
He has made me glad, He has made me glad
I will rejoice for He has made me glad!"

We have a lot to be thankful for.  Colossians 3:15-17 says, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through the psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

Thank you for taking the time to read this entry of "The Truth." I understand that this has not been the most informative, insightful entry, but that was not the intention. Sometimes, we need to just sit back, take a moment, and think to ourselves... What Are You Thankful For? 

Troy Hillman

Sunday, November 21

The Holy Trinity (Part Three)

The previous two entries have covered the biblical basis for "The Trinity," and discussed the pre-incarnate appearances of Jesus Christ in the Hebrew Bible and briefly touched on the appearances of the Holy Spirit. In this entry, we will take a look at the Holy Spirit's appearances in the Hebrew Bible ("Old Testament"), briefly followed by the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. As stated in the previous entry, God the Father spoke the Universe into existence (Genesis 1:1Psalm 33:9) and the Holy Spirit acted, bringing life into the cosmos. (Genesis 1:2Psalm 33:6Psalm 33:6 says, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all their hosts by the breath (spirit) of His mouth.” God’s entire deliverance of His people is by the Holy Spirit. (Isaiah 63:7-14).The Holy Spirit only works in and through people. He is never said to enter or fill a place, even the Tabernacle, like Yahweh or Jesus. His presence is known - and clearly shown - by His activity through people. The aforementioned Isaiah 63:10 says, "Yet they rebelled, and grieved his Holy Spirit." The name "Holy Spirit" is actually said. (Photo credit to: AAA Jack)

When Moses is finding a replacement, he is to find a man "in whom is The Spirit." (Numbers 27:18) He finds Joshua, who leads the Israelites to Canaan after the death of Moses. Many leaders were, as Christians are, indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Othniel (Judges 3:9), Gideon (Judges 6:34), Jephthah (Judges 11.29), and Samson (Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14), were among such leaders. Samson being first, “stirred by the Spirit.” (Judges 13:251st Samuel 10:10 says, "When he [Saul] and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came on him in power, and he joined in their prophesying." The Holy Spirit came upon Saul again in battle (1st Samuel 11:6), and left him when he did maintain and refused obedience towards God - and dwelled in David "from that day on." (1st Samuel  16:13-14) After King David, no other King is recognized as having the "Spirit of God," not even Solomon the Wise. It is from this that the hope for a king with the "Spirit of God" sprung forth (Isaiah 11:1-2) - and God told the people that he was planning to send his Messiah to them at a future date. Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah.

When God's people refused to listen to His prophets, they were told that their actions are ‘not in accordance with the Spirit.’ (Isaiah 30:1) It was for this reason that their situation was hopeless, and will continue to be so until “the Spirit is poured forth from above” (Isaiah 32:15), producing righteousness and blessing, a hope which lies in our future. The prophet Ezekiel, we are told, was carried about by the Spirit, sometimes referred to as a wind (Ezekiel 3:14 and others), and he says that “the word of the Lord came to me.” In Ezekiel 11:5 he says, “the Spirit of the Lord fell upon me,” causing him to speak God’s word, God's truth, because of the Holy Spirit. The future work of the Holy Spirit was also described throughout the Holy Spirit. Not only that Jesus would send the Holy Spirit to work in and through those who accepted him, and that there would be a great purging, but that there would be a pouring out of His Spirit. Isaiah 44:4-5 says, “I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground. I will pour My Spirit upon your children, and My blessing upon your offspring.”

Jesus was prophesied about when Isaiah said in Isaiah 61:1-2, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to announce deliverance to those who are held captive and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are bruised.” The prophet Joel added another dimension to the future work of the Holy Spirit. Joel 2:18-29 says, "I will send you corn and wine and oil, and you will be satisfied with it --- I will cause to come down for you the early rain and the later rain --- and the floors will be full of wheat --- I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten --- and you will eat in plenty and be satisfied --- and it will come about afterwards that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh, your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams and your young men will see visions, and also on the servants and maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days."

The Holy Spirit also appears throughout the Psalms. Psalm 51:11, "Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me." Psalm 139:7 says, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence?” The Holy Spirit, like God the Father, is ever-present. Psalm 143:10 says, "Teach me to do your will, for you are my God, may your good Spirit lead me on level ground." As Christians, we ought to pray that Psalm.It is truth - God sends the Advocate, his Holy Spirit, to lead us and help us. The Holy Spirit appears all throughout Scripture, and the Hebrew Bible is no exception. This is especially true in the Psalms. The Psalms themselves are important because we see the work of the Holy Spirit working through many men through the ages. We see that God does not desert those who trust in Him, nor has he left them to struggle on their own. God has promised to help us, though we may not always have the kind of help we desire, or understand that our present suffering will somehow help us down the line.

Now, when the Creator entered into His creation, things were set in motion. God had made man in his image, in his likeness at creation. (Genesis 1:26, Mark 10:6) It was when Jesus Christ died, and was resurrected, that he sent the Holy Spirit - in full force. It is because of this that we now have the capacity to have millions of Christ-like people walk around and preach across the world - and had Lucifer known what would have come of Christ's death, he never would have done so. Jesus had promised the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to his disciples, and to all who accept him and follow him. Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, he said to his disciples, "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized you with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit... you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses... to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:4,8) Not long after, the Day of Pentecost came. Acts 2:2-4, "Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in their own tongues as the Spirit enabled them." The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord, filled and dwelled within these men and women. The Holy Spirit was not wind, nor the flames, but the actual being that dwelled within these men and women, as stated, and He worked in and through them. The disciples went out into the streets and preached the Gospel in different languages. Peter addressed the crowd, and cited the prophecy of Joel concerning the Holy Spirit, (Joel 2:28-32) along with other prophecies.

During the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, while often mentioned by Jesus himself, is seen. When Jesus goes to be baptized by John, John saw the Holy Spirit descend like a dove. "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'" (John 1:32Mark 1:10, "Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'" Several times in the Gospels God the Father appears to say how glad he is with his Son, Jesus Christ. The Transfiguration was another instance, where Jesus was glorified, and Moses appeared with Elijah before him - God proceeded to speak. (Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36, 2nd Peter 1:16-18Matthew 3:16 discusses the same event of the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus, "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 alighting on him." (The word alight means to settle or stay after descending.) The Holy Spirit is just as important as the Father and the Son. The Father is the figurehead of the Trinity - the Son is the one who died for the past, present, and future sins of humanity - and the Holy Spirit is the one who dwells within us, and if we only pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit, the Lord will work in and through us.

This concludes the series on "The Holy Trinity." Thank you for taking the time to read this entry of "The Truth," I trust it has been enjoyable, informative, and insightful. You may email vexx801@yahoo.com, visit the facebook page, or comment below if you have anything you would like to ask, a comment, a concern, or what have you. May God bless you, reader, wherever and whomever you may be. Troy Hillman

Previous Entry: "The Holy Trinity" (Part Two)

The Holy Trinity (Part Two)

In the previous entry, we discussed the Trinity - and the biblical basis for this concept. There is sufficient evidence in God's Word to support the existence of the Holy Trinity - God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. This entry we will be taking a look at an important question: Are Jesus and the Holy Spirit found in the Old Testament?

The answer is yes. Both personalities make several, distinct appearances in the Old Testament. So let us take a look at the Holy Trinity - and the appearances found in the Old Testament, though this entry will focus more on Jesus and the next on the Holy Spirit's appearances. In an entry I had done months ago, the topic covered was the elusive "Angel of the Lord." (See entry: "Who is 'The Angel of the Lord?'") The word "angel" also essentially means "messenger."

In other words, this "Messenger of the Lord" appears to people throughout the Old Testament - and almost every instance, is referred to as a messenger, and in the following verses, is referred to as God. How is this possible? By examining each passage this mysterious Messenger appears in, we can find that the messenger is either God the Father himself - or Jesus Christ, pre-incarnate. If you wish to better understand this figure, take a look at the aforementioned entry.

Assuming that the messenger is Christ, we will look at the following passages with that context. Jesus visits Hagar in the desert after she has ran into the desert, to tell her that she would give birth to a son whom she would name Ishmael. (Genesis 16:7-12) He also speaks to Hagar years later when she has just left Ishmael, to encourage her, and to promise that he would be the ancestor of a great people. (Genesis 21:17-18)

The Messenger appears again not long after, in Genesis 22:11-18, where Abraham is tested - and proves faithful. (See entry: The Faithfulness of Abraham) There are several other appearances made by the Messenger, or Angel, of the Lord, found in: Exodus 3:2, where he tells Moses that he is God, appearing as a Burning Bush but identifying himself first as the Angel of the Lord then as God, and in Numbers 22:21-41, in which he appears to Balaam and his donkey. (See Book Overview: Numbers)

Jesus also appears in Judges 2:1-4;5:23;6:11-24;13:3-22, in which he appears to Gideon, as well as Manoah - to tell him of his son, Samson. Jesus appears again as the Messenger of the Lord in 2nd Samuel 24:16, where he speaks with King David, who is his future incarnation's ancestor. The Messenger appears again in Zechariah 1:12;3:1;12:8. (See entry: The Faithfulness of Gideon

The appearance of the Angel of the Lord in Exodus 3 is particularly mysterious. It does not appear to be expounded upon in popular media based on the Exodus, such as films - but each film refers to the being in the Bush as God, just as He claims. However, this same entity in the Burning Bush is the one who says not long after that he is God. If it were God the Father, he would not have been referred to as "The Angel of the Lord" directly before.

Now, yes, it is true that all appearances made by this Messenger in the Hebrew Bible could have merely been God the Father. Regardless, in the case of the Burning Bush, it was still God who was speaking to Moses - the question is, which part of the Godhead? Many scholars think it plausible for Christ to appear in a manifestation before his incarnation on the Earth. John 8:58, "'Very truly I tell you,' Jesus answered, 'before Abraham was born, I am!'"

In this way, along with verses discussed in the previous entry, we know that Jesus, like God the Father, also known as Yahweh, and the Holy Spirit, have been around since before time began, since before the creation of the universe. Is there any reference made to the Son of God? Actually, yes - in Daniel 3:25.

After the Babylonian exile began, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the Fiery Furnace. King  Nebuchadnezzar notices a fourth man, whom he describes as a "son of gods." Most assume the fourth man to be Jesus. "He said, 'Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods."

Now, understand that as earlier mentioned, there is such a figure in the Hebrew Bible as the "Angel of the Lord." It may be Christ or it may be Yahweh, but scholars tend to agree it was either one or the other - this Messenger never appears after the Incarnation of Jesus. This is called Christophany (pre-incarnate appearance from Jesus Christ) and Theophany (appearance of God the Father).

Do the Trinity appear collectively? They may. Genesis 18 describes something mysterious. Three visitors come to visit Abraham and Sarah. At least one of three was Yahweh himself, as the text clearly states, and Abraham speaks with him concerning a son that Abraham will have the same time the following year. The other two visitors appear not to speak, until Genesis 19. After the visit is concluded, the three visitors - notice there were three - take leave onto Sodom.

Genesis 18:16-19, 'When the men got up to leave, they looked towards Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then the Lord said, 'Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?' Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on the earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him."

The Lord goes on to tell Abraham that he and the other two are going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, as the outcry against the city is "so great and their sin so grievous." God and Abraham proceeded to discuss saving the city - God allowed that if Abraham could find ten righteous people in the city, he would spare it. He could not.

Genesis 19:1, "The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground." Lot invited the two men to his house, and after a group gathered outside telling Lot to bring them out so they could have sex with them, and he refused, the two men pulled Lot inside and struck the men outside with blindness.

The two told Lot to take his wife and two daughters and leave the city, and not to look back, because God was going to destroy the city. Who were these two men? Were they merely angels, or were they messengers, or, were they the other two halves of the Trinity? Some scholars believe that these two men were Jesus and the Holy Spirit, or that at least one was Jesus. Jesus himself spoke about Sodom and Gomorrah more than once. (Matthew 11:20-25, Luke 10:1-12, etc.)

On one occasion, God the Father allowed Moses to see him, but he could not see the face of God, for he would surely die, so he had to see his back. On other occasions in the Hebrew Bible, we are told that people spoke with God face to face. There seems to be an understanding that typically, if they spoke with God face to face, they were speaking to God the Son, to Jesus Christ pre-incarnate, though it is debatable.

Moses had asked in Exodus 33:18, "Now show me your glory." God replied that he would show himself, "'But,' he said, 'you cannot see my face, for one one may see me and live.'" (Exodus 33:20) "Then the Lord said, 'There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen." (Exodus 33:21-23)

Job saw the Lord, (Job 42:5) as did Isaiah. Isaiah 6:1, "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple." If God himself said that he could not show himself to people, how is it that these people saw him? Manoah, father of Samson, had met with the Angel of the Lord concerning his future son, "When the angel of the Lord did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord. 'We are doomed to die!' he said to his wife. 'We have seen God!'"

His wife told him that if they were to die, God would not have accepted the offering. So who did all of these people see? They saw Jesus Christ, pre-incarnate. Jesus is the image of the Father, whom we can see. God the Father is light. But what does God the Father look like? Daniel 7:9 says, "'As I looked, 'thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was white as snow, the hair of his head was white like wool.'"

The Hebrew name for Jesus is Y'shua. "Y'shua" is found about 100 times in the Hebrew Bible. It means "thy salvation". There are also hundreds of prophecies regarding Jesus Christ. A famous one would be Psalm 2:2. "The kings of the earth rise up and rulers band together against the Lord and His anointed..." The words of Jesus appear throughout the Psalms as well as prophetic works. Psalm 22:1 opens with, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (See entry: "The Messiah" for more on the prophecies concerning Christ)

But what of the Holy Spirit in the Hebrew Bible ("Old" Testament)? Since his appearances and mentions are many, He will be discussed in the next entry. As mentioned in the previous entry, the first appearance of the Holy Spirit is in Genesis 1:2. God spoke creation into existence, and the Holy Spirit acted. God says in Genesis 6:3, "My Spirit will not contend with human beings forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years." His Spirit again appears.

The Holy Spirit tends to be seen most frequently when it comes to prophecy. Numbers 11:25 says, "Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied - but did not do so again." The Spirit is seen as resting on Christ in the New Testament as well, as a dove.

In the next entry, the appearances of the Holy Spirit in the Hebrew Bible along with the entering of the Creator into his creation will be discussed. Thank you for taking the time to read this entry of "The Truth." May God bless. Troy Hillman

Friday, November 19

The Holy Trinity (Part One)

The triune identity of God is something that Christians seem to put a lot of emphasis on. What is the reason behind it? Why insist that God is three, yet he is one? Is there a biblical basis for this, or is it all based on man's fallible ideas? (Photo credit to: RPE)

The word "trinity" is not actually found in the Bible. It is because of this that critics believe it is made up. "Trinity" is merely an extra-biblical word we use to describe the Godhead. There is nothing non-biblical about that. The word was first used by Theophilus, the man whom Luke wrote Luke and Acts to.

The basic idea of the Trinity is this: That God is one, that there is only one true God, that God the Father is a distinct personality, separate from Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It entails that Jesus Christ was truly God, yet at the same time is also distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit, and that the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father and Jesus. (For more on the Holy Spirit, see entry, "The Nature of the Holy Spirit")

Is there a biblical basis for any of this? Yes, actually - there is much to support the idea of a Trinity. The very first book of the bible introduces us to the Trinity. Genesis 1:1-2 says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God - the Holy Spirit makes his first appearance in the second verse of the Bible.

We take a look at Genesis 1:26, "Then God said, 'Let us make human beings our image, in our likeness..." Notice the usage of the phrases, "us," and "our." He could not have been talking to his angels, which were made sometime in the first six days, because human beings were not created in the image of angels, but of God - he was speaking with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. How do we know that Jesus Christ was around from the beginning?

Colossians 1:15-20 says, "The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones of powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him, to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."

Jesus too, has been here from the beginning. In fact, as we are told, "in him all things were created." Everything was created in him and for him. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit are all God, yet all distinct personalities. The concept of the Trinity is "profoundly realistic in both universal experience and in the scientific understanding of the cosmos." (Christian Answers)

Does the Bible refer to the Godhead in such a way as to describe it? Colossians 2:9, "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form." Romans 1:20 says, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." The Trinity has always been.

God tells us continually that he is Lord. There is One, yet Three. Think of it like a computer. You have a computer, but without a monitor or electricity, they are virtually useless to you. But when you have all three, everything works. Without Jesus, The Holy Spirit and the Father would not be whole, and the converse is also true.

Isaiah 48:16 says, "I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; From the time that it was, there am I; and now the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me." Who is the speaker? It is not Isaiah, he is quoting someone. Jesus is the speaker. He tells us that his Father has sent him and endowed him with his Spirit - the Holy Spirit. The Trinity at work.

Jesus says in John 15:26, "When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to your from the Father - the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father - he will testify about me." Matthew 28:19 tells us to be baptized "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." It appears evident that these three personalities are at least closely intertwined, as in a tapestry, or an orchestra where each instrument plays together in harmony. They are the Trinity.

Did Jesus ever actually claim to be God? Many times, he referred to himself as "the Son," the Son of Man," referring to God as his "Father," and claimed to be the promised Messiah. But did he declare he was Lord? Actually, yes. Now of course, he discussed this with Pilate. "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place." (John 18:36)

"'You are a king, then!' said Pilate. Jesus answered, 'You say that I am a king. In fact, the very reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." (John 18:37, See entry: "What Is Truth?") Yet, the question remains: has Jesus implcitily stated that he is God? Yes.

Jesus says in Revelation 1:8, "'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.'" Jesus, before showing John over 1,900 years into Earth's future, said this to him. What about the Holy Spirit? Jesus says in John 16:13-15, "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own: he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you."

Authors Henry Morris and Martin Clark put it this way, "The Father is the unseen, omnipresent Source of all being, revealed in and by the Son, experienced in and by the Holy Spirit. The Son proceeds from the Father, and the Spirit from the Son. With reference to God's creation, the Father is the Thought behind it, the Son is the Word calling it forth, and the Spirit is the Deed making it a reality. We “see” God and His great salvation in the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, then “experience” their reality by faith, through the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit." 

In this mini-series, we will continue to take a look at the Holy Trinity - but we will be looking at the appearances of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in the Hebrew Bible, followed by God's appearances to people throughout the Bible (theophanies), and consummated in Incarnation of Christ. Thank you for taking the time to read this entry of, "The Truth."

Troy Hillman

Tuesday, November 16

Who Created God?

The simple answer? No one created God. The question itself is a bit of a faulty question. Does God need a creator, if he himself is the creator? What if God does have a creator? In this entry, we will attempt to answer such questions. Many critics and skeptics of the Bible ask this question, but so do Christians who are merely curious, and as it is a question that seems to be thrown around a lot, perhaps we ought to take a look at it. By definition, God is the uncreated creator of the universe, so by asking the question "Who Created God?," we are asking a illogical and irrational question. It can be equated to asking the question, "to whom is the bachelor married to?" Nobody created God, he is the great "I AM." (Exodus 3:14; John 8:58) He exists outside of linear time, because he himself created time. Time began the moment he created. God dwells outside of time (2nd Timothy 1:9, Titus 1:2) and is not subject to time. (Photo Credit to: Gorgok)

The real question we ought to ask is, If the Universe needs to have a cause, then why does God not need a cause? Since the universe had a beginning, it requires a cause. The Law of Cause an Effect, a proven law, demands this. Everything which has a beginning has a cause. The universe had a beginning, and therefore, the universe has a cause. Genesis 1:1-2 says, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the universe. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." God - and his Spirit - the Holy Spirit, were present at Creation. So too was Jesus, the Son. Genesis 1:26, "Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness..." Notice the use of the phrase, "us; our."

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit were all present at Creation. How did God create? Psalm 33:6, "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth." By the word of the Lord? Psalm 33:9 confirms, "For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm." All God had to do was speak the universe into existence, and it was so. It was "by his understanding he made the heavens," not ours (Psalm 136:5). Unlike the universe, and even humans, God had no beginning, so therefore, does not need a cause. As aforementioned, God himself created time, and is not bound by time. He is not limited to his creation, as he declares in Isaiah 57:15, he inhabits eternity. There is abundant evidence that the universe has a beginning, and the 1st and 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics perfectly illustrate this.

The 1st Law of Thermodynamics states that the total amount of mass-energy in the universe is constant. All matter created by God remains constant, regardless of what form it is. An example of this would be wood for a fire. Once it is burned, it becomes ash, and cannot be reversed by natural means into the log that it once was, yet the energy is still there, merely in another form of matter. If you freeze H2O, then the mass-energy remains constant. The same applies for heating - if you heated H2O enough to the point where it became a gas, the energy is still there. If a human dies, their body may decay, yet the energy and mass exists somewhere. That is the 1st Law of Thermodynamics. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states that the amount of energy available for work is running out, or, entropy is increasing to a maximum. This law and the derivatives of this law, the law of friction for example, are what define the arrow of time. Most of the other physical laws are time-reversible invariant. Since the energy is constantly changing from available energy to unavailable energy, someone - God - had to give the universe available energy in the first place. God is not bound by this law, for he created it, we merely discovered it. Now, if the total amount of mass-energy is decreasing, and is limited, this means that the universe has not always existed, and is finite, as the amount of usable energy is running down.

We come to  a point where, perhaps the skeptic or even the Christian accepts that the universe itself had a beginning, but that it still does not need a cause to have a beginning. If the Law of Cause and Effect were denied, that would mean that all science and history would collapse, as would other things such as law enforcement - the authorities would not believe that they needed to find a cause for murder or another crime - yet they do. The universe itself cannot have self-cause, for that would mean that the universe created itself before it even existed, which is a self-refuting argument. God does not need a cause to create the Universe, but he had a cause. There is nothing whatsoever that is illogical or irrational about an eternal being who has always existed, it is merely that it is difficult for us to comprehend.

Some will reply, "but that would require faith!" Hebrews 11:6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Of course you must walk by faith! We cannot see, hear, touch or smell God, yet at the same time, we cannot see, hear, touch, or smell love - yet we embrace it anyways, because we know it is real. In the same way, we know that God is real. The Holy Spirit opens the yes of the blind so that we do not believe by what is referred to as "blind faith." The universe requires a cause, just as taught in Genesis 1:1, along with Romans 1:20. Romans 1:20 says, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

Some scientists deny cause and effect. Writer Paul Davies said, "spacetime could appear out of nothingness as a result of a quantum transition. Particles can appear out of nowhere without specific causation. Yet the world of quantum mechanics routinely produces something out of nothing." Before I address that, perhaps it is best to point something out. Here is an example. When Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist and cosmologist, makes a general statement to the public, such as one he made not too long ago, everyone regards it as fact. Why? It is because he is a scientist. But we need to bear in mind that we are all fallible humans, and merely because you are a scientist does not mean you are making a scientific statement.

I could be a scientist and say, "The world is flat." Now, that may not be the best example, because there is plenty of evidence to prove otherwise. But merely because someone is a supposed learned scientist does not mean that every statement that they make is fact - it is more often than not, opinion. That said, the statement from Davies is a misapplication of the principles of quantum mechanics. Something is never produced out of nothing. Moving on. We are told in the Scriptural corpus that time is a dimension created by God, one which we as humans are subject to. One day, it will no longer exist, and we will enter into eternity, where God himself dwells - those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and have asked forgiveness of their sins. To quote the brilliant writer C.S. Lewis, "God is not hurried along in the time-stream of this universe any more than an author is hurried along in the imaginary time of his own novel. He has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. He does not have to deal with us in the mass. You are as much alone with Him as if you are the only being He had created. When Christ died, he died for you individually just as much as if you had been the only man in the world."

It is understandable that some may be angered that the question was not answered to their liking. But the truth of the matter is, no one created God, and the intention of this entry was to illustrate why no one created God, why he does not require a beginning, and why the universe, which God himself created, has a cause.

Troy Hillman

Saturday, November 13

"His Love Endures Forever"

How often do we find ourselves falling into darkness? Not in a literal sense, but in a spiritual sense? We come to a point where we commit the same act over and over again, of sin, and cannot seem to stop. When this happens, some of us feel that God has momentarily turned his back to us because we failed him. (Photo credit to: TodayAbundance.com)

We are given a reminder 41 times in the Bible: "His love endures forever." His love does not last up until you break a promise or sin again, whatever that sin may be. His love goes on, and all he asks us to do is repent and pray for forgiveness - and the strength to work on not doing such a thing again. In this entry, we will take a look at just how "His love endures forever."

Psalm 150:6 says, "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!"That said, why do we not? Never forget to praise the one who created the universe, the one who entered into his creation to die for us, so that in him we may be saved. The love of Christ was so great that he was willing to die for every soul, even though he knew that not all would turn to him - but gave them the choice whether or not to follow him. As Christians, we reply to the Christ. "Follow me." (John 21:19b)

Psalm 136 gives the best example of how the Lord's love for us endures forever, no matter what. It describes who God is, why we ought to give thanks to him, and shows that his never-ending, never-changing, ever-present love is real - and true.

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.  
   His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.  
   His love endures forever. 
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:  
   His love endures forever.
to him alone does great wonders,
   His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens,  
   His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters,  
  His love endures forever.
who made the great lights - 
   His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day,  
   His love endures forever.

the moon and the stars to govern the night;  
   His love endures forever.
to him who struck down the first born of Egypt
   His love endures forever.
and brought Israel out from among them  
   His love endures forever.
with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
   His love endures forever.
to him who divided the Red Sea asunder  
   His love endures forever.
and brought Israel through the midst of it,
   His love endures forever. 
but swept Pharaoh and his army into the red Sea;  
   His love endures forever.

to him who led his people through the wilderness;
   His love endures forever.
to him who struck down great kings,  
   His love endures forever.
and killed mighty kings -
   His love endures forever.
Sihon king of the Amorites  
   His love endures forever.
and Og king of Bashan -
   His love endures forever.
and gave their land as an inheritance, 
   His love endures forever.
an inheritance to his servant Israel.  
   His love endures forever.
He remembered us in our low estate  
   His love endures forever.
and freed us from our enemies.  
   His love endures forever.
He gives us food for every creature. 
   His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven.  
   His love endures forever."

Without "His love endures forever" repeated after each line, Psalm 136 presents an account of God's history with His people, including his acts and his protection against the enemies of his people . The repetition of "His love endures forever" magnifies God's love? The repetiton brings God's love for us into a clear, concise picture.

1st Chronicles 16:34;41 again shows this. "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever... With them were Heman and Jeduthan and the rest of those chosen and designated by name to give thanks to the Lord, 'for his love endures forever.'" When the Ark was brought into the temple, "The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals, and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: 'He is good, his love endures forever.' Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God." (2nd Chronicles 5:13-14)

The same act was performed at the dedication of the temple, with the same song sung. (2nd Chronicles 7:3;6) 2nd Chronicles 20:21 says, "After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of army, saying: 'Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.'"

After the Babylonian Exile and return, we are told in Ezra 3:11, as the foundation for the rebuilt temple is laid, "With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: 'He is good, his love toward Israel endures forever.' And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid."

Jeremiah 33:10-11 mentions this in prophecy. "This is what the Lord says, 'You say about this place, It is a desolate waste, without people or animals. Yet in the towns of Judah and streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither people nor animals, there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord, saying, 'Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good; his love endures forever.' For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,' says the Lord."

Psalm 100; 106; 107; and Psalm 118 either mention "His love endures forever" or hints at it. What will it take for us to see the plain truth, to see what is right in front of us? We may fall to sin, we may fall to temptation, we may stray from the path - but we can come back, we can face restoration - why? It is because HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER.

I hope this entry of "The Truth" has encouraged you and helped in some way. If you have any questions or comments, email vexx801@yahoo.com, comment, or visit the facebook page. Never forget that the Lord's love endures forever - it is never-ending and never-changing. May God bless you, dear reader. Troy Hillman

Friday, November 12

The Intricacies of Creation

How often have we taken the time to look around us and see just how intricate and complex our Universe is? From Galaxies to Stars to Planets, from trees and bugs to dogs and cats, from fish of the sea to fish of the deep sea, from complex cell organisms that we find at the molecular level - all share one thing: they appear to have been designed. Who is the designer? For Christians, Genesis 1:1 gives us the answer. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." This entry is meant to look at the intricacies of God's Creation. (All photo credit goes to NASA; Hubble Telescope - Images 1 and 3)


Hubble: Eagle Nebula (NASA)
First, we will look at what has become known as the Teleological argument, then we will take a look at what God's Word says about the intricate and complex Creation around us. The Teleological argument is one used for the existence of the creator God, based on the principles of purpose, design, or direction, in nature. The word "teleological" is derived from the Greek telos, which means "purpose." The basic concept is as follows:
  1. Nature exhibits complexity, order, adaptation, purpose and/or beauty.
  2. The exhibited feature(s) cannot be explained by random or accidental processes, but only as a product of mind.
  3. Therefore, there exists a mind that has produced or is producing nature.
  4. A mind that produces nature is a definition of "God."
  5. Therefore, God exists.
There are other forms of the argument which assert that complexity necessitates a designer, such as the following:
  1. All things that are designed were preconceived, intended, purposed or contrived.
  2. Preconception, intention, purpose, and contrivance necessitate an intellect, mind or will.
  3. All things that are irreducibly complex display intention and preconception.
  4. The universe contains non-man made things that are irreducibly complex.
  5. Those things display intention and preconception.
  6. Those things necessitate an intellect, mind or will.
Looking at the design in the universe, the Anthropic Principle seems to support this. It is the "philosophical argument that observations of the physical Universe must be compatible with the conscious life that observes it." It was produced from the research that shows why the Earth is the singular most complex area in the entire Universe where life (as we know it) can exist - and the reasons as to why.

What are some of the intricacies of Creation, by this vein? Take the Earth for example. Any closer to the Sun, the Earth would burn up. Any farther away from the Sun, the Earth would freeze. The Earth's axis, which is a 23.5 degree tilt, gives us seasons and other such things. If there was no tilt, the equator would burn up from direct sunlight and radiation - it would become an arid desert. However, because we have the 23.5 degree tilt, we have seasons, which are beneficial across the world.

If the Earth were to move 2% closer to the sun we would fry. If it was 2% further away, we would freeze. The Earth spins at approximately 66,700 mph, which is 18.5 miles per second. NASA tells us that we are "just the right distance from the Sun." Psalms 104:5 says, "He set the earth on its foundations, it can never be moved." Psalms 93:1b, "indeed, the world is established, firm and secure." God set the Earth in just the right place.

Also, the 24 hour day gives us something else: as the Earth rotates, and the moon orbits around the Earth, the night gives things a chance to cool down, perhaps not by much, but it allows for night so that everything does not burn up. The Moon itself revolves around the Earth every 28 days, and controls the gravitational pull, especially on the tide.

All of these intricacies come together so that life as we know it can exist upon the Earth. The planets of our Solar System each have a function, too. Take Jupiter, for example. It is one of the largest planets near Earth, one planet after Mars. We have found large meteor craters on Jupiter. Had these meteors crashed into the Earth, they may have had the potential of wiping out mankind.

Luckily, the mass density of Jupiter, being millions of times more than that of the Earths, sucks in the meteors passing by because of its gravitational force. Without this gravitational pull and the effect it has on these meteors, life on the Earth today would be very improbable, or very scarce. It is yet another intricacy of Creation.

So, now that we have taken a brief look at merely a few of the complexities of this universe, what does scripture say about God's Creation? Genesis 1:16 says, "God made two great lights - the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars." Isaiah 40:26 says, "Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing."

Hebrews 11:3 points out, "By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." At the time of this writing, people did not understand what the author meant. Science was ignorant of the subject. But now, we know that the universe is made out up invisible attributes - atoms. Yet another biblical confirmation of the intricacy of Creation. The early Greek Atomists held similar ideas a few centuries prior about the make-up of the universe, but these ideas were unpopular until the past few hundred years.

God himself says in Isaiah 45: 12, "It is I who made the earth and created human beings on it. My own hands stretched out the starry heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts." If God himself said this, why should we question? We ought not to, yet we do anyways. Isaiah 40:12 says, "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?" God has.

There will never be a telescope built that can show the entire splendor of God's Universe, to the very deepest regions of space. Revelation 4:11 says, "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." God created the entire universe! Jeremiah 32:17 declares, "Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you."
Hubble: Carina Nebula (NASA)

Psalm 147:4-5 declares, "He determines the number of the stars, and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit." God, creator of the Universe, is the very same who sent his son Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins so that by accepting him and repenting of our sins, asking forgiveness, we may be saved. "He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them - he remains faithful forever." (Psalm 146:6)

By examining the Psalms, we see that time and time again, God is given praise for his creation. Psalm 104:25, "There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number - living things both large and small." Psalm 33:6;9, "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth... For he spoke, and it came to be, he commanded, and it stood firm."

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." (Psalm 19:1) God's creation declares his existence! We are his creation, and by looking at our own intricately designed systems, we can come to the logical conclusion by deductive reasoning that we have an Intelligent Designer. "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what are mere mortals that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" (Psalm 8:3-4) We are God's creation.

With the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, we see one thing: The Creator entered into his Creation to sacrifice himself for this creation so that in him they may be saved. That statement alone brings deep meaning. Nehemiah 9:6 says, "You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you." Amen.

Troy Hillman

Wednesday, November 10

Book Overview: 1st Kings

The Book of Kings, which was originally one book and not two separate books, picks up the history of Israel. It begins where 2nd Samuel ended, and it covers the following four centuries. The infamous accounts of Solomon the Wise, building God's Temple, to the rift that became the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel, to the destruction of Israel in 587 BC at the hands of the Babylonians. (Photo credit to: Jewish Apple Seed)

The book itself covers a period from around 1000-600 BC. The book contains 22 Chapters, and includes the many infamous stories, as aforementioned, of King Solomon and his exploits - as well as the prophets Elijah and Elisha and their miracles. 

This is the tenth Book Overview in a series of 66 Books. These overviews are written so that it may provide readers with details about the book, things that they may have missed, and will hopefully peak your interest so that you will read the book, the entire Bible in fact, as God wants us to do. Now, onto the Book of 1st Kings.

Title: 1st Book of Kings (English), Sefer melakhim, ספר מלכים (Hebrew) 

Authorship/Written: Jeremiah is traditionally credited as the author of 1st and 2nd Kings. There are many similarities in the style of writing used in 1st and 2nd Kings compared to the Book of Jeremiah. The Book of Kings was written whilst the First Temple still stood. (1st Kings 8)  Jeremiah lived before the Babylonian Captivity of Israel which began in 587 BC. 

This is also indicated by the phrase, "to this day." (1st Kings 8:8; 12:19; etc) Kings is written from a prophetic view, putting emphasis on the idolatry and immorality that brought the judgment of God upon Israel. 2nd Kings 24:18-25:30 is the same as Jeremiah 52. Jeremiah, inspired by God, who worked in and through him as he did with all authors of his word, was given what we would call "source material." 

Solomon's Temple
He used the "Acts of Solomon" (1st Kings 11:41), the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah (1st Kings 15:7), a possible source in Isaiah 36-39, as large portions appear in 2nd Kings 18-20. He also used the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. (1st Kings 14:19) 

Summary: "1 Kings tells the history of the kings of the united kingdom of Israel, and the history of the kings of the divided kingdom of Israel and Judah. Most of the kings were completely corrupt and led their kingdoms into sin. 1 Kings shows the importance of godly leadership, and that God expects those who lead to take care of his people." (NIV) 

Overview:
1st Kings 1-2 - Establishment of the Kingdom
1st Kings 3-11 - The Reign of King Solomon (Glory of the Kingdom)
1st Kings 2 - The Death of King David
1st Kings 3 - Solomon Asks for Wisdom 
1st Kings 3:16-28 - The Two Women and the Baby
1st Kings 12-End of Book - Kings of Israel and Judah
1st Kings 5-8 - Solomon's Temple
1st Kings 8 - The Glory of God fills Solomon's Temple
1st Kings 10 - The Queen of Sheba
1st Kings 11 - The Wickedness of Solomon
1st Kings 12-14 - The Kingdom of Israel Splits into Two
1st Kings 17 - The Prophet Elijah's Introduction
1st Kings 18 - Elijah Challenges Ahab and Jezebel to Hilltop "faceoff"; God burns Offering 

1st Kings nails in several points. The book was written to show the reasons for the establishment and the decline of the empire itself. The point is made that when Israel was loyal to God, they would flourish, but when they departed from his ways, the kingdom declines. As God is Sovereign, he dispenses mercy and grace to the obedient and penitent - but for those who have shunned and rejected him, or not truly accepted him, punishment and chastisement. 

The book gives the account of the death of King David and the reign of King Solomon. When God asked Solomon what he wanted, he asked for wisdom. Solomon proceeded to write some of the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Song of Solomon), and Proverbs. 

Points: We ought to be careful to observe that the Temple was not built as a House for God, but for the "Name of the Lord." When Pagans built their temples for their gods, the intention was for the god to dwell there. Thankfully, Solomon, in this regard, knew better. Yes, God dwelled within the Temple, but he did not live there, nor was he ever bound to that location. 

Elijah the prophet comes into the picture in this book. Elijah is known as one of the major figures in Judaism - among Moses and Abraham. An entry on Elijah is in the works, so he will not be discussed in depth here. However, the key events of his life can be found in 1st Kings. Elijah being fed by the ravens, having it not rain for three years, going to Mt. Carmel, the eventual flee to Horeb. (1st Kings 17-18)

When Elijah flees to Mt. Horeb, God appears to Elijah. He sends a powerful wind, an earthquake, fire, but none of them were God. But then God speaks to Elijah in a still, small voice. A gentle whisper. It was soon after when God told Elijah to go out and find Elisha, son of Shaphat. (1st Kings 19) 

The pillars of Solomon can be found in the hills of the desert near Eilat. Not very far from the pillars are the Copper Mines, also known as King Solomon's Mines, used and worked by Solomon - the new mines worked by modern-day Israelis.
Possible Elijah's Cave at Mt. Horeb (Jebel Musa)
A common theme of life can be found in 1st Kings: Corruption, Decline, and Restoration. Often people find themselves in situations where they have come to a low point in life, a spiritual decline, and must pray to God as King David did, "restore unto me..." so that their souls may be restored and they may have peace. 1st Kings also illustrates God's forgiveness. No matter how many times we fall, he will always help us back up.

The many miracles of Elijah are also found within this book. The story of the widow and her boy, for example, are found within these pages. 1st Kings 17:7-24 gives the account.  There had been no rain in the land, and Elijah was told to go to Zarephath, where God had sent a widow. Elijah asked for water and bread, but the woman replied that she only had enough bread for her and her son. Elijah commanded her to make the bread, and her supply, day to day, never ran out.

The son of the widow, however, became sick, and died. Elijah spread him out on his bed, cried out to the Lord, and stretched himself out on the boy three times - and the Lord returned the breath of life unto the boy. Astonished the mother said, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth." (1st Kings 17:24

Interestingly enough, some Jewish tradition holds that this boy later grew up to become known as the prophet Jonah, who had been in the belly of a huge fish, and was to deliver a message to Nineveh. Whether this boy was the same Jonah at a younger age or not is uncertain - but God does work in mysterious ways.

King Solomon builds the 1st Temple. Technically, there have been three Temples. The first, built by Solomon. It was destroyed in the Babylonian attack upon Jerusalem in 587 BC. When the Israelites returned from the Exile, with the aid of Ezra and Nehemiah, they re-built the Temple. This was the second. The "third" was merely major enhancements made to the temple by King Herod before 4 BC. The temple was destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans and has not been rebuilt since, though prophecy from Jeremiah, St. John, St. Paul, Daniel, and many others indicates that in the end times, a Fourth (or third, depending on how you look at it) Temple will be erected. (For more information, see entry: "What is the 'Holy Temple?'")

It is apparent that one could do an overview on each aspect of 1st Kings - from the wisdom and exploits of King Solomon, to the long line of Kings, to the miracles and accounts of Elijah and Elisha, and what have you. Be that as it may, this is a mere Book Overview, something to hopefully provide you with just enough information about the book that you will want to read more. 

Next Book Overview: Book of 2nd Kings
Previous Book Overview: Book of 2nd Samuel