Month: March 2019

Cloudy with a chance of weirdness

I’ll let you in on a running conversation my wife, and I are having. It’s not something I previously considered sharing, but I think I should. So, here’s the crux of the matter: Both of us feel somewhat constrained, perhaps even oppressed, by American culture.

We are Christians, and we aren’t ashamed of this nor do we think the proper thing to do is not speak of it in public settings; we should not keep it in our homes. We are Americans, and we love and respect what our American flag stands for. Our flag is not a symbol of hate or a derisive symbol. We believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to work, and should work if they are able. We think that our country’s founders knew better than us the tyranny of an all-powerful central government, so they attempted to design mechanisms to limit federal authority, not to prevent our government from doing good but to constrain it from doing harm.  

We’ve been having these conversations to help us look at these issues from many different perspectives because our hearts’ desire is to think right and do right. Unfortunately, it seems that if we add our opinions to society’s marketplace of ideas, we are categorized as hateful and expelled from the market.

Now, neither my wife nor I have suffered even a smidge from these rebuffs, but I am reminded that it is both natural and healthy for Christians to suffer in this world. That may seem odd, but I see it as an enduring aspect of Christianity’s life in this world. Just look at what Jesus said.

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.” (Philippians 1:29-30 NIV)

So, even if our society decays to the point where you or I do suffer for what is right, we are blessed, for God’s Word says, “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” (1 Peter 3:14 NIV)

Continual Believing

As I’ve said in other writings, my favorite title for a book is the one by Eugene H. Peterson, titled, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” It’s a really good book with a fantastic title. That title came to mind, again, and served as a springboard for this devotional.

John 6:27-29 (NIV)“…Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Notice that Jesus said work, not works. The Jews live a life of discreet works. There are festivals at set times and dates. There is the reading of the Torah on the Sabbath. There were prescribed sacrifices for specific life events and sins. Under the Mosaic law, there are/were many discrete works that must be done in prescribed ways and times. But, what filled in the times between those works was daily living.

Jesus reminded the Jews, and us, of God’s intent. God intends for us to live, and move, and have our being in God (Acts 17:28). So, Jesus was teaching what seemed to be a new thing, but it was really an old thing; God’s desire has always been to commune with His creation that was made in His image. Jesus was saying that life is not a series of discrete works separated by life. Rather, life is a continual abiding in Jesus; that is the work God desires.

This abiding is what Paul wrote about in Romans 1:16-17, which says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, then to the Greek. For the gospel reveals the righteousness of God that comes by faith from start to finish, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.

When we are regenerated by Jesus we live in God’s kingdom. That’s a continual state of being. There are no discreet works separated by daily life. Our new “natural” is to perpetually abide with God by faith. So, births, deaths, marriage, employment, recreation, joy and sorrow all are to be shared with our Father through Jesus Christ, our Savior. We should not have gaps in our life. We should invite God and include Him in all we do. 

As Jesus said in Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Jesus is not asking for a visit but for an everlasting life with that person. The good news is that that person can be you and me!

In preparing this devotional I referenced the Bible, the Pulpit Commentary, and the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges.

Photo by Raychan on Unsplash

Hey mister, are you my neighbor?

Lyrics to Mr. (Fred) Rogers’s Neighborhood song:
It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

We live next door to an elderly widow who has re-taught us how to be a neighbor.

She welcomed us to the neighborhood with her home-baked cake. And, since that time, we’ve exchanged goodies, usually initiated by her; never return an empty plate has been our motto.

Just the other day, my wife called her to see if we could borrow a cupcake pan. It thrilled her! She was so happy to be called on for help. That got me thinking.
Being a Christian regularly puts me at odds with my nature and forces me to surrender my will. Countless times, that’s not been easy for me, seeing that I’m a hard-headed guy.

As an introvert, meeting and talking to people is uncomfortable for me; it goes against my nature. So, having a true neighbor started me thinking about how to meet other neighbors. Even so, my inner man was thinking about how to avoid them.

This internal battle led me to Luke 10:29, “…who is my neighbor?”, which led me to consider how to be a Christian and still escape having to meet my neighbors.

There were other rabbit trails I went down, but those aren’t relevant to this post. I was stuck. Being a Christian requires me not just to love people but to go and be among them so that they can smell me; “to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life...” (2 Corinthians 2:16 ESV)

In my spiritual wrestling match, I finally landed on the good Samaritan. When Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (Luke 10:36 NIV), The implied truth was that being a neighbor carried responsibilities. When I considered that I knew I was in trouble.

My neighbors aren’t just the folks that live within 100 feet of me. I can’t legalize, parse or categorize my way out of it; everyone is my neighbor and, as a neighbor, I have responsibilities to them – all of them!

The sick, broken, suffering, lost, clean and tidy, or rough and ragged, close at hand or far away, God holds me accountable whether I like it or not. Acknowledging and putting God’s love into action for my neighbors are the least of my responsibilities as one who carries the Name of Christ. It’s time for me to die, again.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Through the Lineage – Part 3 of 3

Creche

Part 3 – The genealogy of Jesus:
First, let’s visit two critical verses in the Old Testament that require the Messiah’s genealogy to come to a close with that of a woman.

Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

When we read the genealogies in Matthew and Luke, we see four important titles ascribed to Jesus of Nazareth. Out of these four titles we get, perhaps, our best understanding of who Jesus of Nazareth truly is.

From Matthew 1:1, “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:”
– Jesus is called the Son of David
– Jesus is called the Son of Abraham

From Luke 3:38, “… the son of Adam, the son of God.”
– Jesus is the Son of Adam
– Jesus is the Son of God

Therefore, from these verses, we see the picture of Jesus as a Jewish God-Man King. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, born a Jew from the lineage of Abraham and born into the royal lineage of King David. That’s who Jesus is.

Jesus is a man and has experienced every temptation known to man (Heb. 4:15). He is God and of God (Jn. 14:8-9). He is a Jew who came to fulfill the law of Moses (Mt. 5:17). He is the King of kings (Rev. 19:16). Indeed, Jesus is worthy of all our praise.

I sincerely hope you found some value in this lengthy and rather detailed study of the lineage of Jesus. Thanks for taking the time to study this fascinating topic along with me on.

A side comments: The genealogy of Jesus follows the line from Adam to Seth, not Adam to Cain. I’ve been asked this, before. (see graph below)

From Wikipedia

The primary source, outside of the Bible, for these lessons was derived from https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/issues-v05-n06/the-genealogy-of-the-messiah/

Photo by Walter Chávez on Unsplash

Through the Lineage – Part 2 of 3

Part 2 – The genealogy of Jesus, as recorded in the book of Matthew:

Matthew’s record of our Lord’s genealogy is entirely different from Luke’s. Right from the start, we notice that this genealogy does not follow the strict Jewish tradition. The Talmud states, “A mother’s family is not to be called a family.” Nevertheless, Matthew’s record does not trace back to Adam and God, it skips many people, and it includes women. These differences do not make it inferior, but show a different intent. As an example, see the following:

Matthew 1: (Young’s Literal Translation)
6 and Jesse begat David the king. And David the king begat Solomon, of her [who had been] Uriah’s,
7 and Solomon begat Rehoboam, and Rehoboam begat Abijah, and Abijah begat Asa,

It’s evident that Matthew’s account is not included in his book to establish a rigorous record of Christ’s ancestry. Instead, Matthew has included this record for a different reason. We shall see that Matthew’s account seems to exist to show, with a preponderance of the evidence, that Joseph was not the father of Jesus, and therefore, Jesus was born of a virgin, Mary. Also, notice that Matthew’s record diverges from Luke’s with the sons of King David.

Luke traces Christ’s genealogy from King David’s son, Nathan, whereas Matthew traces the genealogy from King Solomon. Right here is the split. Before the sons of King David, the two lists do not conflict. So, what is happening here?

One conventional explanation for these differences, from as early as John of Damascus, is that Nathan is the ancestor of the Virgin Mary, while Solomon is the ancestor of Mary’s husband Joseph.

Note that Tamar, Rahab, Ruth are all ancestors of King David and therefore in the lineage of Jesus. As for Bathsheba, she is the mother of Solomon and, therefore, would be in the lineage of Joseph, not Jesus.

One conventional explanation for these differences, from as early as John of Damascus, is that Nathan is the ancestor of the Virgin Mary, while Solomon is the ancestor of Mary’s husband Joseph.

God is showing us that these two genealogies are not intended to document the same person. Luke’s account, following strict Jewish guidelines, clearly showing the lineage of Jesus and Mary back to God, through Nathan, the son of King David. Matthew’s record is sparse, beginning with Abraham, skips groups of people, and includes the women Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and probably Bathsheba.

So, what is the purpose of Matthew’s record? It seems to be telling us that Joseph could not have been the father of Jesus because he is disqualified from royalty because his genealogy descends from King Solomon, and Jehoiachin is in this lineage.

Jehoiachin is the problem.  In Jeremiah 22: 24,30, God says:
24 As surely as I live,” declares the LORD, “even if you, Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, were a signet ring on my right hand, I would still pull you off

30 This is what the LORD says: “Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule any more in Judah.”

The three-parts of Jehoiachin’s curse are:
– that he would be childless (this is how the Hebrew text reads)
– that he would not prosper in his lifetime
– that none of his descendants would rule in Judah

Tradition (not the Bible) says that Jehoiachin repented during his Babylonian exile. What we do know from Matthew 1:11-12,  “And after the Babylonian removal, Jehoiachin (i.e. Jeconiah) begat Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begat Zerubbabel,” So, Jehoiachin had children after God cursed him. And, in Haggai 2:23 we see, “‘On that day,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” So, Zerubbabel was favored by the LORD, however, he was never a king.

Though Zerubbabel, a descendant of Jehoiachin, did not sit on the throne as king, the fact that Haggai 2:23 uses the same terminology as Jeremiah 22:24 Haggai seems to show that God intended to show a reversal of Jehoiachin’s curse. Nevertheless, it is likely that Matthew included Jehoiachin in his genealogy because of God’s curse, so people would understand that Joseph did not qualify to be the father of the Messiah.

The four points I hope you take away from this article are:
1. Matthew’s genealogy is the genealogy of Joseph.
2. Matthew’s genealogy is sparse and does not conform to the Jewish tradition.
3. Matthew’s genealogy does not attempt to establish Jesus as the Son of God or the Son of Man.
4. Matthew’s intent for his genealogy was to show that Joseph could not have been the father of the Messiah, thereby supporting the virgin birth of Jesus.


The primary source, outside of the Bible, for these lessons was derived from https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/issues-v05-n06/the-genealogy-of-the-messiah/

Photo by Lachlan Donald on Unsplash

Through the Lineage – Part 1 of 3

Jewish Man

This is the first installment of a three-part Bible study about Jesus’ genealogy. It may not be your “cup of tea.” That’s fine. Enjoy your day!

Part 1 – The genealogy of Jesus, as recorded in the book of Luke: Luke’s record of our Lord’s genealogy follows the strict guidance of the Jewish custom for documenting a genealogy. As a reference, you can see this strict genealogical structure in Ezra 2:61. The aspects of this structure we need to notice are that no names are omitted and no females are included. In fact, The Talmud states, “A mother’s family is not to be called a family.” (Ouch!)

Luke’s genealogy is significantly different from Matthew’s record, which we will look at in Part 2 of this series.

Luke maintained the continuity of Christ’s genealogy from Jesus back to God. Also, the omission of the definite article “the” for Joseph followed the mechanism Jews used to include a woman within a genealogy. This mechanism was done by referencing the husband of the woman that they wanted in the genealogy. The Greek language indicated this by omitting the definite article “the” thereby telling the reader that the author was not referring to the husband but, rather, the wife.

Therefore, if we follow this grammatical method for indirectly referring to the wife instead of the husband, it seems that Luke’s record of the genealogy is the genealogy of the Mary, the mother of Jesus. Here’s why many believe this, myself included.

Luke 3: (Young’s Literal Translation) 23 And Jesus himself was beginning to be about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, son of Joseph, 24 the [son] of Eli, the [son] of Matthat, the [son] of Levi, the [son] of Melchi, the [son] of Janna, the [son] of Joseph,.. 37 the [son] of Methuselah, the [son] of Enoch, the [son] of Jared, the [son] of Mahalaleel, 38 the [son] of Cainan, the [son] of Enos, the [son] of Seth, the [son] of Adam, the [son] of God.

Notice that in the literal translation, Luke 3:23 does not say, “as was supposed, the son of Joseph” but, rather, “being, as was supposed, son of Joseph.” The literal translation does not ascribe the definite article “the” when relating Joseph to Christ’s genealogy listed in Luke. All the other names in Luke’s genealogy are referenced with this definite article, as can be seen in verse 24, the son of Eli, the son of Matthat, and so forth.

So, the genealogy of Jesus, recorded in Luke, fits perfectly with the first promise of the Messiah in the Bible, which is found in Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The Messiah comes from a woman, and therefore the Messiah’s mother should be in His genealogy.

One last but an essential observation regarding Christ’s genealogy in Luke is found in verse 31. Here, we see that Jesus descended not from King Solomon but King David’s son, Nathan. This divergence is a big deal, as we will see in Part 2 of this series.


The primary source, outside of the Bible, for these lessons was derived from https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/issues-v05-n06/the-genealogy-of-the-messiah/
Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash

Happy International Happiness Day!

Little girl that is happy

Per the UN, today is the International Day of Happiness because the United Nations said so.

“… The official International Day of Happiness invites all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organizations and individuals, to observe the International Day of Happiness in an appropriate manner, including through education and public awareness-raising activities[…]”

http://www.un.org/en/events/happinessday/

Yippee!

My understanding is that external declarations (don’t worry; be happy) only affect us (okay today I’ll be happy) when we acknowledge the authority that makes the declaration (United Nations). So, what’s all this got to do with my Bible reading today?

I’m in 2nd Peter and here is some of what I read:
2 Peter 1:16-19, We were not following a cleverly written-up story when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ—we actually saw his majesty with our own eyes. He received honour and glory from God the Father himself when that voice said to him, out of the sublime glory of Heaven, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’. We actually heard that voice speaking from Heaven while we were with him on the sacred mountain.

The word of prophecy was fulfilled in our hearing! You should give that word your closest attention, for it shines like a lamp amidst all the dirt and darkness of the world, until the day dawns, and the morning star rises in your hearts.

God spoke out loud, from Heaven. Then Peter tells us to pay attention to what God said. Now that external declaration should affect us if we’ve acknowledged Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Hey, all of a sudden I am happy because that’s good news!

Effective and Productive

Man pulling his hair as he stares at his laptop, p

Many times I have sincerely prayed, “God, help me to be effective in my ministry. Help me, I pray, to be productive so that I won’t be like the servant that buried his one minas!” I hate to say it, but my prayer was incomplete and didn’t conform to God’s word. Yep, I needed to not just read the Bible, but I needed to integrate it into how I lived my life.

Of course, what I prayed was in the will of God; that was not the problem. The problem I had was that I didn’t pay attention to the promise God had already placed in His word. The issue was that, as with all of God’s promises, there are conditions, and I was ignoring those conditions. 

I found those conditions in 2 Peter 1:5-8 (NIV). For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What was the point of me asking God for something He had already promised to provide when I was ignoring His conditions? What I needed to do was to “possess these qualities in increasing measure…” If I would do what God said then I would be effective and productive in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God’s promises are so simple. Simple always trips me up. 🙁

Prayer: Father God, I come to you in the Name. Jesus is that Name above all names so in Him I come. I ask that you would teach me and correct me as I strive to add to my “faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”  My heart’s desire, my Father, is to be effective and productive in the work Jesus assigns me. Help me to put action to your words, I pray. Amen.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Are you kidding?

One of the stories we tell around our family table, and one that always teases out a, “I didn’t know!”, from our second oldest son is about the time he “lost” some of his hair.

When he was about six years old, our son came into the house, and my wife and I both looked at him in astonishment. “What happened to your hair!”, we both exclaimed.” “Nothing,” he murmured. “We need to know what happened, son.”, I said. Mom said, “There is a piece missing from your hair, right in the middle!” Our son said, “I was playing on the swings, and it got my hair caught in the chain and it pulled my hair out.”

I wanted to says, “Are you kidding!” For, there was no way this could have happened as there was a perfectly cut chunk of hair cut out right in front. Our son had lied about what happened. After further grilling on our part, he finally confessed he had tried to cut his hair.

After some admonishment from each of us, we decided to drop the matter as history would record this event; his school pictures was the next day. Sure enough, we have used that his school picture many times, on all our kids, as a lesson to tell the truth, and not try to cut your hair when you’re six years old! 

It was easy for us to see through our son’s attempt at deception and to get to the truth. And, so it was with Jesus when he talked to the Samaritan woman at the well.

The account of the Samaritan woman is well known and has been preached and taught many times, and for a good reason. However, today, I would like us to consider just one facet of this beautiful gem that God placed in His word. As a quick refresher for today’s salient verses, let’s review them:
John 4:11-12. 15-18

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

The woman attempted to level the playing field when she brought up the shared experience of Jacob’s well; both Jews and Samaritans recognized the exalted position of Jacob. She was trying to establish a common ground between them. When that didn’t work she “fudged” her marital history, but Jesus looked right through all these things and spoke life to her. It blew away all disingenuousness, duplicity, and dismissal that she attempted; and Truth transformed her.

This same Truth still lives and lives in us as Christians. How imprudent it is when we try to sidetrack our Lord when He is intent on leading us to truths about ourselves. We are utterly disarmed and without excuse.

Our feeble attempt to suppress a wrong that we need to right or a new path we need to walk is foolishness to Christ. Nevertheless, His love allows us to go down those roads, for a bit, giving us the opportunity to come to our senses and grab hold of Truth, even as the prophets of old grabbed hold on to the horns of the altar.

Let’s make a pact, right now, that none of us will try to level the playing field with Jesus. When Jesus, the Truth (Jn. 14:6), shows us where we must walk, let us walk that path in faith, confident that the love of God leads us and abides with us, for He is “a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1 KJV). Amen.

Photo by Olivia Bauso on Unsplash

Order from Disorder

I’m not sure how often I will post a devotional, but I will post when I am able.

My wife builds nests. It took me several years after we were married before I was able to articulate this idea that kept niggling at my brain. I had observed an unusual pattern of my wife abhorring unorganized things around her.

Finally, I understood that my wife had a strong need to create order around her. In our home (and we had many) she would find her spot in the house and then buy things that enabled her to surround herself with pens, printers, paper, and popcorn that quieted the roar of chaos into our surroundings. In truth, my wife always builds a nest wherever she’s at, even in a church pew.

Once I grasped her mindset, it got me thinking about human nature’s need to bring order out of disorder. And, as I began studying this in God’s Word, I became aware of a characteristic of God that seems rarely taught. And that is this: being created in the image of God we inherited His nature which includes the desire to bring order out of disorder in everything that works to glorify Him.

So I considered people, in general. Is this characteristic pervasive throughout the history of Adam’s descendants? I did a bit of searching and found this article:

Mount Precipice, also known as Mount Kedumim, is located just outside the southern edge of Nazareth, 2.0 km (1.2 miles) southwest of the modern city center.

It is believed by some to be the site of the Rejection of Jesus described in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 4:29-30). According to the Bible, the people of Nazareth, not accepting Jesus as Messiah tried to push him from the mountain, but “he passed through the midst of them and went away.”

At this location archaeological excavations found pre-history human remains. The human skeletons were associated with red ochre which was found only alongside the bones, suggesting that the burials were symbolic in nature. There were order and structure within the burial site.

This need by the progeny of Adam for order is so ubiquitous that we rarely see it when, in fact, the Bible opens by telling us that bringing order from disorder has been present with God from the beginning time.

In the following brief excerpts, we find God transforming “formless and empty and darkness” into light and other orderly things (Gen. 1:1-4). We also find Adam naming all the livestock, birds, and wild creations which is the first documentation of Man acting in the image of God by bringing order from disorder (Gen. 2:20).

In the New Testament, we have an overt command “to do all things in a fitting and orderly way. (1 Cor. 14:40)” And, in nearly the last chapter of the last book in the Bible, we find the eye-witness account of the Apostle John which tells us about the old, worn out heaven and earth being retired and a new heaven and a new earth coming into being (Rev. 21:1-2).

All of these Scriptures testify to God’s intent to keep all things in a fitting and orderly way.

Our inherited trait of bringing order from disorder is from God. This is something we shouldn’t balk at but should embrace, for it testifies of God’s nature and will surely touch hearts that are hungry for salvation, compelling them to come to you to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, embrace this characteristic of your heavenly Father. Whether it’s in your profession, in your family relationships, or in your home, wade into those messes and, through the anointing of the Holy Spirit, bring order. In this, you will glorify Christ Jesus.

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

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