I Believe…

There are many times in our life where we apply the phrase I believe, most of the time it is a general statement to any issue that crosses our path in living our everyday lives. I believe it to be one of two things, truth or opinion or a commitment or a thought regarding a certain situation. Looking back there was a song sung by Elvis Presley in his early years, it was on a gospel album he recorded. The title of that song was I Believe. The lyrics are below….

I believe, for every drop of rain that falls, 

A flower grows…

I believe that somewhere in the darkest night, 

A candle glows… 

I believe for everyone who goes astray, 

Someone will come, to show the way,

I believe, I believe…

I believe, above the storm the smallest prayer, 

Will still be heard… 

I believe, that someone in the great somewhere, 

Hears every word… 

Every-time I hear a newborn baby cry, 

Or touch a leaf, or see the sky, 

Then I know why, I believe! 

I believe, above the storm the smallest prayer, 

Will still be heard . . . 

I believe, that someone in the great somewhere, 

Hears every word…

Everytime I hear a newborn baby cry, 

Or touch a leaf, or see the sky, 

Then I know why, I believe!

Written by: AJA VOLKMAN, DAN EPAND, DANIEL COULTER REYNOLDS, RICH KOEHLER

Lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC  Lyrics Licensed & Provided by LyricFind

Back in the day I volunteered at the US Parks Service, White Water center in Polk County Tn. I remember when I entered the Cherokee National Forest on my way to the center how majestic and peaceful were the mountains and my thoughts were always how great is my God who has created this wonderful place. There are many reasons all around us to make our hearts sing…I Believe… The lyrics of this song do a good job sharing some things that lead us to believe. Savor the words of this song…then take the time to ask yourself….Why do I Believe?

Life is Good

jk

A Time To Remember…Acts 7:1-8:1

We travel back to a time in the early church and here in Acts 7 we meet Saul, who would soon become Paul, a driving force in  establishing  the early church. But on this day we see Saul stand by while the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul…and scripture says,

 8:1 And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.

The him they were killing was Stephen.One of many who answered God’s call.  Stephen is first mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles as one of seven deacons appointed by the Apostles to distribute food and charitable aid to poorer members of the community in the early church. Other than the scripture as a guide in writing this blog I will look to one of my favorite commentaries…DBS, William Barclay. We have met Saul and now we shall meet Stephen, THE MAN WHO ANSWERED GOD’S CALL. The bible tells us that Stephen was full of grace and power and did much good among the people. There were some who argued with Stephen because they did not understand the wisdom and spirit he possessed. They contrived to get some other men to say they heard him blaspheme through spoken word both Moses and God. All of this stirred up the people and he was arrested and put on trial before the High Priest and the council. Stephen then stood up before them and defended himself. 

Stephen chose history as a means of defense and cited certain truths as condemnation of his own nation. He reminded them that  the people who heard God’s command were a great part of Israel’s history. He pointed to the fact that they, the Jews of their time , now at this time were afraid to step out. Their desire was to keep things as they were and regarded Jesus and his followers as dangerous innovators. Stephen reminded them that people had always worshiped God, even before there was a Temple. Now to the Jews the Temple was the most sacred of all places. Stephen believed that God dwelt everywhere the people would gather to worship and that did not sit well with the Jews. Then he made an astounding statement. All through the ages they had persecuted the prophets and abandoned the leaders whom God had raised up, including Jesus Christ, it was a natural conclusion to a disagreement. They were angered even more for these were hard truths for those people who believed they were chosen by God.  

Standing before the High Priest and the Council Stephen proceeds with the history lesson and he starts with Abraham, it is with him that Jewish history began. Abraham was a man who answered God’s summons. As the writer to the Hebrews put it, Abraham left home without knowing where he was to go. Abraham was a man of faith. He did not know where he was going, but he  trusted God’s guidance.  Even though never seeing God’s promise fulfilled Abraham was a man of hope. As with Abraham we should be a people ready to answer God’s command, to move forward and not cling to the past. Stephen then moves on to Joseph his family which had sold him into Egypt. Joseph did well in Egypt and rose to a position of power there. When the famine struck the land Joseph’s father sent his brothers there to look for food. You know the story when they came before Joseph they were afraid he would kill them because of what they had done to him. He did not. He brought all his family there to be with him and gave them all they needed to live. Stephen sums up the characteristics of Joseph in two words – grace and wisdom. His grace transferred to a generous charm that put their fears to rest. Wisdom simply put for a Christian is the ability to see things as God sees them. It is as if Stephen is saying to these Jews…you are mired in the past and prisoners of your own law. Yours is not the view God sees of the future. Stephen continues on with the example of Moses. This was the man that answered God’s command to go out. It is said that this was a man that literally gave up a kingdom to answer God’s summons to be the leader of his people. Stephen now begins to raise the tempo of his defense….He says there is the continued disobedience of the people. He reminds them that they have been blessed with an abundance of the most amazing privileges. Their condemnation is justified because they had every chance to know better, they continuously rebelled against God. They had limited God to a Temple….his reasoning was they loved the Temple more than God. Their God was a God of all people and his Temple was the whole universe. Now comes the end…You have consistently persecuted the prophets…and then he slams the door in their faces by telling them….you have murdered the Son of God. For Stephen there is the sorrow that sees a people who have refused the destiny that God offered them. 

I hope you will read Acts chapter 7 in full. We need a Stephen today to remind us to remember our Christian history, to look back at the courage of those whose willingness to step out gave us hope, courage, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Life is Good

jk

 

Pondering…Life…Whose is It?

I always enjoy the times I step out of the Pew and just ponder, I view pondering as a poor man’s think tank. But for the sake of today’s pondering, here is the proper definition of that word. 

pon·der | ˈpändər |

verb [with object]

think about (something) carefully, especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion:  

I always equate pondering with us old folks, a porch, a rocking chair and the comfort of a well thought out opinion without the stress of a debate. This usually happens in the quiet of  late evening or in the morning before the hassle of the day engulfs us. I have solved many a problem while just pondering… at least for me. Been pondering this ABORTION thing and it is not the first time my thoughts have wandered there. 

ABORTION –  noun

1 the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy, most often performed during the first 28 weeks of pregnancy: 

Medicine the expulsion of a fetus from the uterus by natural causes before it is able to survive independently.

  • Biology the arrest of the development of an organ, typically a seed or fruit.

My thoughts this day by-pass the medicine and biology area and focus on the first part of this definition. Abortion as an issue has become the darling, the top of the list concern, for the social justice warriors in our world today. Since 1973 it has always been a hot button issue but the leak of a yet to be finalized opinion from one of the Justice’s position papers has, so to speak, brought out the knives. The first causality being reason, that’s not on the table anymore and its cousin civility, is in critical condition. Before I go any further I must disclose to you that I am a Christian, why would I say that? Because I have no other view than what I believe to be Godly grounded…I am convinced…

Romans 8:38-39

New International Version

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

So, as a disclaimer up front, I am prejudice. The truth is as a Christian it is not acceptable to do anything other than love others, the old adage of hate the sin but love the sinner…as Christians that’s out the door…we do not have that option. Jesus himself said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. ‘ ” (Matthew 22:37-39, ESV). 

Genesis 2:7, “the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” 

Consistently throughout Scripture God is portrayed as the giver of life, which distinguishes living organisms from inanimate things (biblestudytools.com) 

My God is a God of life.

Romans 4:17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

Pondering this Abortion thing I chose to travel a different road. Here in the South I guess some would say…ain’t no rights thing. Abortion is a God thing because it is about life…all life. God created life… he willed it, he gives it. And he sustains it…period.

Psalms 150:6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.

Romans 1:20-21 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

God demands a reverence for human life and forbids murder.

 Psalms 139:13- For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

It is about life, anything else is fodder for debate. I serve a God of life…I cannot say that enough. My God creates life, life to God is precious and his enduring love and care for his creation…all…is beyond the understanding of mortals. I turn to of all places the Book of Job, chapter 38. Job has questions for God and he struggles with his need to speak to God. In chapter 38 God answers Job. I of course suggest you read this chapter, the following is from Clark’s Commentary and is a brief summation of the contents of this chapter.

The Lord answered Job out of a whirlwind, and challenges him to answer, 1-3. He convinces him of ignorance and weakness, by an enumeration of some of his mighty works; particularly of the creation of the earth, 4-7. The sea and the deeps, 8-18. The light, 19-21. Snow, hail, thunder, lightning, rain, dew, ice, and hoar-frost, 22-30. Different constellations, and the ordinances of heaven influencing the earth, 31-33. Shows his own power and wisdom in the atmosphere, particularly in the thunder, lightnings, and rain, 34-38. His providence in reference to the brute creation, 39-41.

In a layman’s language God asks Job who are you? What knowledge do you have that allows you to ask these questions of me? Man up and answer these questions I have for you. So…Life…Whose is It? That is where I am at in this national debate and questions about Abortion. I take a very simple path. Life is a work of God and who among us knows the mind of God? At what point does conception take place? Adam was dust until God breathed life into him. Were you there when God gave the breath of life to Adam? I have little patience for those who rail in the streets and threaten others. Sometimes truth is hard to accept for all of us. My thought is simple…Life belongs to God and the moment that breath of life  is taken from us, that is a God Thing. Who are we to decide such a thing? 

Closing thought for your consideration. I close every blog with the tagline Life is Good…indeed it is and whom am I to take what God created? You of course will make your own decision and free will  is also of God, we have been given that. I make this statement with love…Do as you would but never allow yourself to forget there is a Judgement, the Lord’s Day will come.

Life is Good

jk

Looking For Loopholes…Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse—who can understand it?

Home is where the heart is…Some people wear their hearts on their selves, are just a couple that come to my mind…here are a few others from  https://www.liveabout.com

François de la Rochefoucauld: “The heart is forever making the head its fool.” Kahlil Gibran: “Beauty is not in the face; Beauty is a light in the heart.” Confucius: “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” James Earl Jones: “One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you can’t utter.”Jan 14, 2020

The Bible has a lot to say about the heart…  Proverbs 3:5…Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding

Proverbs 4:23…Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Psalm 51:10…Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 19:14…May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Matthew 5:8…Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

God looks into our hearts, into the very being of our souls and it is not unreasonable to suggest that recognizing our sins and our need for repentance cannot become a matter of the heart. We often associate the heart with emotions…for instance it’s with heart felt sorrow or my heart is broken…and there are many more. The point being that emotions can be of God, sincere and deeply felt…but emotions don’t always tell the truth. 

Jeremiah 17:9

 The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse—who can understand it?

Sin can be a matter of the heart. One thing is common among the human race, we all have a problem owning up to the sins in our lives. My experience has been that most people don’t like, rules, discipline or accountability. We can be exceptionally stubborn to acceptance of any of the three. As Christians we can accept all three from a biblical context…well most of the time. When we sin and recognize what we have done or God lays it on our heart what we have done, we own up to it and seek forgiveness through repentance and the mercy of our Lord and Savior. A word that means one thing…the action of repenting; sincere regret or remorse. The definition leaves no wiggle room. Some would say it is a Heart thing. It is sometimes in this process that another trait of we mortals comes into play…excuses. I have written in the past about this trend which I call a “Religion of Convenience” and I believe that we may have also developed a repentance of convenience. Owning up is hard to do, accountability is not easy to accept and most all of us have a hard time doing that. We look for the easy way out or at least a way to lessen the sin and avoid true repentance. One of my favorite short stories is as follows.

W. C. Fields (1879-1946) Friends were surprised to discover Fields on his deathbed searching through the Bible. He explained: “I’m looking for a loophole.”

Will Anderson wrote an article in Christian Living, June 5, 2019, I would like to share some of his thoughts with you. He wrote about the loopholes we use to excuse sin. There is that in the moment thing, the heart thing when we are overcome by emotion. Mr Anderson writes that emotions don’t always tell the truth. My take is a kid playing in the mud realizing mom will not be happy with this mess…he cleans himself up but never commits to not doing that again. For the moment we are sorry but the emotions of the moment led us to start looking for loopholes…you know, it wasn’t all that bad, could have been worse.

The next one I found interesting, “The Percentage Plea.” The ole I ain’t a bad guy thing. My obedience far outweighs the sin in my life. I ran the numbers and they don’t look all that bad. There is a case of deception here. We hope good outweighing the bad, God will excuse the little wrong in our lives. 

Ephesians 2:8-9 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Well, that won’t work. When we search for loopholes we guarantee sin will grow. 

The next one… Institutional Cynicism, for Christians it is the legalism involved in the don’t or can’t do list. Just like the secular world, you can’t legislate what’s in a person’s heart. Mr Anderson points out that no one wants to be told how to live. Thus creating an excuse for us to find fault with the church laws and an excuse for our behavior, a very convenient loophole. Read Matthew 23 for a better understanding of his point.

I love this next one….there is safety in a crowd. The fourth one is Hiding in the Herd. 

This one rung a bell with me, a simple truth often overlooked but a strong influencer in our lives. Does the old saying…birds of a feather… ring a bell? Yes, we can grow in community or be stifled.  There is room for growth but it can become the wrong kind. Judgmental, exclusionary and lacking in tolerance toward those who don’t meet our standards or rules. I have another name for this…Cultural of societal norms and customs. Another loophole to lessen our perception of wrong and the need for forgiveness. Well, it seems everyone is doing it.

The last one is in some ways the most dangerous. We can become so enamored with ourselves that we see only the good and then start thinking we have become indispensable to home, work and even the church…or even more disturbing the work of God’s kingdom. Might be a little loophole here for us to as Mr Anderson says, dabble in a little rebellion. God’s eyes are fixed on our hearts…does what we do in public reflect our private habits?

Loopholes…there are none but there is a door. Jesus Christ is that door, he is the door keeper you might say. He has the keys to Heaven and Hell…There is no loophole.

Life is Good

jk 

The Empty Tomb, Resurrection, Ascension and Moving On…

The Christian Gospels of Mark and Matthew say that, after the Ascension of Jesus, his Apostles “went out and preached everywhere”. This is described in Mark 16 verses 19 and 20, and Matthew 28 verses 19 and 20. According to a tradition mentioned by Eusebius, they dispersed to distinct parts of the world.

Eusebius of Caesarea, also known as Eusebius Pamphili, was a Greek historian of Christianity, exegete, and Christian polemicist. In about AD 314 he became the bishop of Caesarea Maritima in the Roman province of Syria Palaestina. I am inspired by an early day Rush Limbaugh by the name of Paul Harvey. He had a segment of his radio show entitled The Rest of  The Story…and that is what this blog hopes to complete; the rest of the story of the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior…Jesus Christ. I shall pick up in the garden… Matthew (Chapter 26:55-56)

55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

We know Peter hung around a bit and was accused of being one of those men from Galilee who was with Jesus. We know Peter denied ever knowing Jesus…three times and we know who was at the cross… the rest were in hiding. What happens next? There is the resurrection, the empty tomb, the ascension and then moving on…the rest of the story. Judas hung himself due to overwhelming remorse for his betrayal of Christ. It is interesting to note that all of the accounts of this event never state any repentance on the part of Judas had in the eventual arrest and crucifixion of Jesus. There is some debate as to whether Judas fell from the tree or hung himself… my answer to that is don’t sweat the details. I was overwhelmed by the mass of information available in today’s world of digital services… For all of us we are only a keyboard away from the rest of the story.

Moving On… 

Peter was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, and one of the first leaders of the early Church. He died between AD 64 and 68, was also known as Peter the Apostle, the Rock, Simon Peter and Simeon, Simon or Cephas. Peter was crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero. He is traditionally counted as the first bishop of Romeor popeand also as the first bishop of Antioch. Two of the general epistles, First and Second Peter, are attributed to him. It must be noted that as with many of the books in the New Testament there are those of more modern thought who reject that but there is a growing support for Peter having written both. 

James

He was one of the twelve chosen disciples of Jesus, but he was also one of three men in Christ’s inner circle.  James’ zeal for Jesus resulted in his being the first of the twelve apostles to be martyred. He was killed with the sword on order of King Herod Agrippa I of Judea, about 44 A.D., in a general persecution of the early church.

John

One of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus and traditionally believed to be the author of the three Letters of John, the Fourth Gospel, and the Revelation to John in the New Testament. He played a leading role in the early church at Jerusalem. We know that John was exiled to the island of Pátmos where he wrote the Revelation. It is recorded that John died in Ephesus as stated by the bishop of Lyon who says John wrote his Gospel and letters at Ephesus and Revelation at Pátmos. John would have been in his eighties.

Andrew

After the crucifixion and Pentecost, Andrew preached in Asia Minor and in Scythia, along the Black Sea as far as the Volga and Kyiv. Andrew was born at Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee (John 1:44). Later, he lived at Capernaum. Andrew and his elder brother Peter were fishermen by trade and they were the first apostles to be appointed by Jesus. It is said that Saint Andrew, refusing to be crucified on the same type of cross as Christ because he was not worthy, was martyred on an X-shaped cross.

Bartholomew

 In Christian tradition he is known as the unfortunate saint who was skinned alive. Little is known of his activities as a disciple other than what is related in the Gospel of John. After the Resurrection, he is traditionally believed to have preached in India and Armenia. His death, said to have occurred at Albanopolis, is uncertain. According to some, he was beheaded; according to others, flayed alive and crucified, head downward, by order of the king for having converted his brother. 

James the Lesser

James the Lesser

The title “James the Lesser” or “the Little,” helps to distinguish him from the Apostle James, son of Zebedee, who was part of Jesus’ inner circle of three and the first disciple to be martyred.  I add this information only as an interesting point to consider. Some believe James the Lesser was the disciple who first witnessed the risen Christ in 1 Corinthians 15:7: We must note here that this is argued by many scholars to not be correct. Beyond this, Scripture reveals nothing more about James the Lesser. Regardless, to be recognized as one of the 12 was quite an accomplishment. The fact that each of these men sacrificed everything to follow the Lord, can’t be overlooked. These were ordinary men who were called to do extraordinary things in their lives. 

 Jude or Thaddeus

 He traveled preaching the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia, Lybia, Beirut and Edessa. Saint Jude suffered martyrdom about 65 AD in Beirut, in the Roman province of Syria, together with the apostle Simon the Zealot, with whom he is usually connected. The axe that he is often shown holding in pictures symbolizes the way in which he was killed.

Matthew or Levi

 Mathew was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ. He is traditionally regarded as the author of the Gospel of Matthew. When Jesus called Matthew he was a tax collector….one of the most reviled professions in ancient Judaism. Matthew is interesting because little is known about this apostle. There are a few times he is mentioned but the fact that his book Matthew is the first in the New Testament, begs the question….why do we know so little about this man? Little else was ever recorded about him. We are not really sure how he died. There is no surety where or how he died.There are all kinds of accounts that say he was beheaded, stoned, burned, or stabbed—one even suggests he died of natural causes like John. So I will rely on the what the Bible says about Matthew. In the books of Mark and Luke he is known also as Levi. He was a tax collector, considered himself to be a sinful man. He was an eyewitness to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. He was an Evangelist, a title reserved also for Mark, Luke and John. I go back to earlier in this part to the fact that we really don’t know how he died. I am adding this as written from: overviewbible.com…..

As with most of the apostles, it’s hard to say exactly how Matthew died. There are several conflicting accounts about his death. The earliest records say he carried out his ministry in “Ethiopia” (not what we consider Ethiopia, but a region south of the Caspian Sea), Persia, Macedonia, and/or Syria. Clement of Alexandria quotes Heracleon, one of the earliest commentators on the New Testament, as saying that Matthew died naturally.

Philip

Following the resurrection of Jesus, Philip was sent with his sister Mariamne and Bartholomew to preach in Greece, Phrygia, and Syria. His preaching earned him the title of Philip the Evangelist and led him to minister successfully in Samaria, in Palestine. How did Philip die? There are many theories about that but basically, we don’t know how Philip died. But there are plenty of possibilities. One record says he died of natural causes. Another says he was beheaded. Or stoned to death. Or crucified upside down. What we do know is that he died sometime in the first century, possibly around 80 AD.

Simon The Zealot

He is not always the most visible of the 12 but mention his name in full…he is not the Simon who became Peter…The Simon here is called Simon the Zealot. He appears only four times in the New Testament. Three of those times is when the Bible lists who Jesus chose to be His disciples. Theories of Simon’s Death and that is just what they are, number a few. There is very little about Simon the Zealot after Acts 1:13, though there are several theories about whatever happened to him.Most scholars, a nice way of saying, we really don’t know, believe he teamed up with Judas (surname Thaddeus) to spread the Gospel throughout Persia and Egypt. Simon became the second bishop of Jerusalem and the Roman Emperor Trajan martyred him sometime during Trajan’s period of rule from 98–117 A.D. Another tradition claims he died peacefully in Edessa (modern-day southeast Turkey).

Thomas

Thomas is famous for having doubted the Resurrection of Jesus,   demanding physical proof of the wounds of Christ’s Crucifixion. Today we are all familiar with the phrase “doubting Thomas.”  However the other side to that is the fact that Thomas became the first person to with unwavering faith and conviction, acknowledge the divinity of Jesus. It is recorded that he died 53 CE, Madras, India.

I hope you have enjoyed the rest of the story. The last two words in the title also provide my closing question. After the resurrection and ascension will you be moving on to serve Jesus as he commanded the disciples? Truth is it is not over till Jesus comes back!

Life is Good

jk

 

After The Cross…That Strange Chapter John 21

This blog today is a revisit to one published in 2020…I dare say we all remember well that year. There will be few Easter sermons on this day but when I wrote this what was on my mind was what happens after the resurrection? There are many stories in the Bible that when told leave us wondering what happened to that person or place.The blind man that Jesus restored his sight. We know that after he left, Jesus sought him out and told him to sin no more….after that we don’t know what happened to him. Jesus turned a hostile crowd away just as they were preparing to stone a women…. ‘Go and sin no more’ and to the crowd… ‘him without sin throw the first stone.’ What happened to the woman and the crowd after that?

This Easter Sunday for many of us will be the one that Church stayed at home. Today, April 15 I am still at home as we shelter in place during this virus pandemic. I have had more time to read and that is a good thing and I have been blessed that I do not have this virus. What will happen after this, I don’t know, we have yet to live that chapter? What happened after the cross? We have ample writings from those who were there and in reading some I was blessed to find this interesting Chapter from the book of John, Chapter 21. After some study of this chapter and other research material I do agree that this  is a strange chapter. It is only 25 verses compared to the 31 verses in the previous chapter. Why is it viewed to be so strange? The gospel seems to come to an end in verse 31 in Chapter 20. But it strangely begins again in Chapter 21. As a layman I do not feel qualified to say why this happened but do feel the need to ask why and try to come to some conclusion. Chapter 20: 30-31 perfectly speaks to the aim of this book. It is impossible for the gospels to give a full account of Jesus’ life as they do not follow his activities day to day. They are instead a truthful and accurate collection of what he was like and the kinds of things he was doing. These collections of his demeanor and activities were meant to present him as Master, Lord and our Savior. If we approach them as a people seeking God we will be blessed and strengthened. So…Let’s take a look beyond the words and explore this what seems to be an addition to an Ending, a PS so to speak. I will be using the DBS, New Interpreter’s Bible and Wikipedia as primary resources.

Our first stop in this journey will be by the Sea of  Tiberias where Jesus showed himself again to his disciples. Verse 2 of the 21st chapter.

 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.

They had been fishing all night and it was just after daybreak, Jesus was standing there on the shore but none of them recognized him right away. It was in a gray type of early light that they first saw him. It was Peter who knew it was the Lord. There are always little bits of information that historical fact makes known to us and add a bit of realism to the words. When fishing the normal wear was just the loin cloth but when Peter in awe and joy leaped into the water to greet him because he wanted to be the first to greet him, he paused first to put on his fisherman’s tunic. You see it was Jewish law that a greeting was a religious act, such an act required that he must be clothed. There were many who had said that these appearances of the risen Christ by the disciples are only visions. Now they did not question the seeing of these visions, they did however insist they were only just that, visions. Here right at the first few verses of this chapter we see a possible reason for the addition of this chapter. It demonstrated once and for all the reality of the resurrection. The gospels insist that these were not as some were saying, just visions and hallucinations, they were   not even a spirit, but a real person, the risen Christ. The tomb was empty and his body bore the marks of the crucifixion: the nail holes in his hands and the mark of the spear thrust into his side. Sometimes the way we do things can be used to validate a story or in this case the appearance of Christ to the disciples as they fished. When we speak of visions or even a spirit, it is not likely that either could have started a fire, cooked fish or prepared a meal. He then shared that meal with them! It would be hard for one of the men in the boat to spot a shoal of fish, but it was often done by a person on the shore, it really wasn’t that unusual. In these next verses 15-19, Jesus questions Peter’s love for him. Scripture has a way of putting forth a question or questions that reveal our true feelings. ‘Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me more than these?’ Not being there we cannot be sure but reasonable thinking might lead us to ask what the context of these was. Did Jesus with a sweep of his hand indicate the boat, its nets and other equipment as well as the fish that had been caught? “Do you love me more than these things?” Was he asking Peter if he was willing to give up all this stuff to follow him? We could ask ourselves that question today, right here and now… Are we willing to give up our stuff to follow Jesus. Are we ready to be a shepherd to his lambs? It could have been Jesus asking Peter if he loved him more than his fellow disciples did? Jesus asked this question three times and within those three times we find astonishing revelations. Be a shepherd to my lambs  He said to him a second time: ‘Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me?’ Jesus replied to Peter’s yes ‘Be a shepherd to my sheep.’ Then yet again Jesus asked ‘Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me’? I am sure by this time Peter is confused but there is a purpose in this repeating question… Each answer given requires a task accepted. Peter was tasked with the responsibility of a lifetime of shepherding the sheep and the lambs. Like Peter we can also prove our love for Jesus by our love for others. To love is the hallmark of a Christian but with it comes a great responsibility. Jesus also presents Peter with his own cross. Sometime later in Rome Peter would be nailed to a cross. We should understand that even today to love Jesus will present us with a cross of our own. Our cross might be in the form of ridicule, shunned by family, friends a hostile workplace and yes missionaries who lose their lives loving, caring and bringing the good news to the sheep. So here is Peter, who by no means was anything like Paul, for Paul would have many voyages and adventures taking the word to the world. Most of us will not be able to travel the world or write as Paul wrote, but we who also love the Lord can accept the task of loving and caring and being the shepherd of the sheep of Christ.

This strange chapter shows us two great figures of the Church…Peter and John. Each given a different task, Peter to shepherd the sheep of Christ, to love and care for the lambs of the Lord. To John the task of witnessing to the story of Christ to live to an old age, dies in peace, writing ‘I know Jesus Christ, and I know that these things are true.’ We have been reminded in this strange chapter the reality of the resurrection, the inclusion of all believers in service to the Lord and the tasks of the church being shared by all who love the Lord. Christ has risen and to each of us there are the additional tasks that this strange chapter sets forth and reminds us of the reality of the resurrection.

 He is indeed risen 

Life is Good

jk

On The Way To Jerusalem…And The Cross

Holy Week, Bethphage, Bethany, Jerusalem, Mount of Olives and Gethsemane, all places that are familiar to Christians. But we often scan over these places having read or heard the story of the resurrection many times.This in not to imply a lack of reverence for what our Lord did for us but a human condition I call casual awareness. It is estimated that in the three years of his ministry Jesus walked 3,125 miles. Now I don’t intend to get into a geography lesson but this is important…It was an hostile land, heat, cold and dry, rough terrain in which bandits and other hazards were common. Also consider that at different times Jesus avoided certain areas because it was not his time for confrontation, he did so by taking the long way round for example. While the exact order of events during Holy Week are at times debatable by many biblical scholars, I chose the timing of the events from an article by Mary Fairchild. This blog I guess is really about the places Jesus walked the last few days of his life.

We will start with the village of Bethphage, from where Jesus sent his disciples to find a colt upon which he would ride into Jerusalem. Bethphage was close to Bethany, where he would stay Palm Sunday Night. In the Gospel of Luke 19:33, Jesus’ disciples were allowed to take the colt away for Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.The gospel timeline indicates this would have been four days before Passover. There is an annual Palm Sunday walk into Jerusalem which begins here in Bethphage. One more interesting point…Eusebius, Bishop and church historian of Caesaria located Bethpage on the Mount of Olives, about 2 miles from Jerusalem. (Lauren Shelton 2016)

Bethany was the home of Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. Jesus was a guest in their home many times. It was here in Bethany that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Many people were witness to that and because it was so close to Jerusalem the news spread quickly to the Jewish leaders there, who now became even more driven to do something about this Jesus’ problem. It was here that Jesus spent the night on Palm Sunday.

So far we have been following Jesus’ way to the cross and our next look will be the Mount of Olives located on a mountain ridge east of and adjacent to Jerusalem’s Old City. Here Jesus delivered the Olivet Discourse, which you can find in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. It is simple to just say in this discourse Jesus speaks to the near and far future of the church. 

Gethsemane is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives. It was of course the place where Jesus was arrested the night before his crucifixion. Some of the scholars and commentaries have shared this…I am open to being corrected but I will pass those things written on to you. Gethsemane was a private garden owned by a group of wealthy people in Jerusalem and there was a wine press there in Jesus’ time. Jesus was not alone, besides the inner circle of the twelve he had a loyal following which included a few wealthy people of that time. The story goes that Jesus had access to the Garden and went there often to pray. On that night after the Passover meal they went out to the Mount of Olives and:

36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. 38 Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” 39 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” 40 Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? 41 Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial;[e] the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

Jerusalem was of course another place Jesus walked on the way to the cross. While it might seem strange all of these places other than Jerusalem were rather ordinary villages in this small area that played a part in the resurrection of Jesus…Bethany where Jesus and the disciples rested was just a little poor village on the side of the road, containing 6 or 7 dwellings. Image that these last few days were just ordinary in their world at this time…it all came down to a few days, five places and a donkey that brought the promise and the prophecy was fulfilled to the world that day.

 Life is Good

jk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Justice And Mob’s…The Devil’s Brigade

Note: After reviewing what I had written and the resignation of Will Smith from the Academy of Motion Pictures, in retrospect I was not happy with the blog…I had in word become part of the Mob. A man’s dignity has been taken from him and in a broader sense his irresponsible act, an injustice to the entire Black community. As to the Academy, well nuff said. I am going to go ahead and publish this blog but do so with a sincere prayer for Will Smith….forgiveness and restoration…and the peace that passeth all understanding. 

When we step out of the “The Pew” to find something to share it is inevitable that we will end up looking at human behaviors or the lack of civilities toward one another as deemed acceptable by our enlighten society. We then usually try to compare those worldly behaviors to Christian Standards and to find ways we can reconcile the obvious lack of Godly behaviours and the Christian respect and love for others. Life never disappoints…and our determination to seek justice for our hurt lends to our desire for instant gratification when seeking to right a wrong and then leads us to meet that wrong head on and slap it down…in this case, slap it in the face. Most of you know what I am writing about. It was the slap heard round the world. A man took offense to a joke about his wife…that would be Will. Quicker than a speeding bullet, which I am grateful to report, was not involved…You see Will storm the jokester’s position…that would be Chris and slapped him in the face. You might be asking how in the world did I equate this slap to a Mob? What is a mob? To those of you who visit the Pew  each week you know by love of words and dictionary…let’s go there.  

  Mob.  

noun – a large crowd of people, especially one that is disorderly and intent on causing trouble or violence: 

verb – (mobs, mobbing, mobbed) [with object]crowd around (someone) in an unruly and excitable way in order to admire or attack them:  

What caught my attention about this incident? Was it the venue, people involved or the reaction of the people there at the time… Well the venue is of interest to many people both in the business and those who follow it. Been around for a long time and has always been used as a platform to garner attention for certain social agendas. So I was not attracted to those two things…what was of interest to me was the reaction of those there and the mob that gathers around such things. I wrote a blog in May of 2018, I will list it at the end of this blog. Justice and the Mob…that is what drew me to this recent event in the news cycle. You may completely disagree but please don’t slap me.

So stepping back inside the Pew let’s look at it from a Christian standpoint. The first thing is the need of society to assign blame…to see that justice is done. In our world today that is a huge thing and all to often the process of finding justice is perverted by the Mob. What happens next in this latest saga of seeking justice? Will the rules and practices that are now in place determine the outcome…or will the Mob Mentality of the day be applied? Follow me to a different time when Mob Mentality made Christianity and those who served the Lord difficult. This Mob thing has been around a long time and in reference to scripture there are 15 occurrences of such activity in the Bible, OT and NT. Three can be found in the Old Testament and the remaining twelve in the New Testament. The bible gives us a clear picture of what we are dealing with when we allude to a mob.

Plasm 26:5…I hate the company of evildoers, and will not sit with the wicked. (NET)

Plasm 64:2…Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the scheming of evildoers, (HCSB)

Both these are from King David and indicate his desire not to be a part of such a group…he declared them to be a bunch of scheming, wicked evildoers.

I have written in the past that I don’t like overwhelming folks with scriptures but It would be helpful if you took the time to read those I share today in their proper context. Next we will look at some scripture from the New Testament. I will not burden you with all 15, just some whose context might be filmlillar to you.

Matthew 26:47…While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people.

(HCSB  The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus)

Acts 17:5… But the Jews became jealous, and with the help of some ruffians in the marketplaces they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar. (NRSV  Searching for Paul, Silas in Thessalonica)

Acts 21:34… Some in the mob were shouting one thing and some another. Since he was not able to get reliable information because of the uproar, he ordered him to be taken into the barracks. (HCSB  Riot in the Temple Complex)

The verses above are just a few that speak to the influence of a Mob during the days of Christ’s ministry and  into that period of the early Church and shows without any doubt mob rule is no respecter of Christianity or even what public behavior is currently acceptable. There are lots of thoughts yet in my mind about this situation but the best way to close the blog this week is to acknowledge that you will find no wisdom, no compassion, no fairness within the Mob Mentality, Justice belongs to God… 

Life is Good

jk 

Link to other blog – The Bible, Starbucks and Social Justice……Mob Style

 

Where Is Our Micah?

Micah is a small OT book with a big story… Micah alternates between destruction and hope. A true Christian faith that is strong and well nourished has as its foundation hope. Hope is ever present even in the days such as the people of the Ukraine, are suffering this very day. Micah wrote this book between 735 and 700 BC. This was a period of great prosperity in Jerusalem even though they did face some threats from Assyria. As Micah wrote this book he most likely would remember that the Northern Kingdom fell to Assyrian forces in 722 BC, I am sure he thought of this because although he lived in the Southern Kingdom he had witnessed the carnage the North. The tie if there is any to the present day situation in Ukraine is the hope of the people and their undeniable faith in their hope for a better day. Right now for most of us there is a stubborn refusal to examine the state of our relationship with God. We refuse to acknowledge the social ills of our day and do what is necessary to restore our relationship with God through our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Where is our Micah? It is thought that Micah wrote this prior to the good King Hezekiah’s reign, this being the time of the wicked King Ahaz. (2 Kings 16) This King subjected himself to being a subordinate of Assyria, not trusting in God. There was idol worship and the destruction of God’s temple, which leads to Micah’s predictions of the fall of Samaria (the Northern Kingdom)  and several other warnings to the people of Judah.

In the remaining verses in chapter six (9-16) God has made known through Micah that cheating and violence will be punished. In chapter seven we find four other points in this closing chapter. The first is the total corruption of the people, their perversion of justice ,family and the people in general turn away from others as well as God. Contempt and lack of compassion have a free hand. Micah calls for penitence and trust in God. The book comes to an end with two wonderful thoughts. There is the prophecy of restoration and ends with God’s compassion and steadfast love. Read these last verses of the book of Micah and rejoice….

 18 

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over the transgression
of the remnant of your possession?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in showing clemency.

19 

He will again have compassion upon us;
he will tread our iniquities under foot.
You will cast all our sins
into the depths of the sea.

20 

You will show faithfulness to Jacob
and unswerving loyalty to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our ancestors
from the days of old.

Micah 7 New Revised Standard Version

Our world needs a Micah and even though Micah chastises us for our sins he leaves us with the promises God has made and set before us through his son Jesus Christ. We need to understand that while our God is one of mercy and forgives, casting our sins into the depth of the seas… There is a judgement.

Life is Good

jk

Note:Did Micah write the Book of Micah? The book is a compilation of materials some of which come from a period considerably later than Micah’s time. The threats in chapters 1–3 and 6–7:7 are usually attributed to Micah, but the promises in chapters 4–5 and 7:8–20 are generally dated several centuries later.     (britannica) 


 

 

Controversy and Challenge…Micah 6:1-8

All through the Bible we read of the peoples, government and Churches unfaithfulness and disrespect for God. We should realize by now that our God, one of mercy, grace and hope also is a God of Judgement. God’s wrath has been felt by many nations, peoples and in some instances even the Church. In the first three chapters of Micah we are made aware of the Judgement of Samaria, the Doom of the cities of Judah and a Denunciation of the prevailing social evils. The third chapter speaks to Wicked Rulers and Prophets. There is in chapter two a small respite in verses twelve and thirteen. In chapter four we find the possibility of Peace and Security through Obedience and Restoration promised after exile. Moving on to chapter five we read of the Ruler from Bethlehem and the Future Role of The Remnant. Today, I have chosen to look a little closer at chapter 6:1-8.

Back in the day I had a great aunt that was always telling me about how the church had changed. She bemoaned the absence of a good old fashion hell and damnation sermon. She said that “people needed to experience a good old fashion gospel tongue lashing…never hurt nobody.” Well, here in the book of Micah we  get that and then some. Our nation today and I guess it would be safe to say, the world is in bad need of a little divine intervention. What do we do? How do we seek the forgiveness of our God for this mess we made of his creation? What does God require? In the sixth chapter of Micah that question is answered. In verses 6-7 those things that were of much value in that day are offered up as perhaps something to offer God and be in his favor. I offer for your consideration today, Verse 8…. 

Micah 8   

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?

As Christians there are the requirements of the faith…instructions if you will that are tossed aside to make way for a faith of convince that meets the demands of the day, socially and agenda wise. In a real sense the word requirements is really out of place here. The first few words of verse eight are far more meaningful…He has told you, O mortal, what is good… Please read Micah in its entirety. Next week we will continue in chapter six and finish the book in chapter seven. I plan to focus on the last three verses of this somewhat under read book.

Our nation and the world need now more than ever a good hell and damnation message, we need a divine intervention. 

Life is Good

jk