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Crucified Before the Foundation of the World

"Crucified before the foundation of the world." What does that mean? How could that even happen? Historians and archaeologists ta...

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Words of my Mouth

 Satellite Picture of the Island of Crete 

For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith  and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.Titus 1:10-16

In this text from the letter Paul wrote to Titus we find some of the sharpest words in the New Testament directed against two groups of people.  The "circumcision group" were Jews who were teaching new Christians that they must obey the old Jewish laws and observe the traditions and food restrictions set forth by Moses.  Paul objected to this teaching because, as Christians, we are required to believe, only, in Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross.  No work or observance is added to that.  Not circumcision or observance of feasts or food laws will make us righteous.

The second group is the people of Crete.  He quotes a prophet of Crete who labels their people as disreputable and unholy.  Paul makes the point that the mind of the inner man is the place the struggle takes place.  When the mind has been corrupted, it takes a severe charge to overcome the errors.  To claim to know the truth, one must show by actions that the mind has changed.  Mere words or mental ascent is not sufficient.  Behavior must also show that the words of the confession are true.

Matthew 12:35     A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him

It's easy to speak good words.  Examine your own heart and make certain that your motives and actions are as pure as the words you speak.  

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Monday, April 23, 2012

How Did Jesus Choose Disciples?

Luke 5:1-11 and Matthew 4:18-21 tell slightly different versions of the calling of the first disciples, but there are enough similarities to suggest that they are describing the same event.  The similarities are easy to recognize:  in both accounts the location is the Lake of Genneserat, also sometimes called the Sea of Galilee.  

Mark's Gospel is also very similar.  Jesus had begun to gather a following as an itinerant  preacher.  The Sermon on the Mount is believed by many scholars to be a sort of summary of several preaching tours and their messages.  These three accounts describe his preaching to crowds and give some details of the contents: He called for repentance and obedience.  

The Sermon on the Mount goes into greater detail and gives examples of the reality of his message in the lives of the listeners. It was not until after John the Baptist  was put in prison that he became bolder and more urgent in his preaching.  

The Gospel of John does not give any details about the birth of Jesus.  Both John and Mark begin with the baptism and give details about the recruiting of disciples.  John does not mention the time in the wilderness but Mark does.  When Jesus returned from that time of testing and prayer, John the Baptist told some of his disciples that this was the one to follow.  He said, "Look. the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world."  These disciples were Andrew and John.  When they asked Jesus as a sort of an introduction where he was staying, he invited them, "Come and see."  

He had moved from his boyhood home in Nazareth to the town of Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee.  They visited him and they brought other people to meet him too. Andrew brought his brother Peter, and John brought James.  Andrew was from the same town as Philip. Then, Philip brought Nathanael. At first, it was just to get acquainted.  The serious call to be a disciple  came later. He also identified some they didn't bring who he would eventually make a part of his band, like Levi.  

When he decided to call them to become disciples he began with two of the fishermen, Peter and Andrew.  Then John and James who were also also fishermen and co-workers in the the business. Philip and Nathanael came as a result of Philip's invitation to "Come and see." In Luke"s account Levi was the next one to be called, but in Matthew's account, he was not called until after an extended preaching tour. He was a tax collector. Both Luke and Matthew record the big feast Matthew held to announce that he had joined in the band of Jesus's followers. 

Sometimes the memories of the writers focus on what was important to them.  It is a puzzle of memories and observations and we must read it carefully to find the clues that reveal the person and work of Jesus.  It is both challenging and wonderfully exciting.

Bible references are from the NIV.  Read Matthew 4:18-21, Luke 5:1-11, John 1:28-50, Matthew 9:9-12, Mark 1:16-20 to find other details.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Rock of Our Salvation

Mount Rainier 7431
Mount Rainier 7431 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.Matthew 16:18(KJV)

Jesus asked the disciples what the gossip was about him, "Who do people say I am." The answers were confused:  some said he was John the Baptist, or Isaiah, or another of the prophets.  No one said he was the Messiah.  Then he asked the disciples who they said he was.  Simon Peter immediately answered for the group.  In other places he identifies himself as the Son of God.  In John 8 he argues for an extended period to prove to the Pharisees that he is the Christ, but they did not believe.  

Here in Matthew Jesus does not go into extended argument, he just asked them who they said he was to the new followers, or to the crowds, or their families.  Then Peter gives him the opportunity to proclaim himself to be the Christ.  Peter said,"Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."  

Some people view this as placing emphasis on Peter and I take exception to that.  He was not putting any responsibility on Peter.  The rock he was building the church on was Peter's statement that Jesus is the Christ.  Jesus is the one who is the Rock.  Many scriptures in the Old Testament refer to God as the Rock of our salvation.  They are testimonies to the protection and security God provides, and his infallible nature, and his everlasting character.  These attributes are true of Jesus as well as the Father.  He built the Church on himself, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Is Easter Real or Not?

With Easter just past, I was reminded or a book by Hugh J. Schonfield entitled The Passover Plot in which the author tries to  prove that Jesus was a charlatan who engineered the crucifixion and the events leading to it to make it fit the prophecies.  He even says that the betrayal of Jesus by Judas was a hoax.  The story goes that Jesus told Judas how to accomplish the betrayal to fit the signs in Isaiah and Psalms and the other prophets. Schonfield even says the death was faked with a drug.

Schonfield builds a very tight framework for his proposition of Jesus as a sincere pretender.  The Christian believers have not flocked to Schonfield for prayer or support when they are in need or solace.  Surprisingly, there are still people who believe in the risen Christ.  Actually, I think it would be impossible to fake the crucifixion, especially when you remember that Jesus had very credible proof that he was the Son of God before he got that far.  He was born of a virgin as testified by all the Gospels.  He performed miracles that convinced the disciples he was the Son of God.  Many people believed on him and received miracles at his hand.  

Fulfilling the prophecies from Isaiah 53, Psalms 22,   and multiple other scriptures is proof that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah.  In addition to the prophecies is not the only proof of his claim.  There is also the continuing story of the Church he established to witness to the fact that he was who he claimed to be.  Read the Bible and find the proof for yourself.  Live in faith and you, too, will become evidence that Jesus is the Son of God.
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Saturday, April 7, 2012

Joy Is Not Always Fun

 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  James 1:2-3

Listen, I don't want to be a Christian if it's not going to be joyful and a splendid way to live with good things happening.

Did somebody promise you that the Christian life would be a walk in the park, a real picnic?  I know you hear a lot about how joyous you are supposed to be when you are a Christian, praising God and looking happy and getting the best seats for the show, but there is another side to it.

Well, it can't be very hard.  After all, you don't do anything but go to Church.

No, that's not quite right either.  You still have to make a living, work, you know, and send your kids to school, and buy groceries, and pay bills.  You face all the same demands as any other person in this world.  There is disease, disorder, and disaster that comes on all people, and it will come to you too.

Then being a Christian doesn't really benefit me.  Man, what a crock!  I thought you had a gimmick here.  I've had financial  problems and illness.  If God doesn't relieve me of that, what's the use?

You need to read all of it--the part about perseverance.  Sometimes you have to tie a knot in the rope and hang on.  But it's really more than that, too.  You hang on because you believe that God loves you and has given you grace to endure to the end.  There is the joy part too.  Joy in the love you have for family and friends is still a blessing of God.  There is joy in knowing that Jesus' death relieved you of sin.  All you have to do is confess to him, and he takes the sin to himself.

I guess so.  But man, that takes a long time.  I need help now.

Yeah, I know.  It all started with instant coffee, now we want everything instant.  God doesn't work that way.  He is in this thing for the long haul.  He is patient so he can see results in you, and learning perseverance may be your first lesson.  You have to keep on keeping on.  

I don't see that he has put a limit on how long to persevere.

That's true.  And I'll give you another hint   When one is over and you have learned the lesson he wanted to teach in that trial, you may find there is another one maybe even worse.  But by that time, you may also find the joy