Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Debunking the Purity Movement Part 1 Dating vs. Courtship

Proverbs 18:22 “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD"

I wanted to the take the time to discuss and analyze the purity the movement that sprang up in the past decades and the affects it has on society since.  I will be posting a few parts on this subject matter regarding different fields within this movement.  This first part is about the courtship vs. dating.  In the 1970s, conservative pastor Bill Gothard taught courtship over secular dating.  Then in the mid-1990s, Jonathan Lindvall, also introduced courtship known as “Youthful Romance” as an alternative to dating. 

However, the purity movement itself all started in 1997 when Christian conservative Pastor Joshua Harris wrote a book called “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” when he was only 21, in which he encourages young Christian people not to do the regular dating based today’s secular standards.  Instead, they should embrace courtship in which they only form romantic relationships with each other for the sole purpose of marriage.  The young man will also usually ask the young lady’s father for permission to court his daughter, and they don’t do anything physical with each other(with the exception of holding hands) until after the wedding including a first kiss.  They shouldn’t even be left alone together as group dating or chaperoned dates are often encouraged.   Ever since the book came out, more books by Christian authors including Leslie and Eric Ludy’s “Set Apart” series promoting the same message. There is also the “True Love Waits’ organization for Christian teens.  

The Purity Culture would become a huge phenomenon among very ultra-conservative, patriarchal Christian Fundamentalists and homeschooling families. This movement was meant to be a Christian counter-culture to a sexualized society of the post-sexual liberation of the 1970s. The idea was to restore a pre-20th century romantic relationships that was more pure, holy and innocent and considered biblical and godly.  I’m not against reviving or restoring any traditional ritual, moral, ideal that is beneficial as I’ mentioned in my previous post.  I can even understand the motives behind this purity movement, and agree that in today’s culture, society as become too sexualized and has affected both Christians and non-Christians alike.  However, this courtship ritual among the purity movement has many downsides that has actually hindered rather than help Christians.  First, it has caused uneasiness and discomfort socially awkwardness interacting with the opposite sex.  Males and females had trouble relating to each other and were even discouraged from forming friendships fearing it would lead to something more.  The idea of a male and female being alone together, even if they are not a couple or don’t have any romantic or any desires for one another, is discouraged out of fear of any temptation that may arise.   

Because of these restrictions, plenty of Christian adults in the late 20s and onward, who are involved in the movement wind up still single.  Plenty seldom dated or dated at all in their early 20s.  Many had troubles forming romantic relationships and out of frustration gave up dating and the complications that come with it, choosing to hang out with the opposite sex instead buying into the idea that God will just find a spouse for them when they are ready.  For the young Christians in college and afterwards, part of their reluctance to date may have been out of fear of the expectation of marriage, since, marriage was seen as the only purpose date known as courting.  Another factor, is the idea among the purity movement, is that for young people who date and then break up are just practicing divorce.  I even, read an article from a fundamentalist pastor who was warning his congregation on the dangers of dating since it was practicing divorce. 

Many ultra-conservative churches discouraged dating among younger Christians from dating for this exact same reason.  I always wondered where these folks get this logic?  I assume it comes from theory that young people who get used to forming relationships then breaking up may conclude that relationships aren’t meant to last and if it fails, just end it and this attitude could extend to marriages as well with the divorce rate so high.  Another theory is that to give their hearts away to someone who they are not going to marry will cause them to not be able to completely give their hearts to their future spouse and could be considered emotional cheating.  So, young people are cautioned not to give their hearts away so easily.  Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”.  Many misunderstand this verse to refer to romantic relationships, therefore not give our hearts so easily to people we won’t end up marrying.  However, the context of that verse is about a father cautioning his son, warning him not to allow his heart to be corrupted by sin, including greed, selfishness, lust and allowing the heart to harden becoming bitter and malicious.  This is certainly something all us Christians should strive to avoid. 

 Many young Christians doing courtships often marry young sometimes barley out of their teens encouraged and pressured by their parents, churches, pastors.  Because of this many who haven’t had any experience in dating have trouble relating to one another causing conflicts in their marriage and some lead to divorce.  Even in less patriarchic Christian circles, Christians are encouraged to date with the only purpose for marriage known as “dating with marriage in mind”.  These can be really discouraging for Christian high school and college students who are not yet ready for marriage but feel ready to explore romantic relationships with all the fundamental ups and downs that come with it. The main point is to form romantic relationships on biblical principals, and being god-centered.  I definitely agree with this concept, we should strive not be influenced by the modern secular attitudes on dating that go against God’s will, which has become to sexualized, just for the sake of getting with the program and following the crowd.  As Christians, Our first priority is being a glory to God even in dating. 

However, combating the ungodly sexualized society, by adapting to another extreme ideal doesn’t solve this issue but as in fact created even more problems.  Many survivors of this courtship movement have created blogs and articles in which they talk about the downsides and the bad affects they and fellow peers endured due to this movement.  In fact, plenty of Christians are now and have gradually turned away from the courtship culture and regretting their choice to embrace it in the first place. The fact is movement’s views are often legalistic with rigid restrictions, rules and outdated and unnecessary cultural ideals on romantic relationships which are not biblically mandated.   In fact, there is nothing at all in the bible that mentions dating since dating didn’t exist during ancient biblical times.  During, the ancient times, arranged marriages and courtships were the norm.  Love didn’t often play into the role when couples married by arrangement by their parents, sometimes for business reasons.  Also, the norm was men taking more than one wife and having concubines whom he fathered children with.  Also girls married as young as twelve and boys young as thirteen.  Of course, none of these customs are no longer socially acceptable, some not even legal.  Arranged marriages and courtship continued as late as the 19th century. 

In the 1920s, courtship was replaced by dating rituals, especially in the western world, where couples go out together without a chaperone and the no kissing until the wedding was relaxed to allow some forms of physical affection, premarital sex was still frowned upon.  As decades have past, cultural norms has since evolved including dating customs, not always for the better as the sexual liberation emerged during the 1960s and 1970s.  For Christians, many are simply bad at dating, as they are confused as what to do, what is acceptable for them and what isn’t, receiving well-meaning but sometimes conflicting and misguided advice and standards from their churches. Plenty of young Christian women are dating and even marrying non-Christian men as they complain Christian men don’t pursue them.  Christians just seem to be lost when it comes to the modern dating world.  Fortunately, there are several Christian dating experts, authors who are not embracing the courtship rituals and instead are focusing on realistic modern dating standards for Christians that still holds to godly principals.  Experts include Dr. Stephen W. Simpson, a Christian psychologist who wrote the book “What Women Wish You Knew About Dating”, Jason Illian  author of “Undressed: The Naked Truth About Love, Sex and Dating”. 

Others also include Mindy Meier, Chad Eastham, Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott etc.  I also like to point out I don’t condemn courtship altogether, so long couples choose on their own free will to follow the courtship way and share there first kiss on their wedding day.  Couples should be able to freely choose whatever they feel is right for them, without judgment.  However, I don’t condone courtships and the “I kissed dating goodbye” culture restricted to Christians, in which they are made to feel these standards are the only godly way for all Christians to pursue. 

As we are now living in the 21st century, culture and customs has since evolved in progressed.  Christians need to adapt to the modern world and all in entails, rather than always isolate themselves from the present society in order to feel more godly, while still embracing Christ.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Traditional Values?

Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

I want to discuss in this post about what many Christians proclaim on traditional values.  Among very conservative Christians, there is a lot of discussion on what or lack of the long forgotten traditional ideals and morals of the by gone era and how society as been hindered because of some of its loss and the longing to bring back these ideals for the modern society.  The debate can be about a variety of beliefs regarding roles, attitudes, behavior whether it’s the lack of defined gender roles, family values, good parenting, behaviors among the youth or basic civility and common decency to each other. 

In many of their minds, things were so much better in the nostalgic golden days where things were so much simpler and everyone knew their roles and place.  They blame a variety of changes that came in the past several decades that destroyed these ideals, whether it’s the rise of the women’s movement, the hippie culture, the sexual revolution, etc.  The only solution for these Christians is to revive the traditional models of past and blend them into modern society which many are already doing by teaching in the churches, books, programs, movements and on websites.  The beliefs among such groups will vary depending on how ultra-conservative traditional they are. 

For example, there is Dr. Robert Lewis of “Men’s Fraternity: Authentic Manhood” who also wrote the book “Rocking the Roles” which goes beyond the old fashioned 1950s family model and the 1980s modern family unit altogether with perfect balance of both.  Many others follow this philosophy trying to avoid pandering to either extremes of the patriarchal model and the post-feminist model.  However, there very patriarchal and traditionalists groups who want to rebuke many of the modern values of today for nostalgic cultural idealogy blaming feminism for most of the confusion, the changing gender roles and lack of morals in society.  It’s not just Christians who long for revive the traditional way of life. 

Even some in the secular society are becoming less satisfied of today’s society bellowing how some of the old ways were so much better, be it the morals, the attitudes, the fashion, movies, TV, music, gender roles, family models and basically how people treat others, how things were less expensive.  For them, many things were so much better in the by gone eras of the past decades and they longed to have been born in another time period era.  There is a retro style going on recently among younger and older folks who are fascinated by all things in the past especially the fashion, hairstyles, music style, books, classic films, celebrities, etc.  Many of these folks run blogs and websites expressing their new fascination. TV shows like “Mad Men”, “Downton Abbey” and any time period dramas also perpetuate the theories of the innocence and simplicity of the past.  I will admit that I agree to this only to an extant. 

I myself have some partially old fashioned morals and beliefs balanced with some modern views depending on the circumstances.  I support reviving some good ideals that are considered traditional or even outdated that are beneficial, while other negative ideals we can leave in the past.  In fact, most modern people have some of old fashioned views they follow.  However, I can’t help but think for many who long for the nostalgic ways of life hold onto a very romanticized idealistic image the golden eras.  Mostly from people who are fed up with drudgeries and standards of the modern world benefit the most from the past generations.  Mainly women who don’t desire the equal responsibilities of today and revel in being housewives, focusing only on caring for the homes and children, being treated like ladies, etc or men desire being the main breadwinners, not debating their wives over careers, and household chores and all the privileges of the patriarchic society and when things were much cheaper.  

This is mostly true among Christian traditionalist groups,  as many want to abandon all the modern values altogether and live as if they are living in a different era, with al the different standards, customs, values that were common.  Although there are many positive things about the past generations, there were also plenty of downsides and not all people would have benefited the by gone eras.  For example, decades ago racism, sexism, Anti-Semitism and other forms are bigotry were more rampant than today.  Laws were made to discriminate against others, like the Jim Crow laws in the deep south that encouraged racial segregation.  Basically, laws didn’t protect all people due to their race, gender, or religion. 

 Black people were oppressed especially in the south where unfair treatment, lynchings, abuse, rapes etc commonly occurred. Women were regarded as second-class citizens and marital rape, spousal abuse, sexual harassment were not illegal during past decades.  There weren’t any stalking laws to protect citizens from harassment.  Also, back in the days, many people were more narrow-minded, na├»ve or ignorant on certain things in situations. Many had to fight for rights and opportunities many others already had, for the black people it was the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, for women it was the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Other minorities also had to fight for fair treatment and dealt with many of the struggles in the process.  T

Today, we live in a more egalitarian society where all people are protected equally under the law, have gained more equal opportunities and fairness.  We are also less ignorant upon becoming more acknowledgeable in certain fields which is making good progress including technology.   We also have many advantages than we had in the past..  Having growing up in the more equal society, I wouldn’t to live in the era my parents grew up and deal with all the struggles that black people and women as well as other minorities had to endure.  I’m satisfied in living in an era with all the progress it has made.  Of course today, there are also some downsides and disadvantages as not all things have changed for the better but for the worse, but that doesn't take away many of the positive sides of in the present time.  

As a Christian, I strive to live the modern society adapting godly principles in today’s culture, learning to differentiate between biblical ideals and culture ideals not confusing the two.  I think it is better to stop moaning about how great it was in the past and wishing to have been born in another era or to go back to the way it used to be.  The by gone era of the past decades are over and we can never go back to those time periods and shouldn’t.  Instead, we should accept the present and look to the future.  However that doesn’t mean we have to abandon all of the traditional ideals and customs of the past. 

As I said before, part of moving forward could be preserving and reviving some of the good ideals, morals and customs of the  past generations for the newer generation to adapt  to adapt and honor  which could be beneficial in today’s society while balancing them out with some progressive ideals of the changing times.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Did Jesus Have A Family?

John 4:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

There has always been questions and debates regarding Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  Was he really the messiah? Was he really the son of God?  Did he really die for our sins on the cross?  Did he have a wife and children?  A lot of the questions have gone on for decades with many scholars coming up with some controversial conclusions about the life and time of the famous Jesus.  Recent debate is possibly evidence that Jesus did in fact have a wife.  There was always speculation by some that not only Jesus was married but his wife was actually Mary Magdalene, one of his disciples.  This theory was also made in several books over decades the earliest being “The Holy Blood, The Holy Grail(1982)” by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln.  

In this book the theory is not only that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married but they had children and their descendants are of the Merovingian Dynasty in France.  Other books that supports these theories is “The Templar Revelation(1997)” by Clive Prince and Lynn Picknett.  In this book, Jesus is a disciple of John the Baptist whose teachings were from Egyptian mystery religion Isis-Osirus-Horus and that Mary Magdalene was ritualized to having a sacred sexual relationship with Jesus.  Then there is the popular mystery fiction novel “The Da Vinci Code(2003)” by author Dan Brown.  There hasn’t been any confirmed proof that Jesus was married or Mary Magdalene was his wife, however there has been new findings that may consider the possibility.  Recently, in September 18, 2012, Professor Karen King of Harvard Divinity School, announced the existence of a papyrus fragment dubbed “The Gospel of Jesus Wife” at the International Coptic Congress in Rome. Following the months later, numerous studies and scientific testing was done one papyrus by several professionals who determined it was written in seventh or eighth century.  The English translation of the fragments has the phrases “Jesus said to them ‘my wife she is able to be my disciple, and ‘as for me I am with her in order to”.  Despite this, many skeptics doubt the papyrus is genuine and even believe it was a forgery including Coptic specialist Christian Askeland, Professor of Indiana Wesleyan University.  Some believe the fragments are genuine and a few scholars suspect the text was written by Egyptian Christians in AD 400.  

Then there is the famous Jesus Family Tomb in Talpiot which I mentioned in my previous post(See fact or fiction part 2).  I mentioned in this discovered tomb nine ossuaries with the names “Yeshua Bar Yosef” which in Aramaic means “Jesus son of Joseph”.  Other names are “Mariamne” which some believe refers to Mary Magdalene, “Yosa” meaning Joses(Joseph).  In the New Testament Jesus is mentioned of having four brothers, James(known as James The Just), Joses(Joseph), Judas(Judah) and Simon as well some unnamed sisters in the Gospels of Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55-56.  Canadian Israeli Journalist, author and film director Simcha Jacabovici made a documentary film on these findings and co-wrote the book about it claiming these were the remains of Jesus and his family.  He believes that the name Mariamne is referring to his wife Mary Magdalene, Yosa, his brother Joseph.  There is also an ossuary with the name “Yehuda Bar Yeshua” translated as “Judah son of Jesus” leaving him to believe of the possibility Jesus also had some children. 

Also was discovered was the tenth and missing ossuary found in the Kidron Valley, near Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  This ossuary had the Aramaic inscription “Ya’akov bar-Yosef akhui diYeshua” translated as “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus”.  The existence of the ossuary was announced on October 21, 2002 in a Washington Press conference co-hosted by the Discovery Channel and the Biblical Archaeology Society and is owned by Oded Golan, an Israeli engineer and artifact collector.  Many believe the ossuary to be that of Jesus brother known as James, the Just also an Apostle. However, some doubt the authenticity of the inscriptions, in fact, Mr. Golan was arrested for forgery of the ossuary in late 2004 and it took several years for him to be cleared of the charges in 2012.  Mr. Golan put the ossuary on public display and debate still going on whether it is the genuine box of Jesus brother’s remains.  However, if these claims were true it could possibly mean that Jesus resurrection wasn’t true.  Some speculate that perhaps his disciples moved his body from the tomb after his death and hid it, then put in the family tomb later on.  Skeptics rebuke the idea that the Jesus family tomb is the actual burial of Jesus and his family as the names Jesus, Mariamne, Joseph and Judah were common names in Israel during that period. Also, there isn’t any real evidence that Jesus was ever married or had children or had any relations with Mary Magdalene. 

Another controversial theory is the paternity of Jesus Christ. Over years, some scholars who doubted Jesus was the son of God believed that his true father was a Roman soldier named Tiberius Iulius Abdes Pantera.  This theory was first mentioned by a 2nd century Greek philosopher Celsus who claimed Jesus was a result of an affair with Mary and Pantera.  Others speculate Mary might have been raped by Pantera.  A possible support to this theory is in a Talmud, a text of Rabbinic Judaism which consists of over 6,200 pages written in Mishnaic Hebrew and Aramaic.  Some scholars believe the text contains information about Christian traditions related to Jesus.  In some of the texts refers to “Yeshu Ben Pandera” Hebrew translation of “Jesus son of Panthera” found in the Tosefta, Qohelet Rabbah and Jerusalem Talmud.  However, other scholars refute the theory that the Jesus in this text is Jesus Christ.  In fact, historians claim that there is evidence he was a different person.  In the Talmud Shabbot 104b and Sanhedrin 67a, Yeshu Ben Pandera is also known as Ben Stada(Son of Stada), and was a result of a adulterous affair between Miriam(Mary) a hairdresser also called Stada and Joseph Pandera, a Merchant.  Miriam’s husband was Pappos Ben Yehudah(Son of Judah).  This Jesus brought black magic and sorcery from Egypt and deceived and led Israel astray.  He later was stoned to death and hung in the town of Lod on the eve of Passover along with his five disciples. This should clear up any speculation to Jesus parentage although there are still skeptics.  

The fact remains there isn’t any confirmed evidence Jesus was ever married and had a children neither any reason that if such a thing was true it was omitted from the bible. I personally believe that if Jesus was married to anyone it would have been mentioned as it wasn’t forbidden for him to have a wife or any children.  As for whether he is the son of God, there will always be skeptics with their own theories on this matter, and I know the bible may not be 100% proof of this knowledge, but as I mentioned before in a previous post, that I have strong faith in Jesus Christ was our Savior is the son of God, died on the cross for all our sins and was later resurrected.  As long as any of us has faith in Jesus Christ our Savior, and embrace him in our lives that is all that really matters. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bible Fact or Fiction part 2

Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

I want to conclude on the topic of facts vs fiction in the bible and how accurate the bible really is regarding certain places and people.  Many critics have been skeptical on biblical figures and events and if they really existed and whether there is evidence to support this.  Such figures include Noah’s Ark, the Garden of Eden, Jesus Christ himself etc.  

Many have wondered about the famous Noah’s Ark, whether it existed or not and what happened to the large ark that carried Noah’s family and a large menagerie of animals during the flood that wiped out millions of people.  That questioned may have been answered when in Turkey a Kurdish farmer discovered what appeared to be a large boat-shaped formation after an earthquake in 1948 fifteen miles from Mount Ararat.  In 1959, a Turkish air force pilot also discovered the site and took a photo of this formation and it was published on July 9, 1960 in the Australian Pix Magazine, then later in the Life Magazine on September 5, 1960.  That same year, an archaeological research team investigated the site, but didn’t find any evidence it was the famous ark.  Then in 1977, archeologist Ron Wyatt traveled to the site with his two sons to study the formation himself. He would travel to the site for over few years, but on his first visit he did discover several artifacts that he linked with Noah.  These included stone sea anchors, he believes Noah used to steer the vessel.  Also, a house that Noah allegedly built and some stones containing inscriptions of the details of the flood.  He also found a pictograph showing eight people leaving a large wave of water with a boat. Also the alleged burial ground of Noah.  In 1979, Wyatt returned to the site, a year after a great earthquake occurred splitting the formation from bow to stern.  This time Wyatt took some soil samples from outside and inside the formation and after some testing discovered they were petrified timbers.  

The Turkish government has since supported Wyatt’s theory and acknowledged the site to be location of Noah’s Ark.  However, some skeptics have rebuked these claims.  In fact, others have also claimed to have found the true location of Noah’s Ark.  One such person is the late Edward Crawford, a former draftsman illustrator for the U.S. military who also taught theology at the Evergreen Bible Presbyterian Church in Seattle.  Crawford made numerous trips to Mount Ararat and in 1990, he discovered a rectangular structure buried under snow and ice elevated about 14,765 feet which he determined to be the Noah’s Ark.  In June 2006, a 14-crew of explorers went on an expedition in Iran led by bible historian and explorer Bob Cornuke.  They found an unusual shape on a slope approximately 13,000 feet above sea level in the Ararat Mountain range which they believed to the location of the famous Ark.  The crew took video footage of a 400 feet black formation which was about the size of the biblical ark.  They also took samples of some of the wood-like rocks which they tested and was  proved to be petrified wood.  However, the latest alleged discovery of Noah’s Ark occurred in October 2008, when a 15-crew of Turkish and Chinese biblical explorers from Noah’s Ark Ministries International from Hong Kong, traveled to Mount Ararat Turkey.  They found a structure 13,000 ft above sea level and over 4,800 years old. They also discovered on the site, several compartments with some wooden beams that they believe was used to house animals. The explorers also videotaped doors, staircases and nails.  The team are not 100 percent sure if the structure is Noah’s Ark but are 99.9 percent convinced it is. 

Another popular biblical site allegedly discovered is the famous Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve were kicked out of after eating the forbidden fruit.  Although, there isn’t any 100 percent definite sources as to the exact location, there are several theories as to where the Garden of Eden existed.  Genesis 2:10-14 mentions four rivers flowing in the Garden of Eden, Pishon, Gihon, Hiddekel and Euphrates.   Although there is no mention of a Pishon and Gihon rivers that exist today, the Euphrates river in the Turkish mountains area and merges with the Tigris River near the Iraq/Kuwait border.  Some speculate the Tigris river is the Hiddekel river in the bible leaving many theorize that the Garden of Eden is located in Turkey or possibly Kuwait.  However, according to Latvian-German born archaeologist and professor Juris Zarins, the Garden is located in the Persian Gulf where they Euphrates and Tigris rivers runs into the sea.  He also believes that the Pishon river is actually Wadi-Batin River a dry riverbed in Kuwait that runs through Saudi Arabia and the Gihon river was the Karun river in Iran.  British Egyptologist David M. Rohl, also claimed the legendary Garden is actually located in the Iranian Azarbaijan area in the city of Tabriz.  According to Rohl, the location is in the long valley north of the Sahand volcano.  Also, Rohl claimed to have located the two other headwater rivers Gihon and Pishon, known as Araxes(Gihon) and Uizhun(Pishon).  He also claimed to have located Land of Nod, where Adam and Eve’s son Cain was exiled after killing Abel.  The land is now known as Noqdi.  

Another factor regarding the tale of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden is the famous forbidden fruit that Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  The most popular story is the fruit was an apple, however, there is debate if this was true.  Apparently apples didn’t exist in the Middle East, during the Ancient times and it was never described as an apple in the bible.  Many scholars speculate that the forbidden fruit was really a promenade.  The confusion may have become because the latin word malum(mal-um) means apple where as the latin word malum(ma-lum) means evil. Other known discoveries are the some of the tombs of the twelve apostles and Jesus Christ himself.  In fact, in 1942 Vatican archeologists discovered some bones under Saint Peter Basilica’s near a monument in Jerusalem.  After some testing done in the 1940s and 1950s, Catholic pope Paul V1 declared them to be remains of the Apostle Simon Peter in 1968.  However, in 1953 Franciscan priests found an underground cave on the Franciscan church Dominus Flevit on the Mount Olives in Jerusalem. There they discovered hundreds of first century ossuaries, one which read in Aramaic “Shimon Bar Yonah” which translates to “Simon son of Jonah believing this was true remains of the Simon Peter.  Between 1953 and 1955, 43 inscriptions of the other ossuaries where photographed and later published in 1958.  Some of the names read were, Jesus, Joseph, Judas, Matthew Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Mariame.  To these scholars this was proof of a Christian community in Jerusalem.  

Some scholars are skeptic about this discovery and doubted the claims that they were the remains of the apostle.  Also, many in the past had believed Apostle Simon Peter died in Rome where he was legendary crucified. His brother, Apostle Andrew’s tomb was buried in Patras Greece.  In March of the year 357, the Emperor Constantine, who was the son of Constantine, The Great ordered the remains to be moved to the Holy of Apostles in Constantinople.  Later, some part of his remains was taking to Scotland, since he was chosen as the protector of the Scottish people.  In 1460, the ruler Thomas Paleologos had the skull removed from Patras to Rome.  Then in 1967, Pope Paul had the skull returned once again to Patras.  Another Apostle’s tomb that was recently discovered is that of Apostle Phillip.  The event happened in the summer of 2011, in Hierapolis Turkey, where Italian professor Francesco D’Andria helped in finding a first century Tomb 40 yards from the monument Martyrium in honor of Saint Phillip buried under a small church.  He claimed to have evidence that supports the theory that the tomb was of Apostle Phillip even though his remains were no longer in the tomb.  Professor D’Andria believes that the remains was taken to Constantinople at the end of the sixth century then later to Rome to the Church of the Holy Apostles.  Of course, there are some contradictions to these claims as some reports that Phillip’s remains were still in Constantinople as late as the twelfth century. Then there was the discovery of the tomb and bones of Saint Paul in Rome of 2009, when researchers found a marble sarcophagus in an underground chamber of the Basilica of Saint Paul, where bones were found inside.  After scientific tests, the Pope Benedict XVI confirmed that the remains were that of the famous Saint.  However, the most intriguing discovery is that of Jesus Christ himself. 

 In Jerusalem, the famous rock-cut tomb known as the Garden Tomb is considered to be the burial and resurrection of Jesus found in 1867.  It has become a popular tourist site for many visitors.  One contradiction to this theory is the belief from some that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is considered to be the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Other theories have been made about Jesus burial including the 1980 discovery by construction workers of a rock-cut tomb in East Talpiot Jerusalem.  Inside the tomb, ten ossuaries were found some of them translated the names Jesus son of Joseph, Joseph, James, Maria, Matthew, Judas etc.  In March 2007, a documentary aired on the Discovery Channel titled “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” produced by popular filmmaker James Cameron(Titanic) and directed by Canadian filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici.  Later, in 2010, Biblical scholar and college professor of religious studies at North Carolina in Charlotte, James Tabor and Jacobovici discovered another underground tomb 200 feet away which was originally found in 1981.  Using a robotic camera, they found many more ossuaries in this tomb with inscriptions engraved on them one with a drawing of a fish and a human stick figure in its mouth which they believe to be the refereeing to the story of Jonah and the whale.  One the same ossuary is also a drawing of a cross which they believe represents Jesus.  Another box had a message in Greek which was translated to read “Divine Jehovah, raise up, raise up”.  It was believed that these messages were referring to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It was also believed that this was the actual burial place of Jesus Christ.  Tabor and Jacobovici had since published a book called “The Jesus Discovery” and a documentary of the same title was made in 2012.  

 Biblical scholars reject these theories since finding Jesus’s remains would contradict the famous biblical story of his resurrection.  Also, some claim Jesus would have likely been buried in the place of his birth as was the custom not in Jerusalem.  Another argument is that Jesus ossuary would like state “Jesus of Nazareth” or “Jesus the Messiah”   As for the inscription “Jesus the son of Joseph”, it was been argued that both the names Jesus and Joseph were common names in Ancient Israel.  Speaking of his birth, there is now a debate among scholars were he was actually born.  The long held belief was that Jesus was born in the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in a manger.  Recently, some Israeli archaeologists now believe that his birthplace was a Galilean small village also called Bethlehem.  This is supported by the knowledge that both Joseph and Mary were from Galilee in a town Nazareth.  The most important and controversial discovery about Jesus was the famous Shroud of Turin which led to the possibly revelation of the true face of Jesus Christ.  For decades there has been theories of what Jesus looked liked, with many drawings of him mainly famously viewed as a fair-skinned man with long light brown hair and blue eyes.  Of course, many doubt that that is what Jesus looked liked being from Israel where he would have likely been bronze-complexioned man with dark hair.  However, the most recent discovery of his possible physical appearance came from a Shroud of Turin, a 14-foot cloth that contains stains of blood, dirt and water and an image of a man’s body with what appears to be a crown of thorns on his head. Scholars believe this was used to cover Jesus body and has been the most studied artifact in history. 

 It was first discovered in 14th century and has been at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin, Italy since the 16th century.  The first photograph of the cloth was taken in the very late 19th century in which the facial features were first confirmed.  Over decades, more studies were done on the shroud and in the 1970s, a team of scientists found that the image of the cloth was likely that of a crucified body and the stains were real human blood.  In the late 1980s, more scientists speculated that the shroud dated back between 13th or 13th century, however it has now believed the cloth dates back to Jesus time.  Then in 2009, the latest discovery came about with 3D computer graphic artist and TV producer Ray Downing of Studio Macbeth.  Mr. Downing used the body image from the shroud and recreated Jesus face through 3D computer-generated image.  A two-hour documentary “The Face of Jesus” aired on the History Channel in 2010 regarding these findings and many viewers got to see a possibly realistic image of what Jesus really looked liked.  This latest discovery received mixed views as some doubted the discovery and others did not.  For centuries, there have been many theories and allege discoveries regarding the biblical figures, places and artifacts and debate on whether these discoveries are 100% definite. 

 I guess we may never completely prove for sure if all in the bible is true regarding Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark, Moses, King David, Esther, Jesus Christ himself etc.  However, at this point I think all that matters is not 100% proof but faith.  Faith in the belief of God our Creator, Jesus Christ who died for our sins, in Moses who led the Jewish people out of Egypt, in Adam and Eve the first man and woman on earth and faith in the bible itself.  No matter if I get conflicted or not and start questioning historical accuracy of the bible I just remember my faith in God our Lord and realize as long as I have that proof is not really important.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Bible: Fact or Fiction Part 1

John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

I have been thinking a lot of about the bible and the stories in them regarding biblical characters and situations that are mentioned in which many of the events seem impossible, even unbelievable to the normal person.  In fact, there are some skeptical people out there that believe the bible to be a work of fiction or an exaggeration of what really happened.  These people will reason that logically, some of the events couldn’t be true because they seem to be so unreal and there is no proof or evidence to claim that they are true.  For example, did Noah really build a very large ark and travel with his family and a large menagerie of animals during a flood?  Did Moses really exist and did he really lead 60,000 Jews out of Egypt back to their homeland?  Was there really a King David and did he really defeat a Philistine giant Goliath who was 9 ft 9 inches tall?  Did Jesus really walk on water and heal the sick with is hand, and was he really the son of God who was later resurrected after his crucifixion or was he just an ordinary man as the Jewish people believe?  Also, how much of the bible is true and how much is fiction?  

I while ago I learned that some characters and chapters in the bible are work of fiction.  These characters include the heroine Judith known for beheading the Assyrian general Holofernes.  Other fictional biblical figures are Ruth, Boez, Queen Esther.  Some even wonder if King David was real or a work of fiction or Abraham, Joshua etc.  Having always believing in the bible, I have recently discovered that the bible isn’t 100% historically accurate and there is certain elements of fiction mixed with truth in the stories presented.  This knowledge leaves me to wonder just how much is fiction and how much is true and would like to analyze this further.  One historical fictional event is the Book of Judith which was original in the ancient Jewish Books Aprocrypha and not included in the Hebrew bible although it was later included in the Catholic and Orthodox Christian bible in the Old Testament.  In this chapter, there is mention of King Nebuchadnezzar of Assyrian when reality, he was the King of Babylon mentioned in the chapter Jeremiah. Also certain events including places, time periods are also not accurate.  

Some scholars  have  based Judith off of historical female leaders including Queen Salome Alexandra, one of two female leaders of Judea who reigned between 76 through 67 B.C.E.  Also some scholars have based King Nebuchadnezzar of Assyria off of historical conquerors of Judea.  Biblical scholar Gabriele Boccaccini based him off of Tigranes the Great, an Armenian King who conquered all the lands in Book of Judith during Queen Salome Alexandra’s reign. Others linked him to Artaxexes III the Ochus, a Persian Emperor, simply because Holofernes and Bagoas who are military figures in the Judith.  In reality there was a Holofernes who was a general under Artaxexes III and his servant was Bagoas.  19th century Catholic Priest and Scholar Fulcran Vigouroux attempts to based the Assyrian King on Assyrian King Ashburbanipal.  He claimed that in the Septuagint version of the book of Judith, the battle between King Nebucnezzar and King Arphaxad is identified with the battle between King Ashburbanipal and King Phaorates of Median Empire in which Phaortes was killed.  Then there is the Book of Esther which is also be acknowledged as historical fiction.  Some Scholars believe that Esther’s husband the King Ahasueres is modeled after Xerxes I of Persia who ruled between 486-465 B.C.   

However, some doubt that Xerxes’s first wife and mother to several of children Amestris is based on Esther or Vashti Ahasueres’s first wife, since Amestris was never banished.  Besides, there is no resemblance between Amestris and Esther.  According to first century historian Josephus, Ahasueres was actually based on Xerxes’s son Artxerxes I of Persia.  Josephus claimed that Artxerxes married a Jewish woman from a royal family who saved the nation of the Jewish people.  There isn’t much evidence of this since historically Artxerxes married Damaspia whom he had several children.  He also fathered children with several concubines.  Some of claimed Damaspia to be the daughter of Esther and Xerxes and therefore Artxerxes’s half sister which was common in those times.  Whether Esther existed or her husband Ahasueres was actually King Xerxes or King Artxerxes is still unclear.  Other historical fiction is that of the Book of Ruth, where Ruth and Boez are fictional characters.  This also leads many to wonder if King David, the most famous King of Israel who was Ruth’s descendent in the bible is also real.  There has been many skepticism if King David existed for a while now, but some scholars do believe he existed due to evidences found other the centuries.  The first evidence of his possible existed is 1868 when a German Anglican medical missionary F.A. Klein discovered a stone tablet in Dibon Jordan written by Mesha a Moabite king who was an enemy of Israel in mid-ninth century B.C.  The tablet was written 200 years after King David and mentions the “House of David”.  

About a century later in 1993, another stone was discovered near Tel Dan in Northern Israel directed by Archaeologist Avraham Biram.  This stone was also written 200 years after King David by another Israel enemy Hazael, King of Dmascus.  It stated that he killed 70 kings including one from the House of David.  However, even if David existed, did he really fight a Phillistine Giant Goliath from the city of Gath and defeat him with a slingshot.  The earliest report of this incident is a fourth century AD Codex Valicanus Graecus 1209.  Although this manuscript doesn’t contain some verses in 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, regarding David, it does narrate Goliath challenging the Israelites to combat in which they were afraid until David accepts.  It also gives reasons for the challenge as being Saul’s shield-bearer.  Despite the legend that Goliath was 9’9 ft, the oldest manuscript the Dead Sea Scrolls, first century historian Josephus, fourth century Septuagint manuscripts describe Goliath as four cubits and a span( 6’9 ft).   Later manuscripts increased his height to six cubits and a span(9’9ft).   There is also doubt about him being injured from a slingshot to the forehead.  According to British Rabbi Jonathan Magonet, Philistine helmets had forehead covering sometimes down to their nose.  He also claims the Hebrew word “meitzach” meaning forehead is identical to another word used earlier in the passage “mitzchat” which means greaves, the flexible leg-armor that protected Goliath’s lower leg mentioned in 1 Samuel 17:9.  Rabbi Magonet believes it possible that in verse 49, the word metizach replaces mitzchat, meaning Goliath was hit in the lower leg-armor causing him to stumble.  King David is not the only biblical character that many wonder existed or not.  

The famous Abraham’s existence has been doubted by some skeptics.  There isn’t any real evidence of Abraham’s existence.  However, sources of have found some historical info that collaborates the story in the Bible.  The bible claims that Abraham was born in Terah in the city of Ur of Chaldees and later moved to the land of Canaan on God’s wishes.  The people in the city of Ur were known for worshipping the Sumerian Moon God, Nanna as mentioned in the Book of Genesis. Another factor, is the Nuzu tablets found between 1925 and 1941 in Nuzi, Iraq on Tigris. These clay tablets were made in the fifteenth BC and detail the customs Abraham and other Patriarchs of that time period.  One custom is if a couple is barren, the patriarch may adopt a servant as an heir until a real heir is born. This is related to Abraham adopting the servant Eliezer as an heir in the Book of Genesis. The tablets also mention a barren woman asking her husband to take their slave girl as a surrogate wife and produce an heir with her which is in reference to Sarah asking Abraham to use their slave girl Hagar and produce a son.  

Even the most important biblical figure Moses who is known to have led the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land has been considered fictional by many. Just like with Abraham, there is no hard evidence that Moses existed.  However, there are some clues.  Most notably the Tell El-Armarna letters, over 350 clay letters found accidently in Tell El Armana in Egypt in 1887.  These clay stones, possibly written in the time of Moses, details certain events including the Hebrews conquering the land of Canaan.  Within these texts, there has been a debate among scholars regarding a group of people referred to as Habiru or Abiru, who may have been slaves or fugitives who fled Egypt may have been Hebrews.  Also the letters also detail events in the Book of Joshua and the Book of Judges.  Another factor is the famous burning bush where God speaks to Moses in Exodus 3:1-22.  What is believed to be the burning bush is now surrounded by a massive wall of St. Catherine’s Monastery near Mount Sinai in Egypt.  Other locations relating to the story of Moses were claimed to be discovered.  There is the famous Red Sea Crossing in the book of Exodus in which Moses and the Israelites crossed ground land on the sea to flee the Egyptian Pharaoh’s army caused by God.  After they finished crossing, God removed the dry land causing the Egyptian army to drown in the sea. 

 In 1978, the late treasure hunter Ron Wyatt who has also claimed to have discovered several biblical locations also claimed to have found the Red Sea Crossing in Saudi Arabia on the Nuweiba beach in the Gulf of Aqaba.  Between that time and the 1980s, he found artifacts in the ocean which included chariot wheels, human and horse bones.  The chariot wheels were claimed to date to the 18th century Dynasty in Egypt.  Mr. Wyatt also declared the location of Mount Sinai where the ten commandants was given to Moses was in Jebel-al-Lawz.  After a few attempted trips in 1985, Wyatt along with treasure hunter David Fasold returned to Jebel-al-Lawz in search for the gold of Exodus. They discovered a shell bracelet and what seemed to be an ancient temple, where stones were engraved with a petroglyph of Hathor an Epyptian Bull god known as the Golden Calf that the Israelites worshipped when Moses spent 40 days and nights in Mount Sinai.  

In 1988, two more treasure hunters Larry Williams and Bob Cornuke traveled twice the allege Mount Sinai where they also found the location of the ancient altar of the golden calf and the peltroglyphs of the bull god.  They also discovered caves where they found tombs supposedly of Moses’s father-in-law Jethro and his wife Zipporah.  Both Williams and Cornuke would write books on their findings. However, some biblical scholars dispute all these claims stating that they are false and inaccurate.  Also, In 1978  Ron Wyatt also found what he believed to be the Ark of Covenant, a stone of tablets where God engraved the Ten Commandments.  He was in Jerusalem walking on the Garden tomb grounds where he later discovered an underground cave. Mr. Wyatt traveled to this area over a few years to make this discovery.  However, many critics rebuked his claims.  In fact, several others have claimed to have the Ark of Covenant in several different countries.  

There have been many claims of discovering famous biblical locations, from Noah’s Ark, Jesus’s tomb, the Garden of Eden, even what Jesus Christ would have really looked liked.  I will discuss these all these theories and findings in part 2 of this topic.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses”.  

I want to take the time to discuss about forgivingness and all it entails, the power behind it and just how much can we as people can forgive.   On a daily basis we can forgive others who wronged us over various matters, as when they take their anger out on us, when they lie to us, they damage of property, steal from us, or even assault us.  It comes easy to forgive when the person who wronged us steps up and apologizes, admitting their offense and tries to make amends.  It also comes easy to forgive our loved ones, closest friends, neighbors or even strangers or you know the person we are forgiving is naturally a good person.  However, what about forgiving over extreme offenses that tests your will to forgive.  Such as when a spouse betrays you through adultery or harms you through physical or emotional abuse or just walks out on you.  When a parent who is suppose to protect you, harms you or abandons you when growing up.  Someone you trusted betrays you in the worst ways imaginable from harming or even molesting your child, to committing a heinous violation on you(rape, brutal assault, robbing, kidnapping ).  Maybe someone murdered or raped a loved one in your family tried to murder you committing unspeakable acts upon you or a relative, closest friend etc could anybody possible forgive in these circumstances? 

Also, do we have to forgive such offenses right or away, is that what God commands?  There are some who will use Matthew 6:14-15 as a tool to guilt others into forgiving anyone who has wronged you no matter what the offense or else God won’t welcome us into his kingdom in heaven when we die.  Because of this, many have felt the pressures of forgiving no matter how serious or horrible the offense and the guilt if they don’t or least not right away or entirely.  Many people struggle with forgiving feeling is a way for salvation and God to bless them.  The fact remains there are several verses in the bible that says we must forgive.  Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you”.  Luke 6:37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven”.  Luke 17:3-4 “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” 

However, I don’t believe it is essential to enter heaven in the eternal afterlife, in which if we don’t forgive all the people who have ever wronged us throughout our entire life by the time we die, God will condemn us to hell.  Besides, as I stated in a previous post, once we receive Jesus Christ, all are sins are forgiving and we don’t need perform certain tasks to earn his blessings but just our faith.  However, I do believe forgiveness as a whole is necessary in order to follow Christ and be a glory to him.  In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus was teaching his followers about praying and how to ask the Lord to forgive them for their sins as they forgive others for the sins the commit upon them.  He was making it a point that is quite hypocritical to plead for God’s forgiveness for their sins when they can’t forgive other’s sins and he was right.  Sometimes we tend to expect to be forgiven either by God when we sin or by others when we wrong them, but as soon other people wrong us, we have a hard to time returning the gesture even if offenses committed are the same ones we committed to them.  For example, when someone betrays their spouse through adultery or a friend by stabbing them in the back, then they apologize and beg forgiveness, but the shoe becomes on the other foot, and that person is on the receiving end of that same betrayal, he/she has a harder time forgiving because it now happened to them.  

In this way, we become hypocrites, since how can we beg others or the Lord to forgiven our sins or offenses and then can’t bestow others the same forgiveness we desire.  Forgiveness is not always an easy task, it can become harder depending on how serious the offense.  We are imperfect human beings so it’s natural when we are betrayed or horribly wronged we feel react in anger, rage, hostility and the need to lash out and even hurt them the way they hurt us although the bible speaks against seeking vengeance, it is still an natural impulse to do we still should strive to retrain from this.  Also sometimes we reasons we don’t forgive is because of a selfish desire lord it over the person who wronged us all the misdeeds the committed against us punish them and to play the victim feeding on their guilt.  Others confuse forgiveness as excusing the wrongs and letting the offender off the hook therefore forgiveness is seen as a weakness.  Forgiveness does require letting go of the anger, and the need to punish and hold a grudge against others but does not mean excusing or condoning the offense but no longer holding others actions over them and it takes a lot of strength and strong will power to do. Still, forgiveness is not something we can demand or force others to do, or force ourselves to do like is a simple chore.  Depending on how extreme the offense is, sometimes forgiveness may take time for person to do in which they need to heal from the pain and anguish they are feeling first before they can let themselves forgive an offense.  It may take months for some it may event take years to completely forgive someone but is possible to forgive even the most unforgivable act.  

Yet some well-meaning Christians will use bible verses to pressure or guilt someone forgiving or else God will reject them.  I’ve read articles in which pastors and parishioners alike insists forgiveness is demanded by God and some insist we should forgive right away or we as Christians are not welcomed in the kingdom of heaven, or we are hard-hearted people.  I don’t agree these types of methods to which many people will put pressure on themselves out of guilt and shame to forgive in order to be “good Christian person” fearing they God will reject or that they are hypocrites who are dishonoring the Lord.  The problem is forgiveness doesn’t come from their hearts in these situations, instead it is out of fear not pleasing God and not being true believer.  I believe even as followers of Christ, we are still only human and should be allowed with all the human emotions that are reasonable.  Sometimes it is best to let others or let ourselves feel anger, hurt, betrayal, rage whenever we a terrible wrong as been committed against us rather than repress them.  

However, in time as we get these feelings out of our system, we should strive to heal rather than hold a grudge indefinitely that poisons our hearts.  Also, we should show mercy, patience and understanding to others who show such anger when they have been done a terrible offense and not yet ready to let that anger go rather than patronizingly tell them to just forgive the offense and move on, especially if we can’t possibly comprehend what they are going through or experience the same offense ourselves.  We should also show patience to ourselves if we can’t forgive right away, our angry feelings are normal and justified at the moment may pass in time through healing relying on God’s help.  Many has been said about forgiving those who apologize and repent and deserve our forgiveness but what about those who don’t repent, are not remorseful and seem undeserving.   I recall watching a program on the Investigative Discovery channel about a Christian man who murdered his wife, although he claimed she shot her by accident it was later learned he was having affair with another woman during their courtship and continued it after their marriage. He may have only married his wife because of the pressures from his family rather than out of love and may have murdered her in order to be with is mistress.  I read on forum from other Christians discussing the events saying how they forgive him because he deserves forgiveness even judging others who don’t. 

 Although, I think it was admirably that they forgive this man’s sins, I couldn’t help wonder why they actually felt he deserved forgiveness or why they believed it was their place to forgive since they didn’t know him and he crimes wasn’t against them or their loved ones.  Thinking about this again I started to wonder whether is forgiving always about whether the person is deserving of it.  What can make forgiveness so amazing sometimes is when it is giving to people who don’t deserve it.  I have read cases of people forgiving people who raped them, murdered or accidentally killed their loved ones, burglarized their homes, been abused by a family member or spouse, not because they deserved it but to let get of their pain and bitterness which would enable them to move on.  Also, sometimes they actually feel pity for the offenders who suffered horrible pain and tragedy in their own lives that led them to take the direction their lives that caused them to commit such heinous acts. The bottom line is its okay to sometimes forgive the undeserving and unrepentant and to feel sympathy for their sad and sinful lives and even pray for them.  That’s not an easy task to do and I personally wouldn’t condemn anyone who couldn’t do that or not for a long time and it is the trulest amazing power of forgiveness. 

Jesus himself begged God to forgive those who rebuked them when he was on the cross and God blessed and forgave our sins even though it wasn’t deserved but was his amazing gift to us.  Last point about forgiveness is that it isn’t the same as forgetting.  Just because you chose to forgive an offense doesn’t mean you just forget the offense nor does it mean there isn’t any consequences for the offender.  For example if a person damages someone’s property, he/she may forgive the offense but still hold that person accountable to pay for the damages.  If someone commits a crime against another, the victim may forgive the offender but still hold him/her accountable under the law and expect fair justice. Another point is forgiving someone doesn’t mean we just trust the offender again.  A trust can be broken when there is betrayal like when a spouse commits adultery or family member steals from another or there is constant dishonesty.  However, trust can be regained but it has to be earned in time through repentance, healing and actions while turning to God for strength.  

Through our trust in the Lord, the power of forgiveness can be possible even for the most unforgivable sins and showing the ability to show mercy on others even on the undeserving can liberate us from pain and bitterness and takes true strength in ways we didn’t know possible.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Does Embracing God Prevent Bad Experiences For Believers?

Ephesians 6:8 “Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.”

I started this post, because I’ve been thinking a lot about whether embracing God and obeying his laws guarantees you are rewarded with good things and nothing bad can happen to you.  I’ve questioned this a lot even after a year ago finding a comment on a facebook page by a Christian woman who posted that her husband is leaving her filing for divorce despite the fact she forgave him when he cheated on her and was emotionally abusive, but decided to except the divorce.  However, one commenter who disagreed with her decision responded that if she obeyed God’s laws he would reward her.  I’m assuming she was suggesting that if she stayed faithful to God and follow his will, he will reward her by restoring her marriage, but what if that didn’t happen?  I find myself coming back and forth whether obeying God’s commands promises the believer under his protection and blessed with only the good out of life. 

I read several cases of Christians claiming how they prayed to God, obeyed his will and he healed their diseases or any handicaps, restored their marriages, protected them from tragedy by it death or other injuries.  Many will turn to the verses such as Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him”.  Deuteronomy 11:26-28 “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way that I am commanding you today, to go after other gods that you have not known”.  But what about those who obey God’s words, pray and read the bible everyday, attend church regularly and yet receive many sufferings including, illness, loss, tragedy, divorce and even death.  In fact, many bad things occur to those who follow Christ over the past centuries and still occur today.  I have read stories of Christian aid workers being killed abroad in Middle Eastern and African countries or Christians in these countries be persecuted for their religious beliefs. Even in Western countries, there are accounts of scandals in the church involving sexual abuse, murder sometimes involving church leaders. The bible even mentions plenty of righteous people suffering and being oppressed while the wicked prosper with riches and privileges.  In the book of Job, Job was righteous man who was blessed by God, who then decided to test his devotion by allowing the Devil to cause him suffering, losing his wealth, his home, his children and his health to deteriorate. The martyrs mentioned in the bible who were crucified including some of Jesus twelve apostles such as Simon Peter, Phillip and James, as well as Saint Stephen, the first martyr, Mark the Evangelist and Saint Paul.  

Throughout the ancient early centuries and the later centuries there is a history of saints and heroes/heroines who were martyred for their faith and of course Jesus himself was unjustly persecuted and later crucified on the cross. The fact remains, many people who spend their lives doing righteous and honorable deeds experience suffering, persecution and even killed because of it, while those who commit wicket and selfish acts may go unpunished for their misdeeds and may being benefit from it through riches and other privileges.  Although I don’t believe God wants good people to suffer, the reality is that life is not always fair or easy and the Lord is aware of that. He allows people to have free will to turn against him and give into Satan’s will by oppressing or committing heinous acts on others, deserting their spouses and families break the law or harm themselves with irresponsible and destructive actions like addiction, smoking tobacco too much, neglecting their health until it’s too late. Or sometimes suffering such as illness or diseases happen to good righteous people just because these things are reality in our fallen world where such things exists. God doesn’t cause illnesses or any suffering to teach anyone a lesson but allows them to happen for whatever reason whether to test or challenge us although I myself can’t really come up to any simple answers to this.  Now I want go back to the old question regarding embracing God and obeying his will and how this doesn’t always rewards us from never experiencing any pain and suffering.  

Despite the myth that God will always reward us with his protection from anything negative in our lives this just isn’t true or realistic and would be foolish to always think that way.  I think the real rewards are that God will never leave us throughout any suffering or turmoil in our lives.  He will be there for us through it all and if we turn to him he can help us overcome any battles in our lives whether it is the lost of spouse or relative, a divorce, losing your job, your wealth or home, becoming penniless, terminal or non-terminal illness, being a victim of brutal crime or your life is in physical danger at the moment.  As we reach out to him, he stands by us and gives us the strength to overcome any obstacles, to heal from any physical or emotional pain.  Also he doesn’t allow our hearts to be hardened or give up hope, that there is light at the end of the tunnel and we can find peace and happiness throughout all the strife even if that means sometimes healing our sufferings and give us peace is through death.  Also at other times, by allowing suffering in our lives, God can strengthen us in ways that we never experience, which could lead us use our strengths that will benefit us or others in the future as we gain new perspectives.  Of course, sometimes it is possible that God will bless us by curing any illnesses, restoring our abilities from any handicap, save us from any financial ruin and bring us luck any other ways.  Sometimes the Lord does allow miracles to happen in one’s life, however why he allows it for some and not others know one can explain.  

Rather than over analyze my he allows bad, pain and suffering into our lives, he should just be aware that in this fallen world  these things will occur and sometimes we don’t get the outcomes that we want no matter how many times we beg and pray to the Lord.  However, we should be aware of the fact that the biggest reward God can give us by having our own personal relationship with him as he becomes our strength and our guide or our rock in a time of need who will never abandon us as long was we have faith in him.