My Journey

Posted May 3, 2015 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Christian, Faith

Tags: , , , ,

Walking


It’s time for a little update, not much, but I am no longer new to blogging. I have been at it a few years. Not that I have gained any particular stature. I simply can’t claim to be new at it. I still write as part of my profession, but blogging is more interesting. Blogging is my way of sharpening ideas and fleshing them out. I don’t always “get it right”, but I am on a journey for truth.

I have been on a journey for truth since I emerged from the haze and confusion of adolescence, much of it self-induced. Stepping out of that myopic existence I began to get an inkling that a world of truth lay in front of me to encounter, and so I set off. I didn’t realize, then, how much faith is required to seek truth. Read the rest of this post »

The Choices God Gives Us

Posted April 28, 2017 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Bible, Christian, Faith, Jesus, Salvation, Sanctification

Tags: , , , ,

Depositphotos Image ID: 7103912 Copyright: kohy81

“But to all[1] who did receive[2] Him, to those who believed[3] in His name, He gave the right[4] to become[5] children[6] of God— children born[7] not of blood, nor of the will[8] of the flesh[9], nor of the will of man, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13)

Johns packs a lot into these short verses, tucked into the first chapter of his Gospel that is profoundly full of other significant meaning:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. All things were made through him….In him was life, and the life was the light of men…. The true light…. was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him… he gave the right to become children of God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….”[10]

These are some of the most profound and remarkable verses in all of Scripture. God became flesh, and He lived among the people He chose as His own, but they didn’t even recognize who He was. But those who received – who believed Him – He gave the right to become children of God.

I see two choices here: the choice of receiving Christ and the choice God gives us after receiving Christ – the right to become children of God. My Reformed friends might be tempted to overlook the import of this power-packed passage.  I am little unnerved by it myself, truth be told. I don’t trust my own heart to make the right choices!

First, God is looking for all “who received Him – those who believed….” The Greek word translated “received” conveys active, aggressive acceptance. It requires initiative, laying hold of, claiming, seizing and obtaining. It reminds me of these words Jesus also spoke to John:

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”[11]

Jesus is standing there, speaking, behind the door, and He is waiting for us. He is waiting for us to respond to His voice and open the door. Then He will come in. We have to act. God makes the first contact – He speaks – but we have to initiate a response before He will come in. We have to open the door.

We cannot receive Him without believing. Those who received Him are those who believed. Believing is to be persuaded, but the Greek word that is translated “believe” can have different connotations. It can mean acquiescence, as in thinking a thing to be true. But, that isn’t enough to receive Jesus. We have to go a step further than that and place our confidence in Jesus.

Thinking a thing to be true does not necessarily lead to placing confidence in it. We can be persuaded that something is true without committing ourselves to it in confidence. We can believe in God and even in Jesus without receiving Him, laying a hold of Him. (But we can’t receive Him without believing.)

But this is only the first choice in John 1:12. This is where it get unnerving. We have an additional choice to make. To those who received Jesus, he gave “the right to become children of God”.  The Greek word translated “right” means a delegation of power or empowerment. It can mean a grant of the power of choice, the liberty to choose.

Once we receive Jesus and open the door to Him, he gives us the power to choose to become children of God. The Greek word translated “become” means to come into being, to emerge, to be born, to transition from one thing to another. It implies movement and growth.

We have to exercise our choice in becoming children of God. It is a right that God gives those who believe and receive Him. We must be born again, Jesus said, to see the kingdom of God[12], but becoming a child of God is more than a single event. The Greek word “expresses the idea of emerging from (a previous condition, form) and transitioning into the ‘next stage’”. It is a process, and we are involved in that process as an active agent.

The word is used in the aorist, present and perfect tense. This means that becoming a child of God is at once a finished action from the beginning, with ongoing, continual action/progression. Just as were are far from who we will be when we are born from the womb, yet we are fully born at the same time, so we are fully born a child of God when we receive Jesus and exercise the right He has given us, but we are just beginning the process at that point of becoming a child of God.

Clearly, though we are not passive lumps of clay in this process. From believing, we must receive, engage and lay hold of Jesus. From laying hold of Jesus, we must take the additional step of exercising the right of becoming a child of God.

We see these choices in the Gospels as Jesus encounters people. He called the disciples, and they responding by following Him. Others, like the rich young ruler, walked away. Many of the people who followed Jesus turned away when things got more difficult, prompting Jesus to ask the twelve, “Do you want to leave too?” But they replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life….”[13]

Interestingly, Jesus responds further, saying, “Did I not choose you”?

We can’t get away from the tension that the Scripture gives us. Does God choose us? Or do we choose Him? The answer seems to be, yes, on both accounts!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[1] Hosos: how much, how many. It could be translated “however many” or “as many as”.

[2] Lambánō (from the primitive root, lab, meaning “actively lay hold of to take or receive,” see NAS dictionary) – properly, to lay hold by aggressively (activelyaccepting what is available (offered). lambánō (“accept with initiative“) emphasizes the volition (assertiveness) of the receiver. It can be translated “to take with the hand” or “lay hold of”. It can also be translated “to take to oneself” or “to make one’s own” as in to claim for oneself or to seize or apprehend. It connotes the act of choosing and obtaining for oneself.

[3] Pisteúō (from pístis, “faith,” derived from peíthō, “persuade, be persuaded”) – believe (affirm, have confidence); used of persuading oneself (= human believing) and with the sacred significance of being persuaded by the Lord (= faith-believing). Only the context indicates whether pisteúō (“believe”) is self-serving (without sacred meaning), or the believing that leads to/proceeds from God’s inbirthing of faith. I can mean “to think to be true” or “to be persuaded”, and it can also mean “to place confidence in”, but placing confidence in something doesn’t necessarily flow from thinking a thing is true or being persuaded a thing is true.

[4] Eksousía (from ek, “out from,” which intensifies eimí, “to bebeing as a right or privilege”) authority, conferred power; delegated empowerment (“authorization”), operating in a designated jurisdiction. In the NT, eksousía (“delegated power”) refers to the authority God gives to His saints – authorizing them to act to the extent they are guided by faith (His revealed word). The authorization can imply grant of the power of choice, the liberty to choose, leave or permission. It can mean both authority (influence) and right.

[5] Gínomai – properly, to emerge, become, transitioning from one point (realm, condition) to another – to emerge, to be born. Gínomai fundamentally means “become” (becoming, became) so it is not an exact equivalent to the ordinary equative verb “to be”. It “signifies a change of condition, state or place” (Vine, Unger, White, NT, 109)”. It “means to come into being/manifestation implying motion, movement, or growth” (2 Pet 1:4).

[6] Téknon – properly, a child; (figuratively) anyone living in full dependence on the heavenly Father, i.e. fully (willingly) relying upon the Lord in glad submission. This prompts God to transform them into His likeness. téknon (“a child living in willing dependence“) illustrates how we must all live in utter dependence upon the Lord (moment-by-moment), drawing guidance (care, nurture) from our heavenly Father. Téknon emphasizes the childlike (not childishattitude of heart that willingly (gladly) submits to the Father’s plan. We profoundly learn this as we are receptive to Christ speaking His rhēma-word within to impart faith (cf. Ro 8:16, 17 with Ro 10:17, Greek text). Metaphorically, becoming a child mean being transformed to that intimate and reciprocal relationship formed between people by the bonds of love, friendship, trust, just as between parents and children

[7] Gennáō – properly, beget (procreate a descendant), produce offspring; (passive) be born, “begotten.”

[8] Thélēma (from thélō, “to desire, wish”) – properly, a desire (wish), often referring to God’s preferred-will,” i.e. His “best-offer” to people which can be accepted or rejected. [Note the ma suffix, focusing on the result hoped for with the particular desire (wish). Thélēma is nearly always used of God, referring to His preferred-will. Occasionally it is used of man (cf. Lk 23:25; Jn 1:13.]

[9] Sarks is generally used as a negative, referring to making decisions (actions) according to self – i.e. done apart from faith (independent from God’s inworking). Thus what is “of the flesh (carnal)” is by definition displeasing to the Lord – even things that seem “respectable!” In short, flesh generally relates to unaided human effort, i.e. decisions (actions) that originate from self or are empowered by self. This is carnal (“of the flesh“) and proceeds out of the untouched (unchanged) part of us – i.e. what is not transformed by God. Sárks properly, flesh (“carnal”), merely of human origin or empowerment. Sárks (“flesh”) is not always evil in Scripture. Indeed, it is used positively in relation to sexual intercourse in marriage (Eph 5:31) – as well as for the sinless human body of Jesus (Jn 1:14; 1 Jn 4:2, 3). Indeed, flesh (what is physical) is necessary for the body to live out the faith the Lord works in (Gal 2:20).

[10] John 1:1-5, 9-12

[11] Revelation 3:20

[12] John 3:3

[13] John 6:67-68

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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God Chooses US

Posted April 25, 2017 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Bible, Christian, creation, Doctrine, grace, Love, sovereignty of God

Tags: , , ,

Creative Commons photo from Flicker

God lets us choose Him: “But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” But that isn’t the beginning of the story – or the end of it.

God chooses us. He gives us the right to become children of God[i], and He made that choice before the foundation[ii] of the world. We become the children of God not by blood descent, not by the will of parents or anyone else – maybe not even by our own will – but by God’s choice.[iii]

I do not have a systematic theology. I am not a theologian, and my understanding of systematic theology is limited, but free will has always seemed self-evident to me. It also seems eminently biblical. God created us in his own image[iv], and a primary characteristic of God is agency. We see in the story of Adam and Eve that God gave us agency too, by giving them dominion over the animals of the earth and in the choice to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The freedom to choose is also a necessary condition of love. God is love[v], and he created us in His image to reflect Him, to glorify Him and to love Him.

The point of an image is to image. Images are erected to display the original. Point to the original. Glorify the original. God made humans in his image so that the world would be filled with reflectors of God. Images of God. Seven billion statues of God. So that nobody would miss the point of creation. Nobody (unless they were stone blind) could miss the point of humanity, namely, God. Knowing, loving, showing God.[vi]

God created us to love him. Therefore, we must have agency/free will in order to be able to reflect back His love as He intended.

But there is another side to this. There is not only what we call faith; there is grace. There is God’s unmerited favor. God chooses us. We call this predestination and attribute it to God’s sovereignty

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Was the Jesus Story a Copycat from Pagan Myth?

Posted April 23, 2017 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Apologetics, Jesus, Religion

Tags: , , , , , , ,


The answer is pretty decisively, no! Much has been said of this popular Internet opinion by actual historians and biblical scholars of every stripe, Christian, agnostic and atheist. No modern scholars, meaning men and woman who have proven themselves in the world of academia, which usually means have been carefully vetted by peer review, hold to this view today.

This is true whether the scholar happens to be a theist or atheist, believer or nonbeliever. There simply isn’t any credible evidence for it. The only evidence lives in the active imaginations of people who want it to be true, like Bill Maher. In fact, he did a movie about it.

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The Rose and the Thistle

Posted April 23, 2017 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Bible, Christian, Regeneration, Sanctification

Tags: , , ,

Depositphotos Image ID: 4468140 Copyright: Estea-Estea

“Two things cannot be in one place. Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.”[i]

This quotation by Frances Hodgson Burnett is pretty profound when you think about it. A person cannot feed love and feed hate at the same time. One displaces the other, like light displaces the darkness.

Except, we know from our own experience that we can love and hate at the same time. It’s just that we cannot love and hate the same thing at the same time. This is what the quotation is saying: a rose and a thistle cannot occupy the same space, though roses and thistles can certainly stand side-by-side. We can love one person and hate another.

Jesus puts a twist on these thoughts when he says that a person cannot serve two masters. When two priorities are vying for position in our hearts, they cannot both occupy the top position: “Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”  And Jesus provides us a ready example: “You cannot serve both God and money.”[1]

Like the rose and thistle, the love of God and the love of money cannot occupy the same space in our hearts. If we allow money to control our priorities, we have made money our master over God.

The interesting thing about this statement is that love of God and the love of money seek to occupy the same position within our hearts, but they also cannot stand side-by-side. We either love the one and hate the other, or we are devoted to one and despise the other. Jesus says we can’t do both. God will not share space with an idol, not even side by side.

The examples of love and hate relate to objects of our attention. Similar principles apply to sources as well. James says that freshwater and saltwater cannot come from the same spring.[ii] James is speaking of the things we say: “With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”[iii]

But they are so. We are often two-faced like this. We can love one person and hate another. We can bless one person and curse another. We can also bless one person at one time and curse the same person at another time.

Jesus says, “[O]ut of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”[iv] But how can it be that we can say loving things at one time and hateful things at another? From the illustration of a spring, they must flow from different sources within us. Like the rose and the thistle, they must emanate from sources that occupy different spaces in us. They cannot occupy the same space (emanate from the same source).

We know from experience that a person can say both loving things and hateful things. The necessary conclusion of that coexistence is that loving things and hateful things that we say must emanate from different sources within us.

Jeremiah tells us that the heart of man is deceitful and sick.[v] Jesus told Nicodemus that a man must be born again in order to see the kingdom of God.[vi] Jesus explained further, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”[vii] What that tells us is that man’s heart, the unregenerate heart, the natural heart is one source (flesh), like salt water, and the spirit of which we may be born again is a separate source (like fresh water).

When we are born of the flesh, we are born of one source, and when we are born of the spirit, we are born of another source – one person, born from two different sources – one source is like salt water, and the other source is like fresh water.

Jesus said that he and the father are one.[viii] At another time, Jesus said, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”[ix] Jesus (the Son) and God (the Father) emanate from a common source and share that common source. When we give our ourselves to God, receiving Jesus as our Lord and savior, and are born again, we tap into a source that is different than our own hearts. That source is God, who is love.[x]

But, we live with the duality of being born of the flesh and born of the spirit: As Paul observed,

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.[xi]

When Paul spoke about doing things that he hates, he was expressing this idea of duality that is within us, that we have in us “natural man” emanating from a corrupt state, while we also are born again of the spirit, emanating from the perfection of God.

Our goal, then, is to feed the one and starve the other. “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”[xii] Though roses and thistles cannot occupy the same space, they can exist side-by-side, but the larger the rose gets, the less room there is for the thistle.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[1] Matthew 6:24

[i] Frances Hodgson Burnett

[ii] James 3:11

[iii] James 3:9-10

[iv] Matthew 12:34

[v] Jeremiah 17:9

[vi] John 3:3 (“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again[b] he cannot see the kingdom of God.”)

[vii] John 3:6

[viii] John 10:30

[ix] John 14:11

[x] 1 John 4:8

[xi][xi] Romans 7:15, 17-19

[xii] Romans 8:13

God Lets Us Choose Him

Posted April 22, 2017 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Bible, Christian, Faith, Freedom, Jesus, Love

Tags: , , ,

Depositphotos Image ID: 31693997 Copyright: DesignPicsInc

In back-to-back chapters in the Gospel of John (8, 9 and 10), Jesus has conversations with Jewish crowds who question who he is. Jesus never tells them in direct words, “I am God,” but the crowd clearly knows what he is talking about. This is similar to what we experience in life.

The world is made in such a way that it is governed by natural laws that have existed since the beginning of time. The cosmological constants were set from the beginning and are so finely tuned that they could not be changed this way or that way, even the slightest bit, without negating the possibility of life on Earth. Many scientists look at these laws and draw the conclusion that either they have always existed or they are simply all there is.

But where did the laws come from? Where did the universe come from? There is plenty of other evidence that God, the Creator, exists. The cosmological constants do not eliminate the possibility of a God. In fact, if those constants had a beginning, they must have had a beginner. But, there is room to question and to dismiss the idea.

Many of the Jewish people at the time of Jesus, especially the influential leaders, questioned who Jesus claimed to be.  Jesus did not get in their face about it. Just like God does not reveal himself in the created Universe in a way that we could not ignore him, Jesus was subtle, but clear.

I find this to be fascinating. It reveals a deep thread that has been coming into focus for me going way back in time.

God created us with free will. If he was in our face, we would have no free will. He would overwhelm and overcome us if we could not ignore Him.

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Appearances and Realities

Posted April 21, 2017 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Christian, Forgiveness, judgment, Sin

Tags: , ,

Depositphoto Image ID: 141475556 Copyright: SIphotography

My son posted an article written by a young woman who was chastised by an older woman for wearing holy jeans in church. She was accused of being disrespectful to God. I am reminded of the charge Jesus made against the Pharisees about being whitewashed tombs.[1] They looked good and clean on the outside, but they were empty on the inside.

We are good at making ourselves look good on the outside, but that isn’t that counts.

Jesus was pretty clear when he commended that we should stop judging by appearances.[2] How did this elderly woman know that the young church attendee was disrespecting God? God judges the heart,[3] and God alone.[4] He weighs our motives.[5] The people who look good to us, may be anything but good[6], and the opposite is certainly true as well.

It’s no wonder that millennials are leaving the church in big numbers. If this older woman represents what is important to the average churchgoer today, the Pharisees are still leading the way in religious circles.

The thing is that human nature in the 1st Century is human nature in the 21st Century.

We live with an illusion that we are somehow more enlightened, less barbaric and more advanced that our ancient counterparts. There is some evidence that this assessment may be true. We don’t stone people to death for moral crimes anymore. Activists parade in the public square today to support human rights rather than gathering in the public square to watch executions. But we shouldn’t ignore the signs that suggest a different narrative.

More people were killed by genocidal rulers in the 20th Century than in all the previous centuries combined. Look at the awful number of people killed in Chicago alone every week, month and year. We don’t burn babies on the outstretched arms of Molech anymore; we tear them limb from limb in the womb.

Appearances are deceiving.

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One of My First Light Bulb Moments

Posted April 18, 2017 by kevingdrendel
Categories: Faith

Source: One of My First Light Bulb Moments


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