[STUDY] MESSIANIC, JEWISH, GENTILE STUFF! Current.
I deal with the problem of Christians exalting natural Israel to a degree that exalts natural heritage at the expense of the gospel. If you are exalting Israel in this way, be warned.
This section will offend you! [To my Jewish friends- I very much respect Jewish people- these posts are meant to deal with spiritual acceptance with God- which is based on faith- not ethnicity.
 HEDGE YOUR BETS?
Caught an interesting show last night on the business/financial channel. It was the story of some private investor who was sort of a prodigy when it came to the market.
As a kid he took an unusual interest in investing and as he was studying to become a doctor he started his own independent blog and eventually he went into investing full time.
He became famous because he was one of the first investors to spot the upcoming housing bubble [the one we already had]. As he read the data- he hedged his bets and shorted the market.
All investing is a type of ‘gambling’ you make your bet- you put money on the table- and you hope for the best.
But ‘shorting’ the market the way this guy did- well it was more like gambling in the sense that you bet that a certain stock will fall- and someone else is betting it will go up.
Well in the end he did win- but he angered a lot of his customers and his investment company would fold.
Overall he got it right- but he was bad with social skills- he had a form of Autism called Aspergers syndrome- it makes you bad with social skills- but excel in other areas.
His area of excelling was the numbers thing- yet the part of the business where you work with people- that’s what doomed him in the end.
Anyway I mentioned this because some numbers have come out this week- and the economy might be getting better- so if those numbers hold- or go up- then this next year might be okay [crow doesn’t taste that bad!].
The news? I was surprised to see the state of things go bad so fast in Iraq. Just the other day [yesterday?] the capital city had 16 bombs go off- many killed.
It was one of the worst bombings in a long time- right in the capital.
Then you had the P.M. of Iraq- AlMalaki- put out a warrant on the V.P. The Prime Minister is Shia- the V.P. is Sunni.
Iraq- like all these ‘Arab Spring’ nations are divided along these religious lines- and Iraq also has a 3rd division- the Kurds in the north.
So the Vice President has fled north to the Kurdish area- and Malaki is demanding his return to face charges of terrorism.
Can you imagine a U.S. President charging the V.P. with terrorism charges? Yeah- I fear the worst is taking place in Iraq- and there is plenty of blame to go around- but these wars were doomed from the get go.
Okay- as we end the week- who read the chapters I mentioned in the last post? They deal with the promise of God to King David- that God would bless David’s house [dynasty] for ages to come.
That David’s ‘Son’ would sit on the throne for ever. I have taught this before- the New Testament shows us that this promised has been fulfilled thru Christ.
Jesus- who comes from the lineage of King David- has been raised from the dead and he sits at the right hand of God- forever.
An interesting note on the chapters- God says to David ‘even if the future children sin- and mess up- I will punish them- but will not totally forsake them’.
I think this promise is in both the Samuel chapters and Psalms 89.
It refers to the teaching in the bible that says when believers sin- make mistakes- mess up. God will ‘chastise’ them- but not completely leave them [Read Hebrews 12- the first few verses].
Hebrews says that this is proof that we are God’s kids- because he will discipline those he loves- like a parent does with a child.
The bible also says that humans discipline at times with other motives ‘Johnny- you made me look bad in the store today- you threw a fit because you couldn’t get the candy’ so at times parents punish because of wrong motives- but the bible says Gods discipline is perfect- it leads to restoration.
In the above mentioned Psalm- David says ‘Lord- why did you let the hedge [protections] fall down around me- will your anger go on forever?’
Even though King David had all these great promises from God- yet we know the whole story- David made some drastic mistakes- he even had an illegitimate kid with the wife of one of his top soldiers.
When his scheme to cover up the crime didn’t work- he had the husband killed [Uriah] and he married the wife.
Her name was Bathsheba. She had a son- he got sick. David knew he was being punished for what he did.
So he goes into his room and fast and prays for days- then the kid dies.
His servants are afraid to tell him that the kid died. David picks up on it and says ‘he’s dead’? Yeah.
Then he washes his face and gets on with life. The servants thought ‘wow- we thought he would really go downhill once he heard the kid died’.
But David said ‘when the boy was alive- I prayed and did what I could to change the situation- but after the boy died- there's no more I can do. I will go to him some day- but he can’t come back now’.
David took the punishment- and moved on.
Bathsheba will bear him another child- a son by the name of Solomon. This is also the same son that God makes the promise to David in the above chapters- that he will build a temple for God.
So God forgave David- even used the second son from the ‘crime scene’ to do great things- but first David suffered.
Today’s word- wherever you are today on the journey- at the point of fasting and praying- or the mistakes- and the results have already played out- wherever you are- don’t let what has happened be the final word.
Hebrews also says to the person who was disciplined ‘lift up the hands that hang down- get back up- don’t let the discipline have the wrong effect- it was meant to restore you in the end’.
Yea- God allowed the hedge to come down around David- like our investor- he had talent- even special gifts- he ‘hedged’ his bets- but in the end he reaped some stuff.
Whatever has happened- its over- you can’t change it. Let’s get up and move on- there just might be a Solomon on the way.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John
 E.U. and John the Baptist.
Okay- let’s start with last week’s meeting in Brussels. The European Union met to hack out a deal on their debt problems. All 27 European nations met- 26 signed on to an agreement- sort of.
Britain was the only nation that did not sign on. Why? Cameron [the Prime Minister] said they did not want to give up any control over their sovereign nation. Basically the agreement says that the E.U. nations that refuse to deal with their debt problems- they will face fines/penalties if they let things get out of hand.
‘So John- how does a promise like this fix anything’? Actually- it doesn’t. In the U.S. we just came off a year of various panels/groups who were put together to deal with our nation’s debt crisis.
Some of these panels- bi-partisan- came up with some okay ideas- but in the end the President and congress did not pass anything.
So the last attempt was the ‘super committee’ as opposed to just any old regular one! Yeah- they even said ‘we are are so serious about getting our fiscal house in order- we even passed a law that said if we don’t agree to the cuts- then automatic cuts will happen- beyond our control- and then the budget will eventually balance out’.
Wow John- you mean they actually passed a real law that said this? Yup.
Okay- what happened? They came down to the wire and passed nothing. Then they started saying ‘look- we know we passed a law- to make it look like this time we mean it- but do you really think we can’t change the darn thing’!
Well John- Obama said he will veto any change. Oh yeah- that threat has lots of weight to it.
So the E.U. said ‘we will allow more oversight of our individual nations budgets’ and that was the deal. They did not fix anything yet- and the real test will be this coming year. All these nations [Italy] will have to raise new revenue [sell bonds] and if the private investors/banks do not want to take the risk and buy these bonds- then things will get bad.
So that’s the story.
Okay- in the last few posts we talked a little about the first century world that Christianity was birthed from. We call this Greco/Roman culture.
Though Rome was the ruling empire at the time of Christ- they were ‘Hellenized’. Hellenization is the word we use to describe the Greek kingdoms efforts- under Alexander the Great- to ‘Cosmopolitanise’ the world.
Whenever Alexander would conquer a people- he would allow them to stay in their land- they could hold on to their customs and habits but at the same time become part of Greek culture.
Alexander even translated the Jewish bible [Torah] into Greek. This version is called the Septuagint [means 70] and comes from the story that 70 scholars put this version together under Divine inspiration.
This Greek ‘bible’ was the bible that the Jewish people who lived outside of Israel would use. These scattered Jews are referred to as the Diaspora.
Okay- during the time of Christ more Jews lived outside of Israel than in the land. And the influence of the Greek world upon all the people under the Roman Empire was very great.
Our New Testaments were originally written in Greek- this is the reason why. Now- the other day I mentioned how the Synagogue rose up during the time of this Diaspora- this scattering of the Jewish people before the time of Christ.
So during Jesus day- you already had a habit of Jews meeting for study and prayer- in these ‘church’ like buildings. These places of worship had no sacrifices or priestly ordinances- they were places of prayer and ‘bible study’. Do you now see how the culture that surrounds a movement does indeed have the potential to shape that movement?
Yes- early Christianity took on a form of Synagogue worship and order of service. The New Testament teaches us that we have no more animal sacrifices- but offer spiritual worship to God.
In the book of Acts we read about a group of people called God Fearers. This designation refereed to gentiles [non Jews] who enjoyed the Synagogue ‘services’ and wanted to attend- but they were not willing to go all the way- so to speak- and make the final ‘cut’.
Yes- if you wanted to completely convert to Judaism as an adult- you could- but you did have to go thru the rite of passage- circumcision.
So for those who liked the ‘bible study’ but also liked to keep all their body parts as well- they became God Fearers.
A while back I read an article [book review?] about a book some scholar put out- and he had an interesting twist on why the early Christian’s had friction with the early Jews. He posited the idea that the Gentile converts to Judaism were the main pool of people that the early Christians were converting- and that simple statistics said if all these former God Fearers became Christians- well the synagogue membership would go down- and the offerings too!
It’s an interesting idea- but we do read in the bible that the friction came because the early Jewish Christians accepted Christ as their final sacrifice and they did indeed ‘leave’ Judaism and identified themselves with Christ and his Church. [I put ‘leave’ in quotes because what actually happened was these Jewish converts to Christianity were simply receiving all that the prophets said- they did not see what they were doing as being unfaithful to their faith- they saw it as simply completing their journey].
But to know the context- the world in which these things took place- that helps us to see a little more into the story.
This past week I read Mark chapter 1 and John chapter 1. These chapters cover the ministry of John the Baptist. John was called ‘the Baptist’ because he was baptizing people in the river Jordan. How come we never read anyone saying ‘hey John- what the heck are you doing- this new rite of dunking people in the water’?
Well no one said it [as far as we know] because it was not a new rite [ritual]. During the rise of synagogue worship- and thus the rise of gentiles who wanted to join the ‘church’ on their block [non Jews who liked the readings and spiritual atmosphere of the synagogue] the Jewish people developed a type of Baptism that was used as a sort of entry rite [along with circumcision] to join their religion.
But the thing about John was he started using this rite as a means to call the Jewish people to repentance- this was a first of its kind.
So Johns Baptism said ‘you religious folk- you Jewish people- yes- you need to repent just like everyone else’. Yeah- John was a unique person- and his baptism was one of a kind.
Okay- that’s it for today- maybe try and read the chapters I mentioned above- do a little study on your own.
In this month’s issue of Christianity Today magazine they started a 5 year study on classic Christianity and it looks like it’s going to be very well done- something Protestants and Catholics would benefit from.
I have been reading this magazine for many years- and the last few years they have really taken a step up in their scholarship- maybe go on line and subscribe? You can also read the articles right from the computer.
I also read the Catholic Magazine called First Things- both of these are on my blog roll. First Things is top rate- but might get a little too ‘intellectual’ for first timers [don’t want to sound condescending here] they cover issues of Philosophy and Science form a Christian perspective- and they too have great stuff.
But I think the C.T. 5 year program that they are just starting might be the way to go for new learners- or ‘old’ learners- who want to brush up on the faith.
Note- Do me a favor, those who read/like the posts- re-post them on other sites as well as the site you read them on. Thanks- John
 JESUS FOR PRESIDENT?
Let’s try and cover a few current events. Obviously the media lost a major ‘player’ [source] of ‘news’ when Cain left the stage. And it only took them a few days before they attached on to Gingrich.
Christianne Amanpour [CNN] asked ‘do you think a twice divorced person can get the support he needs to be president’. This is not the first time I have heard this.
I think Newt is a smart guy- I’m not a big defender of any of these guys- but the hypocrisy of the media to keep asking this- as a major campaign question- is nuts.
Sure- he’s been divorced- we got that. Yet Edwards [John] actually fathered a child with a woman- while his wife was suffering from cancer [the same thing that Newt did] and the media did not think that story was relevant- they indeed knew about the thing.
It was only after the Enquirer actually got pictures of Edwards holding the kid- then the story broke.
So this obsession with Newt’s divorce- please.
Okay- the headline read ‘Woman in prison for being raped is pardoned’. Wow. Yes- this headline ran in a couple of my papers- right next to the name Afghanistan.
So- if you didn’t read the story- you would think that some woman got raped in the country- under those bad Taliban folk- and because we ‘liberated’ them- she's free.
Actually- that’s not the story. The woman was raped during the present regime- our guys [Karzai] and the courts made her a deal ‘if you marry the rapist- you go free’. She refused. She has been raising her daughter in jail- and Karzai made her the offer a 2nd time [how noble of him] and she married the rapist and she’s out.
The title should have been ‘Woman who was raped is forced to marry the S.O.B.’
Biden goes to the ancient city of Constantinople the other day [Modern day Istanbul- Turkey]. He’s having a meeting with a group of business people and young entrepreneurs that the president had launched a few years back.
In the meeting Biden stands up and gives this Joe Paterno like speech ‘way to go boys- we [Turkey and the U.S.] have come far in this liberating project of business- our success and democratic spirit have been a lynchpin for the Arab Spring….’ you know- Biden likes to talk a lot.
Right after he gave the sermon- one of the Turkish guys got up and slammed the West [us and Europe] for being a bunch of inept leaders- nations who spend more than they have like spoiled brats- and have no political courage to change course. Yeah Joe- you sure told them!
As we approach the end of the year- there are so many very serious world events taking place- events that will play a major role in our lives here in the U.S.
For the life of me- I can’t see how investors can be up on the market- even though some numbers are good- these other things are hanging right on the edge.
The Euro Zone is nowhere near being fixed- and the options are terrible. They will either have to jump in 100 % behind the Euro [which Germany and others will never do] or they split up.
The break up looks like it might happen- the odds are higher now than ever. Okay- if that happens- it will affect world markets- and many analysts fear it will cause us to go into another recession.
So- if these scenarios are possible [probable] then how can you have an optimistic overall outlook- economically speaking? Sure- you can hedge your bets and do well- I’m not saying we are all gonna die- but to be acting like we are on some boom market- that’s nuts.
During the time of Jesus you had a divided people. In 1st century Palestine the Jewish people split into 4 basic sects. 2 of them are pretty well known- the Pharisees and Sadducees- they are mentioned often in scripture.
The other 2 are less well known- the Zealots and the Essenes. The Zealots are named in the bible- but only in passing. We have no references to the Essenes.
The Pharisees were sticklers for the Torah [Jewish bible] and the Sadducees centered their life around the Temple- they were more of a political/religious type group.
They stuck to the Torah alone. That is they only received the actual first 5 books of the Old Testament- which is the Torah [also the term is used to speak of the entire Old Testament] and that’s why the Sadducees rejected miracles and angels and stuff. Most of those stories are found in the other O.T. books.
The Zealots were a group of people who hated compromise- they were actually a 1st century ‘terrorist’ group- who carried out assassinations. Not on Rome- but on their own people!
The zealots hated those who compromised with Rome- and if they felt a leader was too chummy- they killed him.
The Essenes were a separatist group who lived in ‘the hills’ [Qumran community] they simply gave up completely on any political solutions for the day- and went and lived in the hills. These are the ones responsible for hiding the Dead Sea scrolls [old bible books found in the last century] in a cave.
It’s interesting to note that Jesus had both a Zealot on his team [Simon- not Peter who also went by that name] and Matthew- a Tax collector. Tax collectors were considered the biggest sell outs of all- they actually worked for Rome and scammed their own people- it must have been hard for Jesus to lead this group [the 12 disciples] who came from such opposite ends of the political spectrum.
Yet Jesus did lead them- he was even offered earthly rule a few times [once from satan- and once from the people who heard him] he rejected it both times. His kingdom was not ‘of this world’.
In the New Testament book of Philippians- the bible says that though Jesus was in the form of God [deity] yet he became a man and humbled himself to the death of the Cross- a shameful way to die.
We have one letter written in the N.T. by a ‘family’ member of Jesus- that’s the epistle of James.
Protestants believe that Mary had other kids after Jesus was born- our Catholic friends teach that she remained a Virgin her whole life. My purpose right now is not to get into that.
James was considered the ‘half brother’ of Jesus [Mary was the mom of both boys- Joseph was the dad of James- Jesus’ father was God]. Okay- James was slow to believe in his brother- but over time as Jesus was declaring himself to be the Messiah- I’m sure James had to wonder- you know- think back ‘gee- come to think of it- I can’t’ remember a time where my brother got in trouble’.
Wait- now I remember- yeah- that time when Jesus was 12- we all went to Jerusalem for the big feast- and Jesus stayed behind while we started the trip home. Yeah- we went 3 days before we realized he was gone. Boy was mom mad that day.
So we went all the way back to get him- and when we found him- he was sitting in the temple- asking these questions- I mean questions that only theologians knew- Jesus was still a kid.
Mom said to him ‘son- why did you stay behind- we were worried’! Yeah- she was mad- if there was ever a time my brother came close to getting in trouble- this was it. But Jesus said ‘why were you worried- didn’t you know I would be doing my Fathers business’ yeah- he sure seemed different- but the Messiah- come on.
So as the ministry years of Jesus role by- there are all these reports of miracles and healings- blind people seeing- dead people coming back from the grave.
Yeah- James has got to be wondering now- but no- he could not accept that his own brother was the promised Son of God- no- too much.
Then the day came- that terrible day where mom had to watch Jesus die on that rugged Cross- on Golgotha- man the hill looked like a skull.
Yeah- it was a strange site- I mean the sky got dark- an earthquake shook the place- and even the Roman soldier who witnessed my brother die said ‘surely this was the son of God’. Wow- too much- my bother has carried this thing too far- even in his death he won’t let this obsession go.
Then James hears some disturbing reports- his friends are saying that Jesus has come back- that he pulled it off- the greatest miracle ever- the one Houdini himself couldn’t do.
But are the reports true? I mean if anyone could tell if this guy walking around is really Jesus- James would know.
We don’t read of the account- but all we know is James became a believer- a believer that his brother was indeed the Messiah- the Son of God.
I guess it went something like this- Jesus sitting there with his men- James shows up and sees his brother- the perfect one- not a spot on his record. Maybe Jesus looked up- maybe he said ‘brother- do you now see’ and yeah- he saw.
James would go on to be one of the leaders/Pastors of the church at Jerusalem- we read about him in Acts chapter 15. Most scholars believe this was the same James who penned the short letter we find in the N.T. that bears his name.
One thing James hits on a lot in his letter- is he defends the poor- the downtrodden- and he rips into the rich- the elite of the day. He warns us not to be biased- not to use ‘uneven scales’ when dealing with people.
James hit on social justice issues- he picked them up from his brother.
We need to be concerned about the world- if a raped woman is forced to marry her rapist- then we ought not say ‘she was pardoned’. When we critique one person for past failures- then we must do that to all.
But at the end of the day- Jesus never took the earthly crown- he did not see the solution to be a political one- he brought Simon and Matthew together on the same team- and he showed them what it means to lay your life down for others- to live without the praise of men- the earthly standard of success- he chose another way- and he left that path for us.
 COMMUNITY CHEST
Okay- we have come off of a pretty hectic week- the market shook and raddled last week. About midweek I was ready to do a Mea Culpa [sort of]. I mean financial advice is like talking religion and politics- once you state your claim- it’s very hard to admit you might have gotten it wrong.
But last week I watched the Kudlow Report for a few minutes while channel surfing- and to my surprise he was talking the economy [and market] up.
Kudlow is usually a straight shooter- and he was saying the 4th quarter [last 3 months of U.S. economic numbers] might see a 3.5 or maybe even 4 % rise.
For the life of me- I thought he was wrong- but he does know more than me- so I was gonna do the Mea Culpa. Then [I think the next day?] those wonderful Euro Zone folks decided to sell some bonds [Germany] and lo and behold- they couldn’t get enough buyers so they shut down the auction.
Yeah- for Germany- considered the ‘most stable’ of the Euro Zone crowd- for them to have had trouble like this- that’s a bad sign.
The credit rating agencies already dropped the ratings for Portugal and Hungary to Junk status.
The reports came out that showed that the world’s major banks are all preparing for a Eurozone breakup- even U.S. regulators are telling our big banks [Citigroup] to lower their risk in the Euro Zone bond funds.
So all in all- the DOW dropped 4.8% for the week- the worst one week drop in 2 months- and I didn’t have to swallow the crow after all.
Okay- then why did the market jump back up another 200 or so points yesterday?
To be honest- there really was no good reason in my view. We came off of a jump in Black Friday sales- I think they sold 16 % more than usual- which of course is always a good sign when consumers are ‘consuming’.
But why did we see the jump? Please- please- let’s not all be Lemmings [you know- following the lead guy off the cliff]. Every year companies do the ‘Black Friday’ thing- which gets its name from- well doing great deals on the Friday after Turkey day.
Why the name? Oh- maybe because they used to only do it on Friday- you think?
Now- say if ‘every day’ was a Black Friday- say if we just did Black Friday all the time- would there be a huge jump in consumer spending? Heck yeah!
So why don’t we do it all the time? Because we would all go bankrupt [the businesses] and end up being permanent Zuccotti park occupiers.
So to make it simple- the numbers were up- because they started Black Friday early- like on Thursday!
Oh- the tangled webs we weave.
Those of you who remember- a couple years back the president and congress passed some big spending deals- for consumers.
They did special tax breaks for 1st time homebuyers- they did special deals for trading in your ‘clunker’ and getting a new car [Cash for Clunkers]. They even gave you money to buy Green Appliances [energy savers- not Retro looking!].
When they did this- well of course home/car sales went up- because you were giving people ‘free money’ to buy stuff.
Now- when the numbers came in- some Dems said ‘lets just keep doing it- after all- its working’ and the Repubs shut the thing down.
What was ‘working’? Well- when you give free money out- or do Black Friday ever day- yes- the numbers will look good.
But these types of ‘numbers’ are fake numbers- their based on skewed data- I mean doing these programs every so often can help some- sure- give me a great deal on some crappy car trade in- okay- I’ll buy a car.
But what happened the next year? Both car and home sales suffered- because these deals didn’t bring ‘new money’ in- they just moved up those who were going to purchase anyway- but they made the purchase while the deal was going on- and the economy- and housing markets- well they still took the hit- it was just delayed.
Now- to the real cynical folk out there- like you guys who can’t see that Herman Cain is an innocent man! [ Fine and Sandusky Too!] yes- to you nay sayers- it might just look like some politicians would love to keep giving away THE ‘FREE MONEY’ BECAUSE IT WOULD MAKE THEIR NUMBERS LOOK BETTER FOR RE ELECTION.
And so the game goes on- it never ends.
During the years called the Intertestamental period [around 400 years B.C. to the time of Christ] the Jewish people suffered lots. During their captivities they eventually lost their Temple and wound up living in a ‘strange land’.
It was at this time that the Synagogues were invented- these ‘church buildings’ were not the temple- they had no sacrifices or other priestly ceremonies- they were literally named after a word that meant ‘House of Study’.
This word is the same word used for the Israeli legislature today- Knesset.
During the time of Christ these synagogues were places where the Jewish people captured/retained their culture- while being ruled by Rome.
In the Synagogue you had 2 ‘offering plates’. One was called The Dish- this was the offering for the poor- those who needed short term help- this went to them.
Then you had what was called The Chest. This was the ‘plate’ used for more long term type help- sort of like a welfare thing.
We also see in the writings of the New Testament that giving to the poor- helping those in need- is a very noble [and mandated!] thing.
But when we see ‘free money’ that is ‘robbing from the rich to give to the poor’ as a last resort type thing- well then we are using the principle in a wrong way.
I read one article on why the Italian debt crisis [very bad as well] was not ‘seen’ as bad as a country like France [who is on the verge of getting downgraded too- geez- if they are having so much financial trouble- maybe Sarkozy should cut back a little on all these ‘mini Bush’ military ventures?]
They said even though the Italian debt crisis is real- yet outside observers know that many Italians are well off- they have saved and invested- and if worse comes to worse- they will just tax the wealthy.
For major outside observers to be thinking this- to be hedging their bets on the private money being ‘taken’ to cover the debt- that’s bad.
That’s the same language we are now seeing in our country ‘pay your fair share- flying those corporate jets- you rich S.O.B.’s!
Yes- these are all signs of the times we are in.
I have been out of the market for many years- and those who are ‘in’ most of you lost some over this last decade- and some lost a lot.
I’m not sure what the next decade holds- but if you put some money in The Dish- or The Chest [which is where we get the term Community Chest] then I think you will have spent some money well- but if you simply see investing thru the lens of how much you will get back- then I think many of you are in for a surprise.
 IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
Was gonna do one last post [for now] on Libya- we will need to cover the whole development of how we began to view/and act over a 6 month period- we acted [as a nation] contrary to our public statements. We swore- over and over again- that we were not targeting the man [or his family] and he swore [before the U.N. - by his rep.] that we were lying- and did indeed already kill a few of his grandkids [which was true] and were going after him.
Then- on national T.V. - we saw him flee Sirte [his hometown] and get bombed by both NATO and American planes [ours were Drones]. We destroyed a bunch of vehicles- left a lot of dead bodies- but he made it to a tunnel.
Then he got pulled out- ended up with a bullet in the head. O- forgot- this happened a day or 2 after Hillary Clinton visited Tripoli [her first visit] and said ‘we are waiting for you to capture or kill him’ [oop’s!] She later had to ‘clarify’.
She also was caught on tape- laughing and rejoicing over his death- okay- many people did- but if your saying publicly- ‘that’s not what we want’- then it looks bad.
Of course the other Arab nations want the U.N. to investigate- they were being told- by us- that we were not going after him. He begged for a peaceful resolution [he did do this!]. But we basically said no.
There are lots of questions to still be answered on this thing.
Okay- yesterday I wrote a quick note about a conversation I had with a new friend who just joined my site. She was into some new age stuff- we talked a little- I defended historic Christian belief- then she blocked me.
Let’s talk a little about Apologetics/Theology. Apologetics is the field where Christians Defend the Faith.
In our day- it is common for believers to be ‘left in the dust’ when they bang up against an atheistic scientist [they not all are!] or someone versed in Philosophy [Sartre or Camus- atheist thinkers- or Hitchen's and Dawkins].
Many times these various fields of study are too much for the average believer to feel like he can engage in- in an intelligent way- and ‘win’ the argument for the Christian view.
But church history has a long- and very successful- track record doing this very thing.
A few weeks back I did about 5 posts or so on Philosophy- a field I like to study. But if you do too many of those posts at one time- then it can get a little heavy [and boring!] So I try to break it up by only doing so many at a time. The same goes for Theology- Church History- etc.
But over time- if we become well versed in these various fields- it will help us defend the Christian view- in an intelligent way- without being mean about it [I try!]
But sometimes you will offend people- even if you try to be nice- because you’re engaging in a conversation that says ‘yes- as Christians we believe in ultimate truth- and that truth is in the person of Jesus Christ’ yes- that will offend some.
My approach to these types of debates is I’m what you would call Ecumenical- I believe that Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox- and all the other ‘churches’ that profess Christ- I believe they are all Christian.
Now you might say ‘well John- doesn’t everybody?’ Actually no- many of the most knowledgeable Apologists do indeed go after the other groups. Quite often you will have a strong protestant defender [usually from the Reformed faith] that will really hit the Catholic church- in my view- too hard.
While it is true that historically Catholics and Protestants have differences- I have often found that Many ‘average’ Catholics/Protestants are not really aware of the real differences- they often have very limited perspectives about the ‘other side’ and these limited ideas [often wrong] seem to stay with the people- for most of their lives.
One example- the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception- what is it?
The teaching became Official- only in the last 2 centuries of the Catholic church- though it was held by many- it finally became official in the last 2 hundred years [ 1854 for the Immaculate Conception- 1950 for the Assumption of Mary doctrine].
The doctrine teaches that the Virgin Mary- Jesus Mom- was born ‘without the taint of original sin’. Now- what does that mean?
Some Protestants think the Catholics teach that Mary was ‘sinless’ in the same way Christ was sinless.
Actually- that’s not the official doctrine [see- it’s important to know the official teaching when we engage like this]. The actual teaching- that has the churches Imprimatur on it- is that Mary WAS A SINNER- just like the rest of us- but in order for Jesus to have been born from a pure vessel- that the actual work of the Cross- Redemption- it was applied to Mary ‘ahead of time’.
Yes- the official teaching is that Mary ‘was saved’ from her sin- just like the rest of us- thru the Cross. The difference is the forgiveness that came to Mary- came to her before she was born- yes- the teaching does teach that Mary was born ‘without sin’ but not like Jesus was without sin- but she was ‘without sin’ because her salvation was applied ahead of time- way ahead of time- before she was born.
Okay- do Protestants believe in this teaching? No. But is it ‘so way out of line’ to the point where we should view our Catholic brothers and sisters as ‘non Christian’ because of it? No- not in my view.
Plus- many Catholics don’t even realize that this is what the doctrine teaches- many think it is talking about the birth of Jesus- being born without sin- by the act of the Holy Spirit descending upon the Virgin Mary and Mary conceiving.
No- this is what we call ‘The Virgin birth- conceived by the Holy Ghost’. Jesus being born from a virgin with no earthly father.
This is not the Immaculate Conception.
So right here alone [trust me- there are many more examples that I could give] Both Catholics and Protestants usually get the doctrine wrong- yet they remain divided their whole lives- over something that they are not even right about.
So I have found this type of stuff to be a problem while striving for Christian unity- and many Christians prefer to see the ‘other side’ in a negative light- and will continue to view them that way- till they die.
I always feel bad when I lose a friend from the site- sometimes you can’t help it [other times it is my fault!] but sometimes it’s because we have views about things- strongly held views- and when others hold to a different view- well we try and avoid them.
One day I received a Friends Request- to my surprise- it was from a young Catholic priest- I did not know him but he must have read a few posts of mine and liked them. He often gave me Thumbs Up comments on the posts- and at times would tell me he loved the posts.
Most were my Theology/Church history posts.
Often times Catholics and Protestants can agree and enjoy these types of studies. I love studying and teaching on the Church Fathers and early Christian history- and these sources all have a very strong Catholic flavor to them- so I see my fellow Catholics as being a part of a long tradition of Christian history.
Many famous converts to the Catholic Church [Bishop John Newman- converted from the Anglican Church] convert because they read the Church Fathers- and when you read them- it’s obvious to see the catholic nature of the early church in these men’s writings.
So anyway I was very happy to have a Catholic priest as one of my ‘on line students’ [and honored].
But one day- during one of my studies [covering one subject for a month or so] to my surprise I saw he was gone [yes- the dreaded block]. I thought- geez- wonder why?
I realized it was right in the middle of a study I did on Islam- and while I was doing the posts- I was also going thru a study on Islam- by the same guy who teaches it to the U.S. govt. - yes- it was a prof. [I think named Espinoza?] who teaches Islam to our govt. employees [sort of like a tolerance type thing].
Though the teacher was Catholic- yet he was VERY much pro Islam- I mean to the point where I had to reject some of the stuff he was saying- and finish the study from my own education on Islam.
At one point- he taught that the spread of Islam thru out the world had a wonderful- liberating effect on all the women in the lands where Islam spread. I mean it was so obvious that the man had no idea what he was talking about [in this area] that I realized he was not a good source [this happens every so often].
And it was more troubling that this was the guy Obama picked to teach Islam to our govt. employees [don’t get me wrong here- he teaches our govt. workers- not to convert them- but more of an informative type thing- just like you would teach any other course about sexual harassment- or whatever].
Anyway- in one of my posts while teaching on my site- I did refer to Mohamed as ‘the prophet’- now- I don’t receive Mohamed that way myself- but because I was teaching some Muslims who did recently join the site- well I used the title in this way.
I think that might have been the ‘last straw’ for my student/priest- he ‘went on Pilgrimage’ right after that post.
Okay- today’s point is we all should try our best to be ‘tolerant’ that is- we should give people as much grace/mercy as possible- but at the same time we also need to be honest about the Christian faith.
Yes- as Christians we believe salvation comes thru Christ- he was not just ‘one religious leader among many’ no- we believe he is the Way- the Truth- the Life/light- no man comes to the Father- but by him.
Sometimes we do our best not to offend- we might even go out of our way to receive people- other religions and systems that are not Christian- that’s okay- I have Muslim and Jewish and all types of friends- I’m glad they are my friends!
But we also have to be honest about our beliefs- and every now and then that might- just might- earn you a BLOCK.
 CULT? Three 6’S? Not a Christian?
Okay- let’s talk a little about some of the ‘big’ stories. Actually- these stories are small but the media wants to make them big.
At the debate the other night- Cain took some heat- you know- he’s been hawking the 999 plan on taxes- and now that he’s rising in the polls they have to bring him down a notch.
So they slammed the plan- Bachmann even exposed the secret agenda behind the plan- yes- right there in front of the whole world- she said ‘you know what you get when you turn the 999 plan upside down’?
And yes- we now know the truth- you get 3 upside down 9’s.
Okay- let’s get a little serious here. Another ‘religious’ test popped up on the trail- you had the Baptist Pastor from Dallas tell a reporter that Christians should prefer other Christians when they vote- and Romney is not a Christian.
He went on to say that he thought Romney was a fine man- but that historically Mormonism is a cult.
Was he right?
Let me say this- I have read scholars my whole life- study theology and Christianity- am very open to the other Christian churches- and even my approach to Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses has been one in which I try to have open dialogues with people- not ‘cover up’ their doctrinal flaws- but to be open and show as much charity as possible.
Okay- I know of no serious scholar who would disagree theologically with the Baptist Pastor. Now- was the approach he took right? At a political type meeting? Probably not.
Are there more appropriate ways to engage in dialogue with Mormons- who overall are very good people- serve the country well and for the most part are honorable? Yes—there are better ways to talk about it than saying Romney is ‘not a Christian’.
Let’s talk a little bit about why most bible scholars do hold the ‘cult’ view.
Historically- Christianity is what we call Trinitarian [for the most part- this is also a very long study]. Sometimes we refer to this as Nicene Christianity [from the famous council at Nicaea].
Or we can look to a few other church councils that hammered out the language of the Trinity.
I am Trinitarian- I hold to the historic belief on this- just to be upfront at the start.
Now- have all ‘Christians’ at all times held to the doctrine? No. Now- some will say ‘Then they are not Christians’ okay- I agree.
But the way I define ‘Christian’ while making the argument from history- I am speaking of all those who saw themselves as part of the church [men like Bishop Arius- who rejected the Trinity] and yet did not agree with the historic position.
Church history is littered with men/movements that fall into this category.
Muslims and Jews [even some Messianic Jews] also take the side [doctrinally] with those ‘Christians’ who reject the Trinity. Why? Both of these religions believe that exalting Jesus to Deity [being God] violates the teaching that there is only One God [the Father].
Many of these same objections are made by the various ‘Christian churches’ that also reject the Trinity.
Okay- the historic Christian doctrine- accepted by Catholics, Orthodox and most Protestants- says that God is One- and there are 3 persons in the God Head. The famous Christian him says ‘God in 3 persons- Blessed Trinity’.
So- the belief is there is only one God- yet 3 persons in the God head.
The various groups who disagree with this doctrine usually say it’s a contradiction- and they have various ways they try to explain it.
They will point to bible verses that say ‘Jesus is the Firstborn of all creation’ or ‘Jesus is the beginning of the creation of God’ and they will argue that Jesus was the first creation of God- but not ‘God’ in the sense of True God.
Most scholars will show you that looking at these few verses- in context of the entire bible- show us that they are not meaning that Jesus was actually created- but that he has pre imminence among the whole creation- he is Lord of all.
I really did get into the debate- have taught it in the past on the blog- and today’s intent isn’t to do it all over again.
But- we needed to cover that to say this- what then is the Mormon belief?
While most churches that disagree with the Trinity- usually disagree by saying the doctrine is Tritheistic [meaning you believe in 3 Gods] Mormons actually go the other way- they believe/teach that you actually do have 3 Gods- that the Father and the Son and the Spirit are 3 different Gods.
Okay- that’s the main reason [there are lots of other things] that scholars classify Mormons as ‘non Christian’.
But it’s really hard to have these debates in the political arena- and because of the various ways we use the term ‘Christian’ [most of the times in the media it covers a much wider range than what we use in studying theology] I would not say ‘Romney is not a Christian’.
Why? Because I would have to qualify it by explaining all of this- and you do have many groups that have branched off from historic Christianity- who never accepted the final councils on the Trinity- and many of these groups would still be defined as ‘Christian’ in a broad sense- say if your studying Sociology and not Theology.
Now- you ask ‘geez John- this can get a little confusing- does the bible actually give us a test on this’.
Glad you asked.
The only biblical ‘test’ that is where you have a clear cut statement on ‘if you believe this your okay- if you believe this you’re not’- the statement comes from the epistle’s [letters] of the Apostle John [New Testament].
In 1st John and 2nd John he talks about those who believe that Jesus is the Christ- they are ‘from God’ ‘Born of God’ and those who say that ‘Jesus has not come in the flesh’ these are not ‘of God’ these are ‘the anti christ’.
It’s interesting to note- that in the entire bible- the few times the actual word ‘anti christ’ is used are in these passages.
So the test- if you want to look at it this way- is a Christological test- do you believe Jesus is the Christ [Messiah]. And ‘do you believe he has come in the flesh’ [what we call the Incarnation].
That’s the test- you do not have a ‘Trinitarian’ test so to speak- though the doctrine itself is found in the bible.
Why would the apostle John give these 2 criteria as ‘the test’? Because for the 1st century Jewish believer- Jesus did indeed come as the promised Messiah- and the question is indeed ‘do you believe he is the promised one- or not’.
The other ‘test’ is a little more tricky- but in the 1st century you began having a challenge to the main belief of Christians- it came from the Gnostic ‘cults’. These were the quasi ‘Christian’ groups that mixed in Greek concepts of matter with Christian belief.
The last few weeks we discussed their ideas a little- and one of the ideas that Plato taught was that matter itself was evil.
This is not the Christian view- the Christian view is that matter [creation] is from God- it is good- not inherently evil.
Okay- so you had a division of the Gnostics [which their name meant Knowledge- they believed they had secret knowledge about these things that the average Christian did not have] called Docetists.
These guys taught that Jesus was not Really a human being- who came ‘in the flesh’. Why did they teach this? Because they also taught that matter/flesh was evil- and Jesus could not have really been ‘in the flesh’.
This doctrine violates the very clear N.T. teaching that Jesus was indeed born of the Virgin- and was fully God and fully man- thus the apostle John was targeting them when he said ‘if anyone does not believe that Jesus has come in THE FLESH he is not from God’.
Got it? Okay- we did a little teaching today- as you can see these types of debates cannot really take place in a 30 second news sound bite.
So even though most scholars [if not all?] would agree with the teaching that Mormonism does not fit in with historic Christianity- yet to say ‘this guy is not a Christian’ without being able to make the distinctions that I just did- well it just sounds bad- to be honest.
I personally could vote for Romney- to me it would be more of an issue of his political positions- if I felt he could do a good job- I personally would not use the ‘religious test’ on the guy- but you do have a large group of Evangelicals who would not vote for him- mainly because of this very issue.
I think these issues are important- and people should be aware of them. I also think the term ‘cult’ or ‘he is not a Christian’ if we are going to throw those words out- they need to be surrounded by the above context- when they just pop out on a short sound bite- without the time to explain them- then it’s probably better not to throw them out at all.
 THE YEAR UZZIAH DIED
After the debate last night I caught the 1st 7 minutes or so of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. As an avid news watcher- I try to catch what the most influential pundits are saying at the time.
Though Stewart is a comedian news guy- yet he usually gives you a balanced view- with a few F bombs thrown in every so often.
So his top skit was today’s vote at the U.N. [well- they won’t vote today on it] the Palestinian request for the U.N. to recognize them as a state [nation- called nation states in that part of the world].
Stewart did a pretty funny [and eye opening] skit. He had one of his reporters ‘report’ from Halifax- Nova Scotia [of course he shoots these scenes from his area- I guess?] And the skit was that the new Holy Land is actually Halifax.
That they discovered this new scroll [in his hand] and the evidence pointed to Halifax as the spot.
So as they talk the reporter also pronounces Halifax with a rolling ‘Hal’ you know- to make it sound Jewish.
So- after this new find- I guess the whole war over the ‘2 state’ solution is now resolved- right? Wrong.
On the split screen you have the Muslim reporter show up- and he makes the claim that Muhammad actually found Halifax first- he even says he has proof that ‘the prophet’ was there- they have evidence that he caught a huge fish once on a visit.
Now of course- these guys are all taking risks with this stuff- but it is funny. So the ‘Jewish’ reporter says ‘okay- show me the picture and I’ll believe it’. Of course- in Islam- it’s blasphemous to depict the prophet in a picture- so they go back and forth on the thing- The Muslim guy pronouncing Halifax with a sort of Muslim drawl [Halalafax].
The sad thing is- even though it’s a comedy show- Stewart showed us how all the religious ‘wars’ and fights- how they look to the ‘outside world’.
As I have been doing a ‘jump around’ study on the Old Testament these last few weeks- in my own study [for the posts] I am at the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah is one of the Major Prophets- he is quoted more than any other Old Testament prophet- in the N.T.
There are more famous prophecies from Isaiah- about Jesus- than any other prophet [A Virgin shall conceive and have a child].
When we read the books of the bible- we usually have pretty accurate dates on when the book was written- at what time the prophet lived.
In Isaiah’s case he gives us a specific date to his calling- in chapter 6 he says ‘in the year that king Uzziah died- I saw the Lord’.
King Uzziah [a king in Israel] died in the year 740 B.C.
If you walk down to the Mediterranean shore from Israel- you can look North West and see Italy. In the year 740 B.C. - Rome became a city. Of course it would be centuries before Rome would become the capital of the world empire- yet it was birthed as a city the same year Isaiah was called by God.
If you look west- you see Egypt, Libya and Tunisia- all places where the ‘Arab Spring’ has taken root.
It’s amazing to think- that after thousands of years- this whole area is still one of the most influential news making spots on the map.
After John the Baptist baptized Jesus- the Spirit descended on Jesus ‘like a dove’ and the bible tells us ‘the Spirit DROVE Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil’.
In Luke’s account [chapter 4] One of the first events to take place after the wilderness test- was Jesus goes into the synagogue on the Sabbath- and as ‘his custom was’ he ‘opened the book and read’.
Now that’s the way the English version reads. But it really doesn’t give you the full picture. The Jewish people [till this day] don’t have their bibles [Called Torah for Jews- Pentateuch for Christians- which are the first 5 books of the Old Testament] in book form.
They have their bibles in scroll form. It’s actually part of their worship to have these beautiful hand written scrolls- which cost thousands of dollars to make- in this form.
So when you read ‘Jesus opened the book and found the place’ it really means he unrolled the scroll- and came to the spot where the reading was marked for that day.
I have heard many preachers over the years correctly say that it was a scroll- yet they seem to think that Jesus just unrolled the thing and supernaturally came to the spot where he read from.
No- the spot was already marked out the week before- he was just reading from this predetermined spot.
Now- he reads a famous passage ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach’ and the prophecy goes on and talks about the ministry of the Messiah.
Now- for Jesus to have read this- and for the people to have heard-was nothing out of the ordinary- until what happened next.
Jesus then ‘closed the book’ and says ‘This day this prophecy has been fulfilled in your ears’ and the bible says that the eyes of everyone there were fixated on him.
Jesus read from Isaiah 61 that day- the prophet that was called 740 years earlier.
This happened right after the temptation- it was the difficulty- the tests- the very tough things he went through- it was these things that gave him the ability to speak- and for all the people to hear.
As they will present the Palestinian request today- and as this same land- where Jesus walked- Isaiah heard God- the devil tempted Jesus- as this land once again becomes the center of attention- I hope we don’t all look like the caricature that Jon Stewart showed- brilliantly- on his show.
Quite often ‘the world’ sees the church [religious fights in general] as stupid and silly. They see certain adherents willing to fight- and kill- over their beliefs.
They see a never ending feud between groups of people who are so fixated on a certain side- an issue- that it seems almost impossible to sit down and actually treat the other side as human beings- who are all indeed created in the image of God- who Jesus said ‘even if we see them as our enemy- we are to love them’.
Isaiah was a cultured man- not like most of the other prophets. He had influence in the politics of his day- and most Christians today revere his prophecies as at the top of the list- as far as prophets go.
In chapter 6- after he saw God- and heard the call- he responded ‘I am a man of unclean lips- it the middle of people who are also unclean’.
And the bible says an angel took a ‘live coal’ from the fire and put it in on the prophet’s lips. God was saying ‘Yes Isaiah- you are unclean- this whole nation is unclean- man is unclean- yet when I use people to speak to a people- it’s based on my character- not yours’.
Isaiah would fulfill the mission- and be honored by having Jesus read from his scroll on the opening day of the preaching ministry of Jesus- and for him to have said ‘today- this has been fulfilled in your ears’.
 BIBLE OVERVIEW- JOSHUA TO CHRONICLES.
I have a feeling that this week [and from here on out] we are going to be inundated with lots of scandals in the news- and before all that hits the fan- I want to do a few more posts on this brief overview of the bible that I started around a month ago.
This ‘chunk’ of scripture covers the period of the children of Israel possessing the promised land [the book of Joshua] and establishing themselves as a self governing people- no more Egyptian Pharaohs to answer to.
At the end of the book of Joshua we see that God’s people did not fully obey the Lord- they allowed some of the enemy nations to remain in the land. The history of Judges covers the period where Israel had no king [but God] yet God raised up temporary deliverers who lead them during trying times.
You had prophets too. The books of 1st and 2nd Samuel fall into this chunk of scripture- and it’s during Samuels’s time that the people ask for a king ‘like the other nations around them’.
Samuel takes this personally- but God says ‘Samuel- by asking this- they have not rejected you- but me’
So even though God’s original plan did not have a king over them- yet he grants the request. King Saul becomes the 1st king. Then we have David- and his son Solomon.
We read of the history and stories of the kings in these books.
Israel will become a divided kingdom under the son of Solomon- whose name is Rehoboam. The kingdom will split between the northern 10 tribes- referred to as Israel- and the 2 southern tribes- referred to as Judah.
The northern tribes- under king Jeroboam- will establish the city of Samaria as their capitol- and Jeroboam will set up idol worship and a false competing priesthood. Why?
He realizes that if the northern tribes continue to return every year to the south- in order to carry out their worship- then they will eventually want to ‘go home’.
So Jeroboam sets up this competing ‘religion’ in order to maintain unity for his kingdom.
The northern nation will last for around 200 years- up until the time they are taken captive by the kingdom of Assyria [around 720-30 b.c.]
The southern kingdom lasts for around 350 years- until they too are taken captive- by the Babylonians [around 580 b.c.]
An interesting note; the northern kingdoms will have 20 kings reign over them during their 200 years. And from these 20 kings- you have 9 different families/dynasties represented.
The southern kingdom will last almost twice as long- they too will have 20 kings reign during their time [both the north and the south have their own different kings]. Yet they will only have 1 family/dynasty that all their kings will come from.
That was the ‘House of David’. Why?
David is from the tribe of Judah- if you remember when we covered the history of Genesis- we ended [chapter 49] with Jacob blessing his 12 sons [the 12 tribes of Israel].
When he gets to the son/tribe Judah- he says ‘the scepter shall not depart from Judah’. This promise is later personalized to David- where God promises that one of the physical sons of David will always sit ‘on the throne’.
Now- this is where it gets interesting- this promise to David- sometimes referred to as ‘the sure mercies promised to David’. This very promise is quoted by Peter in the book of Acts- as having been fulfilled through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
That God did indeed keep his promise to David- and raised up one of his ‘sons’ [David and Jesus both come from the lineage of Judah] to take the throne- forever.
That’s good stuff- for sure.
Okay- after the kingdoms [northern and southern] are taken captive- God raises up various prophets who basically speak Gods word to the people in their various states of captivity [this is contained in the other O.T. books of the prophets].
So in a way- you just saw a panoramic view of the whole Old Testament.
Now- of course we skipped a lot of ground- didn’t get into the great defeat of Goliath by David- or talk about the confrontation between king Ahab [a wicked king from the north] and the prophet Elijah.
We did not cover the walls of Jericho falling down as the people walked around the city for 7 days.
Yes- there are lots of good stories in these books- but when we [I] do an overview like this- what we are trying to do is simply give a broad outline of what we are looking at.
The same goes for the N.T. overview we did.
Too often when new believers [or old!] make an attempt to ‘get into the bible’ they start with Genesis- and they quit in Leviticus!
It’s easy to get lost in the details- while not seeing the big picture.
So I like for believers to first go through a good overview of bible history- not so much a study of each book- which is good in its time- but more of getting a good grasp of the overriding themes.
Let’s end with an interesting encounter that Jesus had with a woman from ‘Samaria’. In John chapter 4 Jesus sees a woman at the well- he asks her ‘can you draw some water for me’. She is shocked- she says ‘why are you- a Jew- asking me- a Samaritan- to do this’.
And in parentheses- the apostle John writes [the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans]. This can actually be translated in a way that says legally the southern tribe of Judah was not allowed to do business with the northern tribe of Israel- now referred to as ‘the Samaritans’ which is the name of that original competing capitol city that Jeroboam set up in the north.
Ah- the racism- the elitism- it carried for hundreds of year- centuries of viewing the ‘other side’ as unclean.
What Jesus did at the well that day was indeed a violation of the rule of the day. When his disciples came back- and saw him talking to the woman- they were speechless.
This Samaritan woman goes on to believe in Jesus- and she goes and tells all the people in her home town- and many of them will believe too.
Something- after all those years- once again the Samaritans- and the Jews- and the Gentiles- well yes- the whole bunch- they will all become united once again under this king- this Son that has come from the royal line of Judah.
John writes about him in his strange book- called the book of Revelation- in chapter 5 he says no one was able to prevail to open the book in the hand of God.
There was crying- John and the others in this heavenly room before God felt hopeless.
Then an angel says to John ‘don’t weep- the lion FROM THE TRIBE OF JUDAH- he has prevailed to open the book and loose the seals- yes he is worthy’.
 NOT AGAIN!
Okay- because of another late breaking news story- which hit the air last night- I will attempt to write a post without having read any hard news paper coverage. But I did just check up real quick on a few on line news sites- and I think I got the jist of it.
LIGHT SQUARED is another company- connected to a major Democratic party fundraiser- that seems to have gotten special treatment [or maybe illegal suborning of perjury?] in order to get the company approved to do business.
Last week General Shelton [Air Force] gave testimony that this broadband satellite company would indeed risk the U.S.’s ability to run our defense GPS system without any private sector interference.
It seems as if this company [funded by a major inside Dem donor- once again- SOLYNDRA] wants to develop their technology- and use it in a way that would mess up our own GPS system.
So the general was asked by congress to give his professional military opinion on the thing- and the White House told him to add a few things to his presentation. He flat out said no.
The things they wanted him to add were points that would still keep ‘hope alive’ for the company- even though Shelton’s professional opinion was to the contrary.
Okay- if this is true- and this administration has a track record of doing this- then we are really headed for deep water this next year. Look- from the start of the Obama presidency I was not one of those types of critics that hated the man from the get go.
But I also noticed how many of my liberal friends were so enamored with the man- that they could not even think straight.
I was talking to a friend from N.J. one day- she’s a liberal- big time. She told me one day ‘have you ever heard a man speak like this man John- there has been no Black man that has ever spoken like this in the history of our nation’.
Now- after clearing my throat for a minute [you know- like when you get sick real quick after eating something bad] I simply told the girl ‘Do you really believe this? Or are you only watching news shows that keep feeding you that perspective’.
I told her that right now [at the time we had the conversation] there is another prominent Black Democrat- Harold Ford- a congressman from Tenn. And if you simply listen to him- without comparing him to the fake media image of Obama- then you will see that he is just as articulate- just as ‘educated’ and does a great job making Democrat points.
A few weeks later she told me ‘John- I did hear him- and you were right’.
I wasn’t demeaning to Obama at all- I was just trying to show her that for some reason- the media has chosen to support a candidate like never before.
Now- let’s say if the president realized this- that most of his insider friends realized this was happening- you might not think twice about doing special insider favors for friends- because you know these friends [the media- absent fox] will not cover it.
But alas- all has changed. Many who were cheerleaders for the president for the last 3 years- they now realize he has possibly set the party back for 50 years.
When the Queens district voted in a Repub the other night [Wieners former district] that was the first time that district went Repub in 90 years.
Okay- you did have some regional issues that played into it- that area has a strong Jewish community- and many in the Jewish community feel like Obama has thrown Israel under the bus.
But I even heard some Dems spin it- that the voters are so mad at those in office- especially the Repubs- that that’s why they threw out the Dems.
Now- how you can reason that the voters were even more mad at the Repubs- that the way they would send that message- was to vote in the first Repub in 90 years- I mean we are dealing with elements of delusion here.
Then you had a Dem [Henry Waxman] actually say ‘the Jews are more concerned with holding on to their money- so that’s why they did it’.
If this were a Repub- he’d be gone today.
I read an article the other day- it got me mad. It was a pretty long article- on the second page [okay- they thought it didn’t merit front page coverage]. It was comments made by Levi Johnson- Sarah Palin's ‘former’ son in law.
Levi is the ex boyfriend of Bristol Palin- a girl who is not in public office- she is 20 years old mind you.
This article got into the girls sex life- when she was a minor. They asked levi ‘when you got her pregnant [now you’re talking about a private citizen- a minor at the time] did IT FEEL like she was a virgin’.
Levi said as Far as he could tell- it didn’t.
Now- when my liberal friends laugh at stuff like this- and I’m standing there- I do get tempted to respond. I don’t think it’s funny- and when I watch Obermann and Matthews and O’Donnell- grown men in their 50’s/60’s- laugh openly about how ‘loose’ a minor felt when she got pregnant- that’s a disgrace.
Yet- these same media have not covered truly important stories- stories that if seem to be as bad as they look- then forget about re election campaigning [which is the reason these money guys got the special treatment] we will be lucky to not see impeachment hearings on this stuff.
So as an upfront independent- I challenge both sides of the aisle to try and get past your bias- and see what’s really going on.
When we have media that can find time- and the audacity- to print a story on Palin’s daughter- like that- then the media has lost all sense of justice.
I wanted to hit on 3 stories from Iraq- that I read this last week- but because these other things are taking the oxygen out of the room- well I had to waste time on them.
As the week ends- I am still going to keep an open mind on these things.
SOLYNDRA- LIGHT SQUARED- and don’t forget FAST AND FURIOUS. None of these stories would have gotten congressional scrutiny if the Repubs did not take back the house in the mid terms.
And now that this White House has finally gotten some real coverage- lets do our best to hear both sides. As of now- I don’t know if there is enough evidence to prove a crime has been committed- but it sure looks like one might have.
 OLD TESTAMENT SURVEY CONTINUED
Let’s do some more on our survey of the Old Testament. In the past I did a commentary on the book of Genesis- so let’s just overview it briefly today.
Like I discussed the other day- the first 11 chapters cover a lot. You have the creation account, Noah’s flood and the origination of people groups [Tower of Babel- sometimes referred to as the table of nations].
Then in chapter 12- thru the end of Genesis- you read the story of one man and his family. God appears to Abraham- promises him a few things- and then the rest of Genesis covers this family.
In chapter 12 [and 15] God makes a covenant [promise] to Abraham. God says if you leave your home town- go to a place that I will show you [he goes by faith- doesn’t even know the final destination yet] then I will make you into a great nation- I will give you all the land and you will be a blessing to all nations.
The story continues with Abraham’s son Isaac- then to Jacob. Jacob’s name is changed to Israel- he has his 12 sons and they eventually go to Egypt and multiply.
Jacobs’s sons betray the favored son- Joseph- and they sell him into slavery. Eventually Joseph gains favor in Egypt and becomes the top administrator under Pharaoh. The land experiences a severe famine and the other boys who betrayed Joseph have to find food- in Egypt!
They go back to Egypt- they eventually have to confront Joseph and he forgives them and the entire family of Jacob [Israel] moves into Egypt [Goshen].
Genesis ends with the original promise of becoming a great nation only partly fulfilled. Though Abraham’s family did become huge- yet Abraham dies without possessing any land in the Promised Land- except his burial spot.
The book ends with some terrific promises that Jacob gives to the boys- this is a type of patriarchal blessing that the father passes on to the sons. A death bed blessing. And the sons go away with the final word from dad [a few ‘blessings’ are actually rebukes].
Okay- pretty simple- you just learned the whole book of Genesis- not that hard. Over viewing the bile like this is important [for those who want to learn] because it keeps the focus on the main thing.
Many people start out reading the bible with good intentions- and the first 2 books are interesting [Genesis, Exodus] but then you do get a little bogged down in Numbers and Leviticus and stuff.
If you get a basic overview of what’s going on- that God is ‘presenting’ Jesus to us- at an early stage- thru all these stories- then it helps to not get lost in the details.
Eventually these promises that God makes to Abraham get fulfilled- and the apostle Paul [and Peter- Acts] see the fulfilling of God blessing all nations thru Abrahams son- they say that this promise is today fulfilled thru Christ- one of the sons [down the line] of Abraham.
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians- chapter 3- he refers to this Abrahamic blessing and says it’s the promise of the Spirit being given to all who believe- that the blessing is being justified by faith thru Christ.
When we cover the 2nd book of the Pentateuch [Torah- the first 5 books of the Old Testament] Exodus- we will see the tables turn on the Jewish people- they multiply so much in Egypt that a new pharaoh will arise and begin persecuting the people.
This leads to the story of Moses- the Ten Commandments and the continued sags of ‘Abraham and his kids’. Okay- try and read some of these books the next week or so. Read a few of the key chapters I mentioned. I would also say read Genesis 22- the story of Abraham offering up his son Isaac on the altar.
This took place on a mountain called Moriah- which is the same mountain that God will offer his Son on many years later- Calvary.
Obviously this chapter is a key chapter in the story.
Okay- that’s it for now- and to all men friends in the North East- be careful. I’m praying for you all. Earthquakes- Hurricanes- yes it’s tough.
You are all in my prayers.
 THIS ROCK
A few weeks ago I mentioned how I want to try and cover the Sunday Mass readings every now and then. I watch the Mass every Sunday [as well as hold a Protestant meeting- home meeting] and I wanted to hit on the verses so my Catholic friends can get a little more into bible study.
Last week one of the readings was from Isaiah 56- the week before chapter 55. These chapters sort of cover one of the main themes that I spoke about during our overview of the letters of the N.T.
If you remember- one of the ‘mysteries’ we spoke about was the truth that in Christ- all ethnic groups are now one in Christ. This was spoken about in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. In Isaiah we read about God bringing all nations to Christ ‘you will call a nation that you do not know- and nations that do not know you will come running to you’ ‘My fathers house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’- Jesus quotes this verse when he throws out the Money Changers from the temple. Another one ‘whoever is thirsty- come- drink of this water freely’ the themes of these 2 chapters is God is inviting all groups- they can come and make this Covenant with God.
God is opening the door for all groups to make it in!
On my site- a while back I made some friends from various countries- Muslim countries. I actually did a teaching on Islam- in a positive way- not to ‘trick’ Muslims to convert- but because I felt the anti Muslim feeling in the West- with the world facing so many geo political problems- that we needed to take some positions as Christians that were more gracious to people in general.
Now- I know I too ‘hit hard’ on my site- sure. But I do believe God wants us to live peaceably with ‘all men’. That friends from other religious backgrounds- if they are going through very hard times- then we need to do what we can to help them.
Every conversation with a young Muslim person- who might be struggling with the problems taking place in their nation- we need to also be able to do ‘justly’ see that many of their nations have been oppressive- and all the young people in these nations are not radical Muslims.
Many are women who have been treated badly by the leaders- because the leaders are strict Muslims. So for these people- we need to say ‘yes we see your situation- we are praying for you’ we can’t simply think all the problems will be solved if we only preach to them- without also acting justly- seeing their plight and being concerned and speaking out.
Okay- that’s the main reason I connected with some of these friends. At the same time- obviously I teach the bible- and I hope lots of these friends from various groups [Jews, Muslims, etc..] that they can see that Christianity is not based on the West- or a certain view of Christianity- but its Gods free offering to all men/women ‘come- drink- accept the free gift- it’s for you!’
So of course I want all my friends to feel free to take the benefits that God has given to us- while also respecting them if they choose to worship their own way.
So- this week we saw that in the N.T. the death and resurrection of Christ was Gods way of saying ‘whoever wants to come- come!’. Christ died for everyone- we can all get in.
The prophet Isaiah said this years ago- that God would bring all nations and ethnic groups to ‘his holy mountain’ [kingdom] he would make them joyful- he will accept their gifts [prayers and thanks] and that he is doing all these things for the benefit of all nations- not just one.
As we close the week- go and read these chapters- to my Catholic friends – see what chapters will be in the Mass this Sunday- when you get home after the Mass- read them.
The bible says Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone of the spiritual building called ‘the church’. The bible says many people stumbled over this stone- they were offended at him.
Jesus asked once ‘Who do men say that I am’- Peter said ‘You are the Christ- the Son of the blessed’. Jesus says ‘Blessed are you Peter- flesh and blood did not reveal this to you- but my Father who is in heaven’ and Jesus went on to say ‘Upon this Rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’
Later on in Peters letter’s- he says we are spiritual stones in this spiritual temple- and Jesus is the main Rock. All the bible hinges on him- we must see everything as it relates to ‘This Rock’.
God made provisions for all people thru his Son- he said ‘whoever wants to drink- drink- come freely- without charge- it’s for you too’.
 WHO’S THE DODO BIRD NOW?
Let’s try and get a few things in today.
First- the overview of the last couple of days- I think stuff like that is important. I have lots of friends from different religious backgrounds and nations. Some are Muslim, some are Jewish- others hold to eastern religions.
I want everyone to have a grasp on what the message of Christianity is- it often gets lost in the debates that rage between nations and various political stances- yet the main message of the bible is that Christ died to pay for the sins of all mankind- and God saves/receives people on the grounds of his Son having died for us.
The Old Covenant [the law] was based on man trying real hard to be good- he could never live up to the standard. Then the New Covenant was established- which was based on this free gift of eternal life- Jesus paid the price- we receive salvation as a gift- not as a matter of works.
I’ll do more on the basics the next few weeks- but I wanted to at least hit these truths for a few days.
Okay- as a Texan I stated a while ago that I’m not particularly a fan of Rick Perry. In many ways I do not fit the political mold of ‘the right’ or the left. I also realized that if Perry jumped into the fray- well the left would use that with all their might to play on the divisions of the country.
MSNBC has showed no shame in saying that the Evangelical Protestants are nuts- and the Catholics [Lawrence O’Donnell says this a lot] are the stable folk. Now- as a Christian- I see myself more and more as a composite of all the great historic faiths.
Anyone who has read my blog for a while can easily see that. I have actually had to correct Catholic news guys- quite often- when they misrepresent their own church. So I think the lefts agenda to feed into this divide- for purely political purposes- is bad.
Last night I was channel surfing and I hit Gore’s station- current T.V. They had Shuster filling in for Olbermann. He was teasing a segment on Perry- you know- saying now that he’s in the race- well damn it- we are not gonna let him get away with his lies!
So Shuster kept saying ‘Perry’s misleading you about the job growth in Texas- we’ll uncover his lies in a moment’. Okay- I’m fair-minded- not really a Perry guy- I’ll listen.
He goes on and plays a clip where Perry states- carefully- that since June of 2009- over 40 % of the new jobs created in the country came from Texas.
Now- the last few weeks I have heard various pundits use this figure- sometimes they would exaggerate and say around 50 %.
So I figured Shuster and the crew had something on the man- they did report- as news- that he lied.
Then Shuster gave the scoop- he said first of all- many new people have moved to the state of Texas [okay- listening] and that many of the new jobs created in the state were service related—restaurants- etc. [okay- still listening] and that many of these jobs are not high paying- and therefore Perry lied.
Well someone lied for sure- but it wasn’t Perry.
Then I caught a clip of the channels owner [Gore] going off the rails. This past week was bad news for the global warming crowd [I’m not an absolute denier by the way]. I saw/heard the clip a couple of times- Gore was at some meeting and he freaked out- he was saying ‘those who say the earth is not warming- bull s^%$t. Those who deny this/that- bull s---t.’ I mean it sounded like one of my posts on a bad day.
I guess the pressure got to him- lots of folk are rejecting the science behind global warming. Let me say- I have never deeply looked into it- but as a big news guy I hear both sides. The other day I read a news article- it was a small article hidden in the paper- but it said that we now have scientific proof that the pollution trapped under the ozone layer- is in fact contributing to the COOLING of the planet.
The article explained the actual pollution particles do act as a sort of sun block- and they block some of the sun’s rays from getting in- thus cooling the planet.
Now- this report was not on Fox- or Rush- it was in a plane Jane news paper. I mean even as a casual reader of the subject- I had to laugh. I mean this is the exact opposite argument that Gore has made.
Then- for the first time ever- I watched Gores global warming flick. It came on after the news show I watch on his station. Sure enough- he shows a sort of cartoon graphic that shows the sun- and the rays of the sun penetrating thru the ozone layer surrounding the planet. And then the cartoon shows the ray bouncing off the earth- but when it gets back up to the ozone layer- well the ray gets stuck inside- it can’t get out.
He then went on to explain that the pollution [co2] is causing this effect- and that’s why the globe is melting.
Now- I had just read the news article- and it was obvious to ask ‘well Mr. Gore- how come when you show the graphic- the rays have no problem getting in- the pollution does not block anything from getting in- yet when the same ray wants to bounce back out- it can’t’.
I mean it wasn’t that hard to see that there were real problems with his idea- and I guess the world is finding out a little faster than he wished.
The other day I read an article on Evolution. It showed one of the most famous ‘proofs’ for evolution. Those who have read the pros and cons on the thing- well we all know about the famous bird/dinosaur fossil that was found around 150 years ago.
This fossil has been used as proof for the theory- for 150 years. Now- this extinct looking bird does look like it came from the pre historic world. But I have heard- for 20 years at least- the creationists say that this fossil is not a bird fossil at all- that is simply a flying dinosaur.
Now- there are ways scientists can tell this stuff from fossils- it would take too long to try and explain the whole thing [plus- I don’t know the whole thing!]. But we know in our day that birds have completely different body structures than dinosaurs. Birds do not have lungs- they have hollow bones and when they fly the air goes thru their body- and that’s how they oxygenate their bodies.
That’s why you never see a bird breathing heavy- or breathing at all after it lands- they don’t breathe like animals who have lungs.
Okay- for various reasons the evolutionary community needed to show that they found a bird/dinosaur fossil- it was needed to fill in the blank between dinosaurs turning into birds- which is part of evolutionary theory.
I have heard scientists argue- time and again- that the creationists were doing fake science when they claimed this fossil was really a dinosaur- not a bird [Flying dinosaur- but a dinosaur never the less]. And these scientists would say all true science has proven- beyond a Shadow of a doubt- that this particular fossil was indeed a bird.
Okay- the article I just read said ‘surprise- Chinese scientists have just discovered that the so called bird- well it’s a dinosaur’!
You know- you hear things all the time- from sources of media- people who sware they are telling the truth ‘Perry is lying about creating 40 % of the nations jobs’ and then when you look at the numbers- well the news guy was lying.
Yet these same advocates- who it was already leaked that they were going to do a smear campaign- they want to tell us how they are so smart- and the rest of the country are a bunch of duped Tea Partiers. Yeah- that’s the smart crowd- the ones who were worshipping at the foot of a 150 year old bird for past century and a half- and Walla- they were really worshipping a dinosaur instead.
The apostle Paul said [Romans] that people loved and served the creation- rather than the creator. And as a judgment God have them up to become like the thing they worshipped. Wow- can’t get better than then- can it?
 MORE ON THE BIBLE
Let’s cover a little more doctrinal stuff- and if I get a chance I’ll do some practical stuff too. Okay- in the last post I covered some historical stuff about the bible- I mentioned how Catholics have 15 more books in their bibles than Protestants.
Why did this happen- or how? Okay- this might get a little technical, but those of you who have been reading my posts this past month will remember that I covered some ‘Intertestamental’ history- which means the years between the last book of the Protestant bible [Malachi] and the first New Testament book- Matthew.
These years are actually covered historically in the Apocrypha- during this time we also had a translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek. Remember how I spoke about Hellenization- which was the attempt by Alexander the Great to introduce one Greek language and culture into all the conquered territories.
Well one of the things the Greeks did was had the Jewish bible [our Old Testament] translated from Hebrew into Greek. This version is called the Septuagint- which gets its name from the so called number of scholars who translated it- it means 70.
Okay- this version was also popular in the early church- why? The early believers did read Greek- Greek was the common language of the first few centuries- when the church was born. [thus our New Testament is in Greek- originally]
Now- the early Christians had sort of a common consensus on what made up ‘the bible’. They accepted the Old Testament books- because these books were recognized by the Jews as being Canonical [which means inspired by God]. But what about the N.T.?
Like I said in the last post- the early church had a collection of writings that they used/understood to be ‘from God’. That is they had the acceptance- generally- from the Christian community. But they did not have ‘a bible’ like we have today- that is everyone walking around with a bible in book form [called codex in those days- an early book] they all did not own copies of the bible.
Remember- publishing as we know it today- didn’t arrive on the scene until right around the turn of the 16th century with the Guttenberg printing press. So any copies of books- or any efforts to put a bible together- well it would make sense to maybe include some history books along with it.
And this is also why some of the early letters seem to have ‘copied’ parts of other letters in them [Jude and 2nd Peter] not because they were plagiarized- but because books were not easily purchased- and it was acceptable- for standards of the day- to include some material from another writers pen [with his permission] in your own letter.
Okay- now when the early believers decided it was time to actually say ‘these books are in- these are not’. They had general agreement on what was in- with a few exceptions. Some early believers had the Letter of Barnabus in their bibles- others did not have Revelation. Some believers haggled over 2nd Peter [because of what I mentioned above] and others wanted a few more books in.
But the basic corpus of our N.T. was accepted by the church at large.
Now- after a few centuries the church felt it important to put her stamp of approval on the books. And the early church had a council or 2 and finally agreed on what we have today.
One of the early Popes asked a church father- named Jerome- to make a Latin translation of the bible. Jerome included the Old Testament and the N.T. - and he also included the 15 books of the Apocrypha. Why?
Jerome’s bible- called the Vulgate- was translated from the early Greek Old Testament- the Septuagint. Now- the Septuagint is/was a good scholarly work- but the original Old Testament was in Hebrew- not Greek. The Septuagint did have the Apocrypha in it.
And the inclusion of the Apocrypha was a utilitarian thing to do- if you could get these historical books in the bible- then good- you don’t have to have early believers trying to get hold of a separate history book that would fill in the blanks- remember- books were hard to come by.
Okay- Catholics and Protestants have argued over whether these extra books should be in. Protestants [and some Catholics] argue that the Old Testament books are called ‘the Law and the Prophets’ these books are quoted hundreds of times in the N.T. - even by Jesus. Yet there are no quotes from the Apocrypha.
This side argues that the Jewish people did not believe these books to be inspired- and that the N.T. itself does not put the same weight on these books as they do with the Old Testament.
The Catholic scholars argue that there are a few allusions to the Apocrypha in the N.T. [there are a couple- can go either way in my view] and they do make the point that all the bibles did have these books in them right up until the Protestant Reformation [remember- the Latin Vulgate did have the Apocrypha- though Jerome did say in the notes that the Jewish people did not recognize them on an equal plain with the ‘Law and the Prophets’- the Old Testament].
Okay- then during the 16th century Protestant Reformation- at one point in the debates the Catholic scholars argued with Luther- and they did quote from the Apocrypha to prove some doctrinal points.
Luther and the other Reformers challenged the canonicity of the books- and with the plethora of English versions of the bible being printed for the first time in centuries- the Protestants did not include these books in their versions.
The Catholics stuck with the books.
Okay- do debates like this mean we can’t agree on the actual message of Christ? No. There is really no problem in reading the Apocrypha- even if you’re a Protestant. We [Protestants] don’t accept them as ‘canon’ yet as readers of history- we should be able to read them.
And even if our Catholic brothers and sisters do accept them- there are really no major doctrinal departures from the rest of the bible. To be honest- there are a few references that Protestants do have problems with- but overall they don’t undermine the main message of the N.T.
And just a point of interest- the first 2 books [1st, 2nd Esdras] have been challenged- even by Catholic scholars- as not being part of the bible. Yet in 2nd Esdras we find a reference to Christ that does seem to be prophetic. It speaks of a king entering Jerusalem and he is standing in the middle of the people- handing out Palms.
This depicts the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem- which is in the gospels [Palm Sunday]. So it is interesting that this reference might actually be prophetic in nature.
Okay- got into the weeds somewhat- but wanted to show you guys that all Christians agree on the main points- and just because there are things we disagree on- yet the message of the Cross doesn’t change.
Bishop Fulton Sheen used to say ‘we might not all be able to sit in the same pew- but we can all meet on our knees under the shadow of the foot of the Cross’ Amen.
 OVERVIEW OF THE BIBLE
Let’s cover some biblical history- that is the making of the bible itself. A few days ago I did a post on Jesus as the fulfillment of the promises of God made to natural Israel. The post showed how the early Jewish people saw Jesus as their Messiah- the promised one that they were always looking for.
The earliest mention of the promise goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. God tells Eve that her child shall bruise the serpent’s head- and the serpent [actually the ‘seed’ or child] will bruise his heel. There have been works of art [statues/paintings] depicting this scene for centuries. It was fulfilled at the Cross.
So we have the 4 gospel accounts- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John- and these accounts give us the history of Jesus- his miracles and teachings- and they show us the fulfillment of God’s promise- made centuries before- that he would send them their Messiah.
Out of the 4 gospels- only one- John- has a different outline. The first 3- we call them Synoptic gospels. They follow the same basic structure- Johns stands alone.
John’s gospel contains no teachings about the end times- like the others. John doesn’t mention the parables- or the Sermon on the Mount. John’s gospel focuses more on the last week of the life of Christ- while the others cover the 3 years of Jesus earthly ministry [none cover the early years of Jesus- except for the account of Jesus being left behind at the temple when he was 12 years old].
The whole bible [Old and New testaments] have 66 books- 39 Old- 27 new. Only 3 original apostles actually wrote parts of the N.T. Matthew, John and Peter. Out of these 3- John wrote the most. He has his gospel- the three epistles [1st,2nd and 3rd John] and the book of Revelation.
The majority of the N.T. is made up of the collection of the apostle Paul’s letters. Paul is without a doubt the most influential person in the N.T.- besides Christ.
We also have the historical account of the early church- called The Acts of the Apostles- written by the same Luke that wrote the gospel. Luke was a doctor- and an historian. Then you have what’s called the General epistles- the kind of stand alone letters- Peters 2 letters, Jude, a few more like that.
And the New Testament closes with the apocalyptic book [prophecy] of Revelation- written by John [most think the apostle- some think another John- called ‘John of Patmos’]
Okay- one of the major themes of the N.T. is what we hit on the other day- a teaching called Justification by Faith. This is the main thrust of Paul’s doctrinal epistles [Romans, Galatians] and becomes a point of contention in the early church. The teaching is simple- it means the N.T. is a covenant- made by God with man [and with Jesus] that says God will give eternal life to all those who accept the death and resurrection of Jesus. That Jesus died for the sins of man- and because you believe in this free gift- your are/will be saved.
Now- the bible obviously says a lot more than this- but this doctrine becomes one of the main ones because this is the controversy that the apostle Paul dealt with for most of his ministry years.
I mentioned this the other day in a previous post.
Paul also has 3 epistles [letters] that are called The Pastoral epistles- these are 1st, 2nd Timothy and Titus. These are called Pastorals because these young men were protégés of Paul- he trained them up as local leaders who he could recommend to the early believers as trustworthy leaders- after he would leave a community.
These men did not function like what we usually call Pastors in our day- that is sort of a speaker preaching every Sunday at the ‘Main church’ building- but they were spiritual overseers- they led the flock in a way that if problems arose- these men could be looked to as honest guides.
Remember- in the 1st century- you did not have means of communication like we have today- so if Paul left a community [which is what the word church means in the bible- Greek- Ecclesia]. And if a problem rose up- like those who were coming in and saying the Gentiles had to become circumcised and keep the law- then the believers could look to the men Paul left his stamp of approval on.
Paul would of course correspond with these early communities- thus the letters- but until the letters arrived- the ‘Timothy’s’ would do.
Okay- the last book of the bible- Revelation- has gotten a lot of use- often too much- in the sense that we- especially lone wolf Protestant groups- have really done loops with the book.
Overall- the theme is about Christ [Lamb of God] being the central focus of this new kingdom of Priests and Kings [us] and even though there will be tough times [lots of the images of tests and trials] yet at the end of the day- we are ‘married’ to this Lamb [Jesus is called the groom in scripture- and the church is called the bride. God restores in the last book of the bible- what was lost in the first book- relationship- pictured as marriage] and we all live in a new heaven and new earth- and the story ends well.
Okay- just a few more points. The main message of the bible is that God made man [Genesis] he wanted man to be in communion [friendship] with him. Man sinned and this began the long process of God making promises to man [through/to the nation of Israel- and eventually it would extend to all men- thus the apostle Paul working with the Gentiles] that he would save man thru the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
All people who simply accept this benefit- they will be children of God. The focus should not be on anti Christ- or when the end of the world will happen- or on any other of a host of teachings that the church likes to dwell on- but the focus is God loving man so much- that he sent his Son to die for man- and we can be saved thru him.
Over the coming weeks I hope to do a little more on the development of the bible- why do protestants have 66 books- and Catholics have an extra 15? I’ll cover it fairly- giving the Catholic view as well as the Protestant one- and promise not to push only one view. But things like this are real questions that honest people have- and I want to help people get a better hold on the thing.
Okay- try and read some of the N.T. these next few days- overview some of the letters I mentioned- maybe read John’s gospel- Romans. I would wait on Revelation for now- I hope to give some hints that will make it easier to understand- so after I cover that a little more- then that would be a good one to read too.
And as you read Johns gospel- notice how many times the word Believe appears- being connected with those who believe have eternal life. That’s one of the strongest promises in the bible- and its Jesus doing the talking! So maybe memorize a few of them- like the famous John 3:16 verse- those types of verses last a lifetime- and longer.
 THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA
I was gonna wait till next week to post- but there has been some important news stuff going on- and last night S&P actually downgraded our rating [from AAA to AA+]. So let’s do some today.
Of course last week we finally raised the debt ceiling- our debt will now hit around 17 trillion [wow] until the next raise. I found it interesting to see how the media try’s to tell the public what they think is best- and they actually lie quite a bit.
A few weeks back CNN started a new show with Fahreed Zakariah- I thought I would like it- Fahreed is somewhat of an intellectual and I have heard him in debates before. The only drawback I saw [in the past] was he seemed to take one position- and defend it vigorously- and then take the other side at another time- and sware that this time he was right.
Okay- during the debt ceiling debate- many on the left described the ‘Tea Party’ as nuts- terrorists, psycho’s- the whole deal. It did get a little ridiculous after a while. I saw Fahreed- you know- the smart guy- he tried to give an in intellectual argument to why the Tea Party was ‘subverting the constitution- and actually bringing down the Democracy’ what? Yes- he explained how our govt. has 3 branches- and when one party [Dems] hold 2 [Pres, Senate] that if a minority of the 3rd branch [Tea Part- minority in the house] ‘take hostage’ the country- then they have actually subverted the Republic.
He then went on to attack the whole Tea Party mantra- their idea of cuts without taxes- everything. He then explained that the entire world has compared us to Europe [now it gets bad] and that even Europe looks good compared to us- he said that the Europeans have actually ‘shown the world’ that they are very reasonable compared to the U.S. in their dealing responsibly with their debt crisis.
Now- the very next day- because of European fears [no matter what anyone says- they have not solved their debt problem- it has actually spread this week- Italy is on the edge right now] we began to see the market collapse [dow went to 11,300 from a high of 12,500]. There are many reasons that this happened- but one of the main ones is the fear that the European debt crisis might spread to the globe.
So- the night before Fahreed said the world compared us to Europe- and the reasons we are in trouble is because we did not act responsibly- like Europe.
Then when asked ‘overall- is it at least good that we made the deal and avoided default’ he said no- and then made the actual Tea Party case to defend his position. He said that the deal only cuts a few billion in the beginning years [which he has advocated before!] and then he said- the way congress spends- ‘there’s no guarantee that they will ever stick to the cuts’. This is the exact argument the Tea Party made- to the tee!
That’s why they fought for a constitutional amendment- which Fahreed does not want.
Okay- then MSNBC had on an addiction specialist [I kid you not] to analyze the mental health of the tea party. Martin Bashir asked this guy to explain the danger of the Tea Party. The shrink went on to explain that when addicts have unrealistic expectations [Tea Party- cuts and no taxes= want dugs to make me happy] that they will resort to any means to get what they want [Heroin addict- give me your money or I’ll shoot. Tea Party- do the cuts or well not vote for a debt increase] when addicts do not see the danger of their unrealistic expectations- then yes- you get Oslo, Norway. You must be kidding- they had a guy on the air- comparing the position of the right to the guy who killed 80 people in Norway- and he [like Fahreed] tried to make it sound respectable.
On the news last night- before the downgrade- the jobs numbers came out for July. Now- news addicts like myself watch these things closely. The ‘left’ wants real bad to have some good news for the average folk. If the numbers are bad [under 200,000 new jobs is bad] then that doesn’t help. But there was no way the numbers would be above 200 thousand- I mean no one predicted that. They were hoping that they would at least be around 100,000- and not like the last report- where they hoped for 100 thousand and got around 18,000.
So as I perused the talking heads [ABC, CBS, NBC] of course they talked about the ‘number’ of unemployment dropping to 9.1 from 9.2- the number that I was waiting to see was the actual jobs number- how many new jobs were created last month?
Instead- I saw a screen graphic [you know- Lemmings like graphics- they think if they show the public anything- well they will never know] and it showed 230,000 new jobs [what!] and the unemployment dropping to 9.1 [from 9.2].
I immediately new they were lying- they were gonna show what they wanted to show you- and if they can tell you their story- any way they can- they will.
So- the small print [under the 230,000 jobs number] was the total manufacturing jobs gained- get this- since 12-09. What? Why take one sector- and go back to Dec. of 2009- and then add it up and show on the screen ‘230,000’ new jobs. Well, that’s the only jobs number [230,000- for total jobs from July] that would fit with the picture ‘unemployment went down to 9.1’. [Note- the reason 130,000 new jobs does not lower the overall rate is because that does not even keep up with the population growth of the country- we get over 100,000 new people seeking jobs every month]
No other jobs number would work. So they simply lied- they gave you a picture- false- and thought ‘you know- the average folk- we tell them what we think they should hear’.
So how did the unemployment number drop to 9.1? There are various factors that make up the number- some months you have natural weather disasters [snow storms] and people simply don’t go looking for work- that skews the number. Other months- people have been out of work so long- they give up- that skews the number.
But if the total jobs were only 130,000- then you know for a fact- that the real number didn’t drop a decimal Point- cant happen.
So more than likely some people didn’t go job shopping last month- and that skewed the number. But- the media knew they needed you to see the headline ‘230,000 new jobs’ and ‘unemployment down- 9.2 to 9.1’ and by golly- they found a way to make that happen.
Now- I hate to say [well actually I don’t hate it] ‘I told you so’ but heck- I did! If you go back and read/check the last months posts- somewhere in there I said ‘people must be nuts to be in the stock market right now’ now- I gave the caveat ‘I’m not telling you to get out’ but I then went on and said ‘if you’re smart- get out’.
Every media financial guy that was on the air- bar none- said ‘to the average investor- don’t panic- stay in the market’. Yet- in the past few weeks- 98% of trades that were done by these professional fund managers- who manage 401 k’s- 98 % were trades fleeing the stocks and going into bonds. Why? The Dow was at 12,500 [too high in my view] and we were facing all types of bad news. The Greek debt crisis [now more than Greece] the entire U.S. housing market is still a mess- and will be for a long time. The jobs numbers are terrible- and every indicator tells me these next few years are not going to be good.
So- if the odds of the economy getting worse are very high- then why take the risk of staying in right on the verge of a possible collapse? I know we can’t ‘time the market’- but heck- all those fund managers thought you could. Look- there was [is] no chance that the market was gonna hit 13,000 in the next few weeks- and a very great chance that it would collapse- then get your money out for the danger week/month- and if the sky doesn’t fall- then you can get back in- there was no chance you were going to miss a bull market- none.
But all the guys on the news said ‘stay in- hang in there’ and at the same time they- and all the professional funds they managed- they all jumped ship- left the stocks and fled for safety- while telling you ‘you can’t time the market’ yes- we are the lemmings.
Okay- then last night- well the S&P downgraded us- for the first time ever. Why? Well besides all the stuff I just mentioned- they felt the debt deal did not go far enough- that we needed to at least cut 4 trillion in spending over 10 years- we did about half that.
The defenders of the president were out in numbers- blaming the S&P for bad math [yeah- they did make a mistake- but that doesn’t change the overall picture one iota] and the reality is- the global economy is in trouble. Now- when you downgrade an entity [state, city, nation- bank, etc.] that means that entity has to pay you more interest if you buy their debt [treasury bonds]. But the last few weeks we have seen all the professional money fleeing stocks- and yes- going into U.S. bonds. Look- these investors know the scoop- S&P didn’t reveal anything that we didn’t already know- so the fact is- yeah it’s bad that we got downgraded- but the other investment options are so bad- that at the end of the day- people are still buying U.S. debt.
In high school I had a teacher- Mr. Steinberg. Mr. Steinberg was not ‘cool’ as a matter of fact- he seemed a little nerdy. He was Jewish- and at times wore a Star of David necklace- it was big- it was like he was asking for the persecution.
I liked Mr. Steinberg- and respected him for not being ashamed of his faith. It was in his class [English] that I was introduced to the great classics. Grapes of Wrath, Old man and the sea- all the classics. After we covered a book- he would check the TV Guide and when the made for TV movie was on- he assigned us to watch it.
Both of the above books/movies became favorites of mine- till this day I’ll watch them when they pop up on the classic channel. I actually have the Grapes of Wrath book sitting right here.
But the movie- Old man and the Sea- enthralled me. The struggle of the old man- his fight with the great fish- his arm wrestling bouts with the younger guys- the whole mystique was my thing.
The author- Hemingway- was himself a ‘mans man’ he lived large- took in all the experiences of life- and embraced a philosophy of life called Nihilism. This world view was popularized by men like Sartre, Camus and Freud. It basically is atheistic and says ‘there is no real meaning to life- man is a ‘useless passion’- he exists, only for the purpose of experiencing life- when the pain exceeds the pleasure- that the responsible thing to do is check out’. Yes- this philosophy advocates suicide.
Sartre [John Paul Sartre] actually said that the only philosophical question left is suicide- that we need to ask ourselves- as a society- should we allow ourselves to check out- for the good of the whole- when the pain exceeds the pleasure.
Another great work of Hemingway is titled ‘the Sun also rises’. He took the title from the biblical book of Ecclesiastes- written by Solomon [you know- to everything there is a season]. Solomon also embraces a sort of nihilistic view in this book- though it is in the bible- it is a form of literature called ‘pessimistic wisdom literature’. Sort of the philosophy Hemingway embraced.
Hemingway spoke about this view all thru out his life- though he was a brilliant writer- he had no hope ‘in the world’ [Apostle Paul]. One night, after he went to bed with his wife- he woke up- went downstairs and rigged up his favorite hunting rifle- and blew his head off. His daughter followed him a few years later.
I don’t know what’s down the road for our world right now- there are many people feeling hopeless today because they have lost- yes once again- a big portion of their wealth. As Christians we can say ‘yes- life is hard- we struggle at times- but in the end our struggles are working out a higher purpose- we have meaning in life’ but the atheist/nihilist- to them there is no redemptive purpose to the struggle- when the pain exceeds the pleasure- well yes- they check out.
Over the next few weeks- wherever you are at- think for yourself. If all the professional investors take their money out of stocks- and at the same time they advise you different- then stop listening to them. If your mad at the right [or left] then don’t keep watching people who are coming up with diagnosis’ that say the country is being run by actual Oslo killers- that’s just not true- no matter how much you might hate their point of view.
And at the end of the day- we as believers- we do have hope in the world. Mr. Steinberg wore that star of David- proudly. And in a recent post [Last?] I spoke about the promise that God made to king David- that he would raise up one of his sons and this Son would rule on the throne for ever. Yes- today this promise has been fulfilled through Christ- who sits at the right hand of God.
I don’t know- maybe I’ll rent the Old man and the Sea later [I tried in the past but couldn’t find it] and I’ll see the struggle of the old man [played excellently by Spencer Tracy] but instead of embracing his creators view [that is his earthly creator- Hemingway] I’ll ‘give’ my sufferings up- as the Catholics say- I’ll offer them to the Lord. Hemingway took the cowards way out- at the end of the day- he wasn’t the man we thought he was- he copped out.
 CALLING ALL ANGELS
Let’s try and do some teaching today. A few weeks back I mentioned how I kept ‘stumbling’ upon bible verses that speak about angels- especially Gabriel and Michael. I mentioned how I was praying for Persia [geez- who prays for Persia?] and I started praying for God to send Gabriel and Michael to ‘war’ against any leaders who were wicked.
Okay- this all started at a time when I was doing a teaching on Islam- and was [and still am] praying a lot about the Arab Spring. Anyway- one morning- after praying like this- I felt the Lord leading me to read Daniel [I think chapter 8?].
Anyway as I read the chapter- God says ‘I heard your prayer- and I have sent Gabriel and Michael to go and war against the prince of Persia’. Man- you can’t make stuff like this up. Anyway- I actually had a few more of these ‘angel signs’ that I didn’t get into. The other day I mentioned how when I woke up- I felt the Lord wanted me to read Revelation 12- sure enough- there you have Michael warring against the dragon- helping the woman who is being attacked. Then this morning- I felt like we should do Luke chapter 1. And again- you have Gabriel telling Zacharias that his sons name will be John. And Gabriel communicating with the Virgin Mary.
I just found it strange that I have been bumping into all these angel chapters- I mean I do realize the bible has accounts of angels- but the odds on accidently hitting all these chapters- while not looking for them- it’s not that easy.
Okay- when we read the bible [which I hope you guys are doing] it’s easy to read straight thru the gospels- and not notice the details. Luke’s gospel has more accounts of women speaking- their dialogue- than any other gospel. Some scholars think Luke actually interviewed the Virgin Mary in his compilation of his gospel.
Marks gospel refers to Jesus as ‘the Son of man’- Matthews gospel uses the term Kingdom of Heaven in place of Kingdom of God. Out of all the titles used for Jesus- the term Son of Man is the 3rd most popular. Jesus Christ [Messiah] and Son of God are popular- but the term Son of Man comes from the vision that the prophet Daniel had.
It’s interesting to note- that even though this term is ‘less honorable’ than the others- yet when Jesus is referring to himself- it is the most common term that he uses.
In Luke chapter 1- we see an interesting thing. When the angel Gabriel [the only angels given names in the bible are Gabriel and Michael] speaks to Mary and Zacharias [John the Baptist’s dad] they take the good news as an answer to the promises that God made to the Jewish nation years before. Both Mary and John’s dad say ‘you have kept the promise you made to Abraham- you have kept the promise made to King David’.
What promise? Right at the beginning of the biblical story [Genesis] we see God interacting with man- he chooses Abraham to start a ‘conversation’ with. This journey eventually leads to the birthing of the nation of Israel. Abraham has Isaac- Isaac has Jacob- and Jacobs name is changed to Israel- and he has 12 sons [the 12 tribes of Israel].
Down the line comes a great king who will rule over Israel- his name was David. God made promises to David [like he did to Abraham] and one of those promises was God would raise up a son to David- who would sit on ‘the throne forever’. Now- this is one of those prophecies that is a dual prophecy- that is some of the language used is speaking about Solomon- David’s son- and some is fulfilled thru Christ.
In Luke one- they are praising God for raising up this promised king- a Son of David- who will sit on David’s throne. These promises were very real among the Jewish people of the 1st century.
Now- it would take way too much time to try and explain the various theological arguments that have taken place about this promise- that Jesus would inherit the Throne of his father David. Suffice it to say- that when you read the sermons in the book of Acts- especially Peter’s- you see them speaking about the resurrection and ascension of Jesus as the main fulfillment of this promise. Peter says that the actual promise that a son of David would sit on the throne ‘forever’ could only be fulfilled thru somebody who would live forever- thus pointing to the resurrection of Christ.
The early Jewish believers/apostles all accepted Jesus as the fulfillment of the promise that God had made to Abraham and David. God told Abraham that he too would have a son that would bless all nations [Jews and gentiles] and the apostle Paul uses this a lot when talking about the gentile church.
Today’s point is- right at the start- the early Jewish people saw the coming of Jesus as the fulfillment of the promise of God to send the Messiah to them. There are various reasons why many people later rejected this claim- but at the start- they saw Jesus as the fulfillment.
When the angel tells Mary about her giving birth to this Messiah- she replies ‘be it unto me according to thy word’. Mary goes on and gives this ‘prophetic song’ which has come to be called The Magnificat- which is a term that comes from the start of the song- in Latin. Mary’s response to the angel is a point of contention between Catholic and Protestant scholars.
The Catholic church calls it ‘Mary’s Fiat’ which means Mary used a commanding tone- sort of like saying ‘you do this Gabriel’ like she was the one in charge. Protestant scholars view it more as a response of humility- like she said ‘okay- whatever you say’.
The confusion over this can be attributed to an early Latin translation of the bible- by the Catholic church Father Jerome. He wrote the Latin Vulgate- the very famous Catholic bible- and in Latin- the word used in this spot denotes ‘command’.
But when you go to the original Greek translation- the word is more passive.
Now- even though this is an ancient disagreement between very smart guys- how many Catholics and Protestants are even aware of this? So like many things- we are taught to see the ‘other side’ in a negative light- and often times we don’t even know why we don’t like them- we just know we don’t like them!
Okay- maybe you should read the chapter today- it’s a long chapter [Luke 1] and look for the language that talks about Jesus as being the fulfillment of the promises that God made to Abraham and David- its interesting to see the importance of the early Jewish people as seeing Jesus as one of their own.
History will later show how the Jewish believers were persecuted severely- and early on [2nd century] they would be forbidden to worship as a Jewish church [I think the emperor was Hadrian- he outlawed all Jewish expressions of ‘Christianity’ that is- Jewish people- who accepted Jesus as their Messiah].
This would leave only the gentile expression of Christianity- which we all know of today as we study church history. But we must not forget that the 1st believers were all Jewish- and they saw Jesus as the answer to the promises that God made to them centuries before- Peter said God fulfilled the promise that he made to King David- that a Son would sit on his throne- forever. Yes- the church recites this fulfillment every Sunday ‘he is seated at the right hand of the Father and will come again to judge the living and the dead’ amen and amen.
The week is winding down- and as far as I know- as of last night the president and congress have not been able to reach an agreement on the debt crisis. I do think the president has put himself in somewhat of a corner. In his speech he continued his argument that the deal needs to be balanced with ‘revenue increases’ [which I agree with] and he spoke about the ‘rich’ having to pay their fair share [though they do already pay for most of the taxes in the country- the big corp. loopholes are another matter].
Yet the 2 plans on the table right now- Reid and Boehner- neither one has tax increases. Reid’s is around 2.2 trillion in cuts [over 10 years] with the corresponding debt limit increase. And Boehner’s is 1 trillion- with the same basic plan. Reid's takes you past the next election- Boehner’s doesn’t. Can the president really say ‘I rejected the plan- the country defaulted- all because I wanted a 13 month plan- instead of a 6 month one’.
That just seems untenable to me.
Okay- what about compromise- is it a bad thing? Let me try and tie this in with some comments I made in the last post. In the last post I spoke about the difference between ‘Sola scriptura’ and ‘Solo scriptura’. Sola was the Reformation belief that when the Protestants and the Catholics couldn’t come to an agreement- then at the end of the day- the bible ‘alone’ settles the matter. That’s what Sola [alone] scriptura [scriptures] meant.
Over the centuries many Protestants began to embrace a view of Christianity that said ‘we don’t need/listen to what the traditional churches have to say- or what the Christian church fathers have to say- we have the bible alone to tell us’.
And even though the bible does give us instruction on all areas of life that are pertinent to the Christian experience- yet the bible actually contains within it stories about how the church should regard ‘tradition’ or how they should look to both scripture- and past history- when trying to come to solutions to problems.
In Acts chapter 15 we have the record of how the early church dealt with the problem of Gentile believers coming into the church. The first believers were all Jewish- so when they accepted Jesus as the Messiah- they also kept their Jewish heritage and their observance of the law.
Yet when the gospel started going out to the Gentiles [Acts 13] initially there was no need for converting fully to Judaism in order to be considered part of the church. Yet at the main church in Jerusalem [Acts 15] many Jewish leaders insisted on the Gentiles having to become circumcised and fully put themselves under the entire law.
So Paul and Barnabus- who were the main missionaries that worked with the Gentile believers at the time- they disagreed with the leaders coming out of Jerusalem- and determined that they would all go up to Jerusalem [from the city of Antioch- where these gentile believers were living at the time] and they would bring the question before the leaders- Peter, James and John.
During this discussion [which is the first church council] they listened to Peter’s experience where God showed him to not judge the gentile believers- but to accept them the way they are- as fellow believers in the Lord.
Peter had this experience in Acts chapter 10- God showed him a vision and taught him not to reject the gentile believers.
Then James [who seems to have been the main leader at the Jerusalem church] quotes form ‘the bible’ [the bible they had at this point was the Old Testament] and he quotes a passage from the prophet Amos that seems to go along with what Peter said- that God would raise up gentile believers too.
So after the discussion- James stands up and makes the final decision- with the agreement of the other leaders- and they write a letter and send it back to the gentile believers at Antioch- and they tell them they don’t need to fully convert to Judaism- but simply keep a few important commandments- don’t eat blood- don’t commit sexual sin- and a couple of things like this.
So at the end of the day they came to a position of compromise- they listened to all sides- and didn’t simply rely on the ‘bible alone’ that is they sought guidance from the book of Amos- and added that in with the other things that God was showing them at the time.
They were a community of people who were flexible enough to leave room for others who were not exactly like them- yet they did insist on belief in Jesus as the Messiah as the important thing.
As I watch the current debate- I see stubbornness with some- and I see political posturing with others- no one side is totally right- while the other totally wrong.
Last night I saw a shameful thing on the news- Lawrence O’Donnell showed a clip of a teenage girl who had killed herself because she was picked on for being gay. As I watched the story I of course felt sad for the girl’s mom who was talking about the bullying that her daughter endured- and of course it’s wrong to make fun of people- or bully them in any way.
Then they put up a quote from the mother- who said her daughter killed herself because of the ‘conservative’ district she had lived in. At the bottom of the quote- it said ‘Michele Bachman’s district’. This is no longer reporting- unbiased journalism- its people who have agendas that they are so attached too- that they can’t even see how doing this- associating the tragic death of this girl- with a presidential candidate- is so out of line.
The other day I heard a male ‘progressive’ news person talk about Bristol Palin getting ‘knocked up- [like a little slut]- while drunk on wine coolers’. Now- this girl is 20 years old- this happened when she was 16. Can you imagine any news person- speaking publicly like this- about the presidents beautiful daughters in a year or 2 from now- when they are the same age?
When we only see one side as the enemy- when we demonize peoples kids- accuse people of murdering gay kids- simply because they lived in your district- when we get this low- then compromise seems impossible- because you now view the opposing side as the real enemy.
I hope and pray we can get a compromise- for the sake of our country. I hope we can be open to what others are saying- people who have been around longer than us- ‘spiritual’ fathers if you will. Even though we seek God- have the bible- and do our best to determine what’s best- yet it’s also important to respect the opinions of others- don’t demonize everyone who is not just like you [or me] at the end of the day we need each other- even the ones who don’t fit our mold.
 LITTLE BOY LOST
The other day we saw the tragic story of the little Jewish boy who went missing on his way home from summer camp. This day he was without a ride, and his mother thought it would be okay for him to walk home the few blocks. After he didn’t show up she called the police.
They eventually discovered that he had been abducted by a member of their own community- and was tragically killed. The Jewish community in this area of Brooklyn is known as an Hasidic community. My mom was born and raised in Brooklyn- and as a boy I remember going to the city and seeing these strange looking guys with funny looking hair and dress.
This community dates back around 2300 years or so. During the Intertestemental period [the time between the last Old Testament book- Malachi- and the book of Matthew] you have quite an interesting history. It was during these 400 years that we saw the rise of the Greek world under Alexander the Great.
In the Greek world you had some very influential philosophers; Socrates most famous student was Plato- Plato’s most famous student was Aristotle- and his most famous student was Alexander the Great.
Alexander sought to implement the ideals of his teacher- he wanted to unify the known world under one people/culture- a belief that Aristotle held- a sort of ‘unified theory’ [Einstein] that would seek to bring all learning/knowledge together under one supreme [Divine] principle.
Alexander’s experiment was called Hellenization- which was the Greek worlds attempt to impose Greek culture/language on all their conquered enemies- and at the same time allow them to hold on to the their own culture too. Alexander did amazingly well at this experiment- at the young age of around 24 he had accomplished most of his mission. The cities were a sort of composite of Greek culture mixed in with their own culture- this is where we get the modern term Cosmopolitan.
Alexander died young and his kingdom was divided between 4 generals- one of them- Ptolemy- would himself make it into the history books because of his keen intellect.
The system of cosmology developed under him would last [and work!] until some 17-18 hundred years later when it was overthrown by the Copernican revolution during the time of Copernicus and Galileo.
Alexander’s generals would do their best to carry on the system of Hellenization- and other nations generals would keep the system going even after Greece fell. One of them- Octavian [Roman general] makes it into the history books by another famous name- Julius Caesar.
Alexander established a great library in the Egyptian city of Alexandria [named after him] and many of the great writings were preserved during this time.
The writings of Aristotle would be discovered again during the time of Thomas Aquinas [13th century Catholic genius/scholar] and this would lead to Scholasticism [a peculiar school of thought developed/revived under Aquinas] and give rise to the Renaissance.
Okay- before the birth of Christ- the Jewish people resisted the imposing of Greek culture upon them- you had the very famous resistance under the Jewish Maccabean revolt- where the Jews rose up and fought the wicked ruler Antiochus Epiphanies- and till this day the Jewish people celebrate this victory at Hanukah.
Eventually Rome would conquer the Greek kingdom and the Jewish people were allowed to keep their culture and temple- yet they were still a people oppressed. Hassidism [getting back to the beginning] developed during this attempt to not lose their Jewish roots- the Pharisees of Jesus day came from this movement.
Alexander was pretty successful in his attempt to unify language- even though the bible [New Testament] was written by Jewish writers- living under Roman rule- yet the original bible is written in the Greek language.
Bible scholars till this day study the Greek language to find the truest meaning of the actual words in the bible [I have a Greek Lexicon sitting right in front of me].
It would take a few centuries before a Latin version appeared on the scene [the great church father- Jerome- would produce the Latin Vulgate].
Yet it would be the re- discovery and learning of the Greek texts [under men like Erasmus- and the Protestant Reformers] that would lead to the Reformation [16th century] and other movements in church history.
Of course the tragedy of the little boy lost is very sad- and the roots of Jewish culture are noble and good- Pope Benedict refers to the Jewish people as ‘our elder brother’ because of the Jewish roots of Christianity. The original church was made up of Jewish believers- people who were waiting for the Messiah for centuries [actually Millennia] and they were convinced that this Jesus- this Jewish itinerant prophet- was indeed the one that was to come.
When you read the sermons in the book of Acts- you hear Peter, Paul- and especially Stephen [ Acts 7] relating the person of Jesus to the prophecies that were spoken about the Messiah in the Old Testament- these early Jewish believers were convinced- in no uncertain terms- that Jesus was the Messiah who was foretold to come.
At the Jewish trial of Jesus- the high priest asks ‘are you claiming to be God’s Son’ Jesus- one of the few times he did this- said ‘you said it’. The priest throws up his hands and says ‘what more need do we have of witnesses- he himself has said he claims deity’.
In John’s gospel we read when Jesus said ‘Abraham saw my day- and was gad’. They asked him ‘how could Abraham see your day- you’re not even 50 years old’ Jesus replied ‘BEFORE ABRAHAM WAS- I AM’ They were incensed- the words I AM were the words used to describe God. The bible says they took up stones to kill him.
The great Christian writer- C.S. Lewis- spent many years as an atheist- yet as an intellectual he read all the great writings of history- and he said that no matter how hard he [and other atheists] tried to reject God- that history was filled with writings- both pro and con- about God.
As a matter of fact- there was no other underlying theme- some scarlet thread- woven thru out the entire history of man- that even came close to this testimony of the reality of God.
Many agnostics of Lewis’ day said ‘we believe Jesus was a good person- even a Rabbi- Prophet- great messenger of God’ Lewis said Jesus did not leave this option open to us. Jesus said he was indeed the Son of God- Deity come down- born from a virgin- crucified- died and was buried. On the 3dr day he rose again- according to the scriptures- he is seated at the right hand of God and will come again- to judge the living and the dead.
Yes kingdoms have come and gone- great men and despots have either honored this Jesus- or despised him- but today we still talk about Jesus- King of Kings and Lord of Lords- we have only one option- either we confess him as Lord- or we call him a madman- which one will you choose?
 WHAT MATTERS?
The other day I mentioned how believers have a habit of getting caught up in certain ‘religious’ views [tithing was the example I gave] and over time these views develop to a point where they take precedence over the things Jesus actually placed real value on.
In the 1st century when Jesus showed up on the scene- the religious practices of Gods people were centered around religious meetings [holy days] prayer, fasting and tithing- mainly to be seen of men- that is religion digressed to a point where what seemed to be the most important thing- was actually not important.
So how did Jesus respond? He spends the 3 very public years of ministry- healing the sick, telling the poor they are the blessed ones who will inherit Gods kingdom- and blasting the rich- and those in power- by telling them that their day was coming too.
In essence Jesus was the ultimate prophet- he followed the long line of Jewish prophets who took these same positions. The prophet Isaiah told the people ‘God is tired of all your religious activities- your church meetings- your special ‘sacrificial’ offerings- these things are a stench in his nose!’ then he would go on and say that God wanted justice for the poor and widow.
Amos also rebuked the rich and defended the poor- Ezekiel said the shepherds [religious leaders] were fleecing the sheep- they were leaders who were making a financial killing off of the people.
All of these things- in today’s world of ‘ministry’ are making a comeback- it’s just we don’t see it because they are dressed in a different way. But at the end of the day- for the most part- American style Christianity is usually measured by how much money you give [or take in] how faithful your are to attend religious meetings- and how famous your ministry is- are you a really gifted speaker? Or do you give a great ‘stage’ performance.
And in the mind of the average Christian- if you ask them ‘when was the last time you gave of your goods to your neighbor- reached out to the poor- showed your Christianity thru charity’? Often times they will answer that that is not ‘their ministry’ or that their giving to some Christian organization/church is their role- and it’s up to ‘the church’ to actually help the poor.
But these responses miss the main point- Jesus [and the prophets] were saying that’s the mistake- thinking that ‘religion’ consists in these outward religious acts- which are really for show- while the true acts of mercy and love are all too often neglected. People today have made the same mistake as the religious observers of Jesus day.
The letter of James- written by the brother [half] of Jesus- tells us that Pure religion- is to keep yourself unspotted form the world- and to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. That’s it. No mention of religious holy days? No. No mention of special tithes/offerings? No. But what does he have to say about the modern religious view of the accumulation of wealth? Let’s not even go there [believe me- it’s pretty bad- go read the letter- its short].
This week in Somalia the estimates are 11 million people are on the verge of starvation- 2 to 3 million are kids. The world at large has had a hard time getting the food/resources in- because the country [like many other African nations] is in a sort of civil war.
The militant Islamic group fighting the govt. [Al Shabbab- I think that’s the name?] are made up of children. Yes- the kids have taken up an armed resistance against the leaders- and they are killing each other. I saw a news report on Mosaic world news- and the kids were in the streets- sort of like any kids on a block- but they had guns.
One young kid [10?] was pulling on the rifle of an older boy [15?] and the older boy got mad- like some school yard thing. The older boy just pulled away- and pointed the gun at the ‘opposing kids’- at the same time- they were playing in the street- throwing rocks and waving sticks- and pointing loaded guns at each other- it was like it was a game- they were used to shooting each other if they had to.
There are many things happening in our world today- things that matter to God. Many Christians- though they mean well- seem to leave these other things up to others. They feel that if they can just make it through another week- attend religious meeting on Sunday- put in the tithe- that if they live up to these outward religious standards- that they have done well.
Jesus taught a different way- the apostles tried to follow in his way. The apostle John said ‘if you see your fellow man in need- and don’t actually help him- do what needs to be done to defend them- then how can you say Gods love is in you’ [my paraphrase].
The apostle Paul wrote the Colossians- he said ‘I’m worried about you- you are observing days and times and other outward religious rites- I’m afraid you are falling away from the true faith’.
There was always a danger that Christians would fall into this rut- this thing where they unconsciously make the least important things- the most important. When the religious leaders of Jesus day were conspiring to kill Jesus- they had a problem- if they killed him on the wrong day- it would mess up their religious festival going on at the time. If they had to deal with the dead body- on the wrong day- they would be technically unclean according to Jewish law- and it would throw off their game.
So they worked it out where they would kill Jesus- and leave the body alone on the Sabbath- and they had it all worked out. One problem- they were violating the most important commandment of all- given to them by their most important law giver [Moses] that said ‘thou shalt not kill’ but somehow- over a period of time- they saw these things as the most important- their special observances of holy days- keeping themselves ceremonially clean- not ‘unspotted from the world’ as James said- but religiously clean- so they could put on a good public show.
I just finished praying for a bunch of stuff- of course I prayed for the kids in Somalia- those dying and those killing. Yes- I also send money every month to the starving kids- but these things are not enough. I [we] need to also engage those around us- those hurting and dying and struggling in real ways. We need to make the most important things- important again.
 THE SUNDAY MASS
I kind of wanted to talk a little more about the Casey reaction- why so many people are upset. What’s the root cause? Many people are actually mad- for a right reason. They have a moral sense of injustice- seeing the beautiful little Caylee dying like that- so there is this inner sense of justice that we have- it comes from being created in the image of God.
But instead of doing too much on that right now- let me catch up on a few things I felt I needed to do. In these past few years- as different teaching opportunities came up- I noticed that I had an open door from the Lord to teach all different types of people.
Catholics- Jews, Muslims- the whole 9 yards. Obviously my goal is to make clear the biblical account of mans redemption- to preach the Cross of Christ- and at the same time be willing to let anyone sit in on the conversation- If my Jewish friends stay Jewish- fine. If my Muslim friends don’t convert- and they still want to ‘hang out’ I’m okay with that. And if my Catholic friends stay Catholic- while at the same time learning more about the bible that’s great.
The point being I’m glad for the eclectic group- even the Atheists and GBLT friends- everyone is welcome at the table.
Now- one of the things I wanted to start doing was sharing the different ways the Lord has used the Mass to speak to me- I have found that watching the Sunday Mass- every Sunday- there is always some verse/homily that speaks to me.
Let me hit the last 3 weeks. A few weeks ago I had to block/unfriend a few people [Facebook] I always feel bad about it- even if I think it’s the right thing to do. So one of the things that made me feel a little better about cutting someone off that way- was the fact that even if I block people- they can always have access to the blog site.
So I thought ‘geez- maybe I was mad and cut people off too soon- but at least there’s the backup’. Then- I thought let’s see what the Sunday Mass verses will be. Sure enough it was Exodus 34- the story of Moses getting upset with the people [he had an anger problem] and he broke the first set of 10 commandments [denied access]. God says ‘okay- one more shot- come back up to the mountain and I’ll give you a second set’. Okay- that was exactly what I felt the Lord was saying- the backup set will work.
Then the following week- one of the hymns that was sung came from Psalms 147- the hymn said ‘I have strengthened the bars of your gates and blessed your children within’. I did a double take- this verse has been prayed- by me- at least a few thousand times over these last few years.
I don’t remember when I added it to my prayer time- but like lots of other verses- I read it one day and it became a regular part of intercession.
The only thing was- I pray it a little different- I pray ‘strengthen the bars of our gates and bless our children within- let peace be within our borders and let our garners be full [teaching tools] providing all manner of store’- I pray it as a request- so when I heard the priest/deacon singing it as an answer to the prayer- I had to go and check out the verse- Sure enough Psalms 147 is in the ‘answer mode’.
Then this past Sunday- the verse was from Zechariah chapter 9- the famous chapter where it speaks of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem- riding on the donkey. This chapter says ‘because of the blood of the covenant I have delivered your prisoners out of the pit’- I pray ‘let the sighing of the prisoners come before you- and according to the greatness of your power preserve those that are appointed to death’- it’s another verse I have prayed hundreds of times.
The chapter also says ‘your people will have the double portion’ I have a verse painted on my prayer wall [on the house!] that says ‘for your shame you will have double- and for your confusion they will possess the double portion in their land’.
I also pray a verse from Exodus 15- it comes from the Song of Moses that Israel sang after God delivered them from Egypt- the part I pray says ‘I will sing unto the Lord for he has triumphed gloriously- the horse and rider thrown into the sea’. It’s a prayer/song rejoicing over God breaking Pharaohs chariots in the Red Sea- and the bible says ‘they sank like lead’ to the bottom. In Zechariah 9 it speaks about God breaking the chariots and the devices of those who are coming against you.
Basically all these scriptures are speaking about the various groups/friends you will teach thru out your life- and that these different groups will learn ‘double’ from what they knew before.
Okay- I just caught you guys up for the last 3 weeks- but this type of thing has been going on for years- I just thought the Lord wanted me to share a little more on the actual verses- so you can see how the Lord will use these things- if you pay attention. I have found many times- I’ll ask a Catholic friend- ‘hey- did you go to Mass Sunday’ and he will say yes. But then he will not make any connection between the different verses the priest used during the Homily.
I’ll then do a quick review- and he will normally say ‘oh yeah- I didn’t see that’.
So the goal is for me to try and help people see a little more- not to make them convert to ‘my religion’ but to give them room at the table- to not pound them every week with some ‘moral rebuke’ about the way they are. Yes- at times we all need to repent- and re think the things we do. But there are too many ‘outsiders’ too many people- who come from different groups- and they never feel welcome to sit at the table and get a chance to learn- we too often give them the feeling that they are not wanted.
I thank God- even for those who I have had to block- that at least by Gods grace they can always read from the 2nd set- God is a God of mercy and grace- if he wants people to have access- to sit at the table- then he will always make a way for that to happen.
 VARIOUS MUSINGS
Took a ride to the city of Bishop the other day- on the way I had a tire blowout on the highway [no spare] and managed to drive it [still had air in it- the radial tread ripped off] to a shop to get a new tire. I had one of my homeless friends with me and we were gonna have a fellowship day with Eliseo at his ranch- instead we will do one this Wednesday.
Those of you in the area who know where Eli lives- we will be there at around noon. Bring some food and meet us there, everyone is invited. As a side note- Eli, I got your message last night. I think little Rudy called too- I will try and get back with him, if he wants I’ll pick him up Wednesday for the ride.
Okay- after the blowout I did a fish fry/b.b.q. at the house with Henry and Chris [homeless bro’s] and we had a great time. My only mistake was I put the fish out first- about 10 pieces- and I thank the Lord I at least got 1!
Let me try and hit a few things today. Last week I had a good visit with a J.W. [Jehovah’s Witness]. He rang the bell and I told him I was a Christian and that I love having discussions and I did about a 20 minute historical overview of Christianity and the development of the doctrine of the Trinity [which is a major sticking point] and I tried to come down in a nice way- being honest about the historic problems many believers/various groups have had with the doctrine- and at the end of the talk I of course emphasized the bible verses that do indeed speak about the Deity of Christ and left it at that.
He was nice enough to come back by around an hour later and he dropped off a pamphlet put out by their group that discusses the Trinity. He asked me to read it and I did.
The teaching was fairly honest about the various historic disputes that Christians have had over the Trinity. It did cover the reality that there were Bishops and early church leaders who did indeed argue against the doctrine. It did a good job at showing how some early Christian leaders were indeed influenced by Greek philosophy and that some think that that’s where the doctrine developed from.
The pamphlet made the case that ‘the bible’ does not teach the Deity of Christ- and that these doctrines were later introduced by Catholic church leaders who paganized Christianity primarily thru Constantine’s ‘baptism’ of Christendom with the Roman state.
I’m very familiar with all these debates- many Christian scholars have made this exact same argument. Muslims and Jews also reject the doctrine of the Deity of Christ [and the Trinity] and often times you hear these same arguments made.
During the 4th century of the Common Era Constantine became the Roman Emperor and the church hotly debated these issues. The Bishop Arius [who denied the deity of Christ- that Christ is God] fought against the opposing view [that Christ is indeed God] and the bishop Athanasius was the warrior who defended the deity of Christ.
After Athanasius died his tombstone would read ‘Athanasius against the world’ he was the driving force in the 4th century who swayed the tide back to orthodoxy.
Now- the church would have a few 4th [and 5th] century church councils that would settle the matter concerning the nature of Christ and his deity- and the final decision was that the Trinity was indeed true and the Jesus is indeed God.
The other side stayed with the idea that Jesus was a created being- a god- but not thee God. Some of these churches exist till this day. They are primarily oriental churches. If you visit them they seem just like any other ancient type church- the Mass, Saints, Mother Mary- yes- the whole 9 yards. But they stuck with the Arian view [Bishop Arius] and deny the deity of Christ [and thus the Trinity].
How should I respond? Let me just say that I am a Trinitarian who believes in the deity of Christ- Christ is fully God and fully man. The J.W. pamphlet made a good defense for their view- and they were not totally ‘deceptive’ in their argument. But they did quote lots of bible verses that kind of backed up their side- and they quoted some from Isaiah. But they left out chapter 9.
The famous passage that says Jesus is the ‘Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ very strong language indeed.
What about the argument that the early Catholic bishops polluted the true teachings of Jesus by introducing Greek thought into Jesus true teachings? It is true that Greek philosophy had a belief that there was a pre existing principle of wisdom- a ‘divine logos’ if you will.
The only problem with the argument that the Catholic bishops were the culprits who introduced Logos Christology into the doctrines of the church is that the New Testament itself has ‘Logos Christology’ in it. What is Logos Christology?
Logos is the Greek word for ‘Word’. Christology is the study of Christ. Logos Christology is the description of Jesus found in the writings of the apostle John that describe Jesus as the Eternal Word of God.
John wrote the gospel of John, the 3 letters- 1st, 2nd and 3rd John- and the book of Revelation [some scholar’s dispute that John authored the last one]. In these writings Jesus is called the Word of God- he is described as the Word that was ‘with God, and was God’ [John 1].
So the bible itself has Greek influences- because it was written in Greek! And even though the pre Christian philosophers had a concept of a personified wisdom [the Jews also- read Proverbs 8] yet the New Testament also speaks of Jesus as this Eternal Word of God who was indeed ‘true God from true God’.
So I think the talk I had was good- I understand that many groups of people have had difficulty with the doctrine of the Trinity and the accusation that Constantine and the Catholics ‘hijacked’ the true religion of Jesus has been made by many groups over the years. Yet at the end of the day the doctrine of Jesus being God is clearly found in the bible [and yes, even in the Old Testament] and we as Orthodox Christians confess Jesus as God- not because of the Greeks- or the Catholics- or because of any other influence that ‘snuck in’ we confess him as God because ‘the bible tells me so’ Amen and Amen.
 THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION
Okay, I think today will be the last day for doing End Time stuff [for now]. Over these last few days I have tied to just hit a few key verses- things that are popular in the media because of the failed Camping prediction.
As I looked over Matthew 24 again this morning- there might have been 2 more areas I wanted to cover- but let’s stick with the verse above [the other area was Jesus teaching about his own 2nd coming- he actually says don’t ‘fall’ for those who say ‘see- here is Jesus- in the SECRET chambers’. He actually warns against having a belief in a secret return- which is actually what the Rapture is. He then says ‘for as the lightning shines from one end of the sky to the other- so shall the 2nd coming be’. Some actually think this is saying its secretive- that just like you miss seeing the lighting- because it’s so fast- so you might not see the return. In context all these verses are saying the coming of Jesus will be open and in full view. When you read the other descriptions Jesus gives- ‘Like a thief in the Night’ if you continue to read in context- these verses are saying many will be surprised- like when a robber comes- they are not saying no one will see!]
Okay- in Matt. 24 Jesus says ‘when you see the abomination of desolation stand in the holy place- flee to the mountains- leave the city- troubles on the way’. What does this mean? Jesus is quoting Daniel the prophet. In Daniel chapters 9-12 you read lots of detailed stuff- it’s easy to get lost in the many intricate interpretations some prophecy teachers get into here.
I just want to hit on the Abomination one. The term simply means ‘the wicked thing/person that will bring destruction’. Daniel was one of the Jews taken into captivity during the Babylonian captivity of Gods people. Daniel lived around 600 B.C. and you read in his book that when he was in exile he picked up the writings of the prophet Jeremiah and he figured out the years that God had foretold for the judgment on Israel [chapter 9].
As you look at all the verses about how many years so many things will take place in- one of the famous time verses is the 70 weeks prophecy. This prophecy is usually seen to be speaking about 70 weeks of years [490 years]. As you read and follow the years of the prophecy- it brings you right up unto the time of Christ.
The prophecy says there will be 490 years determined for the Jewish people- and from the decree to rebuild the temple to the appearing of Jesus there will be 69 weeks [of years]. Now- many scholars have traced the years from the decree that we find in the Old Testament to the time of Jesus and it amazingly brings you right up unto the time of Christ.
But the prophecy leaves the last ‘week of years’ out [some say]. If you measure the time right unto the Crucifixion of Jesus- then you have the last 7 years open. This is where many prophecy folk put the future 7 year tribulation. If you are familiar at all with these things- the popular version says in the last days the anti-christ will arise and make a covenant with Israel for 7 years- in the middle of the 7 years [3.5] he will ‘cause the sacrifice to cease’ and bring an end to temple worship and the sacrificial system. Wording like this is used in Daniel.
Now- in some of these verses in Daniel you are reading about Jesus- the prince- and in others your reading about the ‘bad’ prince- the ‘abomination that makes desolate’. Some have said if you trace the years  to the baptism of Jesus [instead of the Crucifixion] then you can view the ‘middle of the last week’ [3.5 years] as referring to the end of Jesus earthly ministry. If this is so- then ‘the prince who made the sacrifice to cease in the middle of the last week’ might be referring to the Cross of Christ.
The New Testament teaches [Hebrews] that the death of Christ was the final sacrifice for man- and his death caused the old sacrificial system to stop ‘the prince who causes the sacrifice to cease’ get it?
Either way- as you can see- there are various ways to view these time verses. Now- in 168 B.C. you had the wicked ruler- Antiochus Epiphanies- attack the Jewish temple and he set up a pagan altar and sacrificed a pig on the altar- this was the first fulfillment of the ‘abomination of desolation’. This began a process of the Hellenization of the Jewish people by Antiochus [Hellenization means imposing Greek culture and ways upon a foreign culture].
This event was avenged by a Jewish priest and his 5 sons [the most famous being Judas Maccabee]. The Catholic Apocryphal book of Maccabees records this event. This is known as the Maccabean Revolt and the Jewish people celebrate this event every Hanukah [I think it’s Hanukah- to be honest it’s been a long time since I read this- might want to double check].
So Jesus picks up on the Daniel prophecy- that was partially fulfilled in the 2nd century B.C. and he says there will be another ‘abomination that makes desolate’ and when you see him [or it?] ‘flee Jerusalem and run to the hills’. Now I mentioned the other day that many Jewish believers did run for the hills in A.D. 70- they took Jesus words as a warning and escaped the slaughter.
If Jesus were talking about the ‘end of the world’ why flee to the hills? I mean if I said ‘the world is ending- run from North Bergen to Fairview [my old hometown area]’ that wouldn't make much sense. So it is possible that the ‘abomination that makes desolate’ was fulfilled in some way during the 1st century. How?
There are various views on this- let me just give you one. Now- to my Jewish friends I want to be careful here- but understand this is a theological issue that weighed heavily on the minds of the 1st century Jewish believers. The sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is considered to be the final sacrifice for all men. In the New Testament you have very strong language used for those who continued to sacrifice animals after the once and for all sacrifice of Christ.
The book of Hebrews says those who do this are ‘trampling under their feet the Blood of Christ and are disrespecting his Blood’ strong words indeed [Hebrews]. Okay- in the 1st century you did not have the internet or media like we do today- so obviously God was not holding all the Jews responsible from day 1- that is it took some time before the word of the Cross would get out and those who believed would stop sacrificing animals. Basically God gave the Jewish nation a 40 year probationary period- a GENERATION [‘this generation’- remember?]
From the time of Jesus earthly ministry to the time of the destruction of Jerusalem [A.D. 70] you had just under a biblical generation- just like the prophecies said. What happened at the time of the destruction that might have been called ‘an abomination that makes desolate’? The Jewish nation continued to sacrifice animals right up until the end of the ‘40 year probationary period’ the time God gave them to fully embrace the once and for all sacrifice of Christ. This means it is possible that the abomination of desolation is speaking of the continued animal sacrifices that were ‘trampling under foot the Blood of Christ- and putting him to an open shame’.
In essence this act- continuing to sacrifice animals- was just as blasphemous as Antiochus sacrificing a pig on the altar- got it?
Okay- these past few days I floated lots of other ways to view the End Times teaching besides the most popular ways we hear about in the media [both 'Christian’ and secular]. I’m not saying my view- or these various views are the only ‘right way’ but I am saying we need to be careful as believers when we hear/learn certain views- and then confuse those views with ‘well brother- this is what the bible says!’ Often times people mean ‘this is what I think the bible says’ and we need to be careful that we are distinguishing between the two.
 THIS GENERATION WILL NOT PASS AWAY UNTIL ALL THESE THINGS HAPPEN
Let’s cover a little more on the End Times. Here in my study I have a couple of books that would fit in the category of Preterism. Preterism is the view that some Christians hold that says all the events spoken about by Jesus in these end times chapters were fulfilled in the 1st century.
The books are by R.C. Sproul [not a full Preterist] and Gary Demar [a full Preterist]. Demar's book is called ‘Last Days Madness’ and if you want a full study of this view- that would be the book to get.
Now- am I a Preterist? No. Like I said before- I try real hard to stay in the classical mainstream of Christian thought- and though Preterists make a good case- in the end I think they go too far.
But let’s talk a little about why certain believers have found it necessary to even make a defense like this. In the chapters of the bible that talk about the last days- there are frequent statements made that seem to indicate that the things being discussed would take place ‘quickly’ ‘shortly’ or at least in the lifetime of those hearing the message at the time. Jesus says ‘truly I say to you- this generation will not pass away until ALL these things are fulfilled’. Another time Jesus says ‘some of you standing here will not die until you see the kingdom come’.
So its passages like these that have caused some to make the effort to fit all the end times stuff within the 1st century. You say ‘but how can anyone think that the 2nd coming and the final judgment and all the end times events- how could they think it happened in the 1st century?’ Well before you scoff too much- believe me- these guys make a really thorough case. For instance they will show you verses in the Old Testament that use the same End Times language that Jesus uses about ‘my coming’ and the ‘judge will come to judge the world’ and they will show you that these prophecies were actually fulfilled by certain judgments that took place against the nation of Israel.
And there are Parables of Jesus that speak about his ‘coming’ and in some cases it is speaking about his resurrection and ascension and being seated at Gods right hand- that is ‘the coming’ was more of a view of Jesus ‘coming’ to sit on the right hand of God after he fulfilled his earthly mission. So as you can see, those who make this argument are not totally out in left field.
Okay- how do we answer the critics on the sayings about ‘this generation will not pass until all these things happen’. Like I said in the last post- some say Jesus was talking about a future generation- at least 2 thousand years down the road- who would be alive when the 2nd coming would happen. The problem with this view is in the New Testament you have the Greek language as the original language that you study when looking at these verses [the bible was originally written in Greek] and when you look at this terminology being used in other places- it is always speaking about the generation living at the time of the statement.
So that would make it hard to make the case that Jesus was speaking about some future generation down the road. Others say that ‘this generation’ can refer to a certain ethnic group [the Jewish nation]. While this can apply- yet again this is not the normal way the phrase is used.
So what’s the answer? I do believe that some of the ideas from the Preterists can help here. In the Old Testament there are what you call Dual Prophecies- prophecies that are fulfilled ‘twice’. If you study the events that took place during ‘the generation’ living at the time of these statements- they did indeed see these things happen. I mean you even have reports by 1st century historians [Eusebius- lived in the 3rd or 4th century- was a 1st century historian] that said at the time of the destruction of the temple [A.D. 70] there were accounts of people seeing chariots in the sky and all sorts of signs that Jesus mentioned in the Last Days passages.
Maybe tomorrow I will get a little more into some of the signs- but the fact is you can find just about every element of Jesus Last Times teaching being fulfilled in some way within the actual generation of those who heard him speak at the time.
However Christians decide to come down on these issues- it’s important to see that the prevailing American Evangelical view- that ‘this generation’ is speaking about the generation of people living at the time of the ‘blooming of the fig tree’ which is defined by some as the birth of the nation of Israel in 1948- that this teaching is not to be found in the bible.
While we do not know the time of Jesus return- and the ‘end of the world/age’ [another important distinction] we do know that the signs that Jesus gave us do count for something- it’s not wrong to look at the general signs of increased wars and natural disasters and the like- and to see that his coming is drawing near. Most commentators who have used these verses recently- even in the secular media- have actually been using them in context.
So we should avoid the temptation to date set- try not to add things into the passages that are not there [the fig tree meaning Israel in 1948] and avoid mocking the actual teaching in the bible that Jesus will indeed return some day- the apostle Peter said that in the End Times some would mock and say ‘where is the promise of his coming- we have been hearing it for our whole lives’. So we don’t want to fall into the category of mockers- yet we don’t want to date set either- no man knows the day- not even the Son.
 THE FIG TREE
Let’s do a little more on Eschatology [end times stuff] today. Over the last few weeks these things have been in the news because of the Harold Camping prediction and you have heard various news folk- as well as believers giving their slant to all the popular verses that deal with the subject.
Some media people were quoting ‘no one knows when the last day will happen- not even the Son, only God’. Then you have had a few other popular verses seep into the flow. The main portions of the bible that deal with the end times are Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. John’s gospel does not have an ‘end times’ discourse- possibly because he covers the subject in length in the book of Revelation.
The main gospel on the subject is Matthew- Mark’s gospel seems to be a shorter compilation possibly taken from Matthew. By ‘taken’ I mean Mark was a scribe/recorder- he was the personality we see in the book of Acts- John Mark. If you remember- he had a falling out with the Apostle Paul and Mark ‘went home’ while Paul took Silas and they embarked on the great missionary journeys of the Apostle.
You don’t hear that much about Mark after the ‘falling out’ but we know that Mark would later pen the 2nd gospel and he was also a recorder [secretary] for the Apostle Peter [might be important to remember this- if I get to it?]
So anyway mark seems to have borrowed from Matthew [some scholars think the familiarity between the gospels should be attributed to another unknown common source- referred to as Q- I prefer to simply see it as the writers being familiar with what the other writers were writing- and in the 1st century you did not have Plagiarism as we do today- where it would be illegal to copy something verbatim from another writer- that’s why Mark- who also probably penned 2nd Peter- not as a Plagiarist who used Pseudepigraphy- writings by authors who pretended to be someone else- but as a scribe who was familiar with the other source documents of the time. 2nd Peter has come under scrutiny because chapter 2 seems to have borrowed heavily from the letter of Jude. At some spots it looks like a direct copy. But as Peter’s scribe- it would not have been out of the ordinary to have included- verbatim- a passage from Jude and to have attributed the entire letter to Peter. Or Peter might have simply been familiar with Jude's letter and it would not have been wrong according to 1st century writing standards to have done this. But skeptics in our day try to use this to say the bible is a forgery- so that’s why it’s important to be familiar with the debate and to have a good response.]
Okay-lets at least try and start a little end times stuff. Matthews 24 begins with Jesus and the disciples walking away from the Temple and Jesus says ‘see all these buildings- truly I tell you that there will not be left one stone on top of another’.
The disciples then ask Jesus ‘when will this happen- and what will be the sign of the end of the age/world, and the sign of your coming’. Now- this sets the stage for the entire scope of the answer. Jesus told them one thing ‘the temples coming down some day’ and they ask a few things.
Some scholars believe that the entire answer Jesus gives- about the end of the world and the coming tribulation- some teach that all these things did happen by A.D. 70- that’s when the Roman general Titus [future emperor] attacked the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. Jesus prediction about ‘one stone not being left on another’ was fulfilled to the tee because the temple stones were overlaid with Gold and the looters burned the stones to melt the gold and in the process they literally laid every stone out.
In the Matthew discourse Jesus also warned the disciples that ‘when you see these things beginning to happen- let those in the city flee to the mountains’. As Titus made his way towards Jerusalem some early communities took his words literally and did use the mountains as a place for protection. The community at Qumran hid their writings in ‘the mountains’ that overlooked the Dead Sea- some 2 thousand years later these writings [scrolls] would be discovered- those are the Dead Sea Scrolls of today- one of the greatest archeological finds of history.
And there were Jewish believers at Jerusalem who did indeed flee to the mountains and they escaped the slaughter. So there certainly were things that Jesus spoke about in his 'end times’ teaching that were fulfilled in the 1st century.
But what about the other famous portions? As various media persons were quoting a few famous parts of this discourse [this is the 4th famous discourse known as the Olivet discourse in Matthew- 5 famous long sections of Jesus’ teaching] it would help us to know the entire context of the discourse [which includes chapter 25 by the way].
One of the famous verses is ‘when you see the fig tree putting forth leaves- you know that summer is near- so when you see these signs you know the end is near’. In American evangelicalism this verse has been made popular by men like Hal Lindsay who teach that the fig tree is ALWAYS a symbol for the nation of Israel and therefore Jesus was saying that when Israel becomes a nation again [which happened in 1948] that within ‘a generation’ the end will happen.
This view uses a few other verses to come to this conclusion. Jesus famous ‘this generation will not pass away until all these things happen’ and a few other scriptures. Simply reading the chapter in context does not seem to be saying this at all. The parallel passage in Luke says ‘and all the trees’. It seems like Jesus is simply saying ‘just like when you see a tree blossom- so when you see these signs know that the time is near’.
There really is nothing in the actual text to indicate that this is speaking about 1948. But because of these verses having been used like this many preachers have tried to date the coming of Christ within ‘the generation’ from1948. Lindsey put out a book saying that 1988 was a ‘special time’ why 88? 1988 was 40 years [biblical generation] from 1948. Then some changed the biblical generation to 70 years- which makes this decade real important.
The problem with all these dates is there based on a faulty premise- that Jesus was saying that within a generation of the ‘fig tree blooming’ the 2nd coming will take place- he never said that. As far as I can tell 1948 plays no significant role. Of course Israel becoming a nation again at that time was a great thing- but as a date to begin setting off some type of spiritual clock- that’s not in the bible.
Okay- maybe I’ll do a few more of these over the next few days. Try and read these chapters the next few days and get a feel for the overall meaning [the context] when we become familiar with the overall meaning of the passage- it keeps us from getting lost in the Fig Tree ones.
 I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE-
The other night I had a weird dream- 2 young guys showed up at my door. They rang the bell and as I opened the door one of the boys said ‘John, do you remember me’. Now- to be honest this has happened lots thru out my life. At the Fire House I would often show up for shift in the morning and the off going shift would say ‘John- one of your convict buddies stopped by yesterday’ [they eventually caught on that lots of the guys I worked with at the jail/prisons knew where they could find me when they got out- and they figured they would catch me at the Fire House].
So stuff like this has happened lots- and there are times when I simply don’t remember who the guy’s are- if you give a bible study 5 years previously- they might remember you- but you might not remember them. So in my dream I told the kid [around 19 years old] ‘to be honest I don’t really remember you- just a little’ [Yes- I admit at times I have said ‘yeah- I think’ just so I wouldn’t offend the brothers].
The boy tells me that I did indeed help him and he won’t forget it. So I fellowshipped a little while. Then the boy asks a strange request ‘John- will you draw me a picture’. Sure- it seemed like something a young boy would ask- but why not. So I drew a picture of the beach and us just sitting there- like Father and son- and he asked me to sign it for him. I gave him the simple request and he seemed like a little boy getting a present from his dad. He talked a little more and as he began to leave he told me his name. He said ‘I’m Texas Ruiz’. And he left.
As I woke up [around 3 a.m.] I didn’t think too much about it. As I started the coffee, getting ready to go in the yard to pray. I remembered who Texas Ruiz was. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I pray for the cases I see in the paper- or on the news- the severe cases of crimes that have been committed. I have a wall of names [around 30 or so] that I paint the names of these people on. They will forever be on my prayer list- so I try and pick cases where the criminal [or victim] has a long lasting result/penalty- so as I pray for them over the years they can benefit from it.
One of the cases was a local one- here in Corpus Christi. The stepdad called 911 and his stepson [around 1 year old] had died. At 1st they thought it was from some natural cause- then they found out the step dad abused the boy and he died from this abuse. I saw the boy on T.V. a lot- being it was local. As Protestants we usually don’t pray for the people who have died- but I actually have felt the Lord challenge me about this over these last few years- and I do pray for the victims sometimes, even though they are dead. When I saw the boy on TV I would just raise my hand towards him and pray that God would be with his soul- I felt real bad for the kid. I did this a few times over about a week. I felt like a ‘dad’ to the kid- just praying for him. The boys name was Texas Ruiz.
There is a verse in Ezekiel 37- God says ‘in the day I raise you up and bring you back from the dead- in that day you will know that I am God’. I wrote this verse down on an ongoing journal type thing- every week I add whatever verse/book I’m studying from- whatever I feel might be significant. So I stuck this verse on the top of the page. A few days went by and I wrote the dream on the same page- I felt it was significant so I wrote it down.
After a few days- while reviewing the page- I saw that on the top it said ‘in the day I bring you back from the grave’ and in the dream- yes one of ‘our people’ did come back- it freaked me out.
In John’s gospel, chapter 11, we read of the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus and his sisters- Martha and Mary- are good friends of Jesus. They lived in a little town named Bethany [the name of my oldest daughter] and for the Jewish people to openly embrace Jesus at the time- it was a sacrifice. Many of the religious leaders already had turned against Jesus.
So one day Lazarus gets real sick and the sisters send word to Jesus ‘Lazarus- your friend- is sick’. Now- Jesus is going all over the place- healing sick people- opening blind eyes- multiplying bread and fish. I mean the sisters must have thought ‘well- at least all the flack we’ve taken over openly befriending Jesus will finally pay off’. But when Jesus hears about Lazarus the bible says he purposefully waited 2 extra days before heading towards Bethany.
Now- after a few days Lazarus did indeed die. The sisters are mad- ‘wow- he healed all these others- strangers- yet no time for us’. When he gets to the outskirts of town Martha goes out to see him ‘Jesus- why didn’t you come? You could have prevented this from happening’. Eventually Mary says the same thing to him. Jesus tells them ‘I am the resurrection and the life’.
The sisters only saw Jesus thru the lens of ‘why didn't you fix the problem when it was still possible’ Jesus was saying ‘it’s still possible’. He was telling them ‘Just because the thing you thought I would do- in life- didn’t happen yet- I can still overcome the devastation that it has caused you’. Jesus of course will raise their brother- it becomes a huge miracle to the point where the religious leaders conspire to kill Lazarus too- because so many Jewish people begin believing in Jesus because of this miracle.
In Ezekiel 37 God told Ezekiel [and the nation of Israel] ‘in the day I bring you back from the dead- in that day you will know I am God’. Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. A real event that took place in time and has stood the test of historical examination [too much to cover right now- but take my word for it- the evidence is overwhelming].
Sometimes we are like the sisters of Lazarus- we expected God to prevent the disaster from happening ‘Lord- if you were here this would not have happened’. The test of faith is to continue to believe- even on the other side of the disaster. The problem with Mary and Martha was they felt like Jesus simply did not come thru in time- they heard all these great stories about how Jesus helped all these others- yet they sat at home- with a dead brother and a funeral to attend.
Today I want to challenge you- are you like the sisters? Did God not prevent the disaster from happening? Did he not do for you what he did for the others? You might not see the ultimate ‘healing’ until the resurrection- the ‘last day’- but be assured- in the day he raises you from the dead- you will know that he is God.
 THE ARAB SPRING-
This week the president took some criticism for identifying the struggle going on in the Arab/Muslim world with the struggle for freedom that the Jewish people experienced- and commemorate during this Passover season. The president- who celebrates the Passover meal- said that the present Arab struggle for freedom- what is sometimes referred to as The Arab Spring, is much like what the Jews went thru when they too felt oppressed by their leaders many years ago. I actually just did an entire study along these same lines [Insights from a Revolution].
The president’s critics tore into him ‘how dare he compare a radical Muslim terror campaign with the honest struggle of the Jewish people’. Beck had John Hagee [the famous Pastor out of San Antonio] on his show- as well as a Rabbi and another Israeli official- they discussed the subject of God being on the side of the geopolitical decisions of Israel- and how the Arab/Muslim world just want to ‘kill everybody else’.
Hagee offered his friendship to the Rabbi- stating ‘though we disagree on who the Messiah is [no small disagreement!] yet we can still overlook our differences and work together’. Now- I would simply ask- why not take this position with the Muslim/Arab world too? The difference that Hagee was willing to ‘gloss over’ with his Jewish friends is quite a leap- though I too agree with it- that is even though our Jewish friends do not embrace Jesus as the Messiah- yet we should love them as Jesus commanded- and fight for their rights as a people.
We should also extend this hand of friendship- as much as possible- to the Arab world. ‘What- are you nuts- don’t you know the Koran has verses in it that are incompatible with Christian doctrine’- actually I do know this- but that 'incompatibility’ is just as severe- doctrinally- as saying Jesus is not the Messiah. According to the Apostle John- this denial is the worst doctrinal denial one can make [Johns 1st letter found in the New Testament ‘if anyone denies that Jesus Christ is the Messiah- come in the flesh- he is anti Christ’].
Okay- the point? Why couldn’t Beck, Hagee, and the other multitudes simply give this same benefit of the doubt to the Muslim world? In Genesis chapter 16 we read the actual history of the Arab/Muslim world- yes it’s in our bibles. Sarah [Abraham’s wife] tells her husband to sleep with her maid Hagar and have a son. Sarah was barren and this was an acceptable thing at the time to do- sort of like a surrogate mother type thing. After the maid gets pregnant there arises tension and jealousy in the home and Abraham says ‘look- she’s your maid- do what you want’ and Sarah kicks her out and the maid winds up crying in the wilderness..
God sends an angel to talk with her and God promises her that her son- Ishmael [the father of the Arab/Muslim people- who is also the son of Abraham- the father of the Jewish people!] will become a great people and that the son- Ishmael- will be a wild man and he will be at war with all the nations around him and all the nations will fight with him. Now- does this history sound accurate to you? Does the Christian bible say God is the one who multiplied this group of people? If these things are true- and recorded in our Christian bibles- why not at least give them the same chance as our Jewish brothers?
Look- I am not advocating glossing over the serious doctrinal differences between Islam and Christianity- but the Evangelical community- for the most part- has managed to ‘gloss over’ a pretty major doctrinal difference with our Jewish friends- why not with Muslims? I mean as people who live together on the same planet- as people whom God said ‘I am the one who increased them’ surely we can take these same verses and use them as a bridge- to bridge some serious gaps for sure- but a possible bridge that God has given us- in our bibles- that states that God himself is concerned with the Arab world and the present ‘war’ between Ishmael and all the nations around him- well that too was recorded in God’s plan.
 THE LAST MEAL-
Let’s try and cover the Passover story today. Being we are in Holy Week I thought the story- and what it means- would be helpful. In the Old Testament we read the story in the book of Exodus. Those of you who are not bible readers, just think of Charlton Hesston in the classic movie ‘the 10 commandments’.
The history is the Jewish people were living in Egypt for around 430 years and Pharaoh was oppressing them. They were in bondage- literally- they were the slave work force of the nation. The people cry out to God and God sends them a deliverer [savior]. Moses was ‘secretly’ a Jew- though brought up in Pharaohs house [like Jesus- many do not recognize his real identity- Messiah].
Moses is used by God to judge Egypt. God sends 10 plagues on the nation and the last plague was the worst. Moses told Pharaoh if you do not free the people God will cause all the 1st born children to die. The oldest son in each house would die- from Pharaohs house to the lowest slave. Now- how did the Jewish people escape this judgment? God told Moses to tell the people the night before the judgment- they were to take a lamb and kill it and eat it [not the blood] and put the blood over the door posts- sort of in the sign of the Cross- the blood went on top and on the 2 sides of the doorway. And when the Death Angel passes thru Egypt- when God sees the blood he will ‘pass over’ that house- Walla- that’s where the name Pass Over comes from.
Now- sure enough the plague happened and Pharaohs oldest died as well as the oldest child in all the Egyptian homes. Pharaoh calls Moses and they say ‘quick go- get the h-ll out- before we all die’. The bible says they urged them to go. Well you know the rest of the story.
Now after this great deliverance God tells the people to keep this event as an everlasting memorial- a holiday for the rest of their lives. So for over 3400 years [give or take a few] the Jewish people have kept this feast. Now, when Jesus came on the scene in the 1st century- as a good Jewish boy he too kept this feast. The Feast itself was called the Feast of Unleavened Bread- but it is also referred to as the Passover feast. Technically the Passover meal kicks off the Feast.
So Jesus arrives in the 1st century and John the Baptist recognizes that Jesus is the Messiah who was to come. John calls him The Lamb of God at his baptism in the Jordan. So Jesus carries out his Messianic ministry with his men and he does all these wonderful miracles- raising the dead- multiplying the loaves and fish- you know the story. But every now and then he drops these weird hints- things that totally confuse the disciples. One time he says ‘now I go to Jerusalem to be crucified as it was foretold’ and Peter says ‘no way Lord- God forbid it’. Jesus replies ‘get behind me satan- for you care more about the things of men then the things of God’.
It’s interesting to note that this rebuke of Peter came right after his great confession of Jesus as the Christ. So Jesus drops hints [and open messages!] that he will die for the nation/world. Even the Jewish high priest at the time said ‘it is expedient that one man die for the nation instead of the whole nation being judged’. This is recorded in John’s gospel and John says the priest was prophesying the truth- though the priest thought he was speaking politically- that the death of Jesus would get the heat off of them for the time being- yet the priest did not realize what he was truly saying.
So as the events of ‘Holy Week’ draw near- Jesus takes his men and they go to a special place to have one last meal with Jesus- the famous Passover meal. Jesus says he really looked forward to this meal with his men. Now, Jesus knows that he himself is the fulfillment of all the slain lambs that have come down thru the centuries. He sits with his men and takes the bread and says ‘this is my Body that is broken for you’ and he takes the cup of wine and says ‘This is my Blood’.
Now- today I want to share something I never heard taught before- so to all my blog readers you might get in on a cutting edge truth. In the Jewish religion they did not drink the blood- most bible teachers know why this is- the bible says the life of the flesh is in the blood. So when Jesus told them in John’s gospel ‘unless you drink my Blood and eat my flesh you have no life’ this was a highly offensive statement to the Jewish mind- many followers walked away at that point [John chapter 6]. So the significance of the Old Testament prohibition on drinking blood was in fact pointing to a future Lamb [Jesus] whose Blood you could drink- or it was saying in symbol form ‘look- the life is in the blood- therefore you will not have true life until the day comes when you will drink the blood of a Lamb- the Lamb of God’ got it? [note- most bible teachers know this- I just never read anyone make the connection that the reason blood was prohibited to drink was because there would be a future day when Blood would be accepted- the prohibition was to point to this very thing!]
So Jesus eats the Passover with his men and he readies himself for the Cross. Our Jewish friends [Pope Benedict refers to them as our elder brothers] celebrate this great meal to this day. Christians celebrate its fulfillment every Sunday as churches all across the world hold communion services. To my Catholic friends- this is what the priest quotes at every Mass. Around 3400 years ago Moses told the people if they put the blood on the door they would be saved- the judgment would Pass Over them- all these years later we still have the promise of the Blood of Jesus.
As this Holy Week progresses- many Christians will attend church this Sunday- some are like The Donald- they attend on Christmas and Easter- but still- thank God they go! Whatever group you are in- pay special attention to the communion meal- mediate on the importance of what the meal means- enter in to the reality of Jesus being our Pass Over sacrifice [1st Corinthians 5] and remember the words of Jesus in John chapter 6 ‘Moses did not give you the real bread of God from heaven- you ate the Manna under Moses- and died. Whoever eats my Body will live forever’ Hail to the King.
 LESSON FROM A MUSLIM-
I read a story in my local paper yesterday- there was an ecumenical dinner held this week between Christians, Jews and Muslims. The Christian staff writer who attended shared how it helped her to overcome previous prejudices that she had. She told what the various speakers discussed and I was particularly impressed with what the Muslim speaker said- she talked about how true religion is not performance, putting on a show- but is expressed in reaching out to those in need- the poor and hurting.
In fact she was basically quoting the New Testament book of James- James says ‘pure religion is to visit the fatherless and widows and to stay clean from the world’. A few weeks back one of my homeless buddies stopped by- he’s basically a genius when it comes to the bible- I mean it’s sort of an autistic thing to be honest- he knows- by memory- much more than the average preacher. As I visited with Henry I gave him the latest bible studies that were sent to me over the last few months. Years ago I heard a N.J. Jewish preacher- who pastors a Messianic congregation in Lodi, N.J.- he had a short radio show on the same station I’m on- and as a courtesy I sent him some of my books and told him hi and all- being I’m a former Jersey brother and all. Ever since he has sent me these really great bible studies every month.
The studies are really in depth- and he usually only sends them to partners [those who support his ministry with money]. But I guess he appreciated my sending him a nice note and he forever put me on the list. Now- I’m an avid reader- I’ve read just about everything you can get your hands on- but these past few years I’m trying to stick with scholarly stuff- not that I’m ‘too good’ for the basic stuff- It’s just I really don’t have the time to just read tons of stuff that’s in the category of ‘devotional’ material- stuff that just kind of talks about Christian things.
So I hate to throw the stuff out- I mean they’re great bible studies. I don’t want to write Jonathan [the pastor] and say ‘take me off your list’- so I save them up and give them to Henry- he devours them and even quotes them back to me the next time I see him. So anyway we had a good talk. Somehow we got into discussing the book of James [the verse I quoted above] and I told Henry how it’s funny that James [we believe this letter in the New Testament- called James- was written by the James who was Jesus’ brother- mentioned about in the bible. He was the same James mentioned as one of the leaders in the church at Jerusalem in the book of Acts, chapter 15. To my Catholic friends- it might sound strange ‘Jesus had a brother?’ these words are found in the New Testament. Catholic teachers don’t deny this- they just interpret it to mean ‘cousin’ or near relative- some say its speaking of ‘Christian brother’. Don’t want to debate it- just thought I should mention it].
Anyway- I told Henry how it’s strange that one of the key leaders in the early church- who was closer to Jesus than all the other disciples [he lived in the same house] that he would write such a scathing indictment against the rich- and he would defend the poor so strongly. James’ letter is one of the strongest rebukes against the rich that you will find in the bible. Anyway Henry agreed with me- of course Henry’s poor- homeless- but he knows his stuff. He said ‘you know John- as true as you are- you never hear this from the famous pulpits in America’. He was agreeing with what the Muslim lady said at the dinner- that true religion is not fame and glory- but serving those in need.
I liked the spirit of the article I read- It does not mean I will not continue to advocate for the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus- that Jesus is truly the only way to God. Pope Benedict has also come under some heat for saying the Catholic Church teaches that Jesus is the only way of salvation- to which I agree.
Yet at the same time- as we make our case to our Muslim and Jewish friends- we can also sit down with them- live as citizens of the same community with them- and even learn something from them every now and then.
NOTE- To any of my friends who might be ‘rich’. The early church did have certain individuals who were rich- and it was oaky. The person who gave his grave spot to Jesus- Joseph of Arimathea- was rich. Also in the books of Acts there were believers who sold their real estate and dedicated the money to the church. So the bible doesn’t just outright condemn those who are rich- but there are many warnings against being rich in ‘this world’ while forgetting to build riches in the kingdom [works of love and charity]. That’s the main theme of James’ letter.
 WILL RUSSIA INVADE ISRAEL?-
I remember one of the first sermons I preached as a young kid who recently started reading the bible and learning all there was to learn. The message was on the ‘Future invasion of Israel by Russia’. I had heard some radio preacher offer a book on the subject and I ordered/read the book and I became familiar with the words ‘GOG- MAGOG’ that were recorded in the old testament book of Ezekiel.
The reference is to a region- north of Israel- where a future invasion will come down and wipe out [attempt] Israel. So as a sincere kid preacher [maybe 20 years old?] I preached with all the gusto I had- I referenced all the passages- till this day I’ll never forget that was the 1st time I looked on a world map and noticed that Moscow was indeed directly north of the land of Israel.
I covered all the passages well for a new kid on the block- my Pastor [a great and good man by the way] complemented me on the study that went into the message and for the most part I covered the classic view of dispensational theology that predicts a future natural kingdom on earth- run out of Jerusalem- where Jesus will literally sit on a throne and head up natural Israel [just a note- I too believe in the literal return of Christ- the 2nd coming].
These last few months we have seen some shakeup in the world of Liberal versus Conservative cable wars. First we saw the sudden departure of Keith Olberman [my favorite Liberal] and then- like a major earthquake- Beck announced he will be leaving Fox news at the end of the year. I was surprised to see Beck go.
On one of the last shows he did, before he had a fill in take over this last week [or maybe more?] Beck was doing one of his blackboard scenarios and he managed to get to the verse about Gog and Magog [my famous sermon!]. He hit it fast- mentioned the reference found in the book of Revelation [my reference was the one in Ezekiel] and he of course said how Russia was more than likely presently aligning itself for this future biblical event.
Since the early days of my becoming a reader of the bible- I have grown in my understanding of these various portions of the bible. While there are still many sincere bible Christians who read these passages as a future event- most scholars see them thru an historical framework. For instance in the Old Testament it is true that on more than one occasion the nation of Israel was attacked by invaders from the north- and these were seen as judgments from God on a rebellious nation. The language of ‘invaders from the north’ came to be understood as a reference to Gods judgment. Like today when you see ‘the south’ [confederate] versus the ‘north’- when dealing with the American civil war- you see it means more than just those who now live in the North or South- it’s talking about ideology- the politics of a situation- not just a geographical region.
So you could very well read these passages in this way- that is the invasion Ezekiel spoke about can refer to one of the many that did occur during Israel’s past history- and today it speaks more about Gods judgment on nations/people who disobey- and less about a geopolitical struggle that is still to play itself out on the map- got it?
When covering these issues it is important to realize that when we read the bible we need to read it in context- it’s not totally loony to take these verses the way Beck does- many bible believers do- but I think the approach I just gave you is more than likely the best approach [though it’s not the most popular as measured by the end times books that are best sellers in the present day].
Everybody has a point of view- it’s important to try our best to frame these passages of scripture in keeping with the broader themes of mercy and Gods love for mankind- as seen in scripture- while doing our best to interpret the broader meaning of these passages. We live in a day where many ancient cultures are in turmoil- some of the names of these nation states are mentioned in the bible [Syria, Egypt, Israel, etc.] this makes it all the more important that we try our best NOT to simply associate all the present people groups who live in these nations with the actual militaristic prophecies about them in scripture- often times the biblical references are speaking about historical events that already took place on the battlefields of the past- and they are not necessarily speaking about these people groups who live in the land today. The gospel of Jesus rises above the ethnic/geographical divisions of the past- all people are made one in Christ.
The previous chapter in Ezekiel [37- GOG is in 38] gives a wonderful picture of Ezekiel holding a stick in his hand- God tells him to write the names of Israel and Judah on the stick [these were the divided tribes of Israel at the time] and God says they will become one in the prophets hand- God will gather them together and set his tabernacle in their midst and they will be reconciled before God as one ‘new man’. This is the language used by the apostle Paul in the book of Ephesians- Paul says in Christ the ethnic/national divisions are broken down and we become one new man in Christ.
In truth these verses are really speaking about the ultimate purpose of God in reconciling all humanity thru the Cross- thru Jesus Christ- it’s sad that many have used them [including myself] to cause division.
 THE APOSTLE-
Got up early yesterday and decided to take a drive thru the old towns that I used to drive thru on my way to work. I used to pass up this historic community, German Catholics [the name of the town is Violet] but I never stopped to check out the little area where they live. They still have the original historic church they built in 1906- it’s closed down but it sits right next to a more modern one. It was cool seeing this old community- though I drove past it hundreds of times- it was nice to finally stop.
As I continued my tour I hit Robstown- another town I have driven past lots- have also been there lots of times as well. As I drove thru the main street I saw a few Pentecostal Revival tents set up- the signs had various bible verses on them. I also noticed some signs along the main road that simply said ‘Robstown for Jesus’. I of course didn’t mind seeing it- but I had the sense that some of the ‘more refined’ locals probably cringe at seeing the signs right off their main road. Often times Real Estate people don’t appreciate anything that might turn off a potential buyer.
I finished my tour by heading back to Corpus. I thought about the movie The Apostle [Duvall]. It’s one of my favorites- Duvall sort of documents the experience of a typical southern Pentecostal preacher who winds up killing his wife’s new boyfriend by accident. The story line traces the redemption of the title character and how he eventually gets busted and pays his dues. I heard Duvall talk about doing research for the movie and all- how he always was fascinated with the independent southern protestant type preachers and he had great respect for them. And I liked the overall ecumenical spirit of the movie- at one point Duvall is traveling thru an area [Louisiana?] and he sees this Catholic procession and simply says ‘they do it their way- I do it mine- but we all get the job done’.
We all have our own biases and prejudices- it’s foolish to deny that- but it helps if we simply try and view other people/groups in the best possible light. Sure- at the end of the day we will still have our disagreements, but we might also learn from each other. I remember when first reading thru the bible and attending one of Duvall’s type churches- one of the big verses we hit on was when Jesus says ‘don’t call any man on earth Father- for you have one Father- God’. We used to use this one to blast Catholics. Was Jesus talking about Catholics? Besides the fact that officially the church really didn’t exist yet- we also read the apostle Paul referring to himself as Father when writing the Corinthian church- he says ‘you have ten thousand teachers but I am your father in the gospel- I begat you thru the gospel’. Paul was the ‘spiritual Father’ of the Corinthian church [community]. Paul was an Apostle and the gift of an Apostle is like being a spiritual father.
So what gives- was Paul violating Jesus’ teaching? In the 1st century when Jesus was speaking you had the Jewish religion- Judaism- that had splintered into various sects [groups]. You could say ‘I follow rabbi so and so’ these different sects- and those who adhered to them- were said to be under the Father [Rabbi] of that school. In essence Jesus was simply rebuking the Party spirit- that thing that Paul himself rebuked the Corinthians for. Some of them said they followed Paul, others Apollo’s, etc. So a little bit of historical context- and we have our answer. But as a new believer who was zealous for the bible- I really had not time for all that stuff- I just read ‘don’t call anyone Father’ and that was that.
My short ride was enlightening- I saw the historic German community who brought their faith to this continent over a hundred years ago- sure they have ‘their way’ of doing it- like Duvall said. I also saw the Pentecostal revival meeting- with the classic tent and all [just like in Duvall’s flick] and they were proudly proclaiming Christ. Some feel we need to rid society of all vestiges of religious faith- they look to radical Islam- or to the Pro Lifer’s and say ‘we just need to get rid of the whole bunch’. One of the most popular thinkers of the last century was a man by the name of John Paul Sartre- he followed in the field of thinkers that are referred to as Existentialist’s. Sartre was an atheist- though the ‘father’ of existentialism was a Christian [Soren Kierkegaard- 1800’s].
Existentialism is a philosophy that says there is more than just head knowledge- pure rationalistic approaches to God and life. Kierkegaard wrote his famous book Fear and Trembling- he talked about how when God told Abraham to offer his son as a sacrifice- that Abraham had to rise above pure rational thought [God says ‘don’t kill’ and yet he’s asking me to kill my son]. Kierkegaard says true faith rises above rational thought and embraces God in an experiential way.
Sartre wrote a few books too. Titles; Nausea, No Exit, Being and Nothingness. He was famous for saying ‘Man is a useless passion’. Jesus warned of the danger of looking to human systems and saying ‘father’ that is choosing any system of man [like atheism] over and above the Fatherhood of God. You might be part of the Catholic community of Violet that brought their faith to the area over a century ago- or maybe your more comfortable ‘under the tent’ with my Pentecostal friends- either way the job gets done. But you do need to find a ‘tent’ a community that embraces the reality of God- because if you place yourself outside the tent- then according to Sartre- you are a useless passion.
 3rd PILLAR- ZAKAT.
As I was debating whether or not to continue my study on Islam [today] the spot I stopped at last was the 3rd pillar. Sure enough yesterday [and the rerun at 1 a.m.] Beck did an interesting show on Zakat. He had on a few experts- who are known to not be sympathetic to Islam- and they covered the subject of non violent Jihad- those who advocate for an Islamic society thru non violent means. Now- I know some Beck supporters have been upset with me in the past because I criticize Beck- it’s not that I don’t think he actually brings up things that other networks don’t- sometimes he does reveal stuff that the other networks don’t because they are so ‘in the tank’ for the president. I never thought I’d see the day where a news host actually would describe his ‘feelings’ that come over him when he hears the president speak- he actually used sexual connotations to describe it [a tingle goes up my leg]. Now- I’m not saying this to be cute [okay- maybe a little] but to say I have never in my life seen the media- the so called 4th estate- so one sided. So Beck [Fox] does serve a purpose. Now- Beck covered the groups that raise money under the banner of ‘charity’ and yet they have ties to radical Islam, and they discussed the ancient Islamic practice of Zakat [or Tithe].
In the Muslim community Zakat is giving a portion [2.5%] of both goods and finances for the sole purpose of providing for the poor. In Muslim communities the Zakat is like social security. The word literally means purification. The word itself is not a terrorist term- nor the practice. It is important for Beck and others to cover stories about the use of Zakat given to charitable groups for radical purposes- yet most Americans have probably not heard of the term before- and their first introduction to it was seen thru an association to terror.
Years ago I had a chance meeting with a Muslim- I’m sure he didn’t realize he ran into some nut who studies just about everything a person can study [I was working at the fire house and on duty]. He was a devout Muslim- dressed in Muslim garb an all. As we talked I gave him the biblical history of Abraham and his 2 sons Isaac and Ishmael. I traced the lineage of Christians and Jews from Isaacs’s line, and the genealogy of Muslims [Arabs] thru Ishmael. I spoke about the coming of Jesus in the 1st century of the Common Era as the promised offspring that God originally told Abraham about. I explained the purpose of the Messiah [Jesus] as being the predestined one sent by God to unite all people and tribes under one new nation- the Kingdom of God. I explained to my friend that Christianity teaches that Jesus was not simply a prophet- but one who died for the sins of the world and rose again as the final sacrifice that would ever need to be made for the sins of men. I was surprised to see my Muslim friend hearing the whole story- for the 1st time. He told me he was not familiar at all with the history [even though it is both biblical history and Islamic- the part about Ishmael which is found in the book of Genesis]. He seemed so grateful to have heard it thru ‘this angle’ not from the angle of the Crusades- or of Western Colonialism- but from the angle of the grace of God that has come to all tribes and races thru Jesus Christ.
As I watch the media day after day- seeing more unrest in the Middle East than I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. Seeing the growing strain between Christians and Muslims and Jews [the Fla. Pastor went and burned a Koran and Muslim demonstrators in Afghanistan attacked the U.N. building and killed and beheaded some workers]. As I see the lines being drawn in the sand- I come back to the story of my Muslim friend- who obviously was dedicated to his faith [wearing the robe and all] yet he never clearly heard the gospel- which actually means Good News. The bible commands us [Christians] to live in peace with ALL MEN- to love our neighbor as our self- to even love those who hate us- to pray for those who persecute us and to do good [a type of Zakat] to our fellow man. While I make no excuses for the killing and beheading of the U.N. people- yet to burn the holy book of another religion is also not living peaceably with all men.
I believe the Islamic practice of Zakat is closer to actual biblical teaching than what most Christians practice today. The majority of Christian giving- often wrongfully referred to as the Tithe- goes to the function of media ministry- church buildings- salaries- etc. under 10 percent goes to meeting the needs of the poor. Yet in the teachings of Jesus and in the New Testament the majority teaching on giving is in context of giving to meet the needs of the poor [go read my books under the Feb- 2010 posts- and also the study called ‘what in the world is the church’ under the Feb posts]. So in a very real way I do think the Islamic Zakat is closer to the biblical practice than what most 21st century Christians practice.
I will obviously have many things I will not embrace about Islam in future posts- I will try and cover those differences as respectfully as I possibly can- without being a biased defender of Islam [as my current instructor on the course seems to be]. And I will make the case for Christ as well. At the end of the day hopefully we can learn more about our various beliefs- try and have respect for those who differ- and root for the moderates among us. I reject the Koran burning pastor in Fla. And I hope most Muslims will also reject the radical elements within their ranks. The history of the 3rd Pillar of Islam is a good one- a practice that centers around the teachings of Christ- it’s a shame that some in the Muslim community have hijacked it for violent Jihad.
 I DID WHAT YOU ASKED- Today we close our brief study from Exodus ‘Insights from a Revolution’. In chapter 40 Moses finally completes the vision God gave him [vision- purpose] for the Tabernacle- he completes it 9 months after they arrived at Sinai [it took some time to establish order!] Just a short re-cap; when God delivered his people out of Egypt- he gave them this tent system where you had the Tabernacle [small building] you had this fence around it- you had the ‘outer courts’ and the area inside the courts. You had the Ark of the Testimony, the box that held the 10 commandments- a sample portion of Manna [the bread God gave them every morning for 40 years] and Aaron’s rod/stick that ‘budded’- a story we didn’t cover, it was a sign God gave the people that he was choosing the Aronic priesthood to be the priests. They took sticks from different tribes and the stick that would miraculously bud was the tribe that God chose. So you had this whole system set up as an example from God that would eventually be fulfilled thru Christ. This tent system became the Temple of Jewish history- and in Jesus day they had this system expanded on a huge scale at the Temple in Jerusalem. It’s sometimes referred to as the 2nd Temple- the one that was rebuilt after the children of Israel returned from captivity [a few hundred years B.C.] but it was rebuilt again- a 3rd time- under Herod, the Roman ruler who ruled right before Jesus was born [you also had another Herod- the title was passed on- during Jesus day]. This Temple was eventually destroyed under the Roman general- Titus- in a.d. 70. There has not been a Jewish temple since- the actual spot where the temple was- that spot is the same spot of this huge Muslim Mosque in the city of Jerusalem today. If you ever see an air view of Jerusalem you will see this huge mosque in the center of the city- that’s the same spot where the last Temple sat. So today there are lots of end times teachers with all types of views about the rebuilding of a 3rd [or 4th] Temple- scenarios of a re instituting of the sacrificial system- a view of a person called the anti Christ who will establish a covenant with Israel and 3.5 years into the 7 year peace treaty he breaks the treaty. All these scenarios are simply speculation- they do come from a sort of montage of verses scattered thru out the bible [Daniel, Matthew, Thessalonians, Revelation, etc.] but they are only one point of view- most bible scholars do not hold to this view- often referred to as dispensationalism- too long to get into it now. The main point I want to make is God used this whole system to show mankind that the only way he could dwell with man- was thru some sort of system that showed the sinfulness of man and the holiness of God- and that man can only approach God thru a sacrifice- the animals and blood were only a symbol of the future day when Jesus would come and die for the sins of the whole world [Hebrews- the book in the New Testament says this]. This whole story points to Jesus and Gods desire to redeem all mankind- regardless of ethnic/social status- to save men and rescue them thru the death and resurrection of His Son. Jesus truly is the sacrifice that saves man- he died for our sins. God gave Moses and the people this system of govt. that would follow them thru the rest of their history. Moses finished the work God gave him to do- and today this prophetic picture lives on in both the bible and on the Hollywood screen- most of us have seen some portrayal of it on the big screen [like Charlton Hesston in the classic movie- the 10 commandments]. Some of you might have learned a new thing as we did this brief study- maybe the purpose of the lid on the box, the Mercy Seat. Maybe some other thing stuck in your mind- that’s good- we want everybody to get an interest in this stuff- most people think the bible is a book that is boring- hard to understand. Yet it’s meant to capture your mind thru stuff like this- to see that the bible stories are actual historical events- events that still have meaning for our day- and they all point to God’s mercy and love for all mankind- not a story where God is some Western deity who takes sides in military ventures- that’s not the message of the gospel. God has made a way for all people to get in on this- he’s not advocating a certain type of religion- he’s saying he has already given his Son to die for the whole world- Jesus said on the Cross ‘It is finished’ the book of Hebrews says Moses was faithful to finish building the earthly house [tabernacle] that God told him to build- he finished the job. Hebrews also says Jesus was faithful in his house- in completing the mission and in completing it he too is building a house- the house of God- the church. This ‘building’ is open to everyone 24 hours a day- a spiritual temple made without human hands. John the apostle said ‘whoever hears this- let him come and take of the water of life freely’ [Revelation] Have you heard?
 EXODUS 34- This chapter is real important- God tells Moses to come back up into the mountain to receive the 2nd set of the 10 commandments. Moses actually broke the 1st set- when he came down from the mountain the 1st time with the 2 tablets- he saw the people rebelling [the story of worshipping the golden calf and all] and when he saw it he flipped out [yes- Moses had an anger problem- it eventually kept him from going into the promised land] and broke the tablets. So in this chapter he goes up for the 2nd time and God writes on the tablets again. I see this as a spiritual symbol of Jesus and the New Covenant. Jesus is called the mediator of the New Covenant- a 2nd covenant that is better than the 1st [Hebrews] so this ‘2nd set’ of commandments can be a type of the 2nd law. Now Moses speaks to the people- and he doesn’t realize that his face is shining. So after he speaks with the people- he puts a veil on his face until he goes to meet with God again. Each time he meets with God- he comes back- talks with the people- and puts the veil on. In 2nd Corinthians chapter 3 the apostle Paul says this is an example of the blindness of natural Israel- that is they don’t fully see Jesus as the Messiah. As a Jew himself- Paul wanted his fellow Jews to also believe in the messiah [Romans 9-10] and he did all he could to argue for the reality of Jesus as being the Messiah [read the sermons in the book of Act’s] so Paul says the Jewish people [his own nation/people] have a sort of spiritual veil over their faces [actually it covers Moses face- a type of Jesus. Meaning Jesus is right there- in front of them, but they see a figure- but are unable to truly see his identity- sort of like a man wearing a veil]. So Paul uses this story to preach Christ. Just like the Manna, just like the Ark, the Tabernacle- as we read Exodus we are really seeing an unveiling of the person and work of Christ.
Okay- as we finish this short study over the next day or 2- let me also try and tie up a few lose ends. Those of you who have been reading this site for a while realize I was in the middle of a few other studies before I jumped into this series- which I will call ‘Insights from a Revolution’. The reason being the Asian/Persian world is on fire- Revolutions- civil wars [Libya] lots of stuff came up. I also finished the Christopher Hitchens book [god is not great- Hitchens is an atheist and I have been reproving him]. For the sake of not wanting to give him any more ‘air time’ than I had to- I stopped correcting his many mistakes [yes- Many!]. I plan on reviewing and critiquing the other ‘new atheists’ in the coming months- Hitchens is considered the smartest of the bunch [Dawkins, Harris, etc.] so I figured if we ‘throw him under the bus’ then we would have taken down the top dog. Let me finish Hitchens by saying the guy is outright mean- calls Mother Theresa ‘a troll’- refers to princess Dianna as a ‘land mine’ [she was known for her international work with getting rid of land mines]. Why? He says ‘there easy to lay- and cause lots of damage’. Hitchens is not a man that anyone should look up to. I felt he was a liar- conniver- snake oil salesman. One last example- he mentions the bible story of the graves of people opening up by an earthquake the day Jesus was crucified- the bible does indeed say this- I have read this many times over the years [in the gospel]. The bible says that AFTER Jesus rose from the dead [3 days later] that the bodies of believers who were in these open graves rose too- a sort of ‘first fruits’ resurrection. The apostle Paul says [1st Corinthians 15] that Jesus resurrection was the ‘first fruits’ you could include this small group of dead saints in with this group [called the 1st fruits]. These believers eventually died again- and will receive their new resurrected bodies at the 2nd coming. Now- why get into this? Hitchens uses this story- and says ‘see- the bible says these saints rose before Jesus- the day he was crucified- this challenges the whole theory that Jesus rose from the dead 1st’. Now- like I said before- Hitchens claims to be a regular bible student- and its stuff like this that causes an alarm bell to go off in my head when I read it. The man is obviously lying- lying for money [a crass seller of books! You know- the same complaint atheists make all the time against believers, money grubbers]. And he uses this actual story- more than once- to prove a point- that is wrong!
There was something else that happened on the day Christ died. In the story of Exodus- when Moses builds the actual tabernacle- he puts this huge veil over a room called ‘the holy of holies’. The tabernacle [little church like structure that held the Ark and stuff] had 2 rooms in it- the 1st room- called the ‘1st room’ [Hebrews 9-10] or the holy place- had the table of showbread, the candlestick- a few other things. Then you had this huge veil covering the 2nd room- called the holy of holies. That’s the room that contained the box [ark] with the 10 commandments in it [I wrote about this in the previous post called ‘don’t look in the box!’]. This room was divided from the 1st room by the veil. So eventually King David would start building the temple- and his son Solomon would finish it. Over the centuries the temple took the place of the tabernacle system. In the temple of Jesus day- built by Herod- it was a magnificent structure- the central place of worship and religion for the Jewish people. In this huge temple there was actually a huge veil- a veil that divided the holy of holies from the 1st room- just like the original tabernacle built by Moses some 1400 years before. The day Jesus died- the bible says ‘the veil of the temple was ripped from the top to the bottom’. God did a miracle [maybe the same earthquake that broke open the graves shook the building and it separated the veil?] and the veil was ripped apart- signifying the reality that because of Jesus death on the Cross we now have open access to God- no more veil. This event is recorded in the history books of Jesus day- Paul says there is coming a time when ‘the veil’ [spiritual blindness of people] will be removed- and people will say ‘wow- now I see it- I never saw it before- but now it makes sense’. Are you still wearing a veil?
 EXODUS 33- The Lord tells his people that they must get up from the place they are at- Mount Sinai- and move on to the new place he has promised to them- Canaan [the Promised Land]. Okay- symbolically what does this mean? Sinai represents law, promised land= the Cross, the ‘new land’ of grace and freedom found in Christ. In the New testament- this is the way all the apostles dealt with these promises [Hebrews, Galatians, Peter’s sermons in Acts]. It is vital for Christians [especially T.V. preachers!] to get this right. The message to the Muslim/Arab world is not ‘God is taking sides in a land war in Israel/Palestine’ but the message is ‘in Jesus, all nations/ethnic groups are welcome- leave Sinai [the old law mentality of seeing God thru the lens of a strict judge who wants to get you] and come to the ‘new land’ this land of grace where Jesus took upon him the sins of the whole world and bore the punishment for us’ this is really the message of Christianity- many people see Christianity/Christendom thru a 2 thousand year history [okay to do- I too am a historian] but they look at the mistakes- the Crusades- the Christian hatred of Jews that existed- the Muslim/Christian battles- many people do not really see the true message of the Cross- the new land of grace and acceptance thru Jesus- they are stuck at Sinai [a mountain that we already saw was fearful, people trembled- were scared- strict judgment] and can’t seem to get to the next mountain.
Also the Lord tells the people ‘take off your costume jewelry’ they wore the celebratory stuff- sort of like Mardi Gra stuff- when they sinned while worshipping their idols. God says ‘it’s not a performance- your service to me, your worship- take the fake stuff off’. In Matthews gospel- chapters 6-7, Jesus says ‘this thing is not theatre- how to perform and gain an audience’ I mean you can’t get stronger than that. Jesus also says ‘prayer is not mastering some type of formula to get what you want- create lots of wealth’ I mean he really takes to task the majority of American Christianity- a huge percentage of it is really performance- seeing ‘church’ as a place where we go once a week and actually watch a stage/theatre performance- ouch! God told the people ‘get rid of the costume jewelry- I have more important stuff for you’. Right now there is a lot of stuff happening in the world- the voice of the church needs to be a voice for justice in the earth. I watched an interview on Fox news this weekend- the host described our wars as just- and the Muslim/Arab side as terrorism. I had just read a news article describing the accidental killings of the 9 Afghan boys who were gathering fire wood while our attack helicopters killed them. The boys were between 5 and 11 years old. One boy- the only survivor, named Hamed- said as they were in the field they heard the chopper coming. Of course it’s a scary sight for little boys. Then as the chopper left- it came back again- like stalking them. They stood still- until the first boy was mowed down. They ran in all different directions- the chopper methodically hunted the boys down- one by one. This boy survived because a tree fell on him and hid him. I know our side thought the boys were enemy combatants- I know we did not intend for this to happen. But to excuse our actions- to say ‘we are just’ and the other side- some who are simply fighting for the Taliban because they need the job- to say they are immoral- and we are moral- seems like a joke after hearing about the deaths of these boys. May God have mercy on all of us.
 BEHOLD, I AM MAKING A COVENANT. BEFORE ALLYOUR PEOPLE I WILL DO MARVELS- SO AS HAVE NOT BEEN CREATED IN ALL THE EARTH OR IN ANY NATION, AND ALL THE PEOPLE AMONG WHO YOU ARE SHALL SEE THE WORK OF THE LORD- FOR IT IS AN AWESOME THING THAT I WILL DO WITH YOU. OBSERVE WHAT I COMMAND YOU THIS DAY- EX. 34:10.
In our Exodus study we are actually in chapter 23, but these past few weeks I have been reading thru some key passages and before we get too far in the study I want to make sure we hit them. In the above verse God is telling the people that this deliverance- an actual historical event that took place around 1400 years B.C.- that this Divine change taking place- was a world changing event that had greater implications than what they presently understood. In chapter 23 the Lord tells the people that he is sending his messenger [angel] before them- and they need to pay close attention to the words he is speaking. In the bible [especially the Old Testament] the angel of God at times is associated with God himself. In the book of Revelation God is communicating a prophetic vision to the apostle John thru angels [messengers]. Basically God is telling his people that they need to stay on message- and that the message needs to be in line with his character [my messenger- the things I have/will say]. In another chapter we will hear God tell Moses ‘put the words/law I give you into the box’. God tells Moses to put the 2 tablets of the 10 commandments into the Ark of the covenant- as opposed to what Moses might say or think. The point being all of us [Christian ministers, Jewish leaders, Imams] we need to make sure we are speaking the words of God, not man.
At this time [as I write] I have friends reading these posts from all over the spectrum. Many have been reading straight from the blog site- others from various other spots where these posts show up. As a Christian- I of course hold to the biblical teaching that Jesus is the Messiah- the ‘Son of God’ who came to redeem man and died and rose again for the sins of man. Now- why the emphasis on the term ‘Son of God’. In Islam- many good Muslim people are taught- from their youth- that to even read/say this term is blasphemous. Why? In Islam many believe that using this term means that God ‘had sexual relations’ with the Virgin Mary- and many good Muslims sincerely will not listen to a Christian teacher because they are taught that to even hear the term is wrong. So as Christians we need to explain that in Christian teaching this term does not mean that- the Christian faith teaches that the Holy Spirit did a miracle with the Virgin Mary and Mary became pregnant with Jesus- not by a sexual act- but by a Divine miracle. So some bible versions- in an effort to overcome the obstacle that Muslims have about the term ‘Son of God’ [because they see this term in a different way than Christians] have substituted the words ‘Son of God’ with ‘the one who originates from God’. There is a debate among Christians on whether or not this is right [many Christians do not think this interpretation is acceptable] but it seems to be an honest effort among Christian missionaries to introduce the bible to the Muslim people in a way that allows them to get past the first obstacle- of not even wanting to read the words ‘Son of God’. Okay- said all that to say this- in this study of Exodus- we are reading a real biblical account of what took place in time- an account that Christians, Muslims and Jews all believe in. So as much as I want to continue to make the case for the reality of Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah- yet at the same time I want to also teach the biblical account in a way that all 3 faiths can learn from. And I want to be able to be a voice of moderation in the conversation
Often time’s radical voices from all 3 of the above religions are the voices that seem to get the most notice. Last night I caught an interview with the lawyer who went to the Supreme Court and won the case for the Christian church to protest at the funerals of dead soldiers. Here in the U.S. we have this Baptist church [Westboro Baptist church] that has been holding up picket signs at the funerals of soldiers that say mean- offensive things ‘God hates fags’ and stuff that should not be said. Yet they won their case because it is a free speech issue- and on the program I watched, they let this lawyer- who is also a family member of the preacher of the church- she went on and shared her view about God and the bible- and to be frank it is a very ignorant view- a bigoted idea of God and the bible, yet it is a view that prevails among many Christians [not the ‘God hates fags’ view- but other separatist ideas] and it leaves no room for having a moderate conversation among the other religions of the world. So as we progress in this study- we see the importance of the word of God- the commands and character of God. We see that God is up to something that is bigger- more important than the people understand at the time- and we see that things take time. At the end of the chapter God says as he brings the people into the land- they will not take all the land at once- lest the wild beats take over the land- but he will gave them a little land at a time, just enough territory to establish a functioning society- before gaining new ground.
I think we all need to re evaluate and take a look at the present landscape [both symbolically and geographically] and give things some time to settle in- to establish rule and order before we take too much area at once. Right now in Libya- there seems to be a standoff between the protestors [rebels- they don’t like this term] and Gadhafi. The country- though big in geographical terms- is relatively small in population [compared to Egypt- 80 million people]. Libya has 6 million people- 90 % live right off the Mediterranean coast- and the forces in the east [major city- Ben Ghazi] are up against Gadhafi’s stronghold in the west- Tripoli. As I watch all the reports we need to be careful that we don’t misread the situation—even though there were reports of civilian deaths- it does not look like Gadhafi has opened up his air force on the civilian population- not in a way it was reported at first. So even though we [the west] condemn the deaths that have taken place- I’m not sure that we are seeing what some have described as a Genocide [which I too said in the beginning]. So maybe the Middle East, Africa- and even parts of Asia- maybe it’s time to sit back and regroup some. I’m speaking to those who are wanting freedom- NON VIOLENT protestors who are protesting to gain human rights- I’m not talking military strategy here! And in today’s chapter [and the verse I quoted at the top] God is saying to the people ‘I am doing an awesome work in the world right now- obey me- listen to my words- I will give you bread [instruction] every morning [the Manna on the ground] I have given you my words [WORDS THAT HAVE SAID- DON’T KILL! TO ALL SIDES] make sure you organize your new found freedom around these things- don’t use this freedom for a chance to sin- to release anarchy/lawlessness [read Galatians chapter 5] but instead use this new freedom to serve God and love your fellow man’.
 ‘DID YOU SEE HOW FAST EGYPT FELL?’ God. In Exodus 19 the Lord brings the people to mount Sinai and his first instructions- before giving them the 10 commandments- is he tells them ‘You yourselves have seen what I did in Egypt- and how I bore you on eagles wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession above all people- for all the earth is mine’. Those of you following these posts- especially you guys from the ‘DAYS OF RAGE’ Facebook pages- it is interesting that these instructions were given to the people in the beginning of the 3rd month [bible calendar time] yet as I’m teaching this the 1st time around- by ‘accident’ it just so happens that today is the beginning of the 3rd month [March 1st 2011]. During the current day revolts taking place in the world- Egypt’s rapid fall was indeed a catalyst for the present day revolts. Now in this chapter God uses the reality of what happened in Egypt as an encouragement to bring the people to himself. He says ‘did you not see the quick deliverance in Egypt? Realize I’m at work in this thing- obey my voice- seek me at this time’. As of this morning Libya still hasn’t fallen- yet Gadhafi is the first leader to actually fight his revolt with arms. Many world observers are asking questions ‘has the U.S. responded right? Is Obama doing a good job’ some are calling for a no fly zone- others are wanting to air drop in humanitarian aid- all in all this is one of those decisions that both the current vice president [Biden] and secretary of state [Clinton] said they sincerely felt candidate senator Obama was not ready for. During the campaign I listened carefully to these 2 individuals sincerely make this claim- Biden would say stuff like ‘look- Barak is a good man- with lots of future potential- I do like him- but to be honest- not critical- he just is not ready for the job- he will be tested because of this and I sincerely do not feel he is ready’ the problem with politicians is after they get put on the team they change their tune- say ‘sure we said that- we are all politicians’ well now we need leaders- not a bunch of ‘bull’ [to put it mildly]. Okay- we were naïve to think that all future revolutions would go as smoothly as Egypt- Libya is a tough nut to crack. If the U.S. takes the lead- goes in and takes the man out- what message will it send? Will all the other protestors in ‘friendly’ countries take it as a sign that if things get out of hand- if they put themselves in situations where they get fired on- then we will be forced to intervene? Yes, these are all tough questions- the job of president is tough- thank God we don’t have a bunch of Harry Reid's and John Kerry’s who went around the country accusing the opposing president of being a murderer who purposely tricked us into war and who is an abysmal failure [note- I am against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan- yet the opposing party felt it their duty to speak like this in their criticism of Bush- thank God there are no Republicans who are openly saying this about Obama- behind the scenes- yes- but not in public- yet]. So the choice is tough- our European allies have all been faster and stronger in their condemnations and the present administrations excuse was ‘we had people on the ground’ but now that they’re out [ferried to the island of Malta in the Mediterranean sea] just ‘watch’. Well, I have been watching- there is nothing to see! God willing this administration will get their act together. While I do not advocate an all out invasion- yet when true humanitarian crimes are being committed- you act- remember Bosnia? Another event the Democrats used to criticize the Repub’s for ‘look- we Dem’s use force- we’re not scared’. Just wish people would do their jobs and quit comparing everything to the opposing side. It’s time to act- act.
Note- sanctions and freezing bank accounts and all these types of things are useless when dealing with a real time humanitarian crisis- a possible genocide. These other tools are not the things you use when dealing with crimes of this nature.
Okay- in this chapter [Exodus 19] we see Mount Sinai, a mountain that represents the first covenant God made with man- the 10 Commandments. In Galatians and Hebrews [chapters 5 and 12 respectively] the bible tells us that we today are at a ‘new mountain’ we have come to a heavenly city- the mountain that represents the New Covenant, called mount Zion- not a physical location any more- but a spiritual community of people- made up of all nations and races- Jews, Arabs, Muslims, everyone is welcome to enjoy the freedom and grace that this new city affords. The New Testament says this city [the church-people of God] has gates that are open all the time- that is people are ‘coming in’ and ‘going out’ 24-7. It is not bound by earthly boundaries- the shaking of nations will not affect it- yet the nations themselves will shake and fall [yes- this actual wording is used in the bible] so today we are seeing a shaking of many nations- people are afraid of radical expressions of Islam- others in the West struggle over the approach- should we quake and fear and give in to worst case scenarios ‘LOOK- THE MUSLIMS ARE TAKING OVER’. The answer is all nations and peoples are going to shake- the govts. of the world are all temporary- yes even the great old U.S. of A. At these times we find stability and freedom in the mountain of God- not Sinai- some old expression of govt. that represented bondage and pain [read Galatians chapter 5!] but we have come to mount Zion- a great assembly of people- from all nations- who are yearning for freedom from oppression- seeking justice and righteousness- rejecting the way of the sword and the gun- yes this new mountain is greater than all the mountains of the earth [Ezekiel, Daniel] and in the last days all the mountains [which represent governments in the bible] of the world will collapse- and the mountain of the Lord will be the only one left standing- flee to that mountain- fast!
Just a note to my Muslim readers- we all have prejudices we need to overcome- even while writing the above post I debated on using the biblical language of Zion. The reason is obvious. Yet in the bible the meaning, as used by the New Testament writers- is not speaking about modern Zionism [a geopolitical view of the world and the present situation in Israel/Palestine] but it speaks about a new reality- that thru Jesus Christ all nations can find peace and harmony thru him. At the end of the day the answer is not going to be found in overthrowing one human govt. for another- but the answer will ultimately be found in Gods government- which is a spiritual kingdom called the kingdom of God [read the gospel of John chapter 3].
 IS IT POSSIBLE TO PROTEST TOO MUCH? A couple of days ago I started teaching the story of Moses and God’s delivering of his people from Egypt- I talked about the Ark of the Covenant and the fall of Pharaoh- try and go back and read those posts- and for the next few days I want to simply tell the story found in the book of Exodus [Old Testament]. In Exodus chapters 15- 16 we read the story of the great deliverance of God- in the previous chapters the people were under bondage to oppressive rulers [much like the autocratic rulers in the Arab/Persian world right now] and the people cried/protested and God heard them and he sent them new leaders [Moses] and this new leadership was needed in order for the old guard to pass away. Now- as they proceed on the journey the first spot they come to is a place named Marah- which means bitterness [present day Suez canal area]. They traveled for 3 days and found no water- and at Marah there is water- but the water is bitter, it’s not fit for human consumption. So they complain and Moses finds a stick/tree branch and puts it in the water and the waters ‘are healed’. In Christian teaching this branch is a symbol of Christ [who the bible calls the true vine- also the apostle Peter calls the Cross ‘the tree’] and the symbol means that when people believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ- in a spiritual way the ‘waters are healed’ [people are brought back to God thru the Cross]. The next spot they get to [Elim] has plenty of food and good water. Now- as they continue on the journey they begin missing the old stability they had under the old regime [Pharaoh] they start to complain against the new leaders and say ‘you led us out on this journey- now we have no good food like the old days- we will all starve out here- we wish we never protested’ wow- talk about rebels! Okay- Moses gets mad too- thinking to himself ‘man- I never asked for this- and now I’m supposed to put up with this’ [sort of like some of the leaders who have had to fill the gap after Mubarak fell- some of these guys- being prodded by the U.S. govt. are being asked to keep the peace until they can transition into a new Democratic rule]. God answers Moses and tells him he will send them meat and bread- God supernaturally causes a bunch of Quail [birds] to blow into the camp and they have lots of meat- and in the morning when they woke up there was this wafer type bread that was on the ground. The bread is called ‘Manna’ which actually means ‘what is it’. God fed them for 40 years with this ‘unknown’ bread- and he tells Moses to put some in a jar and save it as a memorial of Gods provisions. Eventually this jar with the bread in it will go into the box [the Ark I wrote about a few posts back- which had the 2 tablets of the 10 commandments it] and it will be a reminder to future generations how God was with them on the journey. Okay- a few practical points; it is possible to ‘protest too much’ that is after God initiated the process of ‘new rule’ the people couldn’t just keep protesting their way into a new govt., they had to ‘put up’ with some type of leadership along the way. Right now in Egypt [2-2011] some of the people are split on what to do ‘should we keep protesting’ some ask- others are saying ‘okay- we got Mubarak to step down- we need to give some of these military leaders a chance to set some things up for the elections to come’. In the case of Moses this was Gods will- that is the people went too far in not even being willing to let Moses lead a little. So some times as the protests succeed- there might also need to be a few months of letting the new guys have a chance to get some stuff done. A few interesting points; in chapter 16 the bible says ‘this happened on the 15th day of the 2nd month’. Geez- that’s right around the same time that the present Egyptian uprising also took place [I am aware the months of the Jewish calendar are different than mine- but it’s still pretty good!] and in the book of John [John’s gospel, chapter 6] Jesus has a conversation with the Jewish leaders and he says he himself is ‘the bread of God that came down from heaven’ he says the bread Moses gave them [the Manna spoken about here] was a symbol of his own life and death on the Cross for the sins of the world- he says ‘all who eat/receive me will live’. I find it interesting that in this story the original Jewish people are eating the bread for all these years- and the name of it means ‘what is it’. Both Muslims and Jews respect Jesus, they see him as a prophet sent from God- yet in Christian theology we teach that Jesus is much more than that- he is the ‘sent one’ [Jewish Messiah- the one who originates from God] many well meaning Muslims and Jews ‘have’ Jesus sort of like the Manna- they know the bread is there- they even ‘eat it’ [benefit in a way from it] yet Jesus says ‘I am the true bread- the bread that comes down from heaven and gives my life for the world’. As the Arab world is going thru their own journey right now- facing many difficult days ahead- days where some will be tempted to say ‘we regret this new found journey of freedom- we wish we never left Egypt’ there will also be a chance to feed from the Manna- the bread that has been there all along- the bread that many said of ‘what is it’ [or who is this Jesus] Jesus himself testifies that it is speaking about him- he is the true bread of life- the only ‘leader’ [new Moses] that can truly liberate- may we all find true revolution thru him.
 WEEK IN REVIEW [MEDIA BIAS] - Okay, this past week has been big- lots of very important stories. Some ‘news’ outlets present the most favorable view possible- others seem to play into the fears of ‘the West’. Yesterday I read a news paper article- now understand- this is supposed to be straight reporting. The story was about 4 people shot to death as they were protesting in Bahrain- the jist of it went like this ‘as the protests grew out of hand- the govt. increased resources to deal with the unrest- as a result of the govts. attempt to restore order- 4 people died’. Now- out of all the nations that are ‘falling’ Bahrain just might be the most strategically important one for the U.S. We station our ships their [5th fleet- Persian Gulf] and they are a small- yet very important ally. When you have 1 death in Iran- or 20 in Libya- the papers report it as ‘the regime killed innocent people in cold blood’ yet when the media organizations [Associated Press- or whoever] actually try and present an important ally as ‘noble’ when they do the same thing, then they are nor reporting the news in a fair way. This week we had the school teachers protesting in Wisconsin- the newly elected Republican governor has the majority in the state senate/house and he is trying to balance the state budget- and he is wanting to eliminate collective bargaining- except for salary negotiations- in the state [exempting the cops and firefighters]. Okay- as a retired firefighter- who still gets the monthly magazine from my union [international association of firefighters] I see their point- yet as the teachers have taken to the streets to protest- you have seen pictures of the governor [Walker] as good ole Hitler- posters of his face and Mubarak’s together- ‘get rid of the tyrant’ and even a poster of the governor in actual RIFLE SCOPE CROSSHAIRS- saying ‘reload’. Now- we just went thru a few weeks [in the Western media] of CNN- MSNBC- ABC- NBC- CBS- ETC. associating the use of the word ‘target’ and using crosshairs on a political web site- as being possibly responsible for the shooting of rep. Gifford’s in Arizona- yet the same media who were outraged over Palin- seem to be fine with the union protestors actually saying ‘reload’ with an actual scope sight on the Republican governors face. So you pretty much have to be blind to not see the bias. Even Diane Sawyer- in her coverage of Bahrain- showed a scope target over the country as they ‘zoomed in’ for the story- I mean they just can’t help themselves! Now- on a more serious note- as Anderson Cooper [CNN] made it his own personal vendetta to go after Mubarak [you know they beat Anderson up] as he was portraying the govt. as evil [in many ways they were] yet at the same time- we now know that 200 protestors [people Anderson gave ‘cover’ to] were raping Lara Logan- a reporter- in the crowd. As they raped her they shouted ‘Jew- Jew’. This must be condemned by everyone- in no uncertain terms. It should be noted that she was rescued by the women on the street along with the military [the same military that Cooper was vilifying on screen at the same time]. Problem? Like I said before- very rarely does one side take all the blame- or another side all the credit. I think it’s important for Western society to realize that there are over a billion Muslims in the world- and lots of us view them thru the paradigm of ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ or the Iranian madman- yet in many of these Arab/Persian nations- there are lots of younger generation people who also reject these stereotypes- you have many of the younger generation who have connected with the outside world thru social media and many of them do not fit the mold of radical terrorist. Yet some of these younger people do hold to beliefs that Sharia law should be the law of the land- or some of them have very anti Semitic views that were instilled in them thru their ‘religious’ education -they are taught that Jews are pigs and dogs- we can’t simply overlook the racial hatred that is found in many of these societies- and we must say ‘NO- NOT ACCEPTABLE- YOU CAN’T KEEP DOING THIS AND AT THE SAME TIME EXPECT US TO RESPECT YOU’! So, we need to be honest and fair on all sides- If a govt. we need/like kills it’s people- then don’t report it as ‘ accidental collateral damage’ while a govt. the media doesn’t like says ‘they killed them in cold blood’. If a reporter is miffed because he got his ‘butt kicked’- then don’t present the whole story as the military are all evil- protestors good- especially when some of the protestors are raping a female reporter while shouting ‘JEW- JEW’ and the military are the ones who saved her! I want to take the side of the younger people- who do indeed feel oppressed and beaten down- many of these Arab regimes have been repressive- yet the younger people must openly reject anti Semitism- religious theocracy- they must disassociate themselves from the image that many in the Western world have- when we in the West see the Iranian president appealing for the return of the 12th Imam- calling for the slaughter of the Jews- we see a true nut job who we want nothing to do with [as many other Arab leaders also feel- we now know thanks to Wikileaks]. So the younger protestors have a chance- a chance of a lifetime- to show the West that you reject radicalism- and when an atrocious incident happens on the side of the protestors- one that should have been roundly condemned- LOUDLY- then we in the West need to hear it.
 REVOLUTION- NOT ANARCHY! As of last night many streets in the Arab world are experiencing protests- Iran has launched 2 battleships to head towards Syria [right off the coast of Israel] and there are reports of oil prices spiking because of the unrest. These last few weeks I have been reading thru some chapters in Exodus- the book that records the historic liberation of Gods people from Egypt. Those of you who are bible readers will remember that the initial cause for revolt was actually an economic injustice; the children of Israel were under the oppressive regime of Pharaoh and they were grumbling about the poor economic conditions- the leader heard their ‘protests’ and he oppressed them more! He required them to produce more bricks and mortar [for the building of his own wealth] and yet they were to do this from the same amount of natural resources they had all along. In many of these states where the protestors have taken to the streets- they survive on 2 dollars a day- or less. These same people are now required to survive off of the same measly amount- even as the cost of food soars- many of them are indeed going hungry- for real. In the biblical story God sends them Moses [a type of Christ] and as you know Moses confronts unjust authority and the people revolt. Now- one of the key ingredients to a successful ‘revolt’ is a just constitution! God gives them the 10 commandments [rules on treating each other justly- and loving God] at the start of their journey- they will eventually conquer the Promised Land and grow as a society- yet the rules of the game were laid out early in the revolt. What do I think is happening right now? I believe our people [the president and U.S. govt.] are seeing these revolts as the major danger in the world right now- the level of world instability has not been like this in many years- the news media have tried to ‘manipulate’ the environment. After CNN and a few others chose to hone the cameras in on the thousands of protestors in Egypt’s square- yet they initially would not show/report the thousands who were revolting in Iraq. Why? They obviously want to push the narrative of ‘change’ in one place- while pushing the narrative of ‘Obama ended the war and all is well’ in another. The reality is there are major dangers taking place in the world right now- do I think Iran wants to invade Israel? To be honest- yes. What? All these leaders are shaking in their boots- from ‘the shores of Tripoli’ [Quadaffi] to the ‘kings’ of Bahrain. I assure you- if the protestors topple the Iranian leaders- it will not be a ‘peaceful’ exodus to some vacation spot [like Mubarak did] it will be Saddam Hussein all over again [strung up in the streets- or on TV]. Now- do you think the Iranian madman would attack Israel as a last ditch effort to save his skin? You bet ya! [Okay- too much Palin]. Remember- before all the recent developments- there were some major movements in the Middle East that spelled danger for Israel. For years they faced opposition on their northern border from Lebanon. For many years Hezbollah was a political force in the area- for the first time ever they recently elected someone from Hezbollah to high office- deposing the former leader. In the south and on the West bank there was also lots of turmoil right before these revolts took place. The leader of the Palestinians came under tremendous pressure because the Wikileaks ‘leaks’ revealed that Abbas [Palestinian leader] agreed with Israel to kill some Hamas leaders [Hamas is the radical pro Palestinian group- branded as terrorists by Israel and the U.S.] When the leaks got out there was rage in the streets- the chief negotiator [Saeb Erakat] had to step down. So all these events were seen as major threats to peace in the region- add to that the fall of Egypt- and the current uprisings in the other Arab/Persian states- yes indeed- we have not seen a time like this since our world wars [yes that’s strong- I do believe this to be true]. Okay- should we be afraid? No. How should we view the young people who are the primary demonstrators on the streets? I think it would be a mistake for the older generation [especially in the West] to view them all as potential terrorists- remember- Iran wouldn’t be sending her ships to Syria unless they too felt like they needed to hedge their bets. So we want to hear the cries of the younger generation- people who have felt oppressed for years- who were told ‘make do with the same resources- yet make it go further’ these people have indeed been wronged in many ways- many of them feel this is their only chance to ‘escape’- and finally- the advice to the protestors- you need a ‘law’ constitution- a statement of just principles that you will hold each other accountable to- maybe an ‘on line’ statement of beliefs to go along with the ‘days of rage’ that are being posted on facebook- some type of open rejection of radical terrorism and holding accountable those who would like to ‘hijack’ the protests for their own purposes. It’s really too late for the West to say ‘okay- we liked the Egypt thing- but now we want to hold up on the rest’. It’s so sad- right after the Egyptian uprising- news organizations like CNN and others- who were actually ‘parties’ to the success of the revolt [yes- watch carefully and you will see] they then ignored the other protests and were headlining their shows with the Grammy winners- yes- whole hours of not mentioning any of the other protests. Or MSNBC making the stop story about Rumsfeld or how 50 % of the Republican primary voters think Obama is a Muslim- I mean a whole hour on this stuff? The media do ‘play the fool’ lots. Just a note- in some nations there are actually protestors [not govt. cronies] who are protesting against the ‘protestors’- that is some more stable economies [Bahrain, Qatar, etc.] many of these nations- though not democratic- have ‘shared the wealth’ with the people- many successful businesses thrive in some of these countries- these more stable people do not want the Egypt revolt to spread- some have pointed out [very legitimately] that when the media focuses the cameras of the world on a few hundred- or thousand protestors- they need to remember that there are many millions who are not protesting [the population of Egypt is 80 million- some did not want revolt] so the media has to be careful that they are not showing the wrong ‘narrative’ in some of these places. All in all- the cats out of the bag- some regimes are indeed going to shoot their protestors- others will try and start a war with Israel- yes- these are very serious times. Lets pray for the safety and freedom for all people- when the children of Israel were under an oppressive regime- the bible says God heard their cry and sent them a deliverer- the New Testament says Jesus is the ‘Moses’ of this day- even Gandhi used the non violent principles of the Sermon on the Mount to have a successful revolt- I hope the present protestors will do the same.
[By the way- in many of these present revolts the citizens are revolting against the autocrats who were installed after their countries broke away from their colonizers- like India from Britain- yet they never transitioned into real democracies]
 YOU SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION? YOU GOT IT. Okay- history was made yesterday- on the exact anniversary of the Iranian revolution [that didn’t work out so well]. First- I’m glad the people in the square prevailed- I’m on their side and stand in solidarity with them. There are already a few other Facebook pages popping up- DAYS OF RAGE for other countries who are seeking to capitalize on the mood of revolution in the air- it looks like we might really be living in historic times. These events could very well be the defining moment of this century- that which historians will look back on and see as momentous- a defining time. Are there dangers? Yes. There are always dangers when Revolution happens- honest [and dishonest] people on both sides- we [the U.S.] are children of Revolution- if any nation should support these revolts- it should be us! We had dissenters during our season of revolt- some preachers/Christians sided with England- they felt like it was disobeying the bible to ‘Revolt’- there are bible verses that say ‘obey your earthly rulers- listen to the kings and governors- don’t rebel’. Now- that sure does sound problematic if you’re a believer on the revolting side. The apostle Paul wrote this, not under Western Style Democracy- but under Imperial Roman Rule! [ in his letter to the church at ROME!] So how do we join the spirit of freedom and popular revolution with this? Jesus obviously rejected violent revolt [those who live by the sword will die by it] yet he was not against challenging the authorities of the day- non violently standing up to corrupt leaders- and yes- instituting a new revolutionary kingdom- one that would overthrow the ‘kingdoms of this world’ [ The Kingdom of God]. I mean you can’t escape the imagery of revolt and kingdom and righteous dominion [rule] this is the heart and soul of the Kingdom of God. Problem? Well yes- at times [like in our day] many Christians misunderstand the purpose of the Kingdom of God- they [in my view] place too much emphasis on the geographical area of the Holy Land- they develop scenarios that pit Arab/Muslim nations against Israel- and they read the very real Old Testament prophecies thru a lens that says ‘this is God’s word- this ethnic group [Jewish] should posses this area- and this other ethnic group [Palestinian] should get out’. I think when we see the purpose of God and his kingdom thru this lens- we err. But the reality is the bible and the message of Jesus are one of true revolution- peaceful- but revolution nonetheless. The verses Paul wrote are indeed scripture- and they were real practical advice given to the fledgling church in the 1st century- Paul did not want the nascent church to get a reputation of being political rabble rousers- you had what were called Zealots at the time- Jewish political activists who advocated violent overthrow of Roman rule from the Jewish land- and Paul [and Jesus] rejected this idea. So I think if we read the basic instructions from Paul and see the context of the time- that yes- a political revolt was not what the early church needed. But what we are seeing in our day is a possible major realignment of the nations in the Arab [and Persian] world. We are seeing people who have been oppressed by religious theocracies- these people have every right to rebel- to non violently go to the streets and stand in protest to the dictators who have ruthlessly oppressed them for years- these rebels are not criminals- they are non violent protestors who are speaking truth to power- much like what Jesus did. Now- where next? I think we need to do Iran again- I think the president [Obama] thinks this too. Yesterday as he gave a speech after the historic events in Egypt- he spoke to the leadership of Iran and told them ‘let your people also freely protest in your streets’. Now- that message is saying ‘you guys are also gonna fall’- do you really think the Iranian madman thinks ‘well- maybe if we let the people protest- that’s all the president meant’ c’mon- if we thru Mubarak ‘under the bus’ [I’m glad he’s under the bus] there isn’t a snowballs chance in Hades that The mad man from Iran will get a free pass. So yes- lets support all the days of rage that are popping up- lets be on the side of freedom from tyrants and U.S. puppets- the Arab street is smart- they know much more than we give them credit for- and yes- there will be a danger from radical Islamist elements- we should make a distinction between violent and non violent Muslim groups- but even groups like the Muslim Brotherhood that have rejected violence- we should still be aware of their goal- they do indeed advocate for religious rule and we need to say ‘yes- we honor your principled stance against violence- yet we reject any religious theocracy- whether it be Christian, Jewish, Muslim- we want freedom and rights for all people- regardless of their religion- and we do not support your goal- even if you want to achieve it thru non violence’. Where next? IRAN.
[just a note- as I’m presently studying Marx and Freud and other thinkers- Marx himself rejected God because he felt like the religious rulers would use these types of ‘non revolt’ teachings to keep the people suppressed- Marx’s problem with God came thru this economic challenge- the masses were unwilling to revolt against economic oppression because religion was being used as a tool to keep the people under. I think in the beginning Marx meant well- saw the oppression of people and saw how rulers used religion to control people- too bad he couldn’t read this post]
 DON’T LOOK IN THE BOX!- Let me try and do 2 things today; a short ‘memorable’ truth that is in keeping with yesterdays spirit- and the current events in the Middle East [never got to this part-will do it tomorrow]
First- How many of you remember the Raiders of the Lost Ark movies- go ahead- raise your hand. Yes- those of you reading this- actually raise your hand if you’ve seen the movie- believe me there is a purpose to this. Okay- did you do it? Wow- see how easy it is to engage in stuff when no one’s looking? Well yes, in the bible there is a famous story about ‘not looking’- it has to do with the Indiana Jones movie. First [or 2nd?] the Ark in the movie comes from a real story in the bible about a box [Ark]. Sometimes people confuse the Ark of Noah with this Ark- I heard Keith Olberman [one of my favorite liberals- now with Al Gore’s channel, Current TV] mocking someone- and in his mocking he talked about all the animals that might fit into the ark- the problem was the person he was mocking was talking about this Ark [small box] not Noah’s! Okay- in the book of Exodus we read the famous story of Moses delivering the children of Israel out of bondage [okay- what country was it again? O that’s right- Egypt- wonder of this is significant today? A stubborn dictatorial leader- ruling Egypt- who can’t seem to read the writing on the wall- guess not] and as they flee Egypt they do the Red Sea crossing and they wind up spending 40 years wandering in the wilderness because of their unbelief [too much to explain right now]. So- during their journey they get the 10 commandments and God sets up a tent [tabernacle] system that consists of this small little building surrounded by a fence and in this little room/building there is this box [Ark] that holds the 2 tablets of the 10 commandments. This box is covered with gold- has 2 angel statues on each side of the lid and the lid covering the box is called ‘the mercy seat’. Now- this ‘seat/lid’ is actually the altar that the high priest puts the sacrificial animal blood on once a year [Day of Atonement] to cover the sins of the people. In a nutshell- the lid on the box allowed a holy God [represented by the 10 commandments- his character revealed in this symbolic way] to dwell with sinful man- because the lid ‘atoned/covered’ the sins of the people- allowing God [in the box] to dwell with the people. Got it? That’s the Ark of the Covenant- the box in the Harrison Ford movies. Now- the movies tell the story about Indiana trying to find this ancient artifact- because it is said to have this awesome nuclear like power. Is this true? No. The idea comes from the bible [1st Samuel chapter 6] one time the box was taken captive in one of the battles- during its return to Israel [another long story] it winds up in this area where the people look in the box and the bible says 70,ooo people died [some bible versions say 70 people]. Wow- why did this happen? The lid covered the sins of men- once you take a peek- lift the lid- you have removed the only covering that man has for his sin- Gods holy character [the tablets] meets mans sinful one- obliteration. That’s the story- not some secret nuclear device. In the New Testament book of Hebrews [chapter 9] the same word used to describe the lid [mercy seat] is mentioned again in connection with the Cross of Christ. In the book of Romans [chapter 3] Jesus is said to be ‘the propitiation for our sins’ this is the same word- from the Hebrew language to the Greek [Old Testament story was written in Hebrew- New Testament in Greek] for ‘Mercy Seat’ so what’s the story? The lid on the box represents the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross for all men- it’s because of Jesus that God can once again dwell [the same word for Tabernacle- the whole tent system I just described] with men. The language used to speak about the Incarnation [God becoming man in Jesus] speaks about God dwelling [tabernacling] with men- in a very real way the box also represents the humanity/Deity of Jesus- it was made out of wood [a type of flesh] yet covered with gold [a type of divinity]. So Jesus is the covering [actually for you theologians the New testament sacrifice of Jesus does more than cover- it removes- but this post is supposed to be short!] and if you try and approach God without the ‘lid on’ you get creamed- got it? Now you can tell your kids the real story behind the box- and O yeah- someone let Keith in on the secret! P.S. for all of you who raised your hands- please send me an email- you’re the type we want for mailing lists! J
 NO TEMPLE IN IT- Let me try and communicate a few simple truths that hopefully will stick with people- you know- stuff you hear and it makes you think differently from here on out. I have been reading the book of Proverbs these last few weeks and the proverbs teach us that wisdom allows you to communicate great truths in short snippets. One of the proverbs actually says this. If you read the gospels you’ll see Jesus using simple short stories [Parables] to teach great truths. Okay- down the road I plan on teaching the book of Revelation- it’s really a great book- if your able to ‘get thru’ the dragon heads and 666 and all the other images that seem to preoccupy the current popular prophecy books that are on the market today. Don’t get me wrong- the dragon heads and all that stuff do mean something- but not what we usually read from the Lahaye books. One of the images I read the other day [and many times over the years] is the picture of the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven- John says ‘this city’ has No Temple in it. Now- in the New Testament- many times- the imagery of the city is speaking about the church- the corporate people of God. We also see a major theme of the New Testament being the idea that thru Christ- our final Passover sacrifice- the old system of sacrifice and ‘temple’ have passed away [Hebrews]. I mean these themes are major theological themes in the bible- that Jesus ‘suffered outside the city gate’ [Hebrews says the place where he died was outside the city] and that this means that we are all accepted by God thru Jesus- not because of our religious affiliation with ‘law and temple’ [in the city gate] but because we approach God on the basis of the Cross of Jesus- outside the gate- the place where there is ‘no temple’. See? So- this major theme of the New Testament [the actual term we use- New Testament- is speaking about this truth] can be summed up in a short prophetic glimpse [remember- wisdom lets you say much in short snippets] by saying ‘I John, saw the holy city- the New Jerusalem [the church] descending down from God and this city had NO TEMPLE IN IT’ See? John is not really talking about the aesthetics of heaven, in so much as he is giving us this great prophetic spiritual reality ‘I see John- this image of NO TEMPLE simply means the New Covenant will be established on the one sacrifice of Christ and not on the temple system of continual animal sacrifices’. Yes- I think John [the apostle] would be glad if we saw his Revelation thru this lens- a paradigm that exalts the person and work of Christ- instead of a bunch of dragon heads.
[more posts in the February posts]