From Jim McGuiggan... Distrust & fear as interpreters

Distrust & fear as interpreters

When I was very much younger I used to wonder why legal documents had to be so complex, specific and carefully defined. I'm thinking of tax returns, property sales and purchases, business ventures and such. I now realise that it's because life itself is complex so it isn't a sinister plot to confuse us though there are wise people who assure us that a vast amount of material could be simplified to a profound degree and in the twinkle of an eye life would be easier in some ways for millions.

But life's richness and complexity is not the only reason we have the "fine print". We have fine print because people can be shrewd and manipulative. Those who design tax-returns take into account not only the honest people but the dishonest. Words are multiplied and defined and the definitions are defined, antecedents are tediously pointed out because whether we like it or not, we simply can't trust everyone. ("Oh, I didn't know that meant…so I didn't…" Yeah, right!)

I don't know if it's true or not but I know it's true that I read that the shortest will on record is three words: All to mother. (I'm also sure a good lawyer could find a point of vagueness in that.) I do know some people, up close and personal, who say "yes" or "no" and you can depend on that—and some of them are non-Christians. Jesus said (John 14:2), "If it were not so I would have told you." Just like that; calm as you like and fully expecting them to take his word for it (but see 14:11).

Much of the difficulty in our communicating with each other is not about the right words; it's about a lack of trust. We fear each other, we think the others are out to get us or cheat us or humiliate us so we make sure that every eventuality is covered by the right formula of words. People of character and openness are dragged into the "word business" though they need no legal documents or special oaths to get them to keep their words (believers or non-believers they take the words of Jesus seriously—see Matthew 5:33-37).

Distrust and fear deafen and blind us. Even innocent things/people are dragged into the quagmire. A young girl rejects society's dishonour and sleaze and wears a full-faced veil to indicate this. She wishes society was better and she's living her life in a morally upright way to help make it better. Her intentions are upright but in a climate of fear and distrust the visible marker of her intentions becomes a hindrance to the very thing she would like to promote. Because of societal wickedness a girl's good is evil spoken of. A wise and caring man though he fully accepts the girl's fineness of character makes the point that a full-faced veil in a society shaped as this one is sends the wrong signals and makes community cohesion more difficult. His wisdom and good judgement is evil spoken of. So two people—a veiled girl and a wise statesman—get it in the neck for doing the "wrong" thing and words threatening violence and chaos begin to fly.

Extremists thrive on this—each extreme making its own point; and they're able to promote fear and distrust even in moderate people and so the infection spreads. A girl's upright behaviour gets her in trouble—trouble she wouldn't experience if extremists didn't flourish. So the very people who say they are standing for the girl are placing her freedom to protest in jeopardy.
The problems humans face lie beyond the ability of courts and discussion and social programmes—though we should engage in them. We know this for sure: until society in general makes it clear in all the ways open to it that extremism will not be nurtured or approved decent and committed girls and wise statesmen will be accused of being the problem.

The "Paying-a-debt Theory" by Kyle Butt, M.A.


The "Paying-a-debt Theory"

by  Kyle Butt, M.A.

It never ceases to amaze me that, even though our society “talks religion” on a regular basis, the one place we, as a society, neglect to go for real answers is the only place that has the answers—the Bible. On the cover of the April 12, 2004 edition of Time magazine, an artist’s depiction of Jesus grabs the readers attention and directs the reader to the question written in a large font across the right side of the cover: “Why Did Jesus Have to Die?” The lengthy six-page spread discussing the question is filled with quotes from theologians, ministers, and preachers, with an occasional Bible verse gratuitously inserted to give the article a hint of “religious authenticity.”
The six different authors of the article focused on two primary “theories” as to why Jesus died on the cross. One theory they attributed to Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1098. This theory they called the “paying-a-debt theory,” in which Christ’s death on the cross paid a debt for sinners that those sinners had no way to pay. This idea they termed “substitutionary atonement.” The idea pitted against the “paying-a-debt theory” was the theory of exemplary atonement. According to the idea of exemplary atonement, Jesus came to show humans an example to follow, and His death was not necessarily accomplished to pay some kind of debt.
“Experts” for both theories were interviewed. John Dominic Crossan, in his discussion of the theory of substitutionary atonement, called this idea “the most unfortunately successful idea in the history of Christian thought.” His reasoning for that was: “If I can persuade you that there’s a punishing God and that you deserve to be punished but I have some sort of way out for you, then that’s a very attractive theology” (as quoted in Chu, et al., 2004, 163[15]:60). Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention Southern Seminary, spoke against the idea that Jesus’ sacrifice was purely for example, with no payment of debt attached.
The most disturbing aspect of the article was the fact that the Bible—the only resource that could actually answer the question at hand—was given scant attention. In the six pages of writing, one short verse from Isaiah was quoted, one verse from the Psalms, a brief six-line discussion about Paul’s letter to the Romans, a single paragraph quoting a verse from Hebrews, one from Mark, one verse from 1 Peter, and one verse from Colossians. The verses quoted from Hebrews (9:12) and Mark (10:45) explained that Christ was ransomed for many, and that with His own blood He attained their eternal redemption.
Not only were the Bible verses in the article few and far between, they were put on par with the quotes from the “experts” and given little, if any, authoritative value. They were presented, not as the Word of God, but simply as another voice to be heard in the discussion. Furthermore, Anselm was credited with “developing” the “theory” of atonement—an idea that the biblical writers had “developed” through inspiration almost a thousand years before Anselm.
The real question of the article should have been: “According to the Bible, why did Jesus die on the cross?” A complete catalog of every verse pertaining to this question is not feasible in this brief article. But a few of the more direct statements make it clear that the Bible clearly depicts Jesus’ death on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for sinners who could not pay their own debt. Hebrews 9:22 explains that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission” of sins. Later in the chapter, the Hebrews writer remarked that “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many” (9:28). The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for out peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed…. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When you make His soul an offering for sin” (53:4-6,10).
John wrote that Jesus is “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). The word propitiation means a satisfactory sacrifice or a sacrifice of appeasement. In a discussion with the elders from the church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul exhorted the leaders “to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). The verse in Hebrews referred to in the article sums up the idea of atonement quite well: “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place, once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (9:12).
It is true that several verses in the Bible explain that Jesus’ death was also accomplished to provide an example of how to behave when persecuted (1 Peter 2:21-25). It is not true, however, that this example detracts in anyway from the fact that Jesus was the satisfactory sacrifice Who paid the debt of sins and was offered as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. Anselm did not develop the “theory” of atonement in 1098. The fact of atonement was in God’s mind even before time began (1 Peter 1:18-20), and eventually was accomplished through the death and resurrection of Christ. The article in Time magazine shows a fundamental problem with religion in America. Our society has stopped going to the Bible for definitive answers, and looks to the “experts” to answer questions that can only be answered correctly via the Bible. Until we, as a people, decide to go back to the Word of God for our answers, we will continue to meander aimlessly in philosophical and religious mire. We must adopt the attitude recorded by the psalmist in regard to God’s Word: “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts” (119:97-100).


Chu, Jeff, et al. (2004), “Why Did Jesus Die?”, Time, 163[15]:54-61, April 12.

From Mark Copeland... Even His Brothers Did Not Believe (John 7:1-9)

                          "THE GOSPEL OF JOHN"

               Even His Brothers Did Not Believe (7:1-9)


1. In a gospel designed to create faith in Jesus, John tells of those
   who lacked faith...
   a. Those in His own nation - Jn 1:11
   b. Those among His disciples - Jn 6:66

2. For a time, even His own brothers (named in Mt 13:55) did not
   a. As recorded in Jn 7:5
   b. As implied in Mk 3:21
   c. As foretold in Ps 69:8
   -- Though they eventually came to believe in Jesus - Ac 1:14

3. Why did Jesus' brothers not believe in Him from the very
   a. Had they not seen the miracles?
   b. Did they not know Him as well as anyone?

[Reasons why they did not believe at first, and the reason they came to
believe at last, can provide some valuable lessons for us today...]


      1. Perhaps they were blinded by familiarity
         a. As is often said, "Familiarity breeds contempt"
         b. This hindered many who knew Jesus from childhood - Mt 13:
         c. A problem common among prophets - Mt 13:57; Jn 4:44
      2. Perhaps they were blinded by envy
         a. Large crowds had been following Jesus everywhere
         b. Making it difficult for His family to speak to Him at times
            - Mt 12:46-47
         c. Jealousy can be a powerful hindrance to seeing things
      3. Perhaps they were blinded by preconceptions
         a. Many Jews had wrong conceptions concerning the kingdom - cf.
            Jn 6:15
         b. His brothers had their ideas as to what He should do - Jn 7:
         c. It is easy to reject someone if they do not live up to your
      -- For one reason or another, Jesus' brothers did not believe in

      1. Do we let familiarity blind us to the truth?
         a. Do we reject what a close friend or relative may tell us?
         b. Especially since they have their own faults of which we are
            well aware?
         -- Truth can be communicated by imperfect messengers - cf. Ph
      2. Do we let envy get in the way of truth?
         a. Are we jealous that we might be wrong and others may be
         b. Do we think that by admitting others are right, it somehow
            makes them better?
         -- Truth (and salvation!) is too precious to let envy or
            jealousy keep us from it
      3. Do we let preconceived notions obstruct a clear evaluation of
         the truth?
         a. Refusing to reexamine our cherished beliefs?
         b. Rejecting a view or teaching simply because we have never
            heard it before?
         -- Truth requires a willingness to hear, and has nothing to
            fear from investigation - Ac 17:11

[Don't discount the potential impact of familiarity, envy, or
preconceptions.  Such blinded the brothers of Jesus so that even His
miracles did not convince them!  What finally prompted them to believe
is worthy of note...]


      1. As noted previously, Jesus' brothers eventually became
         a. They were with the apostles after the Ascension - Ac 1:12-14
         b. James, the Lord's brother, became a key figure in the church
            at Jerusalem - Ac 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; Ga 2:9
         c. James and Judas wrote their respective epistles - Jm 1:1;
            Jude 1
         d. According to secular history, James was martyred for his
      2. What changed them?  The resurrection of Jesus from the dead!
         a. Jesus appeared to James - 1Co 15:7
         b. The others may have seen Him on other occasions - cf. 1Co 15:6
      3. The significance of Jesus' resurrection
         a. Miracles can be faked
         b. Rising from the dead cannot!
      -- The resurrection shattered any blinders of familiarity, envy,

      1. It is understandable that one might find the gospel story
         a. A man born of a virgin?
         b. A man who was the Son of God?
         c. A man who supposedly...
            1) Walked on water?
            2) Calmed the seas?
            3) Fed thousands with five loaves and two fish?
            4) Healed the sick and lame, gave sight to the blind, raised
               the dead?
            5) Was Himself raised from the dead?
      2. Yet there is a good reason to believe the incredible story!
         a. That is, the conversion of those like Jesus' brothers
            1) Who at first did not believe (for whatever reason)
            2) Who were persuaded by overwhelming empirical evidence
               - cf. Ac 1:3; 10:39-41
            3) Who never recanted their testimony, despite hardship and
         b. What else can explain the transformation of Jesus' brothers?
            1) It was the same thing that transformed the disciples of
            2) "If the disciples were totally disappointed and on the
               verge of desperate flight because of the very real reason
               of the crucifixion, it took another very real reason in
               order to transform them from a band of disheartened and
               dejected Jews into the most self-confident missionary
               society in world history." - Pinchas Lapide, former
               Chairman of the Applied Linguistics Department at
               Israel's Bar-Iland University (TIME, May 7, 1979)
            3) This Orthodox Jewish scholar concluded that a bodily
               resurrection could possibly have been that reason!
      -- The conversion of His brothers and others who first doubted
         should strengthen our faith in Jesus!


1. The unbelief of Jesus' brothers serves as a warning...
   a. How easily one can be blinded by such things as familiarity, envy,
      and preconceptions
   b. How carefully we must give others a fair hearing

2. The unbelief of Jesus' brothers also serves as a blessing...
   a. Their eventual conversion implies overwhelming evidence of Jesus'
   b. Since we believe in Jesus through the words of such men, the
      foundation of our faith is stronger

With the help of their own example, we can heed the exhortation given by
one of Jesus' brothers:

   praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God,
   looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."
                                                         (Jude 20-21)

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

Acts 1:14 (NKJV)
14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

From Gary... Bible Reading October 2

Bible Reading  

October 2

The World English Bible

Oct. 2
Psalms 125-127

Psa 125:1 Those who trust in Yahweh are as Mount Zion, which can't be moved, but remains forever.
Psa 125:2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so Yahweh surrounds his people from this time forth and forevermore.
Psa 125:3 For the scepter of wickedness won't remain over the allotment of the righteous; so that the righteous won't use their hands to do evil.
Psa 125:4 Do good, Yahweh, to those who are good, to those who are upright in their hearts.
Psa 125:5 But as for those who turn aside to their crooked ways, Yahweh will lead them away with the workers of iniquity. Peace be on Israel.
Psa 126:1 When Yahweh brought back those who returned to Zion, we were like those who dream.
Psa 126:2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, "Yahweh has done great things for them."
Psa 126:3 Yahweh has done great things for us, and we are glad.
Psa 126:4 Restore our fortunes again, Yahweh, like the streams in the Negev.
Psa 126:5 Those who sow in tears will reap in joy.
Psa 126:6 He who goes out weeping, carrying seed for sowing, will certainly come again with joy, carrying his sheaves.
Psa 127:1 Unless Yahweh builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Unless Yahweh watches over the city, the watchman guards it in vain.
Psa 127:2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to stay up late, eating the bread of toil; for he gives sleep to his loved ones.
Psa 127:3 Behold, children are a heritage of Yahweh. The fruit of the womb is his reward.
Psa 127:4 As arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are the children of youth.
Psa 127:5 Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them. They won't be disappointed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.

Oct. 2
2 Corinthians 12

2Co 12:1 It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. For I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
2Co 12:2 I know a man in Christ, fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I don't know, or whether out of the body, I don't know; God knows), such a one caught up into the third heaven.
2Co 12:3 I know such a man (whether in the body, or outside of the body, I don't know; God knows),
2Co 12:4 how he was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
2Co 12:5 On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in my weaknesses.
2Co 12:6 For if I would desire to boast, I will not be foolish; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, so that no man may think more of me than that which he sees in me, or hears from me.
2Co 12:7 By reason of the exceeding greatness of the revelations, that I should not be exalted excessively, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, that I should not be exalted excessively.
2Co 12:8 Concerning this thing, I begged the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
2Co 12:9 He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me.
2Co 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong.
2Co 12:11 I have become foolish in boasting. You compelled me, for I ought to have been commended by you, for in nothing was I inferior to the very best apostles, though I am nothing.
2Co 12:12 Truly the signs of an apostle were worked among you in all patience, in signs and wonders and mighty works.
2Co 12:13 For what is there in which you were made inferior to the rest of the assemblies, unless it is that I myself was not a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong.
2Co 12:14 Behold, this is the third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I seek not your possessions, but you. For the children ought not to save up for the parents, but the parents for the children.
2Co 12:15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more abundantly, am I loved the less?
2Co 12:16 But be it so, I did not myself burden you. But, being crafty, I caught you with deception.
2Co 12:17 Did I take advantage of you by anyone of them whom I have sent to you?
2Co 12:18 I exhorted Titus, and I sent the brother with him. Did Titus take any advantage of you? Didn't we walk in the same spirit? Didn't we walk in the same steps?
2Co 12:19 Again, do you think that we are excusing ourselves to you? In the sight of God we speak in Christ. But all things, beloved, are for your edifying.
2Co 12:20 For I am afraid that by any means, when I come, I might find you not the way I want to, and that I might be found by you as you don't desire; that by any means there would be strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, whisperings, proud thoughts, riots;
2Co 12:21 that again when I come my God would humble me before you, and I would mourn for many of those who have sinned before now, and not repented of the uncleanness and sexual immorality and lustfulness which they committed.

From Gary... What happens if you honestly look in the mirror, America?

This is a picture that I took in Dade City, Florida, quite some time ago. In retrospect, I wish I had taken a larger one that didn't emphasize the sign quite so much, but, what is done is done.  After considering the poor design and grammar of the message, it can be summarized as follows: America IS A HYPOCRITE!!!  Name calling is an easy thing to do (and quite often very inappropriate), but what if the situation warrants it?  Jesus did it. Read the following...

Matthew 23:13-36 NASB
(13)  "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
(14)  ["Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.]
(15)  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
(16)  "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.'
(17)  "You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold?
(18)  "And, 'Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.'
(19)  "You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering?
(20)  "Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it.
(21)  "And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it.
(22)  "And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.
(23)  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.
(24)  "You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
(25)  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.
(26)  "You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
(27)  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.
(28)  "So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
(29)  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous,
(30)  and say, 'If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.'
(31)  "So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.
(32)  "Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers.
(33)  "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?
(34)  "Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city,
(35)  so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.
(36)  "Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Jesus calls the Scribes and Pharisees "hypocrites" seven times in sixteen short verses. To my sensibilities, it seems a bit harsh; but then these were the religious leaders of the day and demanded greater scrutiny and accountability.  Frankly, no one likes to be referred to in this manner, but if its justified, then IT IS APPROPRIATE!!!!  Now, the picture at the top cites only one instance of supposed HYPOCRISY, but would it really be hard for us to list others? For example, we claim to be a free nation, but there has been a constant pattern of removing our freedoms for the last several decades. Even our elected officials ignore the constitution that our nation was founded on and consistently lead us on a path towards tyranny.  Our representatives, taken as a collective body, have forsaken the faithful representation of their constituents and are irrevocably corrupt. Our nation is rotting from the inside out and the average person (like myself) feels that there is not one thing we can do to change things.  I know that I am wrong to feel this way, but it is what it is.  However, I do intellectually know that God can change things and I have an obligation to seek HIS intervention through the medium of prayer.

Father in heaven, purify this nation. Remove the rampant sin that corrupts us and focus our minds, our hearts and lives to do your will and not our own!!!  Help us to honestly face our situation, both personally and collectively- and do what we can to effect change.  Help us to be as straightforward as Jesus and honestly call Sin, Sin!!! For we pray through Jesus; AMEN!!!