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Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men. After the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Colossians 2:8
Issue #28 January & February 2007

Step into the Springs!

As this issue goes to print, we see another year has passed and a new year dawns. In reality, the end of one year and the start of another has no real relevance. It's simply a point in God's creation which certain men determined to make the cornerstone of their observation of time's passage. All the superstition about new years resolutions, and the like, are simply a result of the fact man is always hoping for a fresh start. Sadly, this, many times, leads to more failure than success. Far too many people hope a new year will be a fresh start and once they fail to be perfect in their determinations they simply give up, but that is not how time works. The past, whether good or bad, has put us where we are; and where we are is always the point from which we must take the next step. So, no matter what day of the year it is, the simple question is, how and in what direction will we take that next step?

No matter what moment we stand at, and no matter how often we have failed in the past, we must choose the right and reject the wrong. God understands we are not perfect. He gave His Son to die for us while we were yet sinners. (Rom. 5:8) We need to learn from our mistakes but not allow them to set us back any further than they already have. Repentance for sin is not continuing to beat ourselves up over past failures, it is about living humbly before God. This means we must live with the constant understanding that, in every situation, we need God's guidance, and we will not have it if we do not stay in prayer.

Some religions will tell you to pray this many times a day or that many times a day, but every day of our lives should start in prayer, end in prayer, and be filled with communication with God all the way in between. (I Thess. 5:17) Walking upright in life is not about a one time determination that we are going to do better this year or a magical sinners prayer we said at an alter one day. Walking upright is about inviting the presence of God into our lives continually, and seeking His will in every decision we make. So pray without ceasing, and if you find you have ceased, then begin praying again; because when we live in constant communion with God, we will be able to see, no matter what year or circumstances we find ourselves in, we can be content!(Phil. 4:11)

As you live a life in prayer, you will find prayer changes things. Prayer gives strength for the day and provision for the journey, and that is why we at Living Springs ask for your constant remembrance of this ministry in your prayers. There are many ministries which, today, try and define success as smooth sailing and prosperity, but we know the harder we try to reach out with the truth the harder the devil will try to stop us. In this fight, there is only one thing we truly need and that is the prayer of those who believe. This publication will only continue to be printed and we will only be able to develop the materials I know God has called us to develop, if we have God's will moving this ministry. So, what I beg of you again this year, is that you keep us in your prayers daily as we attempt to reach out with the truth of God's Word!

On that note, I want to share or remind you all of a couple of important dates. First, January 28th is the International Day of Prayer and Solidarity with Israel. This is an annual event set up and sponsored by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. We are a generation which is blessed to see the re-establishment of the nation of Israel, but many are not wise enough to see this. So, let us take time to pray that God will continue to bring forth His Word through His chosen people Israel and the will of the Father be done here on earth just as it is in heaven! (Matt. 6:9-13, Luke 11:1-4) Please mark January 28th on your calendars and join with others of like precious faith as we pray for the peace of Jerusalem! (Ps. 122)

The second important date is April 15th. This is Holocaust remembrance day for 2007. Considering the current upheaval of those who would like to deny this horrendous event in history, it is more important than ever that we take time to remember. We can not be true followers of God and deny the events of those dark days where an attempt to erase from this earth those who are intrusted with the oracles of God! (Romans 3:1-2) Jesus told us if we are not for Him then we are against Him. (Matt. 12:30) We must stand with God's chosen people and resist anti-Semitism, for it exists even in our own backyard. We teach our children the stories of Israel from the Bible; let us not forget Israel's modern history as well. Take this opportunity to educate yourself and others! For further information about Holocaust Remembrance Day and the Holocaust itself, visit our website at Click on Learning Center and under "Featured Sections" click on Remembering the Holocaust.

We Hope you enjoy this issue of Shaqah (shaw-kaw'). Thank you for your prayers and support of this ministry, and may God bless you everyone!

Happy Home Above

Recently, there was a special which aired, where a well known reporter went in search of heaven. In her search she went to various religious leaders around the globe and asked them about heaven. The whole point of the exercise was to talk about where heaven was, what heaven was like, and how we can get there. Of course, many religions have variations on what heaven is, but it saddened me just how off base with the Bible most of the responses were which came from those in the Christian religion. It seemed many of the Christian ministers interviewed had no idea what the Bible has to say about heaven, and their focus was on the very same things many other religions focus on. They talked about heaven being a great place to live, but never pointed out what the purpose of heaven is; and heaven's purpose is Biblically inseparable from any discussion about how we can get there!

At first glance, it seemed as if the editors of the show simply picked out just what they wanted in the interviews and left out the good stuff, but even if that was somewhat true, there was still material available to leave in which never should come from a Bible believing Christian. As the reporter interviewed one particular minister who pastors a church literally the size of a sports arena, she tried to pin him down on the Christian belief that Jesus is the only way to heaven. His response was a response, I fear, is becoming more and more the rubber stamp, media friendly, "Christian" response. He simply pointed out that it's not our responsibility to judge others but only God could be the judge, and while this statement in and of itself is very true, it's not an answer to the question. What a tremendous waste it is when national media gives us a chance to share our faith and we blow it by trying to be politically correct. Far too many Christians, it seems, are taking their cues from politicians instead of the Word of God. However, it got worse. The reporter continued to press for something more than a sidestepping answer to the question about the Christian belief that Jesus is the only way; and in the end, the best she could get out of the man was the idea that without Jesus there is no guarantee we will make it into heaven!

Let me just say it's a sad, sad, day we are living in when the pastors of some of the biggest churches are so pressured by man's view on what is right, that we begin to define Jesus and the blood He shed as nothing more than a "guarantee" for heaven. Peter said of Jesus, "Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God." Jesus said "...upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matt. 16:13-18) If you are not building on the foundation which Jesus laid, then you are building another building, and that is the primary problem many "Christians" face today - they are not really Christians at all!

Jesus said if you seek to save your life you will lose it, but if you will lose your life for His sake you will find life everlasting. (Matt. 16:25) It's possible to believe in God and because you have not yet heard the good news that the Messiah has come, you may not yet know the name of Jesus, but just as the wise men followed a star to find the baby Jesus, you too will be led to the Messiah. This is one of the most basic things Jesus Himself was explaining when He told us, if we ask, seek, and knock, we will receive, find, and doors will be opened. (Matt. 7:7-8) However, if once we know Jesus, we are afraid to stand in the face of social pressure and proclaim the heart of the gospel that no man comes to the Father but by Him (John 14:6) then we have lost everything, and it would have been better for us never to have known in the first place! (II Peter 2:20-22) At that point, we are simply walking down the broad way with countless others who also lean on their own understanding. (Prov. 3:5) If we deny the words of Jesus then we are denying Jesus, and Jesus made it very clear that if we deny Him before men He would deny us before His Father. (Matt. 10:32-33) This is not judging others, this is pointing out the facts. The Gospel is about facts and we must study to show ourselves approved. (II Tim. 2:15) If it's judgmental to tell a fact which God Himself has laid out, then what are we doing here? Why did Jesus call disciples and why did God even send a Saviour? The Bible clearly asks, how will they know unless they are told and how can they be told unless God sends preachers? The response of a true believer is simply - here am I, send me! (Rom. 10:13-17, Isa. 6:8) So, I would like to answer that question the reporter asked the pastor, is Jesus the only way to heaven? YES! And now I would like to explain a little about heaven, and why it exist!

An understanding of where heaven is and how we get there starts with a simple understanding of why heaven even exists at all. Every religion in the world seems to believe in some form of heaven, but the fact which gets lost in the mix is that we are not all talking about the same place. The heaven Muslims will tell you about is not the heaven Jesus was talking about. The Buddhist Nirvana is not just a different way to view heaven, it's simply not the place true believers in Jesus are looking for! You see, this is another example of how we get drawn into a Gnostic belief system. Gnostics believe we are all looking for knowledge which will take us to a better place, and even though many religious people have a slightly different view on exactly what that place is like, there is many times the basic but deadly assumption we are all talking about the same place. This is just another thing which helps many religions around the world join hands in a circle which Christians cannot afford to be a part of.

Among those who claim to know the Bible, there is a deepening divide between what can best be described as literals and non-literals. The non-literals believe the Bible contains truth, but they don't believe it's literal. They believe the Bible's accounts of history are simply legends and folk tales which contain a certain amount of fact surrounded by a lot of human story telling. When it comes to the more spiritual parts of the Bible, they believe the words are not solid truth but the truth only as those who follow its particular brand of religion see it. This leaves the Bible open to about the most vast interpretations possible. For example, when Jesus says, "I am the way..." they believe that is just the way Jesus saw it. They believe those who follow Jesus should not believe, especially in our "enlightened" society, that Jesus is the only way. They want us to believe Jesus was simply saying what the pastor was saying - Jesus is a guarantee. If you have found no other way then Jesus is the way. Basically, "each to his own" is what non-literals are selling. What works for one, may not work for another, is what they are putting out there, and they tell us it's wrong for Christians or anyone for that matter, to try and "convert" those of a different religion. They tell us this is only a disturbance to others finding the path which works for them, and when Christians buy into this they are playing right into the devils hands. Jesus made it clear He was literally the only way, by saying, "no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6)

The Bible is not mysticism, it is about facts. These facts were written down so in a world where man would reject God and create religion for himself, there would always be the facts for those who seek to find them. Man's basic religious beliefs have splintered into a thousand different pieces, each with its own story and characters. These stories vary slightly one from another and the characters have different names, but they are simply religion not the truth. God knew man would do this, so He formed a focus. The nation of Israel was formed and the law given. Salvation for all the world would come through Israel, and those seeking the one true God who created us all, would see and understand. This is why the Bible tells us to come out from among them and be ye separate. (II Cor. 6:16-18) All true believers belong to a Godly nation, making us foreigners in this world. When talking about heaven, we are talking about the heaven created by God for all men, (II Peter 3:9-13) but we are not talking about a general feel good place like other religions. We are talking about a place which has a specific purpose, and that is one of the main points which sets the truth apart from the fog of false religion.

When most people and/or religions talk about heaven, they talk about a place of comfort and peace, but what they tend to focus on is the ideas of physical delights which are either unavailable in our world or have bad consequences. One item which gets mentioned time and again is the idea of eating and drinking what we like without getting fat. Others will sight things like sexual pleasures, and the ability to drink alcohol or smoke without the negative consequences. All this shows a view which is anti-Bible. The teaching of the Bible is that we must forsake the desires of this flesh in order to gain the true gifts of life. Some religions use the idea of suffering as a cornerstone of their practices, but it mostly is still done with an attitude and belief that we are forsaking a temporary life and its pleasures for an eternal life with the same pleasures. Many describe this life as a testing ground, of sorts. A place where, if we pass the test, we will earn the right to do whatever we desire in the next life.

Many who call themselves Christians think this very thought. They do not understand the Word of God. They think in the same terms as the world; but heaven is not a place just for comfort, it is a place with a higher purpose. That purpose is to live in the way God created us to live. When God created us, He did not intend us to focus on the flesh. The physical is only one part of us, and though it's a real part of us which can experience pleasure, it was not intended to be the only thing our lives were about. Tasting good food was about our physical existence which needed the input of sustenance to sustain. Instead of making this a drudgery or a bland experience, God made things for us to eat which have a wide variety of flavor. The pleasures of a physical relationship between a man and a woman was because of the fact God gave man a physical ability to multiply the number of humans which exist in this universe. Again, instead of making this a drudgery or bland process, God made it pleasurable; but the fact so many are looking at the pleasure instead of the purpose is why we fall into thinking in such distorted patterns. When talking about homosexuality, people like to talk in terms of what's wrong with people loving each other? The answer is, nothing! Loving each other is something we are all supposed to do, but the experience of coming together in a sexual way has no purpose between two men or two women. It only has a purpose between a man and woman. It's not meant to be shared among multiples, it's about one man and one woman together in a life long commitment called marriage. The institution of marriage has to do with the possible and frequent result of this physical union. Once children are born, they need to be raised, and that responsibility belongs primarily to the two people who are responsible for the production of the child. When sex is seen in this simple light instead of looking at just what makes everyone feel good, we come to understand not just the fallacy of homosexuality but adultery in all its forms!

Life has a point and it's not just about physical pleasure. This is exactly why we were not created with only the ability to experience pleasure. This is also why different people have different thoughts on what is pleasurable and what is not. It has been said that one man's junk is another man's treasure. This is because one man's desires can be very different from another. One man's fear can be another's exhilaration. This tells us, if heaven was about pleasure, one man's heaven could be another man's hell!

So, heaven cannot simply be a place where everyone gets everything they find ideal. This would simply not be possible without destroying the individuality God created in each of us, or destroying the interaction God created us to have with each other. God is not going to separate us each into our own world like so many birds in gilded cages. It was only because of sin in this world that God had to confound our languages. You see, life is not about always getting exactly what you want when you want it. Life is about growing, communing with God and when desired, being able to interact with others. It's about being creative as God is creative. All this is why God gave Adam and Eve far more dos than don'ts. In Genesis chapter 1 verse 28, God tells men to, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." God was giving man a place to explore, to be creative in, to enjoy, to live! However, because of the diversity among men and the needs of our physical forms, it should be obvious to us that there must be limits to our free will. As we see the deepening effects of sin in our world this only grows more and more obvious. This is the shorthand answer of why God cursed the ground after sin entered. We need to be focused on more than just the physical pleasures of life.

As free willed beings only we can choose the right and reject the wrong. This means for all of us to live together in peace and harmony, we must all, at the very least, have a desire for right and an aversion to wrong. If that is what all men chose then there would be no need for heaven, we would have it here on this earth, but under the circumstances it's not possible because some only care about themselves and their desires, no matter how much it hurts others. God cannot simply provide the desires of everyone when it is the desire of some to harm others or care not for the fact they harm others in their personal actions. These people cannot have their desires without ruining the lives of others. So this leads to one simple fact, there must be a separation! (Matt. 25:31-34)

The question then becomes how do you determine who is right and who is wrong? None of us are righteous, no not one. (Rom. 3:9-11) The answer is that man looks on the outward appearance but God sees the heart. (I Sam. 16:7, Prov. 21:2) Even in a life where none of us are perfect, God knows which of us have a desire to be righteous and which do not. However, even this cannot simply be a dividing line for the separation. Man is too diverse in his thought pattern. Even among those who desire right, there can still exist very different views, especially in certain situations. In some cases of interaction the question is not about what is right and what is wrong. There very well may be different ways to go about things, none of which are wrong at heart. All opinions in a given situation may even be helpful in someway, but how do we choose? The answer is, there must be someone who has the right to continually orchestrate, and as free willed beings it must also be someone everyone involved agrees has the right to do so!

Without destroying the very nature in which we were created to live, these are the simple facts of life if we are going to live in peace with one another. Of course, these facts show us exactly why we will never have perfect peace on this earth, but thanks be to God, we do not have to stay here for eternity! There is a place where those who desire righteousness can be separated from those who do not. However, for that place to be a place of perfect peace, it must also be limited to those who desire the leadership of their Creator. Jesus came to provide what the facts tell us we need. Jesus came so that death would not be the end for those who desire righteousness and would accept His leadership. Why His leadership? Because Jesus was not merely a great prophet, He was and is the Christ, the Son of the Living God! Jesus is our Creator. He has also lived as one of us on this planet! (John 1) Thus, the Bible tells us there is only one place we can go on to be, in which is "a better place," and that is the place Jesus said He went to prepare for us, that where He is, so we may be also! (John 14:1-4)

Where is heaven? Of that we only know that Jesus said He was leaving this earth to go unto His Father and prepare a place for us. (John 14:12) What is heaven like? According to what John records in the book of Revelation, it's a new universe with a new earth for us to start on much like the way we began here, but instead of a garden eastward in Eden there is a perfectly symmetrical new Jerusalem. In all of this new heaven and earth there will be no sin, so there will be no heartache, no death, no deterioration of our bodies, or anything else. It is and ever will be perfect. (Rev. 21:1-22:7, Matt. 6:19-21) So, how do we get there? Only by yielding ourselves to the One who gave His life to redeem us from our sin. His name is Jesus, and yes, He is the only way! Heaven will truly be a wonderful place, but only for those who desire its purpose!

By Philip Busby

In this installment of "Decoding The Truth," we want to start talking more specifically about who Jesus was and why what He did was so important. In light of Gnostic belief seeping into the minds of believers, it's very important we understand why Jesus is the only path of salvation, not simply one of many as Gnostics would teach.

As we talked about last time, we are sinners, and even if we somehow became perfect we did not start out that way. This means we have already done things worthy of death. Being born in innocence yet having the knowledge of good and evil in us, means no descendants of Adam will ever be able to live a perfect life. No matter how much we desire the truth, we still make mistakes and fall short of God's perfection. (Rom. 3:19-26) This clearly shows us we will not ascend because becoming godlike would require being perfect not just becoming perfect. Life is not about evolving to something greater and more powerful. Life is about living as God created us to live, and in our current state we have lost even that! Getting back what we have lost is going to take more than any descendant of Adam is capable of achieving; if that were not true we would not have lost it in the first place. This brings us not only to the conclusion that we need God to provide a Saviour, but it tells us a lot about exactly what a Saviour needs to be.

First, a Saviour must be perfect from the beginning; second, He must remain in perfection throughout His life. This is the nature of Jesus which many false teachers and fairy tale writers want to tell us is untrue about Jesus. They want to say Jesus fell to temptations just like any man, and that Jesus joined Himself with a woman or women while here on earth. Then they will try and tell you none of that changes who Jesus was and is. After hearing all this, you need to understand one simple thing, it all comes down to the question of, do you believe the Biblical version of Jesus or the one taught by these storytellers? Because, if Jesus did the things Gnostics teach He did, then He is not The Saviour the Old Testament Scriptures tell us we need!

Thus, let us start at the beginning. One of the first things men want to tell us is that Jesus was not born of a virgin. Sadly, many Christians do not even understand what the significance of saying this is! Many scholars and so called teachers will tell you that not believing in a virgin birth does nothing to affect who Jesus was. If we know the truth, we should understand this to be a clue; these men are speaking of something they know nothing about, or they are teaching something very different altogether! Again, if you're going to be a Saviour, then you have to, from the beginning of your existence, transcend what is common to humanity. Remember, Gnostics do not believe this fact because they do not believe we need a Saviour, only a guide. Thus, we are talking about two different things! God would have to provide Himself a Lamb, (Gen. 22:7-8) because only God could come down to this earth, take on human form, face the trials we face and get out of it alive, making a path we could all then follow. You see, a key difference between Gnostic and true Bible teaching is simply this: Gnostics believe there is a way to go on to a better place which is available to anyone who can obtain enough knowledge; and the Bible tells us only through God's grace is there a path of salvation for those who desire righteousness.

Perhaps the first thing we need to understand is why it was necessary for God to take on human form. Last time, we talked about God's perfection as God. As a perfect God, He is obligated to judge us. We are His creation. Perfection in justice demands wrong must be removed. It is like a cancer, if it is left unchecked it will destroy the entire system. So sin simply demands the death of the sinner. This is the power of death, hell, and the grave, but death belongs to these physical forms, not our mind and spirit. Thus, when we face death, if we are ever going to be whole again, there needs to be a way to replace these physical forms. Now, God can raise up these forms as many times as He wills, (Matt. 9:1-8) but if we are going to live free from sin, we must dispose of this flesh altogether. Then we need to be reborn in a new form which preserves who we are, but is not vulnerable to the same thing which destroyed us in the first place. That is a tall order. Not destroying who we are and who we were created to be is a critical part of saving us instead of turning us into something altogether different. This is one of the simplest explanations as to why we must choose to live in the spirit. If our desire is the things of this flesh then God cannot give us a new form without violating who we have chosen to be.

Human's were created with a free will. Perfect justice dictates that a freewilled being not be forced, but asked to choose. This is a fundamental part of our creation! This world gave man a shot at perfection and we blew it. Choosing sin means we chose death. God warned us it was so. (Gen. 2:16-17) This dynamic will never change. These physical forms will have to die; which means, if we are going to get a second chance at life, something had to be done which would open a choice which did not exist in the beginning. The problem is that we were never intended to die. God gave us the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but He did not give us a tree of death. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was simply that - the knowledge of good and evil. The tree did not kill you, but being created in innocence, not perfection, means leaving innocence would bring the judgment of death. Thus, it is important we understand, death exists only because sin exists. (Rom. 5:12) Simply put, in the beginning there was no sin, therefore there was no death. Since there was no death, there was no way out of death made as part of our creation! However, the next part is where we see the truth of Scripture telling us that Jesus was "...the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Revelation 13:8 You see, God completed the creation of everything we know in just six days, but God waited one more day before He called creation complete. This left God with one day for Himself, in our creation, which He would hold for His purposes. (Gen. 2:1-3) Creation was complete, but once man fell into sin, death became a part of our existence and this meant a new work needed to be added, a work which would and could redeem us from death. This is the new covenant Jesus spoke of. It's not the abolishing of the first, it is redemption from the result of our decisions under the first.

This is why we talk about the grace of God. (Eph. 2:8) Free will means the world works according to our choices. Our choices brought death, (Prov. 14:12) but the gift of God is a choice between our ways of death or His ways of life! (Rom. 6:23) To provide this, God had to come in the flesh. He had to literally enter our created cycle. He had to become a man, live as a man, make choices as a man, so a path could be cut through our existence which other men could choose to follow. He was a man, who, through His choices, could effect how the world worked. This is why God would take on human form. He would walk down the very same road Adam and Eve had started. God would live in our time constraint. He would have dependence on physical food and water. He would need to sleep when his body needed sleep. He would feel the things we feel, but most important, He would become vulnerable to the same death we are vulnerable to! Yes, God, for the very first time could be killed. He was mortal, and subject to the same perfection in justice that we are subject to, and Satan saw an opportunity like never before! You see, if God was mortal and subject to the same judgment as man, then He could find Himself trapped by death in the same way Adam's descendants had been. This fact very well may have been one of the primary reasons Satan messed with this creation in the first place! Satan knew that God's love would not allow man to simply be swallowed by death. If he could get man to rebel against God's Word, Satan knew the day would come when he would get the chance to attack God in the flesh. It was vital The Messiah live a perfect life or His life would mean nothing to us, but of more importance to Satan was the unfathomable possibility that he could destroy our perfect God!

I don't think we can fully appreciate just what a tremendous work Jesus did for us, what God put on the line for us, and what a disaster could have befallen all which exists if Jesus had not lived a pure and perfect life! If we grasp it even just a little, we will stop asking why it mattered if Jesus did or didn't refrain from living a typical fleshly existence!

So, again we must return to the point of eternal perfection. It's not just about what we become; it's about what we have been. If Jesus was going to free us from death, He had to be perfect and spotless from the start. This is why the virgin birth was necessary. Saying Jesus was born of a virgin does not simply mean His mother knew no physical father to produce Him; it means Mary was a virgin before Jesus was conceived and after Jesus was born. Virginity in this light does not simply mean she had never known a man, it goes beyond that. Here the term also means her body had never produced a baby. She had carried a baby in her womb and she had given birth to a baby, but Mary's body had in no way produced a baby. After Jesus' birth, Mary and Joseph would have children of their own, but they were not Jesus' blood parents.

Let me say it this way. Jesus was no more a physical part of Mary than He was of Joseph. The angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her "...that which is conceived in your womb is of the Holy Ghost." If we read our biology book, we find conception does not happen in the womb! Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16) Jesus' physical form which contained Him, was created by God Himself and placed in Mary's womb. Adam and Eve were not born of the flesh. Adam was formed from the dust of this ground we live on. Eve was formed from Adam, but there is every reason to believe they were created with adult forms. Every other human to walk this earth would be their descendants, created by the physical process of egg and sperm coming together to provide all the necessary elements for independent human life, every other human except one, the "...only begotten Son of God" John 3:18; and just so there is no room for argument, Jesus, unlike Adam and Eve, would live His life from that very smallest and beginning moment of conception.

Human life begins at conception, and Jesus was created to begin at that moment, then placed by The Holy Ghost into the womb of Mary. There He would grow and be born just like any other human child. He would live with parents who would worry about Him just like any other child. (Luke 2:48-49) He would eat, He would drink, He would feel cold and heat. He would be tempted by the fleshly desires as any man is tempted. The crucial part would be that Jesus, unlike other human children, would not be born as part of the hopeless cycle of sinful men. Jesus would be up to the challenge of being perfect. Not being part of our physical lineage meant Jesus' body would be as fresh as Adam and Eve's. He would not suffer the imperfection we suffer in the flesh. He would be a human, but His blood would be new. (I Cor. 15:42-47) The real difference would be that Adam was created in innocence and Jesus would be created in perfection!

Next time, we will continue our discussion about the perfection of Jesus. We will also talk more about why Jesus taking part in the kinds of activities many try to say His life consisted of, would have ruined His perfection! Until next time, may The God of grace and mercy guide you into all truth as you study His Word!

Following the Biblical Stream:
By Philip Busby

Last time, we talked about Cain's reaction to God's punishment. We also talked about God's response to Cain's response. This brought us through verse 15 of Genesis chapter 4, but one last thought on all this is the point that God never asks Cain to bring a sin offering for the fact he had killed Abel. This emphasizes that God had not established the practice of sin offerings as a regular law. The offerings Cain and Abel brought were simply that, offerings, not required sacrifices. Cain was not obligated to bring a blood sacrifice, thus, he was not being punished for disobeying God, it was a simple matter of blood offerings being treated differently than non-blood offerings. The symbolism that the shedding of blood would be necessary for our redemption would not be in the requirement of bringing a blood sacrifice but in the fact, blood offerings would be treated with higher regard.

Verse 16 sums up Cain's ultimate problem. It says, "And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD,..." Cain's desire to get only what he wanted from God and then push God aside was at the heart of the dispute. Cain was told by God that if he brought a blood offering it would be treated in the same manner as Abel's, but Cain didn't want to offer at all. He simply wanted to throw whatever was convenient at God and receive the recognition he desired. The verses leading up to verse 16 show us Cain got all he felt he was going to get out of God. So, verse 16 starts by telling us Cain simply left!

I think, many times, we look at this verse and interpret it on the basis that Cain was right in what he said in verse 14 about being hid from the face of God. However, as we talked about last time, this is not true. Cain was concerned only that he would not have God's protection from others, not that he would no longer have God's presence. That specific place God had planted for man to always know where he could physically return to the presence of God was unavailable, but God is still with us anytime we wish Him to be. The fact Cain had, had a conversation with God even after killing Abel, tells us God was still readily available to all men in all places! However, Cain was not interested in having God's presence in his everyday life, so Cain desired not to even be in that place where he had met with God. He would go east to a place called Nod, and there he would build his life, in a place where, to his knowledge, none had ever called on God.

God's presence is everywhere as we walk this earth but we can easily choose to ignore it on a personal basis. This is what verse 16 is telling us Cain did. Cain was not leaving God's presence by going out into a place east of Eden. The fact Cain left the physical area of Eden had more to do with leaving behind other humans who might desire the presence of God in their lives. (This has relevance to what we will talk about in verse 17.) We see this in our world today. There are many people who desire not only to refuse worshiping God as God but they do not even want to retain the knowledge of God in their memory. (Rom. 1) So, they try and separate themselves from those who may bring the presence of God to where they are. This is also why so many believers in God have been persecuted and killed. When Cain desired to leave those who might bring the presence of God, he went out into seemingly unexplored territory; but as man populated the planet this became harder and harder to do. Cain was one man, so he left others behind. In the cases where the majority are the ones who wish not to have God or when rejecters of God feel they have the power to overcome believers, the role can be reversed. In later history, we see many men choosing to simply try and eliminate those who serve God from among them. They try to get believers to stop believing and serving God by making believers lives miserable. In many cases, they will attempt to torture believers until they give up. In the case of true believers this, many times, results in the second thing some wicked men go directly to and that is death. There is even a third idea which was introduced, at least on a large scale, at the tower of Babel and that is to create a religion which takes man from or attempts to keep man from having the truth in the first place. All these tactics must be guarded against and/or suffered through by the true believer. (Rev. 12:10-11) God shows us here in Genesis just how early on this attitude existed among men!

Verse 17 illustrates the truth we talked about in our last issue. God's punishment of Cain was not more than he could bear. Cain, even without the ability to work the ground, still went out and built a life for himself. Verse 17 tells us Cain had a wife, together they had a son, and after that Cain builds a city which he names after his son. That sounds like a pretty full existence to me, at least on a physical level, but what is interesting is the fact it tells us Cain built a city.

Now, first, we have to admit we do not know just how long after the birth of Cain's son Cain builds this city, only that he named it after his first born. We also do not know how many children Cain had, but what it shows us is the beginning of man's choices. Adam and Eve had lived in the garden. This, as we have talked about, was a launching place for man but more importantly a place where man could physically meet with God. Man would never be able to build that for himself but it would seem man wanted to emulate what God had done in some form for his own purposes. Keep in mind that up to this point there is no mention of people building houses or even tents. It may be true they lived in some kind of dwelling, but here Cain builds a city. A conglomeration of housing and infrastructure for the purpose of men living together in a group. Now, some may believe this was simply Cain building homes for his family, but the building of a city is a concept not a provision. Cain was saying, here is the place I live, and I expect others to live with me. When you look at the story of the Tower of Babel you find God confounded the languages of men so they would not conglomerate in one big group, but man still went out into different parts of the world and formed mini groups or cultures. Even today many dream of a day when man will migrate back into one large group, and this shows a contrast between God's thinking and man's thinking.

One of the big reasons God created man in innocence and not perfection is because God was not interested in creating clones. God was interested in creating an environment, a world, a universe and then setting free in that space, creatures who would explore, invent, and mold their existence in unique and ever changing ways through personal accomplishments as well as interaction with others. The only issue was in how we treated each other. Without the knowledge of good and evil man would not be responsible for his hurtful actions, but God would be there to referee all our interactions; so, in fact, it was not a problem at all. This would leave man in a unique situation! After man fell into sin, things changed, but God still wanted man to go forward with his created purpose. Our freedom would be dampened by the fact we would be responsible for our own actions. God would have to pass judgment, but through the giving of His Son, God would ultimately fix even that problem for us. (Rev. 13:8) However, instead of trusting God, sinful man chose to stunt man's created purpose further. He chose to conglomerate men which, when carried to the extreme of developing culture, destroys much of man's individual creativeness. Today, many people do not get their identity from who they are inside but by what they are labeled in society. What you are labeled in society is going to be very different depending on the society you are born in. This is true even when you do not live in a culture which practices a defined cast system.

These things exist because man does not like what he cannot control. Some of this fear comes from our inability to control things in the way God can, and this means Cain is the perfect candidate to start the building of culture through physical ties. Cain intentionally went out from the presence of God, even after making it clear he was afraid of the unknown among men. Then in his new place, he builds something physical which will bring a certain amount of control over his world. No more random meeting of the uncontrolled passerby. With conglomeration comes the necessity and power of government. Because man lacks true power, he must created the illusion of power by enforcing restrictions which demand conformity to certain ideas which man feels he can control. This verse shows us where the system of men began, and by who it was instigated. A precedence about how man was supposed to live was set up, and it would dictate how our world would unfold, even to this day!

Many who do not believe the Bible is a true record of man's history will use reverse ideas as the basis for their arguments against the Bible. They will tell you after man evolved in a certain way he created stories about how it all started. The truth is, the Bible is an historical record, and it's telling us how we got to where we are through our choices, not some obligation to simply follow social behavior which was part of our evolution. This means there was opportunity for other ways and things which we may never have dreamed of. We are so caught up on things being just as they are, we, many times, do not even see other possibilities. This is what often leads us to believe people who are different from us are wrong, but being different is not wrong, it's just different. God confounding our languages gives us the opportunity to see this truth through, at least, the differences of cultures man developed, but many still pass right over it in the belief theirs is the only way to live. However, the fact there are basic principals of right and wrong is why God gave us the Ten Commandments. We needed a basis of judgment for what is truly wrong, not just the idea that anything which differs from our norm is wrong. With guidance such as the Ten Commandments, we can afford to reach out into the diverse places and ideas which man is capable of and make choices between what is right and what is wrong. God's law does not create the restriction many believe it does. God's law opens freedom!

When we look back into the history of where we came from, we must understand that much of the life we face in today's world was created, not by God, but by sinful man. It is the choices man has made which brought us to where we are and cause us to suffer in the ways we do. This world could be a much different place if we would stop worrying about what sin has created around us and simply focus on living our lives before God in the way He has asked us to. When we seek, first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, we don't have to worry about all the other things in life. (Matt. 6:31-34) We are truly free to live our lives being the example of the believer God has called us to be. Letting our actions be our testimony even when it brings persecution from those who wish not to be reminded. (II Cor. 4:6-10) We live in freedom because this earth and all the corruption man has created for himself is not our home, and it will not last for eternity. Everyday this life ends for many. With righteousness we should attempt to effect the world where and when we are, and do our part to guide those of the next generation to do the same.

In the book of Revelation, John sees a city not built by the will of man but by God. It is the new Jerusalem. Its gates are open continuously and all those whom God has rewarded for their desire to know him, will be there, flowing in and out of it continually. (Rev. 21) That place will be the fulfillment of all things working together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8:28) The devil wants to possess us, other men want to control us, but God just wants to love us. Because God first loved us, we can afford to love others, no matter what the cost to these physical lives! (I John 4:18-19)

Until next time, Shalom!

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