Identity

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Who Am I?

People wrap their identities in where they came from, who their parents are, or even what sports team they pull for. Their primary characterization of themselves is all about something in this physical reality. But, for a Christian this is a real and spiritually fatal problem.

There are a couple of primary issues that come to mind when we as Christians consider who we are. One, of course, is the fact that we are supposed to be ONE in Christ. This is an issue that has been on God’s mind since before the creation. Just look at what Jesus says in John 17: 23-24:

I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

God wants us to have unity in Him! He wants us to identify ourselves as a body of believers who hold Him up as our single point of honor, glory, and praise!

This unity has everything to do with identifying ourselves as His. God wants us completely. He wants us undividedly! This goes all the way back to Ex 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.”

God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are the center of who we are.

This being said, we also have to understand WHY God is the center of who we are, not just as a body of believers, but as individuals.

For everything else that scripture tells us about who God is and who we are, the one most defining fact that stands out is that we are individually created in God’s image.

But, what does it mean to be created in God’s image?

While both humans and animals are referred to as “nephesh chayyah” (living souls), the Scriptures make it clear that God did something special in reference to man. Genesis 1:26-27 records: “And God said, Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness. …And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.” Nowhere does the Bible state or imply that animals are created in the image of God. This fact leaves us with the special distinction of a closeness to God that is lacking in the remainder of Creation. As God’s image-bearers, we have souls and spirits that allow us a privileged position within God’s created order. This understanding and ability to not only have dominion over the Creation, but understand it by way of observation and study, allows human beings the envied ability to see the universe for what it is; a physical manifestation of God’s awesome love for us all.

I use this illustration (Figure 1, God’s Image) to describe to the sixth grade Bible class I teach each year how God can be three, but one. As image bearers of God, we also possess three parts of a whole, (1 Thessalonians 5:23). This similarity agrees completely with the fact that we are created in God’s image. If God is three-in-one, then as beings who are modeled after Him, we should maintain the same properties. That is not to give the false impression that we are divine in any way, but to simply draw a parallel between the nature of human beings and a God who desired to make His pinnacle of Creation like Himself.

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Figure 1, God’s Image

In the end, we as individuals are three in one, Image Bearers of God! Our entire identity is wrapped up in Him and Who He is! We must never let this escape us, but live each day as people whose identities are indelibly conjoined to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Aspects of the Ten Plagues: The Spiritual Aspect of the Plagues

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Last year, I was allowed to present a lesson before the Dalraida church of Christ concerning the Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Aspects of the Ten Plagues. The lesson was written and presented specifically for Vacation Bible School: Miracles, Signs, and Wonders. The final area covered in the lesson was The Spiritual Aspect of the Plagues.

Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Aspects of the Ten Plagues: The Spiritual Aspect of the Plagues

Spiritual Aspect of the Plagues – The hardest hitting part of God’s action against the Egyptians and for the Israelites was, beyond a doubt, the spiritual impact. Again we see that God teaches every person during every plague something different about the spiritual significance of the plagues themselves and the nature of His power and greatness.

What did the Egyptians learn from the plagues?

  1. Their gods are false. The one true God attacked all of their false gods with plagues.
  2. Hapi – god of the Nile (blood)
  3. Heqt – god of frogs (frogs)
  4. Kheper – god of beetles and flies (gnats/flies)
  5. Apis – sacred bull (death of livestock)
  6. Imhotep – physician god (boils)
  7. Nut – sky goddess (hail)
  8. Seth – god of crops (locusts)
  9. Ra – Sun god (darkness)
  10. Pharaoh (death of firstborn)

God is the one and only true God. (12:31-33) During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the LORD as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.” The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!” The people of Egypt had no other conclusion but to believe that the Israelite God was the only true God. He had shown them that not only were their gods fake, but that He was supreme. This overwhelming spiritual impact must have affected them deeply.

What did the Israelites learn from the plagues?

They learned about grace. Although the Israelites did not deserve anything better than the Egyptians in the context of humanity, God showed them love and mercy through His grace. (James 4:6) But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”   Certainly the Israelites were in humble circumstances and received the grace of God. God taught them about love. God showed His love to the Israelites at every turn. They were protected and cared for by God throughout the whole ordeal of the plagues. God showed them they were special. (1 John 4:18) There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. – While God punished their enemies, He left them alone and cared from them. How comforting that must have been.

They experienced God’s first true method of salvation. During the Passover, God used the “blood of the lamb” to mark His people so that the angel of (physical) death would pass over them. This is directly connected to Jesus blood that causes the angel of (spiritual) death to pass over us. Jesus himself used the Passover meal to institute the Lord’s Supper we take every Sunday. When we take the bread and the cup, we partake in a spiritual meal begun over 6,000 years ago.

God affects us physically, mentally, and spiritually in the same ways He did during Moses time. While we don’t see plagues necessarily, we do experience God’s love through Jesus. We are blessed physically with so many things we can scarcely count them. God gives us good and stable homes through the teachings found in his word that contribute to peace and mental well-being. Finally, we receive God’s grace, love, and salvation through Jesus. We even partake of a Passover meal every Sunday to give ourselves spiritual strength, energy, and preparedness for the long journey to our Promised Land in Heaven. God is truly still leading His people out of bondage and into a beautiful new land!

Soulbook: Soul = Spirit? @Enwrightened

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This is the fourteenth excerpt from Soulbook. Order Soulbook from Enwrightened Publications or Amazon.

Soulbook: Soul = Spirit?

You are alive. Your body lives and has breath and can be used by you to do everything from procreate to kill. But, what makes you alive? What gives you the perambulatory reflexes to do certain things and the very ability to move air into and out of your lungs? There is a spark of something within people that scientists and physicians don’t completely understand. When this life force ceases to remain in contact with your body, the body immediately begins to decay. The lack of blood flow prevents oxygen from nurturing your cells which causes the carbon dioxide and other poisons to your cells to cause cellular and, ultimately, tissue breakdown. This can be prevented by putting the body on a respiratory device of human design, but that doesn’t mean that the person continues to live. Once that spark is gone, the body cannot live on its own and therefore, by definition, is dead.

It’s important to recognize that human beings are made up of the corporeal and incorporeal (body and soul), however, it is just as important to recognize that our nature does not end there and that there is a difference between the Soul and the Spirit of people. During his tenure as associate editor of the Gospel Advocate, Guy N. Woods wrote the following:
“Though it is characteristic of most people today to use these terms interchangeably, the scriptures very definitely differentiate them. ‘For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.’ (Hebrews 4:12.) Since the sacred writers provided for ‘the dividing of soul and spirit,”’in those instances where they differ, so ought we and so we must if we are to entertain Biblical concepts of these words.
The word ‘spirit,’ when denoting the human entity (from the Greek word ‘pneuma’), is a specific term and designates that part of us which is not susceptible to death and which survives the dissolution of the body. (Acts 7:59.) It is infused in us directly from God and is not a product of human generation. (Hebrews 12:9.) ‘Soul,’ from the Greek word ‘psuche’, however, is a generic word and its meaning must be determined, in any given instance, from the context in which it appears.”

Therefore, we see that the Spirit and Soul are two different parts of people, apparently dividing the person into three, distinct parts of one whole. I use this illustration (Figure 1, God’s Image) to describe to the sixth grade Bible class I teach each year how God can be three, but one. As image bearers of God, we also possess three parts of a whole, (1 Thessalonians 5:23). This similarity agrees completely with the fact that we are created in God’s image. If God is three-in-one, then as beings who are modeled after Him, we should maintain the same properties. That is not to give the false impression that we are divine in any way, but to simply draw a parallel between the nature of human beings and a God who desired to make His pinnacle of Creation like Himself.
How is Spirit defined in the Bible? Spirit in Hebrew (ruach) means “to breathe” and may refer to the Holy Spirit, which is the most likely part of God after whom our own spiritual components would be modeled. So, what are some properties of the Holy Spirit? In John 15:26, He is referred to as the “Comforter”. This refers to One Who brings comfort through communion with and protection by God. Likewise, our own spirits provide us eternal comfort, in that they are the part of us that has assurance and communion with God. In some versions, the Spirit is called the “Advocate”, meaning someone who speaks to God on our behalf. Our own spirits provide an advocacy role here on Earth by placing a spiritual connection between body and Soul and us and God. I Corinthians 2:11 makes this connection well, “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” Our spirits are made in the Holy Spirit’s image.

Spirit can also refer to angels, both good and evil. This is a simultaneously comforting and frightening concept. God’s angels are, generally, sent as ministers to us much as they were in the Old Testament or to Christ after His fast and temptation in the wilderness (Mark 1:13). However, the evil spirits also roamed the Earth in those days, taking up residence in the bodies of humans and causing them to do others and themselves great harm. Our own spirits can minister or cause great harm as well, even while we are in this corporeal state. If our spirit is at peace, we will spread peace, but if our spirit is steeped in sin, then there is no end to the evil that can be wrought by it.

The life principle found within both man and animals is another definition of spirit. This goes back to the example we discussed at the beginning of the chapter. When the life force is present within us, we are alive and can think and do and experience. However, when our spirit has left our bodies, physical death begins at that precise moment. Animals are the same way. Their spirits of life allow them to eat, sleep, procreate, etc. while that principle of life is there, but when it is gone, the animal dead. The primary difference, here, is that the animal dies forever, while the human lives on forever.

A good example of the spirit living on after death is that of disembodied spirits. While there is much debate as to whether disembodied spirits exist today or not, in Old Testament times, there is at least one clear example of one of these spirits being consulted. In I Samuel chapter 28, Saul, the first king of Israel, consults a medium who successfully summons the disembodied spirit of Samuel. When Samuel is disturbed, he’s not too happy about it either. “Then Samuel said to Saul, ‘Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” I Sam 28:15. Samuel goes on to give Saul a great deal of very bad news and leaves Saul almost catatonic. Any one of us would probably react the same way if we were visited by a ghost. But, mostly, Samuel was upset because Saul had disturbed his rest. We can only assume that, after their conversation, Samuel returned to that rest and remains there today. This interesting story gives us some insight into our own rest and how we will perceive life in spirit form after death.

Spirit can also mean “breath”, or “wind”. “Breath”, as we discussed before, indicates the breath of life. “Wind” is closely related to breath, but also carries the connotation of a power that blows from one place to the other and may inhabit or be felt without being seen. We all have been exposed to that, since we cannot see our own spirits, but we certainly feel them and feel with them. This fact relates closely to another definition of spirit which deals with our disposition or attitude, or the core of our emotions. In Scripture, when someone is described as experiencing an emotion, the spirit of that person is sometimes described as the place from which that emotion originates. The spirit is the part of us that feels and hurts and desires. This is an important thing to remember, since these feelings are only manifested physically, but begin somewhere else.

Finally, the spirit is defined as the core of mind and will. As with emotions, the spirit of an individual guides and affects the whole person. That is not to say that the physical being, with all of its permutations and imperfections, cannot affect the spirit. Of course it can, and will. Consider, for instance, how you experience life when you are injured or sick. Are you always in the best spirit? I know I’m not. Most of the time, we just want to take pity on ourselves and can’t wait to recover and get life back to normal. Once our strength returns, life takes on a whole new shine and we’re in better spirits. The mind and will of a person can, accordingly, affect other areas of your life. When you have been educated and provided a sharpened intellect, your spirit can use this improved intellect to enhance the mind of which it is a part. When you strengthen your will through patience or denial, your spirit can use this to its advantage, as well. Thus, the spirit guides and strengthens, helps and comforts, and thinks and wonders.

As you can see, the words “nephesh”, and “ruach” in the OT, and the words “psuche” and “pneuma” in the NT all basically mean “to breathe”. So, what’s the difference? The confusion is cleared up by Scripture, ultimately. Consider the following from J.I. Marais: “In the NT “psuche” appears under more or less similar conditions as in the OT. The contrast here is as carefully maintained as there. It is used where “pneuma” would be out of place; and, yet, it seems at times to be employed where “pneuma” might have been substituted. Thus, in Jn. 19:30, we read: “Jesus gave up His pneuma to the Father,” and, in the same Gospel (Jn. 10:15), “Jesus gave up His psuche for the sheep,” and in Mt. 20:28 He gave His psuche (not His pneuma) as a ransom…” So, upon further examination, it becomes clear that a person’s Spirit is his individual possession, which returns to God after death, whereas his Soul is the part of him that makes him who he is. So, when Jesus died, His Spirit (pneuma) returned to God, whereas His Soul (psuche-all of who he is) was given for us.

As seen in Scripture, the spirit (pneuma) of Jesus that had vacated the body was alive and well in Paradise, (Greek paradeisos, Luke 23:43). Paul addressed this principle when he said that Christ’s disciples always should be “of good courage, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord”, (2 Corinthians 5:8; cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:14). This also points to the fact that the spirit of a person cannot die. It either lives on in Heaven or in Hell. What an amazing thought! We can be “at home with the Lord” and not be afraid of anything, including death. As saved people, we can live life fearlessly and with purpose like no one else on the planet. That should be a spirit-filling thought all by itself.

Writing Between Worlds

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What does it mean? I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who have an idea of what I mean by my tag line, but I am compelled to give some explanation.

I’m a person who believes in an afterlife. I don’t merely hope there’s one, I know there is and live that way as a result. Death does not frighten me and this world we live in now doesn’t hold all for me. As many others feel, the issues we face here and now are petty; politics, sports, entertainment and the like. So much of it really doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, many people center their existence on these meaningless pursuits to the detriment of their souls.

There’s another world that has infinite worth and goodness. This place is perfect and means more than we could ever grasp here. It’s a place caught only in short glances through ancient accounts and the faith of those who know it exists. But, so much of it is unknown as to be so mysterious it can’t be grasped.

So, my decision in writing is to look between these two realms, to a place that exists in the souls of people, where they will reside intermediately during their passage from this world to the next. In this place, anything is possible and deep questions may be asked and answered. Time doesn’t exist and neither does space. Only the imagination of the spirit and soul reside in this place. It’s a sphere of infinite possibility and wonder. I hope you can meet me there, someday…

The Peace Without

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There is a peace, a true peace, that is found only outside of one’s self. I saw this in the eyes of a person tonight. He is a prisoner. I don’t know his name or where he’s from, but he will never leave my mind.

Another man and I go to a prison every month to conduct worship services for the inmates. We usually have around 200 men in the chapel. These are people who have been involved in all manner of criminal activity, but none of that really matters since I’m really no better than any of them. I stand there, leading songs, a sinful and incomplete man, the same as them. But, I have hope. I have peace and I want them to have it, too.

Tonight, nine men humbled themselves and allowed my friend Matthew to bury them under water. These men relinquished their old lives. They assented to execution of a kind that will now allow them to live more abundant lives; lives of hope and peace.

One of the men met us after we had finished worshiping. He shook our hands and said, “My mother passed away last night. I know she’s in Heaven. Now I know I can be there, too.”

You can’t find that kind of peace inside yourself. It’s the kind of peace that truly passes all understanding. I’m grateful to have seen it from the other side of these eyes.

Dimensions

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Are there other worlds? Do other realities exist right next to us, but behind a curtain that hides them from us and through which we cannot reach? The scientific community has theorized about such dimensions for decades, but has been unable to substantiate these claims. As interesting as this idea might be, there is no evidence that alternate universes exist, have ever existed, or will ever exist. So, where does this idea really come from and why are people so into the idea?

Much of this hypothesis stems from the desire and need of cosmologists to formulate something like a Grand Unified Theory or Theory of Everything that will explain how our universe came to be and why it make sense. Ultimately, scientists need to explain this before they can get even close to explaining how life ever came to be, much less human beings.

Strangely enough, there is evidence of another realm of reality that exists alongside our own, but out of our reach. Here’s a historical account from the reign of Belshazzar, King of Babylon: King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. Daniel 5:1-5

Here in this passage, we see a hand reaching out from another world to write a message to this king. The hand reaches out, as if from a rift in reality, to send a message to humanity. Yes, there is another world that we as corporeal beings cannot touch. It exists right behind the curtain and it is as real as this world we inhabit. Keep your mind and soul open to it and maybe you will experience this reality one day.