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Do Not Stop Speaking


jesus.heal_Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. And Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
Mark 7:31-37

God does not do everything in a public forum. We offer a public invitation to repent and submit to Jesus Christ in churches every Sunday, but in reality people are not required to walk down the aisle to be saved. Some people have very public salvation experiences, and some are very private ones. Some are saved while the preacher is speaking, while others are saved once home and meditating on the things said. There is no one experience that is better than another.

This man was healed privately. Many of Jesus’ miracles, such as His feeding of the 5,000 men, were very public. Others, like this one, were very private. What connects them all is what happened afterwards.

Acts 4:1-22

Peter and John were threatened with prison, violence and death. Their response? “We cannot stop speaking about what we’ve seen and heard.”

They couldn’t stop. They were compelled. They were driven to speak about Jesus.

When Jesus touches someone, they cannot stop speaking about it. Even if Jesus tells them not to speak, they cannot help themselves.

What about you? How often do you speak about His love? How often do you proclaim His good news to others?

No one is stopping us. There are not yet soldiers in the streets to arrest us, beat us, or kill us. And yet we are stopped by sneers and ridicule, or simply indifference.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10

We hold back because we want to please men. Even in the Church, a dangerous practice of pleasing men in a thin veneer called “seeker churches.” These people try to be “seeker” sensitive, not being overbearing towards those who come to their church seeking God.

Except, no Lost soul is seeking Him, for it is written:

“No one understands; no one seeks for God.”
Romans 3:11

Men do not seek God. God seeks out men to save them. The world has so blinded itself with sin that it is oblivious to the coming Judgement. We are the watchmen called to sound the trumpet and warn the people.

Ezekiel 33:1-9

We are required to sound the trumpet and warn the Lost. God will hold us accountable for every soul we had a chance to tell but did not. Every soul we tell that does not repent and heed our warning we are guiltless of. We cannot convince people of the truth, for it is also written:

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
1st Corinthians 2:14

In his natural, sinful state, humans cannot understand, cannot see the beauty of the Gospel. In fact, it’s complete nonsense. Only God can change that heart of stone to a heart of flesh, but He often uses us to do it.

Titus 2:1-10

“Adorn” here means to make alluring or attractive. So in a sense we are to make the Gospel more appealing to the Lost, but not by downplaying sin and Judgement, or by working around penal substitution, but by living according to the teachings of Christ in every way, showing the world that God’s way not only works, but is the best way to live.

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
1st Peter 3:13-17

No one is saying go grab a sandwich board and stand on the street screaming at people to “turn or burn.” What the Bible says is to live a godly life and revere Christ as holy. Then, when people inquire as to why you live and love thus, you share the Gospel. We do not do this harshly or in judgement, but as dying men to dying men.

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.
Colossians 4:5

Don’t stay silent. Be wise among unbelievers and look for opportunities. If you see one open up, you go for it!

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2015 in Christology

 

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Mother’s Day 2008

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Click to hear a love song. 😉

In May of 2008, Gena Renee Suggs and I were engaged to be married. Despite the fact we were not yet married and she was not yet a mom, I knew God willing one day she would be and one day she’d make a great mom. Seven years and two children later, she has not disappointed me. To recognize that, here’s the letter I wrote all those years ago,

What sort of man would give flowers to his betrothed on Mother’s Day? What sort of man would do this for a woman who is not yet a mother? It would take a man devoid of reason, filled with an unending love and passion for his betrothed. It would take a man who knew God would grant her the gift of motherhood someday. It would take a man who knew with all his heart his betrothed would be the best mother on earth. Yes, it would take a man with tremendous trust and faith in both his God and his betrothed to do such a thing.

And what sort of woman would merit such a gift at such a time in her life? It would have to be a woman who had already proven herself to be a caring, compassionate individual, a woman with true godliness and motherly instincts. A woman who is truly a “mother” to many people, a wise counselor, and a compassionate friend. Yes, it would take a very special woman indeed to receive flowers on Mother’s Day when she herself was not yet a mother, a very special woman indeed.

It would take a man as crazy as me, and a woman as wonderful as you.
All my love,
Jason

You’re still the one baby. Happy Mother’s Day, and I love you.

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2015 in History, Sanctification

 

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The Love of Darth Vader

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Darth Vader. Arch-Villain or loving father?

Darth Vader was saved through his son, Luke Skywalker.

Those of us who are Star Wars fans remember that Luke was adamant after fighting (and losing) against Darth Vader in episode 5 that his father turned sith lord still had good within him and that Luke believed he could be turned back to the Light Side. Kenobi and Yoda were unconvinced and urged Luke to kill both Vader and the Emperor as soon as possible or all would be lost.

We all remember that, at the last moment, Vader was saved. When he saw his helpless son being electrocuted by Palpatine’s force lightning, he seized the Emperor and threw him into a pit before dying himself.

None of this is news, but I have a theory that has grown within me as I’ve watched the films since I was a boy.

Darth Vader always loved his son, and he never intended to kill him.

Let’s examine the facts.

In Episode 3, Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader. When he awakens in his metal body, Palpatine lies to him and tells Vader he murdered Padme in his anger (and thus any children she was carrying). Vader is now under the assumption he has nothing good to live for and wholeheartedly devotes himself to the Dark Side.

In Episode 4, many things happen concerning the Death Star we will discuss later. What is important to focus on is that he does not know Luke (or Leia for that matter) are his children. He’s so filled with hate and they are so weak in the force he can’t feel them even though he’s very close to Leia for long periods of time. It’s only when Luke finally opens himself to the Force to put a proton torpedo right in the pickle barrel that Vader suddenly senses, “the Force is strong with this one…” Still, he’s unaware this boy is his son and in fact does try to legitimately kill him.

However in Episode 5 the opening crawl explains that some time has passed and Vader is now obsessively searching the galaxy for….what? The Rebels? No, for Luke Skywalker himself. He’s scattered probe droids all across the cosmos looking for Luke, but why?

It can’t be revenge. Vader didn’t really think the Death Star would work, as indicated in this scene. It seems that Palpatine, dark lord of the Sith that he was, didn’t see the Force like Vader did. This was probably due to Vader’s extensive Jedi training. Vader understood the Force wasn’t just a neat tool in his bag of tricks. The Force was everything. The Death Star was impressive, but it wasn’t anything compared to the Force. Palpatine put his trust in giant weapons of terror and pride, much like Hitler did. Vader knew that if the rebels had anyone who could communicate with the Force, this ridiculous plan would be undone. And he was right. One teenage boy with the Force on his side in an X-wing brought the entire thing down. Vader clearly felt this was a waste of time and that attitude can be felt throughout the film. He clearly didn’t have a lot of emotional ties to the project, and while he would have been miffed when it got destroyed, I don’t think it would have driven him to some kind of manhunt to find the single man responsible.

So why Luke? Well it’s clear that by this time, Imperial spies have found out the name of the rebel who fired the winning shot, and for all of Kenobi’s efforts to hide Luke, he didn’t bother changing his name. When Vader heard his name was Skywalker, and knew his rough age, the fact he was a crack-shot pilot and strong with the Force….well lets just say Vader isn’t an idiot. This had to be his son, or at least it could be.

When the Imperial army lands on Hoth, Vader ignores the battle and aggressively searches for Luke within. Now, you may say, this doesn’t prove Vader loved him. In fact, its more likely he was obsessed with finding this young Force user to put him down so that he has no chance to become a Jedi. That is a valid point, considering how Vader knows how dangerous a single Force user can be if he’s trained up. But there’s more.

In the asteroid scene, Palpatine contacts Vader directly with an urgent message. In this message Palpatine reveals to Vader that the young rebel who took down the Death Star is none other than Luke Skywalker, son of Annakin. This conversation is crucial for a number of reasons. 1. Palpatine reveals this information slowly to Vader. He clearly believes Vader does not know this information yet and is approaching him carefully with it. After all he’d told Vader his kid had died. 2. Vader acts surprised, letting us know he’s keeping the emperor in the dark. Vader has known for some time that it was Luke and that Luke is his son. For all his so-called loyalty, he’s kept this fact from Palpatine for as long as he could. 3. Vader’s tone. Vader says, “How can that be possible?” in a tone that surely makes me think he’s grinding his teeth. The unsaid second phrase is, “You told me my child died.” Vader is angry at Palpatine, but he holds back, because he’s got a plan. 4. Vader asks that Luke be spared. Palpatine doesn’t say it, but he doesn’t have to. Luke must die, lest he become a real Jedi Knight. Vader proactively asks that Luke be spared on the condition he be turned to the Dark Side. He masks this with, “He could become a powerful ally.” Now they both know the Sith rules: two there are, no more, no less, a master and an apprentice. Palpatine agrees, because Palpatine believes Luke will be a stronger apprentice than Vader, who is growing old and weak. (This is proven in Episode 6). Palpatine probably knows Vader wants to use Luke to assassinate himself, for this is the Sith way also. Nevertheless, Palpatine decides to take the risk.

The evidence really starts to mount at Cloud City. First, Vader tests the Carbon Freezing Unit on Solo first because he doesn’t want, “the Emperor’s prize damaged.” Now I believe part of Vader’s plan was to turn Luke into a Sith and overthrow Palpatine. At this point Vader is nowhere near what we’d call “good.” He’s still very much evil, and he is totally plotting to make Luke his apprentice and overthrow Palpatine, but underneath it all there is a dormant love for his son that even he doesn’t realize yet.

Vader pleads with his son.

Vader pleads with his son.

When Luke confronts Vader, Vader doesn’t really put his best foot forward. He could have crushed Luke easily, but doesn’t. This is not surprising given his goals of overthrowing the Emperor. However at the edge of the bridge overlooking the chasm in that famous scene we all know and love, something happens I find illogical. Luke is defeated and disarmed (literally). Yet he is nowhere near being defeated spiritually. He is not giving in, and its pretty darn clear. Vader, however, doesn’t kill Luke. He didn’t hesitate 20 years earlier with any other Jedi, even the children adawans. There was no mercy,no parley. Yet he pleads with Luke to surrender. Pleads. You can hear it in his voice, he really, really doesn’t want to kill Luke. This whole fight he’s risked everything just to get Luke to this point where he’d have no choice, and yet Luke chooses death rather than join him. Still Vader relents. Finally Vader tells Luke that he is his father, at which point Luke understandably loses it. His last words to Luke are not harsh, but almost tender, “Join me. It is the only way.” You can almost hear behind it, “Please son.” Luke lets go.

Vader wastes no time. He knows Luke doesn’t die down there (he can fully sense his presence now at all times) and heads for his ship. As the Falcon makes its dramatic escape, Vader continues to plead with his son via the Force.

Now at this point, we still really don’t have anything really conclusive. But it is worth noting that Luke himself is convinced. He will insist to both Yoda and Kenobi when he meets them that he felt good in Vader at Bespin. He felt his father’s love.

Alright, on to Episode 6 and the good stuff. In the scene where the Emperor arrives on the Death Star II, he tells Vader he senses that Vader wants to continue searching for Luke. Vader seems almost annoyed at this, and I believe he was trying to keep Palpatine from knowing this. A little later, Palpatine tells Vader to wait on the command ship for further instructions.

Here’s the big one. When Luke flies in with the rebels on the Tyderion, he senses Vader on the command ship and Vader senses him. Luke knows they are hosed already. “I shouldn’t have come.” he says. Vader immediately goes to Palpatine, who is annoyed Vader has disobeyed orders. Vader explains that the rebels have landed on Endor. Palpatine waives this off, “Yes I know.” It is all according to plan. “Skywalker is with them.” Vader continues. Palpatine looks visibly worried, “Are you sure?” he asks. “I have felt him.” Vader replies. “Strange that I have not,” Palpatine responds “I trust that your feelings on this matter are clear Lord Vader?” “They are clear.” Vader assures him.

OK! So this is really important. Vader can sense Luke whereas Palpatine cannot. We know that Palpatine is by and large the stronger in the Dark Side of the two, so it’s not possible Vader was doing something with the Dark Side that Palpatine could not. So how did Vader sense his son? Through the Light Side. Vader, for a moment concerning his son, was channeling the Light Side of the Force again. Palpatine confirms this through his question, “Are your feelings clear?” He knows Vader channeled the Light Side, which could only have been done through some sort of goodness or affection towards Luke. In other words, love. Palpatine is concerned Vader actually loves his son. If that’s true it could undo everything (and as we’ll see, it does.)

When Luke surrenders to Vader, Luke is now the one pleading. He believes there is good left in Annakin yet, but he overestimates this. He believes Vader loves him too much to expose him to Palpatine, but he underestimates Palpatine’s hold over Vader, and is taken to the Throne Room. Some important things are revealed, however. One, Vader is impressed with Luke’s lightsaber. One can almost sense pride in his voice. In addition, when Vader rejects Luke’s pleas to turn away from evil, he says, “It is….too late for me, son.” Vader wants to run away with Luke, but he believes that the Dark Side is an inevitable force he cannot escape nor be redeemed from. Palpatine’s lies, like the lies of an abusive parent or spouse, have sunk deep within him. Vader can forsee a future with his son, but only one that lies in the Dark Side. Now that he’s going to the Emperor, Vader believes this dream lost. “He is your master now.” Vader doesn’t believe he can best Palpatine.

When Vader and Luke finally cross blades, we see Luke is much improved, but Vader is still clearly better. Anyone can see Vader is holding back, taunting Luke in an attempt to arouse his anger so that Luke will channel the Dark Side. At first, Luke does the Jedi proud, and refuses to even meaningfully engage Vader. Then Vader searches Luke and discovers Leia. His taunts about turning Leia are too much for Luke, and he flies into a rage.

At this point, Luke is channeling Dark Side. He aggressively attacks Vader with hatred. He feels betrayed. Luke now believes what Yoda and Kenobi said. Vader is irredeemable, and in his foolish quest to save him, Luke has now betrayed everyone. Luke strikes out again and again until at last he throws Vader down in ruin and chops off his hand. Luke is about to land the death blow when he sees the cyborg stump that was his father’s hand. He looks down at his own cyborg hand. Suddenly he realizes he is becoming just like Vader. Bit by bit, he’s becoming a Sith. He sheathes his weapon and turns to the Emperor. “Never.” he throws the saber away, “I’ll never turn to the Dark Side. You’ve failed your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” That bit about him throwing his saber away always bothered me as a kid. Why throw away your weapon? Because Luke finally realizes what the real battle is. It’s not the battle for physical survival, but spiritual survival. If he kept his weapon, perhaps he could have defeated Palpatine. But even if he had, he would have smoothly taken his place as Lord of the Sith. By throwing the weapon down, he threw aside temptation to do more harm and rejected the Dark Side (unlike in the cave in episode 5, where he chose to fight). He was now a Jedi.

"So be it. Jedi."

“So be it. Jedi.”

The Emperor now realizes this brat has cost him everything. Vader is useless now and probably not going to survive and his chosen successor is now a stinking Jedi. He raises his hands, and pure hate turns to kinetic energy made for killing. Force Lightning. Luke is quickly overcome and falls to the ground writhing in pain. Vader gets up after a fashion to watch this unfold. I believe he was expecting the torture to provoke Luke to surrender and turn at last. I think Vader knew his time was up, but maybe his son could live on as Palpatine’s new apprentice. But Luke holds on, and on, and on. Soon, the pain does get to Luke, but not at all in the way Vader expects. He begins to plead, like a child, “Father, please! Help me!” Vader hears his son’s pleas and looks at Palpatine. All he sees there is pure hatred. At some point, Vader snaps. He grabs Palpatine while he’s still channeling, and you can see that the lightning is hitting Vader all the way to the pit, causing severe pain and damage, but Vader makes it and throws him in. Heck yeah!

I think in those last moments, Vader came to accept two realizations. One, that Palpatine was never the good guy, despite the lies fed to him in Episodes 2 and 3. His way was not the right way, and all Palpatine had ever done for him was take away everything he loved and enslaved him. The spell Palpatine had put on Annakin had broken. Two, Annakin realized that his pretensions about training Luke to overthrow Palpatine to become the new Sith lords was just a cover for his true love that he held for his only son. Third, that whether he could be redeemed or not, there were things worse than death, and seeing your boy tortured to death by a madman while he pleas for your help is definitely one of them.

So in conclusion, I believe that Vader loved his son Luke from the moment he knew he existed. I think all of his actions and efforts in Episodes 5 and 6 were to save his son from death and to be with him, albeit for most of that time that relationship was to be one of Sith Lord and Apprentice. (The Dark Side twisted his love.)

Why is this on my blog? I am too tired now to make spiritual allegorical connections, so I’ll let you do that work yourself. 🙂

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2015 in Soteriology

 

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Theodicy

ancient-philosopher“If God is good, why does evil exist?”

First, to answer the question, we must first define evil. God defines evil/sin as something that falls short of His intended purpose (Rom 3:23). Therefore, evil is the privation (or lack of) good. Evil is not a thing in and of itself, rather, it is the absence of what is good, a lack of total perfection.

Secondly, humans, and not God, are the cause of this want of good in Creation. God gave us the responsibility to ensure His goodness endured in this world by obeying Him, and we squandered it. (Genesis 2-3) He could have dealt with sin and evil right then and there, and prevented any of the terrible consequences of evil (lack of good) in the world. However, to do so would have meant our immediate judgement and destruction, we being not only part of but also the cause of the evil (lack of good) in the world. In order for God to deal justly with evil and sin, He must punish all sin and remove all evil, not just the parts we don’t like. (Ez 18:25)

But God, rich in mercy and love, did not want us to be destroyed. (Ez 18:23, 2 Peter 3:9) Instead of dealing with evil in the garden, He permitted the world to continue in evil (that is, lacking perfection) with all the flaws and consequences thereof (death, hate, suffering, etc) in order than at the right time (Romans 5:6, Galatians 4:4-5) He could send His Son Jesus into this evil (imperfect) world to Himself suffer evil and die a sinner’s death in order to redeem humankind back to Himself (John 3:16-18).

Why did God allow an evil (imperfect) world to continue afterwards? Because God intended to save not only those present at the time of Jesus’ death and Resurrection  but also humans from every single tribe and tongue worldwide (Rev 5:9, Rom 11:25, Matt 24:14). Until the full number of God’s people are redeemed, God will hold back His judgement which will in fact end all sin and evil (imperfection) from the world forever and ever.

So, God withholds His solution to the “evil problem”, which ultimately finds its source in the sins of human beings, so that He can save humans from it. His patience means our salvation (Rom 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9).  If God had dealt with evil in the Garden, or after the Cross, and not permitted evil to continue until this time, you and I would have been cut off, excluded from the Promise and without hope.

In short, God doesn’t destroy evil because we are evil and He loves us. There is coming a day, however, set and known only by the Father God, when He will bring in the last of His people and deal with evil with all justice and judgement. Today is the day of salvation, do not resist God if He stirs your heart to repentance.

Praise God for his mercy and patience!

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2012 in Theology

 

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