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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Sin of Anger

Everyone struggles with virtues to conquer the vices. What does the Bible say about anger? And what are some ways that we can overcome it?

There is a type of Holy Anger that our Lord Jesus demonstrated when he overturned the table in the temple, but that isn’t what we are talking about today.

The Bible has some strong words against anger:
Ephesians 4:26-27 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.

Ephesians 4:30-32 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Ephesians 6:4 And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

I would say that a definition of anger would be a disordered desire of revenge. We have seen what St. Paul tells us about it, but also look what Jesus says in
Matthew 5:22 But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire.

Some of the best advice I have heard is from a book called "The Sinners Guide, written by The Venerable Louis of Granada. In summery he says this:
When this furious enemy assails you, let the following considerations help you to overcome its movements:

  • Consider first the even beasts live at peace with their kind. Elephants to not war upon one another; sheep live peaceably in one fold...Yes even the infernal spirits, the first authors of all discord, are united in a common purpose - the perversion of mankind. Man, alone for whom peace is most fitting, lives at enmity with his fellow men and indulges in implacable hatred. All animals are born with weapons for combat. The bull has horns; the bird has a beak and claws...But man, destined to live at peace with his fellow creatures, comes into the world naked and unarmed. Reflect, then, how contrary to your rightful nature it is to seek to be revenged upon one of your kind, to return evil for evil, particularly by making use of weapons which nature has denied you.

  • In the second place, a thirst for vengeance is a vice which befits only savage beasts. You misrepresent your origin, you disgrace your descent, when you indulge in ungovernable rage, worthy only of a wild animal. Instead of calming his fierce rage by the power of reason, that noble gift which he shares with the angels, he abandons himself to the blind impulse or passions which he possesses in common with the brutes.

  • If someone upsets you, consider how much more God has borne from you and how much he has endured for you. Were you not His enemy when He shed the last drop of His blood for you? See also His patience with our daily offenses against Him, and with what mercy and tenderness He receives you when you return to Him.

  • If anger urges that your enemy doesn’t deserve forgiveness, ask yourself how far have you merited God’s pardon. Will you have God exercise only mercy toward you, when you pursue your neighbor with absolute hatred? Remember that the pardon which man has not merited for himself. Christ has superabundantly merited for him. For the love of Him, therefore, forgive all who have offended you.

Moreover, as long as hatred predominates in your heart you can make no offering which will be acceptable to God, for he said:
Matthew 5:23-24 So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. St. Gregory said (Moral. 21:16) "We gain no merit from good works is we have not learned to endure injuries with patience.
The Apostles says: Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
If you overcome your passion, you gain a more glorious victory than he who conquers a city. Our noblest triumph is won by subduing ourselves, by subjecting our passions to the empire of reason.

The most efficacious remedy against this vice is to pluck from your heart disordered love of self and of everything that pertains to you. Otherwise the slightest word of action directed against you or your interests will move you to anger.

Never act until your anger subsided, or until you have once or twice repeated the Our Father or some other prayer.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Abraham's Faith

Before I begin, I need to give credit to Jeff Cavins for showing me the Abraham counting stars idea, and Bob Salmon for showing me the split / Israel idea. - Thank you both.

Chapter 15 of Genesis really reveals the great faith of Abraham, and the great promise of God.

God tells Abraham that he will be rewarded. Abraham says that any gift that God would give him would end up being the gift of his slave because Abraham had no children.

God says that Abraham will have a child, and that this child would be the heir of all the blessings that God would give, and not only just one child but many descendants, to prove it God says this
Genesis 15:5 And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be."
6 Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Now at this point everyone imagines Abraham walking outside and pointing up at the stars and beginning, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5....counting the stars. But there is much more going on here. Later on in the conversation with God the text it became dark. This is suggesting that when God says
"Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be."

This was happening during the day time. So Abraham would not have seen any stars, yet he still believed God. FOR THIS REASON
6 Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

He Had great faith, because he knew that the stars were there, but he just couldn't see them.
6 Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.

God's next promise to Abraham is the land that he is living on which currently doesn't belong to him, yet God promises it to him.
Genesis 15 continues
7 ¶ And He said to him, "I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it."
8 And he said, "O Lord God, how may I know that I shall possess it?"
9 So He said to him, "Bring Me a three year old heifer, and a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon."
10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, and laid each half opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds.

Now this to us is a very strange command, the cutting of animals in half.
But here is what it means. When two different peoples of that time and place were making a covenant they would take animals, cut them in half and walk in between them.
This symbolized that if they ever broke their end of a deal that "may they be cut in half like these animals"

And we are going to see God himself make this covenant.
12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him.
13 And God said to Abram, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.
14 "But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve; and afterward they will come out with many possessions.
15 "And as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age.
16 "Then in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete."
17 And it came about when the sun had set, that it was very dark, and behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a flaming torch which passed between these pieces.
18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your descendants I have given this land.

Something that is significant here is that about a thousand years later Abraham's descendants would break their end of the covenant during the reign of Rehoboam and Israel was then split in two. The north was called Israel and the south was called Judah.
Not only were they split in half but they each eventually lost their land. The land of course represents heaven, and when we break our covenant with him, we loose our gift of the land there as well.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Can We Loose Our Salvation?

Have you ever been talking with a Bible Christian and the topic of loosing your salvation comes up? They say that because they believe in Christ there is no way they could loose their salvation. But there are many verses suggesting otherwise, and loosing your heavenly inheritance is a big warning in the New Testament. In fact every book save Philemon talks about this topic.

But if I was going to go to one verse out of all of them
I would go to John Chapter 15 verse 1-6.

In this section, Jesus gives an illustration about how he is like a vine, his Father is the vine dresser and there are two kinds of branches IN him. There are branches that bear fruit and those that do not, and the ones that do not get cut off and thrown into a fire.

There are really three issues here that you might have to tackle.
#1 What does it mean to be IN Jesus.
#2 The fruit that is to be born in Jesus
#3 Getting cut off from Christ.

So what does that mean to be IN Jesus?
The Bible in a number of passages talks about what that means.
Romans 6:11, "Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus."
Romans 8:1, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus"
1 Cor. 1:2, "To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus."
I could point to a number of other verses that say more on this topic. But being IN Christ means, being saved. That might be another point of contention, "How do you get saved" But it is clear in these verses in John 15 that the ones that are IN Christ are the branches.

What about bearing the fruit. Don't some Christians say that those who are "truly saved" naturally bear fruit. Like where there is fire there is light, they go together. So where there is faith there is works.

While that might sound right on the outside, it isn't what the Bible teaches. God still gives us free will to either follow him or not.
But in John 15:1-6 it is clear that there are two different kinds of branches in the vine - two different kind of believers in Jesus. There are some that bear fruit meaning good works, and there are some that do not. This is clear from the very verses. So that is not necessarily true that where there is faith there is also works.

There consequences to not bearing fruit.The consequence is that you are then cut off from the vine, cut off from Christ and then thrown into a fire meaning Hell.

Now that we have had a set up lets read John 15: 1-6
John 15:1-6 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
2 Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
3 You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
6 If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.

Now I have been in a dialogue about these verses with a protestant for the past week or so. Here are some objections that he has brought up.

One objection is that the fire spoken of here is like a refiners fire like in 1 Corinthians 3 that speaks about the metals and the wood of someone’s works being tested by fire.
The problem with that is in John 15 it isn't talking about metals. It is talking about a dried up vine branch that has been cut off from the vine.

Most of his objections have had nothing to do with the text of John 15 because even the very vocabulary that Jesus uses concerning the fruitless branch is bad news.

I did a study on the words "cast forth"
Matthew 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
Matthew 13:48 and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down, and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away.

I did a study on the words "gather / fire"
Matthew 3:12 "And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

Finally I did a study on the word "withered"
Matthew 13:5-6 "And others fell upon the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6 "But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. - This is the word of God that found no root.

So even the very vocabulary that Jesus uses to describe someone that at one time was attached to the vine but is no longer supports the Catholic interpretation of the Scriptures.

Resurrection Apologetics

The resurrection of Christ is really the hinge of Christianity. The resurrection validates everything that Jesus said and did. We even have a warning from St. Paul in
1 Corinthians 15:17 - and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.

Yet some do not believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Here are their arguments and how we can respond?

There are five arguments surrounding the resurrection of Jesus, here they are in brief and then we will go through each one.
1. Jesus didn’t actually die, he just swooned or passed out.
2. Jesus died and rose from the dead - Christianity
3. The apostles just think he did - Hallucination
4. The resurrection is just a myth.
5. The apostles invented it to deceive - Conspiracy.

Lets start with the first one - Did Jesus actually die or did he just swoon or pass out?
The Romans were pretty good at killing people and they don’t break Jesus’ legs because they think he is dead, but to be sure, they stab through the lung into the heart to be sure. Blood and water come out - Yep he’s dead.
But lets pretend that he was really just passed out. He wakes up in a tomb two days later holes in his hands and feet, one collapsed lung and a leaking heart, he roles the stone away by himself and overpowers a troop of Roman soldiers?
- I don’t think so.

Did the apostles have a mass hallucination, and just think he rose from the dead?
From what I understand about Hallucinations, they are private, individual, and subjective. Hallucinations usually only last a matter of second or minutes.
But this one hangs around for 40 days. The apostles touch the resurrected Jesus, and he even eats something to show that he is not a ghost.
During those 40 days they spoke with Jesus, and he even surprised some disciples on the road to Emmaus. They don’t recognize him until he disappears.
But there is also the problem of the empty tomb. Several people look inside and see that there is no body there. Where did it go? They certainly were not hallucinating.

What about the story of Jesus growing out of proportion and the resurrection became a myth?
Dan: First of all the Bible says that the resurrection isn’t a myth. Now that doesn’t not make it a myth, but it would make it into a lie, which we are going to talk about next. The Gospels are written from first or second hand accounts and include details that no myth would ever include.
Jesus writing in the sand.
Telling people to sit down, and the commenting that it is because there is much grass there.
Translating Aramaic words so your readers can understand. Like Eli Eli Lamasabathana - why even mention it, unless you were there.

Usually with the myth argument is the underlying desire to disprove every trace of Jesus’ divinity. But there are several problems with this. The first is that the miracles and all of the amazing things that Jesus did are so linked to his regular teaching that to remove one from another usually damages the text so as to make the story nonsense. The second is that Miracles still happen today by the power of Jesus’ name. Not to mention that people who are possessed are liberated by the power of the name of Jesus as well. It would seem that if Jesus of miracles that we all know was just a myth that his name would be on the same level as Zeus who has no power.

Would the apostles have made up such a story about the resurrection?
Considering that about 2 billion people in the world follow the teachings of the New Testament, this would mean that the 12 were the most creative, intelligent, fantasy writers in all of history. More than Shakespeare, Dante, or Tolkien.

Why would they teach such a thing? What would they gain from these teachings?
First of all the teachings themselves aren’t very popular. And history tells us what happened to those people who taught these teachings first. Almost everyone was murdered. We also know that they were all persecuted severely. What would they gain by all of this persecution and imprisonment? It just doesn’t make sense.
As for myself having read the pages of the New Testament, the stories and the theology is so interconnected that I think it would take centuries to make up such a story, which of course the evidence for the opposite is true.

You can find these arguments in their full length in two places:
#1 - Handbook of Christian Apologetics By: Kreeft and Tacelli
#2 - Pocket Handbook of Christian Apologetics By: Kreeft and Tacelli