Sunday School Notes: The Timing Of The Coming Of Christ

[Okay, I welcome all debates and opinions on this site, but be warned; the Sunday School Notes section starts with the premise that God exists and concerns himself with the affairs of men. My personal beliefs are explicitly laid out here.

If you aren’t a believer and you want to argue, just skip the post. Contact me by email if you want to question our premise, but I’m not posting this to start a theological debate.

If you are a believer and want to question my statements within the “God exists” paradigm, by all means, please do! I want to get this right and you may have thoughts I hadn’t considered.]

We are beginning our series of question, “Things In The Bible I Have A Problem With”. These are questions submitted by the members of the Young Married Couples class that I teach.

The first question we will address is this: How does the crucifixion fit in the timeline of history? Did Jesus come at that specific time because the time was right? Or did God cause all these events to happen so that Jesus could come when he did?

1. Galations 4:4 “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his son.”

In approximately 330 b.c., Alexander the Great conquers the known world, spreading the Greek Koine as an almost universal language.

Rome takes over when Greek rule ends, keeping the Kione language and bringing improved infrastructure and roads throughout every region.

These two events allow the message of the gospel to be quickly and efficiently spread throughout most of the known world.

2. The fulfillment of messianic prophecies
There are approximately 400 Old Testament messianic prophecies that pointed to the coming Christ. Many of them relevant to his birthplace and time. The current events of that time were significant to the fulfillment of the Old testament prophecies.

As Christians, we aren’t surprised that Jesus came at a time when events in history were lining up to provide the perfect setting for the spread of the gospel. We look at that as one of the indicators of God’s ultimate sovereignty.

What is more interesting is that these events were taking place outside of the Jewish world in unrelated ways. Meaning, it wasn’t Alexander the Great’s intention to conquer the world in order to more easily spread the gospel. Rome didn’t build the infrastructure for the purpose of increasing the effectiveness of the apostles.

Which brings us to the question we struggle with;
Did God cause Alexander’s success to ensure the spread of the gospel, or did he simply take advantage of it?

Romans 13:1 makes a pretty definitive statement about God’s position with authorities on earth.
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Keep in mind, Paul was writing this to Roman citizens referring to the Roman government, not the religious authorities. He was describing secular men in secular roles.
If this is a true statement, then it is true for all authority in all places, in all times. That means Ronald Reagan was established by God. So was Barak Obama. And Stalin, and Moa, and Castro and every third world dictator you’ve never heard of.

So, if God is in control, why did he allow (you could even argue; choose) the bad ones?

1. All men, even the authorities, have free will.
Keep in mind, all men are created with free will to choose good or evil. As the Old Testament outlines the lives of the kings of Israel, you see over and over the phrase, “And Jehoshaphat walked in the ways of his father, Asa” “Amon walked in all the ways that his father walked.”

Some were good, some were bad, but all chose their path. God may have placed them, but all were free to choose to walk in the way of the Lord, or not.

2. God’s will is going to be accomplished. If not by this authority, then by the next.

Esther 4:12 “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place and you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows, but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this.”

The logical argument is that God established Alexander the Great, but had he not been successful, God would have established another until His will was accomplished..

Now let’s take a left turn into a whole different angle.

3. God does not see time as we see time.

2nd Peter 3:8 “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.”
The immediate interpretation we have for this is that watching a thousand years of history unfold is no different to God than us watching an all day marathon of Game of Thrones.

The tiny speck that is my 75 year existence is just a blip on the cosmic radar. What seems so momentous to me, barely exists in the history of time.

But it’s more than that. Logically speaking, a God that IS, exists in all places at all times, for all time. God is not limited to a place or time. If he only exists here, now, then he does not currently exist in the future or past. That is a limitation that is placed on us mortal, physical beings. By definition, God must exist without limit. God is now, while simultaneously being in the complete past and complete future.

God doesn’t just know what I’m going to do tomorrow, he’s already experiencing it. The concept of “a thousand years as a day” doesn’t just mean God is old, it means that he experiences no passage of time.

In John 8:58, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was, I am!” The Pharisees were outraged because he was taking the name that God gave Moses when he asked “who shall I tell them has sent me?” But the root word Jesus used was “eimi” which means to be present. God’s name, I AM, is the word “hayah“.

Jesus was telling them, “before Abraham was, I EXIST”.

He is active in every second of a millennium simultaneously. So, while we see this fascinating, complex series of events which play out over the course of human history, God experiences them all in one singular event. From “in the beginning” to the final days of human existence. It’s all already happened.

I can’t conceive of that from my earthly perspective. I have to frame it as esp, or fortune telling, or some paranormal ability that gives God special insight into things yet to come. But logically I know, that if God exists, he must exist this way. There is no other way he could be and still meet the qualifications of God.

So, if God already knows the results and he has put everything in place as he chooses, do we actually have any freedom of choice? Or are we all just mindless robots following God’s orders and we don’t even know it? That is next weeks topic.

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There Is Ultimately Only One True Path To Awesomeness

Warning: the following post contains deeply sincere religious commentary. If that isn’t your thing, I dare you to keep reading anyway.

Our message here at the Big Dick Chronicles is simple; Go be awesome.

We can talk all day about learning to understand how to build responsive desire in your wife. We can discuss ways to build your self confidence until we are blue in the face. We can talk shop about fashion, exercise, or the importance of good friends and strong relationships.

But at the end of the day, there is another relationship this is absolutely essential to leading the most fulfilling life possible.

And that is a relationship with Jesus Christ.

When it comes to the existence of God, I could offer you a whole host of arguments. We could discuss how the concept of the Big Bang pre-supposes infinity while simultaneously claiming infinity does not exist.

We could discuss how the concept of an absolute moral law requires a moral law giver who supersedes man. We could go all day about the existence of Evil and if Evil exists, Good must exist and there must be an ultimate Good.

But none of that is the important part.

After all my research and efforts to confirm what I believe to be true, it really comes down to a single point of fact.

1st Corinthians chapter 15:14, in discussing the resurrection of Christ states “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith”.

Take a moment to consider that statement. The whole of Christianity rests on a single historical fact; the bodily resurrection of Christ. If the resurrection of Christ was not an actual event, then the Bible instructs us to disregard everything else in the book as a fraud. The entire Christian religion comes with a self imposed caveat. How bad ass is that?

If there is no resurrection of Christ, then I have no arguments for you. I have no defense for my faith. I willingly concede all points to you. It no longer matters if our world requires a creator or if there is an ultimate source of truth. The entire exercise is futile if there is no resurrection of Christ.

But if it is true…it changes everything.

I need you to understand something about me. Either God is real, or I am one of luckiest paranoid delusionals you will ever encounter. By my own admission, I tell you that most of the major decisions in my life have been made because of the voice in my head.

That’s right. God speaks and I try to listen. That’s how I chose my wife. It’s how I chose my career. It’s how I decided where to go to college. Most of my major life choices had no basis in logic or any other reasonable explanation I can offer  And yet they worked.  Better than I ever could have imagined.

Why in the world would I put myself at the mercy of a voice in my head? Because the Bible makes it clear that God has a path for me, a best choice for how to live my life. I don’t have to choose it, but it seems quite obvious that there is no better place to be than on the path that the Lord of the universe himself has laid out for me.

Do I always get it right? Hell no.

There are two aspects to getting it right; being holy (staying away from the bad stuff) and being obedient (following directions and doing the good stuff). Obviously, we should strive for both, but if I had to choose one, I choose obedience. I would rather get to the end of my life and know that I said “yes Lord” every time he asked me to act, even if I get my hands a bit dirty along the way.

I prefer that to the idea that I kept all the rules, but never once lifted a finger to act when He told me to.

In fact, I’m writing this post because God told me to. I don’t know if he just wanted to test me and see if I would obey, knowing it is a bit uncomfortable of a topic, or if someone is going to read this and experience a life altering change. The why isn’t important to me. I’ll do it just to be obedient.

And this is the whole conclusion of the matter;
There is a heaven and the only way to get there is to believe in your heart and confess with you mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord.

But it’s about more than just the end of the road. The road that leads to Heaven is a rewarding path to travel. I cannot begin to imagine what a mess I would have made of my life without the direction that God has given me.

We are coming up on the Christmas season. A Charlie Brown Christmas Special has been replaced by live footage of the trampling herds at Target on Black Friday. It’s easy to lose track of the significance of this holiday season.

If there is something intangible missing from your life, if you don’t know what it feels like to wake up every morning knowing that the God of the Universe is there to greet you, I ask you to try something.

Take a moment to read the Christmas story in Luke Chapter 2. Consider in your heart if you think there is any truth to what you read. Consider if this needs to be part of your path.

I don’t really expect much response to this post. You know the topics we cover here; I’m not a judgmental guy. But I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you the most important part of my life.

God bless.

Sunday School notes: Solomon was a Dick!

Our pastor went on vacation for a couple of weeks, so he asked me to fill in for him with the Wednesday night adult bible study. I decided to spend some time talking about Solomon, one of the more tragic figures in the bible. I’ve included my notes from the class below in case you weren’t there on Wednesday.

The first lesson was titled, “I DON’T LIKE SOLOMON”

I don’t like Solomon because:

1. He challenges my belief in God’s inherent fairness and justice.

The story of Solomon is not consistent with God’s instantaneous judgment on men like Moses and Uzzah. (Uzzah was the man who was killed instantly for trying to catch the arc of the covenant when it fell off the ox cart.)

a. Solomon was born out of David’s sin. 2 Samuel 12:24

What if this happened today? David got to keep the wife and died a happy man. It   doesn’t seem right that something good should come of that relationship.

b. God made up his mind from the beginning. 2 Samuel 12:25, 1 Chronicles 22:9

c. God appears to violate his own rule by promising Solomon riches. Duet. 17:1

d. God’s “judgment” seems weak for the offenses. 1 Kings 11:9 At the end of his life, God tells Solomon he is going to take away all of his glory, but even then he waits until after Solomon’s death. The man was allowed to die with all of his earthly splendor intact.

2.        His encounter with God was preceded immediately by sin.   1 Kings 3:3-5

Sacrificing in the high places was still a big deal to God.

3.         Solomon made a mockery of marriage. 1 Kings 11

How can we take Song of Songs seriously as a picture of marriage when he had 700 of these?

4.          He abused God’s gift of wisdom. Eccls 2:1

5.          Solomon was a hypocrite.

a. Compare Proverbs 1&2 to Eccls. 1&2

b. Eccls 5:8-16

Solomon was the ruler who oppressed the poor. He bemoans wealth lost through some misfortune, but he was responsible for his own demise.

6.        There is no record of Solomon repenting.

7.       I don’t like Solomon because he tempts me to be just like him.                                    This was the real kicker. I don’t like reading the story of Solomon because it makes me wonder, if God let him get away with all of that, how much can I get away with?

I DON’T LIKE SOLOMON….BUT I LOVE HIS WORK

I love the book of Ecclesiastes because it doesn’t contain any Sunday School questions. For example: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want? Obviously, you have to say the Bible right? Personally, I would go with Kiplinger’s Guide to Practical Boat Making.

Another example: Do you read your bible often enough? Of course, you can never say “yes” to that question. Nothing bothers a group of Christians more than telling them that you are “Christian” enough.

My answer: I read my bible as often as it suits me to do so. (You should have seen the looks I got when I gave that answer in church. Priceless.)

Do I get any spiritual credit for making excuses? If not, they are meaningless.

Reasons I love the book of Ecclesiastes:

  1. It gives me permission to be honest about my relationship with God.
    1. There are no easy answers in the book of Ecclesiastes.
    2. Solomon was up front about his activities and failures. (Eccls 1&2)
    3. There is no benefit to “pretending” to be better than I am .
  1. It forces me to know for sure what I believe to be true about God.

Some people have a “best case scenario” view of their relationship with God. ie. It only works if everything works. Mike Tyson said,  “Every man has a plan to beat me until they get hit in the face.” A lot of people’s faith is strong until they get hit in the face and then it crumbles. What they don’t understand is that Christianity works best when you are getting hit in the face, not the other way around.

If we don’t understand these truths, we will fall away when life gets hard.

    1. Life is hard. Even for Christians (Eccls. 9:1-2)
    2. “Easy” Christianity will not endure hardship.
  1. It shows me how to simplify my life.
    1. Solomon set the ultimate example of failure in the pursuit of meaning and happiness.
    2. The answer is easy; almost too easy for us to believe. (Eccls 2:24)
    3. My prayer for life: Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot in life and be happy in his work- this is a gift from God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart. (eccls.5:19-20)

If you aren’t familiar with the book of Ecclesiastes, I highly recommend you check it out. It is about as frank and honest an assessment of life as you will find in the bible. Some find it horribly discouraging, but I personally find it refreshing.

Sunday School Notes: What Does the Bible Really Say About Sex? (pt 3)

I’m going to get a little personal here because really, what is the point of looking at what the Bible is teaching us if it has no personal relevance? It’s fine to look back at what happened thousands of years ago, but if has no significance to me today then it is just a history lesson and that misses the point entirely.

I did not grow up in a religious family. My grandmother led me to Jesus when I was 7 years old. For the next 11 years, my brother and I walked ourselves to the church at the end of our street.

I was a virgin when I graduated high school. I can honestly look back and say that had more to do with lack of opportunity than any moral conviction, but it’s interesting how frequently those go hand in hand. It was easy to say that it was my intention when I knew it wasn’t going to be tested.

I never dated in high school. My first kiss came at 16 with a girl I met at church camp.

I have discovered that it is much easier to accept a stringent standard of morality when you have no options. My first real test of my morality came with my first relationship in college. We dated for a month before we started having sex. It lasted four months. It was awful.

On my very first attempt, I failed every test. I had endured 19 years of loneliness on the expectation that I was holding out for something truly remarkable. This was my first indication that perhaps I had misjudged my approach. This girl was as unremarkable as they come.

I’m not blaming her, she was broken and I was too inexperienced to know it. But my inexperience originated in this belief that I was following God’s will by not dating until I met THE ONE, so when this girl came along I had no basis for how to handle the relationship. She understood my feelings on the matter and assumed that if she could get me to sleep with her I would have to marry her on the basis of my convictions.

Ugh.

One thing I feel like I have to stress is that everything I’ve done wrong in my life, I’ve done as a Christian. There is no old me. There is no “I once was lost, but now I’m found”. Since I was seven years old, I have woken up every morning knowing that God is with me. That means every mistake I’ve made has occurred while I knew he was there watching.

And guess what? No matter what I did the night before, He meets me every morning and says, “I’ve got plans for you today.”

Is pre-marital sex evil? Meh. Maybe. I don’t know.

Is if harmful? Oh yes. Quite often.

Should I have had sex with that girl? Absolutely not. And in that experience I understood what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 6:18 about sinning against your own body. In that one experience I put my body at risk for disease. There was the risk of pregnancy that would alter the course of my life forever. In addition, I lied to her, I lied to myself, and I betrayed my own conscience.

It wasn’t even good sex. I don’t know if that would have changed my feelings on the subject. Would I feel differently about it if I looked back and thought, “yeah, but it was worth it”? It doesn’t matter. It wasn’t worth it.

So what lesson did I learn from that relationship? Don’t have sex with a crazy chick.

I will admit to you that my wife and I had sex before we were married. Do I feel bad about that? Not particularly. This was the woman I was pursuing as my mate and I planned to spend the rest of my life with her. We did reach a point a few months before the wedding where we both felt God was telling us to stop. We lasted until just a few weeks before the wedding.

I can honestly say that I feel like God punished us for that. Our first year of marriage was a disaster sexually. We had a difficult time figuring each other out once we were living in the same house. When I would pray and ask God what the heck was going on, the response was always the same, “You started early, now the bill is due.”

Strangely, most of the difficulties seem to clear up after that first year. Was God punishing us for having sex? I don’t think so. I think he was punishing us for not stopping when he asked us to. I truly believe that if we had kept our commitment to hold out those last few weeks, our first year of marriage would have been completely different.

What about as a married man? What is permissible for me? For us?

Most of Christ’s teachings in the New Testament focus on the intent of the Law; why are we doing what we’re doing? He is concerned about what is in our hearts more than how strictly we follow the letter of the Law.

I’ll be honest, there are all sorts of activities in my life that I don’t necessarily want to be engaged in when Jesus comes back. I’d feel a tad awkward if He showed up while we were in the middle of the adult version of Alice in Wonderland (our favorite adult film).

I might fumble with the straps a bit if He arrived while I had my wife strapped down to the bed with a gag in her mouth. But I fully expect that He would simply turn around and say, “I’ll wait”.

As a couple, we have come to an agreement on our moral standards. If it is mutual and agreed upon, we are good with it.

For example, we have friends who have HUGE issues with porn. There is nothing mutual or agreed upon if that husband is viewing it behind his wife’s back. But if I looked at it without my wife, she would simply pout and say, “why didn’t you wait for me?”

If I wanted to tie her up and spank her out of anger or tried to do it against her will, I have sinned against her. But what if she wants me to? Then I will do it with a smile on my face and a prayer of thanks in my heart.

What does the Bible really say about sex? It says to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself. This is the complete fulfillment of the Law.

Sex is one of the more prominent topics in the Bible because it carries such capacity to hurt one another. Stay away from the temple prostitutes, your neighbors wife and your neighbors ass and you’ve pretty well covered all the bases.

If your sexual exploits are consensual, mutual, and agreed upon, I suspect you will rarely find yourself at significant odds with God. Although I do caution you to stop it whenever He tells you to.

Sunday School Notes: What Does the Bible Really Say About Sex? pt 2

We ended the last post asking the question, are there any examples in the Bible to justify the “wait for THE ONE” doctrine being taught throughout churches today.

Not only can I not find a biblical model for that teaching, but the majority of the accounts in the Bible are quite the opposite. Here is an example of what is often cited for verses related to praying for a mate. http://www.openbible.info/topics/praying_for_a_mate 

Notice that none of the verses are specific about praying for a spouse?

The Song of Songs tells of an encounter between King Solomon and a servant girl he saw while inspecting his vineyards. Nowhere can I find an example of anyone in the Bible who prayed for a mate. The closest I can find is the story of Isaac in Genesis 24. How did Isaac find his wife? Abraham sent a servant back to their homeland to find a girl and buy her from her family. The servant prayed that God would show him the right girl and he did. Isaac married a woman he had never even met.

Was I destined to marry my wife? Perhaps. I know that I pursued her because God told me to. But what should I have been doing in the years before she came into my life? I should have been learning how to conduct myself in relationships. Instead, I spent those years in bone crushing loneliness because I was afraid to date.

The sacredness of marriage.

This is one of those points where my questions are so far outside the norm that I’m mostly going to keep them to myself on the basis that I am not apt to change anyone’s mind and all it would do is cause strife.

My premise for this discussion is that God does not change. Cultures and social norms might change, but God does not. That is a central and absolutely necessary truth of the Bible. The relevance of that statement is that God’s truth and God’s intent must be consistent across all times and cultures.

So, with that in mind, why were most of the early Bible figures polygamist?

If the whole, “two shall become one flesh” is so vitally important, why were these men not destroyed as adulterers for having multiple wives? Weren’t they cheating on their first wives? And more so with each subsequent wife?

Take for instance, the story of Jacob (Genesis ch 28). He flees to live with his uncle Laban and meets his beautiful cousin Rachel. He asks for her hand in marriage, works seven years for Laban and on his wedding night get presented with the older sister, Leah. When he confronts Laban, he tells him tough luck, she was the older and she has to marry first.

Oh no! I’ve married the wrong person! As a follower of God, what should I do? That question plays out daily in the lives of Christians today. They are advised to tough it out, make it work, pray for God to help you find peace in your circumstance. Just don’t follow the biblical model and do what Jacob did…marry them both.

Now, one of the things I love about the Old Testament is that it points out the flaws of the people in the stories. It doesn’t white wash their failures and make them out to be perfect. It would be just fine if it said, “And Jacob sinned against the Lord by dishonoring his wife, Leah.”

But it doesn’t say that. Instead, it goes into this long sordid scenario where Rachel (who was barren at this point) and Leah get into a pissing match trying to get pregnant and give him sons. Rachel tells Jacob to sleep with her maidservant who gets pregnant. Apparently, she is allowed to claim the child as her own in this situation. If you are reading along we are in Genesis 30:5. What was Rachel’s response when the maidservant gets pregnant? “God has vindicated me.”

Now wait a damn minute. Jacob knocking up the hired help was considered a blessing from God? Where is the sacredness in that?

But it gets worse. The maidservant has a second son. Leah, the first wife, has stopped producing at three and she’s afraid her sister will catch up with her. So she sends her maidservant to sleep with him and that girl ends up pregnant twice.

In the mean time, Rachel sells Leah a night with Jacob in return for some mandrake plants, whatever the hell that is, and it says, “God listened to Leah”. (Gen 30:17)

Then, just a couple of verses later, we read, “God remembered Rachel” and she has another son, Joseph. (Gen 30:22)

Joseph, who becomes the savior of the budding Israelite race when they have to go to Egypt during the famine.

If God doesn’t change, how do we reconcile all of this with the actions taken, and condoned by God, in the early years of the Bible?

My intention here is not question God. My intention here is to question man. I’m not condoning polygamy, I can barely handle putting up with one woman’s shit. Just kidding dear, I’d gladly take a couple more of you. It would make that threesome idea a much easier sell.

One more example of where I think we’ve gone a wee bit legalistic on what we think God actually expects from us.

The Song of Songs is presented to us as a wonderful portrait of husband and wife. Solomon the king happens upon a lowly, beautiful servant girl working in his vineyards and takes her as his lovely bride. My Bible’s commentary states, “Through the dialogue, sex and marriage are put in their proper, God given perspective.”

That sounds nice.

Here’s the problem. The best I can tell, this wasn’t his first marriage. From 1 Kings 3, his first listed wife was the daughter of Pharaoh. So, this wonderful representation of marriage was wife number…..who knows. Which means Solomon was definitely not a virgin on their wedding night.

I’m running long again, so I’m going to stop here and try to wrap it up next time with part 3.