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The Hunt for the White Whale of Anger

“A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.” (Proverbs 15:18 NIV)

אִ֣ישׁ חֵ֭מָה יְגָרֶ֣ה מָד֑וֹן וְאֶ֥רֶך אַ֝פַּ֗יִם יַשְׁקִ֥יט רִֽיב׃

Recently I completed reading Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The novel tells a story of revenge and obsession. Captain Ahab, a whaler, loses a leg to a white sperm whale. A smoldering anger begins to grow in the one-legged captain.

Captain Ahab’s anger grows into a fixation on revenge against the sea monster. As his hatred grows, so does his lack of wisdom. On his final whale-hunting trip, the driving force in his soul begins to override good judgment, putting the man, the crew, and his ship into hazardous situations.

As the captain hurls Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_miro3d'>miro3d / 123RF Stock Photo</a>his ship, the Pequod, into the perilous seas of hate, his opportunity to take vengeance finally arrives. The white whale is within Ahab’s grasp.  His desire for revenge grows deeper, ignoring every danger. In the end, the ship is lost; the crew, is lost; and Ahab loses both his quest and his life. The white whale has won

In Proverbs 15:18 King Solomon once again acknowledges the power of unharnessed anger. In Proverbs 15:1 Solomon previously addressed the power of anger and response of the person on the receiving end,  “A gentle answer turns away wrath . . . ” (15:1).  However, in verse 18 his advice for removing the harpoon out of the hands of an angry person takes a different turn.

In response to my article on Proverbs 15:1, one reader commented the advice of Solomon is unworkable. A fair question. Face it, we all have tried to cool down a heated argument with a calm response,  but the flames rose higher regardless.  

Is there something we can do to convince an angry individual to drop his sharpened missile? (more…)

Do We Need to Repent To Be Forgiven?

The question of forgiving one another has plagued me ever since I became a follower of Jesus.  I heard many pastors and Bible teachers comment on this subject, but I did not feel they were teaching the message of the biblical text.  Instead, what I was hearing was  helpful common sense advice and psychological healthy ways to look at the way we should forgive one another.

Recently a good friend of mine whom I deeply respect, challenged me on my beliefs regarding the need for repentance as a condition for forgiveness.

Where I agree on this issue with my friend is that we both are in harmony that for a person to be reconciled with God, there must be a display of contriteness or repentance to experience the eternal forgiveness of God.  This is designated “vertical forgiveness” because it takes place between man and God.

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Forgive One Another

Where my friend and I disagree is whether or not repentance is necessary when we as humans forgive one another.  If I offend another person, do I need to go to that person or have that person come to me so that I can confess my sin, state my intention to repent and ask for that person’s forgiveness?

My friend’s viewpoint is that we can forgive the other person through the forgiveness Jesus obtained for us through His death on the cross. The grace of God shown in the sacrificial death of Yeshua on the cross should so overwhelm us, that the natural outflow of our awe towards God’s love is to forgive others because God has shown His merciful forgiveness to us through His Son.

There is not always the need for repentance when there is “vertical forgiveness.”  On the basis of the atonement we have in the Messiah, we forgive one another. with or without any display of repentance. In the Sermon on the Mount, in the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:12, we read, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors (NIV).  (more…)

Why Israel Exists ‘for the Palestinians’—and the Rest of the World | Christianity Today

Why Israel Exists ‘for the Palestinians’—and the Rest of the World | Christianity Today.

I am including the final installment of the dialogue between Jew for Jesus head David Brickner and Pastor and author John Piper regarding Israel’s divine right to the land. This four-part article has been helpful to lay out the issues on the table even though many aspects of this discussion left much unsaid.  Today Piper attempts to maintain the exclusivity of God’s promise to the Jewish people and yet also hold to the position that the whole world will inherit Israel as well.  Though the Gentile world enjoys the blessings of the land of Israel during the messianic kingdom, the prophecies in Ezekiel make it clear that the land of Israel is divided among the twelve tribes of the elect nation.

Pastor John Piper

Pastor John Piper

Piper displays the confusion among Reformed theologians who try to affirm Israel as the object of God’s blessings and at the same time extend those blessings to the world while maintaing Israel as a unique chosen nation. Somewhere in the theological mix as explained by Reformed theologians, the elect status of Israel is lost in the universal blessings God promises to the world.  Brickner’s words still stand true, ” “You are taking away with one hand what you give with the other.”

This is the conclusion of a four-part discussion between Bethlehem Baptist Church pastor John Piper and Jews for Jesus executive director David Brickner on the relationship and attitudes American Christians should have toward Israel. See parts onetwo, and three. (more…)

Wondering What Happened at the Cross?

The wearing of the cross by celebrities and their imitators as seen in tattoos and jewelry has created too much of a  familiarity with the instrument upon which Jesus died.  In Pastor Rob Bell’s book Love Winshis aim in chapter five is to sift through the familiarity of the cross and get to the truth about what took place when Jesus died. With this goal in mind, I am in complete agreement.

As Bell lists the various perspectives on the cross, once again the Love Wins author gravitates to a position of uncertainty. He wants to make the results of Jesus’ death an “either/or” situation.  Once again Bell takes a giant leap from traditional Christianity and  invents as emergent church godfather Brian McLaren calls, ” a new kind of Christianity.”

The Cross Speaks of the Sacrifice Jesus Made On Our Behalf

First, the author speaks of the death of Jesus by which the Messiah paid for our sins much like the sacrifices in the Old Testament (pg. 123). He quotes from Hebrews 9:26 which claims Jesus appeared “once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

Bell compares the sacrifice of Jesus to other cultures where worshippers offered sacrifices to appease the gods or forces in order to maintain a peaceful, favorable relationship with them.  How odd!   Jesus did not die to put an end to pagan sacrifices or simply to please a whimsical, vengeful.  Yet Bell says, “Whole cultures centered around keeping the gods pleased. . . . And now the writer [of Hebrews] is announcing that those days are over because of Jesus dying on the cross” (pp.124-125).

The problem with Bell’s view of the substitutionary death of Christ is that he forgets Jesus was fulfilling and putting an end to the Jewish sacrificial system as described in the Torah books of Leviticus and Numbers. Jesus was not dying to appease the gods of the Greeks or Romans.

The Cross Signifies the Reconciliation Between God and Man

The next meaning of Jesus dying on the cross has to do with reconciliation .  In Colossians 1:20 Paul taught, ” and through Him [Jesus] to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven”. Reconciliation, according to Bell,  has to do with bringing two people together who were estranged and now they found a way to work it out and come back together in a new relationship. (pg. 125).

Here is where you have to watch the craftiness of  Pastor Bell.  He says on pg. 126 when Jesus died, He made peace “with all things.” You can bet your last dollar Bell will take those words to a place Paul had no intention for the phrase to go. The application of the reconciling work of Jesus to “all things” will be discussed further. (more…)

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