Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Deceiver

Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, but what does that mean? Does Satan go around eating people like a lion would? In Ephesians chapter 6, Paul talks about the shield of faith protecting us from the “Flaming arrows of the evil one.” What exactly are the flaming arrows, and what does the Bible mean when it says that Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion?” It seems that these things point to his capabilities. For instance, what permission is Satan granted? What kind of power does Satan have? God alone is all-powerful, and so since He is all-powerful, He decides where and how others can be an influence and what they can manipulate.
A popular name for Satan in the Greek New Testament is, διάβολος (diabolos), which means, “One who engages in slander—‘slanderer.’”[1] Further, “[διάβολος is] a false accuser, [a name] used for the devil.[2] In other words, Satan is a liar; a deceiver. This fits very well with Jesus’ description of him. Look at how He describes Satan to His earthly opposition after they tell Jesus that they are children of Abraham:

“Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does.”
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”[3]

This intense passage indicates (among other things) that Satan 1) is a liar; 2) is the father of lies; and 3) that his first language is lying. He is fundamentally the opposite of Jesus. Jesus emphasizes that He, Himself is the truth, but that there is no truth in Satan. This passage even goes back to remind the readers of the beginning, with Adam and Eve. It states that, “He was a murderer from the beginning” but how, exactly, was he a murderer? Wasn’t it through deception? Through lying? Was it he who actually carried out the task of murdering? It seems that Satan’s most fundamental characteristic is deception. Not only that, but also that he is limited in power to do only such.
For opposing arguments’ sake, consider the book of Job. Satan was asked by God what he was up to. He said that he was roaming around throughout the whole earth. (It seems like a very strong agreement with 1 Peter 5:8 above). God mentions His servant Job, that there is no one on earth like him, and so Satan challenges God. God then gives Satan a certain amount of authority. We can see that Satan then had the means to manipulate the weather (Job 1:19) among some other things, but this was only after a special permission was granted to Satan. There really is nothing like this mentioned elsewhere in the Bible, so it appears that this was a very special case with Satan receiving specific permission.
When bad things happen, it seems that we always want to blame it on Satan. But is that really the case? We never want to think that God is punishing us, because "God is love…” We forget that God is also righteous, just, and that He hates sin. But if God can bring good out of any situation (Romans 8:28), then who should we ultimately give credit to? James chapter 1 tells us to consider it a joyous occasion when we face various trials. Doesn’t that sound contrary to everything in our being? “Yay! I have a sore throat…” Yay! I’m not going to be able to pay my bills this month.” The fact is, the ancients considered many of these trials as punishment from God. Hebrews 12 is clear on this. God wants us to ultimately become like His Son (Romans 8:29). Being in the crucible will test our faith… Sometimes, it will temper our faith. This is why we are to consider it pure joy when we fall into various trials. It seems today however, that we give way too much credit to Satan. Don't get me wrong, God never tempts us, but He definitely tests our faith (James 1) but He also punishes us. After a test of faith, both we and He knows the substance of our faith.
These things should cause us to be keenly aware of the power of deception. Look not only at the deception of Adam and Eve, but consider also what deception has destroyed in your own life. I have been the victim several times because of deception. People lied to me and I got the raw end of the deal. Consider how many “sob stories” you have heard from someone asking for money. Do you think these stories find their genesis in Christ or in Satan? Not that all sad stories from those asking for money are fake, but deceit and lies absolutely echo from the halls of Hell.
Pilot Black Snake,
captured and released in southern Pennsylvania.
What is it that causes sin? We can say evil, but what does that really mean? Evil is in our hearts, but through lies don’t we bring evil to fruition? It does seem to be the case. Lies then, must be the vehicle for evil. It is not quite true that evil is synonymous with lying, but it is definitely close.
There is also a fundamental difference between sin and evil. They are not the same. “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”[4] From this formula, we can clearly see that lying is the vehicle for sin from evil that is in our hearts.
This information should show us that Satan only has the power to lie, unless, in a special case granted by God, having further authority. Doesn’t this limit His authority in your life knowing that his power is generally limited? It seems that his name is deeply characteristic of himself, and that this is his usual method on seeking whom he may devour. Therefore, if we are alert and awake to this fact, we will be more aware to “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places…”[5] What are those spiritual forces of evil? In what way do we wrestle with them? It seems that we wrestle against lies… which are the things that people claim are the truth.
A little later on in Ephesians chapter six, Paul mentions the “flaming arrows of the evil one.” What are those? Has anyone ever seen a flaming arrow coming at them? These are clearly figurative, because otherwise, Satan would actually use them if he could, judging from a reading of the first couple chapters in the book of Job. My hope is that Satan, having the power to deceive, is all clearly understood.The only tool in his toolbox is deception.
In Mark chapter three, the enemies of Jesus tried to accuse Him of being possessed by Satan, because they could not understand where His power and authority came from: “And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”[6] In other words, they were saying that by Satan, He is driving out demons. They were giving credit to Satan, much like we do today. They had assumed that Satan were able to do something other than deceive, yet they were the ones deceived. As if he had other tools in his toolbox. Rather interesting, wouldn’t you say?
This would all mean a lot of different things for us, such as that when we lie, we are being like Satan. The truth is only in Jesus. Therefore, when we tell the truth, we are becoming more like Jesus… the way, the truth and the life. It would also mean that Satan generally has limited power, and it seems that it would bring clarity on how he operates. If Satan can only lie, then it would make sense of the flaming arrows and the prowling lion. Also this helps us understand the power of deception, and also the emphasis in the Bible of Jesus being the truth, and that only truth comes from Him.

Now it seems that this leaves us with one final question… Am I being deceived about Satan’s power?

 Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 433. Print.
[2] Zodhiates, Spiros. The complete word study dictionary: New Testament 2000 : n. pag. Print.
[3] The Holy Bible: New International Version. John 8:39-47. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984. Print. Emphasis mine.
[4] The Holy Bible: New International Version. James 1:14-15.. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984.
[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Ephesians 6:11-12. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016. Print. Emphasis mine.
[6] The Holy Bible: New International Version. Mark 3:22. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984. Print.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Will #shoutyourabortion set you free?

If you have had an abortion, then you are a murderer. The Good News though, is that you can be set free.

 Do you want to be set free?

The Bible talks about all kinds of sin (moral failure). One of them is murder. There are two things we need to immediately discuss now that the cat is out of the bag. One is that there is a difference between sins (moral failures against God) and sinners (one who has failed morally against God). Another thing is that I know people will be arguing about whether or not the fetus is actually a human person, which this will define whether or not an abortion is actually murder, but I have already addressed this topic here.
I have also discussed the topic before about the difference between the definitions of sin and sinner, but not to the point to where it can be understood very practically. I think the problem came about when someone saw James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” and thought, “This must mean that God sees all sin as the same.”
Well, He does and he doesn’t. God does not logically see that a little girl stealing a piece of candy from the candy store the same way He sees a pedophile. There are deeper levels of sin. Jesus even explains in John 19:11 when He says, “He who delivered me over to you has the greater sin” (emphasis mine).
With this understanding, I want to focus on the other side to this issue, which is that we are all sinners. It is true that if you have had an abortion, then you are a murderer. Just as if you have ever told a lie that makes you a liar (Revelation 21:8). But the thing is, your sins can be covered with the blood of Christ, which will make you clean.You will be free from the wrath of God (Romans 2:5).
1 John 1:5-10 says, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (underline mine).
I do not want to say that those who have or perform abortions are the scum of the earth. Because in reality, we all are the scum of the earth. The Bible says that our righteousness is as filthy rags: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isaiah 64:6).
The Bible is nondiscriminatory when it comes to sinners. It says that we all fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). Not one of us can make it by what good things we do (Ephesians 2:8-9). So with this being said, whether you have had an abortion or have a past that haunts your dreams, know that it is only through Jesus which peace comes.
If you do not think that abortion is wrong, the Bible also says something about this, which is that your conscience is seared (1 Timothy 4:2). In other words, your moral compass is broken. You do not know your right from your left (Jonah 4:11). But there is an easy fix for this. The Bible will recalibrate your moral compass. It will set you back on track. Saturate yourself in it and see what happens. It is God’s way to communicate to people. He loves you and wants you to know that He loves you. Read His love letter to you and know that your sins are forgiven through Christ alone.

 “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” –Romans 5:8

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” –Romans 6:23

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved” –Romans 10:9

If you are a Christian and you have had an abortion, the following verse is written to Christians. When you confess your sins to Him, whether you are just now coming to know Him or you have known Him for a long time, know that you are cleansed from your sins. Trust in the promise, not in your feelings. You are forgiven and made clean by the blood of the Lamb.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us for our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” –1 John 1:9

Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Value of Human Life

I recently led a discussion on the nature of the soul and the mind/body problem. In researching for this I remember seeing an article on flashes of light at the moment of fertilization of an egg by a sperm.

Please check out this very short video clip:

There is a correlation with zinc and light at the moment of fertilization which researchers are calling a "zinc firework," which is quite literally a flash of light. I think this is extraordinary for several reasons.

A negative I took of a board that I fractal burned. © NH 2019.
The Bible describes God as light.

In 1 John 1:5-7, the Bible says, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” It is interesting how John describes the Almighty in this passage. There is such a vivid contrast between light and darkness in this picture that the author paints. He is telling us that God is not physical, but Spirit. In any case, we also know that God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in Spirit and truth from John chapter 4.

The Bible describes Jesus as light.

Also in John’s gospel, we find an interesting description of Jesus as well: “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (John 1:4-9).
This passage is saying that Jesus was light, and that this light was the light of all mankind. Look again at the last sentence in this passage; “The true light that gives light to everyone…” Jesus is the true light, and He gives light to everyone! Could this light be describing a soul? If the lack of a soul means death, which is how several theologians would define death, when a soul leaves a body, then a soul entering a body would seem to mean life, which would make a lot of sense in this passage in John.

The Shroud of Turin has an image burned into its fabric.

If the Shroud of Turin is for real, which many people believe that it is (and honestly they have every reason to believe such), then there is a photographic negative which burned into the fabric, which seems that this would have been caused by something dealing with light. If this is where the Spirit re-entered the body of Jesus Christ, then this would all make perfect sense. Do you see the significance of both cases of this flash of light? If there is a flash of light that happens when an egg is fertilized, why would it be out of the question that there was a flash of light when Jesus was resurrected? When He re-entered into the lifeless body?

The implications of this are enormous.

First of all, if a soul/spirit enters a human being at the moment of conception (the reason for the flash of light is what I am arguing), then it seems that abortion is out of the question. Do you really want to be the one responsible for destroying life? NY just went completely numb in the heart (and brain) because they now allow abortion up to birth. Wouldn’t a soul in a body mean that this is equal to personhood? How do we define personhood/person? How do we know that one has personhood? It seems that this is to what it all boils down. We will keep it simple, yet not out of the question with consciousness. A person is definitely a person of they are conscious. But what does that look like? Is a person in a coma conscious? Well, if they are, then it seems we better not pull the plug too early.
How about someone with special needs? I had a cousin who had cerebral palsy all of my life. As a child, I didn’t understand what was going on with her. She was probably about 10 years older than me. She had no reasoning, and one had no way of knowing how she handled morality and immorality. She could not function at all, according to memory, and she lived in a special home all of her life, up until death. Was she conscious? Did she have a soul? Was she a person? I believe, yes, without a doubt. This flash of light seems to be correlated with the soul entering into an entity, which is ultimate personhood. In other words, the standard of personhood is having a human soul.
I think that in our day and age, we are letting go of the idea that life is very precious. There are countries now who will help you die if you want to, and abortion plagues the face of our planet. Shouldn’t one of the most extreme goals in life be to live? Yet we are finding so many excuses to kill people off. Those who are elderly get to decide when they die now. What happened to letting God be God? Who knows if the sickness that someone is going through will change and they will be healed!? It seems that pain is a part of being human and that the human experience cannot be fully completed if one ends their life early or if they do not even get a start at life.
I say this now while not in pain, but I do think that it is fascinating that there is a threshold of pain. The pain can only get so bad before our bodies shut off. It is not like when we are in pain that the pain escalates and we are under an amount of pain never reached before in the history of human beings. Our bodies have protective measures that will deal with things we cannot handle. Much like extreme pain. In any event, while we are conscious as human beings, from fertilization to when our soul leaves our body,
We don’t consider life as something precious today because people are told that they come from monkeys, which ultimately came from inorganic matter… that their existence ultimately came from chance. With this idea bleeding into other worldviews, we become desensitized as people who once saw life as something precious. Now, it seems that it doesn’t sting as much when we hear of an actor committing suicide. A mass shooting has enormous shock value for those not involved in any way, but what does it carry beyond that? Do we really contemplate these things enough? What about abortion? Do we really want to be responsible for murdering babies, of all people? What in the world happened to our sensibility? What happened to our value of life and seeing it as precious? The Bible says that we should go forth and multiply, I think that the reason for that is because life is precious. Think of the odds that are required for life to even exist on planet earth. Our environment on earth is so finely tuned that even the tiniest change would render all life on earth as lost.
Life is precious. Even Buddhists recognize this. They feel bad when they kill mosquitoes that are sucking their blood. I do not think that we need to feel bad about this, because God made us rulers over all animals as human beings (Genesis 1:26-27). Human life is intrinsically valuable, and we are missing it. We are not afraid to kill human babies, but anytime someone kills a dog, look out! I have a friend who I am not very close with whose wife was bit by a dog. Not like a small bite, but it was pretty serious. Not only did the owners of the dog let it live, but it was not even punished. How does a dog know that it is doing something wrong? Do dogs have morals or are they trained to do what we tell them to do by our morals? What if a trained dog decides to be a dog one day and bite someone in the face? Why in the world would we put up with something like this? It seems that the dog should be put down, however you call it, because what if it happened again? What if it went even further in its destruction? What if it was your wife that was next? Or your small child? This article values human life over all other life on earth. The reason for this is because human life is more valuable. Even more valuable than an injury to a human by a nonhuman.   
© Nace Howell 2019.
Take a quick look at Exodus 21:28-32: “If a bull gores a man or woman to death, the bull is to be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull is to be stoned and its owner also is to be put to death. However, if payment is demanded, the owner may redeem his life by the payment of whatever is demanded. This law also applies if the bull gores a son or daughter. If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull is to be stoned to death” (Emphasis mine).
It is clear from this reading that human life is held infinitely higher in value than animal life. The reason for this is because animal life is not intrinsically valuable. Why is the owner to be put to death if the bull has had a habit of goring? Because the owner no longer values human life as he should and this behavior does not work in society! Imagine if everyone who had bulls with a habit of goring people to death. Bulls or any living thing under the rule of man is not the priority.
Sure, we can dumb it down to a case by case basis, but an animal that bites a human should seriously be considered dangerous against humans, no matter what the event.  The problem in all of this is that people have dramatically reduced their value of human life. It is time that we take this value up again and see human life as extremely precious. Men, protect your wives and children. Everyone should protect those who are precious to your fellow human.
Does it yet seem that human life is the highest priority that we have while living on earth? I hope so.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” –John 13:34-35

Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus