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Thursday, December 22, 2011

(53) Christmas Gifts

Before you read this lessons take a look at this thought first; http://ideasoftimreligion.blogspot.com/2011/12/lxxi-gifts-that-never-keep-on-giving.html

Why do we give gifts during this time of the year?  Well, we do give gifts for birthdays but we usually give it to the one having the birthday.  So even though this may be part of it it is not the full reason.  If we look at the story of Christmas, we read that Jesus was given three gifts by the three Magi.  This is probably the reason why we have Christmas gifts today.

It is not the gift but the thought that counts.  That may be a lie.  Gifts should not be given just because you feel the need to give something.  They should not be given because someone gave you something first.  They should not be given to outdo other people's gifts.  They should be given with a purpose and meaning.  What were the gifts given to Jesus?  The Magi presented Jesus with gold, frankincense and myrrh. These gifts had a purpose.  They tell the story of who Jesus was.  They were prophetic.  They showed Jesus was going to be King.  They showed that He was going to be the High Priest.  And they showed He was going to be Savior of the world.

GOLD:  A precious metal, meant for decoration.This carries obvious significance. It's precious and worthy across all cultures and times. It's a gift fit for royalty. It says to the Christ child, You will be a King.
FRANKINCENSE: The name for this resin likely comes from incense of Franks since it was reintroduced to Europe by Frankish Crusaders. Although it is better known as frankincense" to westerners the resin is also known as olibanum, which is derived from the Arabic al-lub ("the milk") a reference to the milky sap tapped from the Boswellia tree. Frankincense has been touted for its medicinal and soothing properties. Herbalists say it is calming, restorative, gently clarifying, and meditative. Frankincense oil is thought to have stimulating, toning, and warming properties. The ancient world used it for treating depression. We recognize the word incense in its name. Ancient people burned frankincense, believing it to carry their prayers to heaven. Its use as incense illustrates His role as our Priest.
MYRRH: This is perhaps the most mysterious of the Gifts. It is a resin produced by a small, tough, scraggly tree that grows in semi-desert regions of North Africa and the Red Sea. Myrrh is an Arabic word for bitter, and it is considered a wound healer because of its strong antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Calling it mo yao, the Chinese used it for centuries to treat wounds, bruises and bleeding and to relieve painful swelling.  The Egyptians made it famous in Biblical times, having acquired myrrh about the fifteenth century B.C. from Africa where cammiphora trees were abundant. It was used in incense, perfumes and holy ointments and also medicinally as recorded in the Ebers Papyrus. But its most notable use to them was that of an embalming material, used in Egyptian mummies. As an embalming ointment it signified that He was born to Die for the world.  In fact, Myrrh was one of the burial spices of Jesus (John 19:39).

Point being.  Don't just give gifts because of the time of the year.  Don't just buy things that are electronic because that is what the rich are doing and you want to keep up.  Don't just buy brand names so you look better in someone else's eyes.  Buy the gifts that have meaning, that show who the person is and what they mean to you.  Make Christmas real again.

Monday, December 19, 2011

(52) The Cain Dilemma

One of the biggest obstacles for people to believe that evolution is not real or that Creation was done in six days is the Cain issue.  The Bible says Cain had a wife when he was dispersed into the world and that there were other people in the world.  This causes confusion for the weak minded.  Genesis 4:14-17
  • 14  Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.
  • 15  But the LORD said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.
  • 16  So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
  • 17  Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.
Where did Cain get his wife if he went and found her in another land?  Who were these other people?  These are easily answered but one can not think with a 2011 mindset.  Well, first of all he never found her in a different land.  Cain's wife was from the family of Adam and Eve.  No one knows exactly when this episode took place.  All the Bible tells is that Seth replaced Cain as a son for Adam and Eve.  But that was 130 years after Creation.  Cain could have been 129 years old by this time or he may have been only 18.  His wife could have been 18 (hopefully at least).  Adam and Eve could have had hundreds of children who in turn could have had hundreds of children.  Cain could have taken his third cousin thrice removed as his wife.  This was not necessarily his own sister.  But even if it was so what? 

The law for incest was not passed down until another 2000 years with the time of the Exodus.  There was no law because it was not needed.  Scientifically speaking if Adam and Eve were perfect in genetics, i.e., no physical flaws or deformities yet, then their offspring had the greatest of chances of keeping "good" genes.  This is why people could live for hundreds of years.  Eventually, those recessive and flawed genes would find their way into the human genome.  Then it would start causing defects and things like we know today.  It's like making a copy of a copy of a copy.  But the original copy can still do well.  This also answers the other dilemma for these individuals who can not see past their own mind.  The "other people" Cain is talking about is generations of offspring who will hear of his action.  Some of them are already in the world since Adam and Eve perhaps had many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and so forth. 

But if they had many children how come Seth is only the third male?  It is only the third male we read about.  Seth may have been number 162 for all we know.  The problem is when people read this passage they read as though all of this took place right away just because it is only four chapters into Genesis.  That is not necessarily true.  We are not told one way or another.

Once one really looks at and understands these passages the dilemma of Cain no longer remains a dilemma, except for the stubborn.

Friday, November 4, 2011

(51) The Unborn

Here are the results from last month's poll:  Can an abortion ever be justified, morally speaking?  More than one choice was allowed to be picked since some have more than one reason why they feel this way.
  • No, it's murder (58%)
  • Yes, if baby is ill conceived  (47%)
  • No, there is a bigger picture to see (47%)
  • Yes, if threatens mother's life (35%)
  • No for other reasons (35%)
  • Yes, for other reasons  (17%)
  • Yes, it's a woman's right (11%)
  • Other (11%)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

(50) The Sabbath

Old Earth, Young Earth?  Active God, inactive God?  These questions boil down to one topic; the Sabbath.  What is the Sabbath all about?  The Hebrew word for sabbath is "to cease".  But what did God cease doing that day?  To understand you have to read not Genesis 1, but Genesis 2.
  • 1  And the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
  • 2  And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
  • 3  And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it; because that in it he rested from all his work which God had created and made.
Here are the results to last month's poll:  When the Bible says that "on the 7th day, God rested", what does it mean?
  • 40% said God no longer creates.  This is the correct answer.  When God rested, He ceased creating.  All that we know, all that we see and don't see has been created.  Things since have gone extinct.  Things have been discovered, but they have always been here.  Things may have adapted to the environment (in a non-evolutionary way), but they have always been here.  Phil Fairchild, a minister of Christ in West Virginia (http://str8heartphil.blogspot.com/), says this, "I had trouble with this (topic) until I read the whole text...God rested or finished creating because He was finished, thus the correct answer is God no longer creates...". He goes on to say that he belives a better answer to this question is God is finished creating, meaning He is done with all the beginning stuff, not making things new like new borns and changing lives of people, hence you are a new creation.
  • 40% said Other.  What????
  • 13% said God no longer gets involved with His creation.  This is what Deists believe.  People from the Enlightenment times like John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Francois-Marie Arouet (Voltaire), and even Thomas Jefferson had this idea that God created and has walked away leaving the laws of nature to run time, space, and lives.  They believed everything could be explained.  Then why do we sin?  Why do we die?  Why do we live?  What is our purpose?  They may have had an answer for these questions but they could not prove it by their own standards.  How do we explain the super-natural if God does not get involved?
  • 6% said The whole thing is just a metaphor.  This answer is by those who are stubborn as a mule.
  • 0% said God doesn't exist so what does it matter.  Says the atheist.  You have the answer twisted.  It's not God doesn't exist so what does it matter, it is if God doesn't exist, then nothing matters.
  • 0% said God literally let the world alone for awhile.  This is actually the second best answer.  God does intervene here and there.  But the main problem with this it is not Biblical.  When He said I AM, it just doesn't mean that He exists in the here and now.   It means He is everywhere, omniscient, and omnipotent.
The Sabbath is all about what God did during the days of creation.  He spent six literal 24-hour periods, or something equivalent to that, creating the universe, galaxies, earth and all life as we know it, and then some.  He is the Creator, the Almighty.  Most who believe in an old earth also believe in an inactive God.  One who may have created but took 15 billion years to actually do something else or allowed the laws of nature to run its course.  Most who believe in a young earth also believe in an active God, one who never leaves, Hebrews 13:5.

The Sabbath is now a holy day because God rested, or finished His creation.  It is a day of celebration.  It is a day to look back and marvel in what has been done.  Here is an interesting article on the Sabbath, http://www.truthseek.net/sabbath.html.

Monday, July 25, 2011

(49) The Book of Galatians

Church of the Proselytes.

Galatians was the first book that Paul wrote that we have still in our possession.  If he wrote anything earlier, we do not have access to it anymore.  It was written around 49 AD.  This is about 20 years after the Resurrection of Christ and about  10-15 years after Paul's conversion to follow Christ.  It was sent from him to the church in Galatia while he was in Antioch.

It has often been called the Magna Carta of Christian liberty and can be considered the sister book to Romans.

Galatia was a Roman province named after Gaul since many of its inhabitants were Gaulic (Celtic).  An early king of Asia Minor (Bithynia), Nicomedes, invited the Celts to help him conquer the land from his own brother and to capture the throne in 278 BC.  Rome took it over in 28 BC.  Galatia was easily taken over by Rome since the area was not unified due to the attitude of the Galatians.  They usually aligned themselves with the ones who were "on the winning side".  Rome did not trust their allegiance so they attacked them and took them over.

The Church in Galatia was started by Paul (Acts 16:4-6) and included the cities of Iconium and Lystra, but just like their attitude of switching allegiance so easily, the Galatians had a hard time holding on to the faith.  They were constantly trying to win their salvation by human effort, even though Paul had taught them that they were saved by Grace.  He wrote this letter to remind them not to fall back into their old ways.

Some main points in the book are:
  1. Although we live in a physical world, we should be spiritual (2:20-21)
  2. We are not better than Israel but we are part of God's chosen people, we are heirs to the Kingdom (3:36-4:7)
  3. We are free since we have grace but that does not give us the right to abuse this freedom and "get away with things" (5:13-14)
  4. The Spirit produces its fruit in believers (5:22-25)
  5. Our actions have consequences (6:7-10)
It was written to correct false teachings about the law of Moses.  The Jewish believers were saying that faith in itself was not enough and that the ceremonies of the law were still needed.  And if anyone wanted to be a true believer in Jesus one must first be converted to Judaism first.  Neither of course is what Jesus taught.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

(48) Don't bet on it!

Do you know that many people use the verse "the wages of sin is death" as scripture against gambling?  How dumb can you be?  All this is referring to is that you do not want to risk your eternal salvation by living a life of sin and thinking you are going to be okay.  It has nothing to do with gambling.  Some use the scripture about lazy hands making a man poor but diligent hands bring wealth as being against gambling.  This is a little closer.  Those who gamble try to get money without earning it and most walk away from the table/machine poorer than when they came.  But the best scripture that can be used against gambling is Proverbs 28:22.
  • He who is greedy rushes after riches, not knowing that want will overtake him.
Of course, there is no scripture that supports gambling but notice, it does not call it a sin.  It just means that if all we focus on all the riches of money then we lose our lives.  Not that we die because of gambling or going after riches, but that we lose things that are important to us.  It is a warning that if all we do is focus on our greed then greed will control us.   This is where the sin comes in; if we allow anything to control us then the action gets in the way of doing what we are supposed to be doing, hence a sin of omission by commission.

Here are the results from last month's poll:  Is gambling a sin?
  • 37% said yes.
  • 37% said maybe.
  • 12% said no.
  • 12% said it depends.
Now if that isn't clear then what is?   Here is an interesting article  http://bible.org/seriespage/money-money-money.

Monday, April 18, 2011

(47) You're going, whether you like it or not.

With all of our troubles we tend to blame other people.  If we commit a crime, it was the way our parents treated us when we were younger.  If we turn to substances it must have been the way our relationships have gone.  If we fail at something it must have been someone else we were working with on the project that did not do their part.  If we forgot to do something it must have been because no one reminded us to do it.  If you stub your toe, did you do it because you were forced to do it or because you are too stupid to watch where you are going?  Here are the results to the last poll:  Do you believe in predestination?
  • (50%)  No. We have complete free will.  As predicted, since most who come to this site are Christians, most people would have answered this way.  There are many clues in the Bible that point us to this thinking.  Such as: if my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.-1 Chronicles 7:14, And if it seem evil unto you to serve Jehovah, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah.-Joshua 24:15, and even the whole Sermon on the Mount tells us not to do and not to do certain things.  If we did not have free will then Jesus would never have told us what was right and wrong.
  • (30%)  Not sure.  Good answer.
  • (11%)  Yes. But only a certain few.  Judas, Jesus, Adam, Paul.  Some things in their lives seem like they were destined to do, as if they had no choice. Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.- Luke 22:42, Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me-- to keep me from exalting myself!- 2 Cornithians 12:7, and The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.- Matthew 26:24.  But no where in scripture does it say that the average person can not choose his own destiny.
  • (7%) Yes. Our lives were predetermined. We have no control.  The Bible does not teach that all have no control over their destiny.  This would defeat all purpose of creation.  If God predestines His creation then there is no love there.  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.   Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.- 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  If love is patient, then  it is not forced on you.  If love is kind, then it is not vengeful.  If love is not proud, then it is not demanding.  If is is not self-seeking then it allows other to choose.  Scritpure says God is love.
Fore knowledge is not the same thing as presdestination.  Yes.  God knows what your decision will be but in all situations there are choices for you to make.  Some people quote scripture as saying God never changes.  That is true, but the meaning of that is that God is always God.  His values never changes.  His Word never changes.  His standards are never dropped.  His love does not fail.  But nothing points to Him not changing His mind.  In fact scripture says He did change His mind, a couple of times.  Maybe in those incidences, His heart was so full of compassion for His creation that He intervened.  If He intervenes then thagt gives us the power and freedom to ask Him anything.  But be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

(46) The Book of John

A personal friend and Savior.

John, the "disciple whom Jesus loved", was a son of Zebedee and Salome.  He was a younger brother to another Apostle named James.  He was perhaps a cousin to Jesus Himself.  Jesus called him a son of thunder.  His Hebrew name of Yochanan means, God gives grace.  John is considered Jesus' closest companion, even though Peter stands out to be the one Jesus turns to when He starts the Church.  The book was written around 90 AD, probably from Ephesus.

Here are some interesting facts about the book:
  • 90% of the book is unique
  • This book shows more human emotions of Jesus than the rest
  • There are more direct statements from Jesus on who He was
  • Focuses on people's reactions to Jesus
  • God is mentioned as the Father over 100 times
  • Many of his themes are collected into groups of seven
  • Each chapter shows Jesus in a different role as Savior
  • There are less miracles, healings, and parables in this book than the rest
  • 50% of the book is about Jesus' last days
  • Has two chapters that tell what happens after the Resurrection
  • Last verse was probably not written by John until after his own death, only verse in the Gospels that is first person view.
Who was John?  His father was Zebedee.  His mother was Salome.  His profession was a fisherman.  No only was that his job apparently they were prosperous at the job because scripture says he and his associates had hired help.  Maybe this prosperity gave him an attitude problem.  From some of the words we read about him, he and his brother, he was egotistical; thinking he and his brother should get to sit at the right hand of Jesus (Mark 10:35-41).  Even to ask such a question took chutzpah.  He was bold by thinking they could do the same things as Jesus like driving out demons.  He felt like he was given power and authority before it was actually given to him because he was going to "call down fire" upon people.  But after all of this within a few years of following Jesus, his heart was changed.  He would eventually become the most loved and the most faithful.  He stood by Jesus' side until the end.  He was there in the Garden.  He was there at the Cross.  And he was there at the Grave.  Jesus loved him so much that at His death He handed His own mother over to John to be cared for and watched over by him.  He must have done exactly what Jesus told him to do because after the first chapters of Acts  no one hears about him again until the Revelation. Tradition says that John died of old age.  If that is so he is the only one of the 12 who did.  For more on his life see:

What was his gospel about?  Jesus, the man.  It shows his feelings, emotions, and His his divinity at the same time.  It shows that His promise of eternal life is for everyone...who accepts it.

Why was it written?  So people who are looking for a personal relationship with God can find it.  This book is the simplest of them all to understand since it focuses on people's reaction to who Jesus was.  But unfortunately no one knows how to be in a relationship anymore since we are all viral and electronically motivated.  No one cares about relationships anymore.

Friday, April 1, 2011

(45) The Book of Luke

Theanthropos, the God Man.

Luke actually wrote two books but they could be considered the same book.  He also wrote Acts.  Both of these are to the same person, Theophilus.  Both are a collection of facts either gathered by Luke or witnessed by Luke.  You can tell which one by the viewpoint (1st, 2nd, and/or 3rd).  He switches back and forth to show the reader which ones he was told and which ones he saw.  Luke was not an eye witness of the resurrection but he was a close companion to Paul and witnessed many miracles and hardships that we know about Paul.  The book was written a little before 65 AD, probably in Caesarea.  Some resources feel he talked to Mary and John as well to get much of the story.

Here are some interesting facts about the book:
  • It is the longest of the gospels
  • It is more of a historical account rather than a preachable letter
  • 500 verses are unique to this book alone
  • There are more women documented in this book than the rest
  • More parables are mentioned here than the rest
  • Only book written in the Bible by a non-Hebrew
  • Has many verses dedicated to Jesus' childhood
Who was Luke?  He was a doctor (Colossians 4:14).  Being a doctor he must have been a trusted record keeper.  Notice the geneology he writes goes all the way back to Adam.  He also carefully documented and investigated all he heard and saw (1:3-4).  He was not Hebrew.  He was Greek nut that doesn't mean he wasn't Jewish.  But for the most part we can assume he was not Jewish.  he was a faithful friend because he stuck it out with Paul until the end; even when Paul was locked up on his last breath, Luke was there (2 Timothy 4:11).  Tradition says that Luke died in his sleep at the age of 84.

What was his gospel book about?   Almost every major part of each story you read from this book (besides the the things that are repeated in the other book) has some indication or notion that Christ came to save people, all people, even the ones we consider "outcasts" of society.  He came to give the hopelesss, hope.  He came to give the homeless, a home.  He came to give those who unloved, love.

Why was it written?  For those who feel lost can feel found again.  The problem is we live in a society where people do not know they are lost.  Pride gets in their eyes.  They think they have all of their bases covered and that they do not need God.  It is like the movie Sixth Sense:  "I see dead people.  They don't know they're dead.".  People laugh it off and make jokes about it because they do not realize they are lost.  But deep down inside there is something calling to them, perhaps screaming at them, to wake up to the truth.  Otherwise, they would not be reading things like this to get answers.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

(44) The Book of Mark

Authority more than any other man.

Mark, as we know, was a companion of both Paul and Peter.  He has two names in the Bible.  His other known name is John Mark.  Mark is his Roman name.  In Hebrew it would have been Yochanan.  He was the cousin of one the secondary Apostles, Barnabas (Colossians 4:10).  His mother was named Mary but not the same one as Jesus or Magdelene or highly doubtful even the one of the two sisters Mary and Martha.  His Jewish name means "God gives Grace".  Mark wrote his inspired word around 60 AD, or around 20-25 years after the Resurrection of Christ, probably from the city of Rome.

Here are some interesting facts about the book:
  • It only spans about 3-4 years of the life of Christ
  • But the last 40% of the book only spans 8 days
  • Uses more Latin terms than Greek or Hebrew
  • Doesn't really include prophecies or Jewish customs
  • Does have more miracles listed than the other Gospels
  • Probably was co-written or dictated by Peter
  • Focuses on Jesus' actions more than His words
Who was Mark?  With a Roman name it shows that he was somehow a Roman citizen which meant his parents were of some high stance in society.  He grew up in Jerusalem.  His mother's house was an early meeting place for the Church (Acts 12:12)  But he himself was not so prominent.  He was young and adventurous.  When Jesus was arrested in the Garden a young man was caught with them but ran away (Mark 14:52).  Why was this young man mentioned?  He is given no name.  It seems like his value to the story means nothing.  But perhaps it is Mark telling his own story.  Maybe he was the young boy.  If it was him then this event in his life started to shape who he was.  When Paul wants to take companions on his trips about 10 years later Paul doesn't want to take Mark.  Acts 15:37-38, shows that Mark in the eyes of some wasn't yet trusted in his faith.  Apparently Paul was counting on him for help and he deserted him.  But again maybe it's because Mark saw all that went down in the Garden and he wasn't too for sure if he wanted to do all of this.  He is the reason why Paul and Barnabas spilt in their ways.  But somewhere along the way in his life he gained the trust of others (1 Peter 5: 13).  Even Paul felt like Mark had restored himself (2 Timothy 4:11, Philemon 24).  One of the main reasons for this book is to show people that if you are a failure in your life, you can be restored.

What is his Gospel about?  One word, authority.  One person, Christ.  One audience, Rome!  Some examples of His authority shown are
  1. Jesus has authority over evil spirits (1: 23-28, 3:11, 5:1-20)
  2. Jesus has authority over wealth (8:34-37, 10:17-31)
  3. Jesus' authority was given to Him by God the Father (9:7)
  4. Jesus is God (14:61-62)
Why was it written?  To show the Roman Empire that worldly authority doesn't last.  There is someone with more authority than the strongest empire man could build.  It even goes to say that a Roman Centurion, a leader of 100 men, understands the power of Christ, 15:39.   Pilate asked Him if he had authority and Jesus clearly answers, yes, although Pilate didn't pick on it.

Even with all of this authority, Jesus was still here to serve His people.  The words of 10:43-45 gives us the example that we are here to serve others.  Unfortunately that is not what humanity does.  People today think that everyone should serve them, whether they deserve it or not.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

(43) The Book of Matthew

The awaited Jewish Messiah has come.  Y'shua Ha Mashiach.

Matthew was one of the main 12 Apostles (emissary) of Jesus Christ.  He was the son of Alphaeus.  Some traditions say he was brother to James (the less).  His Jewish name is actually Mattityahu which means, "gift of Yahweh".  He also went by Levi.  God chose Matthew to write part of His Good News to give to the Jews.  Matthew wrote his inspired word around 65 AD which is about 30 years after the Resurrection of Christ.  He wrote this perhap sin the city of Anitoch.

Here are some interesting facts about the book:
  • There are 1071 verses in the book.  Sixty (60) percent of these verses are spoken by Christ Himself.
  • There are more than 130 quotes and references from the TaNaK (Old Testament), which is more than any other book.
  • "Kingdom of Heaven" is mentioned 32 times.
Who was Matthew?  Matthew was a Jew that was hired by Rome to collect taxes.  His "office" was located on the main highway that ran from Damascus to Capernaum.  The taxes that he collected was for transportation, hence why he was on the highway.  His immediate boss was Herod Antipas.  So if he was a Jew who worked for Rome probably not many of his fellow citizens cared for him much.  Toll keepers had to pay up front for the rented space.  People would say they collected more than they were supposed to because it would help pay for the rent.  Matthew was probably not trusted by his fellow Jews.  So he was hated and wasn't trusted.  If you put these together you would find a man who would have low self-esteem.  In verse 10 of chapter 9, Matthew tells of the story of how Jesus came to eat with him and all of his fellow tax collectors and other "sinners".   Matthew puts into writing his own personality.  His self-esteem shines in his writing.  God uses this personality when he inspired him to write the Gospel.  God, through the life of Matthew, shows that all types of people can be used for His glory.  It doesn't matter where you come from or what others think about you, God knows your value and can uplift you to be a world mover.  Tradition says that Matthew died of martyrdom in Ethiopia.

Matthew starts out his book by giving a record of ancestry of Christ (from Joseph's family line).  His word can be trusted because being a tax collector he had to keep good records and have access to history since taxes were collected by where you were born as the same was with a census.  However, the book was written by category instead of chronologically.  It can be separated into his ancestry, his sermons, his disciples, his parables, the church, and his death.

What is his Gospel about?  Some of the most famous ideas of Christianity are explained in his book.  The Sermon on the Mount is perhaps Christianity in the short version.  Subjects ranking from attitudes to divorce and from loving enemies to worldly possessions are all in there.  All are still relevant to even today's times.  The beatitudes are outlined for us to understand how we should respond to the world.

But why was it written?  If one took time to read it completely they would see it is filled with promises of God being fulfilled in the coming of Christ.  See above where is says interesting facts.  Prophecies are being fulfilled with each chapter such as being called a son of David, king of the Jews.  Others like how he would enter into Jerusalem (triumphant entry) and how he would come into the earth are recorded for one reason.  This was done to show that Christ was the long-awaited for Messiah that the Jews were looking for.  In chapter 10 he reinstates that Jews were still God's chosen people.  But they had lost over the years their own identity by perverting His laws.  Jesus came to not only fulfill prophecy but also to set the law straight.  His parables mentioned in Matthew are all about the listener and to the one who should know better.  The Jewish person knew what the Messiah was going to be and if he was listening to what was happening he would understand that the Kingdom of Heaven had come.  You could call this book, the News to the Jews.

Unfortunately, not all of them listened.  And just as bad many do not listen today.  The word of God is out there.  People know it but refuse to listen.

Friday, February 18, 2011

(42) Kingdoms at His Feet

"The devil made me do it".  This is an age-old excuse of why  we act the way we do.  And many still think it may be accurate to explain their lives.  But it is another form of rationalization by insincere humanity trying to feel better about their own insecurities and failures.  The devil didn't do anything but tempt you.  You are the cause of all your problems.  Read Luke chapter 4:1-13:
  • 1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
  • 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
  • 3 The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
  • 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
  • 5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.
  • 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.
  • 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
  • 8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
  • 9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.
  • 10 For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully;
  • 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
  • 12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’"
  • 13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
Satan has no control over you.  There are three things he tried to do here with Christ.  He tried to tempt Him when He was at His weakest.  It failed.  He tried to get Him to doubt His authority by saying "if you are".  It failed.  And He tried to get Him to do something that He knew was wrong.  It also failed.

Why did it fail?  Why didn't he get Him to fall into temptation and take these things? 
  1. Many would say it was because Jesus is divine and had no way of failing.  Well, yes, He was divine, but He made Himself lower than the angels and surrounded by flesh to be able to sin.  The flesh is was is corruptible and he clothed Himself with it to prove that sin is not the master of your flesh.
  2. Many would say its because Jesus was perfect.  True.  But this is not why it failed.
  3. Many would say He was protected.  Maybe so, but if He was protected to the end then sinning was not an option thereby negating all He did.
No the reason why it all failed is because what satan was offering were things he couldn't give anyway.  He lied!  He said he could give Him the world.  It wasn't his to give away.  Jesus knew this.  Satan tried to lay a kingdom at His feet but it was His kingdom already.

All satan can do is pass on temptation.  He has no power over you.  The only power he has is what you give him.  When temptation hits our lives we have to remember that most of it is a lie.  The grass is always greener kind of thing.  The lust within the heart can be turned away unless you hunger for it and feed it.  The hate within your heart can be soothed unless all you do is focus on the thoughts that made you hate and feed that hunger.   The hunger you crave is from above.  You feel empty inside because you have not filled with the things from above.  You have tried to fill it with worldly things and they just aren't good enoug.  If you are hungry and thirsty Jesus said He will give food and drink.  Do not listen to the lies of the world.  Satan thinks he owns it but it's not his to give.  Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

(41) The Greatest Commandment

Last month's poll asked, which commandment is broken the most.  Here are your results:
  • 38% said Dishonoring God,  the first 3commandments
  • 33% said Lie
  • 11% said Idolatry
  • 11% said Coveting
  • 5% said Murder
  • 0% said Adultery, Stealing, or Dishonoring parents
The problem of course is we can not measure this since not of us are honest with our lives.  Hmmm, that almost sounds like Lying would be the number one sin.  But truth be known if we could understand all of these sins we commit do one thing----dishonor God.  When we break any command, we not only perhaps hurt ourselves and/or destroy our reputations, but we may also hurt others with our actions, even with what we would call our smallest actions.  There are no such things as little white lies.  There is no such thing as petty theft.  When we break even the slightest amount of a command we dishonor God.  And this is why when Jesus was asked what is the greatest command, He answered  with, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.  He wrapped up all ten commands into two and above all said the Lord comes first.

But this is also why He said that all fall short of the glory of God.  He knows we sin.  He knows we all do it and none of us are innocent.  If murder can come from our lips, we are all murderers.  If fibs are lies then we are all liars.  If we rebel against our parents we all have dishonored them.  If we put something ahead of our relationship with God then we have committed idolatry.  If we have looked at someone with some kind of impure thoughts then we have all lusted and committed adultery.  If we have competed against our neighbor to try and have better things than they do and we do it out of spite then we have coveted things.  Any of these in our lives means we have dishonored God, thereby making us all sinners.  We are all in need of a Savior.  And anything besides Jesus Christ will keep you short of any glory for there is no other who can save you but Him.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

(40) Love Thy Neighbor

Exodus 20:15-16
  • You shall not steal.
  • You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
These two commandments deal mostly with how we treat each other.  These, besides murder of course, are probably the worst things we can do to people.  It is said that the only thing worse than a thief is a liar.  Both make those we do it to feel vulnerable, used, and/or betrayed.

So if people feel this way after we do it then why do we do it?  The only answer to this is so that we gain something out of it.  People may say they do it because they have to but that is a rationalization.  There are no such things as little white lies.  There are no such things as petty theft.  Although man's law may set levels for how we do things like this, in the eyes of God it comes down to one thing.  We sinned.  We have lied.  We all have stolen.  We all deserve the penalty that comes with these, both man's and God's.  But God gave us a way out.  He of course gave us Jesus Christ.

Oddly enough Jesus' adversary (and ours) is a liar and a thief.  Go figure.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

(39) The Lord's Name

Exodus 20:7
  • You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name
Most people think this is just about saying God and damn together, or to say Jesus Christ as a term of content for a situation.  These are true but it goes more than just these.

To misuse something means you are using it in all the wrong ways.  To mention the word God in and of itself is not wrong.  Many Jewish people talk about God by writing it like this:  G_d.  They do this because they feel this is misusing His name.  But leaving out a vowel to show this does not change anything.  All they did was replaced one symbol of a language (the "o") with another symbol ("_").  Sure it may make them feel better and it may show that they are trying to show honor to where honor is due, but it misses the point.

Using the name of God to invoke power or authority, or even authenticity is using His name in vain.  This is why scripture says let your yes be yes and your no be a no.  Do not swear by God's name.  This swear does not mean the same as "cursing".  It simply means do not have God as your witness just because you need Him to back you up.  If you are telling the truth then you do not need His backing.  Telling people, "I swear to God", should be a tell-tale sign that the person is lying or has a horrible reputation for lying.  Ministers (of all kinds) should not use God's name to bring glory to themselves.  Those that proclaim to be of God just to make income or fame are using His name in vain.  Saying you have healing, prophetic, or other miraculous power from God when you do not is using His name in vain.  This is not saying that some people do not have these powers.  There are some who abuse the naivete of others.

Using God's name in vain, as some would say, means you are invoking God into situations He should not be called for.  Blaming God for earthquakes is misusing His name.  He did not cause the earthquake.  Using God as an exclamation is misusing his name.  Using OMG on your text does not exclude your sin just because you omitted letters.

Calling Allah, Buddha, or anything else God is misusing His name.  As a matter of fact it is idolatry and even blasphemous, but that is a different lesson.

Calling upon God is not wrong.  Calling out the name of God is not wrong.  Using it for your own gain, pain, or wane is when it becomes a sin.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

(38) Love and Lust

Exodus 20:14
  • Do not commit adultery
The Seinfeld episode called The Good Samaritan has a scene with George and a married woman he had a sexual encounter with.  In the scene George gets upset because he can't believe he has just committed adultery.  She comforts him by saying, "You didn't commit adultery. I did." This is not taking away from the comedic genius of the show or trying to say that watching Seinfeld is a sin or whatever before anyone thinks that.  This was just to show that this example attitude of sexual activity shows our ignorance of what sexual sin is.  Old Jewish law does back up what she said.  The woman commits adultery.  But is the man okay when this happens?  No.  He was considered part of the problem.  Notice another command was

Exodus 20:17 (c)
  • Do not covet your neighbor's wife
George did wrong as well.  Therefore when a sexual activity happens outside of marriage both parties are wrong.

So what about two people who aren't married at all?  No adultery by definition is committed then.  This is where you have to read between the lines.  Perhaps one day the people will be married.  If the woman has already slept with another man, that man is not her husband.  When she marries, it will be adultery.  It is the same with the man.  Once he marries he already has coveted.  Even if they never get married, the act itself should be implied to be wrong, just based on principle.  So the idea that you can have sex as long as you never get married would just be a rationalization.

In the New Testament Jesus even adds on to the law by saying that even if a man looks at a woman with lust in his heart, he has committed adultery.  How can it be simpler than that?

Having sexual feelings and thoughts are normal.  And the feeling itself is not wrong.  The thought will enter and that is not wrong.  But when the thought becomes more than just a thought as Jesus said it becomes sin.  Paul also states that we need to take every thought into captivity.  If the thought grows it becomes sin of the heart and may even lead to sin against humanity.  Other forms of wrong sexual activity are:  incest, bestiality, masturbation, groping, fondling, homosexuality, bisexuality, non-marital oral (yes, Bill, oral), pornography, petting, fornication, and coveting.  But do not miss this point...all forms of sexual activity outside of marriage is not appropriate, that includes even two consenting heterosexual adults even if they have been together for 30 years.  None is any worse than the other.  And even though none of us would really admit it, we all have done it one way or another.

Many people will not agree with this lesson.  And it isn't fun to hear because sexual activity is so prominent on our lives.  And perhaps out of all sins, it is the most fun.  But maybe that is also why satan uses this one to distort the truth more then the rest.  We tend to laugh when a TV show has an 80 year old woman "getting it on" with a man who is not her husband.  We all write it off as though "well at least she is having fun".  Sure the words make us laugh but in reality it shouldn't.
For more understanding here are some lyrics from Bride called Same ol' sinner

Same ol' sinner
Wearing the chains
I get the same ol' sinner

I believe your lies, desire inside
The truth I know will hurt
Your devil-eyes, I can't deny
I know what lust is worth
The devil has a healthy appetite
Raped by fear in the fire tonight
He'll tell you it's love when it's only lust
Ashes to ashes and dust to dust

The point being behind this whole lesson is that the Bible says sex has its limits.  Sexual activity outside marriage is not appropriate.  But why?  Sexual activity shows commitment.  Commitment to one person is an analogy to commitment to one God.  It is honorable and the right thing to do.

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