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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...

Monday, December 30, 2013

Jesus Prayed For Me And You

Christ in Gethsemane (Christus in Gethsemane),...
Christ in Gethsemane (Christus in Gethsemane), oil painting by Heinrich Ferdinand Hofmann (Heinrich Hofmann). The original is at the Riverside Church (Riverside Church, New York City). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
John 17 begins with Jesus addressing his Father.  The prayer is a commitment to see this to the end. Jesus wants the Father to glorify him so that the Father will be glorified in this act of obedience and sacrifice. The Father and Son are united in this and whatever glory is revealed in one also flows on and through the other. He refers to the glory they shared before the world began, and now he is opening the door for the Disciples to view this glory.

In verse 6 he returns to the need and situation of the Disciples. The Disciples already belonged to God the Father, but he gave them to Jesus, and Jesus now is returning them back to the Father. The symbol of words is used here. The words he taught them came from the Father, and the revelations he shared with them came by instruction from the Father. Believing the words is the place where entering into God’s eternal life takes place. At this point he was praying for the Disciples because the whole plan of God depended on them when he was taken up.

He makes an amazing statement here: He says that glory has come to him because of the disciples. They had begun the life of obedience and fellowship that would be the lifeblood of the Church when the Spirit comes. Jesus sent them back to the Father with confidence that they would be protected by his name and sanctified by his truth. Jesus feels the pressure of the arrest looming, and he knows the risk they will face in the world without him. Now they must face that risk alone without him, but with the Father’s help and grace he is ready to take the next step.

Beginning in verse 20, he prays for the message the Disciples will deliver to yet unborn generations. He sees the Disciples as the founding members of the Church and their disciples as the culmination of the Father’s plan. Throughout the process Jesus claims the Father’s glory. The unity he had with the Father before the world began will be the glorious outcome as the Disciples are obedient and yielded to him. He envisions the world knowing the love of God and surrendering to it so that all will be united in love and in him.

I claim this prayer of Jesus as his prayer for me as a believer who has come to know him through the words and evangelistic efforts of the Disciples. In that thought, I enjoy a reflection of the glory Jesus prayed for us to receive and I revel in it. 

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Thursday, December 26, 2013

John 16-It's Gonna Be Bad--But Don't Worry

John 16 is full of reassurance and hope. Jesus says words of comfort and anticipation. He knows this scrappy group of followers will be subject to doubts and temptation, so he is making a last ditch effort to steady them for the battle they will face. He wants to prepare them for the persecution that will follow, but they are still blinded to the seriousness of the situation.

He points out that they are not concerned about where he is going 
or the reason he is leaving, but they are only in grief and anxiety that he is leaving them. He lists the ways this will benefit them: They will receive the Comforter after he is gone.

And the battle is more about their ability to stand when he is gone 
than about a confrontation with the rulers or armies or sinners. He tells them that his leaving will assure the coming of the Comforter. They do not understand this yet, but he wanted to tell them so that when the time comes they will remember that he said it.

He prophesies the coming of the Spirit will convict the world of sin 
because it does not believe in the Son of God, of righteousness because the Son and the Father are united, and of judgment because Satan, the Prince of this world, is judged.

The Comforter, the Spirit of Truth will lead them into more 
understanding and remind them of what he said before. Jesus is still speaking of things they can’t understand. You see me now but for a while you won’t see me; then you will see me again.

They asked each other what this could mean, but Jesus answered 
the question. In this there is a deeper meaning and another revelation. He compares it to the birth of a child. When a woman comes to deliver a baby, she suffers pain and it is intense, but the joy of holding and seeing the baby is more valuable than the pain was detestable.

Just a side note here: The moment when a baby is delivered from 
the mother is one of extreme relief and rapture. No drug, no joy compares with that ecstasy. The joy of receiving the Spirit will be for the Disciples a new level of faith, conviction, joy and obedience. He cannot tell them in words what it will mean, but he wants them to expect something big. The meaning of the coming of the Spirit cannot be overstated. It will change their lives and their world.

In John 16:26 he makes them a promise he has not made before. 
He has said before that they can ask the Father in his name and he will beseech the Father and the Father will grant their request. But now Jesus says that they can address the Father and he will respond because the Father loves them. Even when Jesus is no longer with them, the Father will hear their prayers because they have loved Jesus. Jesus speaks plainly to the Disciples, but they still have trouble understanding because he is referring to future events. He says, “I came from the Father to live in the world, and now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” Now they say they understand, but their sorrow has not yet recognized the fact of his death, the cross, or separation.

He reassures them again. You will be scattered and alone, but I am 
going to my Father. Don’t fear because I have overcome the world.

There is still more to come.

Friday, December 20, 2013

John 15-The Gardener

The end of John 14 speaks of leaving the Upper Room, so I believe that this passage continues the conversation as they walk to Gethsemane or after they arrive. John makes no mention of the private prayer in which Jesus commits to see the Father's will executed on Calvary. In Chapter 15 he speaks of the vine and the branches and the work of the Father as a vine dresser. 

The image of a farmer is prevalent throughout the Bible. The farmer is understood by all societies as the source of sustenance and renewed strength. Here Jesus is careful to list the requirements of the gardener, the vine and the branches.
The fruit does not have any duties, but the branches bear fruit. We being the branches, are expected to bear fruit. Bearing fruit means continuing the work Jesus commands--We are to proclaim the gospel and allow it to be exhibited in our lives. We should be deliberate in our practice of love and integrity.  

Some people interpret this to mean that God will destroy those who do not follow Jesus closely. "such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned."(John 15:6) This is a harsher treatment than Jesus has proclaimed before, but we must remember that this is an analogy, a metaphor, not a judgment. Jesus may have been referring to Judas who did not remain in him, but chose another path and cut himself off from the vine. Other paths never lead to the joy or glory found in the Son.

Jesus focuses on fruit in verse 8. Bearing fruit brings glory to the Father and proves discipleship. Matthew 7:15-20 discusses other aspects of fruit and the trees that produce them. In John 15 I find the focus to be on the fruit, and that fruit must be a result of the believer's connection to Jesus. All the efforts that are dependent on our striving, our plans, our systems will produce no fruit and be wasted labor when it does not flow from Jesus.

In John 15:9 the focus shifts to love. Keeping and the commandment equates with abiding in the love. In other places we are commanded to love one another, but the command to love is no where more insistent than here. Jesus uses himself and his obedience to the Father as their example. "Just like my Father has loved me, so I have loved you. If you do what I have commanded, you will remain in my love. That's what I have done--I kept his commandments and remained in his love. Love each other as I have loved you." (Paraphrase)

In this statement Jesus raises the Disciples from servants to members of the board. When they were servants these things were not revealed to them. Jesus elevates them to confidantes. Now they are more than just associates, they are part of the management team. But the instructions are still the same: Love one another. They were expected to understand more and do more and be more, but there is just one new rule: Love one another as I have love you.

Now he shifts to a new focus: You will not be loved by the world. It hates me, and you will be like me in this. It will hate you too. The world has an agenda that excludes you. and it will not accept your message. I have chosen you and I love you, but the world won't.

Don't delude yourselves believing that you will escape persecution. You are not better or wiser or more well-liked than me. If they hated me, they will hate you. and it will be because of your love. Those who you will preach to will treat you like they treated me. There may be some who will receive you and love you for my sake, but some will attack you and kill you for my sake. 

Chapter 15:26-27 Jesus promises the support and comfort of the Holy Spirit. This will be an event to anticipate, though as yet there is only a vague hint of the power and resource he will provide. He will bring them testimony of Jesus and the Father.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

John 14--Promise of the Holy Spirit

New Promise

The closing verses of John 13 are filled with prophetic doom: Jesus reveals that he is going to die and Peter is going to deny him, but Peter seems to be oblivious to this truth. He keeps pressing Jesus for more information, but when it comes he refuses to accept it.


Chapter 14 begins with a message of great encouragement: "Don't trouble yourself about it now." He does not shift the focus, but he reassures Peter and the others for the moment that their destination is secure.  He cautions them to remember his words and instructions and to keep them.

 The Disciples have trouble accepting his words and teaching as coming from the Father. Jesus hints that he is going to die, but he avoids proclaiming it in a positive affirmation. He says, "I'm going where you can't follow yet. You will later. I go to prepare a place for you." It seems like Jesus is baiting them with vague references so that they may come to an understanding on their own. 

The Disciples Still Have Questions

Some of his statements are bold and some, cloaked in mystery. Jesus is still trying to provoke them to believe. He says "You don't have to know the way because I am the way. You will follow me." When Philip begs him to show them the Father, Jesus reassures them saying, "If you've seen me, you have seen the Father."  

Jesus continues to comfort and reassure the Disciples, and he promises the Comforter who will be available to them later. He gives them peace to sustain them because the Prince of this world is coming. Jesus is confident that God's purposes will not be thwarted and that the world will know God's salvation.

Now Jesus is ready to leave and go to the Garden of Gethsemane. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

New Testament Freedom

I hear a lot of talk about what it means to be a Christian.  One line of thought centers on the prohibitions--things Christians aren't supposed to do or indulge in.  The Ten Commandments, even in this modern age, still contain the major breeches of Christian ethics.  There are five commandments that tell us things we should do: Worship only God, keep no idols, keep his name holy, keep the Sabbath or the Lord's Day holy, honor your parents.  There are five that name sins we should not commit: lie, steal, murder, bear false witness, and covet.  After that, it seems like everything else may need prayer. 

If you tell people how to behave, you are called judgmental.  If you do whatever comes to hand, you are considered uncontrolled.  It seems there is no standard of behavior.  

The Bible usually focuses on things that foster life and love and righteousness. These are pretty good standards for right and wrong, or put another way, how to decide if an action is a sin or not.

People often try to justify actions based on kindness or beauty, convenience or  practicality, but God does not care about these issues. He cares about righteousness. He wants us to look at actions that enhance life and make it better. Actions that promote health, love, and doing the right thing are the ones that God looks at with pleasure.. 

I find great joy in doing things I think God will approve and smile about.  
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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

And It Was Night - John 13-Continued

It is easy to think of Jesus as calm and in total control of himself and the meal in the Upper Room. He had chosen the location and made the arrangements. He was the host for this meal with his disciples.

When he changes the course of things with the foot-washing, we immediately realize what was said by John in the first verse of the chapter. Jesus knew that this was a climatic event, but he seems to be trying to tell the Disciples in a gentle demonstration of love and compassion not to worry about the outcome, but simply to trust him.

John was writing several years after the event had happened, and he reflects on the scene with the wisdom of hindsight.  Judas was the one who would betray him and tonight was the night. John points out that Jesus was not blind to the facts and he was distressed about it.

Jesus knew that Judas was the betrayer, but the Disciples did not understand this or the significance of it. John was reclining next to Jesus and asked him the name of the betrayer, Jesus took a piece of bread and dipped it in sauce and handed it to Judas. “Jesus said, ‘What you are doing, do quickly.’”(Paraphrase) Judas left, but the disciples did not understand the significance of his departure yet. 

The Disciples were still looking for human explanations, and they thought Judas had gone on some errand concerning money.  Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified.” No angels appeared. No thunder clapped. But this was momentous in the mind and heart of Jesus. Betrayal was in the heart of Judas, and he was gone to accomplish his purpose.

Preachers’ sermons invest much time in exploring the last sentence in John 13:30b. And it was night. They may view it as reflecting the state of Judas’ heart. To others it may seem to signify the outlook for the world’s destiny without Jesus. 

John allows this to close the focus on Judas and betrayal. Now Jesus and the rest of the Disciples resume the final teaching and references to glory, departure and Peter’s denial.

See also the entry entitled "Do Your Feet Need Washing?" 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Do Your Feet Need Washing? John13:1-11

The Upper Room discourse described in John 13-17 included a meal that Jesus shared with his Disciples. I have always read this and assumed that the meal was the Seder of Passover, but John 13:1 clearly states that this was before the Passover.  Perhaps Passover was on Friday, the day of the Crucifixion, but there are questions about that too. Jesus stated that he would be in the grave for three days and three nights. Using Thursday as the day of the Crucifixion would give the right time estimate with Sunday as the Day of the Resurrection.

John does not give the same details the synoptic gospels do of the supper. John refers to the meal and immediately describes the preparation for washing of their feet. I find it very helpful to recall the eating customs of the time. 

They reclined on couches leaning on the left elbow and extending their feet. This position made the foot-washing convenient and much less disturbing to the guests who were eating than sitting at a table would have been.  Jesus’ position was no longer the host and master but that of an obedient servant.

Nobody commented on this ceremony but Peter. His interchange with Jesus seems to be almost a rebuke to the Lord. First, he doesn't want Jesus to undertake this menial duty, but then he requests that he wash his hands and face too. Jesus corrects both these attitudes. 

This washing symbolizes daily communion with Jesus. Peter needed to go to Jesus for help, strength, and forgiveness whenever he was exposed to contact with the world, and Jesus offers us this constant refreshing.  

On a continuing and constant basis, Christians are invited to seek Jesus for forgiveness and encouragement in daily life and ministry.  We are to remain always yielded and humble. 

Peter seems to have thought he was above needing this service, but Jesus told him there was more to this than Peter understood at the time.

 Jesus had foreknowledge, but He did not control people’s behavior.  He knew Judas had would betray Him, but he did not interrupt the plan Judas had made. 

He proceeded with the foot washing and did not exclude Judas. I wonder what Judas’ emotions were at this critical time. Did he agonize when Jesus performed the humble task of cleaning his feet? Did he recognize this as an opportunity to repent? Or was his heart hardened to the path he had chosen?

Jesus in the Upper Room discourse spoke urgently to the disciples emphasizing the importance of this last chance at teaching them before the Crucifixion because He knew they would be scattered and their faith would be tested. 

He was very tense as shown in his language.  His speech was urgent and stressful.  He wanted to be sure they were committed to Him, but that was yet to be seen.  His nature was compassionate, but his need was immediate.  There was no Plan B.  If this was not successful, salvation would never happen.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Who Wrote the Bible?

I'm not sure who wrote the Bible.  Some books are named for a person who was the main character.  I couldn't tell if they are autobiographical or if they are a record of events from an observer.  They are generally written in the third person until you get to the New Testament.  The book of Joshua and 1& 2 Samuel fit this pattern.  The first five books are called the Books of Moses, or sometimes they are called the Books of the Law. 

Some books are believed by scholars to have more than one author or to have been edited by others at a later time.  Many of the books are believed to have been written at a much later time than the events they record. 

There are extant books that were not included in the Biblical cannon but seem to have been composed and available at the same time as those that are.

 As believers we pretty well accept the Bible as the Word of God and assume that he provided for recorders to write what he wanted included. 

The Bible is a collection of stories about people and we are required to understand the lessons they teach by the way they lived and apply the truths to our own circumstances. Sometimes there are many ways to read and interpret each story.  Different traditions and denominations apply different rules and applications to characteristics and actions. 

The Bible is very complicated. It reveals the love and mercy and judgement of God. This is not a simple subject. It must be by definition, complex and intricate. I guess for something so important and far-reaching, I don't want it to be simple and uncomplicated. I like the fact that it is difficult to understand and time-consuming to read. I want it to have more than I will ever be able to comprehend. I want to spend the rest of my life and my energy exploring it depths.   

As for who wrote the Bible, If I find any clues, I'll let you know.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Knowledge of Good and Evil

Knowledge of Good and Evil rests in God, but he has given humans some insight on the problem. In the Garden of Eden this knowledge was imparted by consuming the fruit of the Tree which Adam and Eve were forbidden to do.  Understanding good and evil seems like a basic attribute of being human, but God wanted people to seek him instead of making independent choices and decisions.

After they ate of the fruit, they recognized their nakedness and their disobedience and sought to hide from the presence of God. Even the thicket and foliage did not protect them. God saw them and knew their state. Being naked was not the sin, but no one can stand before God having committed sin and endure exposure. Adam and Eve used the large leaves of the fig tree to cover their bodies, but leaves dry up or wilt and lose the ability to cover pretty soon. Their exposure was profound.

God is not at a loss for words nor does he search frantically for a solution, but he does require a sacrifice. The skin of animals provided a more appropriate covering for Adam and Eve, but they knew the extent of their sin by the slaughter required to make them acceptable to God, and they suffered eviction from Eden 

The sin released in the heart and mind of man and woman in Eden has kept pace with technology and invention so that now we have evil on a grand scale. War and genocide reveal evil as an attribute of nations not just individuals. Can we recall the sin naturre and reframe mankind's goals to eliminate this tendency? 

God provided that in the person of Jesus Christ. It required a sacrifice just like the covering of Adam's sin. It also required a continuous living under the shelter of his provision. We  are still revealed as naked sinners and repeat the same mistakes when we fail to obey his instructions. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where Is Jeremiah Today?

Jeremiah 18:1-6 tells the story of God's message to Jeremiah as he watched the potter shape a vessel. The lesson is straightforward: God can craft the clay, but, if it is flawed, he can also reshape it to suit his purpose . Applying the lesson to Israel is easy enough, but the story doesn't end there. 

The guilty of Judah and Jerusalem heard Jeremiah's message but instead of the repentance God called for, they attacked Jeremiah and Jeremiah returned to God to complain. 

In bright light of day when all the people could hear Jeremiah's prophesy against them for the evil in their hearts, Judah and it's capital city Jerusalem did not repent or humble themselves. Actually they responded much as people do today. Instead of seeking forgiveness, they attacked the messenger. 

Jeremiah goes to God to complain about their response. "They have dug a pit for m," he says. Now Jeremiah goes on the offensive with God against the attack. He calls on God to leave the women childless widows and let the young men be killed with the sword.  In his defense against the unjust accusations against him, Jeremiah has become violent, too. Where will the sin end?

God told Jeremiah to take a clay jar to the Valley of Ben Hinnon and there he was to smash the jar as an illustration to the people of the coming destruction of Judah and Jerusalem. The clay was no longer pliable in the potters hands. When it became hardened and ridged, destruction was God's judgment, and the hardness of their hearts brought destruction on them. God called them a stiff-necked people. 

Not only Israel and Judah, but all nations that have once received light from God and blessing on their land, stand in jeopardy of judgment. It is still true. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Yael's Victory

Heber was not an Israelite, but he was a kinsman of Moses wife. He was married to Jael and they lived as nomadic herdsmen. He pitched his tent near Kedesh. The habits and culture of the nomadic herdsmen are singular to this group. While they did live in tents which had the capability of mobility, they often stayed in one location for 2 or 3 years. 

The tents were large with multiple rooms. They were made of heavy woolen fabric and leather. The women were responsible for erecting the tents when they were moved. The women's rooms were their private sanctuary and strangers were not invited there. Finding a man in a woman's rooms was justification to kill him. She would have been executed if she invited him there.

Many commentators criticize Jael's defense of herself. It was indeed a brutal and violent act; however in her defense, I feel we should look at 20 years of torment Israel suffered under Jabin's rule and Sisera's iron chariots. Yael would surely have become a slave when 
Sisera's army divided the spoils if he had won.

Judges 5 contains one of the oldest extant examples of Hebrew poetry. It is the victory song of Deborah and Barak describing the battle and Jael's act of self defense. The story includes the storm which contributed to Sisera's sound defeat. The final scene describes Sisera's mother anticipating his return.

Deborah led Israel in peace for 40 years. Read the whole story in Judges 4 and 5.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Deborah-Judge of Israel

Debora is one of the renowned women of the Bible, and her story is quite remarkable. She is the only female leader of Israel. Deborah was a prophetess and the wife of Lappidoth; perhaps she had won renown as a prophet and that elevated her to the position of leadership. The Bible does not elaborate about how she became the leader of Israel.

She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided.(Judges 4:5)
Ehud was the previous Judge and he died leaving Israel without leadership. Israel committed evil in the sight of God and God allowed Jabin, a Canaanite king, to punish them for their sin. Under the command of Sisera, Jabin's army tormented the Israelites for 20 years. When the people plead with God for mercy, he commanded Deborah to take action.
Deborah was now acting as Judge. In that time the Judge was also the military leader. She summoned Barak from Kedesh to be her commander. He agreed, but he did show hesitancy saying, "If you go with me, I'll go, but if you don't, I won't either." She agreed, but she told him that because of this he would not receive honor for defeating Sisera: that would go to a woman.

She called for volunteers from the tribes of Zebulon and Napthali. I questioned why she didn't call for volunteers from the whole country, but maybe, because these two tribes were close to Sisera's headquarters, they had more reasons to hate and fear him. The response was good They now had an army of 10,000 men. 

Sisera's  forces included 900 iron chariots. These were the tanks of the time. 

The chariot carried two soldiers: one controlled the horses and one carried a weapon, either a bow or a sword. When Israel prepared for war, their only weapons were homemade ones. Sisera commanded trained regiments. It didn't look good for Israel, but don't discount them: They did have God on their side.

Barak's men positioned themselves on Mount Tabor in readiness for battle. Sisera was told that Barak was assembling forces so he called his men and chariots to thtpe plain in the Kishon Valley. At the call to battle the forces of Deborah and Barak ran down the side of Mount Tabor to confront the foot soldiers and iron chariots of Sisera. Israel had the advantage since they had the high ground. They came down the side of the mountain in a flood. God had given them an advantage: A storm had soaked the ground allowing the heavy, iron chariots to sink in the mud. The thousands of volunteers overran the helpless chariots killing the soldiers caught in the mire and sludge at the foot of the mountain. Sisera evaded them and ran from the battlefield to find refuge in the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite.
                                             To  Be Continued

Saturday, April 20, 2013

But If Not...

English: A hilltop view of the ancient city of...
English: A hilltop view of the ancient city of Babylon, where King Nebuchadnezzar II, whose life spanned 630-562 B.C., built his hanging gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I take issue with people who expect to sail through life without any bumps or bruises. They are often new Christians who expect a cloud of protection to shield them from the evil and dangers in the world. Neither the teaching of Jesus nor the Bible message promises  that. 

The world is a place where evil in the person of  Satan still exists. Satan's power and influence is everywhere. Politics, business, education, even in the Church, we can find evidence of Satan's evil. In the Book of Daniel chapter 3 there is a powerful story of Satan's attempt to malaign and destroy the Jewish people, but in the end, it reveals God provision and protection.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo were three young Jews who were taken into captivity by the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar. They were smart and diligent and the King wanted to use them in his administration. His clerks and officials did not like the Jews so they came up with a test of loyalty that would eliminate the pesky Jews. Satanic influence is present: The officials were subject to it as well as the King himself. Nebuchadnezzar had ordered to be erected in the plain a huge golden statue of himself. He issued a decree that whenever the parade music played by the musical instruments summoned all the people, they were to pay tribute to him by falling upon their faces and giving worship to the gold image. Nebuchadnzzar coveted the praise and worship of others and Satan liked that.

The astrologers and soothsayers noticed that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not follow the stated law that all were to pay homage and worship to Nebuchadnezzar so they whispered it in his ear that his chosen servants are not completely serving as he had ordered. Nebuchadnezzar was furious. How dare they ignore his command!

When they came before him, he had calmed down, and he asked this, "Is it true that you do not worship my gods or the image I have erected? If you so do now, all is well, but if you don't, you will be committed to the furnace immediately. Then what God will save you?"

"We don't even need to respond to the question, your Majesty. We believe our God is able to deliver us, but even is he does not, we want you to know that we will not worship your gods or the golden image of yourself."

Nebuchadnezzar ordered the furnace to be heated to excess and the three young Jewish men to be bound and thrown in wearing the same clothes they had on. The soldiers who performed the duty were the strongest in the army, but they died from the heat. 

Nebuchadnezzar looked to see his victory, but he was disappointed. He saw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the flames with another who looked like a son of the gods. They were healthy and strong and not touched by the flames. Nebuchadnezzar called to them to come our of the furnace. Satan's designs were defeated. Their deliverance was an opportunity to witness to the power of God and even Nebuchadnezzar gave glory to God.

When do you say "But if not"--When do you look for help from friends or family but know there is no help but God? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the furnace, but they went in watching the men who put them there die. 
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Friday, February 22, 2013

The Meaning of Blood

Christianity has been called a slaughter house religion because of the emphasis on the blood sacrifice of Jesus. Many members and many preachers don't like the reference to the blood. Some songs have been sanitized by changing the wording to remove the offensive phrases. As one woman said, "I don't like to sing about the blood of Jesus and then go home to eat lunch." So why do we have this focus on the blood?

The Bible makes no apologies for the emphasis on the blood. In the Garden of Eden after the first sin, a blood sacrifice was exacted to provide the animal skins for clothing for Adam and Eve. When Cain and Abel made offerings to God, Abel's was accepted but Cain's was not because he did not provide the blood sacrifice.  In Genesis Abraham built altars everywhere he went. He knew the meaning of sacrifice. He was called by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. He went to Mount Moriah with the intent to sacrifice his son there. When God withdrew the command to kill Isaac, Abraham took the ram caught in the bushes to make the sacrifice. The substitute was accepted and Isaac was spared.

In Exodus 12 God gave the requirement for the Passover to Moses. 
The sacrifice must be a lamb 1 year old, without spot or blemish. You cannot sacrifice an animal that you would have cut from the flock anyway. Sacrifice means it will cost you. In the case of Abraham's sacrifice, he didn't have to sacrifice Isaac, but in his heart he had committed him to God. The Passover Lamb was the acceptable substitute for the sins of the people of Israel.

In Leviticus 17:11 the Bible proclaims that the life of a creature is in the blood. God gave the blood to make the sacrifice; it was not for food. The Law forbade the eating of blood. Animals killed for meat were to be drained of blood and the blood was offered on the altar. 

Jesus came as an innocent sacrifice and his blood was spilled at Calvary. He was our substitute like the ram was a substitute for Isaac on Mount Moriah and the lamb was a substitute for Israel on the Day of Atonement. Jesus did not stop with the sacrifice, but his resurrection assures us of life in him when we accept his sacrifice for ourselves.