Friday, 11/16/18 – Tough Question

“What is the difference between soul and spirit?”

This is a particularly difficult question to answer because in the scriptures both the words “soul” and “spirit” have multiple meanings depending on their various contexts. The question is further complicated by the fact that two languages are being used: Hebrew in the Old Testament and Greek in the New Testament.

We encounter this in English too. The word “run” is s classic example:

I’m going to run (to the office.), I’m going to run (for office.) My brother won’t run. My clock won’t run. My car is running. My nose is running. The river is running. …a running total. …a running commentary. …a run in with the law. …a run in with the in-laws. I ran into Fred at the mall. I ran into Fred (as I backed the car up) at the mall.

Well, I’ve run on with these examples long enough! Clearly, what the word “run” means depends greatly upon context.

So it is with the words “soul” and “spirit.”

Depending on context the word “soul” may mean an individual personthe soul who sins will surely die” (Ezek. 18:20), biological life “…those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” (Mt. 2:20), intellect and emotionAnd now my life ebbs away” (Job 30:16), and of course it is that eternal entity which Christ Jesus came to save “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Mt. 10:28).

Depending on its context the word “spirit” may mean breath or wind “…striving after the wind (Eccl. 1:14,17, a non-material beingGod is spirit…” (John 4:24), angels are spirit beings “Are not all angels ministering spirits…” (Heb. 1:14), a person himselfBeloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 Jn. 4:1). It can also be used to describe one’s attitudespirit of fear” (2 Tim. 1:7), “meek and submissive spirit” (1 Pet. 3:4), “spirit of gentleness” (Gal. 6:1). Most confusing of all is that in some contexts “spirit” refers the inner person “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16) — in other words as a synonym for “soul.”

Humankind was created in the image of God, so it should be no surprise to find that just as God is a triune being (Father, Son, Spirit), so are we (spirit, soul, body). Paul mentions these three aspects of our being in his letter to the Thessalonians,

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess. 5:23).

What is important for us to understand is not so much the lexicons and idioms of Hebrew and Greek, but the fact that we are eternal and God will bring us safely to Himself as we turn our souls toward Him. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb.4:12). One day we shall be like Christ, transformed by God: “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.” (1 Cor. 15:45).

We do not need to master the inner structures of the dichotomy of mankind. We need only collapse before Him, and acknowledge Him as our Lord and God. When we do, He will see our souls safely home to Himself.

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 11/9/18 – Tough Question

“Is the devil everywhere like God?”

The big theological word for the idea of something that is present everywhere is “omnipresent.” The prefix “omni” means “all,” so together “omni+present” means all-present – existing in all places at all times.

Omnipresence is certainly an attribute of God.

“’Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.” (Jer. 23:24)

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (Ps. 139:7-10)

He [Christ] is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:17)

God is also omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), immutable (un-changing), holy and eternal to name a few.

The devil, or Satan, however is none of these. The devil is limited in every area of power and presence, the exact opposite of holiness, and destined to eternal torment in hell “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41).

In regards to his presence in space he and his demons are limited. Consider these insights from the Word of God…

When the devil appeared before God to discuss godly Job he did a lot of coming and going…

“The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.’…Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord… and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.’…Satan went out from the presence of the Lord…” – Job 17,12; 2:1,2,7

When Jesus was tempted by the devil scripture is clear that his presence was not continual… “The tempter came to him… Then the devil left him…” – Matt. 4:3,11

lightning during nighttime

Later, during His ministry, Jesus testified “…I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” – Luke 10:18

We are also promised that when we persist to resist temptations the devil will eventually flee away from us. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 1:7).

Thankfully, in our trials, we have the Lord Christ by us and within us at all times. Indeed, He is “an ever-present help in trouble.” (Ps. 46:1).

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 11/2/18 – Tough Question

“What is the difference between ‘disciple’ and an ‘apostle?’ Are there still apostles today?”

The word “disciple” is from the Latin discipulus meaning “pupil, student, or follower,” The online Visual Thesaurus links the word “disciple” to just one other word: “adherent” – which is derived from the word “adhere,” meaning “to stick to.” A disciple is one who “sticks to” the teachings of the one followed. Every true believer who has made Jesus Christ Lord is a disciple of Christ.

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The word “apostle” has both a general and a special usage in scripture. The Greek word simply means “one who is sent” and the Bible uses the term to describe several individuals who were not part of the twelve set apart by Jesus. [e.g. Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Apollos (1 Cor. 4:6–9), Timothy and Silas (1 Thess. 1:1, 2:6), Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25)]

After a full night of prayer Christ chose the twelve apostles from the larger group of many disciples (Matthew 10:1–4; Mark 3:14; Acts 26:14–18). He “gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness…” and He sent them out “to the lost sheep of Israel” (Matt. 1:1,6). They were to announce that the kingdom of heaven had come near. He told them “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” (v.7).

When the eleven sought a twelfth apostle to replace Judas, a requirement was that the candidate had been an eye-witness to the full ministry and resurrection of Christ. “It is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” (Acts 1:21-22)

Later, Jesus Christ appeared to Paul (then named Saul) as he journeyed along on his way to Damascus. He appointed Paul as an Apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 26:14–18). For this reason Paul wrote of himself as “one abnormally born” (1 Cor. 15:8).

We do not see true “apostles” today. There can be no new “eye-witnesses” of the earthly ministry and resurrection of Christ. However the term is sometimes used of missionaries who bring the gospel to a particular people group for the first time. Every believer who follows and obeys Christ is a “disciple” of Christ.

Got question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 10/26/18 – Tough Question

“Will We Recognize Each Other in Heaven?”

A question like this was asked recently on Crosswalk.com. I thought it was a good one worth taking a look at here as well.

When the Sadducees asked Jesus about marriage in heaven, Jesus was very clear. He said, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” (Matthew 22:30), and as we looked at on Tuesday, when Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the resurrection he stated “…we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.” (1 Cor. 15: 52,53), and again as John declared, “when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

white clouds and blue sky
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Paul writes the Galatians “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) But this does not necessarily mean there are no genders in heaven. Nor does Jesus’ statement (above) that “they will be like the angels” conclusively mean we will be genderless. Even angels are referred to in scripture as “he” at times — e.g. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow” (Matt. 28:3) describing the angel who rolled back the stone covering the (temporary) burial site of Christ.

Certainly things will be different! Yet, evidence remains that in some way we most certainly will recognize one another.

people silhouette during sunset
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When David’s son died in infancy, he consoled himself saying, “I will go to him” (2 Samuel 12:23). Jesus stated that “many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:11).

At the transfiguration Peter, James and John all saw and identified that it was Moses and Elijah who appeared and conversed with Jesus. “…there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus” (Matthew 17:3).

Paul looked forward to that day when he would see the Thessalonians with Him in heaven, “For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?” (1 Thessalonians 2:19). And he comforted grieving believers saying, “we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Best of all, we know we will see and recognize Jesus! As John stated (above) “we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2) and that’s something to look forward to!

Press on…

Got question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 10/19/18 – Tough Question

“Have we misjudged ‘judging’?”

I’ll say we have! In fact, this one is a ‘pet peeve’ of mine. Many good Christians appear to have a skewed understanding of this topic. They are very much aware of Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” But they stop at that, unaware that by doing so other believers could stray into sin.

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Jesus is here addressing nit-picking Pharisees, hypocrites who fault-find over the minutest deviations from their own excessive legalism. He warns these, “….in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” He’s saying that if you intend to be that strict with others, then I will be just as strict with you!

It is a well-established principle in scripture, that God responds to us according to our own behavior and character. As David sang following a deliverance from Saul,

To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd. (Psalm 18:25, 26)

Yet the Matthew passage goes on to describe a more fitting attitude…

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matt. 7:3-5)

Notice, He does not say to only deal with the plank in your own eye and then to mind your own business about your brother’s ophthalmological issues. No, he says to first deal with your sin, then from this spirit of humility and with love approach your brother.

Paul exhorts the Galatians to take a similar attitude and approach…

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. (Gal. 6:1)

The problem is that we have confused condemnation and discernment. We have dumped them both together in the word “judgment,” and, in throwing away judgment we have thrown away discernment too! — The baby along with the bath water, if you please.

As we continue along in Matthew 7 Jesus addresses many issues which require clear judgment: narrow vs wide gates (v.13-14), true vs false prophets (v.15-19), true vs false disciples (v.20-23), wise vs foolish builders (v.24-27) and on it goes. “Judge with righteous judgment,” taught Jesus (John 7:24, NASB).

Paul even scolded the Corinthians for not judging sin among themselves,

…do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, do you ask for a ruling from those whose way of life is scorned in the church? I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? (1 Cor. 6:2-5)

The Corinthian church had been deflecting all matters of dispute to the law courts outside the church. For this Paul levies the harsh words above. But what would a correct implementation look like? Scripture has outlined a very clear three-step process (see Matt. 18:15-17)

In John 8:1-11 we read the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery. Jesus’ response to her capsulizes the perfect ‘judging’ balance between condemnation and discernment. After asking the woman, “Has no one condemned you?” she replies, “No one, sir,” Jesus says to her, “Then neither do I condemn you,” (no condemning) “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (but a clear discerning).

Press on…

Got question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 10/12/18 – Tough Question

“What is David’s Dancing before the Lord all About Anyway?”

Pastor Steve touched on this in His message last Sunday. King David had wanted to return the Ark to Jerusalem. He had tried once, but it’s transport resulted in the death of a well intentioned man, Uzzah. (2 Sam. 6:6) Then, after seeing how God blessed the household of Abinadab, where they had left the Ark, David decided to try again but this time according to the manner proscribed in the Law. This time he was successful and David “danced before the Lord” (2 Sam. 6:14).

One commentator explained that processions of this kind were often preceeded by a dancing clown performing in honor of the person or thing which prompted the procession. This was always done by a slave. David then took the place of the slave in an act of submission and worship.

Myself, I prefer the simpler explanation: David is just thrilled out of His socks!

I always enjoy the scene in the original 1951 version of Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol.” It is the morning after Scrooge is visited by the three spirits. He awakens delighted that he hasn’t yet missed Christmas. Running to his bedroom window he commissions a youth passing by to run to the butcher and have them send their fattest goose to Bob Cratchit.

Overjoyed he begins dancing around his bedroom. His housemaid, Mrs Dilber, has come in and after some time cautiously asks, “Are you all right, Mr. Scrooge?” Scrooge (ecstatic) replies, “I… I don’t know. I don’t know anything. I never did know anything.” He starts laughing, “But now I KNOW that I don’t know anything!” Then he begins to sing and prance about and clap his hands, “I don’t know anything! I never did know anything! But now I know that I don’t know… All on a Christmas morning!” Unsure what to do with all his pent-up joy he asks himself, “Shall I stand on my head? I must stand on my head.” He does so, and Mrs. Dilber runs out of the room screaming. – Watch the end clip of this classic film here.

I think this pretty well describes the elation that prompted David’s dancing. It was an expression of his sheer joy before the Lord. The Lord had blessed this relocation of the Ark by making it successful. No one perished on this trip for David had taken pains this time to move it according to the Law. God’s pleasure was upon him.

There is no greater joy than to live in good conscience with God.

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 10/5/18 – Tough Question

“Why?”

From Star Trek to Dr. Who or Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, War Games or Jumanji, Dark Star or Red Dwarf, The Runaways or The Prisoner — sci-fi is replete with mastermind computers experiencing meltdown because the hero asks it one simple unsolvable question, “Why?”

Listen to any four or five year old and soon will begin their unending quest of prior causes… “Why is A B?” “Well, because B C.” “Why is B C?” “Because C D” “Then why is…” You get the idea. One study reports that a typical preschooler asks some 288 questions per day! I’m sure that “Why?” tops the list!

When personal tragedy strikes, or as we observe the woes of this world, we cry out “Why?” “Why” this inner angst?… “Why” this empty spot in the soul?… “Why” am I here, only to live a brief moment, then die? Was Shakespeare right? Is life no more than “a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing?” Is this all there is? Shall we, as the song says, “just keep dancing….. just break out the booze and have a ball?”

“Why?” can drive people crazy. “Why?” can cause mortals to melt down too.

The pastor of a large church I attended some forty-something years ago now once stated,

“The Christian knows what life is all about and what he is supposed to do with it.” – Pastor Michael P. Horban, Elim Tabernacle, Saskatoon, SK.

His words initially shook me, but as I pondered, I realized they were true!

God created us simply because He wanted someone to love, and someone to love Him. God loving us is Blessedness… us loving God is Worship. That happy relationship is our purpose. As The Westminster Catechism summarises well, we were made “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

But we wandered away.

Solomon, like Neil Young, went “searching for a heart of gold.” He concluded, “God created mankind upright, but they have gone in search of many schemes” (Ecclesiastes 7:29). Now our situation is better reflected by Augustine: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” – Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Confessions.

In Christ, God has answered the “Why?” question. It is the same answer He gave to Job. It is not at all the answer we had expected. In fact, we’ve had the question all wrong too. We’ve been like the preschooler asking “Why doesn’t the sky fall down?” The question must change before any answer is possible.

The question is not “Why?” but “Who?”

The Answer is “I AM.”

I know… right now it may not seem like an answer at all! But it is. Does it disturb you that you cannot get your mind around God? I would think it should disturb you more if you could!

Ah, but you can get your heart around Him – and He is able to reside within it. Ask with your heart, not your mind. Look for a Person, not a statement. He is the only way to prevent melt-down.

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.