What is our Soul?

October 19th, 2018 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “What is our Soul?”

Many will teach that our soul is our mind, will and emotions. But that is far too limiting a definition.

There is a principle in interpreting the Hebrew testament called the First Use Principle: The first time a word is used in the Hebrew Bible determines its basic meaning derived from the context in which it is used.

So, let’s look at the first time “soul” is used in the Bible: Genesis 2:7 “And the Lord God formed the man (Adam) from the dust of the ground, and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man (Adam) became a living soul.”

The Hebrew word for soul is Nephesh:

The meaning of the three Hebrew letters for Nephesh are as follows:

Noon — a fish darting through the water, life, new life, action;

Pey — mouth, to speak / command, a word, the beginning;

Shin — shape of one’s two front teeth, consume, devour.

The meaning of Nephesh derived from these Hebrew letters: “The Lord God breathed into Adam’s lifeless body the breath of life, and the word of His mouth permeated Adam’s entire body / consumed his entire body bringing animated life.”

When God formed Adam out of the dust of the ground, that body had all the component parts our bodies have: eyes, ears, nose, mouth, arms, legs, lungs, stomach, brain, etc. But as yet, they were all lifeless components. This body could not see, hear, smell, taste or feel. Nor could it walk, digest food, breathe or speak.

Then the Lord God breathed into Adam’s nostrils and he became a living being — a soul. That is, his soul, which God imparted to him by the breath / command of His mouth, animated his body enabling it to see, hear, smell, walk, breathe, eat and speak. It now became the tent of the tabernacle Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 5:1 that Adam, the spirit being God created in His image and likeness in Genesis chapter 1:26-27, could now live in.

Our soul animates our body’s brain producing a mind that is capable of storing memory. It also animates our body’s nervous system which includes our brain yielding the capacity for emotions. From Samuel’s response to Saul in I Samuel 28:14-19, it is clear that Samuel as a spirit being also possessed a mind, will and emotions.

But what about a separate will for our soul? Paul might be indicating in Romans 7:14-24 that our flesh has a separate will we are powerless to disobey. If that were so, however, we would not be accountable for our own choices.

There is another explanation. Our nervous system hardwires our body and soul to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Initially, the soul of an infant will cry or express some other signs of displeasure when it encounters pain or discomfort. This propensity can be at odds with virtually any form of discipline.

Such discipline recognizes that more long-term goals reaping larger pleasurable benefits must be weighted against short-term pain or discomfort. Any athlete will attest to this analysis.

So, our soul will resist discipline until it experiences the benefits of discipline. This does not mean our soul has a will of its own. It just means it has a natural tendency to focus on more immediate gratification — what it experiences through our senses, bodily appetites and memories.

That is why the knowledge of good and evil is so crippling. Instead of just taking this input at face value, our knowledge of good and evil is such a pervasive, instinctual mental activity that our spirit being can easily choose our soul’s perception of reality. This decision will seems right to us in the moment until discipline gives our soul a larger perspective.

2 Corinthians 5:7 says “We walk by faith and not by what we perceive.” The Lord is the only One Who can see the outcome of our current perception of reality. So, Jesus says “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself” — refrain from choosing the way that seems right in the moment; “take up his cross daily” — be willing to face the pain or displeasure we perceive by taking the disciplined path the Lord asks us to take; “and follow me” — as He leads us.

Jesus is our model:

Matthew 26:39 “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame,..”

Our Father’s goal is to bring us to complete salvation, spirit, soul and body. By denying our self, taking up our cross and following Jesus, our soul and body will also be transformed into Christ’s image from one degree of glory to another.                     (2 Corinthians 3:18)

A Strong Biblical Foundation For the Healing Ministry

October 8th, 2018 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “A Strong Biblical Foundation For the Healing Ministry”

For most of my Christian life, I have struggled trying to discern when it was God’s will to heal a particular person. As a pastor, I have often prayed for healing without any firm assurance that the disease or illness would be eradicated. When nothing happened, I have chalked it up either to my lack of faith, my lack of discernment or perhaps to a resignation that the disease was their “thorn in the flesh.”

My wife and I recently returned from a mission trip to Nicaragua where we witnessed some amazing examples of the Lord’s compassion and power. Coming from a strong reformed background, I was delighted to witness God’s healing ministry through our hands. But it also heightened my conviction to seek an unambiguous scriptural foundation for healing ministries. To my surprise, I found an answer in the Gospel that has been there all along. Permit me to share this discovery with you, especially if you have been wrestling with this issue yourself.

Matthew 8:16, 17 says in the ESV:

“That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.’”

In addition to saying that Jesus healed all who were sick, Matthew declared that this action was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” In other words, this event was not just a manifestation of Christ’s compassion and power. It was done to fulfill the scripture contained in Isaiah 53:3-10, a passage that highlights what Jesus accomplished on the cross.

However, in our English translations of this text, there is only an oblique reference to healing:

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; … Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted; But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all . . . Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief” ESV.

This passage clearly declares that Jesus was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities — that the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all. He paid the price for our transgressions on the cross. But the two phrases “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;” and, “surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” do not paint an image of one who took our illnesses and bore our diseases as Matthew seems to indicate. Instead, it paints a picture of mental anguish rather than physical pain and suffering brought on by disease. In that light, the phrase, “with his wounds we are healed” could mean deliverance from the mental turmoil brought on by our transgressions and iniquities.

So, I looked up this same passage in the Holy Scriptures to the Masoretic Text published by the Jewish Society of America — fifth printing 1969; a set I purchased while in seminary:

“He was despised, and forsaken of men, a man of pains, and acquainted with disease, . . . Surely our diseases he did bear, and our pains he carried; Whereas we did esteem him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was wounded because of our transgressions, he was crushed because of our iniquities: The chastisement of our welfare was upon him, and with his stripes we were healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath made to light on him the iniquity of us all. . . . Yet it pleased the Lord to crush him by disease;”

This translation also underscores the burden Christ took upon Himself for our transgressions and iniquities. But the words “sorrows” and “grief” have been replaced by “pains” and “disease.” Moreover, this translation reflects to a far greater degree the text found in Matthew 8:16 and 17 as well as Matthew’s intent for quoting it.

I decided to look more closely at the meaning of the original texts. Here are the pertinent Greek word definitions as found in the Greek-English Lexicon on the New Testament translated and edited by W.F. Arndt and F.W. Gingrich:

Heal — Care for, wait upon, treat medically, restore, heal

Sick — ill, sick (in the physical sense)

Fulfill — Make full, fill, complete, reach its end, bring something to completion, finish, fulfill

Took — Take in the hand, take hold of, grasp, take away, remove

Illness — Bodily weakness, sickness, disease

Bore — Carry, bear, endure

Disease — Disease, illness

So, Matthew was clearly referring to physical ailments, not just mental disabilities.

Here are the Hebrew word definitions as found in the Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament edited by Francis Brown, S.R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs and the Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible by Jeff A. Benner:

(Where the word choices of the two translations differ, I have included both translations on the left side of the Hebrew word.)

Sorrows / pains  כאב — Mental and physical pain

Acquainted  ידע — To know, to have an intimate relationship with another

person, idea or experience. Adam KNEW Eve his wife . . .

Grief / disease  חלי  — Wound of violence, sickness, disease, illness, incurable disease, grief

Surely  אכנ — Surely, with a strong assertive force

Borne נשא / נסא — To bear, carry, be responsible for, to incur

Carried  סבל — Carry, bear a burden / a heavy load

Iniquity  עינ  — Iniquity, guilt, the result of twisted work/actions/effort. In ancient

Hebrew, there was a character that looked a lot like an (ע ayin) and was pronounced “ghah” meaning twisted. In later Hebrew, this letter was replaced by ayin but the meaning carried forward in the words that contained the original ghah.

Transgression  פשע — Transgression, revolt, a spreading apart.

Wounds / stripes  חבנרה — Striped wounds/bruises made by ropes/lashes

Healed  רפא — Healed of a disease or affliction, a word often related to physical ailments, literally “man open,” open wound, sickness, illness

Will (of the Lord) / pleased (the Lord)  חפצ — To delight in, have pleasure in, to

desire something out of pleasure or necessity

Crush  דכא — To crush, break in pieces, shatter

Here are the Hebrew words in the initial segment of Isaiah 53:10:

(Hebrew reads from right to left.)

ויהוה            חפצ                    דכאו                 החלי

to make sick   to crush him      pleased    But God

This examination of the meaning of the Hebrew words in Isaiah 53:3-10 leaves no doubt that the salvation secured by Jesus Christ on the cross covers not only our iniquities and transgressions but our pains, illnesses and sicknesses as well. Further, it was physical healing that Matthew emphasized in verses 8:16 and 17.

Our reformed tradition proclaims our conviction that everyone who is drawn by the Holy Spirit will receive forgiveness for their transgressions and iniquities by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But the finished work on the cross prophesied by Isaiah and depicted in Mathew also extends to salvation from physical ailments.

The account of the four men who lowered their paralyzed friend through the roof to Jesus highlights the role signs and miracles play in the Gospel. When the man was placed before Him, Jesus saw their faith and said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” His statement was immediately challenged as blasphemous. But Jesus replied, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – he said to the paralytic – “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all.

Had Jesus not healed the paralytic, His critics could have argued that according to their theology, only God could forgive sins. But the healing authenticated His claim to have the authority to forgive sins.

Isaiah said it delighted / pleased the Father to place on His Son all our pains, illnesses and diseases. Why? So that the Father could bear witness to His Son’s authority to forgive our iniquities and transgressions through the signs and miracles that followed (Mark 16:20; Acts 4:29-31, 14:3; Hebrews 2:4).

Life in all its fullness in the Kingdom of Heaven has been made possible and freely available through Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary. I can only find one requirement: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” John 6:44. Here are the episodes in Matthew where everyone who came to Jesus was healed (4:23, 24; 8;16; 9:35; 12:15; 14:35, 36.)

There is no indication that all of these people had to be true believers before they could be recipients of the Lord’s compassion and grace. The Father had brought these people to His Son and manifested through Him what life was like in the Kingdom. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” The signs and miracles drew many to Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. But His message divided those who heard Him into two camps: those who embraced His message and those who rejected it.

Christ dwells in us. We know that our Father is not willing that any should perish, and that He still brings people to His Son in us to hear the Gospel. Further, we can know that He gives us both the will and the ability to accomplish His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13) through the power of the Holy Spirit. Compassion is what drove Jesus to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and to minister to all who came to Him. In the same way, His compassion in us signals His desire to manifest His Father’s presence. And we can rest in the knowledge, based on Isaiah 53:3-10 and Matthew 8:16 and 17, that Jesus not only bore all of our iniquities and transgressions on the cross but also all of our pains, sicknesses and diseases so His Father can offer more abundant life to us through His Son.

Some, when they hear that they must deny their self, take up their own cross and follow Christ, will turn away even after receiving a taste of the Kingdom. But others, will count it all joy to receive the Pearl of Great Price.

Your friend in His service, Bill Combs

Bill@WilliamCombsAuthor.com

March 3, 2018

Another Look at the Great Commission

October 8th, 2018 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Another Look at the Great Commission”

Matthew 28:18 – 20 has been a strong driving force for missions and evangelism for centuries. During the vast majority of that time, the King James version has been at the forefront of that mandate. But how closely does this translation reflect the underlying original Greek language?

Let’s review the King James quote:

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

The phrase, “Go ye” has been heralded as a command by Jesus to His disciples to go to all the nations. However, the Greek word, πορευϑεντες is a participle, not a command. It can be translated as “Going / As you go / In your going” and means, “Wherever you go – Wherever you are led to go, etc.”

Unfortunately, translating this participle as a command has divided the church into two groups: Those who GO, and those who support those who GO. Moreover, those who go are few and are often elevated to a position of being “called” while those who only support those who go, often see themselves as not being called – a sad commentary since every Christian is called to disciple “wherever they go.” As such, the Body of Christ has lost the vast majority of called-ones mandated by Christ to disciple wherever they are.

This also relegates them to giving money and material to others in the mission field, insulating them from the personal relationships (local victories and needs) experienced by their missionaries and defining their role largely in a material sense.

The phrase, “and teach” dramatically diminishes the meaning of the Greek word μαϑητευσατε which means “disciple.” Moreover, this is the command in this sentence, not “go ye.” To put it in King James English, it could have been translated, “disciple ye.”

There is a huge difference between “teach” and “disciple.” Teaching might be called schooling or what you learn in a structured / classroom environment where an instructor typically instructs a class of students. At various times, the students are often tested to make sure they have learned the contents of the teaching.

As a result, “teach all nations” has led to the founding of Bible schools, seminaries, colleges and universities all over the world with the conviction that “teaching” was the objective. Jesus modeled what it was like to live in the Kingdom of God. One of my Hebrew professors in seminary shared with me the difference between the mindset of a Greek and a Hebrew. He said a Greek will ask you what you believe while a Hebrew will follow you around for a week to see how your life expresses your beliefs.

In a teaching environment, a person can instruct the students on their intellectual beliefs even if their lives do not reflect those convictions. However, in a discipling environment, the students are drawn to the manifest difference in the conduct of their mentor’s relationship with others.  They see that their mentor’s life actually expresses what he/she believes and they want to follow their mentor’s example because they also want to live that way. Teaching passes on a head knowledge of the subject while discipleship passes on a way of life and in the case of Christian discipleship, it models the importance of a personal relationship with the mentor and with Jesus Christ.

There is another hidden issue with “teaching.” It assumes that since the Biblical instructions are “foolishness to unbelievers,” those being taught in all the nations should already be Christians. Therefore, a strong emphasis must be placed on evangelism prior to teaching. Unfortunately, since teaching is emphasized as the path for understanding how to live a Christian life, it can foster an intellectual association with the church rather than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Evangelism is important. But being born again is only the entry into the Kingdom of God. If we rely solely on teaching to reveal how to live in the Kingdom, we often deny our converts a person / mentor they can emulate and limit them to learning about life in the Kingdom. Discipleship enables both a born-again and a mentoring experience.

One final note: From a teaching standpoint, the New Testament has often been held to be more important than the Old Testament since the latter can be portrayed as a shadow or foretaste of the light of the Gospel. But as Paul and Jesus point out, the Hebrew scriptures and the covenant relationships they convey are essential to understanding the full depth of the Gospel.

Let’s move on to the word “nations.”  The Greek word is εϑνη which should more accurately be translated as “Gentile nations.” Jesus knew the Gospel would quickly spread throughout the inhabited world. These precious people He had died for would begin their spiritual journey as pagans with little if any understanding of the scriptures and the covenant relationship the Hebrew God had with His people – the λαος.

Since there is no adjective clarifying who the nations are, Christians have also been sending missionaries to Jews and now to Israel attempting to convert them to Christianity instead of calling them to accept Jesus as their Messiah.

Let’s continue to discover the breadth of discipleship Jesus commanded for us: “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”

The church has largely reduced this segment to a ritualistic pronouncement made over a person at the time of their baptism which completely sidesteps the original intent.

There is one small word in this clause that seems innocuous enough. But it can help us understand what Jesus meant: “in” could more accurately be translated as “into” since its underlying word is εις not εν. As such, the translation could better read, “baptizing them into the name . . .” To better understand this subtle distinction, consider the rest of this clause: “into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”

Name means character and could be translated as “into the character of the Father, . . .” Baptize literally means to immerse. So, Jesus is saying: “immerse Gentile converts into the character of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost?”

John the Baptist told his hearers, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me . . . he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” This baptism is much more than being given the ability to speak in tongues or to prophesy. John is saying that Jesus had the authority to immerse believers into the character of the Holy Ghost giving them an ever increasing, intimate knowledge of His Person.

Gentile converts would have very little experiential knowledge of the Father. So, Jesus commanded His Jewish disciples to disciple their Gentile converts, immersing them into the character of the Father – to model their own experiential relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ.

Finally, Jesus modeled His role in the salvation history as Jesus/Joshua the Messiah. In order to immerse converts into the character of the Son, we need to focus on Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.

Let’s continue: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” This is the second time the word “teaching” is used in the King James version. But in fact, it is only the first time in the original – and instead of becoming part of the teaching curriculum, it is meant to be the content to be modeled in the mentor’s life so that converts will see how to actually OBSERVE all things, not just intellectually learn all things.

“and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” The actual Greek text is ”… εως της συντελειας του αιωνος — … until the completion of the age.

“…the end of the world” implies the end of the known creation heralded by Revelation, chapter 20:1. However, until the completion of the age points to a potentially different time. Jesus is focusing on Gentile nations. In Luke 21:24 Jesus said Jerusalem would be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles is fulfilled. Therefore, the translation “end of the world” is more of an interpretation than a translation.

So, let’s revisit the great commission that more closely reflects the original Greek language:

“Wherever you go (among the Gentiles), disciple the Gentile nations, immersing them into the character of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them through your discipleship to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you all the days until the completion of the age.”

What an amazing year!!!

October 8th, 2018 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “What an amazing year!!!”

Some of you have read my extended bio on this website but have not yet gone over to my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100013434789756 to catch up on what I have been doing this past year. It has truly been a momentous time in my life. Not only has the Lord opened doors for ministry around the world, I have also married a most amazing woman: Judy Madden. It was an arranged marriage — totally arranged by the Lord. Both of us had strong ministries stretching out before us. Both of us were widowed and neither of us was looking for another relationship, convinced the Lord wanted us to devote ourselves completely to Him.

We met in September and the third time I talked with her in person I proposed to her. We met at a worship service where she asked me to help promote her book. We had lunch at a fast food restaurant with her girl friend. It soon became apparent that her walk with the Lord was special. The Lord talked with her constantly, guiding her in everything she did. She had eyes to see and ears to hear. She also had a powerful ministry through the John Wayne trail across Washington state, and a five acre ranch in Duval devoted to a ministry called Shiloh Prayer And Fasting.

A week after we met, she asked me to come to her ranch. The night before I went over, the Lord woke me with her face before me and feelings for her as well. I thought it was surely our adversary trying to divert my focus away from the Lord and I spent the next three hours arguing and even shouting that I wanted nothing to do with another relationship and pleading for sleep. But the more I fought, the more insistent He became and the more peace I had that this leading was from Him.

The next morning, I drove to Duval and met Judy and her horse. Inside her modest home, she showed me a picture her grandmother had painted of an elk. As I looked down from the picture, I noticed a copy of my picture from Facebook and started to weep hardly knowing why. We went outside to tour her farm and as we passed through the kitchen, I saw another one of my pictures on her refrigerator.

Back in the house, she fixed some coffee and scones and we sat down at her table to talk. Before I began asking her how I could help with her book, I asked why my pictures were all around her house. She looked at me, almost afraid to say anything, and said in a low voice, “Because I love you.” She said she had also been wrestling with the Lord because she did not want another relationship — and was taking a chance telling me this because she knew I had not been interested in a relationship either.

I knew how hard it was for her to share and agreed the Lord was bringing us together. Later that night, I asked the Lord why He had not healed Miriam so she could have continued to be my wife. He said if He had allowed her to go through the fire that is ahead for me, she would have come apart and would have pulled me down as well.

Then He said I had a choice. There would be no way I could face the demands of the ministry He had laid out for me without another warrior at my side who could stand with me in the days ahead. I could either gladly accept His choice for me or He would not allow me to continue to run the race He had for me. We carried on an email conversation for the next two weeks while she was busy with a ministry commitment in eastern Washington.

I invited her to my home on Friday and proposed to her that day. I felt like I had known her for years, not just weeks. I know all this sounds like puppy love. But she was 78 and I was 72 and we had “been there, done that” so to speak. We are mature enough in the Lord to know when to submit to His guidance even when He is pouring months of normal adjustments into days and weeks.

When I shared our engagement with my pastor at the Seattle University Presbyterian Church the next Sunday, he said, “Why don’t we have the wedding during a Sunday morning worship service in January?” I could hardly believe his words because that was the same offer the pastor made at the First Presbyterian Church in Bellingham when Miriam and I were married.

We feel so blessed and humbled that the Lord has brought us together for perhaps the last adventure of our race. And we rejoice in what lies ahead in our relationship.  :o) Bill and Judy

Was Adam a Wuss? — Update

October 7th, 2018 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Was Adam a Wuss? — Update”

More insight into Genesis 3:6:

“…and she also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate.” ESV

I was reading this text in the New Israel Bible – a brand new Hebrew translation from some of the best Hebrew scholars in Israel:

“She also gave some to her husband, and he ate.”

Notice that the phrase “who was with her” is missing from this Hebrew translation.

This omission prompted me to look up the definition of the Hebrew word עמה (ayin, mem, hey) translated as “with her” by the ESV and several other translations. According to Brown, Driver and Briggs, it means “united, associated, family, family connection.”

It does not restrict the meaning to “being at one’s side.” This broader definition makes much more sense.

Genesis 3:3 indicates that Adam’s wife thought they were not only to refrain from eating the fruit, they were also forbidden from touching it. It seems hard to believe that the Lord would tell Adam one command in scripture but later give his wife a more restrictive, undocumented warning after He created her.

It seems more plausible that Adam, in an attempt to keep his wife from inadvertently picking the fruit by accident, may well have added this codicil to the original command. In any event, while he was supposedly standing right beside her, why would he let her not only touch the fruit but eat it as well? And how could he accuse her of being his undoing (3:12) when he had supposedly been standing right there while she took, ate and gave it to him — all without any adverse reaction from him.

And why didn’t she reply to his accusation by reminding him that he was right there too. Moreover, why didn’t the Lord point out when Adam implicated Him as well (3.12) that he had been right next to his wife when she ate the fruit and was therefore equally responsible?

The new Hebrew translation makes much more sense to leave this phrase out since it could have simply meant that there was a family connection between Adam and his wife and did not imply that he was standing right next to her.

Was Adam a Wuss?

September 6th, 2017 Posted by blog 0 thoughts on “Was Adam a Wuss?”

In the fourth chapter of my book under the section “She Analyzed the Fruit,” I quoted Genesis 3:4-6.

“But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”

I inserted an endnote number after the phrase “who was with her” so I could continue discussing this important element of the biblical account:

“The phrase, ‘who was with her’ implies that Adam was at least in the vicinity. However, since he did not mention the serpent in his reply to the Lord in Genesis 3:12, his response also seems to imply he was not close enough to her to hear the serpent’s queries. My account at the end of chapter 1 says that Adam’s wife left him and traveled toward the north end of the garden. Since the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was in the middle of the garden, she may have walked only a short distance before encountering the serpent. This would also help explain why Adam was so surprised that his wife returned so quickly when her original intent was to harvest almonds.”

Several reviewers did not see the endnote in the Genesis 3 quote and thought I had overlooked a key point in the passage. I can appreciate the oversight since the number “2” was small and easily overlooked. On reflection, I also wish to expand on my original comments because if Adam was indeed standing right next to Eve during her conversation with the serpent, his actions or lack thereof point to a disturbing flaw in his character and commitment to his wife and the Lord even before he ate the fruit.

If Adam had been close to Eve, why didn’t he say or do something when she stepped forward to touch and eat the fruit? His lack of involvement would make him at least partially culpable for her actions. How could he blame her later when he had been standing there all the time and could have taken steps to intervene?

It also seems odd that when Adam accused both his wife and the Lord for his plight, the Lord did not remind him that he had been standing next to her during the entire episode with the serpent and had done nothing to stop her.

Even more disconcerting was Eve’s response to the Lord. Adam had just leveled a stinging accusation at her that it was her fault for giving him the fruit. Why was her only defense that she had been tricked by the serpent? Why didn’t she rebuff his claim by saying he had been standing next to her the entire time and said nothing. How could he profess his innocence when he neither said nor did anything to alter the outcome?”

In Genesis 3:1 we read: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord had made. He said to the woman . . .”  The author of Genesis begins by telling us the serpent was more crafty that any other creature. Then he goes on to say the serpent said to the WOMAN . . . This verse seems to indicate the serpent may have hoped that Adams’s wife might be more vulnerable to his suggestions, and waited until he could address her when she was alone so that Adam would not overhear their conversation or witness her subsequent actions. Had Adam been standing right next to Eve, why did the author bring up the serpent’s craftiness and also state that he only addressed the woman and not both of them?

Finally, if Adam had been next to his wife, you might argue that they were both tricked by the serpent because they both wanted to be more like their heavenly Father. However, if that were the case, then why wasn’t that part of Adam’s defense, that he too had been tricked?

Since neither the Lord nor Eve mentioned that Adam had been standing next to her, and since his defense did not mention the serpent or that he was also tricked, my conclusion was that he was “with her” in the garden but was busy with other things and was not near enough to overhear her conversation with the serpent.

To Die or Not to Die

June 9th, 2017 Posted by blog 0 thoughts on “To Die or Not to Die”

Several readers of Who Told You That You Were Naked? have sent me emails asking about the scenario in the opening chapter where a lioness killed Lively’s mother. They had been taught that death did not exist in the world before the fall. So, why would I weave such an event into my book?

I appreciate questions like these very much because it gives me an opportunity to share my struggles in presenting the events surrounding the fall.

Genesis 1:26 ESV states, “Let us make man in our image and likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

After creating them in His Image, He said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)

Finally, in verses 29 and 30, God gives the couple and all the other creatures the plant kingdom as their food.

In chapter 2, God planted a garden east of Eden and put Adam in the garden to work and keep it. Then, He said that Adam could eat everything that grew in the garden except the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Lord warned Adam he would die in the same day that he ate the fruit of that tree.

Let’s examine the bolded words from these passages in light of their ancient Hebrew meaning. But before I do, it is important to understand that the Hebrew characters began as pictographs — symbols representing some concrete reality — and that their inclusion in a word helps define its meaning. I say this because English offers no such clues. For example, the letters in the word “father” provide little direct meaning to the reader. A person would have to consult the word’s etymology.

But Hebrew is different. The word for “father” is made up of two characters, Aleph and Bet, the first two letters of their alphabet. The original pictograph for Aleph was the head of an oxen and signifies strength, a leader, the person who is first. Bet was represented by a symbol for a tent or house and signifies home, family. The word is pronounced Ab — where we get Abba from — and means father is the strength and head of the family. Unlike the word for father, most Hebrew words are made up of three characters. With that preface, let’s look at the words I bolded above:

Dominion:

     Reysh — The pictograph was the head of a man and meant head, chief, top, first.

     Dalet — The pictograph was a door. Think of Jesus as the door to the sheepfold.

                    This character means a door, path or way of life

     Hey — The pictograph was originally a man with his arms upraised in wonder or

                  admiration of something spectacular. It means behold or reveal.

Taken together, “Dominion” means to rule, have dominion, prevail, reign, dominate — literally, function as the chief/head person revealed/chosen to be the door.

Subdue:

     Kaf — The pictograph was originally an open hand and focused on the palm or

                 hollow of the hand, meaning to tame or to bend to one’s will — to the shape of one’s palm.

     Bet — As with the second character for father, bet means house or family.

     Sheen — The original pictograph was shaped like a person’s two front teeth and stood for what

                      teeth are or do: sharp, consume, devour, destroy.

Taken together, “Subdue” means to subdue, force, tame, dominate — literally to force, tame or bend to one’s will the house that consumes, devours or destroys.

Knowledge:

     Dalet — We defined this character above.

     Ayin — The pictograph was originally a person’s eye. — visual perception

     Tav — The last character in the Hebrew alphabet was originally symbolized by two crossed sticks —

                  a final sign or signature. Think of signing with an X or the meaning of Alpha and Omega — Aleph and Tav.

Taken together, “Knowledge” means that which is gained through visual observation/achieved through experience — literally, your mental image/sign of the door — the way you have learned through visual observation/experience. Because of the concrete nature or Hebrew words, the image gained through this door is enabled by an intimate relationship with another person, idea or experience. (Adam knew Eve his wife and she conceived and bore Cain.)

Die:

     Mem — The pictograph was originally a wavy line indicating water waves, the ocean or sea, and stood for chaos, the

                    unknown.

     Vav — The pictograph was originally a tent peg and stood for secure, unmovable.

     Tav — We defined this character above.

Taken together, “Die” means mortal death — literally a final sign of a state of existence that is unknown/chaotic.

Now that we have a better understanding of the Hebrew words, lets look at the texts again. God told Adam and his wife to have dominion over the creatures and to subdue the earth. Given the Hebrew definition of these two words, there must have been something about the state of their world and the creatures that lived there that needed to be conformed to their will.

The Lord’s directive states that they were to subdue the earth. But it is hard to imagine the earth or its vegetation as a house (the family of plants) that consumed, devoured or destroyed. A more plausible explanation for me is that the creatures living on the earth were eating, not just the plants, but each other as well. The lion was not laying down with the lamb. So, Adam and Eve were commissioned to extend the peace of their relationship with God and each other to all the creatures of the earth, conforming them to the hollow of their hands by reigning over them and taming/domesticating them like pets or cattle.

Next, let’s look at the other two Hebrew words: knowledge and die. The tree was named the knowledge of good and evil, and the warning attached to eating its fruit was that the person would surely die in the day it was eaten. The meaning of knowledge indicates Adam must have had some intimate visual association with death, or the Lord’s injunction would have had little impact. To get a better grasp of what I mean, substitute a nonsense word for die. “In the day you eat of it, you will most certainly qryst.” If you didn’t recognize qryst, you would likely ask for a clarification. But Adam didn’t ask for a clarification. He must have had some intimate visual association with this verb.

It is also doubtful that the Lord would have couched this injunction in terminology that could be misinterpreted by Adam. While it is possible that Adam’s comprehension of death was gained by his observation of the death of plants, I again appeal to how hard it is for me to imagine vegetation as a domain that needed to be tamed because it was devouring or destroying the environment.

You might choose to believe that since there is no mention of death in Genesis chapter 1, there was no death until after the fall. You might also appeal to the fact that God declared His creation to be “very Good.” So, death could not have been part of that creative activity. But the only mention of death after the fall was toward Adam and Eve. God cursed the ground for their sake. But nowhere does it say He also cursed the animal kingdom. So, if they were subject to death after the fall, what brought it on?

After wrestling with this scenario, I chose to have a lioness kill Lively’s mother so that Adam would have a visceral experience of death to relate to when the Lord issued His warning. Am I hard over on this interpretation? NO. There are a host of gray areas in the Bible like who are the Sons of God and the daughters of men in Genesis 6:2? Should we worship God on the Sabbath or on Sunday? Do you have to speak in tongues in order to be baptized with the Holy Spirit? Is immersion the only true form of water baptism? All of these side issues tend to divide us rather than bring us into unity with the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ.

We must focus on the main thing — the Gospel: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” “Love one another as I have loved you. By this shall all people know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.”

If after reading my explanation of when death entered the creature world you are still convinced that they did not start dying until after the fall, I am perfectly OK with your decision. Why? Because I trust the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth and that truth is broad enough to include the sincere and very different beliefs of the Jewish and Gentile church in the first century. So, why shouldn’t we have differences? I trust Him to lead you into His truth. We all see through a glass darkly meaning all these side issues will not be fully understood until we see Him face to face. They are nothing to divide us and keep us from loving one another.

If you would like to learn more about the meaning of ancient Hebrew words, you can purchase Ancient Lexicon of the Bible by Jeff A. Benner.

https://www.amazon.com/Ancient-Hebrew-Lexicon-Bible/dp/1589397762/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1496962213&sr=1-2&keywords=lexicon+bible

I’ll Fly Away !!

June 2nd, 2017 Posted by blog 0 thoughts on “I’ll Fly Away !!”

Perhaps this is a hymn you have sung many times in church extolling the blessings that will be ours when we die and go to heaven. You might even have read “near death” accounts of persons who have experienced heaven and returned to tell about it. There is no question it will be a glorious existence, something we can look forward to as Paul relates in Philippians 1:23. But you may also notice that Christ’s message was more than an offer of entry to heaven when we have finished our lives here.

Nor does His Gospel focus on being born again — a word given to only one person. Being born again, important as it is because it enables our entry into His Kingdom, was not Christ’s central theme. His central message was, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

Let’s take a look at His good news more closely. He began by issuing a command: “Repent.” There was an urgency to His preaching. Jesus wanted His hearers to experience the Kingdom of Heaven NOW, not sometime in the future. I talked in the last blog about two worlds or realms of reality. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” God is Spirit and they that worship Him must enter into that realm in order to worship Him in spirit and in truth. To walk with Him in His world introduces us to a whole new way of living — living by faith and not by sight. If we read the Book of Acts like a daily newspaper, we might be tempted to book a flight to Israel to get in on the excitement and the wonder surrounding the events portrayed in its pages.

But our intellect quickly reminds us that these events occurred nearly 2000 years ago and they are old news because we haven’t experienced anything even remotely similar. Of course, we can declare by faith that they happened THEN just as we believe Jesus died for our sins and rose again from the dead on the third day nearly 2000 years ago. We might even think that these New Testament folks got in on all the excitement and we just have to muddle through waiting for a new life with Him in the sweet by-and-by.

I was chastised recently by a reviewer of my book, Who Told You That You Were Naked? for suggesting that God still talks to His people as He did in scripture. This person said such communication was only necessary until the Bible was complete. Now that we have His Word, God talks with us through its pages. Can you imagine a fulfilling relationship where one person does not show themselves in any way, and does not speak or write but instead, sends the other person a manual to read outlining their relationship. If the other person has any questions or needs, he or she is told in the manual they can send an email. Of course, they will not receive any reply because all of the content of their relationship can be found in the manual. But, if their email requests can be backed up by some association with a statement in the manual, there is a better likelihood that their needs might be met.

If God loves us so much that He has redeemed us through the death and resurrection of His Son, does a silent, out-of-sight God, Who reveals Himself to us only through the pages of His manual the Bible make any sense?

The Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever. The reason for His word inscribed in the Bible is to let us know the extent of His covenant with us, and that He is well able to relate to us now just as He related to those who followed Him in the past. He wants to guide us today just as He guided all the persons in the scriptures. The path is the same for us as it was for them: we must walk by faith in the knowledge that the great I AM is just that — present right now as the Savior and Lord of our lives.

How can I know what God’s will is for me?

May 31st, 2017 Posted by blog 0 thoughts on “How can I know what God’s will is for me?”

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing, you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1, 2 (ESV)

Paul gives us a way to discern God’s will for us. He starts out by urging us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, an offering to God that is both holy and well-pleasing to Him. But how do we do that?

First, let’s look at what our body is. We were created in God’s Image and because He is Spirit, we are spirit beings. Genesis also says that the Lord formed us out of the dust of the earth. Since He didn’t form our spirits out of the dust of the earth, Genesis is talking about our bodies — that part of us that returns to dust when we die a physical death. Our bodies are formed in our mother’s womb as an earthly house or tabernacle (2 Corinthians 5:1) for us to live in as animate beings.

As such, we are able to relate to two realms: the material world that is temporal and is passing away, and the spiritual world which is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18). The temporal world is perceived through our body’s senses while the spiritual realm is comprehended through the senses of our spirit. From conception, we are ushered into the physical world, and we rapidly grow accustomed to relating to it through our ability to touch, hear, taste, smell and see. Our mind quickly forms our concepts of reality based on our perception of the physical world.

Since God created us in His Image we also function like mirrors, reflecting in our character whatever we focus on. If we focus on the physical world, our physical senses will develop much more than our spiritual senses, and our rational mind will dominate our understanding of reality.

But if we focus on the Lord in prayer, worship and the study of His Word, God will begin to open the eyes of our heart to His reality and His character so that our spiritual senses will become more adept at perceiving His world. Jesus said, “My sheep HEAR my voice. They follow me and I give them eternal life” — not just over-in-the-glory life, but eternal life in His eternal dimension as He opens our spiritual ears to hear Him. He also says “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall SEE God.” Again, this is not only for the sweet by-and-by. It is for right now — an expectation that as we focus on Him, we will also develop our spiritual eyes.

Paul says that as Christians, we have a choice. On the one hand, we can be conformed to this world by relying on our body’s strengths, abilities, intellect and senses to determine what is real. If we choose this path, the things of the Spirit will seem foolish and irrational to us, and we will refuse to believe the promises the Lord gives us. Or we can immerse ourselves in His Word, recognizing that because He is the same yesterday, today and forever, His Kingdom, revealed in the the Bible, is available for us to live in as well.

Of course, these two ways of perceiving reality will often be in conflict with each other. But as we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and learn through that relationship that we can trust Him to accomplish what He says He will do. When the conflicts in perception come, Paul urges us to present our body’s senses, strengths, intellect and abilities to God as a sacrificial offering of worship. In this act, we are saying “Not my will — not my perception of reality — but Yours be done.”  His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Since our perception of the world, if pursued, would cause us to turn away through unbelief, Paul calls us to sacrifice our body’s discernment on His altar and trust by faith our spiritual comprehension of the reality that He reveals to us.

This posture is not a one-time event but a journey of growth into Christ. This continual, living sacrifice will allow the Lord to remake our minds over time as we walk with Him, and through this process, transform our whole nature into the person He wants us to become. As we learn to trust our spiritual senses, we will be able to discern the will of the Lord for us — what is good, acceptable and perfect.

A Storm On Our Lake

May 27th, 2017 Posted by blog 0 thoughts on “A Storm On Our Lake”

In chapter five of my book Who Told You That You Were Naked? A Refreshing Reexamination of the Garden of Eden, I address the subject of faith by comparing little-faith with real faith. If you haven’t read my book yet, you can download a free copy at www.WhoToldYouThatYouWereNaked.biz. Or you can purchase a paperback edition from any book store or online outlet.

Jesus coined a single word “little-faiths” during the Sermon on the Mount. The word is not found in secular Greek literature and rarely outside of Matthew and Luke. Unfortunately, it has been translated as “you of little faith” implying that Jesus was chiding his listeners for not having enough faith which is an erroneous interpretation as I point out in the book.

The second time when Jesus used this word, He was in a boat crossing lake Galilee (Matt 8:18, 23-27). You know the account: Huge crowds continue to follow them. So, after healing a large number, He commanded His disciples to depart for the other side of the lake. He must have been exhausted from the day’s activities because shortly after entering the boat, He went to sleep on a pillow.

Once out on the lake, a violent storm came up and the waves were so high they were swamping the boat even with all the effort and expertise of seasoned fishermen. In desperation, they woke Jesus saying, “Lord, save us, we are perishing.”

Jesus replied, “Why are you fearful, little-faiths?” Then He got up, rebuked the wind and the waves, and there was a great calm where there has been a great storm only moments before. At this, His disciples marveled saying to one another, “What kind of a man is this! Even the wind and sea obey Him!”

From my last blog, we learned that Jesus could not do anything on His own volition. He only did what He saw His Father doing. So, when He commanded His disciples to go to the other side of the lake, He must have witnessed His Father’s actions and knew that the crossing was assured. With that understanding, He could rest in the boat even as it was being tossed and flooded by the storm because He knew they would arrive safely on the other shore.

His disciples, on the other hand, had never been in a storm quite this violent, and were unable to keep ahead of the surging waves that were flooding the boat using their own expertise.

Notice that they never asked themselves how Jesus could possibly remain asleep though the howling wind, the crashing waves and the gyrations of the boat as they were tossed around like a leaf by the storm. Instead, they woke Him up saying, “Don’t you care that we perish (Mk 4:38)?

They wanted all hands on deck. If only He could ask God to help them keep the boat afloat, they might escape with their lives. Their faith in Jesus was limited to believing that if He could add His efforts to their capabilities, they might be OK.

But there was a reason Jesus could remain asleep through all that turmoil. He had seen His Father deliver the boat safely to the other side. If His Father gave Him that assurance, He could remain asleep no matter how tempestuous the situation.

This was also a learning experience for the disciples. They had a way for handling the storm even though their solution had failed to save them. One more pair of hands and a favorable nod from God just might be enough. By questioning Christ’s motives for remaining asleep, they showed that they were not simply “casting their cares on Him.”

Jesus wanted them to realize His fate was bound up in their fate, and since He was asleep, He must know something about the outcome of their trip they hadn’t yet grasped.

He wanted to point them to His source of confidence and peace. His question to them, “Why are you so fearful, little-faiths?”, seems almost absurd given the ferocity of the storm. But there was an even greater reality — the kingdom of God — that Jesus wanted the disciples to experience. So, He got up and quelled the storm to their astonishment. Just as they had never seen such a storm, they had also never seen a storm abated in such a dramatic fashion.

As He stood up, Jesus must have seen His Father stilling the wind and the waves. He said to these same disciples later, “The things that I do you will do also and even greater things shall you do because I go to the Father.”  He also said, “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

In 2 Timothy 2:13, Paul says that even if we are faithless, He remains faithful because He CANNOT DENY HIMSELF. Just as Jesus’s fate was bound up in the fate of the others in the boat, so is His fate bound up in us because He came to live in our “boat” when we accepted Him as our Lord and Savior. Our “boat” may encounter huge storms that will appear to sink us even with all our efforts to keep it afloat.

We can look at the storm and become fearful, wondering whether the Lord really cares about us in our situation. Or, we can look to Jesus seated at His Father’s right hand — a place of rest and finished work — and ask Him to show us how His Father is working out His plan in our lives. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. So, instead of asking Jesus to help us with our solutions, we can ask Him to perform His Father’s solutions in us knowing that He will do what He sees His Father doing, and thereby bring glory to His Father.

May the Lord richly bless you, :o)  Bill

All profits received from the sale of books published will be used by the William Combs Foundation for charitable purposes.