How to Misrepresent Scripture and Tickle Mens’ Ears.

I have been studying some of the popular scriptures and commentary regularly given by some preachers often associated with the prosperity gospel. I often think of these preachers as the dessert of Christianity. They may offer a smidgen of tasty truth, but if they are our entire Christian diet, then we’ll grow fat and unhealthy. They usually don’t offer the fullness of the truth of God or the fullness of what it means to be a Christian. There is often no milk or meat. The more I age, the more I see the damage some popular preachers have caused within the Church. There is a watering down of the faith; concepts meant for one aspect of the Christian life are applied to unrelated aspects of our earthly lives in an effort to make people believe that with God, all our desires will be met and met with abundance if we’ll only think and speak the right faith-filled words. The true meat of the gospel ends up missing – our sin and guilt redeemed by Jesus’ blood and sacrifice – and the slavery He requires while we’re still on this earth. It’s fine to believe that God wants us to be blessed as the Bible describes blessing, but it’s getting to the point where salvation isn’t a lifestyle of repentance and serving God, but it is instead a promised relationship with an almighty provider who wants nothing more than for us to name and claim the things we desire.

I will offer some scriptures and related teachings from popular pastors/preachers. These are passages I’ve heard first-hand or have found in ministry publications. I’ll then discuss the Biblical truth of the scriptures used and the actual context as seen in the Bible. If the preachers are preaching truth, then their use of scripture should line up with the Biblical context from which the quotes are taken. How well do modern preachers do in adhering to the Biblical context of the scriptures they quote so often? Four examples are below.

“With God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). This phrase is used by many to exclaim that anything can happen with God. And while this is true, the context of the verse in Matthew is not applicable to the many uses it is given today. For example, consider the following quotes:

“You know God can do what men can’t do. It may look impossible to you, but it’s not impossible with God. Jesus put it so simple, ‘If you believe, all things are possible.’ I believe I’m looking at believers and not doubters today. You know God can do supernatural things.”

And in another lesson from the same Pastor, using the same scripture, we find:

Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ (Matthew 19:26, NIV)

Too many times we limit God with our thinking. God puts big dreams in our hearts, but in our eyes they look impossible and too big to accomplish. Although we want to see our dreams come to pass, we end up focusing on the mountain of obstacles before us. Maybe you dream of starting a business but you don’t know where to begin. Perhaps years of physical challenges have left you feeling like you’ll never be healthy. You look at your situation and begin to wonder how, and if, God will ever bring your dreams to pass.

Be encouraged today that God can do the impossible. He can supernaturally make all of the dreams He’s planted inside of you come to pass. What are you focusing on today? Your situation may seem impossible, but God sees it differently. See your dreams through eyes of faith the way God sees them fulfilled.

Make room in your thinking today for the dreams God has for you. If things look hopeless in the natural, put your confidence in the promises God gave you. Trust in Him to make all things possible for you. As you do, you’ll begin to see your dreams come to pass in ways you never imagined.

What does Matthew 19:26 really say and what is the situation Jesus is describing? Matthew 19:23-30 (NKJV):

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”

So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

So here Jesus is talking to his disciples describing how difficult it is for those with wealth to be saved. He gives a description of either a camel trying to fit through a tiny door or a large rope going through a sewing needle (there seems to be debate on the exact reference intended at the original time of writing). Whatever the analogy, it astonished the disciples enough that they feared no one could be saved. It was to this fear – the fear that no man could be saved – that Jesus said with God all things are possible. The quote is about God’s ability to find a way of salvation for man when it was impossible for man to secure his own salvation. What’s extremely interesting is what comes next. Peter comments that they’ve left all to follow Jesus and asks what the disciples will have. Jesus says that they will be rewarded – even receive a hundredfold – and inherit eternal life – in the regeneration. The reward comes after this life. Yet so many teachers use this verse to teach us to believe for things now that simply aren’t promised in the context of the passage. It is a misapplication of scripture that completely misses the true point of this scripture – God can make a way of salvation even for those who we would think can’t be saved. This scripture should be applied to our praying for the salvation of others; instead, it is often used to encourage us that if we think and believe right, we can get what we want.

Another common verse used to describe the character of God and His desire that we prosper by our earthly definition is Psalm 35:27 “Let the LORD be magnified, Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.” As an example, consider this quote from a popular minister:

I love the scripture that says “God takes pleasure when his people prosper.” Today, God is pleased when you are doing well. He’s pleased when you are succeeding. He’s pleased when you are whole and healthy and happy in Him. So know this, if you’ve got some things going wrong, that’s not God. God wants to do good things for you. He wants to turn the tide of the battle in your life. He wants to put you on the road to success. God is for you, and if he be for you, who dare be against you, Amen. God is for you today.”

In a published passage regarding the same scripture from Psalm 35, we find:

Let the Lord be magnified Who takes pleasure in the prosperity of His servant (Psalm 35:27).

Our God is a running-over God! He doesn’t want you to just have barely enough to meet your own needs, God wants you to be so blessed that when other people get around you, it overflows onto them! He wants you to be so blessed in your finances that not only can you pay your bills and accomplish your own dreams, but you can be a blessing to others. In the same way that a parent loves to see their children doing well and excelling, God wants you to do well and excel in every area. He takes pleasure in prospering you. But the key is that you have to make room for it in your thinking. You have to expect that He wants to bless you. Take a step of faith today toward the dreams that are in your heart. Begin to thank Him for His abundance in every area of your life. Declare that because you walk in obedience, God’s blessings are going to chase you down and overtake you! Don’t just settle for a “good enough” mentality, develop an overflow mentality, and you’ll see God’s hand of blessing in every area of your life!

What is Psalm 35:27 really about? Psalm 35 must be considered as one. It is a singular psalm of David. In context, David’s enemies were fighting against him and David seeks for God to step in on David’s behalf. He asks that those who wish for evil and destruction to him be put to shame. He seeks vindication from the persecution he is enduring. He asks that those who rejoice over his calamity be put to shame. And finally, he asks that those who favor David’s righteous cause shout for joy and say “Let the LORD be magnified, Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.” The Hebrew word for prosperity here is shalowm (H7965 Strongs), which is a word meaning peace, safety and welfare – especially in the context of this psalm. This psalm is about God having pleasure in the peace and righteous justification of David (his servent – singular) in the face of his enemies and those who wish to see him fail. It is not about his prosperity in material things, or succeeding in business, etc. as is so often taught today. It’s also not about David needing to make room for anything in his thinking or believing. It is not about David needing to have a certain confession or mentality. If applied correctly in our lives, we would use this psalm if we find ourselves in a situation where we are being persecuted for our faith, or lied about by others despite our being correct in the matter at hand. Anything more is inserting a context which is simply not found in the original text.

“If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31. This verse is often used in similar context to the ones mentioned above. It is often used to show us that with God on our side, we can do and have anything we want, because God wants us to have all good things (as we see it).

You know, there’s so many things trying to talk us into having a down year, but everytime you come out here, I want to talk you into having a great year. You gotta know that if God be for us, who dare be against us?”

And

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31, NIV)

Joshua chapter six tells the story about how the odds were stacked against Joshua and the people of Israel. They were standing at the massive walls of Jericho that many thought were impenetrable.

I’m sure as he was standing before the well-fortified walls and gates of the city, many around him didn’t think his future was too bright. But you see Joshua had something others overlooked; he had the promise of Almighty God. Joshua had faith because He knew God was on His side, and God had already determined the victory. Sure enough, just as God promised, the people marched around the city for six days, and on the seventh day, they shouted the victory and the walls came tumbling down!

Today, don’t look at the walls in your life; look at the promise of God. He is for you, and if God is for you, nothing can stand against you. Get a vision of victory and don’t let it go. Keep moving forward in faith and obedience knowing that when you do, the Most High God is on your side!

While the Joshua story is good, the application to the Romans 8 verse is again, not adhering to the true context of the passage. This passage in Romans has nothing to do with being successful in any endeavor we attempt. It has nothing to do with our actions, thoughts, or desires at all. It only has to do with God being for us despite our being sinners who, even though saved, continue to mess up. In reading chapters 7 and 8, we see Paul describing that even as a saved person, he still struggles with sin and not doing what he wants and doing what he doesn’t want. It’s the struggle we all face, and despite this struggle, God is for us. In chapter 8 Paul makes it clear that our very life in these mortal bodies is because of God’s spirit giving us life. All of creation is waiting for the final redemption, and during that time of wait things are not perfect. Verse 18 makes it clear that we still suffer, but oh… how meaningless that is compared to the glory that is one day coming. Others may see our imperfections that remain and judge us, but their judgement doesn’t matter. Their being against us doesn’t matter, for if God is for us (even knowing our condition), then who can be against us. God has been for us from before creation. As verse 35 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Then in verse 36 Paul quotes from the 44th Psalm – “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” And then verse 37 says, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Nothing in this world can separate us from God’s love, because he is for us. This is a verse to pray when we find ourselves in the midst of persecution and slaughter, famine and distress, peril and sword. And it is clear from the context that if we find ourselves facing these things it won’t matter, because if God be for us, who can be against us. It doesn’t say that if God be for us all these sufferings will be taken away from us. It doesn’t say that if God be for us we will have nice things. It doesn’t say that if God be for us we’ll never have famine or distress, persecution and slaughter. What is says is that these things won’t matter, because we are of a future world and these sufferings are a part of this current world, and no matter how bad this current world treats us, nothing can separate us from the Love of God in Christ.

The next example is fairly significant. Here, the preacher starts with 2 Corinthians 4:18: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal”

Every obstacle in your life is subject to change. It doesn’t matter what you may be facing, there is an answer in the unseen. The unseen is the spiritual realm where the promises of God exist. Your faith brings those unseen things into this natural realm. When you are fixed on something, you can’t be moved. There’s a determination that fuels your focus. When you fix your eyes on the unseen—the promises of God—your faith will not be moved by your circumstances and you’ll eventually see those promises come to pass.Make the decision today to fix your eyes and mind on the promises of God. Meditate on His promises until they become more real to you than the air you breath. Declare that His promises will come to pass in your life. Declare that you have His favor. Declare that you are more than a conqueror. Don’t allow fear and doubt to change what you are speaking over your life. As you continue to fix your spiritual eyes on the unseen promises of God, you will see those things come to pass in the natural and you will move forward into the abundant life the Lord has for you!

Before moving onto the actual context of 2 Corinthians 4:18, I have to say that the message attached to it via the paragraph above sounds almost like something spoken by a New Age teacher regarding using thought power and confession to make what we desire manifest in our lives. The verse in question has nothing to do with God’s promises regarding our lives here on earth. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Reading at a minimum vs. 16-18, it is abundantly clear that this verse reminds us to keep our eyes on what is to come after this life. Here, our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. Here, even if it seems severe, compared to what is coming we have light affliction, which is but for a moment, and that affliction is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory! In our Christian walk, we are not to look at what’s going on here; we are to pay no mind to the suffering we endure (many preachers claim we don’t have to endure suffering if our faith, confession and beliefs are right); we are to keep our eyes focused on the unseen – what is coming, the very reward our current suffering is building up for us in Heaven. The glorious truth is that our affliction now is actually producing eternal glory beyond anything we can compare it to in this life. To try to use this verse to bring glory now actually negates the true and glorious meaning of the verse as written.

While the messages referenced above are all positive sounding and purport to speak to how much God loves us, they also speak to how God wants to provide a seemingly perfect earthly life for us if we believe, confess and think correctly. This way of thinking is not found in the Bible as it is described by so many preachers today. As noted in the four examples above, pastors commonly use great sounding verses from the Bible to support a great sounding “truth” that is not really related to the foundational scripture used to support the point. Sadly, most listen to the sound bite and never consider the context from which it came. I sometimes fear we are being destroyed for our lack of knowledge regarding what the Bible really says and that we are being lead away by the enticing “too good to be true” promises of so many preachers today. This leaves many to think they have accepted Christ only to turn away disappointed when their personal dreams aren’t met. Christianity is about our sinfulness and God’s deliverance when we could not find our own way out of our mire. Once saved, Christianity is about our sacrificing our remaining time here in service to him.  Just as Jesus said “not my will, but yours,” we are to do the same, and take up our cross and follow him, leading others to him. This only requires our obedience, and despite what many say today, it can actually be done in the midst of suffering, persecution, and at times lack, just as demonstrated by the first century Christians in the Bible. This does not mean that God will not provide for us – He will, but our definition of provision and the Biblical definition of provision are often quite diverse, one from the other.

A Letter Regarding Some Cessationist Ideologies.

This is a letter to my friend referenced in the previous post. The previous post was a letter written about healing, to which my friend responded and referenced a few things I discuss below. We discuss charlatans, laying on of hands, speaking in tongues and cessationist concepts as a whole. I start by discussing the apparent charlatans:

You hit on a point that saddens me greatly. There are indeed those who appear to be charlatans presumably acting in the name of God. I imagine these types have always been with us. I dislike that, to me at least, they take truths of God as found in the scriptures and then purport them in such a way that they do attempt to bring glory to themselves or claim that they are special to have God move through them or whatever else. It hurts the true message of the gospel and it causes people to simply dismiss God’s word because of how they see it being leveraged by those who are not true to the faith (or who have erred in some way along the line).

I’ve often wondered through the years and about various people and what may have happened. Were they always in it for the money and glory? Did they start out as sincere people who wanted to see the power of God touch others and got caught up in the fame and fortune? Have they never been christians and like Satan on the mountain top with Jesus – are they trying to use the Words of God to test people or for their own gain? I imagine for each person the answer is complicated and different. I won’t pretend to know their hearts. I would hope that some of their followers would actually hear the words of God spoken and would still believe anyway, then quickly grow up to realize that the charlton may not be true but the Words of God are. For this last thought I use a verse: Philippians 1:18

What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice… (ESV)

What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. (KJV)

God is good, and even for those who aren’t preaching of a sincere heart, I do pray that the hearers would realize the truth within the mess and would be saved – and then realize that the mess doesn’t go with the gospel and move on. Paul seemed to feel this way per the verse above. I try to take the same approach. Also, God taught me a long time ago that while I can point out the incongruencies with his word, I had to be very careful about making judgments on the persons involved. It will always be my hope that those who may be frauds will one day wake up to the truth of the gospel they think they preach. For all we know they are very sincere in their beliefs. Paul was very sincere when he was jailing and supporting the murder of Christians before his conversion. God can change anyone’s heart…

As for laying on of hands… if, as you said, “I believe that these preachers in today’s world who claim that they as individuals can heal people by laying on the hands are charlatans, scammers”, then yes, I would likely agree. But while many may not notice the difference, if a preacher says, “I believe that God teaches us to pray for the sick, which can include the laying on of hand and anointing with oil, and I believe that praying for those who are sick should also include leading them into repentance of any sins” – then I see a difference. In the second thought, the power of healing is from God and the eternal ramification includes forgiveness of sins. James 5:14-16 says:

14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (KJV)

There is a heart difference. We can not always see it, but God knows the hearts. One may be a charlatan and the other may be a sincere man of God who takes God at his word and desires all men see the truth of God.

Sadly, though, as a society we tend to throw out the word of God because of the people who claim to be Christians. I’m sure that’s been the devil’s plan for 2000+ years.

I’m wary of saying that the Jews aren’t God’s chosen people. The prodigal son was always the father’s son and always loved by the father. While the son rejected the father and walked away, the father never ceased in his love for and longing for the son. I believe it’s the same with the Jews. I find it interesting that when gentiles become Christians the bible says “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”  The gentiles who come into the fold are not a separate breed of Christian – but, spiritually speaking at least, they become Jews. Abraham was the father of the Jews, and we become his heirs, not just as adopted children, but as his actual seed. It’s a minute difference, but it’s important to me. While I in NO WAY am saying that the Jehovah’s witnesses do this, a lot of people, sadly, do use the idea of the Jews no longer being God’s chosen people to allow the spread of hatred and bigotry towards Jews. Yes, the Jews have had a hard path for rejecting Christ, but so does everyone else who rejects Christ. However, that does not mean that God does not long for and seek to save ALL who are lost, whether Jew or Greek (gentile) because in the new covenant, there is no difference between the two.

Galatians 3:26-29: “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 10: 12-13: “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

So, rather than saying the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people I prefer to say that we are ALL God’s chosen people who have accepted him, whether Jew or not, and in that acceptance, we have ALL become Abraham’s seed – we have spiritually been brought into the Jewish lineage

I won’t say much on the speaking in tongues thing. I’ve actually heard of a couple of stories of those who were witnessing to people of a different language and in doing so were lead to give an example of the spiritual language – to which they were told they had just spoken of the mysteries of God in the hearer’s native tongue. These stories are rare, but I have heard a small number in my life from preachers that I know well and trust as faithful. Just because we don’t see it often doesn’t mean it’s done away with. I also believe that Paul speaks of two kinds of tongues  – the first you have mentioned and I have mentioned in the example above – and a second which is more just a personal prayer language. For examples of the second, I look at verses such as:

Romans 8: 26 – Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Ephesians 6:18 – praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Jude 20 – But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit…

These verses clearly are talking about praying – a personal praying and praying for the saints, and about praying when we are in a situation where we just don’t know what to pray in our own intelligence. These verses are not talking about spreading the gospel to those who don’t understand the language you speak.

Also, Paul said something interesting in 1 Corinthians 14: 18-19

I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.

This seems to separate his personal prayer time where Paul “speak(s) with tongues more than ye all” and his time preaching where he greatly prefers speaking with his understanding that he might by his voice teach others. It clearly implies that when he speaks in tongues more than ye all it is NOT with his understanding and that it is not for the purpose of witnessing or preaching.

But this is a whole other discussion…  :)

As I’ve thought about these past couple of letters I have thought of the sadness which which I see people throw out God’s words as “for the past” or “expired” or “no longer true” or “only for the first century Christians” or “pre-New Testament only” or whatever term is used. The Bible does not speak to the cessation of its own word or its own power – man adds the cessation, and does so without any more justification than personal experience. I think of the words of Jesus to the Jewish leaders…

John 5:39: You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me

The cessationist say that all these things (the examples of the power of God) ended because we now have the New Testament scriptures (this seems to be the most common argument without any real biblical support) and because we have these scriptures now, we don’t need the power, but this argument is not valid. Jesus said the OLD Testament bears witness about him. Scripture was already present which bore witness about Jesus. We didn’t need anything to tide us over until the writing of the New. What we needed (and what we still need today) is the exact reason for the power of God – to bear witness to the words which have already been written (see John 5:36, Mark 16:15-20, 1 Corinthians 2:4-5).

If the first century Christians weren’t expected to just point to past power that Jesus did when Jesus himself had said that scripture itself already spoke about him, then why do we think God expects us to point to past power of the first century Christians when scripture itself speaks about Jesus? There is no biblical answer for this. Sadly, the whole cessationist ideology negates most of the Bible. It makes it a history book only applicable to the people of the past. It becomes a religion that died nearly 2000 years ago. It is an instruction book for a faith that no longer exists (just think about the percentage of verses are no longer relevant to the cessationist). The power of God and the forgiveness of sins are completely intertwined in the Bible. I am often amazed at how much effort we put into disentangling the two so we can say the power is no more yet the truth of the gospel still stands.

It makes me laugh at the ridiculousness of it and it makes me cry at the lie of it, but so many have re-written scripture to say things like “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes only us first century Christians were healed.” (adapted from I Peter 2:24). I’m sure this has been the enemy’s plan for millennia. He saw the first century Christians “turn the world upside down” with the gospel supported by power. Satan knew Jesus was fully correct when he said that the scriptures, even before the new testament had been written, already spoke about him – but geesh- this confirming the Word with power stuff was causing all sorts of problems to Satan’s plans. He’s been working ever since to get rid of that power. Satan much prefers a powerless gospel. Whether it be by outright attack against Christians or by the subtle lie that it’s passed away – if he gets rid of the power, even though the scriptures have always spoken about Christ, he knows he will reduce the numbers of converts and reduce the casualties to his own evil domain. But let’s not allow that to happen. God’s word is eternal and always present. Let’s be careful about negating parts of it to the past.

(personal closings followed)

A Personal Journey in Healing.

In discussing the variances between Christianity and Jehovah’s Witnesses, a friend who is a Jehovah’s Witness made the following comment:

Some religions practice the healing by laying on of hands.  And yet the Bible says that healing was done away with after all the first century Christians died.

I have to wonder why people believe this to be a fact that “the Bible says.” A lot of Christians believe this as well (Cessationists). However, they struggle greatly with presenting a Bible based argument. It seems to me that for those who believe this, their belief is not really because “the Bible says” but for other reasons – often because it’s simply what they’ve been told or what they’ve personally experienced.

I grew up attending churches that believed it was not only God’s desire that people receive healing, but that God still heals today. I’m thankful for this as it wasn’t until I was older that I realized how many churches believe that healing was done away with, officially, after the time of the new testament. As an adult, I’ve read the arguments on both sides and from a straight biblical standpoint, the cessationists have no footing. Their view is steeped in experience. Following experience above the actual words of God is never a wise position, and while I have had awesome experiences, the ultimate and only source of truth is the word of God. We must take our experiences and say, “Does this line up with the word of God, or is this contrary to the word of God, or does this miss the mark of the fullness of God’s word?”

First, my experiences. Of the many I have seen and had, I will discuss only five – one witnessed, one experienced through me and three experienced by me.

While I saw a number of miraculous healings as a young person attending church, two stick out in my mind even to this day. The first involved a female a year or two older than me. Her name was Kelly. My mom had met her mom shortly after moving to the area in the mid 1970s and their family attended the same schools and church as I did. Kelly had one leg shorter than the other. She always had. I’m not talking an inch or two so that she walked funny but no one could really tell – I’m talking several inches. She had to have special bottoms made for all her shoes so she could stand up straight. She would have to have pants hemmed differently for each leg. It was obvious. Her shoes were almost comical with the one super tall sole. One day they prayed for her short leg to be made right with the other leg. It happened instantly. For the rest of the night Kelly had to walk around carrying her shoes because they would have put her very lopsided had she tried to wear them. I remember joking to her that she’d have to buy all new shoes and she added that she’d have to get new pants. Her legs were perfectly normal for the rest of the time I knew her, and as far as I know, are still so today. I’ve heard of several similar stories to this one, but unlike the others, I was there and witnessed this one. Kelly wasn’t some plant in the audience who knew how to make it look like one leg was shorter than the other – her one leg was shorter than the other and had been that way the entire time I’d known her. It was a miraculous healing that occurred in an instant.

The second incident is also from my younger years and is the first true healing that I remember happening to me. I had been in my room and kneeled down quickly and accidentally put my knee on a thumbtack. It went in and hurt terribly. Over the next few days my leg got all swollen, terribly painful, and I could not bend my knee. Ultimately, my mom took me to church to meet the pastor to pray about it. My guess is we didn’t have insurance or at least the money for a doctor. Besides, isn’t God the first place we should turn? I remember the pastor praying over my knee. The relief was nearly instant. In a matter of minutes the swelling went down and the pain left. I could bend my knee. An obvious infection that had been increasing quickly for a couple of days had simply, quickly vanished. God is good.

The third story also happened to me. I was in my freshman year of college and (the doctor assumed) because of a poorly sanitized hot tub at the school rec center I got a significant infection in my belly button. Health service was included at the college so I was able to get an antibiotic. It did not help so eventually I was given another antibiotic. With this, the infection continued to grow. It was visually disgusting – swollen, colored, pussy and with lines spreading out and away from my belly button. I was sent to the hospital where I was told that within 24 hours I needed to be checked into a hospital and would have to have surgery to remove (cut out and suck out) the infection and that traditional oral or shot antibiotics would not be able to do anything on their own. It was then described that I would have to have a pic line for a constant feed of antibiotics to completely rid the rest of the infection as it was spreading into my internal organs. This was to either involve going back home to have my family doctor set up or checking in to the hospital on my own at the college. I would miss at least a week of classes. I was in a good amount of pain and as a young man freshly on my own, I was rather frightened by the idea of everything. I left the hospital and instead of making plans to ether check in at the local college hospital or go home, I went to my friend Marc, whom I knew from church. He was a year ahead of me and lived in my dorm above me one floor. I explained the situation and showed him the infection. Gross. We prayed. Instantly I could feel a difference, though no visual difference was noted. Within no more than 60 minutes that “feeling a difference” equated to “no pain whatsoever.” I did not finish the antibiotics I had – not taking a single one after we prayed. They clearly had not been working which is what lead to the college health department sending me to the hospital in the first place. Over the next week or two the visual aspects of the infection went away and I was left with a new belly button.

Let me explain that last line. This is my favorite part of this story. Before the infection I had always had an “outie.” Whereas most people’s belly buttons sink in, mine stuck out as a weird knob of tightly wrinkled flesh. I had always hated it! It embarrassed me greatly. I was a skinny kid  so this easily stuck out and was visible with t-shirts. I hated going without a shirt, even at the pool, because it was a feature of me that drew comments from others. As an insecure teenager, it bothered me greatly. As the visual impact of the infection healed up after the pain had left almost instantly, my belly button changed from an outie to an innie. It now looks perfectly normal, and has ever since my freshman year of college. To me, the healing was God being gracious and faithful to his word, but changing the shape and design of my belly button was God saying “I even care about the silly things that shouldn’t bother you, but do.” This whole incident was truly a great miracle for me.

The fourth occurred later in my college years. I was at a March for Jesus rally in Toledo, Ohio. If you’ve not heard of a March for Jesus rally, they are similar to a Gay Pride parade, but instead of celebrating being gay, they celebrate the greatness of our God and King. Anyway, the music pastor from my church was there helping to set up and he burned his hand on a generator. It was obviously, visually, painful and as he was supposed to be leading worship for our section of the parade, it was a great distraction to him in the moment. He asked me to pray with him about it and we did. He said thank you and continued working, as things needed done. After the rally he came up to me and told me that within a few minutes of our praying he forgot about even having been burned, as the pain and reddened seared flesh was gone. God had brought healing. Once again, God is good.

The fifth involves God’s gracious timing and prompting, and in this healing a surgeon was used by God (God can work through doctors at times and he can work without doctors at times and he can work in spite of doctors at times). I had had a small lump on my back for a number of years in my mid to late 20s. Only once had I asked a doctor about it during a work required physical and he simply said “if it ever changes, see a doctor.” In the late 90s and early 2000s I was working at a private Christian homeschool setup. It was here that the lump on my back began to bug me. It had grown a bit and was uncomfortable if I leaned back in certain chairs. I was self-employed and had no insurance, but I knew in my heart that I needed to get a job with insurance. Over the course of a month or so I left my position and placement was found for all my students. The grace here was not only that I was able to leave my position, but I was able to do so without any serious disruption to others. I got a job as a manager at a Bob Evans, knowing I could have insurance within 30 days, which wasn’t that bad for such a job, as often people waited 6 months at that time (~2000). God’s timing was perfect, even when I didn’t think it was. What was supposed to take only 30 days (getting my insurance card) actually took closer to 40. Once I did I had an appointment set up and had the tumor removed by my family doctor. We chatted the whole time (I was only under a local anesthetic) and he even let me see the tumor as we cut it in half to look inside. What he had originally thought would be an oily cyst turned out to be a fatty tumor. It was cool looking – almost as if the white fat glowed inside. He decided to send it off to a lab, “just to be safe, though it’s probably just a fatty tumor.” He sewed me up and told me to be careful about stretching my back (don’t lift your arms too high). For the time, I forgot about it and returned to life as normal.

A couple of weeks later I got a call on my cell while I was at work. It was a receptionist for a doctor I had never heard of confirming my possible surgery for two days later depending on another appointment tomorrow. Upon realizing I had no idea what she was talking about and confirming that I was indeed who I am, she got the surgeon. The surgeon was clearly annoyed at having to talk to me, because he was baring some very bad news over the phone. Apparently when my family doctor got the lab results back they forwarded them on to the specialist, but neglected informing me of the results. Anyway, the surgeon went on to explain what I had (a word I could not make out with his heavy accent), but it was cancer. He was quite negative, telling me how the surgery was scheduled but it was likely I would not need it as he was positive that the cancer would have metastasized and spread through my body at this late stage. I was to have a PET scan the next day to confirm this, and if, on the unlikely chance that it had not metastasized, I would have to have the surgery. The doctor told me it was very likely I would die from this and that it would happen quickly. I was encouraged to have my things in order. He didn’t tell me to have my things in order because there is inherent risk in all surgeries. He told me that in his professional opinion, there was no real hope.

Needless to say, I left work that day without saying anything to anyone and went home. I remember someone asking if I had just seen a ghost as apparently I was as white as one myself. I just kept going out the door.

Well, the PET scan came out okay and I was set for surgery the next day. They were going to excise the entire area and all the musculature around the spot on my back where the original tumor had been removed. I was told I would never do various things again. Apparently doctors assume everyone plays golf or tennis, because those are two things I remember him saying would be forever impossible for me. Additionally, I was promised that I would not be able to stand correctly or hold my torso straight anymore due to all the missing musculature. I would not be able to lift anything. My life, though saved, was to be forever changed even if I did everything right during the recovery process. The doctor made it clear – this wasn’t going to be temporary… these changes were forever.

I was with my mom at that time. We didn’t accept that word. I had peace, and I knew I would be fine. I want to interject here. I really did have peace. I’ve known people who have cancer and it’s miserable for them. They fear death and live in a constant state of believing they are going to die – and they are frightened by that. They are tortured by their minds more than the cancer. And with the exception of 15 minutes, I did not have that. For fifteen minutes that night, though, I do believe God did lift his hand of grace just so I could experience what my situation was like for so many, many others who don’t have the peace of God. It was truly horrible – fifteen of the worst minutes of my life. And I know so many people experience that constantly with such a diagnosis. That fifteen minutes gave me grace and empathy for others, and gave me a thankfulness I never would have had for God’s peace given to me.

Surgery was the next morning. It was the one time in life I lost time. When you sleep, you wake up the next morning knowing time has passed. You don’t think about this until you wake up one day not knowing time has passed. It was weird. The surgery lasted a few hours and when I woke up, I was confused as to why I couldn’t roll over as I was (or so I thought), still just getting onto the elevator on the gurney to go have the surgery. The surgery was excessively invasive. They removed a good chunk of my back, just as they had promised. They shaved the top layer of skin off the back of my right leg to replace the skin they removed from my back. The back had no feeling (and really, still doesn’t have surface feeling today), but the leg hurt terribly (and still has welts today). For a month I was not allowed to do much beyond lay on my belly not lifting my hands above my shoulders and not lifting my elbows at all. This was to keep the skin graft from stretching and tearing. I knew to hold to this because when I had been sewn up from the initial tumor removal I didn’t pay well enough heed to not stretch my back and ended up bleeding at work the day before I found out I had the cancer.

I was told I’d be taking three months off before I could do any sort of work and that if my job as a manager involved much physical labor, I wouldn’t be able to do that ever again, but I ended up going back to Bob’s at around the two month mark. The leg had some painful issues along the way as I became reactive to one of the medications (apparently this happens to 10% of the population, but I was not told about the possibility so I just kept putting more on until an ER visit was required). Once back at work, my back slowly healed up. It was frightful to look at at first. Mom cried when she saw it. It looked like someone had dug a swimming pool into my back so that if I laid on my belly you could fill it with water for small creatures to enjoy. We laughed at that thought. The excised skin was tested for the cancer. All was clean, though the initial lump removed had been tested by multiple labs and was positive. I even had a friend who worked in a lab in Texas get a sample, and her team agreed with the original diagnosis and prognosis.

The team of doctors recommended radiation. While I did have peace regarding the surgery, I did not about the radiation, even before the “straw” that ultimately made me back out completely (I had been talked into getting mapped for the radiation because the doctors were sure they could convince me to go through with it). The people mapping me thought I was asleep but I wasn’t (this happened a lot in high school as well – the teachers would get annoyed when calling me out for napping and I responded by telling them the previous few sentences they had said before they “woke me up.”). Sometimes I just listen better when I am not looking at anything. Anyway, I heard one of them say this after much discussion… “It’s only a kidney… he has another.” Later I was shown a body scan of my torso. I was told to look at various black spots around all my organs. I was told that normal people have fat around their organs, but I was really skinny and didn’t have that fat. I clearly remember the radiologist saying “I could shake you and all your organs would clank around inside your skeleton like they were loose in a cage.” That doctor did come up with a method to save my kidney, but I hadn’t had peace from the beginning and I still opted out of the radiation. I knew the cancer had been fully removed and there was no need. No one else was convinced at the doctor’s office, but it was my choice.

Now a bit about God’s grace and timing.

First: I was initially upset that the medical card took so long to get to me, but if I had been diagnosed a week or two earlier, I would not have been working at Bob Evan’s long enough to qualify for extended medical paid leave. While not a lot, I did get full pay for a month and 40% pay for the second month because of that delay. I was not a wealthy man and that money allowed me to keep current on my bills and keep my apartment. However, the doctors all agreed that if I had been diagnosed even a week later, I would be dead today. Everyone was amazed that the cancer had not metastasized and they were certain that I was days, if not hours away from those cells breaking free and spreading through my system. God knew the perfect moment where everything would come into place.

Second: I was promised I’d lose so much freedom of movement and ability to do anything physical. I had also been given stretches to do to help prevent the new skin from adhering to my bones as it healed. I’m lazy about these things, so I know if I had not been working at Bob’s (a very physical job – even for management) I would have had much more significant issues with the new skin adhering to the bones. Also, for reasons that I believe are God’s restorative muscular grace, I have full use of my back and full strength to do anything I want. While I don’t golf or play tennis (specific examples of what the Doctor said I would never be able to do again), I can take a maul and chop up a tree into firewood and I can reach and stretch and do anything I need (sometimes even to my own stupidity, as I did give myself a hernia several years later).

Third: Because the surgeon had a heavy accent, I never could figure out what kind of cancer I had until it was all over and I was discussing things with the radiologist. I asked him to write down what I had, explaining that I had never understood what the surgeon said. He did. I had a leiomyosarcoma – a cancer of involuntary muscles. For me, this would have been the muscles under my skin that cause goosebumps. Because of this, the cancer was easily excisable. Because I didn’t know what it was until it was all over, I hadn’t had the chance to look up the stats. It was after it was all over that I figured out why the initial conversation was one of “be prepared to die soon.” At that time (~2000), this cancer only affected about 3 in 1 million. Roughly 80% of those people die within 2 years. Roughly 80% of the survivors have a recurrence within 2 years, and roughly 80% of those people then die within another 2 years.  Most involuntary muscles are in much more difficult to reach places – being superficial (just under the skin) was a grace that allowed me to live. Of the people that get this cancer (at least at that time), only 3.2 out of 100 were expected to live past 4 years. These are facts that God was gracious to not let me know about until after all was said and done. He kept me in peace by keeping me ignorant.  Even my family doctor’s mistake of sending the lab results on to the surgeon but not telling me was a part of that grace. Thank God for that lapse and the surgeon’s heavy accent!

Finally, that job at Bob Evans and the work I did there during the recovery time led me to the career I have today. A customer was watching me and I “randomly” sat down at his table one day even though to me he was a complete stranger (something not like me to do). He told me he’d been watching me and he could get me accepted at a local prestigious private university into one of their graduate programs. He said he could get me an assistantship so it’d all be free. Within two weeks I was enrolled in classes and had left my position at Bob’s. I never could have planned that. God had something better in mind and he thrust it on me. My life was forever changed because, completely out of character, I felt should sit down and talked to someone I didn’t even know had been in the restaurant before (clearly, I don’t pay attention, as he’d been watching me for months). It took a good 20 years after my initial graduation with a BA, but God knew the whole path to my current career all along. God is good.

So, those are a handful of my experiences regarding healing. But as I said at the start, we are not to believe based on our experiences. We are to believe based on what is stated in the word of God… so what does the Bible really say?

I think to answer this, we need to know who God really is. There are seven spots in the old testament where our unchanging God describes himself by his own name. These are known as the seven compound names of Jehovah and they describe his wonderful eternal character and show that he is everything we will ever need. While we will only focus on one, the seven names are:

Jehovah jireh (Genesis 22:14) “The Lord will provide a sacrifice”
Jehovah rapha (Exodus 15:26) “The Lord our Healer”
Jehovah nissi (Exdos 17:15) “The Lord our Banner”
Jehovah shalom (Judges 6:24) “The Lord our Peace”
Jehovah raah (Psalms 23:1) “The Lord our Shepherd”
Jehovah tsidkenu (Jeremiah 23:6) “The Lord our Righteousness”
Jehovah shammah (Ezekiel 48:35) “The Lord is Present”

See, it is all God in the Christian faith. None of it is us. It is God who provides the sacrifice (Jesus) and who is our healer. God is the banner we should proclaim (and not our own) and it is God who is our peace. We are not capable of finding true peace in ourselves. God is the only shepherd who guides us – we get lost on our own and it is God who is our righteousness (our own righteousness is as “filthy rags” – Isaiah 64:6). And finally, God is always present – he never leaves us.

Let’s look at Jehovah Rapha – the Lord our Healer.

Exodus 15:25-26 (when the Israelites were complaining at the water Marah because they could not find fresh water):

And he (Moses) cried to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the LORD your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, your healer.”

The Hebrew for that last part “the LORD your healer” is Yĕhovah rapha’. It is a compound word that means the Lord our healer and it is the name for himself that God chose at that moment to reveal to the Israelites. Make note of that. Man did not name God, God named himself in that moment.  Malachi 3:6 makes it clear that our God does not change (and it is only because he doesn’t change that we are not consumed). If God is our healer at the waters Marah, then God is our healer today. It’s the name he has given himself and it is always who he is.

Isaiah 35. I’m always amazed at the complex effort people make to remove the beautiful simplicity of Isaiah 35:5. This verse is a prophecy about Jesus at the cross and what he did for us there. The entire chapter is beautiful. In the ESV verse 5 reads:

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, (some versions will says “the chastisement of our peace was upon him”)
And by His stripes we are healed.

This verse shows that the sacrifice Jesus made covers every aspect of our being.

He was wounded for our transgressions. The Hebrew word for transgressions here is pesha`. A pesha` is a rebellion or revolt, sin or trespass. We have rebelled and revolted against God and Jesus was wounded for that sin.

He was bruised for our iniquities. The Hebrew word for inequities is `avon. This word means perversity or depravity. It is the guilt of our sinful nature. It is our fallen way of being. Jesus was bruised for our iniquities.

The chastisement for our peace was upon him. Here, peace is the Hebrew word shalowm (shalom). It is a multifaceted word that means completeness, soundness, welfare, and peace. It can refer to tranquility, welfare, health and prosperity. It is the peace of mind that allows us to do things we should be able to do. It is the opposite of fear, obsession, and compulsion. Jesus was chastised so we could have shalom. (or, the chastisement of our peace was upon him so we could instead have the perfect shalom).

And by His stripes we are healed. The Hebrew for healed is rapha’. It is the same word used in the compound name of God from Exodus 15:26. Properly, this word means to mend, as by stitching. It means to cure or repair – to thoroughly make whole. It was by the tearing stripes on Jesus’ back that we are made whole.

It is the same word used in Genesis 20:17: Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children.

It is the same word Moses used when he cried to God in Numbers 12:13: “O God, please heal her—please.”

When Hezekiah was sick in 2 Kings 20, it was the word God used to show that he would heal Hezekiah.

It is the word used to refer to the physicians in Genesis 50:2 and 2 Chronicles 16:12 (interestingly, in 2 Chronicles 16:12, Asa seeks not the Lord, but the physicians, and dies).

Not limited to physicians or healing, it is a great word referring to healing in all possible senses. It is used in 2 Chronicles 7:14 where God says he will heal our land as we turn to him. But it is used specifically for physical healing in verses such as Leviticus 13:7, Deuteronomy 28:27 and Ezekiel 34:4.

It is because of the stripes that Jesus took that we are healed – in every sense of healing. Also note the tense of the original language. It does not say that by his stripes we will be healed or are going to be healed… it says we are healed. We are healed just as much as our sins are forgiven. What Jesus did at the cross covers all of us – spirit (forgiveness from sin and rebellion), soul/mind (we can have peace/shalom) and body (because God is our healer). Nowhere in the Bible does it say one part happens now and another part happens later. In beautiful and complete simplicity, this is what God did for us through Jesus at the cross.

This is why Jesus could say in Luke 5:23 “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?”. Jesus did not differentiate between the healing of the lame man and the forgiveness of his sins – so why do we?

Jesus said in Mark 16:16-18: And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

The scripture does not read: And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe, but only for the next 50 years or so: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

It does not read: And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And until the first generation of believers dies, these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Jesus also did not say “…whoever believes and is baptized will be saved… but to only those called apostles will the power be given to… lay their hands on the sick…”

Yet, in our “modern” Christianity we often take the forgiveness part and throw out the rest. We have forgotten the words of the scripture and instead trusted in our eyes, personal beliefs and traditions. In our own way in modern Christianity we have done the very same thing the pharisees had done, to which Jesus said “You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” and  “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” (see Mark 7:8-9).

As people who claim to believe in the Bible, we need to decide if the Bible is true or if our experiences are true. If our experiences do not line up with what is so plainly found in the word of God, then we need to question – which one is right? If our faith has stopped teaching the word of God, does that make the word of God not true? As Paul said, “What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar” (See Romans 3:3-4).

Because God self-names himself as our healer; because Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was for our sin (spirit), peace (mind) and healing (body); because Jesus did not differentiate between being forgiven and being physically healed; and because Jesus said that “these signs will accompany those who believe…” rather than saying “And these signs will accompany some of those who believe or the first of those who believe…”; I do not see how it can be argued that the great promises of scripture are not true for today. There are many that say healing doesn’t happen anymore. This belief seems to be rooted in what they have personally observed rather than the word of God. Sadly, their observations are the crux of their faith. Maybe these people should look in a different direction as healings occur all the time, but really, it doesn’t matter what anyone sees or even what anyone believes. The only thing that matters is what is written in the Word of God – that is the only source of truth. There is no other.

Does this mean I always experience perfect health? No, it does not. Does this mean that everyone I’ve ever prayed for has been instantly healed? No, it does not mean that either.  But whose report am I going to believe – the report of my own experiences or the truth of God’s Word? We are fallible people in a fallen world. I know I don’t spend the majority of my time studying the things of God. I watch tv. I go to work. I work on pastimes. But my admitted lack of faithfulness to God’s word does not negate his word. Not even a little. Study the arguments of those who believe “the Bible says that the healing was done away with after all the first century Christians died.” Even the best of their writers have to admit their case is circumstantial, and they fail to explain away the very self-given name and nature of our eternal and unchanging God as Jehovah Rapha. Some try to teach that the healing of Isaiah 53:5 doesn’t refer to a physical healing, but they are then lost on how to explain why the exact same word “rapha” does refer to physical healing in so many other places in the old testament. They also fail to explain why God would be so careful to speak to spiritual rebellion and our depravity (spirit), our peace (mind) and physical healing (body) (covering all aspects of who we are as fallen people) if God really only was referring to the spiritual aspect of ourselves. This is further compounded by the fact that when Peter quoted this verse, he also used the word for physical healing in the Greek (See 1 Peter 2:24 – Greek: iaomai – compare to the same word used in Matthew 15:28, 29; Luke 6:17; Luke 7:7; John 4:47; Acts 8:27; and James 5:16 – all speaking specifically to physical healing). The argument that healing was done away with after the first century Christians died just doesn’t hold. It is contrary to the very nature of who God is and it is contrary to what the Bible says that Jesus did for us at the cross. We may like to pick and choose – salvation but not healing, forgiveness but not peace of mind, but it is a package deal. Our experiences can never be the foundation of our faith. We must always choose the word of God.

The Begotten Relationship Outside of Time

Much like the previous, this post is inspired by Book 4 of Mere Christianity, specifically the 2nd through 4th chapters. It was previously discussed that the word begotten in the Greek refers not to “being born” but to the nature of a relationship and the uniqueness of one that is of the same fashion as another (similar to how a son can be of the same substance as his parents). Discussing this relationship often invariably leads to discussion of the Trinity, and being mere men, we often try to frame that mysterious relationship into the nature of our four dimensional thinking ( x, y, and z axes and time). This never works perfectly due to our being trapped in this four dimensional box.

To be honest, I’m glad it doesn’t work. If the Godhead could be easily explained within our world, then I would fear we had a religion created within our four walls – this would be a religion created by man. To me, one of the great strengths of Christianity and the Bible is that the faith can not fit into our way of things. God must be bigger, and he must originate outside of our four walls of height, width, depth, and time. Either the Bible is a book with contradictions, or the Bible is a book which very carefully describes a Godhead that exists outside of our four walls to a people who can only personally experience what exists within those four walls.

I often enjoy the analogy of our mirrored selves. If you take a friend and look at yourselves in the mirror, and try to imagine their point of view, the struggle with being trapped in lesser dimensions describing someone of greater dimensions becomes clear. We, the 3-D “gods” look at the 2-D men in the mirror. We see and understand their depth – but what words can be used to describe to them the concept of depth. They are infinitely thin people. They have no concept of fatness as we think of fatness. We can even see in them characteristics that they can not even experience or perceive themselves (we see their depth yet they can not even experience it). If they were to describe us, they would struggle greatly to describe how our bellies stick out in front and our rears stick out in back while we still have a side to side. It is beyond them. They only exist on a perfectly flat plane.

I’ve known people who greatly struggle with the concept of the trinity. “How can ONE God be THREE people?” This struggle exists because we see separate things as separate. How can separate things/personalities/characteristics/etc. be one? One of the metaphors I’ve heard is that of marriage – and the two shall become one flesh. This works to an extent to describe how the Father and Son might be of the same mind and work together but this fails because in earthly marriage the two people are still two separate people, even in their oneness. Also, the Bible doesn’t describe God’s relationship within himself in terms of marriage. He uses this analogy to describe God’s eventual relationship with his creation/or at least the new Jerusalem.

I’ve personally used additive light properties to give an analogy of the trinity (red, green and blue light combine to make white light in a fashion similar to how God the Father, the Son and the Spirit all are one God, represented by the white light). But this is still imperfect, as all three are fully God, but the three colors of light are not full in their spectrums – only the white is.

Lewis acknowledges that we are trapped by our dimensions, and uses the following analogy. Say you had four lines. We see four lines – four separate things. However, if we add a dimension, we can have a square. We still have four lines – four separate things, but we also have one thing – a square. We tend to only see the square. This progresses further when we add another dimension. Say we have six squares – six separate 2-D things. If we arrange them appropriately, we have the six sides of a cube. We (typically) would say we have a cube (a dice/a box). We, by our very nature see that as one thing – a cube. However, it is still six individual squares. This is where our natural understanding of dimensions ends, as it is the end of our experience. Just like the 2-D people in the mirror would greatly struggle with our mysterious “cube,” we struggle with whatever dimensions exist outside of our box, and thus we struggle in describing God. We far too often try to 3-D Him when it is clear He is not merely a 3-D being. Up there, outside of our box, where God is in his fullness, there can be a connectedness of a separate three that still maintains a oneness, and each of those separate three are the fullness of the one. We are the mirror people trying to describe what is outside the mirror. We see dimly, and the words don’t exist in our language which would be needed to describe God in his fullness.

Because of all of this, we also struggle greatly with the idea of the heavenly begotten relationship because there are no similar constructs in our world. We see things separate, and often this means we see one thing as coming before another. We see a first, second, third and fourth lines if they are to become a square. We seldom see four lines that have always been a square as four lines – we see them as a square. When the teacher asks, “what is this,” we say “a square.” We don’t say “four lines.” When we see four lines that are already a square, we only see the square and in our minds we lose the individuality of the lines – it’s just the way we think. Lewis gives a good analogy of how Jesus can be God’s only begotten, as he is described in the Bible, while still being eternal, which also is described in the Bible.   He begins chapter four of book 3 with these words:

I begin this chapter by asking you to get a certain picture clear in your minds. Imagine two books lying on a table one on top of the other. Obviously the bottom book is keeping the other one up—supporting it. It is because of the underneath book that the top one is resting, say, two inches from the surface of the table instead of touching the table. Let us call the underneath book A and the top one B. The position of A is causing the position of B. That is clear?

Now let us imagine—it could not really happen, of course, but it will do for an illustration—let us imagine that both books have been in that position for ever and ever. In that case B’s position would always have been resulting from A’s position. But all the same, A’s position would not have existed before B’s position. In other words the result does not come after the cause. Of course, results usually do: you eat the cucumber first and have the indigestion afterwards. But it is not so with all causes, and results.

We live in a very first, second, third world, but God does not live in that world. He lives outside and above and beyond that world. To him, first, second and third could always have been, and they could have all always been first, and have all always been second, and have all always been third. We are stuck on a timeline. We see a beginning and a moving forward. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is not yet. We say that if God can predict our tomorrow then he must have to cause our tomorrow, or influence us to force the result he sees, and thus we would not really have free will. It is the way of our world, but clearly it is not the way of God. The Bible proves this in multiple points.

2 Peter 3:8 says “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (ESV). I love how the scripture is very careful to use the word “as” rather than “is” (this is true in the Greek, as well). The thought is an analogy and not an absolute time comparison. The Bible is not saying that every 1000 earth years is exactly one day with God. The Bible is also not saying that one earth day is 1000 years with God. But this scripture does paint a very clear picture that God does not operate in our linear timeline.

I’ve heard several people talk about how when God made man and man sinned, God had to come up with a plan to “fix” the unexpected problem. Ultimately, Jesus was that fix. Some say it took God thousands of years to figure it all out. This is very earthly, linear thinking. We see it as such – 1: God made man, assuming man would not sin and there would be a perfect Eden relationship for all eternity. 2: The devil showed up and deceived Eve and Adam followed, leading to the fall. 3: God said, “Oh my! I did not expect this, what shall I do?” 4: The past several thousand years of this mess have been the unexpected result, but God’s going to get it back under control and ultimately he will win.

While the above fits with our linear thinking – the Bible makes it clear that the truth is completely different. For one, God is all-knowing and nothing surprises him. Nothing. Consider the following.

Psalm 139:1-6 says “O LORD, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it (italics mine).”

Psalm 147:5 adds “Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; his understanding is infinite.”

Revelation 13:8 makes it very clear that nothing in this world, including the original sin and the need for Jesus to go to the cross were a surprise to God. This verse says “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him (the beast – see previous verses), whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

Let that sink in. In God’s view of things, Jesus wasn’t slain approximately 2000 years ago. He was slain before the foundation of the world! Before the very first atom of creation was made, in God’s view of time, Jesus had already been slain. Salvation for sinners had already been won. The answer to the problem had already been given. Hallelujah! See also Revelation 17:8, Ephesians 1:4, Titus 1:2, and 1 Peter 1: 19-20, which reads “but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you” (ESV).

While I will not attempt to give full explanation, and while my earthly sense of justice doesn’t understand it, the Bible makes it clear that God knew all about sin and the destruction sin would cause, and with this knowledge, created the world as we know it. He knew there would be many who turned away. He knew many would be lost. He also pre-fashioned the answer for every single person before creation, leaving it up to the created to choose the salvation offered (salvation is withheld from no one; it is always our choice). My thought is that God wanted a people who would love him willingly and without coercion, and this was the only way to accomplish that. Other ways would have resulted in automatons without true free will. And without true free will, there is not true love and relationship.

Regardless, the fact that God did things this way shows that he operates outside of our timeline. With God, all time seems to be “now.” Long before us creatures ever saw Jesus, Jesus had already died and rose again in God’s eyes (see the many verses above). It’s as if God’s time is (at the very least) a plane and not a line. From any vantage point on that plane, the entirety of the earthly timeline will be visible and all those times, when viewed from God’s perspective, are “now.” With this, it is no longer that God is causing us to do one thing or another when he predicts our future in order to make his prediction come to pass. God is simply looking at us in our future, observing everything we have already done and will ever do. Wherever he looks in our timeline is already “now” to him. This is how he saw the sin and saw the need for a savior. In his perfect wisdom that is so far above our own, when he set in mind to make creation, he saw it all in an instant, and what he saw was the perfect way to make a people with whom he could have a perfect relationship. I honestly believe the entire history of the earth and the heavens, past and future, are as a single moment with God – and they can all be seen at once. He can, right now, look at any point in our history, and where God is looking is always now. This is why before he even began creation, he already had taken care of our sin, by “the lamb slain before the foundation of the world.” Again, Hallelujah!

This also answers another question often posed by those who struggle with the Trinity. It is asked, “If God holds the whole universe in his hand and sustains it, who sustained the universe while he was the baby Jesus or dying on the cross?” Once you realize that God, by the very words of the Bible can not be trapped into our timeline, you realize that this question does not even need to be asked. When earth creatures saw the second member of the trinity dying on the cross, there was no concern about how God was at that same time upholding the universe because what we were seeing in that moment had already happened before the very world God upholds was even created. It’s difficult to wrap our brains around this wonder, but this is clearly what the Bible says. We are just called to accept his Word whether or not it fits into how we perceive things. We are not called to force his Word to fit into our box. It is abundantly clear that the God who is outside our box is describing his ways to people in the box he created.  We create our mirror people – but until the time when they break out of the mirror and into our world it will be very difficult for them to conceive of the existance we try to describe to them. In a sense, this is faith, and it is the same with us. Until that day when we meet our Savior face to face, will will not be able to fully experience or explain things clearly described in the Bible – because some of the things described in the Bible simply do not fit in our limited box of height, width, depth, and especially time.

Made and Begotten.

The first chapter of the fourth book of Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis discusses Making and Begetting. A selection from the chapter reads as follows:

One of the creeds says that Christ is the Son of God “begotten, not created”; and it adds “begotten by his Father before all worlds.” Will you please get it quite clear that this has nothing to do with the fact that when Christ was born on earth as a man, that man was the son of a virgin? We are not now thinking about the Virgin Birth. We are thinking about something that happened before Nature was created at all, before time began. “Before all worlds” Christ is begotten, not created. What does it mean?

We don’t use the words begetting or begotten much in modern English, but everyone still knows what they mean. To beget is to become the father of: to create is to make. And the difference is this. When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set—or he may make something more like himself than a wireless set: say, a statue. If he is a clever enough carver he may make a statue which is very like a man indeed. But, of course, it is not a real man; it only looks like one. It cannot breathe or think. It is not alive.

Now that is the first thing to get clear. What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God; just as what man makes is not man. That is why men are not Sons of God in the sense that Christ is. They may be like God in certain ways, but they are not things of the same kind. They are more like statues or pictures of God.

This got me thinking, is the Bible careful to use different words for made and begotten? Is the word for “begotten,” referring to Jesus being the only begotten of God ever applied to man or anything else that is made?

John 1:14 states that Jesus is the only begotten of the Father. The Greek word here is monogenēs (Strongs: G3439). This word is used only nine times in the New Testament and is used in reference to Jesus as a unique being who is “of God” and thus, like a child is the same “thing” as his parent, Christ is the same “thing” as God. It speaks to something that has the full characteristics of the other. For this reason, this word is also used to refer to only sons and daughters of their parents or of Christ to God the Father.

We have to be careful to note that the original Greek word monogenēs is not a word describing being born or birth. It describes a uniqueness. It is not describing Jesus as someone who was born (and especially not created, as very different Greek words could have been used if this were the case). Monogenēs describes the uniqueness of Jesus in his relationship to Father God. This is why this same word can be applied to Abraham’s son, Isaac, even though Abraham had other sons. Isaac was the unique son of the covenant between God and Abraham. It is a misinterpretation of the Greek word to imply that “only begotten” (monogenēs) implies a birth or beginning. That is not the point of using monogenēs. If it did imply a birth or beginning, then the Bible would contradict itself when it says Jesus is from everlasting (see Isaiah 9:6). We must also remember that Jesus was careful with his words when he said “before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). When Jesus said this, he greatly aroused the anger of the pharisees because he was confirming his eternal existence. Jesus was careful to use the present tense phrase, ego eimi (“I am”) which stands in stark contrast to the aorist phrase genesthai (“was born” – to begin to be, to come into existence).

While in today’s vernacular, saying someone/thing is begotten may mean they were created or made (I have begotten my robot child!), this is not how the monogenēs was used in the Bible. We should be careful not to impose a modern translation or idea to texts which were quite careful to not use the word with such an implication.

So, the above shows how Jesus is referred to as monogenēs. What about the word used for created. Is this ever applied to Jesus?

1 Corinthians 11:9 says “Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” If Jesus were created, then the word used for created in this verse should at least somewhere in the Bible reference Jesus. The word translated as “created” here is ktizō (Strongs G2936). Used only 14 times in the New Testament, this word means create and in one instance, the one who created, just as we would think of something or someone that is created. It refers to creation (this world) (see Mark 13:19), the creator God (see Romans 1:25), and the creator Jesus (see Colossians 3:10), us being created in Christ (see Ephesians 2:10), of Christ having made us into a new man (see Ephesians 2:15, 4:24), and of God creating all things in Christ (see Ephesians 3:9 and Colossians 1:16 – notice Jesus is clearly separated from this creation of all things). Also see Revelation 4:11 and 10:6).

While no other Greek word is translated “created” in the KJV New Testament, the Greek word poieō is used 579 times and is often translated as “do” but is sometimes translated as “make/made.” In Matthew 19:4, it refers to man and woman being made in the beginning (also see Mark 10:6). It refers to many of the works Jesus did (for example, see Mark 5:19, 20) and works done by others. However, it is never used to show God making or creating Jesus.

If God had at his avail Greek language which clearly shows something as either being made/created, and if Jesus were made or created then these words would have been used in describing Jesus, but they never are. We should be careful not to apply scriptural interpretations or doctrine which could have been easily supported with the language available to the author, especially when the language used is very careful to avoid implying such interpretations.