Bootstrap Pride

BOOTSTRAP

Ever heard this one?:  “Hey, boy, you gotta lift yourself up by your own bootstraps!” 

Here’s another one:  “God helps them that helps themselves.”

OYSTERGet going there, kid!  The world is your oyster.  But you gotta  tame it, you gotta grab it, you gotta go for the gusto!  Now go out there and show ‘em!  Come on now, make me proud: Show the world you’re a winner!

That’s “bootstrap pride,” the legend of the self-made man.

There are two popular theories which engender enormous amounts of “bootstrap pride” in human beings:  From physics, the “big bang theory,” from biology, the “theory of evolution.”

BIG BANG SPACE SHUTTLEThe words “big bang theory” cause us to envision an explosive progression from unspeakable heat, energy, violence, and chaos to the incredible achievements of man;  skyscrapers, the 747, penicillin, the space shuttle.

EVOLUTION 3“The theory of evolution” conjures up images of a march from absolute disorganization and degradation, to the ”primordial slime,” to ape prototypes, on up to human innovations like brain surgery, the music of Beethoven, the iphone.

PROUD KIDWhat do those two scenarios have in common?  BOOTSTRAP PRIDE!!!   “Look at me!”  “Look at what I did!”  “I can do anything!”  “I came from a monkey, from a paramecium, from the primordial soup!  Now I’m a member of Mensa!”  “Ain’t I special?”  “Ain’t I great?”  “I’m hot stuff, and I’m proud!”

According to these theories, we started from a universe of absolute chaos, gradually advanced to a species of brute savages grunting unintelligibly in a cave, and from there to building the World Trade Center, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China.  “Wow, I love that story, ‘cuz it’s all about me, me, me, how great I am!”

EVOLVE UPWARDThe Book of Genesis tells a very different story.  God designed a glorious environment, beautifully elegant, perfectly suited to nurture and sustain us.  “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)  “Then God said, ‘Let Us make mankind in Our image, in Our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground’.” (Genesis 1:26)   God created us with spectacular intellect, physical stamina, and a moral compass.  He gave us an “instruction manual” on how to be healthy, happy, and wonderfully fulfilled.  “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;  but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die’.”  (Genesis 2:15-17)

EDEN + TEMPGod created us with free will, the capacity to choose whether we accept or reject His love.  He did not manufacture a race of robots.  We each have the option of receiving and embracing Jesus’ salvation.  It’s our choice.  We are not compelled to accept God’s free gift of salvation.  We can flee like Jonah (Jonah 1:3), or we can run into Jesus’ waiting arms.  He invites each of us with these words:  “Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)  If we decide to open the door of our heart and invite Jesus in, the Holy Spirit starts to sanctify us, and we begin to “bear much fruit, fruit that will last.”  (John 15:16)

…So, what did Adam and Eve do in the Garden of Eden?  They rebelled.  “ When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.  She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”  “(Genesis 3:6)   And what do most of us do today?  Mostly we rebel.  We put sugar in our gas tanks, and our engines self-destruct.  We run away from God’s presence and try to crown ourselves “god.”

THE FALL

Here’s a question:  Where exactly does “God helps them that helps themselves” appear in The Bible?  (Hint:  You won’t find it.  Nope, it ain’t there.  Nowhere in the entire Bible.)

Here’s something that is in The Bible:  “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling [which makes it sound as if salvation was wholly contingent on what we do], for it is God who works in you to will and to act, in order to fulfill his good purpose [which makes it clear that God is the author of our salvation].   (Philippians 2:12,13)

Salvation is a gift which is freely offered by God to every human being on the face of the earth, because of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection.  But this free gift must be received and embraced by each of us in order to take effect in our lives.

There’s no room for “bootstrap pride” in that scenario.  Instead, the narrative of The Bible leads us to our knees, to humble repentance, to the foot of Jesus’ cross, where we find salvation by submitting to His Perfect Will, and where we experience His perfect peace, joy, and love.

“Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives give I unto you.  Let not your hearts be anxious, and do not be afraid.”  (John 14:27)

The Truth Will Set You Free

BIBLE STUDYHave you ever returned to a familiar passage of Scripture and discovered that the words speak to you in a new, refreshing, dramatically impactful way?

Recently, while teaching The Epistle to the Hebrews in a small Bible study, Hebrews 5:14 suddenly jumped off the page and caused my spirit to soar with its encouragement and profound theological implications :

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.   HEBREWS 5:14

Pondering that phrase”distinguish good from evil” made me curious as to how this Hebrews verse might correspond to the words of the serpent in Genesis 3:5 :

EVE…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.”  GENESIS 3:4, 5

On first glance, these two verses may seem related.  However, the profound difference is unearthed by contrasting the word “knowing” in Genesis against the word “distinguish” in Hebrews.

The Greek word “distinguish” in Hebrews 5:14 is Strong’s G1253.  It means “judicial estimation.”  It carries legal implications, and it describes the process by which an impartial jury reaches a verdict.  G1253 is derived from its neighbor G1252, which means “to separate thoroughly, to withdraw from, to discriminate, to oppose, to decide, hesitate, or judge.”

A jury need not commit murder in order to know that murder is wrong and to find a defendant guilty of the crime.  There is a strong indication here that the author intends for his readers to reach a firm decision based on solid evidence;  to embrace goodness as revealed in the Godly counsel of Scripture and to eschew evil.  The Apostle John counsels us:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.   1 JOHN 2:15-17

By contrast, the Hebrew word “knowing” found in Genesis 3:5 is Strong’s number H3045.  It is a primitive root with a broad wealth of interpretations.  H3045 occurs 871 times in the Old Testament.  Among the English words used to translate H3045 are:  “to know, to be familiar with, to be a friend of, to be a kinsman of.”

TRY IT YOULL LIKE ITThe implication in Genesis 3:5 is that the devil is urging Adam and Eve to exercise the gift of free will given them by God to indulge in and experience every possible option offered by life in this world.  Like the old commercial says:  “’Try it…you’ll like it!’  So I tried it…thought I was going to die!”  Or, as the 1970’s pop song claims, “You can have it all!”  100% experience…Zero dreaded consequence.  Try it…you’ll feel like a dead man walking.

Satan’s worst lie (you know he is the “father of lies”) is subtler and harder to spot.  I didn’t detect it until now.  In Genesis 3:5, the devil doesn’t just tell Eve that her “eyes will be opened” by sampling all the evil offered by a life of sin.  He tells a far more sinister lie.  He implies that God likewise had His Eyes opened by indulging in sin.  This is patently false on the face of it and is contradicted by Scripture verses far too numerous to list here.

But here is a profound question;  Since we know that God does not indulge in sin, why do the Members of the Trinity confer with one another using this phrase? :

And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.
Genesis 3:22.

Why would God reiterate the words of the devil?  Wouldn’t that tend to infer that the LORD learned about evil by personally practicing sin?  Far from it!  What does God communicate in this perplexing statement?

We know that three-year-olds often touch the hot stove, even when told it will hurt.  And sadly, far too many of us must hit rock bottom before we realize the cold, hard truth that sin brings misery to ourselves and others.  God has no such need of experiential lessons.  In His infinite wisdom, God is able to look down from heaven with a “bird’s eye view” over all creation.  He can readily predict with perfect certainty the outcome of each choice we make.

Perhaps The Pulpit Commentary best unpacks the ambiguity of Genesis 3:22 :

The language seems to hint that a one-sided acquaintance with good and evil, such as that possessed by the unfallen angels in heaven and by Adam and Eve before Genesis 3, is not so complete a knowledge of the inherent beauty of goodness and the essential turpitude of sin as is acquired by beings who pass through the experience of a fall.  Without personal contact, God can see sin as it lies everlastingly spread out before His infinite mind.  By contrast, there’s only one way a finite being can approximate such a comprehensive knowledge of evil as the Deity possesses.  And that is by going down into it and learning what it is through personal experience.    (my paraphrase, emphasis added)

Jesus NEVER indulged in sin, although He was sorely tempted by the devil during His 40-day fast in the desert.  He lived a perfect life, just as His Father in heaven is perfect and sinless.  Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)  He doesn’t just KNOW the truth;  He IS the truth!  His very essence is The Truth!

BRIANThough some feel they must descend into sin and learn about it through personal experience before deciding to follow Jesus, I agree with that great theologian, Brian Dennehy:  “I’d rather take the butcher’s word for it!”

The Hebrew Word for “ONE”…and The Trinity

HEBREWHere’s something I stumbled on today that seemed worth sharing. 

Job 23:13 as translated in the ESV reads this way:

“But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back?  What he desires, that he does.”

The ESV footnote for “unchangeable” reads “or ‘one”.

The KJV reads:

“But he is in one mind, and who can turn him?  And what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.”

Strong’s says that “in one mind” is the Hebrew H259, ekh-awd’

Why is that significant?  Because the foundation of Judaism and Islam is that God is One, and He has NO Son.  That doctrine is based on Deut. 6:4, which says :

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”

And the Hebrew word translated “one” in Deut 6:4 is…you guessed it…same word, ekh-awd’, H259!

Look where else H259 crops up (among many others):

  • Gen 2:24 “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one [H259] flesh.”  [UNITY OF TWO PERSONS]
  • Gen 3:22 “Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us…”  [UNITY AMONG MANY]
  • Gen 11:1 “Now the whole earth had one language…” [UNITY OF MANY TONGUES]
  • Gen 29:20 “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but   a few days…”  [A FEW DAYS…again H259]
  • Gen 34:22 [after the rape of Dinah]  “Only on this condition will the men agree to dwell with us to become one people…”  [UNITY OF TWO GROUPS, H259]
  • Gen 41:25 “The dreams of Pharaoh are one…”  [2 DREAMS WITH THE SAME MEANING, H259]

So you see that the Hebrew word “ekh-awd’,” Strong’s H259, does NOT contradict the fact of The Trinity.

Studying the Bible is fascinating and inspiring.

Psalm 100: “Make a Joyful Noise!”

CB - Make A Joyful Noise - Cover Art - 4-5-2021(3)Psalm 100 has been beloved by billions of worshipers for the past 3,000 years.  Here is a brand new musical setting of this encouraging text.  “Make a Joyful Noise! (Psalm 100)” is Craig Buhler’s latest composition for Peninsula Men’s Gospel Singers.    The piece was composed for second tenor-baritone-bass (TBB) voices with piano accompaniment and was featured at the PMGS Spring Concert in June, 2021.   An optional additional part is available for flute, alto saxophone, or clarinet.

To view and hear this piece, click here.

Copies may be purchased for $2.85 U.S. each plus $5.00 per order shipping within the USA.  For orders outside the USA, an appropriate postage rate will be supplied.
To order, please click on the “contact” link found at the upper right corner of this page.

GOD’S GOT A SENSE OF HUMOR!

GODS SENSE OF HUMOR

While swimming in the Strait of Juan de Fuca last week, the vastness of the ocean, the myriad sand, rocks, shells, and marine life struck me with the awesome grandeur of God’s amazing creation.  This realization inspired further reflection on the mind-boggling complexity of God’s conception for this tremendous universe.

Before formulating the stupendous biodiversity of the plant and animal kingdoms, God first had to invent the 108 elements populating the periodic table of chemical elements, each with its own unique properties and personality.  But before that could take place, the laws of physics (gravity and all those other complex interactions) which govern His universe needed first to be established.  Oh, and it goes without saying that physics, chemistry, astronomy, and biology are all founded upon the mathematical principals which God also devised.

As a musician, the closest I can come to envisioning a project as overwhelming as the formation of our intricate habitable universe is imagining Beethoven composing his Ninth Symphony.  More recently, when viewing the serpentine structure of a Jacob Collier video, the question arises, “Which track did he lay down first.”

I was on the verge of asking God the question, “Lord, what did you speak into existence first?” …when He – as always – anticipating my concern before it was articulated, chimed in:  “First, I laid down a rhythm track before doing anything else.”  Then, without missing a beat, He whispered in my ear, “Next, I called out with a mighty, earthshaking voice, ‘More Cowbell!’

I laughed so hard, the snorkel dislodged from my mouth!  I caught a huge gulp of salty seawater before I could catch my breath! 

So it seems to me that God does have a fabulous sense of humor, although it’s hard to see during times when we’re embroiled in hardship, trial, tragedy, or tribulation.  It’s only in those brief moments of repose, when we’re able to ponder not only His Power, His Wisdom, and His Love, but also the lighthearted way He sometimes takes us by the hand and helps us to witness the lighter side of creation 

Praise God Almighty! 

 

Pray for a Brighter Tomorrow!

More than ever, in this chaotic season, we all need to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous person availeth much” (James 5:16) Here is a new musical setting of that powerful Scripture found in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If My people who are called by My Name.” A chart is given below, in case you want to sing this song.

Our Eyes Are Fixed on You

Here is another “New Reformation Hymn,” with text by Douglas Bond, music by Craig Buhler, and paintings by Tim Greathead.  May you be blessed and encouraged as you sing along with this uplifting hymn.   CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

Click “CONTINUE READING” below for sheet music to this hymn.

Continue reading “Our Eyes Are Fixed on You”