Friday, July 15, 2016

The Word, Christ, & Swords

A Sword
Image Courtesy of  FreeImages.com/Brian Hoskins
To someone who reads this title, you may be wondering what these three words have in common.  The cool thing this that the Bible weaves all three together quite nicely.  Although, they are described separately in different chapters throughout, once you start to look at the Bible in it's entirety, the relationships begin to make a lot of sense.  With that being said, the most fitting and proper place to start is at the beginning.  In Genesis 1:26, it says,

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;...

I want to draw your attention to the word “Us” in this passage.  Ask yourself:  “Who is the "Us" being referred in this verse?” If we understand that there is Yahweh (God), Yeshua (the Son, Christ), and the Holy Spirit then it starts to makes sense who makes up the "Us". If you have had the opportunity to listen to at least one church sermon, I am sure at some point you've heard a preacher speak on the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  Again, those three entities make up the “Us”!  Now that we have this established, let’s move forward.   


Christ as the Word


In the book of John, it talks about the Word becoming flesh, but what does this really mean?  Let’s look at John 1:1-5 to see:  

John 1:1-5 (1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was in the beginning with God. (3) All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (4) In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (5) And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

From John, we see that the Word was with God in the beginning.  That “Word” being referenced was Yahweh's Word!  If you read John 1:6-13, you will see the lead-up of the arrival of Christ, but let's skip down a few more verses to read more about this Word.

John 1:14-16 (14) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (15) John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” (16) And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

Yahweh's Word in the flesh is Yeshua the Christ!  I hope this is making sense because it is easy to gloss over and miss, yet it is important to understand. I know that I did not fully understand this for a while because I was use to being spoon-fed instead of digging into the Bible for myself.  I never want to pretend that I am perfect and have it all together, but as we grow in knowledge we are responsible for sharing with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.


Christ as a Sword


Now, we have addressed a couple of things.  We have laid the groundwork that Yeshua was present with the Lord in the beginning.  In addition, we have established that Yahweh’s Word became flesh which was Christ.  Now, given all of this, I suppose at this point you are wondering what a sword has to do with any of this.  I mean Christ is peaceful right?  After all, when Peter sliced off one of the guard’s ears, Yeshua said, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” (see John 18:10-11).  Taking verses 10 and 11 out of context, one might believe that Christ was passive and meek. However, if you understand the part about drinking “the cup which My Father has given Me” it helps you see the reasoning for scolding Peter.  Yeshua was saying that Yahweh had a plan and that plan was to go to the cross.  So, Peter could not get in the way or cause resistance for what the guards had come to do.  The plan must be fulfilled.  

However, the question still remains.  Was Christ so peaceful that He was against the usage of swords?   The answer is a resounding “No”!  In one instance, He specifically instructed the disciples to acquire swords as He sent them out.  

Luke 22:35-38 (35) And He said to them, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?” So they said, “Nothing.” (36) Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. (37) For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.” (38) So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”

Which one is it?  Is the Messiah quiet and peaceful or a sword wielding teacher?  Physically and from the descriptions we have of Him, Christ may appear to be peaceful, however spiritually-speaking, He is not so docile.  The things He did and said are written down for us to learn and grow, however, Yeshua was "sharp".  He arrived in the flesh and His acts were like a two-edged sword!  He said things that upset the apple cart during His time and it brought division to those who did not have ears to hear; to which this still happens today.  

"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

We have to agree and understand that there are precepts taught by Yeshua that are hard for people to comprehend.  An example of this is when He told a grieving family member to let the dead bury the dead (see Luke 9:60).  I mean come on now!  Where is the sympathy here? Reactions like these "cut" and may hurt someone who has recently lost a loved one, but it also takes a level of spiritual maturity to understand the purposes of preaching the Kingdom of God, despite the circumstance.  Another example is having the gumption to tell your own mother and brothers "whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother" (see Matthew 12:46-50).  I mean if you heard a sibling or child say this to you, you may think of yourself as chopped liver.  Again, it can hurt if you don’t understand His context.  Those things cut to the core and may cause emotional destruction and injury, but then again our purpose is to serve the will of Yahweh - not our own.  The faster we learn our purpose and His will,  the less severe the Word cuts us.

So, in the beginning we started with Yahweh and the Word.  Now, we get to end with the Word as flesh (Yeshua) carrying a two-edged sword in his mouth.  In Revelations, where Christ has come to John in a vision while on the island of Patmos, it is written:

Revelations 1:9-16 (9) I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. (10) I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, (11) saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” (12) Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, (13) and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. (14) His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; (15) His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; (16) He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.

A sword is a weapon that can be used for cutting and slicing.  A two-edged sword can be used for cutting on both edges which increases its capability and impact.  Spiritually, this type of sword is needed, especially in a time where the world has turned its back on God, the very one who created it.  There will come a time when there will no longer be an opportunity to choose Christ.  When this happens, the wrath of Yeshua will be felt and that two-edged sword will exact destruction.  Until then, always remember that while Christ may not physically swing a sword, He is like one, cutting to the heart of man and taking away anything that is not a reflection of Him and His Father.  

Be Blessed,

Antoine E. Hall



Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Masters of Illusion


Deception (noun) - the act of causing one to accept as truth, that which is not true.

The other day, I was taking a shower and sometimes in this quiet time, I pray and/or think.  This day, the topic of "deception" was on my mind and it went a little something this:  Sometimes, deception can be pretty obvious when it presents itself, but most of the times, it shows up unannounced and with very little fanfare. The reality is that deception rarely shows up like a lady in a red dress where it is readily identifiable.

Think of it like this.  When a magician performs a trick, the idea is to cause one to focus on one thing as the trick, while the trick is really "out of focus" from the act itself.  However, because you have been focusing your attention on the original presentation, you miss what really happened.  As long as a magician's secrets are not discovered, they can keep convincing people to come marvel at their illusions. The moment they can no longer trick the audience, their act is over.

As followers of Christ, we should be alert and aware all the time.  There will be false teachers and other people anxious to show us their full deck of cards, while they hide aces up their sleeve ready to work acts of deceit. The Word of God warns us of deception and its effects, but if we can never recognize it, where does that leave us?  The only way to recognize spiritual deception is to...

  1. ...know who God (Yahweh) is;
  2. ...have a true relationship with Yeshua the Christ and;
  3. ...allow the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide us in discernment.
 I believe that John sums things up very well in 1 John 2:18-20 when he says,

(18) Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. (19) They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. (20) But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. (21) I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
Know this - purposeful deceit is dishonesty and a lie can never be the truth.  Keep your eyes open as deception will continue to get worst in the days ahead.

Until next time, be easy folks.

Antoine



Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Dangers of Blind Allegiance

A couple of nights ago, my wife and I were sitting down semi-watching the news.  One segment particularly caught my attention as they were talking about how the Democratic Party hopeful, Hillary Clinton, had gone to Flint, MI to speak out about the recent water crisis.  They followed this report with a snippet of the commercial depicting black people in support of Hillary.  Now, I did not see the whole segment as it may have well included others in Flint because there are other ethnicities living there as well. So, I don't want to make this a black or white thing, but the story triggered a larger concern for me.

As we all know, it's presidential-race season and the political posturing is in full swing. That commercial made me question for a moment: “Why do people follow a group or entity without even questioning why they do it or the deeper implications of this action?” Then the phrase "blind allegiance" came to mind.  So, today that's what I want to discuss, but first, let's get a definition of each word separately and then work our way from there.

blind (adj) -  Unable or unwilling to perceive or understand; Not based on reason or evidence; unquestioning

allegiance (n) - Loyalty or the obligation of loyalty, as to a nation, sovereign, or cause.

From this, I would conclude that "blind allegiance" is when someone has loyalty (or the obligation of loyalty) not based on reason or evidence and no question as to why it is they are loyal.  In addition, they are not willing and do not have a desire to understand why it is they are loyal.

So just to level-set things, the issue of following blindly is not just in politics, but we see it in other common places such as work and even church. It just so happens that politics is an easy one right now because of the current "season". Circling back to the news segment, it made me realize how people are a part of political parties and do not have any idea why. Many are affiliated  through their parents, grandparents, great grandparents, cousins, aunts...well you get the point.  It is almost as if the majority of folks are born that way. As an African American, I can personally speak to this and a quote from the Washington Post sums, it up best:

"Black voters hold an unusual position in American politics. They vote heavily Democratic, as you know, and have for decades." - https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/07/31/democrats-are-heavily-dependent-on-the-black-vote-thats-an-opportunity-for-the-gop/

This used to describe me as well, but one day I asked "Why?" I could not really answer anything other than, "I'm Black, of course I am a Democrat."  Yes, I know that was a real show of ignorance on my part, but that was how I used to think. It made me take a step back and ask questions and in part I had no reason to be affiliated as a Democrat other than I never sought the information for myself to make my own decisions.  Everyone has their own opinion, however, a look at the graphic on the Washington Post link above is very telling. In part, almost all African Americans vote Democratic. The question I would ask is why?  What has that party done to earn your loyalty? This is not a question for just Blacks and Democrats, but for anyone who has blindly positioned themselves behind one party, without even deeply reflecting on it’s true meaning as it measures up to yourself. The political side of this could carry on forever and the aim is not to bash anyone or a group, but rather to trigger thoughts, using something that is readily relevant.  

As such, I can take this same topic to the Christian church.  There are some people who have had generations of families attend the same church.  It's not right or wrong, but this type of thing can easily take on the look of "don't ask questions, just do because we've always done".  In addition to this, you have people who blindly follow the leaders of churches whether their character and fruit line up with the Word of God or not. As a Christian, we are called to "know them by their fruits", with “them” being false prophets and wolves in sheep's clothing (see Matthew 7:16). We are constantly called to ensure that each member of the body of Christ is living by the Word and as such we cannot blindly ignore wrongdoing.

When you give someone, an entity, or ideal a free pass of loyalty without even questioning it, you essentially make yourself gullible. Standing behind something without really knowing why you stand behind it is as about as safe as a blindfolded person driving a car 60 mph down a crowded street. That's just not safe.  Even if you do not presently see the effects, blind allegiance is harmful. Don't allow yourself to be blind about anything or anyone you support. Opening your eyes may hurt and may cause you to part ways with your past convictions when you sit down and put everything on the table. But, to make informed decisions, this is necessary. On the other hand, if you know the WHY to your decisions and you are comfortable with the WHY then you are not blind. You have made a conscious decision to be loyal to someone or something. I am not saying that the decision is right or wrong, but it is about not being blind to what is happening around you.

We as people, tend to ignore a lot of things and continue on with life, making decisions for no other reason than “don’t ask questions, just do because we’ve always done…”. It is as though at times we are eyes-wide-open and at other times we have them tightly closed. I have to put myself under the microscope and in that same vain, I have to ask:  What or who are you blindly following? On that note, I will leave you with this quote.

"The eyes are useless when the mind is blind." -- author unknown

Be easy folks.

Antoine

* Definitions are from TheFreeDictionary.com


Monday, December 21, 2015

One Phone Call With Love


It's been a while since I have written a post and I have had a few topics in mind, but this morning is a little different.  I have not purposely procrastinated in writing, but rather the motivation had not driven me to carve out the time to do so.

Early this morning as I sit at the pool-deck watching my kids swim at 7am, I am doing something a different.  I am up earlier than usual and out the house earlier than usual.  In addition, swim practice is usually in the evening, but they are on holiday schedule.  In addition to this different type of morning, today is my 39th birthday! Yaaaay, Happy Birthday to me!!!

Usually birthdays aren't a huge deal for me.  I don't count down the days or make big announcements.  I give thanks to Yahweh for keeping me alive yet another year and cherish the moments that I have with my family.  I don't ask for anything and it sometimes frustrates my wife and/or mother that I want nothing.  But just as this morning is different, so too is this birthday.

For once I have a desire for something like a little five year old wearing a birthday hat.  It is something that I REALLY want, but something that no one can provide - just one phone call from my father.  For the first time in my life, I will not hear my Daddy's voice on December 21st.  That is weird.  No, wait.  Actually, it is really weird.  Every year I would get a call from my parents singing Happy Birthday, but this year, the tenor from that duet will be missing.  One half of the reason for my existence no longer exists and it is a odd feeling.

It wasn't that he made promises of giving me lots of money or things.  It was that he was my Daddy and he loved me (and my brother who has a birthday tomorrow) unconditionally.  Now, it has been three months since his passing and while every day has its ups and down, it has generally gotten better over the short time.

I know that I am not the first to experience the lost of a loved one nor am I the last, but when a parent passes away, the situation seems to be parked only in your drive-way.  To those who will experience a first special occasion or holiday without someone they love, be encouraged.  Let the ones around you love you the way they know how and you reciprocate that love the best way you know how. There is some things that we can never get back, but there are somethings that we can pass forward. With that, I will leave you with the scripture that I shared during my father's funeral.  It described him to a "T", but also is an example of how we are to love as well.
1 John 3:17-19   "(17) But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? (18) My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. (19) And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him." (NKJV)
Be blessed folks.

Antoine Hall


Phone image is from Creative Commons and created by Christos Vittoratos


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Status: Rumors of Wars


It's crazy at where we are with the world, but it seems that we have stumbled into the rumors of wars phase of things.  For decades we've heard echos of a future World War III, but with the latest downing of a Russian war plane by Turkey, things have gotten really complex in the Middle East. You can see the boldness and pride on display as all of the countries involved in fighting are not standing down because no one can appear to be weak.

In all of this, followers of Christ should not be surprised.  The disciples asked Yeshusa (Jesus) how they would know when the end of age and time and in Matthew 24 it says the following:
(3) Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
(4) And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. (5) For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. (6) And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. (7) For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. (8) All these are the beginning of sorrows.
(9) “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. (10) And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. (11) Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. (12) And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. (13) But he who endures to the end shall be saved. (14) And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (NKJV)
The same answer that was given then applies to us today, but do not be worried.  There are things that must happen before Yeshua's return and "rumor's of wars" just happen to be one of them. Do not be deceived in that the end is now because there are still verses many more things that happen before the second coming of Christ.

Be safe and vigilant during these times.

Antoine


Bullhorn image is from Creative Commons and created by Font Awesome by Dave Gandy


Friday, November 13, 2015

Sin...Bringeth Forth Death

"(12) Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. (13) Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: (14) But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (15) Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."  - James 1:12-15 (KJV) 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Not In Our Own Wisdom


The Bible does not shun wisdom as it is a good thing to have.  However, when we share the gospel we all have to be careful not to be wise in our own might, but rather through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I Corinthians 2:1-5   And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (NKJV)