A Denomination’s Journey To God’s Will…

I had planned to share with you the ever changing saga of the Methodist Church’s continuing discussion of church doctrine centered on same sex issues, notably homosexuality, which is referenced in the church’s Book of Discipline, its governing document, which states that the “practice of homosexuality” is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” This journey has consumed at least 40 years of time at the cost of thousands of reams of paper, countless hours of labour and attention that could have been better spent doing the Lord’s work. According to Ashley Boggan PhD. Student, Drew University, in a list compiled May 2015 and I quote from the article:

“1964: Council on Religion and the Homosexual, an ecumenical organization founded by Glide Memorial Methodist and Rev. Ted McIlvenna, formed in San Francisco, CA: “Ministers acknowledged the role that religion played in the persecution of gays and promised to initiate dialogue in their denominations on the churches’ stand toward same-gender sexuality.”

So we began the journey. From 1964 until 2014 there were at my count thirty such instances that were brought forth for consideration about this issue and related concerns, presented in Annual and General Conferences. There have been numerous petitions also made to the General Conferences over the years. Trust me…there are so many different turns in this Journey To God’s Will and the road so full of well meaning people, I doubt one could hear any prayer for God’s guidance in this matter. Now to bring us up to date on the status of this debate, and that is being polite, it has intensified I believe because over time people have changed. Those who advocate a change see these past few years as being to their advantage, so in reality the church has been put in a no win situation. There are churches leaving the Methodist Church and doing so in increasing numbers. The Pew works hard to not let personal opinion overrule the scripture to advance or influence the advancement of certain agenda driven activities. Today I will step out of the Pew for a bit and share some personal thoughts with you. As I wrote, this debate about sexuality issues has been before the church for over 40 years now. Some years back a vote was taken to allow the Bishops of the church to appoint a commission to re-evaluate rules on gay, lesbian and transgender clergy and marriage. I think both sides were happy with this for various reasons. The vote to establish such was 428 for and 405 no. To me it was necessary not so much to arrive at an answer as just another way to kick the Can a little further down the road  and buy time to avoid the mess of imposing discipline on clergy and clergy candidates who disobey the current Book of Discipline which is the law of the governing body of the church published every four years or so.

Consider this…You simply can’t vote what’s right or scriptural correct and like it or not, a vote does not make a right or wrong correct on either side of this debate. We have kicked this can down the road so many times it has more dents in it than a car at Daytona after a NASCAR race. The progressives were happy with the vote the conservatives not so much. Make no mistakes both sides of the issue were exasperated the church is still arguing over it and seems to be closer to a split. 

Consider this…There seems to be this attitude that if you don’t agree, just ignore the Book of Discipline and do your thing. This is not that unusual in our current societal reasoning, too many people in all walks and areas of life have been able to elevate this type of behavior to a level that is noble…a means of expressing the worth of your argument…being a victim of unfair treatment. To me it is just another example of a man made law that is inadequate and lacks the divine wisdom of the God we serve. The United Methodist Church is the third largest worshiping body in the United States and claims over 12 million members worldwide. Let that number sink in for a moment. Just think with that number and the enormous resources it is capable of amassing, we are still unable to answer the questions surrounding the issue of how we as a church deal with the “practice of homosexuality” in the Church.There was sometime ago a song titled “Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places”. Stay with me now…what in the world could that possibly have to do with our problem?

Consider this…

Could it be more appropriate to perhaps change our focus and maybe even our position…perhaps we should spend more time on our knees instead of on a soap box. I believe the answer to the issue of same sex practices within the faith lies in God’s Will. I believe such a revelation is of a Divine nature…through prayer, a strong relationship with God in our everyday life and revealed to us through the Holy Spirit. Therefore I believe we have been looking in all the wrong places for the answer to this issue before the church. One web site, Bible Gateway, offers many different ways to study the Bible and has available over 150 commentaries on the OT and NT. For those of us who study and seek to share the word it is of great assistance. Modern day technology gives us a wealth of material with only a pressing of a key on any computer. You can also look to several other points of distribution. 

Consider this…The Holy Spirit does not function in turmoil, disagreement and disrespect of others opinions. The Holy Spirit does not accept opinions as fact….or better put…God’s Will. You will not find it in Rainbows, Clerical robes, Bishop’s robes or on the end of a clinched fist, raised in emotional frustration. God’s Will is available to those who earnestly seek it and we all will be closer to finding it when we are on our knees in humble prayer. So to wrap this up…back to some music.

“The answer my friend does not blow in the wind” It lies in God’s Will. What does God expect of us?

Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O man, what is good;

And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly,

To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

Life is Good

jk

Reference points 

Laurie Goodstein May 18, 2016 

The New Interpreter’s Bible

John The Baptist…The Original Modern Day Evangelist Isaiah 40:3–5 (NKJV):

3  A voice cries:“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4  Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5  And the …The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has

spoken.”“Prepare the way of the LORD;

Who was John the Baptist? Short answer would be, a “lone voice in the wilderness”.The early personage to the modern-day evangelist as he unashamedly shared the good news of Jesus Christ. He is a role model for those of us who wish to share our faith and the good news with others. Consider these facts…

-He is usually overlooked as a significant figure in the Gospels

-His birth was meticulously recorded Luke. (1:5-25)

-His conception was marked by angelic proclamation and divine intervention. ( Luke 1:57-80 )

There are still more facts of interest that present the thought of the importance of this reasoning. John’s birth to Abraham and Sarah was the result of that Divine intervention.Gen.17:15-22 ; 21:1-7 ) John most certainly has a place of importance in the salvation history. To keep this simple yet enlightening I will share some points of interest to an already well known story. We often just skim over the words not allowing them to travel from our mind to our heart. How beautiful is the intent of our God to place among us earthly saints to point us to His call to His people. John’s early life wasn’t easy, he lived in the mountainous area of Judea, between the city of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. He wore the typical garb of a prophet, his diet was locusts and wild honey. John lived a simple life as he focused on the kingdom work set before him… “prepare the way of the Lord”

John’s work and his enthusiastic faith soon drew the attention of others… There is scriptural note of this …

Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. (Matthew 3:5-6)

John’s message was simple… He is coming, prepare the way for the Lord, the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Within Him is your salvation, repent and be baptized. Water was a symbol of cleansing in the biblical times…still is in our day. Interesting point here was as the people came and sought to be forgiven of their sins, this resulted in their being baptized by John, which added to the name some referred to him by…The Baptizer. Many people believed John was  a prophet of God… The Jews of the Temple and those of power in their community feared hm and his message. “5 And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet.” 

(Matthew 14:5)

John knew what they were saying and responded in kind. In John 3:28 you may read his response. John says, “You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him”. We don’t often think this way but it has been said that what was to come was a miracle from God in the form of Jesus Christ. In secular vernacular John was saying… “Hey, I am just a messenger and my message is simple and direct,  “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near”. The part John The Baptist played in bringing The Messiah forth is well documented but beyond these words we are given so much more. As written earlier the days and months and years ahead we will come to know of his earthly ministry and the gift He brought and offered to the whole world. He would challenge King Herod for his stubborn and evil ways and would pay for that with his life. Jesus spoke well of John, and also had this to say… Luke 7:28 “I tell you among those born of women there is no one greater than John…”

From John we can learn many things. He believed with all his heart, mind, body and soul that Jesus Christ was the Messiah. He spent all his days preparing to go forth and tell world of his coming…. “preparing the way” for the Lord’s coming. He focused on the mission God had given him. He told us of the importance of repentance and living a holy and righteous life. He was not afraid to speak the truth,   regardless the cost. John had a unique ministry but we must remember we too are called to share the truth of Jesus with the world. Stay focused on the word and the mission.

Life is Good

jk

Church or Faith… Which Came first?

Most of us are  familiar with the old question of which came first…The chicken or the egg? 

“(logic, philosophy) A supposed paradox concerning whether chickens or chicken eggs existed first. (by extension) A question to decide which of two interdependent things happened first. (wiktionary.org)”

Today’s Pew’s question is kinda a take on that. That question got me to the one which I wanted to know today, What came first… Church or Faith? That in turn led me to the next question. Is The Church in America declining? These figures from a Gallup poll seems to point to that. These numbers are from December 21,2022 and I share them below.

Church membership held steady at around 70 percent of the U.S. population from the 1940s through the 1990s. Membership plummeted in the new millennium. The decline is largely driven by a surging population of “nones,” or Americans who claim no religion, at 21 percent, as of 2021, according to Gallup.Dec 21, 2022”

According to an article written by  Daniel de Visé | Dec. 21, 2022, the share of Americans who belong to churches dipped below half in 2020, an historically low number. Now admittedly I am throwing a lot of numbers at you from a variety of sources but I do so to preface the question of today. Is The Church in America declining? A 2021 survey says 31% of Americans never attend church or synagogue, compared to 22 percent of Americans who attend every week. One more set of numbers for you. There are many signs that America’s Christian majority is shrinking and has been for decades. As of 2020 it is about 64%. Fifty years ago it was 90%. Let’s set the numbers aside for a moment. If you are a person of faith and have membership in a church regardless of denomination your surely can attest to this. You can also verify this by an honest assessment of the current state of the world today. There is a direct correlation to the decline of civility, respect for law and a reasonable respect for the accepted moralities as determined by society in general; all of which are in a serious decline today. There are other polls that do present different more positive numbers, one of which is from goodfaithmedia.org .  

“Aug 8, 2022 — Weekly worship attendance among U.S. Millennials more than doubled from 2021 to 2022, according to a new Barna Group report.”

What is Faith? In the New Testament book of Hebrews 11:1-3 is this biblical assessment of faith.

11 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the  evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

I would ask you to consider a few things during this time of Epiphany. The church today has in many ways lost its place at the table, so to speak, more and more Christians and their faith are being marginalized by cultural and societal pressures and the mob mentality that exists today. It would also be fair to note that we, the church are also responsible to a degree for the state of the church, as we know it today. In Revelation chapter 3 verses 15 & 16 the Lord conveys these words to John to write to the church at Laodicea. 

15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” NKJV

Amen! We have become complacent and careless in our personal faith and strengthening the fidelity of the church and faith, that we might serve our Lord and God with all our hearts and minds, our presence and our gifts. These verses are from Isaiah 42:8-9 and they remind me of me of the importance of this season of Epiphany. 

I am the Lord, that is My name;

And My glory I will not give to another,

Nor My praise to carved images.

Behold, the former things have come to pass,

And new things I declare;

Before they spring forth I tell you of them.

The visit of the Wise Men introduced the world to the promise…hope is a powerful thing and here now was among us God’s promise to his people… and in the weeks, months and years ahead we will witness this mission of salvation for all who believe as scripture reveals Jesus Christ, The Messiah going forth to do the work of his Father in heaven. The intent of all this is to put before you the importance of faith as a renewable source, faith is the engine of the church. Which came first church or faith? Here in the Pew our answer would be FAITH. 

The year ahead will be one of many distractions, challenges that will turn us away from the real issues facing the church. My pastor last week put the importance of FOCUS before us as we journey to meet and know our Lord better. Immerse yourself in prayer…read the bible more every day. Be involved in the Lords work and remember this,

Philippians 4:8-9

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

Life is Good

jk

From Epiphany Matthew 2:1-16 To Isaiah 43:18-21

Last week we wrote of the coming season of Epiphany. Epiphany is the season from Jan. 7 through the day before Ash Wednesday. It may include anywhere from four to nine Sundays, depending on the date of Easter. Most denominations have a calendar of specific dates and times that people of the faith celebrate the important teachings and events within the Church Year. Epiphany is a time of joy, hope and the revelation of the Christ, Jesus the Messiah, the promised one of God.The word “epiphany” itself means manifestation or revelation. I always like to go beyond the words but this time I think we will go deeper. I am going to add a few verses to what we read last week in Matthew 2:1-12, this week add four more to those….Matthew 2:1-16.

Let’s spend some time this week with the Three wise Men, Magi, or Three Kings who travel from the East to visit Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. First who were they? Now I must be careful here to inform you that this account is one of many. But is very much similar to the others. I often go to biblestudytools.com, they are accurate and knowledgeable. Below I insert their information:

  • Gaspar (or Caspar) wears a green cloak and a gold crown with green jewels. He is the King of Sheba. Gaspar represents the Frankincense brought to Jesus.
  • Melchior has long white hair and a white beard and wears a gold cloak. He is the King of Arabia. Melchior represents the Gold brought to Jesus.
  • Balthazar has a black beard and wears a purple cloak. He is the King of Tarse and Egypt. Balthazar represents the gift of Myrrh that was brought to Jesus.

About those gifts…

  • Gold: is affiliated with Kings, and Christians believe that Jesus is the King of Kings.
  • Frankincense: is used in liturgical worship in traditional Churches and represented that people would worship and praise Jesus.
  • Myrrh: is a fragrance that is embedded on dead bodies to make them smell pleasant and represented that Jesus would endure persecution resulting in his death.

For your consideration and just as a thought to ponder, maybe even encourage you to read more I share the following with you.There are many in the theological and historical communities that hold with the theory that it was some time after the night of the birth of Christ that the The Three Wise Men found him in Bethlehem in a modest house. Some accounts say it was a room that Joseph obtained elsewhere after the crowds had gotten smaller. We do know that Joseph being from this area there is a good chance he might of had some relatives close by. So where does this leave us? Right where we need to be… Jesus was born and swaddled in cloths, and laid in a manger in Bethlehem. He is the Son of God, the Promised Messiah and as the Wise Men said, The King of the Jews. The Wise Men did bring him gifts and they did follow that star. We can go beyond the words, dig deeper and search the probabilities but I leave you this week with this thought. 

Our faith makes us strong and faith cannot be built on probabilities. We must pray and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, establish a relationship with God and live as Christ has instructed us to live. Don’t sweat the details… Long before the Star Isaiah spoke of these things to come. I invite you to read those verses…Isaiah 43:18-21. Christianity and faith are a constantly a time of preparing for the Kingdom to come into its promised state. Here at Epiphany the church prepares to welcome the Son of God, incarnate among us and our long awaited salvation.

Life is Good

jk

Rest of The Story…Matthew 2:1-12

The rest of the story often gets lost in post holiday fatigue along with the tree coming down, the unwinding and removing of the colorful lights even that brief period of goodwill to all will soon get packed away as we return to the business of life in a busy world. You will hear in the days to come, in time of stress… “don’t worry…God has got this, God is in charge or God has a plan!” Allow me to introduce the first step of the plan, so to speak.It has a name and a purpose, it even has its own season on the Church Calendar. I welcome you to Epiphany. Epiphany is the season from Jan. 7 through the day before Ash Wednesday. It may include anywhere from four to nine Sundays, depending on the date of Easter. Don’t be confused, Epiphany is about preparing for what is to come, sorta like Advent was preparing us for the birth of Christ. In a simple layman’s train of thought and leaving the deeper theological revelations behind it is simply a time of hope and joyful revelation. The word “epiphany” itself means manifestation or revelation. To me it is when the world meets the baby Jesus, the Messiah. To Christians It marks the day Jesus was revealed to the world by the three Wise Men, Magi or Three Kings who followed a Star to the baby Jesus, where it all started…

Here in Bethlehem Christ is born in a stable and laid in a manger. Today this picture of the baby Jesus is etched into our minds. But there is something more here…because of the visit of the Magi, three wise men from the East, bringing gifts, we are introduced to God’s son, a living manifestation or revelation if you will…God incarnate in this little baby. At their best the Magi were good and holy men, who sought for truth. Church doctrine, various faith beliefs, biblical commentaries, customs and theological studies tend to muddy the waters some. A preacher once told me “don’t sweat the details” and it has proven to be good advice. Depend on your faith and the discernment of the Holy Spirit through a rigorous prayer life. We are at the door of a New Year and the Epiphany we face is the beginning of God’s plan through this baby Jesus to make everything new, a revelation of God’s power of forgiveness of our sins and the restoration of His relationship with his people through His son Jesus Christ.

This is my opinion, you are welcome to disagree. I consider these verses from Matthew 2:1-12 to be the first Revelation to be followed much later by The Revelation of John. Epiphany, a time of manifestation of what is to come….These few verses are often lost in the tasks of taking down and packing away the memories of this special night. Read Matthew 2:1-12, simple account of a visit that introduced the Christ Child to the world.

Have a Good New Year…Life is Good

jk

Pondering… Secular and Christian Views and… It Wasn’t The Grinch That Cancelled Christmas

Christmas is that time of the year that always confronts me with conflicting emotions. There is of course the secular joy of the season, the excitement of the children and I might add that at this time of year there is always a little child in all of us. Bright lights, decorations of red and green…you know the song. I do, for what reason I am not sure, look at Christmas from both secular and Christian Views. The very fact that this phenomenon incorporates both a strong religious history as well as having become a commercial success gives it two very different areas of influence. Over the years I have become less focused on the secular aspects and customs of Christmas. I have also developed an awareness of some of those things that the brightly wrapped  presents and a tree along with the extensive amount of decorating we do to visually create that Christmas Joy… a special feeling that we attribute to that special time of the year. They also have awoken other feelings that come with a new awareness. There are so many people that are left behind in the joy of the family gatherings, the bright lights, the rush to find just the right gift for someone special, the preparation of that Christmas dinner…then the inevitable…that little twinge of disappointment when Christmas Day comes to an end.

Some thoughts from the believers side of Christmas. You might be surprised to know that this War on Christmas is not a new thing. There is a lot of history involved here and would make for a long read…but for time and space just a couple of facts from history.com . 

By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated.” 

What followed I don’t think they anticipated. Well, Christmas did gain a lot more attention, Christians believers started to attend church on Christmas Day…that’s a good thing. It is what follows that which is unusual. They then celebrated raucously in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere similar to today’s Mardi Gras. There is more to that after church celebration that is best left unsaid. It wasn’t the Grinch who cancelled Christmas. Let’s go back to history.com  for the answer to that and it wasn’t any of the Woke group, it was Oliver Cromwell, and his Puritan forces who took over England in 1645. They vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas. When the Pilgrims, who were even more orthodox than Cromwell came to early America they did the same thing. Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681 Christmas was outlawed in Boston! It is interesting to note that according to Captain John Smith, Christmas was enjoyed by all without incident. Today the Christmas story has in many ways been marginalized by cultural and societal  customs and traditions. So long ago the Birth of our savior Jesus Christ was tied to church, cultural and societal traditions that in my opinion made it a part of, as we have become to say…The Reason For The Season. The birth of the Christ Child is not a seasonal thing. It has transcended time from that night in Bethlehem to this very day and will continue on as a sign of God’s love of his people and Creation…John 3:16…

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 

I have in these older years of my life come to detach the birth of God’s Son from “Tis the reason for the season” …The birth God  incarnate, God among us, well that stands alone. Enjoy Christmas but know this…all the bright lights, presents, and brightly decorated trees…They can never shine as bright as that Star in that Bethlehem Sky on that night so long ago.

Merry Christmas!

Life is Good

jk

SHEPHERDS AND ANGELS

The stories of the season. They have become the casualties of familiarity, reduced to mere words, adapted to plays, concerts and seasonable objects of display. I have often used the phrase beyond the words to express my desire to know more and be challenged by the word. One such story of course is the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ. To me to preface the birth with the word story, leaves much to be desired as to the importance of God coming among us. So join me as I go beyond the words.First we see the lives of Joseph and Mary disrupted by civil responsibilities decreed by the Roman Government. I am sure it was not the wish of either to be traveling at this time. They had no choice as it had been ordered by Rome. The census was an institution of Servius Tullius, sixth king of Rome.  

“He ordered all the citizens of Rome to register their estates according to their value in money, taking an oath, in a form he prescribed, to deliver a faithful account according to the best of their knowledge, specifying the names of their parents, their own age, the names of their wives and children, adding also what quarter of the city, or what town in the country, they lived in.” Ant. Rom. l. iv. c. 15. p. 212. Edit. Huds. (Adam Clark Commentary)

The design of the census or enrollment was to record an account from the people who were ordered to give their names, quality, employments, wives, children, servants, and estates holdings. The value set upon the estates by the censors, and the proportion in which they adjudged them to contribute to the defense and support of the state, either in men or money, or both. We might even be tempted to ask why would Mary risk such a trip at this time in her pregnancy?   There was no reason for Mary to have gone to Bethlehem, as Joseph’s presence could have answered the questions without Mary. Scripture answers that question for us. In going the prophecy of Micah would be  fulfilled, and that Jesus should be born in the city of David; Micah 5:2.

With this information we are made aware of the reality of the day, so to speak. Joseph and Mary were ordinary people called by the grace of God to be part of an extraordinary event. We should be aware that God could call on any of us to be part of a kingdom event at any time in our lives. There has always been many different pictures presented of the birth place of Jesus but while many historical descriptions vary somewhat the one I find most accurate in this case is as follows. The term  laid him in a manger in that day would have meant not only the, manger which can also refer to a feeding trough but the entire stable. Why there? To start with the crowds traveling to Bethlehem would have been huge, everyone going to comply with the census. Was Joseph so poor he could not afford a room? Maybe not, some writings indicate he was a success at his chosen profession, given the crowds it is  not hard to understand why there would be no room available. Again, God coming among us in such ordinary circumstances. There are many details here yet to be discovered but I will move on to the next defining moment of this story. In verse 8 we read of shepherds abiding in the field close to their sheep. Historical writings from this period would indicate that they most likely had tents or booths under which they dwelt. We are further drawn into the narrative with the well-known phrase keeping watch by night. A normal watch would be about three hours at a time per man. The reason being to protect the sheep from beasts of prey and even more revealing from groups of roaming bandits which at that time Judea was infested. Why is this important? It points to how ordinary life was difficult at this time while making it plain this was a normal circumstance at this time. We live, most of us, a very ordinary life day-to-day. When the day comes for our Lord to return it most likely will be during a time of our living out another ordinary day. Will we fear at that moment the divine justice to come as most likely those shepherds did when the Angels announced his coming or where they even able to comprehend what was happening?

 Here again God takes an ordinary thing and makes it extraordinary. shepherds watching their sheep is nothing to write home about, quite common in this place and time. I have heard the story many times, read Luke’s account but there is something special here. God’s announcement came to the shepherds first, Shepherds were despised by the orthodox good people of the day and I would venture a bit unfairly. They were an unruly lot to be sure, being unable to keep the details of the ceremonial law; they could not observe all the meticulous hand-washings and rules and regulations because their job made constant demands on them; and so the orthodox looked down on them. It was God’s will that the message go forth first to the simple men in the field that night. Another obscure detail to a well-known story, while these were ordinary shepherds they were most likely protecting the flocks that belonged to the Temple authorities. These flocks were kept in close and well guarded to ensure that a supply of perfect offerings was always available to the Temple authorities as each morning and evening an unblemished lamb was offered as a sacrifice to God. William Barclay writes It is a lovely thought that the shepherds who looked after the Temple lambs were the first to see the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

These are just a few random thoughts about this story and I might add one more. It was the custom of the Jews that when a boy was born local musicians would gather at the house and greet him with simple music. Jesus’ birth in a stable in Bethlehem made this impossible . Instead the angels sang the songs for Jesus that the earthly singers could not sing. This is an account of God incarnate coming to this earth to live among his people, claiming no special privileges and experiencing the life of ordinary people. We might ask ourselves have we who are born again, squandered our new birth right to the sins of this world?

Life is Good

jk 

Reference Material         

DBS, William Barclay

Adam Clark Commentary    

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond The Words…The Journey and The Shepherds…Luke 2: 1-20

James Strange, a New Testament and biblical archeology professor, wrote this:  Writers of the gospels of Matthew and Luke “are so laconic about the [Nativity] event because they assume the reader would know what it was like. [W]e have no idea how difficult it was.”

Sometimes words are just not enough, thus the saying that a “picture is worth a thousand words”….. and since there are no actual pictures from that time we are reduced to just the words. Fortunately we do have written records of that time, and there are biblical archeologists whose studies print a vivid picture in our mind and of course theological based studies of the lives people led in those times. As noted above Matthew and Luke were rather sparse in their words used to describe the difficulties and challenges such a trip would present to Joseph and Mary. I share with you some words from Deacon Frederick Bartels in an article he posted 12 January 2019. While I am paraphrasing his words I wanted you to know the Deacon’s excellent  writing on this subject is my source of information. 

After a demanding trip to Bethlehem and finding room only in a cave that was being used to stable live stock, what would this trip had been like for Mary and the child in her womb. Deacon Bartels asks a question that requires we go beyond the written word. Most of us have a very firm picture in our minds of what Mary was like. An alabaster complexion, clothed in ornate robes whose hands had never seen a day of ordinary household work. But in reality Mary was an ordinary Palestinian Jewish girl, poor and as we have come to learn of extraordinary faith and abilities. Truth is Mary would have been no different from other Jewish woman of her place and time. Her day would be one of tedious chores and duties to be done, having none of the modern every day technology available to aid her. She would start at sunrise or maybe a bit sooner preparing a meal, then there would be water that needed to be brought in, carried by hand in jars or wine skins. The water would be used for drinking, cleaning, bathing and washing clothes. Ground wheat-flour and other food ingredients had to be gathered and of course firewood to cook with and heat to provide warmth in the cold mornings and evenings. All of these things would require, as some estimate, at least ten hours of work. I think we can say she had to be strong and efficient. Joseph was a carpenter and his day began at sunup and would last till there was no light left to work by. I imagine his face would be of a ruddy complexion, with lines reflecting the responsibility of family and providing for them. His hands would be the rough calloused hands of a working man. He would be a strong and resilient man. Further more it very likely that both Mary and Joseph were, as many of the people of that time illiterate to some degree. Because of where they lived it is possible they had limited knowledge of some Greek and Latin. They most likely lived in a small complex, four small one room houses with dirt floors which were connected by a shared courtyard for cooking and other daily needs. Most of these complexes were shared with kin. It would have been a good thing because the women would be able to help each other with water, wood and other needs. It was not an easy world to live in. They were taxed by both the Temple and the Roman government and people of bad intent were all about them.

Moving to the journey they were about to make it could not be said that they did not know the dangers of taking such a trip, not to mention that Mary was heavy with child at this time.  Mary and Joseph were aware of all the dangers of such a trip. They would have to travel about sixty miles and at best given her condition ten miles a day would be all they really could expect. There would be wild animals, bandits and desert robbers to contend with. Weather would also be a factor as temperatures in winter in this area would be a bone chilling 41 degrees at night and rise into the high forties during the day. I don’t know why but I have always read or been told that the desert temperatures at night felt much colder than you would think. They would have had to have warm clothing, build a fire each night to protect themselves from predators and of course to keep warm as they rested. Their provisions would have consisted of bread, herbs, oil and some dried fish. Water was carried in wineskins. Yet all these things did not intimidate Joseph or Mary.

At this point we switch our attention to the Shepherds. Luke 2 verse ….8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 

 Theirs is a unique position. One of  the little known facts…things not included in Luke 2: 8-14. They were only about eight miles from Jerusalem in the fields near Bethlehem, that we are told but the reason while practical, is not that well known. These shepherds  were tending sheep that had been designated for sacrifice in the Temple in Jerusalem and most likely the property of the Temple. These shepherds were educated in the specific quality of sheep needed for sacrifice and it was their job to protect them from being hurt, damaged or blemished. Shepherds were in general looked down on by most people. Tending sheep was a 24/7 job and required the shepherds attention at all times. Realistically there were many of the daily religious practices that they couldn’t practice because of the demands of their job. They were rarely in the synagogue for worship or instruction and their fellow Jews looked down on them for it. It must be noted that the task of shepherding was an honorable job and often fell to the youngest son in the family. It has always had a place in Jewish history and in that part of the world was part of the history of all the people living in those times. God got some great leaders from the ranks of shepherds. It is here that the angel came on high to announce the birth of a Savior… He who is Christ The Lord. 

The weak, average, illiterate, lowly in status…the shepherd … to him was first given the news of man’s salvation to come. This birth, this one who by God’s intent has come among us…God incarnate, would go among those of similar standing. He would become a tradesman from an uneducated working class family. When time for his ministry came upon him he chose twelve others, fishermen and such, from the northern region of Israel which at that time was considered to be inferior to the rest Israel. He who’s coming was told to these lowly shepherds keeping the sheep…He would become a shepherd of men and they Fishermen of men.

Life is Good

jk

Climate Change…Don’t Worry About It… A Biblical Perspective

What is climate change?  Climate change describes global warming—the ongoing increase in global average temperature and its effects on Earth’s climate system.  What does the Bible say about it? Not much but in God’s Word there is an answer…if you go beyond the words, so to speak. Should we be worried about it, not really? A respectful concern would be more in order. The Bible has some words that should be of comfort in the uncertainty of this world. It might be a bit of a stretch but in the Word there is a certainty that eludes us in the stress of everyday life. For most people of the faith it is not that big a stretch.

Genesis 1:1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

From the very first we read that the creation of this earth was planed, controlled and of Devine intervention. Now I realize that there are other theories but mine is not a theory because I believe in God, the creator of all things. So say what you will, in God I find my comfort and peace of mind. It is a God Thing. The Creator of all things is in charge. We should be aware that God just didn’t walk off on the Seventh Day leaving his creation unattended, he left specific instructions as to what Man and Woman were expected to do. 

Genesis 2:2-7

This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

Genesis 1:26-28 

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Can we make a difference in this thing called Climate Change? First we need to recognize and accept that we are not in charge and as Pogo once said… “We have found the enemy and they is us.”  So the answer might be Yes. As Paul Harvey, a well known and respected member of the broadcast world would say…Now the Rest of The Story… We will find that in Revelation Chapter 7.

Revelation 7:1-3

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” 

We believe that it was God, our Father, who created this earth and He will decide the time it shall come to an end. Revelations makes it very plain that there will come a day when this earth and every living thing on it will be held accountable. You may call it climate change or anything you wish but the end will be planed, controlled and of Devine intervention. Consider this… all of us are responsible for taking care of that which God created and we have not done a good job of that. The end of this earth will be mankind’s lack of repentance for its sins. In chapter 7:1 The telling factor we can find would be the words of instructions given to the four Angels holding back the wind at God’s direction … Verse 3 clearly speaks of the servants of God. Biblically speaking, God has got our backs, a rather crude assessment but accurate.  

My opinion is that of a believer, God is my Father and he has created all things…this earth, the life upon, it is of His hands. Are we responsible for the mess we find this earth in environmentally?  Yes, we are but we have forgotten God’s charge to us… Genesis 1:28

28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

We cannot destroy this earth in a biblical sense, we can and are making it un-livable in some respects and the truth is simply this… Only God can destroy what he has created and the earth as we know it will be destroyed because of the sins of mankind, not our current environmental woes. The wind is the engine of our atmosphere and God controls that.

 Climate Change…Don’t Worry About It

If the God thing offends you…Then look to Mother Nature.

Life is Good

jk 

The End Of The Beginning… gnidaerR sdrawkcaB

Not to long ago while reading read one of my morning devotionals with a rather catchy title…Reading Backwards and preparing for today’s blog I ran across the word Advent…here it is Friday and my publish date is this Saturday, funny how God will show will us the way if we just pay attention. I have a study group on Tuesday mornings and we are in the book of Revelations, pair that with another morning devotional and then put Advent with Revelations and you are ready to go. You see even at this late hour I had no real subject to share with you.

So….What is the point here? How do these two and reading backwards go together? Glad you asked that question. 

We will start with Advent… the Latin word meaning “coming, or arrival”. For Christians it is a season of preparation for the coming of Jesus and in a theological twist the beginning of the end. It is at this point, the arrival of Jesus that God begins the restoration and salvation of his people. The book of Revelations prepares God’s people for the end times and through John’s vision he reveals those things that must take place before the end. Both the Old Testament and the New contain writings of the prophecies, events and stories of Jesus and of the time of Judgement to come…the Lord’s Day. Let’s start at the end. Reading Backwards

Revelations Has a total of 22 chapters and 21:1 through 22:21 deals with the New Jerusalem and the epilogue and benediction. For our purposes today we will look at 21:1-8. There will be an end to this wicked earth as we know it, this present earth will be no more. There will be a New Jerusalem, it will become the capital city of heaven. Here is where the saints will live. (John 14:1–3). I will try to highlight some points of interest here without getting to involved. The term bride is symbolically pointing to the saints who have come to this new city to meet the groom…Christ. This is his Fathers’s House. As written in verse 3 the Tabernacle is God’s house, this is where he lives. There will be no sadness here, no need for tears. We are reminded in verse 5 that God always speaks the truth. Verse 6 refers to the lasting spiritual water Jesus spoke of. In verse 7 those who persevere, remain true to the faith and accept the saving grace of Jesus Christ, will inherit the wonder of the new creation. In verse 8 we encounter the caveat that lists some of the traits of the unbelievers and their fate. Here is the list of traits from a biblical perspective:

Revelations 21:8

But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (NKJV)

As we read backwards we will encounter all the events of biblical history that got us to the end as recorded by the saints in moving toward the salvation God has ordained for his people.You may correct me if you wish but to me the beginning starts with the birth of Christ and Advent, which prepares us for the birth of Jesus and our journey to salvation…the end of another beginning. This one is forever.

Life is Good

jk