Wayne's Worldview is a place to share my unique perspective of the world as formed from my interpretation of the scriptures and my experience as a Christian. As a pastor, I am asked a lot of questions about current issues, life dilemmas, personal problems, politics, biblical interpretation...etc.I offer these "How I see it" thoughts in effort to challenge people to think about their worldview, and to stimulate good conversations that will help us become more whole.
Welcome to the conversation.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Letters on the Cross IHS

Letters on the Cross, What do they mean? Part 2 Now that you know about INRI, you may have noticed that the cross in our sanctuary has the letter IHS on it. The "IHS motif" is popular inmany different styles and is often super-imposed on each other to form a single icon or emblem similar to a personal monogram of your name using your initials. Because the letters have been used with different meanings in the past it is difficult to say emphatically, like we can with INRI, what IHS means, because it has over time, had various meanings assigned to it. "IHS" is an abbreviation for “In hocs sign,” which is an abbreviated version of in hocs sign vinces.” This phrase is in Latin, translated to mean “in this sign, thou shalt conquer.” This symbol was often used on battlements and weaponry to give divine assistance in battle to assure victory. Similar thinking motivated the incorporation of crosses themselves into shields and swords… etc. during the crusades in the middle ages. The symbol of the cross itself was believed to have divine power and similar thinking goes into the crossing of oneself or being crossed over with water during baptism in some traditions, desiring God’s blessing from above. Another assigned meaning is that the symbol is representative of the first three letters of the name "Jesus" in the Greek alphabet. ‘Jesus' in Greek: ΙΗΣΟΥΣ. In technical language: the first two characters, iota (Ι) and eta (Η) are almost identical in appearance to the Latin 'IH'. Since there is no correlating Latin character for the third character sigma (Σ), the pronunciation gives us a close approximation to the Latin 'S', giving us the set 'IHS'. In plane words: The letters form a monogram of the name of Jesus, like the initials of your name. Early church history records the name of Jesus or some of his other titles shortened, particularly in symbols or art. The letters IH and XP (for Jesus and Christ) are numerous before the third century. These Greek monograms, along with several others, continued to be used in Latin during the Middle Ages. This type of abbreviation is seen around Xstmas time, although many Xstns find this use offensive, thinking that people are taking Christ, out of Christmas. It is also prevalent in Christian art and stained glass windows. Another popular symbol that uses this kind of lettering is the Ichthus (ΙΧΘΥΣ). The Greek word for fish is also used as a Christian acronym of Greek words: I=Jesus, Ch=Christ, Th=Theou (God's), U=Uios (Son), S=Soter (Savior). Thus, IChThUS means "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior". There are a few other interpretations of letters 'IHS'; the most popular being an acronym of the Latin: Iesus Hominum Salvator (Jesus, Saviour of man). In Latin: Jesus Hierosolymae Salvator (Jesus, Saviour of Jerusalem); Iesus Habemus Socium (Jesus is our companion); In Hoc Signo spes mea (This sign, the cross, is your hope); In Hoc Signo Vinces (By this sign you shall conquer); In Hoc Salus (Safety). In German: Iesus Heiland Seligmacher (Jesus, Redeemer and Saviour). In English: In His Service Whatever perspective is adopted to explain the "IHS" insignia, there is no single definitive meaning. Regardless of intent, a symbol has no particular meaning unless one is assigned to it. In other words the IHS on the cross in our sanctuary is meaningless to you, unless you assign meaning to it. In a similar fashion, it does one no good to wear a W.W.J.D (bracelet), or a cross, or a fish beyond adornment, if you don’t know what it means or assign it a meaning, it is meaningless. Madonna was once quoted that she loved crosses because a naked man hung on one. Religious symbolism is effective precisely in the measure in which it is helpful to the average person to understand an assigned deeper meaning. For example: The lighted candle is typical of the illumination of and spread of the gospel, but to others it is a representation of ongoing prayers. The giving of rings in a marriage ceremony is originally a pagan practice that has been given a “Christian” meaning of never ending love and fidelity. As for the letters on the cross in our sanctuary… if one of the historical possibilities assists you in your worship, then adopt it as your own. Because I am a student of history, I would lean toward one of the simplest, oldest and easiest to remember - The initials of Jesus inscribed on the cross. It reminds me of his great sacrifice and the empty cross reminds me of his victory over his death on the cross. If were a soldier serving in a holy war against Islam extremists, I might very well adopt the In Hoc Signo Vinces.I don’t know what you would choose, but if the symbol is to mean anything, you need to be intentional about making that choice.

Monday, August 12, 2013

INRI Not Just Letters on the Cross

INRI - What do these letters, commonly printed on top of the cross mean? Answer: The letters to which you are referring are "INRI." When crucifixions were commonplace, throughout the Roman Empire, it was customary to affix a board at the top of the cross detailing the crimes of the crucified person. This board was called titulus cruces. The letters "INRI" is an acronym of the Latin title that Pontius Pilate had written over the head of Jesus Christ on the cross, as recorded in John 19:19. The Roman procurator Pilate was reluctant to crucify Jesus because he could see no real justification. At that time, Jews had a treaty with Rome for self-government. The Jewish priests complained to Rome (Pilate) that Jesus was interfering with their self-rule, by establishing that he was a king. When Pilate challenged Jesus to deny this, Jesus did not refute the charge. With no denial forthcoming, Pilate announced a 'guilty by default' verdict. The priests demanded the death penalty. Pilate attempted to spare his life by offering the release of either Barabbas, a convicted murderer and thief or Jesus, who was well known for his good deeds. He was appealing to a Jewish custom of releasing a prisoner at the time of the Passover. His attempt failed when the Jews chose to release the notorious criminal. Therefore, the crime for which Jesus was crucified was 'King of the Jews', and this was duly painted on the titulus. The soldiers mocked Jesus for this so called crime by accenting his Title by placing a crown of thorns on His head and a dressing him in a scarlet robe. Pilate's title for Christ was written in three languages- Latin, Greek and Hebrew. The Early Church adopted the first letters of each word of the Latin (which later became the primary language in church) as a symbol and it appeared in many early paintings of the crucifixion. This title in Latin is "Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum." That is: Iesus: Jesus, Nazarenus: of Nazareth, Rex: King, Iudaeorum: of the Jews. Latin uses "I" instead of the English "J". This title recognizes who Jesus truly was and is at the very moment he finally fulfilled all that the King of the Jews was to do for his people. He died for the sins of all who place their faith in him. By this work, he made the people of God to be far more than those who are Jews by birth. Rather, the true people of God are all who believe in Christ for salvation: If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal. 3:29) So when we see the letters, we are reminded that Jesus, our King, died in our place and paid for the sins of his people.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Bible from God's Perspective

I realize that a lot of people have problems understanding the Bible. There are a number of reasons for this, one being that it is a very complex book. The Bible is not completely linear historically from beginning to end; it has history, poetry, doctrine, and prophesies…etc. In other word's it is unlike any other book we have ever read. So I want to give you a way of looking at the scriptures that may help. Instead of looking at the Bible from our perspective alone, it helps to think of it from the standpoint of God’s work. The Bible records various kinds of disclosures from God: dreams, visions, direct writing (the tablets of the Law), messages through prophets, the words of Jesus, and the accounts of the people who knew Jesus. God led some to record the things that were passed down through oral tradition and others wrote previously unknown information. The Apostle John wrote what he observed: from the life of Jesus in his Gospel; from his experience and the testimony of others in the book of Acts; and of his revelation from Jesus in the book of the Revelation. It’s important that we remember that it’s all from God as a revelation to us. We usually think of revelation as only the disclosure of what was previously unknown. But that is only part of what is involved. For example, Luke knew many historical and geographic facts before he wrote the book of Acts. However, their precise combination of what he knew and what God revealed as a combination was a revelation, by the work of the Holy Spirit called inspiration. The entire Bible is Gods revelation to us. So what is a revelation? It is a revealing or communication of something enlightening or astonishing. A revelation from God is the revealing of a divine truth to human beings. We desperately need this information, because we are not able to discover these spiritual realities by ourselves. For example: without the Ps. 19:1–6; and Rom 1:19–20 we might either think the stars are some kind of deity (like the ancient Greeks) or randomly occurring fiery masses (like the modern atheist), rather than something created to display the glory of God. But the most important revelations have to do with our spiritual condition in relation to God. When we know the nature of God – both his wrath and his mercy; the sinful nature of humanity, the existence of a future judgment, etc., we realize that we are in need of a solution for our predicament. The things we can know about God from observing creation or ourselves (what theologians call general revelation) cannot help us with our sin problem. To put it into metaphor, we are in the dark about the spiritual nature of all things until God sheds light on it. Through the Bible we have a special revelation of God and His purposes for humanity. Ask yourself this question: How could you know God or His will for our lives without the Bible? Unless He Himself tells us, how could we ever know for sure the answers to the questions which matter most to us? Understanding that the Bible is a written revelation to us from God is an essential starting point that helps us figure out its meaning. The Bible is not a simple book. Could any book that proposes to reveal the nature of God, man and all eternal concerns be expected to be an easy read? But without its great truths we have no answers to the great questions which concern our soul. Without it, we are left with the very limited knowledge of man. History, math and science don’t help us in the realm of the spirit and soul. God’s revelation is a beacon of light in a very dark world and without it we merely stumble around in the shadows searching for a way out.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Increasing your Bible Vocabulary

Names are very significant in the Bible, whether they are people or places. Sometimes adding a single Hebrew or Greek word to your working knowledge can open new horizons of understanding. Take for example the name of the place BETH-EL. Maybe you have seen a churches by the name Bethel. Ever wonder why? Read on and you'll have your answer. Bethel is a town on the border of the territory of Ephraim (Josh. 16:1–4), at an important road junction 11 miles north of Jerusalem. Abraham built an altar there, Jacob had a dream there (Gen. 28:10–22), and named it Bethel: House (Beth) of God(El), which is the meaning of the Hebrew name. We also find Beth in Bethlehem (house of bread), Bethesda (House of grace) and Bethshan (house of quiet). Maybe when all my children leave the home I will re-name it Bethshan. You might recognize the similar el prefix or suffix in other Hebrew words like Immanuel, (God with us) Elijah (Jehovah is God), and Israel (He struggles with God)- The name given to Jacob when he struggled with God. Understanding a little word like El can also open doors of comprehension in your worship of el. By the way, you can usually read the meanings of names in the footnotes of any study Bible. I hope this vocabulary lesson will help you understand God's word better than before. Enjoy the word today.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The History of Abortion in Relation to Christianity

Whether it be a part of health care legislation, law (Roe vs. Wade in America) or a conversation about an “unwanted” pregnancy, it is especially important that Christians are aware of our tradition, and what the Bible teaches about abortion. Abortion has been practiced throughout the world from ancient times, but the fear of death and lack of access to physicians who performed “safe” abortions placed natural limitations on the practice. In classical paganism, abortion and euthanasia was common and widely approved. The performing of abortions and doing harm was specifically prohibited for physicians who had taken the Hippocratic Oath (4th Century BC and thereafter). This oath to the gods was a step towards saving human life and not performing abortions, but those who lived by this law were the exception. One of the great triumphs of the growth of Christianity in the western world was to greatly diminish the practice of abortion and infanticide in those parts of the world. Christianity gave the pro-life movement another dimension as the church of Jesus Christ swept through the Roman world, setting standards in medicine, culture, and public policy. Christianity had this effect because what the Bible teaches about human life. If you look for “abortion” in a concordance you won’t find it, as that term was not used by the people of that day, but scripture is not silent on the subject. The biblical foundations for prohibition on induced abortion are found in the doctrines of creation and incarnation. The starting point for a biblical understanding of human nature is the truth that human beings are created in God’s image (imago Dei). It is clear from Genesis 1:26–27 that human beings are distinguished from all other creatures (kinds), by our bearing the likeness of our Maker. The image applies to Jew and Gentile, religious and irreligious, young and old. The issue here is not complex. If someone is human, that person bears the divine image and his or her life is sacred. It’s genetic. With the recognition that human life is sacred, the scriptures guide our actions. This foundation underlies the commandment “Do not murder” (Ex 20:13) and provides a straightforward response to abortion, because it applies to all human beings, from the beginning of life to its end. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, his blood shall be shed by man, for God made man in His image.”) This teaching is also of central importance in the use of human embryos for research and cloning. There is only one logical position one can take from the scriptures: those who are human are made in the divine image and should not be murdered. The main argument against this truth comes in the debate of when a human life begins. That is where the doctrine of the incarnation comes in. When we celebrate Christmas, we remember that the incarnation of the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, took human form and did so from the beginning of human biological existence. He did not just come as a man. The incarnation began with conception. Mary was told by the angel that she would conceive by a miracle, the human life of the Son of God. Shortly afterward she visited Elizabeth, where John the Baptist’s first testimony to his kinsman and Lord is given. As a six month fetus, he leaped in his mother’s womb at the presence of the days-old embryonic Jesus (Lk 1:39–45). With the theological foundations of imago Dei, and the incarnation, the many references to unborn life in the prophets, Job, and especially Psalms (particularly Psalm 139) take on powerful significance. For this reason, cultures that have remained Christian have a reverence for God, and laws by church and state that prevent the large scale practice of abortion. Many of these laws prohibiting abortion have since been abolished, even in Christian nations. The influence of the church held fast in the western world until naturalist philosophy, and Darwinian evolution theory displaced the predominant Christian view of man. The devaluing of human life with naturalism and atheism has set the stage for the practice of abortion to re-emerge on a grand scale. In the last 40 years the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Hungary, Romania, Italy, and Australia have legalized abortion. Add this to the nations where it is already legal like Russia and China, the world’s abortion leaders, and you have a worldwide abortion rate that is greater than any point in history. The combination of: modern medicine’s advanced abortion procedures; the decline of Christian influence; the legalization and accessibility of abortion in more countries, is yielding an estimated 42 million aborted babies per year worldwide. Nations who maintain a predominantly Christian influence are the world leaders in low abortion statistics and they all have laws against it. Like the physicians who originally took the Hippocratic Oath, Christians find themselves going against the cultural current of the world. If we are to change this grievous trend in our own country and the world it will be through the spread of Christianity and the reestablishment of the biblical teaching of the sanctity of human life. When nations recognize the authority of our creator and God’s word, rather than men’s, the culture and public policy will change. Wayne DeVrou