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Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

Joseph and MaryJoseph, a young man from the house of David, was probably like every other soon-to-be husband: nervous, but excited all the same.  That is, until his fiancée came to him with shocking news.  Mary was pregnant, but Joseph was not the father.  The world, as Joseph knew it, had collapsed around him.  He felt betrayed, hurt, angry.  Break the engagement, whispered his pride, and walk away from this woman.

Everything had changed.  Plans were ruined.  Reputation was at stake.  Unchartered territory lay ahead.  At this precarious moment in his life, Joseph had nothing to hang on to… nothing, that is, except the Word of the Lord.

The Word gave Joseph courage.  “Don’t be afraid!”  It was the word that showed Joseph how to be faithful.  “Take Mary as your wife.  She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus” (Matthew 1:20-21).

Perhaps, in holding on to the Word, Joseph remembered the experience of his ancestor, Adam.  Perhaps, in a moment of truth and with eyes focused, Joseph could picture Adam standing next to his wife, Eve.  Perhaps, with wisdom only from the Holy Spirit, Joseph recognized the significance of Eve’s creation by God from man’s rib.

God made (literally: “built”) woman using part of man.  With this, He established their relationship within the order of creation.  A rib is structural; it supports.  A rib guards and protects the heart and breath of life, yet it is vulnerable.  Under attack, it can easily be fractured or even broken.  Satan despises the order of creation that God uses to protect the man and woman He so loves.  So, that day in the Garden, Satan set his target and went straight to Adam’s rib.  The man was responsible for using God’s Word to cover his wife, yet he did nothing.  Joseph knew the consequences that followed.

Perhaps, with discernment only from God, Joseph understood that he must not repeat the sin of his ancestor and do to his rib what Adam had done to his.

Perhaps, in remembering what Adam had failed to do, Joseph was given the courage to cover his wife, Mary, and lead her to safety.  Let the village talk!  Adjust carefully-made plans!  Trust the Word of the Lord!  Although it meant leaving his zone of comfort, Joseph did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him to do.  He covered his rib by taking Mary as his wife.  And, when Mary’s child was born, Joseph named Him Jesus.

God wanted Joseph to make a difference – a difference that would impact the world.  But, such a difference could be made only by being faithful.  Such faithfulness required that Joseph leave all that was familiar and put his life and the life of Mary into the hands of God.

Today, when a young man pressures his girlfriend to have sex, he is leaving her physically, emotionally, and spiritually vulnerable.  He has placed his “needs” before hers and, in so doing, left her open to attack.  When a man does not promise to love, cherish, and cover a woman with his name, but simply share living quarters and a bed, he is leaving her open to attack.  When a man fathers a child but does not accept the privilege and responsibility of being a daddy, he is leaving both mother and child uncovered and vulnerable to the world.

But, when a man remembers God and His call to leadership, he is able to make a difference.  A young man who guards his girlfriend’s virtue makes a difference.  A husband who remains true to his wife makes a difference.  A dad who understands the privilege, responsibility, and generational influence of fatherhood makes a difference.  Men of faithfulness have a grand opportunity to defend against chaos and leave a legacy of hope.

Convenience told Joseph to walk away from Mary.  Self-defense told Joseph to think of “number one.”  Pride told Joseph that he could do better.  Fear told Joseph to hide.  But, God told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife.

Joseph did what the angel of the Lord commanded.  He covered Mary, his rib, and the unborn Child whose heart beat under her own.  And, after the Baby was born in the most humble of circumstances, Joseph named the Child Jesus.  Through all the frightening days ahead, Joseph remembered the Word of the Lord.  And the Lord did not forget Joseph.  In the midst of danger, the angel of the Lord warned Joseph.  When uncertainty abounded, the angel of the Lord directed Joseph.

It’s true that life wasn’t ever the same for Joseph.  It certainly wasn’t what he had planned.  But, Joseph remembered the Word of the Lord.  And, in doing so, he received courage to do what was asked of him.  Joseph was faithful to cover Mary, his rib.  He raised her Son Jesus in a godly home and took Him to worship.  Some 2000 years later, the Boy who grew to be a Man in the house of a carpenter is still changing lives.

Joseph made a difference.

Copyright 2010

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Sometimes, Christians are called people of the New Testament.  What does this say about the Old Testament?  What do we really know of Jesus without both Old and New Testaments?  In John 1, we are told that Jesus is The Word.  But, is that Word of Jesus only the red print of our New Testaments?

Think of all the New Testaments that have been published for a variety of reasons.  But, is the New Testament complete without the Old?  The New Testament is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But, for what reason do we need the Gospel?

Is the Old Testament just, well, old?  Didn’t Jesus come to do away with the old and bring in the new?

John 1 tells us: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (vv. 1-4, 14).

Hmmm.  This New Testament Word seems to identify Jesus as the Creator of all things.  But, where do we learn the details?  Upon what is “The Word was with God, and the Word was God” founded?  We are comforted by the salvation story of the New Testament, but upon what does it stand?  Is our hope in a feeling?

Every younger generation thinks itself more progressive and enlightened than the previous generation.  Technologically advanced, it’s easy to proclaim, “Out with the old!  In with the new!”  But, relegating the Old Testament of God’s Word to dusty shelves of folklore leaves Christianity without a foundation.  Ignoring historical relevance and archeological evidence leaves Sunday school children ill-equipped to defend their faith in the marketplace of ideas.

Genesis is the foundation of Christianity.  But, describe Genesis as a fairy tale for “neanderthals” and one can begin to undermine the authority of God’s Word: Jesus Christ.

The message of sin and the Cross was foolishness to the Greeks of St. Paul’s day.  That’s because the Greeks (Acts 17) had no knowledge or understanding of the first book of the Old Testament.  Without belief in Genesis, they were, shall we say, pre-Darwin people.  Evolutionists of a sort.  Captive to their own imaginings.  For this reason, the Apostle Paul had to define his terms and lay the foundation for the Gospel of Jesus Christ by starting at the beginning with the Genesis creation.  It was only then that some people could understand and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

In contrast, the Jews (Acts 2) were familiar with the Old Testament.  They understood and believed the history of Genesis.  They acknowledged the origin of sin.  Therefore, some of them could better understand the Gospel when the Apostle Paul presented it to them.

Before we can be new people — transformed people, we need to see the old for what it is.  God presents His-Story by starting at the beginning.  We should do the same.

Jesus becomes more than an “experiential moment” for people of the Old and New Testaments.  The One who calls Himself “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” is authority.   Jesus is The Word of creation.  He is the God who created male and female.  Defined marriage and family.  Ordered society.  Determined everything right.  Moral.  Good.  The first man and woman rebelled against The Word and fell from perfect creation.  We’ve been rebelling ever since.   But, for our sake, The Word did something unthinkable.  “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”   The Word — Jesus — became our Savior.

The glory of Christ — from Old Testament through New — is “full of grace and truth.”

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The sun has gone to bed.  So should I.  My mind wanders.  I tap the keyboard, then delete.  Somehow, I want to put into words what my eyes and ears see and hear.   So that maybe, just maybe, one person out there will be encouraged to take the high ground and stay the course.

Ever since my eyes were opened to the holocaust of abortion, I’ve been on the go.  It’s as if God’s own Spirit has nudged me: Get involved!  Lend a hand!  Offer a shoulder!  Make a difference while there is light of day!  In the midst of it, I heard the whispers: “She’s a bit too intense.”  “Why doesn’t she lighten up?”

I remember the older woman who, most kindly, said, “Thank you for your message about abortion, but my children are all grown now and this issue really doesn’t affect me.”  My emotion wanted to scream, but my better judgment took control.  I sighed, smiled… then tried to explain.  Abortion is the slippery slope to euthanasia… and so much more.

Well, it’s so “much more” later.  Here we are, mired in a culture that defends government-funded abortion and wonders why acts of violence increase,  calls homosexual behavior a civil-rights issue, sexualizes children but bemoans an epidemic of STDS and troubled teens, arrogantly re-defines marriage and family, seriously considers the transfer of American parental rights over to the United Nations, positions itself to deny freedom of religion, and sets up government health care that may judge some of us as “too burdensome.”

Narcissism rules and chaos reigns.  Or, does it?

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth,” God asked Job.  “Tell me if you have understanding.  Who determined its measurements . . . or who stretched the line upon it?  On what were its bases sunk or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?  Or who shut in the sea with doors . . . and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed?'” (Job 38:4-11).

God, the creator of the universe, has never and will never relinquish control.  It would be contrary to His very nature.  The God who “binds the chains of the Pleiades” and loosens “the cords of Orion” (v. 31); the God who sends “forth lightenings, that they may go and say to you ‘Here we are’ (v. 35), and the God who put “wisdom in the inward parts” and gave “understanding to the mind” (v. 36) is the God who “provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God for help, and wander about for lack of food . . .” (v. 41).

Does chaos reign?  No, there is evidence of order and Truth at work.

I was reminded of this fact while captive on board a gated-plane.   Maintenance crews took three hours to service an engine, but captivity turned into opportunity for me to read the observations of John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, authors of the book God Is Back.  Both agree that Christianity is poised to do well — and better than Islam — in the 21st century.  For example, “The Quran can’t be translated into any other language.  So most people that Muslims are converting do not understand a word of what they are taught to recite . . .”  Contrast that with the fact that the Bible is published in 95% of the languages of the world.

Here’s another example.  Have you noticed the growing number of bestsellers by atheists during the past several years?  Micklethwait says, “You do not suddenly wake up in a panic about God being bad or terrible if you think you’ve already won the argument.  If you went back 10 or 20 years, the idea that Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens could write a bestseller on the subject would have seemed odd, because — certainly in Europe — most of the educated elites would have assumed God was disappearing anyway, so what’s the worry?”  (WORLD, June 20, 2009, “Q & A” by Marvin Olasky)

Does chaos reign?

“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’  He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision'” (Psalm 2:1-4).

“God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne” (Psalm 47:8).

“Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded.  For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told . . .” (Habakkuk 1:5).

We may fear that an immoral culture will absorb us.  We may feel powerless to resist.  Paralyzed.  But, while God is doing His work, there is something for us to do, too.  We can live.  We can live as men and women eager to glorify God while He transforms the culture.  God gives us a model for affecting the lives of others.  It follows the order of creation and can be found in Titus 2:1-8.  A young pastor named Titus used this model to help believing men and women push back against the culture while raising a new generation of hope.

Narcissism may seem to rule.  It may appear that our world is spinning out of control.  But, did you notice that my fingers aren’t paralyzed anymore?  The darkness overpowered me for awhile last night… but the Lord’s compassions are new every morning!  Because of His great love, we are not consumed.  (Lamentations 3:22-23)  Rather, we are re-energized and equipped to re-engage.

Hope rises up in unexpected places.  How can it not?  Hope is Jesus Christ.  He is the Word.  And, the Word is at work. Therefore…

Narcissism does not rule.  Chaos does not reign.  God does.

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John Sommerville is the author of how the News Makes Us Dumb.  Before news became an industry, Sommerville writes, society was held together not by news but by its cultures.  People shared “fairly settled assumptions about what was reasonable, natural, expected or good.”  Scholars call this a culture’s metanarrative — a  narrative that “binds our thinking.”

The Bible provided this metanarrative for Western civilization.  Even nonbelievers were familiar with its stories and ways of structuring moral and social reality.  But the media — the news industry — changed that.  People in this industry generally disregard or blatantly defy the Judeo-Christian narrative.  They believe it’s their job to shape our thinking.  They are constantly raising questions that cause people to doubt Christianity or any cultural traditions grown out of Biblical thinking.  Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, writes, “The result is that many people accept the idea that we should be constantly reevaluating what we believe and understand about the world — including our religious beliefs — but news stories cannot replace a culture’s metanarrative, because, by its very nature, the news gives priority to the shocking and the new.  It is a cycle of endless deconstruction.”

“The good news,” writes Colson, “is that Americans are recognizing that the ‘news’ is becoming a little more than vulgar entertainment, largely irrelevant to our lives.”

A good practice is to use the news for appropriate and limited purposes.  Sommerville offers this suggestion: “We should balance our bloated appetite for news with a cultural diet rich in books, reflection, and discussion.  And we should put the news through a mental metanarrative grid — asking ourselves if the ‘news’ being offered up reinforces our cultural story — and our views of Christianity — or tears it apart.”  Colson agrees.  “The news may make us dumb — but reading and discussing great books, especially the Bible, leads to the kinds of wisdom that brings real understanding.”

Appreciation to How Now Shall We Live Devotional
by Charles Colson, Tyndale House Publishers

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Benjamin Rush signed the Declaration of Independence.  He also served in the Presidential administrations of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.  Each came from a different political party.  How could Benjamin Rush serve Presidents from three different parties, and what was his own party affiliation?  He once proclaimed:

I have been alternately called an aristocrat and a democrat.  I am now neither.  I am a Christocrat.  I believe all power . . . will always fail of producing order and happiness in the hands of man.  He alone who created and redeemed man is qualified to govern him.”

Rush made his choice of candidates based on which one better stood for Godly principles, no matter what party affiliation.  As Proverbs 29:2 states:

When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.”

What legacy will we leave the next generation?

President James A. Garfield, a Christian minister, reminded Americans: ” . . . [T]he people are responsible for the character of their Congress.  If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption.  If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature . . . [I]f the next centennial does not find us a great nation . . . it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.”

Source: Original Intent by David Barton

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“Science . . . contemplates a world of facts without values,” wrote William Inge, but “religion contemplates values apart from facts.”

What is “religion?”  Doesn’t everyone have a “religion,” a worldview upon which they stand?  True to their “religion” or worldview, don’t they practice it “religiously?”  My worldview determines how I see and respond to everything.  Faith in my worldview compels me to study and weigh facts.  It also compels me to set higher standards (values).  Together, these facts and values determine how I think, live, and treat myself and others.

My worldview tells me that science/facts and “religion” (faith)/values are not exclusive of one another.  The atheist and I both put our faith in something; then we, true to our faith, practice it.  The atheist doesn’t want to believe in an authority higher than himself.  I, however, have discovered that when I place myself on the throne of “authority,” I put myself and others at risk.

Facts are necessary.  Facts include more than science but also history and consequences of behavior.  My faith in God’s Word of Scripture, for example, is not without fact.  The Bible is fact.  It is recorded history.  It is eye-witness accounts.  Father telling son or Jew telling Gentile.  The Bible is backed up by facts.  Archeological evidence and scientific documentation abound.  My worldview impresses upon me the need for such facts over and above feelings and opinion.  I cannot trust my feelings.  They change with mood and circumstance.  My opinion is biased.  The law of gravity, on the other hand, is fact.  So are history and experience.  So, while I may feel like jumping off the roof of my house, it serves me well to remember that when my dad jumped off the roof of a barn, he broke his arches.  The law of gravity, together with history and experience, are beneficial to me.  Faith enters in for both the atheist and myself as a Christian, most especially when something happens that we didn’t see or can’t explain.  Both the atheist and I will act as people of faith: faith in something.  I didn’t see my dad jump off the barn.  I didn’t hear his cry.  Even though I can’t explain exactly what happened, I have faith in what my dad told me.  Faith in his words prevents me from a foolish (and painful)  jump.

Let’s assume, as Richard Dawkins insists, that there is no creator.  No creator of all that ever has or ever will exist; no creator of persons (bodies, minds, and souls); no creator of boundaries for the function, care and protection of those persons; no creator of conscience; no creator of all things right, honorable, merciful, and true.  In such a world, I become the “authority” of my life and Dawkins becomes the “authority” of his.  But, what values do we harmoniously work with for the benefit of community?  My values will be shaped by my “god” (me) and his will be shaped by his “god” (him).

Let’s be honest… and willing to expose our core faith.

Someone like Dawkins doesn’t want to acknowledge the Creator God who brings order out of chaos.  He resists the valid conclusion of both faith and science that Someone higher than himself exists.  Yet, in reality, he’s putting his faith in something.  Himself!  His core faith is himself!  He may claim to wrap himself in science and demean those of faith.  Nevertheless, he is practicing his faith.  And his values, like all values, flow out of his faith: whatever he believes in.

Science and facts divorced from faith and values?  No.  All are interrelated.  The more I study God’s Word and the more I am informed by facts — of biology, anatomy, archeology, and history, the more I recognize God at work.  Intelligent and orderly design.  “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).

At the end of his life, Charles Darwin reflected on his work and confessed, “I was a  young man with unformed ideas.  I threw out queries, suggestions, wondering all the time over everything; and to my astonishment the ideas took like wildfire.  People made a religion of them.”

Louis Pasteur declared in one of his lectures, “Science brings man nearer to God.”

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May 5 is National Day of Prayer.

Our community is hosting a time of prayer from 6:30 to 7:30 in the city park.  Many people of various faiths will be praying for many things.  On April 8, I posted a blog explaining that I won’t be praying that God make this a Christian nation.  Instead, I will be praying that followers of Jesus Christ:

  • Turn their heads away from deceptive philosophy and deceit (Colossians 2:8)
  • Encourage one another and build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • Train for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7-10)
  • Set an example in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity (1 Thessalonians 4:12)
  • Build our houses on the Rock (Matthew 7:24-27)
  • Bring little children to Jesus (Mark 10:14)
  • Love the Lord our God and our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31)

If we who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ ask Him to help us live in ways that bring Him the glory, this country will be a better place.  A safer place.  Institutions of marriage and family, health, law, education, church, and government will be influenced for “the people’s good.”

Generations will know the mercies of God.

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