Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Posts tagged “bible

The greatest miracle

Michelangelo knew that Adam was created as an adult & not an infant, but most scientists don't know that the earth was created "adult" and not "infant" as is assumed in the big-bang idea

Michelangelo painted “The creation of Adam” and other biblical scenes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome (1508-1512). It seems to reflect the idea that humanity has been created in the image and likeness of God. And, as discussed below, Adam is shown as a male adult. Why is the first miracle in the Bible the greatest?

Creation

The Bible begins with, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1NIV). This is the absolute (not relative) beginning of space-time. It begins with a creative act of God and rules out many false ideas that people have today (Appendix A). This creation is a reason to praise God (Appendix B). “The heavens and the earth” is a figure of speech called a merism in which two opposites are combined into an all-encompassing single concept. For example, a shop that is open “day and night” is open 24 hours per day. “The heavens and the earth” means the universe (or everything that has been created). It’s mentioned in the ten commandments as, “in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (Ex. 20:11). Then God describes how He created everything (Genesis 1:1 – 2:25).

Isaiah says that God is the one and only Creator,
“For this is what the Lord says—
He who created the heavens,
He is God;
He who fashioned and made the earth,
He founded it;
He did not create it to be empty,
but formed it to be inhabited—
He says: ‘I am the Lord,
and there is no other'” (Isa. 45:18).
God created the earth and the heavens and everything in the earth, which was made to be perfectly suited for humanity.

And an angel said that God “created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it” (Rev. 10:6).

A miracle

This is the first miracle in the Bible. It was creation out of nothing. The word “Creator” is synonymous with God. No one else can create something from nothing. According to the Macquarie dictionary, a miracle is “an effect in the physical world which surpasses all known human or natural powers and is therefore ascribed to supernatural agency”. Miracles display God’s power.

Other great miracles in the Bible are the incarnation of Christ (His coming into the world), the resurrection of Christ from the grave, the salvation of sinners and the new creation.

If we can believe the first verse in the Bible, no other verse in the Bible should be a problem. If God can create the universe out of nothing (the Bible says, by His command, Ps.148:5), then raising people from the dead and causing a virgin to conceive would be easier. If God can do the greater, then He can also do the lesser. If God has the ability to create everything, then the other biblical miracles are consistent demonstrations of His power.

Apparent age

The Bible says it took 6 days to create the universe, whereas science says it took about 14 billion years. Did you know that they are both right? And the Bible says it took 6 days to create the earth and its inhabitants, whereas science says it took about 4.5 billion years. Did you know that they are both right?

The vegetation that was created on the third day of creation was unique because it didn’t come from seeds and had no seedling stage. Instead of developing from a seed, it began life as mature plants with fruit so that it could be eaten by the animals and Adam and Eve on the sixth day of creation (Gen. 1:29-30; 2:16-17). As it can take an apple tree about ten years to bear fruit, on day six the apple trees had two ages: 3 days actual age and at least 10 years apparent age (if they grew from seedings).

The creatures that were created on the fifth and sixth days of creation were unique because they didn’t come from eggs and had no juvenile stage. Instead of developing from an egg, they began life as mature creatures so that they could reproduce and be named and enjoyed by Adam and Eve on the sixth day of creation. As it can take a male elephant 25 years to be sexually mature, on day six the male elephants had two ages: 1 day actual age and at least 25 years apparent age (if they grew from infancy).

As God created mature plants and mature animals during the days of creation, this implies that He also created mature ecosystems. All the cycles of nature were established and in equilibrium by the end of the sixth day of creation. They didn’t have to develop from simple to complex as imagined by the uniformitarian hypothesis. As it can take say 100 years to produce a mature ecosystem after a volcano erupts, on day six the ecosystems had two ages: 1-3 day actual age and at least 100 years apparent age (if they developed from a bare landscape).

Adam and Eve, who were created on the sixth day of creation, were unique because they had no mothers and no childhood. Instead of developing from a zygote, they began life as mature adults who could reproduce (like in Michelangelo’s painting). This is an example of irreducible complexity (Appendix C). As it can take people about 20 years to reach adulthood, on day seven Adam and Eve had two ages: 1 day actual age and at least 20 years apparent age (if they grew from infancy).

Similarly, on day six the earth had two ages: a few days actual age and about 4.5 billion years apparent age (if it developed according to the uniformitarian hypothesis and if Adam and Eve could use current scientific methods). And on day six the universe had two ages: a few days actual age and about 14 billion years apparent age (if it developed according to the big-bang model and if Adam and Eve could use current scientific methods). They are both right because God created a mature earth in a short period of time. He did it suddenly, not gradually and piece by piece.

Likewise, today the earth has two ages: about 6,000 years actual age and about 4.5 billion years apparent age (if it developed according to the uniformitarian hypothesis). And today the universe has two ages: 6,000 years actual age and about 14 billion years apparent age (if it developed according to the big-bang model). They are both right because God created a mature universe in a short period of time. He did it suddenly, not gradually and piece by piece.

Is this deceptive?

So while the universe is actually about 6,000 years old, to scientists it seems to be about 14 billion years old. Is the fact that it can have two ages (actual and apparent) that differ by billions of years deceptive? The answer is “no”, because God has given us the actual age of the universe in the Bible. The Bible says that Adam was created on the sixth day of creation and it gives a detailed chrono-genealogy of his descendants to Abram (Gen. 5:1-32; 11:10-26). The way the Bible is written enables the determination of the dates of some important ancient events.

The Bible is a historical book and it gives an outline of the history of the world. As it’s written from God’s perspective, it’s an accurate history that we can trust.

Discussion

Christians accept many miracles in the Bible, but they may doubt some like creation. How can we make such a judgment? For example, they usually accept that Jesus made wine out of water at a wedding (Jn. 2:1-11). As it was “choice wine”, the wine was mature. In those days it took 1-3 weeks to produce wine. So although the time it took to produce this wine was actually less than one hour, it would have appeared to have been 1-3 weeks in age (if it had been produced in the usual way).

Likewise, Christians usually accept that Jesus fed a crowd of 5,000 men (plus women and children) with five loaves of bread and two fish (Mt. 14:15-21; Mk. 6:35-44; Lk. 9:12-17; Jn. 6:6-13). The fish taken from the Sea of Galilee for human consumption may have been at least one year old. So although the fish that were eaten were actually less than a few hours old, they would have appeared to have been at least one year in age (if they grew from infancy).

These are examples of how, because of divine miracles, things can have two ages; actual and apparent. The same is the case for the creation at the beginning of time. But in the case of creation there are differences between our knowledge of things that can and can’t be studied by observational science.

The lifetime of vegetation (plants), creatures, ecosystems, and people can all be studied by observational science. But the lifetime of the earth beyond history and the lifetime of the universe can’t be studied by observational science. So observational science can’t be used to determine the age of the earth or the universe. This means that the Biblical record is the most reliable record of the age and history of the earth and the universe.

This situation has implications for scientists who extrapolate backwards in time past recorded history. Obviously, according to the historical record in the Bible, the earth’s real history is no longer than about 6,000 years and scientists shouldn’t extrapolate backwards past then. If they do, there is something wrong with their assumptions and their findings are purely theoretical and don’t match reality.

This is a boundary condition problem. Theoretical models always assume certain boundary conditions and the model only applies within these constraints. The problem with the big-bang model is that it violates a boundary condition imposed by God. If we extrapolate backwards in time for 6,000 years we reach the initial condition after God created the universe. Beyond that we are making assumptions about a miracle which is nonsense! So the supposed 14 billion age of the universe is nonsense. It’s purely hypothetical.

Conclusion

Creation is the greatest miracle in the Bible because it rules out many false ideas that people have today and it’s one of the main reasons to praise God.

Furthermore, creation is the greatest miracle because it has the greatest difference between the actual age and the apparent age. Also, it’s the original miracle and the others are later consequences.

Appendix A: False ideas

The following ideas are shown to be false because they are inconsistent with Genesis 1:1:
– Atheism (there is no God). God created the universe and has existed from before this time.
– Agnosticism (it is impossible to know whether God exists). God has revealed Himself in Scripture as Creator.
– Pantheism (everything is god; god and creation are the same thing) – God is distinct from His creation because He created it.
– Panentheism (everything is in god). God transcends what He created.
– Polytheism (there is more than one god). Only one God created all things.
– Materialism (mass-energy is the only reality) and naturalism (natural laws describe all things). God created mass-energy and nature.
– Humanism (humanity is the measure of all things). God created humanity, so God is the measure of all things.
– Evolutionism (all life originated from matter by natural processes). God created all things.

Appendix B: Creation is a reason to praise God

The fact that He is the all-powerful Creator is a reason to praise God. In heaven He is praised,
“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for You created all things,
and by Your will they were created
and have their being” (Rev. 4:11).
God deserves our praise. Because God is Creator of everything, He is Lord of all. He is sovereign (supreme ruler) over history.

And Paul described God as “the Creator—who is forever praised” (Rom. 1:25). Those who don’t praise the Creator worship His creation instead, which is an act of idolatry.

Appendix C: Irreducible complexity

The Bible teaches that God created a mature fully-functioning universe, not one that was primitive and that need to develop piece-by-piece. This is consistent with the fact of irreducible complexity. The earth and the universe is more complex than scientists imagine (Job was taught this fact). There are complex systems and cycles and interactions between the components. An ecosystem is a small example of this.

For example, Adam was a real person who was created suddenly out of nothing (Gen. 5:3-5; Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:22, 45; 1 Tim. 2:13-14; Jude 1:14). As mentioned above, he began life as a fully functioning adult human being. All the processes of the human body were present and fully developed at the beginning. Otherwise, Adam would not be able to function as a human being. For example, blood must be circulating as soon as he was created.

Reference

Sarfati J. (2015), “The Genesis account”, Creation Book Publishers.

Written, May 2019

Also see: God created a huge universe


Where were you?

If you had the opportunity, what question would you ask God? After tragedy in his life, Job had many questions for God. But when they finally met the tables were turned and God asked Job “Where were you when I created the world”? Job was silenced because the answer was “Nowhere”.

Question and answer

The context is that God says that Job needs to be educated on mysteries that surpass his understanding (38:2). He should have realized that many things known to God are hidden from humanity.

The first question that God asked was:
4“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7NIV)

God used a metaphor of building a house to describe His work of creation. Verse 7 is a poetic description of the angel’s joy in God’s creation. The implication is that Job didn’t exist when God created the world, so how could he understand it? And who was Job (finite and created) to question the God (infinite Creator) of the Universe?

Job’s answer was:
“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer—
twice, but I will say no more” (Job 40:4-5).

Job didn’t answer the question in 38:4 because the answer was “Nowhere” – Job hadn’t been born when God created the world. He had no other answer to give. God’s questions were unanswerable. Job was reminded that there were many things that he didn’t know. He didn’t have the wisdom and knowledge to run the world and was ignorant of most of its processes. So he shouldn’t tell the Creator and Sustainer how to run the world.

In Job 38 God asked a series of questions about the earth (v. 4-7, 18); the sea (v.8-11, 16); the sun (v.12-15); death (v.17); light and darkness (v.19-20); the weather (v.22-30, 34-38); astronomy (v.31-33); and animals and birds (38:39 – 39:30). It was like a science examination! These questions show that God’s sovereignty, power and wisdom is evident in the created (natural) world. God is saying, “Before you criticize me, you should ask yourself if you could manage the creation as well as I do”.

Job couldn’t answer any of the questions because he felt powerless, ignorant, insignificant and unwise compared to God (Job 40:3-5). He was humbled. Job felt the immense difference between divinity and humanity. And if Job didn’t understand the natural world, how could he understand God’s dealings with humanity?

What about today?

Does this lesson still apply today as science can answer some of the questions in Job 38-39? Yes, scientists know more today than Job knew. But there’s also a lot that they don’t know. They know many secondary causes, but they are ignorant of primary causes (God’s role). And like Job, we should be overwhelmed with our ignorance, and not impressed with science.

Do we  tell God how to run the world? Some say that the existence of suffering negates the existence of God. But like Job they are judging how God rules the world. Instead, they need to learn from Job’s humility.

When scientists study a subject it would be  good for them to be mindful of God’s role. This could moderate their claims and introduce an element of humility as they consider the assumptions being made, the degree of extrapolation and the limits/uncertainty of the findings.

In particular, we have seen recently that scientists need miracles in their naturalistic explanations of the creation of the universe and the creation of life. They sound confident when they should be embarrassed. But one day God will ask them, “Were you there?” and the answer will be “No” (it’s not observational science). They didn’t observe God’s acts of creation. “Do you know anyone who was there?” “No”. The next question will be “Did you listen to my account of what happened (in the Bible)?” and the answer will be “No”. God was there – and He has given us an eyewitness account. How can they expect to understand creation if they only use the human mind and ignore the best information available on these historical events?

Written, May 2019


Selective tolerance – Folau versus Rugby Australia

Israel Folau has gone from being one of the best players in Australian rugby, to an outcast. How did this happen?

On 10 April 2019, Folau quoted the Bible on his own Instagram page. Because the post mentioned homosexuals, it looks like he is being terminated from his livelihood of playing professional sport, will miss playing in the Rugby World Cup later this year and is being persecuted across Australia, the UK and New Zealand.

When Tasmania passed new legislation making gender optional on birth certificates, Folau commented on Twitter, “The devil has blinded so many people in this world, REPENT and turn away from your evil ways. Turn to Jesus Christ who will set you free”. And He posted the following on Instagram.

The Post

There was an image stating: “Warning – drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters – hell awaits you. Repent! Only Jesus saves”.

There was a statement: “Those that are living in sin will end up in hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to Him.”

And three passages were quoted from the Bible:

“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21NIV).

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).

The response

Rugby Australia intend to terminate Folau’s contract, because they say the post is a breach of their inclusion policy which states: “Rugby has and must continue to be a sport where players, officials, volunteers, supporters and administrators have the right and freedom to participate regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race or religion and without fear of exclusion. There is no place for homophobia or any form of discrimination in our game and our actions and words both on and off the field must reflect this”. They claim Folau’s post is a breach of the player’s code of conduct because “he cannot share material on social media that condemns, vilifies or discriminates against people on the basis of their sexuality”.

The decision about Folau’s future is being made today. The accusation is that the post “condemns, vilifies or discriminates against people on the basis of their sexuality”. They say “The content within the post is unacceptable. It does not represent the values of the sport and is disrespectful to members of the Rugby community”.

Media commentators are calling it “hateful”, “hate speech”, “harmful”, “homophobic”, “anti-gay comments” and “offensive”. A sponsor said, “These comments are really disappointing and clearly don’t reflect the spirit of inclusion and diversity that we support”. This persecution was swift and severe. And the attack has been relentless. In the name of inclusion and diversity they will not tolerate and include Israel Folau! There is no tolerance today towards outspoken Christians!

This is not surprising. Both Jesus and Paul were persecuted for teaching the Christian faith (Appendix A). Paul was imprisoned and Jesus was executed. So it’s unsurprising that the Christian message given in the Bible isn’t tolerated today.

Jesus told His disciples: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first … If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (Jn. 15:18, 20). And Paul told Timothy that “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).

The Christian message

The Bible says that all people are sinners and they are all heading to eternity in hell unless they repent. That’s why God sent Jesus to earth. By taking the punishment we deserve upon Himself, Christ has made a way for people to be reconciled to God. So people must be warned. And that’s what Folau is doing.

Some people are upset about his reference to hell. Hell is the judgement for sinners who refuse or ignore God’s free gift of eternal life. The Bible is full of references of the punishment of the wicked (Rom. 2:5-12; Gal. 6:7-8; Heb. 10:29-31; Rev. 20:11-15). Hell is mentioned 14 times in the New Testament (Mt. 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15; 23:33; Mk. 9:43, 45, 47; Lk. 12:5; 16:23; Jas. 3:6; 2 Pt. 2:4). It has more references to hell than it does to heaven. And Jesus Christ often warned about hell and the judgment to come.

Folau quotes Galatians 5:19-21 that lists some sins. The people who practice such sins are not believers and are bound for hell (eternal punishment). This message is repeated in Corinthians, “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). The Bible says that some lifestyles are sinful and displeasing to God.

Did you know that tolerance is a Christian idea (Appendix B)?

Discussion

This is an example of selective tolerance. There is no tolerance to outspoken Christians. And an example of selective inclusion. There is no inclusion for outspoken Christians. How is rugby showing its “inclusiveness” by excluding an outspoken Christian?

What’ s wrong with sharing our Christian beliefs in public? Suppose a person went to a doctor and the doctor discovers they have a deadly cancer, but he sends them home, telling them that they are healthy. That’s not loving. They are refusing to share a life-giving truth. Or suppose you see a child playing on the street and a big truck hurtling their way, if you cared at all, you would yell, scream, jump up and down and do all you can to save them. The most loving thing we can do for sinners is to tell them the truth about sin, hell and Jesus.

It’s been noted that Folau’s actions suggest he’s more inclusive than his critics. Despite his personal views, he’s still happy to play with the many rugby players who are gays, drunks, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists or idolaters. And note the contrast in how Israel Folau is being treated compared to Tiger Woods! It reminds me of Jesus and Barabbas.

This is an erosion of free speech and free religion. Can we have real democracy without freedom of speech and freedom of religious belief? Christians are the only ones attacked for their religious beliefs. It’s spiritual warfare.

It reminds me of the thought police in the novel “Nineteen eighty-four” by George Orwell who persecute independent thinking and spy on people’s private lives. Are we becoming like a totalitarian state with a high degree of control over citizens and no tolerance of different views? Could this trend lead to parts of the Bible being classified as discriminatory hate speech that’s not inclusive? If this eventuates, parts of the Bible could banned from usage in public and be restricted to private use.

Of course, sharing Christian truth will always offend some people. Jesus alienated people because He spoke truth. And the truth about ourselves is confronting.

The Bible teaches that Christians should obey governing authorities because they are instituted by God (Rom. 13:1-7). But when the Jewish religious leaders told Peter and John “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus”, they disobeyed because “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 4:18-19; 5:27-29). So the Bible allows disobedience if the authority orders them to sin or to compromise their loyalty to Jesus Christ. If there is a conflict between the will of an authority and the will of God, then believers give precedence to the will of God.

Conclusion

No matter what happens at the code of conduct hearing today, Israel Folau says, “It’s obviously a decision that’s in the process right now but I believe in a God that’s in control of all things. Whatever His will is, whether that’s to continue playing or not, I’m more than happy to do what He wants me to do. First and foremost, I live for God now. Whatever He wants me to do, I believe His plans for me are better than whatever I can think. If that’s not to continue on playing, so be it. In saying that, obviously I love playing footy and if it goes down that path I’ll definitely miss it. But my faith in Jesus Christ is what comes first.”

What a great example of a follower of Jesus!

Appendix A: Persecution of Paul

Paul described the persecution and suffering he endured when he shared the Christian message to sinners as follows,
“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).

Appendix B: Tolerance in the Bible

Tolerance is a Christian idea. It says, “I disagree with what you’re saying, but I allow you the right to say it”. The Bible calls Christians to do more than merely tolerate our neighbors. We’re called to love them.
– “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44).
– “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Lk. 6:27).
– “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Lk. 6:31).
– “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lk. 10:27).
– “do good to all people” (Gal.6:10).
– “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12).
– “be ready to do whatever is good … slander no one … be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone” (Tit. 3:1-2).
– “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Pt. 3:15).

But the Bible says that there is no other way to God and heaven than other than through Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6). So the Bible is intolerant about sin and the way of salvation.

Christians are to tolerate other people, but be intolerant towards the postmodern idea that all religions lead to God or that everyone’s beliefs are valid. We don’t have to agree with their opinions. Tolerance of something or someone doesn’t mean we condone it. Of course, there are limits to tolerance, we don’t tolerate terrorism, violence, child abuse, or neglect of the elderly.

Postscript: The hearing

The hearing is being held in Sydney on 4-5 May 2019. In one of the most significant legal battles in Australian sport’s history, Folau’s team is expected to argue that Rugby Australia did not include a specific social media clause in his contract and that his posts were merely passages from the Bible and not his direct words. And Rugby Australia is likely to contend that Folau has seriously breached its code of conduct policy and its inclusion policy.

7 May 2019: “A hearing has found rugby union player Israel Folau committed a ‘high-level breach’ of the Professional Players’ Code of Conduct over controversial social media posts”.

17 May: “Israel Folau’s Australian rugby union career appears over, after a three-person panel ordered that the Wallabies star’s four-year contract be terminated as punishment for his breach of the players’ code of conduct”. “Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle said the decision had not been directly communicated to Folau”.

Acknowledgement

This post has been inspired by Bill Muehlenberg’s (Culture Watch) commentary on this topic.

Also see: What is hell like?

Written, 4 May 2019


Don’t let Christians put you off Jesus

Suppose there’s a man in a town with a history of shady business practices and fraudulent dealings. He also happens to be a regular church-goer.

Many people where he lives know the man to be shonky and would say they’ve been ‘ripped off’ as would people in other towns. What’s terrible is that some people where the man lives say, ‘If that man is a Christian, then I don’t want any part of Christianity’. And, at one level, their reaction is understandable.

The story raises questions about what it means to be a genuine Christian and what churches and other Christians should do when people say they are Christian but their actions clearly aren’t. You can imagine that the answers aren’t always easy.

Certainly the Bible says that those people whose lives are grossly hypocritical and who refuse to change ought to be excluded from church. But what if they keep calling themselves Christian in the community? Or they just move to another church and start again?

Or what if a church or a whole movement of people begin to do things in the name of Jesus that are just plainly at odds with the Bible? History is full of appalling things done in the name of Jesus. Some are well known: the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, people burning each other at stakes. Thankfully, it’s simply not possible to justify these kinds of things from the Bible.

So where does the problem lie? Not with God. The very reason Jesus came to earth was because we’ve got a major issue. It’s called sin. And sin is in every person. We all think, say and do things that we should rightly be ashamed of.

Jesus said this about His coming into the world: God’s light [Jesus] came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil (John 3:19).

What we mustn’t do is use the bad example of some ‘Christians’ as an excuse for not worshipping Jesus and coming into the light ourselves. That’s because the only people who can join the Christian movement are sinners willing to repent. So any person in church will always be a moral failure. Including you!

So yes, Christians should be people who try to live changed lives full of joy and good deeds. All of them will struggle in doing this. And yes, occasionally you’ll find some that seem to be really just pretending. But don’t let Christians put you off Jesus.

Bible verse: John 3:19 “God’s light [Jesus] came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.”

Prayer: Dear God, please help me to leave behind evil works and worship you in the light.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2019

Posted, May 2019


Take a closer look at Easter

If we took a closer look at Easter, what would we find – a chocolate fantasy or important history?

In the 8th Century, the English monk, Bede, spoke of how the name of the pagan goddess ‘Eostre’ was used for the ‘Easter month’. Bede’s words have long been seen as proof that Christians simply replaced existing cultural rituals with their own. But the problem is that there isn’t much hard evidence for the English Goddess ‘Eostre’ or her Spring pagan festival. However, there’s lots of evidence that Christians throughout Europe, from the medieval period onward, used eggs and rabbits as symbols of new life.

As for the chocolate versions, well Joseph Fry of Bristol made the first chocolate Easter egg in 1873. Ever since then Easter has been very chocolaty and run, almost entirely by the major supermarkets.

If you keep looking closely at Easter though, you’ll see that Christians all over the world have something more exciting than a weekend chocolate coma to celebrate. If you look really closely then you’ll see that, from the earliest times, Christians wanted an annual celebration at the time of the Jewish feast called ‘Passover’ (usually in April) because that’s when Jesus was executed.

But why would Christians celebrate the execution of a man? Because, paradoxically, Jesus’s death means life! Jesus is God’s son, sent to earth to point us back to Him… sent to live as an example… sent to offer His life so that our sin might be cancelled.

Yet Christians don’t just focus on Jesus’s death. The climax of the Easter story comes two days after Good Friday and Jesus’s execution. On the third day Jesus was resurrected from death. His tomb, which had been sealed, was now empty. Since then, people everywhere have had reason to hope because, if Jesus can be resurrected, then so can we.

There’s an account in the Bible of a man called Paul who was opposed to Christians and Jesus. But Paul became both a believer and a Christian leader. Here’s a small part of a letter he wrote to Greek Christians in the city of Corinth.

I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

So, this Easter – as you spike your blood sugar on the finest cocoa confections, remember why Easter is so sweet. Remember the hope that Jesus has given you and thank Him.

Bible verse: 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said”.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for chocolate. But thank you much more for the gift of Jesus and the new life He brings.

Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2019


The best way to live

Applying the Bible to our lives

These days many of us get our sense of right and wrong from movies. Although some of our superheroes may act like a self-sacrificing Messiah in battles to save the world, the lessons in movies are usually determined by ungodly people who want to entertain us.

When I googled “How to live”, there were 20 billion results on the internet! If I took five seconds to read each one, it would take over 30 years of reading continuously! How can we know which is the best way to live our lives? These are all the subjective opinions of many people. We can save wasting a lot of time by following the objective opinions of the God who made the world and who knows all about us. And it doesn’t take years to find because He has communicated to us in the Bible. The Bible is often called “God’s word” or “the word” because it’s a message from God.

This blogpost, which is based on James 1:19-25, shows that the best way to live is to keep applying the Bible to our lives.

James says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do” (Jas. 1:19-25NIV).

The goal for our lives

The book of James was written to confront the readers about their sinful behavior. Although they claimed to be Christians, their behavior was worldly (3:9-12; 4: 4). We read about anger, immorality and evil. It was disgraceful.

James urged them to change their ways. So he gave them a goal, an aim, a target. It was to be spiritually mature and wise. Perseverance through trials would make them “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (1:4). And they could pray for wisdom; “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God” (1:5). Wisdom is the ability to cope with major difficulties. A person with wisdom makes good decisions. They have biblical common sense and can apply scriptural principles to their life. They use biblical knowledge correctly.

Jesus told His disciples, “follow me” (Jn. 1:43) and Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). If we follow Paul and Jesus it will be best for us, best for our families, best for our friends and neighbors, and best for our churches.

And Paul said that the best way to live is a life that is spiritually fruitful, holy and pleases the Lord (Appendix A).

Rather than just following a list of rules, God wants us to be able to “find out what pleases the Lord” in all situations (Eph. 5:10). Inner guidance via the Holy Spirit is the chief means by which God guides His people today. And the chief external means by which He guides them is the Bible.

When I go hiking, I always take a GPS, a map and a compass. They help me to decide where to go and what to do. In a similar way, the Holy Spirit and the Bible can help us decide how to live our lives.

What’s our goal in life? Is it to please God, and be spiritually mature and wise like Paul and Jesus?

The steps towards the goal

The first step to find the best way to live is to:

  1. Trust in the work of Jesus for our salvation.

There are two ways to live: with God or without God. Trusting that Christ’s death paid the penalty for our sin brings us near to God. Living with God is better because it’s the first step towards the best way to live. It means we have eternal spiritual life and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who can empower us to go through the other steps. Without God’s help we are on our own and limited to human wisdom. Before the Ephesians trusted in Christ they were “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). It we don’t know the true God, then we have no hope because real hope is based on God’s promises. And we have no lasting purpose in our lives and no hope beyond this life.

If we haven’t taken the first step, we can’t get to the top of a ladder. If we haven’t trusted in Christ, we can’t find the best way to live.

There are also two ways to live as a Christian: with God or without God. It’s a contradiction to say that we trusted God once, but don’t have anything to do with Him now. And it’s not the best way to live.

Paul taught “the whole will of God” (Acts 20:27). He instructed people in not only the fundamentals of the gospel (the good news about Jesus), but in all that’s vital for godly living. And we will learn about this as we look at the other steps. The Bible has the most important message for us because it tells us about these steps (Appendix B).

The next step to find the best way to live is to:

  1. Pray to God.

That’s how we communicate with God. We can ask God for power and wisdom to live how He wants us to (Jas. 1:5-6). James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (Jas. 1:5).

Do you text message your boss at work? They say it’s more personal than email. Do you pray daily? It’s more personal than public prayers.

James also says to “listen to the word [Bible]” (Jas. 1:22). So the next step to find the best way to live is to:

  1. Read the Bible.

The Bible says that “All Scripture is God-breathed” because its authors “were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pt. 1:21). What the authors wrote came from God. The words came from the Holy Spirit and not from human wisdom. That’s why all the words of scripture are useful in some way.

God communicates to us through the Bible. That’s how we can experience God personally. So we need to read it regularly. It takes about 70 hours to read the whole Bible. This could be done in a year by reading for about 12 minutes per day.

How long would it take to watch 70 hours of movies? If that was 35 movies and we watched one per week, it would take about 8 months. But if we watched two movies per week, it would take about 4 months. So most of us probably spend more time watching movies than reading the Bible.

This means that movies could be influencing us more that the Bible and hindering us from finding the best way to live. When do you read the Bible?

The next step to find the best way to live is to:

  1. Understand the Bible.

We need to study the Bible in order to understand it (see more about this topic below).

James also says, “humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you” (Jas. 1:21). So the next step to find the best way to live is to:

  1. Accept the Bible as God’s word.

The Thessalonians “accepted it [the Bible] not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe” (1 Th. 2:13). The Bible has divine wisdom and it can help us live in a godly way that pleases God. It can save us from sinful living that displeases God.

Although it was written over a period of at least 1,500 years, the Bible has great unity and harmony. It addresses the biggest questions of life and its worldview explains reality like no other book. It’s historically reliable. It makes detailed prophecies that have been fulfilled. It has transformed people’s lives. It has withstood and outlasted all of its attackers. All we know about Jesus comes from the Bible. Jesus quoted constantly from the Old Testament. If Jesus accepted the Old Testament as God’s words, we can accept the Bible as God’s words. When we do this the Holy Spirit will give us a desire and a willingness to follow God’s guidance for us in the Bible. And we will willingly read the Bible in order to understand it. And we’ll memorize it and meditate on it. In this way it will be implanted in our lives (Jas. 1:21). How do you view the message in the Bible? Do you welcome it or are you skeptical about it?

James also says to “Do what it [the Bible] says” (Jas. 1:22). So the last step to find the best way to live is to:

  1. Apply the Bible to our lives.

Once we have trusted in Jesus as our Savior; prayed for God’s help; and read, understod and accepted God’s message in the Bible; then we need to obey what we have learnt. This means renewing our mind (Rom.12:2), stopping sinful actions and starting godly actions (see more about this topic below).

But how can we understand the ancient words of the Bible?

Understanding the Bible

God wants us to understand His message in the Bible and to use it for godly living. Because the Bible was written for common people like us, it’s not difficult to understand its main points. They are not hidden or secret.

Here is some information to help us find the main point of any passage in the Bible.

The Bible is a library

The Bible is the collection of 66 books comprising:
– The Hebrew scriptures (Genesis to Malachi), which are called the Old Testament.
– Jesus’ teaching and actions (Matthew to John), which are called the gospels, and
– The teaching and actions of those whom He delegated as apostles (Acts to Revelation).

The literary styles of the books of the Bible

The books of the Bible come in different literary styles. There is poetry and prose. Hebrew poetic books often have lines with repeated meanings (called parallelism) and may metaphors.

The Old Testament has books of history/narrative, poetry, and prophecy. Exodus to Deuteronomy are also Hebrew law. While the New Testament has history, letters and prophecy. Our passage in James is from a letter.

Many times a mixture of literary styles will be combined in one book.

Literary devices in the Bible

One of the most common literary devices in the Bible are figures of speech such as metaphors, similes, personification and hyperbole (exaggeration). These can occur in any book of the Bible, but they are more frequent in the poetic books.

Also, Jesus often used parables to teach a lesson.

There’ s a metaphor in our passage in James where God’s word (the Bible) is said to be planted like a seed in the believer. When we allow the Bible to grow (like a seed) in our lives, it replaces sinfulness and becomes part of our character. When it doesn’t grow, sinfulness is prevalent.

And there’s a simile in our passage in James where reading the Bible is likened to looking in a mirror, and obeying the Bible is likened to remembering what we look like; while not obeying the Bible is likened to forgetting what we look like. Obeying the Bible is beneficial, while not obeying it is useless and a waste of time.

The Bible is a progressive revelation

The Bible is a progressive revelation. Truth gets added as we move from the beginning to the end. The first slope in the diagram is the Old Testament and the second slope is the New Testament. We can read it as those who have the whole book and know God’s whole program of salvation.

Our passage in James is in one of the early books written in the New Testament, so it’s near where the line moves upwards after the 400 year gap between the two testaments (where the line is horizontal as there was no new revelation).

Next we will look at three kinds of context.

The historical context

Here we look at questions like: Who wrote it?  When was it written? And, who was it written to? This is summarized in a diagram where time increases from left to right. The Bible was written to others—but it speaks to us.

Christianity started on the day of Pentecost after Jesus died, rose back to life and ascended back to heaven. So Acts to Revelation (after the day of Pentecost) was written to Christians. This means that they usually can be applied directly to us except we don’t have apostles today (Acts 1: 21-22). This is the case for our passage in James. The Old Testament was written to Jews who lived under the laws of Moses (the Old Covenant), which don’t apply directly to us. For example, they were required to offer animal sacrifices. Instead these laws need to be interpreted though the New Testament. Some are repeated in the New Testament, like 9 of the 10 commandments. And others are not repeated in the New Testament, like the command to keep the Sabbath day and the commands to offer animal sacrifices. So be careful when applying the Old Testament to today. It has many good principles and provides the background to Christianity, but it wasn’t written to us. We need to be careful when interpreting verses BC (before the cross). Jesus lived under the laws of Moses and the gospels include His teachings to Jews. But much of His teaching carries over into Christianity (where it relates to the new covenant).

The cultural context

Life was different in ancient times. Housing, occupations, transport, religion, and governance were often radically different to ours.

James lived in the Roman Empire. Although their way of life was different to ours today, human nature hasn’t changed. We are still sinful and need reminding to obey God’s words in the Bible. Our passage addresses anger, immorality, evil, and hypocrisy, which are topics that are not foreign to us. But if it was about food sacrificed to idols, we would need to change it into a modern equivalent.

The Biblical context

The verses and passages in each book of the Bible are set out in an order determined by God. Don’t try to understand a verse or passage in isolation. Look at the message in the whole book. Look at the message in the same chapter, in the previous chapter and in the following chapter. What happened before and afterwards? What’s the situation? Context is king because it reduces the possible meanings of a text to its most probable meaning.

Read it like any other book; don’t just read here and there. Proverbs is the only book of the Bible where the verses aren’t always related to each other.

The purpose of the book of James is to confront the readers about their sinful behavior. Although they claimed to be Christians, their behavior was worldly (3:9-12; 4: 4). James emphasizes that true Christian faith is expressed in a life of godliness, not of sinfulness.

Now we will look at what can happen if we ignore the context.

Don’t cherry-pick

Cherry-picking is interpreting a verse or passage without taking the context and the rest of the Bible into account. It’s selective use of evidence. For example, “I can do all things through Him [Christ] who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13ESV) was written by Paul while he was in prison because of his Christian faith. The main principle is that believers can learn to be content in difficult circumstances through Christ, who gives them strength. But it can be taken out of context to mean that with God’s help:
– I can do anything, or
– I can do miracles, or
– I will be successful, or
– My team will win the game, or
– I will win the contest

This gives people false hopes. That’s why the context is important. It gives the correct meaning, which is the one that the author intended.

Exegesis, not eisegesis

Exegesis is the process of discovering the meaning of a text from the context and the text itself. Exegesis means “to lead out of” – the meaning comes out of the text; out of the Bible. On the other hand, eisegesis occurs when a reader imposes their interpretation into the text. Eisegesis means “to lead into” – the meaning comes from the interpreter and is added into the text, into the Bible. Exegesis is objective, while eisegesis is subjective.

Last year, a theologian said in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald that the Bible “never condemns same-sex marriage, partly because it simply does not address the issue directly”. This is an example of eisegesis. Their interpretation of scripture was poor. When we exegete the same passages in the New Testament, we see that the statement is untrue and deceptive. It’s true that the Bible doesn’t specifically address “same-sex marriage”. But it does condemn homosexual sexual activity, which is a broader subject than same-sex marriage! Therefore, by simple logic, same-sex marriage was condemned as a lifestyle for the New Testament church.

Those who practice eisegesis often change the context of Bible passages, or change the meanings of words in the Bible, or base their case on a single verse and ignore others on the same topic.

Avoid legalism and liberalism

Another problem to avoid is adding to the Bible or subtracting from it (see Appendix C).

Is it a command, a model or a report?

The contents of the Bible can be divided into commands, models to follow and reports of events. A command is mandatory (not optional) and prescriptive (not descriptive). Commands are instructions to be followed. Our passage in James is made up of commands as it mentions things they should do and things they shouldn’t do.

A model to follow is a practice that’s described and is worth following today. It’s descriptive, but doesn’t use mandatory language, like the practice of Christians meeting together on the first day of the week. Biblical models are examples to follow. Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).

Whereas, a report is a description of events (like in the news media) that’s not worth following today. It includes sinful behavior that’s not being endorsed by the writer like David’s adultery (2 Sam. 11:1-17), Solomon’s polygamy (1 Ki. 11:1-3) and the fact that Judas hanged himself (Mt. 27:5). Reports are not examples for us to follow.

After looking at the text, the context, and the literary devices, we need to find the author’s main point.

The author’s main point

This is the meaning of the text for the original audience. It’s what the author wanted to communicate. The main point is then converted into a principle which is a general truth, applicable in a variety of situations.

The main point in our passage from James is that godliness comes from stopping sinful behavior and practicing (applying, obeying) scriptural principles instead.

What has changed since then?

Here we compare between then and now by considering the culture, situation, and time in history. Were God’s people living under a different covenant? Was their situation unique? We also take into account all the scriptures written after the passage because God’s revelation is progressive. And is the scriptural principle consistent with the rest of the Bible? Fortunately we see that God and people don’t change throughout history: He is always divine and people are always sinful. As James was written to Christians living under the new covenant, it still applies the same way today.

Now we know what’s changed since then, we can determine what it means today.

The main point today

The main point in our passage from James is that godliness comes from stopping sinful behavior and practicing (applying, obeying) scriptural principles instead (Appendix D). It’s the best way to live.

A Tyrannosaurus rex fossil found in Canada is largest-ever found. It probably weighed more than 8.8 tonnes and it took palaeontologists ten years to separate it from sandstone rock. Fortunately it doesn’t take that long to discover the meaning of ancient words in the Bible.

Each passage of the Bible has one meaning and one main point. But each main point can have many applications today according to the different situations people can be in.

Applying the Bible to our lives today

The Bible is a practical book. It’s “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It shows us the best way to live. But it only helps us if we put it into practice.

Jesus told His disciples, “If you love me, keep my commands”, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me”, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching”, and “Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching”  (Jn. 14:15, 21, 23-24). So we show our love for Jesus by keeping His commandments. And God sent the Holy Spirit to be our Helper in this effort (Jn. 14:16–17). Knowledge of God’s principles for living in the Bible is not good enough, it should lead to action and change our thinking and character. How can we live out the meaning of the text in our lives? How should we apply these scriptural principles? What do we need to know, do, think and be?

This week a friend had to change the wheel of a car. He could have learnt how to do this from YouTube. The Bible is like the best YouTube video on how to live. But it doesn’t help unless we act on it. If there was no action, the tire (tyre) would still be flat.

Or you may want to learn to play the guitar from YouTube. There will be no progress unless you pick up the guitar and start practicing. Like playing the guitar, being able to apply the Bible to our lives takes practice. But don’t worry; there will be plenty of opportunities.

Here we look for a situation in our lives that parallels the biblical situation. It must contain all the key elements of the biblical situation. In James it involved:
– Christians (v.19).
– They were involved in sinful behavior (v.19-21).
– They went to church and heard from the Bible, but they lived like everyone else and not like a Christian. The Bible had little impact on their way of life.
– They were told that godliness comes from stopping sinful behavior and practicing (applying, obeying) scriptural principles instead.

Here’s an application. Roy is a Christian who has been cheating in his tax return. But when he realizes that the Bible teaches honesty towards the government, he decides to stop cheating (Mt. 22:21). So he seeks a Christian mentor to provide encouragement and to help him mange his finances. And he shares with a friend his decision to be more honest with his money.

Or, Anne is a Christian who has been living with her boyfriend because that’s what other people do. But when she realizes that the bible teaches that sexual relationships are for (heterosexual) marriage, she decides to stop living together until they get married. She prays for help because it will be difficult to tell her boyfriend. And she decides to read more about what the Bible says about being single and being married.

Or, Ray is a Christian who hasn’t been doing his share of work in the family. His wife is overloaded with going to work, looking after the household, looking after him, and looking after the children. But when he realizes that the bible teaches us to care for one another, he decides to be more considerate and less selfish. So he decides to listen to his wife in order to know how he can help her. And he remembers that the Bible says that love is not self-seeking; it isn’t always “me first’; it does not insist on its own way  (1 Cor. 13:5). And that Jesus came to serve and He “gave His life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). That’s sacrificial service.

James gives a promise for doing this, “whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom [the Bible], and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard [or read], but doing it [applying it]—they will be blessed in what they do” (Jas. 1:25). But there’s a warning in the Bible about not implementing what we read there.

Warning against not applying the Bible to ourselves

Jesus told a parable, “everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Mt. 7:24-27).

The first man’s work endured, while the other man’s work was destroyed. The house is like their life. It illustrates the importance of obedience. Jesus had just given the sermon on the mount. But it’s not enough to hear (or read) the message in Bible. Its truths must be put into practice. That’s the best way to endure the adversity of life. The second man is called foolish –  because of his disobedience, he can’t endure the difficulties of life.

Our way of life will be tested. Applying scriptural principles to our lives is the best way to live because it helps us survive the testing times. And in our passage in James it says that we can know the truth, but not implementing it is like forgetting what we saw in a mirror (Jas. 1:22-25).

Residents are angry about the lack of action to deal with radioactive waste in Nelson Parade, Hunters Hill in Sydney. The contamination from uranium processing is about 100 years old and residents were first alerted to the danger in 1965. Since then there have been many scientific surveys, a parliamentary enquiry and an Environmental Protection Authority order, which all say the waste must be removed. There were plans to dig it up and transfer it to a secure land fill, but this never happened. The latest plan is to bury it onsite within a concrete bunker. The State Government has known about this for decades, but has done nothing. Don’t be like them when reading the Bible. Instead, let’s put it into action in our lives.

Lessons for us

We have seen that the best way to live is a life of spiritual maturity and wisdom. It’s empowered by the Holy Spirit, is centered around the Bible, and results in God’s blessing. It begins with trusting in the work of Jesus for our salvation and continues with applying the Bible to our lives.

We need more than movie morals to guide us, because they lack the power of the Holy Spirit. Instead we need to be reading the Bible regularly. Are we reading it more than watching movies? When we read the Bible let’s look for the main point and work out what it means today and apply it in our lives.

After we hear the word of God at church, do we put it into practice like a wise person, or do we foolishly ignore it? Instructions and examples are useless unless we follow them. Let’s trust and obey and be known for our godly actions and living.

Appendix A: The goal for our lives according to Paul

After eleven chapters of doctrine, Paul told the Romans, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2). With God’s help, we will know how to live. And it won’t be in the pattern of our sinful world. But it will involve a new way of thinking.

Paul’s prayer for the Philippians was, “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:9-10). The Christian life is more than love, it includes knowledge, insight and holiness. And the motive is to be living like this when Jesus returns to take us to heaven.

And his prayer for the Colossians was, “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9-10). It’s living that’s spiritually fruitful and pleases the Lord. This is possible because it’s powered by the Holy Spirit.

So according to Paul the best way to live is a life that is spiritually fruitful, holy and pleases the Lord.

Appendix B: Why the Bible has the most important message for us

Not only does the Bible tell us the steps to peace with God, it also tells us the best way to live. When we trust in Jesus Christ’s death as the payment for our sin, the Bible says that we are given a new spiritual life. We are alive spiritually and dead to sin (Rom. 6:11; Eph. 4:22-24).

Paul’s final instruction to Timothy was, “continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:14-17). The Bible is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so we can serve the Lord. It’s like God’s instruction manual for living our lives.

Paul justified quoting from the Old Testament by saying, “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). The Bible as written for our instruction.

Paul said that the Old Testament has examples of what not to do, which are warnings for us: Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come” (1 Cor.10:6-11). Paul says, don’t repeat their mistakes.

Luke said that “the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11). So the Bible is the standard for knowing what is right and what is wrong. We should check everything against the truth of the Bible.

Our thoughts affect our actions. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:8-9). God wants us to be holy by putting into practice what we learn from the Bible.

Appendix C: The dangers of legalism and liberalism

Christians do not thrive outside God’s boundaries for living. Two ways of going off the road or out of bounds are to either add to or take away from what God has revealed to us in the Bible (Rev. 22:18-19). Legalism involves adding to the Bible and liberalism taking away from it. These are mindsets that come from the sinful nature; not from the Bible or the divine nature.

Legalism places rules and regulations between us and God and includes an effort to merit God’s favor. It involves salvation by good works and not Christ alone. It was a problem in the early church when some Jewish Christians insisted that Gentiles must follow Jewish laws if they wanted to become Christians. And it can become a problem today if Christian customs and traditions get confused with scriptural truths. Christians can avoid legalism by recognizing the freedoms inherent in God’s word.

Liberalism places the ideas and reasoning of humanism between us and the Bible. It makes people the authority instead of God. The risk of liberalism comes from our culture. We are exposed to news media, movies, the internet and advertisements that preach humanism, hedonism and materialism. Christians need to be relevant to the culture but not accept its values. Christians can avoid liberalism by recognizing the boundaries inherent in God’s word.

Appendix D: Application of James 1:19-25

The book of James was written in about AD 50 by James (the half-brother of Jesus and an elder in the church in Jerusalem) to Jewish Christians who had been scattered because of persecution (Acts 8:1; 11:19). As it was written to Christians, the message is still directly applicable to Christians today. The purpose of the letter is to confront the readers about their sinful behavior. Although they claimed to be Christians, their behavior was worldly (3:9-12; 4: 4). James emphasizes that true Christian faith is expressed in a life of godliness, not of sinfulness. After dealing with trials (1:2-12) and temptations (1:13-17), the topic of this passage is the Word of God (1:18-27).

There is a metaphor where the word (Bible) is said to be planted in the believer, “which can save you” (v.21). Did you know that God’s word is like a seed planted in your life? But is the plant fruitful or stunted? When we trust in Christ as our Savior, God uses biblical truths to save us from the penalty of sin. And if we continue to obey His words we can be saved from the power of sin today. This is an ongoing aspect to our salvation. When we allow the Bible to grow in our lives, it replaces sinfulness and becomes part of our character. When it doesn’t grow, sinfulness is prevalent.

There is a simile where reading the Bible is likened to looking in a mirror and obeying the Bible is likened to remembering what you look like, while not obeying the Bible is likened to forgetting what you look like (v.23-25). Remembering what you look like is beneficial, while forgetting is useless and a waste of time.

The main point of the passage is that in order to be godly (spiritually healthy) we need to be teachable (v.19), to deal with sin (v.21) and obey (or apply) the Bible in our lives (v.22). If we obey the Bible, our character develops and we are blessed (v.22, 25) and we have successful lives for Christ (v.21). But if we don’t obey the Bible, we deceive ourselves and we stay a spiritual baby. Obedience is beneficial, while disobedience is useless. In summary, applying the Bible to our lives (by obeying it) leads to godliness.

Written, April 2019

Also see: Understanding the Bible


God created a huge universe

Was the universe small at the beginning and then grow to be huge or was it huge at the beginning? A common view is that because the universe is very large, it needed a long time to form.

What does the Bible say about this topic? We will look at the creation of vegetation, living creatures and people before looking at the creation of stars and galaxies.

Vegetation

Plants grow when a seed germinates. The seed grows to be a seedling, which grows to be a budding plant, which grows to be a flowering plant, which grows to be a ripened mature plant with seeds/fruit.

On the third day of creation, “The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds” (Gen. 1:12NIV). So the plants had seeds and the trees had fruit, indicating that they were mature.

On the sixth day of creation God told Adam and Eve, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food” (Gen. 1:29). So the trees had fruit that could be eaten, indicating that they were mature.

Genesis 2:5-25 focuses on the creation of man and woman on the sixth day of creation. On the sixth day of creation, “the Lord God commanded the man [Adam], “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Gen. 2:16-17). So the trees had fruit that could be eaten, indicating that they were mature.

So the vegetation that was created on the third day of creation was unique because it didn’t come from seeds and had no seedling stage. Instead of developing from a seed, it began life as mature plants so that it could be eaten by the animals and Adam and Eve on the sixth day of creation (Gen. 1:29-30; 2:16-17).

Living creatures

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? This is an old riddle. All chickens hatch from eggs, and all chicken eggs are laid by hens, which are adult chickens. That’s a rule of nature that applies since the time of creation, but not on the sixth day of creation when God created chickens (and other living creatures) that didn’t hatch from eggs. God told the living creatures that He created to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen. 1:22). It’s stated specifically for marine creatures and birds (on the fifth day of creation) and by inference for land creatures (on the sixth day of creation). This implies that the creatures were mature so they could reproduce.

So the creatures that were created on the fifth and sixth days of creation were unique because they didn’t come from eggs and had no juvenile stage. Instead of developing from an egg, they began life as mature creatures so that they could be named and enjoyed by Adam and Eve on the sixth day of creation.

As God created mature plants and mature animals during the days of creation, this implies that He also created mature ecosystems. All the cycles of nature were established and in equilibrium by the end of the sixth day of creation. They didn’t have to develop from simple to complex as imagined by the uniformitarian hypothesis.

Adam and Eve

Human beings begin as a single cell called a zygote. A zygote grows into a blastocyst. A blastocyst grows into an embryo. An embryo grows into a fetus. And a fetus grows until the baby is ready to be born. These stages of human development occur within the mother’s uterus.

After birth the newborn grows to be an infant, which grows to be a toddler, which grows to be a preschooler, which grows to be preadolescent, which grows to be an adolescent, which grows to be a nature adult.

Today people are created as a zygote. At what stage of human development were Adam and Eve when they were created? On the day they were created:
– Adam was strong enough to work, because he was placed “in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15).
– Adam was old enough to understand and choose to obey or disobey a verbal instruction (Gen. 2:16-17).
– Adam understood language well enough to name the livestock, birds and wild animals (Gen. 2:19-20).
– Adam and Eve were mature enough to be married (Gen. 2:18, 20-25).
– Adam and Eve were mature enough to have children (Gen. 1:28).

But a zygote, a blastocyst, an embryo, a fetus, a newborn , an infant, and a toddler can’t do these tasks. A pre-schooler can understand and choose to obey or disobey a simple instruction, but they couldn’t take care of the Garden of Eden. An adolescent may be able to name the livestock, birds and wild animals, but they wouldn’t be mature enough to be married and care for children.

So Adam and Eve, who were created on the sixth day of creation, were unique because they had no mothers and no childhood. Instead of developing from a zygote, they began life as mature adults.

Sun, moon and stars

According to the Big Bang model, about 14 billion years ago there was a “big bang” and stars like the sun formed from the exploding gases. Then about 5 billion years ago, planets like earth formed around the stars. It is assumed that the complexity of the universe increased with time. It began with quarks and then to protons and neutrons, and then to hydrogen and helium atoms, and then stars were formed, and in the last stage of a star (supernova) it explodes and new chemical elements are formed, and eventually the solar system and earth were formed.

On the fourth day of creation, “God made two great lights—the greater light [sun] to govern the day and the lesser light [moon] to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness” (Gen. 1:16-18). This is a description of the creation of the sun, moon and stars. As is the case today, the sun provided direct and diffuse light during the day-time and the moon could provide reflected light during the night-time. So the sun and stars were already shining and visible on earth when they were created.

Like vegetation, animals and humanity were created in a mature state; the rest of the universe (sun, moon and stars) was also created in a functionally mature state. This means that the universe didn’t have to start out small in size and then grow to be very large. That didn’t happen with the vegetation. That didn’t happen with the animals. And that didn’t happen with people (Adam and Eve).

You may say, that’s impossible! Yes, under the laws of nature, divine creation is impossible. But God created the laws of nature and since the creation of the world and the universe, everything has operated according to these laws. But the creation itself is an exceptional case (like a singularity) because God used His miraculous powers during the six days of creation. Every part of the six-day creation was miraculous in some way because God creates in a supernatural way. When God creates, He doesn’t need a long time. In fact Jesus created wine and food instantaneously (see Appendix).

How did God do it? How did God create the stars and galaxies? The Bible says,
“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of His mouth …
For He spoke, and it came to be;
He commanded, and it stood firm” (Ps. 33:6, 9).
This is a poetic way of saying that by God’s command all creation came into being.

So the galaxies, stars and planets that were created on the fourth day of creation were unique because they didn’t come from a big bang (a massive expansion from a dense particle) and they didn’t go through the supposed stages of the development of stars and planets. Instead of developing from a big bang, they began life as mature galaxies, stars and planets to provide light and energy for the new vegetation, new creatures and Adam and Eve. The galaxies, stars and planets could also be used by Adam and Eve to track time with dates and seasons (Gen. 1:14). So the original galaxies, stars and planets, which were created about 6,000 years ago, were much like what we see them today.

Discussion

According to the Big Bang model, the universe is approximately 13.8 billion years old. This calculation is based on the assumption that the universe was small at the beginning and then grew to be huge. It’s also based on hypothetical inflation, hypothetical dark matter and hypothetical dark energy. But calculating the age of the universe using this model is accurate only if the assumptions built into the model are also accurate. All dates outside recorded history are inferred. So their accuracy depends on the accuracy of the assumptions used to determine them.

According to the Bible, which was inspired by the God who created the universe, the universe was enormous at the beginning and didn’t need a long time to form. The Bible says that God created the universe in six days about 6,000 years ago. This is the plain meaning of the Bible as it was intended by the authors and as it would have been understood by the Israelites. This written historical evidence trumps and invalidates the assumptions made in the Big Bang model.

This shows that a belief in uniformitarianism can lead to severe overestimates of age. The difference in this case is a factor of 230,000 which is over 5 orders of magnitude!

This also has implications in our understanding of the universe. When uniformity is used to say that we are seeing the universe as it was millions and billions of years ago we are crossing a boundary condition (the beginning of the universe) where the laws of the universe (such as General Relativity and cause and effect ) are no longer applicable. If the universe began 6,000 years ago, then calculations that give larger ages are due to the use of false assumptions in a uniformitarian model.

I know that this view isn’t generally accepted today because people usually assume that the universe was formed in accordance with known laws of physics (although there is no evidence of this). This is the assumption of uniformity (of physical laws) over long periods of time, with no allowance for a supernatural creation. Because of this assumption a straw man argument is often made, such as claiming that fossils are older than 6,000 years in age or that God created fossils in sedimentary rocks (false evidence).

The Big Bang model is non-falsifiable. It cannot be subjected to the experimental method. It thus fails to satisfy the criteria of a scientific theory. The same can be said of creation. We do not see God creating anything today, and as a theory, creation is non-falsifiable. It cannot be subjected to the experimental method. Instead both the Big Bang (and evolution) and creation are worldviews used to understand the world and the universe. So the Big Bang model and evolution model are just as “religious” as the creation model. They are creation stories for those who rule out the possibility of a divine Creator.

Conclusion

Because God created a functionally mature universe, the universe was huge at the beginning and didn’t need a long time to form. The universe and the earth were complete right from the start. From the beginning, all the components of the universe and the earth were able to fulfill the purpose for which they were created.

This brief look at Genesis shows that the Big Bang model is radically wrong. And based on the Biblical age of the universe, there is not enough time available for the supposed evolution of species. So the theory of the evolution of species is also radically wrong.

Appendix: Jesus’ miracles

Most of Jesus’ miracles while was upon earth were instantaneous. They didn’t take a long period of time. For example:
– Creation of wine from water (Jn. 2:1-10).
– Creation of bread and fish (Jn. 6:1-13).
– Curing diseases (Mt. 9:6-8).

Written, March 2019

Also see: Using history and science to investigate ancient times
The big stretch: Creating the stars and galaxies
The greatest miracle