Tag Archives: sin

What 500 years and 5 Million books can tell us about culture and Christianity.

Behind the scenes and in dusty libraries everywhere Google has been scanning books into their every growing database of information. As of 2010 Google said it had scanned 15 Million books into their system. This is amazing!

However, to feel the WOW factor enter the Ngram Viewer. From the subset of 5 million books the Ngram, one of Google’s amazing free online tools, allows user create statistical data about the frequency of any particular word or phrase over the past 500 years. You can also limit the time frame (anywhere between 1500 and 2008) for a more detailed look at a particular subset in history.

If it sounds confusing, or geeky it’s because you haven’t tried it yet.

Below are just a few of the many samplings I ran in the Ngram Viewer:

Heaven & Hell

Jesus & Sin

Personal Relationship with God

Personal Fulfillment

Rapture of the Church

Freewill, Predestination, Arminianism, & Calvinism

*Admittedly the Ngram Viewer is not a perfect tool. It relies on the ability of the computer that is scanning the books to properly interpret the word. An “S” printed in calligraphy might be scanned as a “F” thus making it appear that the term “best” was in sparse usage in the 1700’s.

* Secondly the Ngram Viewer does not give us detailed look into any particular study or field, for example Christianity. However, it does give an interesting sweeping view of culture and how certain words or phrases fluctuated in frequency and usage.

My suggestion… try it for yourself and share you results.

http://books.google.com/ngrams

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Is the love of God dwarfed by his ability to communicate?”

There is a question I’ve asked myself in a moment of contemplation that haunts me.


“Is the love of God dwarfed by his ability to communicate?”

As disciples of Jesus we have been set free by the love of God. We experienced this freedom when we heard, understood, and received the message of the Gospel. God sacrificed everything, humbled himself and took on the likeness of a man; he even humbled himself to the point of death on a cross… Why? Because he loved us!

God went through extraordinary lengths; exhibited divine patience and mercy, to ultimately offer grace through self-sacrifice. Yet, this message goes unheard for millions in with each passing generation.

How can we reconcile the grandeur and vastness of the love of God, when it stands in contrast to his impotent ability to communicate this message?

You, and I, we believe we have this innate right to know important things first hand. We see and act as people who are entitled to the things of God. When something fails in our lives we excuse ourselves and shift the fault to God, as if he already owes us something. We are people clouded by our sense of “rights.”

So when it comes to the message of the Gospel we detest the idea that all aren’t given equal knowledge or opportunity. We scream at the injustice of such a God. And no matter how much we inquire and search, the Bible is clear on the scandalous message of practicality.

The scandal of particularity is that God has not chosen all equally. He has equally given his blessing, nor his revelation. He has not called all nations or people to be his witnesses, nor has he ultimately given salvation to all.

As democratic people of the West we cannot understand a God who does not give equal opportunity. Yet, this is the tension we are faced with in the scripture.

God called the nation of Israel among all the nations of the World to be his witnesses. Why? Simply because.

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.

The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Deuteronomy 7:6-8

Transition with me to the New Testament and examine the life of Jesus. God chose to become a man, not many men in many generations on many different continents. No, Jesus came in the flesh just once. Then as a man he called 12 disciples, and of the twelve he had only 3 that he did everything with. Furthermore, as a man he began his public ministry at the age of 30 and only lasted approximately 3 years. And in those 3 years he taught, fed, and healed the crowds, but he also singled out individuals like the woman at the well and Zacchaeus, and chose to spend a few hours, or an evening with them alone. He did not allocate his time equality, as some would say “fairly.”

When a celebrity or author comes to town for a book signing we understand we may only stand before them for a moment, possible get to share words for a minuet, then be shuffled past. We also think nothing of the friends they choose or the people they invite over for dinner understanding that they are human.

Yet, if God was came to town, and after standing in line for hours, we saw him invite one man over for dinner, or talk with one woman for an extended period of time, meanwhile shuffling others past him, we would exclaim “How dare he?” We would question his justice, his love, or his power to speak with us all.

However, this is precisely the scandalous message of the Bible.

So let me return to my original question, “Is the love of God dwarfed by his ability to communicate?”

No, we must understand that God’s love is not dwarfed by his ability to communicate, but our ability to receive. In the end, it is our pride that hinders the receptivity of the Gospel. We think God should speak directly to us, not share his message through others, even creation. We cringe at the reality that God has called a few and chosen fewer to make disciples of the nations.

Entertain the idea the maybe God chose to share his Gospel second-hand because the first step in receiving the Gospel is humility; humility to see that we are sinners, humility to see that we are not the center of the universe, humility to surrender everything and worship him.

Don’t be turned off in reading this, nor let your pride get the best of you. Understand that God loves you, and that he just might have called me to share his love with you.

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Worship is a gift

Worship is a gift, not that we give but that we are allowed to give.

Worship is hindered by sin one has committed toward other people. When one worships while in sin their worship is reduced to vanity and is offensive to God.

True worship is the highest expression on man. It is a reversal of the great command and the second which is like it, to love the Lord you’re God, and love your neighbor, because we first have to love our neighbor before we can approach God and display our love to him in worship.

Furthermore, Jesus said he would receive our love and acceptance of him based on how we loved and acceptance the least of our brethren. So if one does not love his neighbor why would they want to worship God the maker of man?

Worship has been reduced to an individual expression. It has become something one does before God, instead of something that one does before God and man. Worship has been reduced to praise rather that a holistic expression of a life before God. What I mean is that one can sing praise songs for 30min on a Sunday without respect for their actions during the week and consider it worship.

Worship is the command we are privileged to participate in only after we have obeyed his command to love our neighbor.

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No More Sea.

Throughout the Scriptures, both Old and New Testament, the seas and oceans represented Chaos and wickedness. These large and deep bodies of water are host to the mighty unknown, and reckless and destructive power. Even in our modern age our titian vessels and ports cannot withstand the devastating power of the seas. Only God has the power to control the mighty seas. God separated the waters of the Red Sea, and closed them on the invading army. and when Jesus calmed the storm that was about to swallow the disciples as they were on the water, this was the major turning point for them to recognize Jesus as God.

God spends 3 days ordering and separating the waters in Genesis chapter 1.

Day 1: The Earth is formless and void, and the Spirit of God was moving over the waters. Gen1:2

Day 2: God separates the water to form the sky and the seas. Gen 1:6&7

Day 3: God gathers the seas and lets dry land appear. Gen 1:9

*It is interesting to note that God is never recorded created the waters. The waters are just there, just as evil is there in the Garden of Eden to tempt mankind after creation.

The waters represent chaos. However, God does not remove the chaos, but he organizes and separates it, causing good to rise from it. Like all things evil seeks to destroy God can use to form life. Jesus claimed “I am the resurrection and the life,” a claim the God of the Old testament establishes on many occasions. God gives life to the barren womb of many, and springs of living water in the midst of the desert..

Furthermore, it seems like from the beginning God did not intend to destroy the chaos, but to order it. To me this parallels God’s allowance for man to choose evil that was provided in creation. Although evil was not God’s intention for man.

Then at the time when mankind’s choice for chaos and wickedness had almost overwhelmed his love for God, God released the waters of chaos unto the earth to cleansed it and humanity. God used the very representation of the thing man was seeking for in place of God to bring his judgment. The flood also used to foreshadow the coming judgment fallen humanity will face before the Holy God in 2 Peter.

However, when all is said and done. Once evil is finally destroyed. The waters of chaos will also be done away with.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.”

(Revelation 21:1)

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Righteousness not camouflage.

Christ blood is not some divine act of camouflage so that we can continue to sin unpunished.

Christ blood does not only cover our sin, but it cleanses us. We are WASHED in the blood of our crucified lord. Our sins are not just masked with a big red ink splat. It is by his blood we are welcomed as sons and daughters of God. The Holy Spirit comes to live and reside with us, teaching us to walk with him and be like him.

We cannot continue to treat the spilt blood of Christ as if it were something that little red light flasher in the movie Men in Black that makes people forget what just happened. Christ blood does not make God forget our sins, his blood cleanses us from them, it allows us to enter a new life were we are to live righteously.

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Wonderful cross or place of death?

We often sing of the wonderful beautiful cross. And because our mind cannot handle the intensity or cruelty of the cross we grow numb to the brutality of the cross. Yet, we have to remember the cross was torture leading to death. Jesus experienced pain at the highest levels of the human experience.

The cross was not just some uncomfortable experience, like the awkwardness of telling a stranger on the plain you’re a Christian, or the embarrassment of getting to front of the line at the grocery store with a cart full of items and realizing you forgot your wallet.

Jesus died on the cross. He bled, and breathed his last breath on the cross.

When we sing of the cross it should be in the sober reality of what happened, why it happened, who it was that died for us.

The cross is the anchor point of our faith, not some pithy poppy featurette of the Sunday lineup. Our God died at the hands of his creation; the creation he loved and formed. Our God suffered and was humiliated by the very people he gave life to.

The cross is not wonderful, it the shame of humanity, and the glory of God. The cross does not represent the best in man, but the worst. The cross is the premiere exhibit in our museum of disgrace.

I understand why people wish to forget the cross, and down play its reality. As a humanitarian why would I want to highlight the cross any more than I would want to highlight the holocaust as an act of human civility and love?

All one should do at the cross is fall down before it and cry out, “I will never deny you again. With my heart and with my actions I too crucified you, but never again. I will serve the King whom I killed. He will be my God.”

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People and change

People rarely change, and apart from God I believe change is impossible.

Like all things our memories work against us. Time begins to mythologize the past, making exaggerations out of minor variation.

However, at the same time people are like sediment. Our characteristic and personality traits layer themselves in our lives, and over time they settle and stratify. Characteristics that were once on the top of who we were may sink a few layers. While other traits which were hidden a few layers deep rise to the top.

This is effect is seen when someone turns to you, a spouse or close friend perhaps, and says, “you’re not the same person I knew… you’ve a different person.”

You begin to think, “Have I really changed? Am I not the same person?”

You sit and think, “Did I not have these same likes or dislikes before? Did I never get mad or upset? Was I always romantic and never critical? Did I not like certain thinks to happen a certain way?

The issue occurs on two levels. One is that our memories reshape themselves into something other than reality. But the other issue is that we become comfortable with who we are. We allow our layers to settle, and in the process layers shift, join and resize. Parts of us we use to have under control, and keep deep in us, slowly rise to top. Personalities traits we you’d never let anyone see, begin to become visible. And others response to this is “You’re a different person!”

Yet, in reality, your not a different person, but you’ve let comfort and lack of self-control reshape how you express yourself.

Now, returning to what I said at the beginning. People rarely change, and that apart from God I believe change is impossible. What I mean by saying that people rarely change is not that people characterizes don’t stratify, and make extremes. No, we just talked about how this happens, and it can happen quickly. What I mean by change is real change. Truly becoming someone they are not.

I believe in the Biblical narrative. So my foundation is that man is fallen, sinful and totally depraved. This means that man’s foundation is not good, but rather sinful. So as man in by natural progression will only grow more sinful. Some men choose of their own effort to continually sift themselves as not to stratify, others don’t.

However, when one surrenders their life to Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes along side of that person and begins to regenerate that person. Truly making them someone they are not! For the first time qualities that were never present will be present. Real, actual, quantitative life change will be seen.

In both cases stratifying is still possible. When the Christina stops searching himself, and letting the Holy Spirit sift through his life and thoughts layers settle, and old habits and traits reform.

The life in the Spirit is one that challenges us to sift and be searched by God. Walk and be lead by the Spirit. We are a new creation, but is become too comfortable the old man is ready to show up again.

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Must death preceed recreation and renewal? Is creation lost?

There is this conflict within the christian community as how the recreation of the world will take place.

One side believes that all of creation will be destroyed. Then God will form again from nothing a new created world.

The other side believes that this created world will not be destroyed merely recreated. God created this world “good,” loves this world, and does not and will not ever destroy it.

Side one:

2Peter 3:10-13

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

The interpretation:

  • Sin has completely corrupted the world, beyond saving.
  • Both mankind, and all of creations was changed beyond return because of mans sin.
  • Therefore God, must destroy the old to bring forth the new.
  • There must be death before recreation.

*This would seem true, but not all believers will die before receiving their resurrection bodies. Those who are alive at the time of Jesus’ return will just be transformed.

Side two:

Genesis 8:21

“Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.”

Romans 8:20&21

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

The interpretation:

  • Sin has not completely corrupted creation
  • Creation was distorted and pulled down because of man’s fall into sin.
  • God does not need to destroy creation to restore it.
  • He knew man was wicked, yet when man is restored then creation will be freed from the effects on sin.
  • Man’s sin is what is keeping creation from being how God has intended it, paradise.
  • Once sin is removed creation will be restored.
  • Man’s corruption is the issue not creation.
  • Creation is only a tool that God uses to both bless and punish.
    • Blessings: fruit of the land, provision, beauty.
    • Punishment: Toil the land, natural disasters, sickness.

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How could God allow evil to exist? Not your typical answer!

Refer to these two posts for a background of this argument, and the traditional Christian responses.

https://saintdisillusion.wordpress.com/2009/07/01/the-problem-of-god-the-existence-of-evil/

or a similar article…

http://christianelements.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/how-can-a-loving-god-allow-evil-and-suffering-to-exist/

In this entire conversion, a distinction must be made between Pre-Fall World and Post-Fall. Mankind, and the created universe was completely changed Post-Fall. So we are only speaking of what we hypothetical know of the Pre-Fall universe. Furthermore, we are only looking at mankind, and not angels or demons. It can be seen that Satan was operating with evil intentions before man, however, the universe only seemed cataclysmicly effect when mankind chose evil.

Option A: God did not create evil… or did he?

The same logic that says if you chose not to make a choice means you still made a choice, also means by the mere fact that God did stop the option for evil to exist, although he did not create evil man did when he disobeyed God’s order and design for creation, means that God is still the hidden creator of evil. For example if a biologist created a bacteria with the ability to both help and harm, is he not still the creator of the harm, although he intended only to help?

Even if you argue that evil is not a created “thing” with the previously outlined logic God still created the man with the capacity to “do” evil. Therefore, he is still the creator of evil, because he could have created man without the possibility to “do” evil.

Conclusion to option A: it seems the answer to this question of why God allows evil to exist is more related why does he allows good to exist. Man ability for evil is the same in his relation to do “good”(pre-Fall). So it seems that God allowed evil to exist in the hope that the good would triumph over evil. So it seems to match up with the narrative of the Bible, that evil is an option, but with the intervention of God evil is crushed.

Follow up Questions:

Why did God create evil only if he planned on destroying it?

Does evil need to exist for good to exist?


Or option B: Evil is not a created “thing.”

The Bible does not explain the origin of evil, but rather only the origin of evil within the created world. And since evil is not a thing, just as love is not a thing, both are wills and intentions of the heart/mind; they are ways to use things, rather than things themselves; then God merely made man with the capacity to operate on either the network of love, or on the network of evil. We were in one sense beings with free roam capabilities. However, God is a being that exclusively works on the network of love, and although he intended us to function lovingly, man does not always do so.

Therefore, the question as to why does God allow evil to exists is unanswerable with the information given. The question and focus becomes not where did evil come from or why is it here? But on how does God intend us to live. This also coincides with the narrative of the Bible, which is that God steps into creation to redeem creation so it has the power to resist evil.

Follow up Questions:

If evil is not a “thing” can it even be created? And if it cannot be created has it then always existed, and apart from God?

More to this thought:

God never intended man to understand “good” and “evil.” It was the forbidden fruit. God only intended us to operate on the network of love, and man in his first act of evil sought to understand both “good” and “evil.” After eating our eyes were open to what evil is.

If this is true, then it presents another serious question. Man’s first act of evil/sin proceeded his understanding of what evil really was. Therefore evil must have existed before man sinned, and the fruit of the tree only represented man falling victim to penalty of that understanding… judgment.

Before the fall, the question of evil is irrelevant. For man righteousness and judgment was only based on one rule, “do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” If man obeyed righteousness was obtained.

So man could have done acts we now know as evil, but he would not have been judged for them. (If they would have this is not certain, there eyes had not been opened to seeing these things) Paul writes to this effect in Romans, that those judged without the law are judged apart from the law. They are judged by their own standards. (But no man can even live up to his own standards, so we are all guilty of at least breaking our law.)

Therefore, the question of How does God allow evil to exist is not a question at all. The reality is that the more we know about evil and good, right and wrong, the more we become accountable for those actions. The more evil a man does with understanding the more judgment he comes under. So with this, it is understood that God is both bothered with evil, as he punished it, and with our understanding of it because the more we know the guiltier we become and the more evil we seem to do.

In the end the answer to the original question is unanswerable, but to say that God does not like evil, that is why he punishes it, and that he never intended us to know evil and therefore its hurts and pains.

To phrase it another way:

As to the origin of evil or why God allows evil to exist, it is beyond our understanding. What is known is that God never wanted mankind to experience or participate in it.

Maybe it had always existed?

It could be said that because evil or love is not a created “thing”… it has always and always will exist as an option, because as it is not a “thing” only an intention, so as long as that intention is a possibility, “evil” will exist. Before creation there was only God. God is love, in Him there is no evil. Therefore evil was not presently visible. But when the created world was formed, evil was given a facility to operate and became a present visible reality. Both evil and love are only “made” or become visible and real when when someone chooses them (for example man).

If in my life I never chose to love… this does not mean love did or does not exist, just that I never chose it. This same principle applies to evil. Before the creation evil was not seen because God never operated with evil intentions. But after man was formed evil is made visible because man chose to operate in evil.

So the question of who created evil is the same question as to who created the ability to be generous, rude, kind, or mean. These are not “things” they are ways to use and treat things/others so before there was things and others, none of these characteristics were possible, for there was only God. The created world only gave these non”things” a platform to operate within.

However, this then presents another serious objection for option B. If the created world opened a “Pandora’s box” of evil. Then why did God create at all? If the created universe was only going to give a pathway for evil to be made visible why make it?

Maybe… it was worth creating because God wanted to make a community, who  like the triune God, could live and share love. Maybe… in love God created so that others could experience love, but first they would have to reject evil. Maybe, this is why God was willing to send his own son into the world so man could be redeemed from evil and the Holy Spirit could be with us, empowering us, de so that we could live in communities of love.

Conclusion for option B: God wanted others to experience the love in community only the godhead had experienced up to that point.  So he created the universe in love, which gave pathway for evil. Then it was either let evil destroy creation or step into creation to rescue and redeem it? The Biblical account testifies God chose the ladder option, and by stepping into creation God defeated evil and prepared the way that we could once again live in a community of love.

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The Three points of the Gospel: Manger, Cross, Crown

I debated with my self about posting this video for several reasons. First of all it’s long (about 50 min), and secondly I try to be original in what I post. However, Tim Keller is amazing, everything I’ve heard from this guy continues to amaze me.

In this particular message that was a part of the Dwell Conference from 2008 in New York City, Keller address the question, “What is the Gospel?” His message is titled “Dwelling in the Gospel,” and it really gets into the vastness of the Gospel message.

You can link to the video here…

http://theresurgence.com/Keller_Dwelling-in-the-Gospel-video

Summary of Tim Keller’s Message:
He highlights the tension scholars have discuses for years, in that the Bible presents several different Gospels, yet claims there is only one. The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, & Luke) present the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. John’s Gospel presents the Gospel of Eternal Life. And the Pauline Epistles present the Gospel of Justification.

Furthermore, Paul would argue that there is only one gospel in Galatians chapter one, but then in Galatians 2 he mentions his gospel is for the Gentiles and Peters in for the Jews… SO THERE IS ONE GOSPEL… BUT THEY ARE MANY?

Tim Keller addresses this question by concluding there is one Gospel, but that it has three main points; the Incarnation, the Cross, and the New Creation.

And if I categorized them correctly from his message it looks something like this table below…

table 2

Keller then goes on to say that how we present the Gospel depends much on our audience. Paul did not always present the gospel the same. In fact as Keller speculates that Paul made great distinction in his presentation between the Gentile and the Jew (the morally cognitive, and the morally relative).

Moreover, it would defeat power of the Gospel to address each of these every time, or to assume that “one size fits all.”
This video to me settles much of my uneasiness I’ve had about the gospel of personal conversion verses the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, which I addressed in my earlier posting, “The Presentation of the Gospel: An inspiring look at the news of the Kingdom of God. Part 1 & Part 2

I liked Keller question to the crowd to examine the “tension between people pushing an individual conversion agenda verses a corporate community agenda.”

There needs to balance… I agree. I was raised under the personal conversion classical evangelical 4-point gospel presentation, and I since then I have swung over to the “corporate community justice” gospel. But churches, our people, and our communities are in need of the full gospel if they are to be reached with maximum impact.

One last thing to mention… I enjoyed his comment (which he learned from his professor) that “the essence of the cross is substitution,” because as he said, in every instance and theory Jesus is doing the action on our behalf, whether liberating, or ransoming, or restoring, or reconciling, or saving, or justifying… we cannot do it on our own.

My hope now is that you will, or that you already have, watched this message from Tim Keller.

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