Christian


This is part of a recent ad campaign from World Vision. It came to me via Christianity Today’s daily news e-mail.  I thought it was thoughtful and though provoking.

What are your thoughts?

Jesus rescuing Adam and Eve from the grave
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Who are you? That always seems like a tough question – are you American, Somali, your father’s son, a husband, brother… who are you really?

During the time that 2 Chronicles 1 Chronicles was written the Jews were living in exile and were beginning to forget their heritage and the important stories of their history.  Ezra begins the book with a geneology – 9 chapters long from Adam all the way to David.

Remember last week when Josiah found the law?  Ezra was also bringing back the ideas surrounding the covenant made in Genesis 15.  Part of the covenant’s promise was that God would continue to provide for the Israelites as long as they followed His dictates.   The covenant was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus’ death (Is 53:5).  We need to remember that the covenant is both relational and legal.

Sometimes we let things get in the way of God’s work in our lives.  For example by Jesus’ day the Jews were creating all types of rules and laws to “help” people follow God.  Ultimately, these had the opposite affect placing barriers in the way of a relationship with God.

We can find great hope in this Hebrews passage (1:1-5)

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

For to which of the angels did God ever say,

“You are my Son, today I have begotten you”?

Or again,

“I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?

Jesus is the King forever. He iniaited the original covenant and fulfilled it. Ezra was trying to bring the Israelites back to a story of Grace through the covenant.

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"The Jews' Passover"—facsimile of a ...
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This is actually a week late.  It is from March 6th.  Stay tuned for the 13th’s recap.

Second Kings is full of stories about kings, obviously.  Sadly it is a story of human kings who continue to screw up on a regular basis.  These kings ultimately face justice for their actions.  But during Friday night’s service in which Tim shared the story of grace from 2 Kings we focused on a king who was doing a lot of the right things.

King Josiah’s story is found in 2 Kings 22-24.  He was a pretty young king at 8 years old.  We are told that at age 16 he was seeking after God and by age 20 was waging military campaigns to expand the southern kingdom’s boundaries – into the northern kingdom.  Part of this campaign was dismantling idolatry,  especially temple prostitution.  When he was 26 some of his administration rediscovered the Law (vs 8-11).

This was a pretty big deal because God’s people had strayed pretty far from God’s desires and the law included judgement – the wrath of God.  Josiah was quite distraught and tore his clothes.  He then sought to restore God’s order throughout the kingdom.  It took between 6-8 years to destroy all the idols.

King Josiah even went so far as to restore the celebration of Passover (23:21), which for the Jewish people was the centerpiece of grace in their year and lives.  David, a man after God’s own heart, didn’t even really celebrate the Passover. It seems similar to many of the holidays we celebrate today – like Memorial Day or even Easter.  It is just another day on the calendar that we mark by getting some time off work.

Sadly, we see in verse 26 that this wasn’t enough.

Nevertheless, the LORD did not turn away from the heat of his fierce anger, which burned against Judah because of all that Manasseh had done to provoke him to anger.

For the Jewish people of the time and even today, the Messiah is seen as a person who will come and be an earthly king.  You can see this in some of the Gospel stories where Jesus was treated as a conquerer coming to overthrow the Roman government.  Unknowingly, the Romans called Him King of the Jews at His death.  Truthfully, Jesus was the promised King that would offer hope and salvation to the Jews – but they rejected Him.  Jesus also represents the perfect and final Passover for the Jewish people.

Ultimately God’s wrath came down on the Israelites and they were forced into exile for their sins.  Sin is always causing problems – putting us into exile from God.  Adam and Eve were “exiled” from the Garden of Eden and we continue to put sin between ourselves and God.  We will never be perfect while we walk the earth, but when we knowingly sin we are intentionally turing our back and walking away from Him.  When you sin you are saying that the object of your sin is worth more than God and you elevate it to a position of power in your life.  You can only have one God.

He is always there to accept and love us when we turn to Him in repentance.  We can see this in 22:18-19

Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people, that they would become accursed and laid waste, and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD.

Jesus is from the lineage of earthly Kings (Matthew 1) and the son of God, representing our eternal King who will lead us away from exile.

Jesus has freed us from the dictates of the law and fulfilled the promises made to the Isrealites.  He offers us freedom, grace, and love.   Will you accept it today?

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A friend commented that Not For Sale was available for free as an audiobook so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to “read” this compelling book I had heard about before.  So I downloaded it and put off my normal podcast material for the 8 hours it took to listen.  I am glad I did.

Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade–and How We Can Fight It shares some powerful stories about getting children, women, and even men who get caught up in forced labor – as laborers, prostitutes, child soldiers, and other gruesome situations.    The book tells stories from around the world (including the United States) of both the slaves and the abolitionists who are working to free slaves and prevent future slavery.

Sadly, most people think slavery ended in the 1800’s but some researchers suggest that there are actually more slaves today than at any point during the African slave trade.  As you can tell this is a cause that I care deeply about so I was a little biased by the book.  I think it is a short and relatively easy read and could change the way you look at the world and those “foreigners” at your local restaurant.

I appreciated that the book wasn’t just tales of sorrow and misery but that each chapter also shared the hope and beauty of freedom.   There are a lot of organizations working to end human trafficking and this book shares some of their stories.  It is a “Christian” book but it doesn’t shove Christianity down your throat – just stories.

The biggest thing that I didn’t like about the book was how the stories were interwoven.  You would be reading about one person then pause for a little bit about another and then back and forth.  This was a little confusing in the audio format, but probably made more sense in the written text.

I encourage you to read the book and take action.  The book has an excellent and helpful companion website for the Not For Sale Campaign.  The site offers relevant news, actions to take, and other was to get involved including following their blog.

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William Wilberforce (1759-1833)
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We continue to steadily go through the Bible at Seward Church looking for themes of grace and Jesus. This week David shared from the story of 1 Kings.   He began with a story about William Wilberforce and his amazing perseverance trying to abolish slavery in the United Kingdom. You may recall the excellent movie about him, Amazing Grace. David said of Wilberforce that he showed “exemplerly perseverance.”

The book of 1 Kings is about Solomon and the transfer of power from David to his son.  With the passing of the torch came many responsibilities and directives.  One important one was treasuring God.  Something we try to do is be a loving church that perseveres in loving our community.

In 1 Kings 2:1-5 Solomon was told to persevere in the faith so that David’s lineage would continue to reign over Israel.  As if this wasn’t burden enough, in the same breath David asked Solomon to take care of some unfinished business – killing people David had promised not too!  Yikes, David may have had some problems!  We all think to ourselves that we want to be heros like Solomon and David, but we really just need to live a life following Christ and loving Him.

One of Solomon’s first actions was also one of his smartest – asking for guidance and help from God (3:3-9). Unfortunately, the passage also indicates that Solomon was struggling to keep the faith by offering “sacrifices and offerings at the high places”.  High places were where pagans went to worship their gods.  Sometimes we fall under the great burdens placed on us, whether by ourselves or by someone else.  The great thing is that no matter what God accepts us radically for who we are even when we fail.

Another inspiring action by Solomon was when after a dream he “stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings” (3:15).  This is important because standing before the ark was similar to standing in the presence of God.  The Ark also contained a copy of the 10 Commandments, a pot of Manna, and Aaron’s rod.  Respectively, these stand for God’s justice, grace, and intercession all things that Solomon and we need to remember on a regular basis.

Yet today we don’t need to offer sacrifices or offerings to God, we have free grace through Jesus.  We can’t earn it through religiously based acts of worship but through a change of heart.  This grace is the same grace that allows us to accept our broken neighbors – even those who seek to harm us.

Sadly, Solomon didn’t persevere in the faith – look at the differences of language in Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes.  Small compromises such as those we saw in 3:3 begin to pile up and really impact our lives, resulting in something like 11:1-2 where Solomon began putting his wives before devotion to God.  David gave a great analogy, using adrenaline versus the steady pounding of the heart.  The adrenaline rush is like a mountain top experience or quick burst of energy about an idea or topic while the steady pounding is a life-long devotion to change someone or something.  Think back to Wilberforce – many in his day thought slavery was bad and got excited for a short period of time (adrenaline) while few like Wilberforce were willing to commit their entire life to the cause (steady pounding heart).

Jesus gives us lots of hope, even when we fail miserably.  Romans 5:1-5 has this to say:

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Jesus gives us hope.

We ended the evening singing the song Amazing Grace, but I couldn’t help but think of another song, My Hope is Built.  The first verse is below:

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

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It took me awhile to get through All About Jesus, more because of my schedule than because the book is bad. Actually it is a good synthesis of the known story of Jesus.  It’s subtitle says “The Single Story from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Taking all four of the Gospel books and compiling it into one seamless story-line isn’t an easy task. The compiler, Roger Quy, did an excellent job of sticking to the texts. He used the New International Readers Version which I had never heard of as his primary text.  The NIrV has this to say about itself:

The NIrV was designed to make the Bible clear and understandable to early readers and can be read by a typical fourth grader. For this reason, it is also of value to the millions for whom English is a second language. It intends to be distinguished by five fundamental characteristics—readability, understandability, compatibility with the NIV, reliability, and trustworthiness. It serves as a natural stepping-stone to the NIV when the time is right.

This book doesn’t read like a novel. I kept wanting it to be like a John Grisham or Tom Clancy novel with smooth transitions and story-line. But I realized that the only way that would be possible is by adding to the story which would take away from the compiler’s primary goal of capturing the authentic story of Christ’s life. I’m not sure if a different version would have improved this area or not. The Message paraphrase could potentially make for an easier to follow story but as a paraphrase would lose some of the “inerrancy” of the story. I’m by no means a Biblical scholar so I assume their time line is accurate.

A few times the story repeated itself – in keeping with the original text they sacrificed smoothness to keep sections together. For example on page 200 and 201 it says this:

Herod and his soldiers laughed at him and made fun of him. They dressed him in a beautiful robe. Then they sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends. Before this time they had been enemies…. Then Pilate took Jesus and had him whipped. The soldiers twisted thorns together to make a crown.  They put it on Jesus’ head. Then they put a purple robe on him.  They went up to him again and again. They kept saying, “We honor you, king of the Jews!” And they hit him in the face.

And again on page 205:

The governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the palace, which was called the Praetorium.  All the rest of the soldiers gathered around him. They took of his clothes and put a purple robe on him. Then they twisted thorns together to make a crown. They placed it on his head. They put a stick in his right hand. Then they fell on their knees in front of him and made fun of him. “We honor you, king of the Jews!” They said. They spit on him. They hit him on the head with a stick again and again. They fell on their knees and pretended to honor him.

This is actually the only book of this type that I’ve read so I appreciate their effort. At the end of the introduction is this statement of purpose:

This book is meant for those who would like to find out more about Jesus. It is ideal for someone who is new to the Bible. Readers who already know the Bible may find that it helps them learn more about the life and message of Jesus.

I’m not completely sure if he accomplished this goal or not.  Obviously there were new things that jumped out at me this time, but that is the same with every Biblical story and even great novels.  I think if I was wanting to introduce someone to Jesus I would probably recommend reading the Book of Mark in The Message paraphrase before recommending this book.

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Much was written in the Gospels about the connection between Jesus and David.  He was called the Son of David several times and the geneology says he was the son of Abraham and the son of David.  Thus David must be an important character in the Old Testament.  So it is no surprise that a lot was written about him, specifically in 2nd SamuelTim chose a section from the book that I’m sure we are all  familiar with – Chapters 11 & 12.  If you can’t recall the topic, one word will suffice to remind you – Bathsheba.

You might recall that David was enjoying the view from his rooftop when he spotted a beautiful woman bathing across the way.  He quickly sent his staff to inquire about her.  I had never realized the importance of the characters in the story:

* Uriah (Bathsheba’s husband) was one of the top 37 soldiers (mercenaries) out of millions of soliders

* Eliam (Bathsheba’s dad) was another of the top 37.

* Bathsheba’s grandpa was actually a top advisor to David

I think the point here is that David knew the family surrounding this  “beautiful woman.”  This should have been a second opportunity for him to realize the folly of his desires.  In this chapter alone David broke at least 7 of the 10 commandments.  To finish the story recap David slept with Bathsheba, got her pregnant, brought Uriah home to try to pretend like it was his doing, and killed Uriah – who had too much honor and integrity to indulge himself while his comrades were suffering in a war.

It is a little ironic that while David, God’s chosen, was full of deciet and lies that this Hittite or foreigner, would have such high honor and integrity.

In 12:1-7 we see that David has the moral capacity has Nathan tells him a story and David is very angred.  This is a demonstration that we have the moral capacity but that we don’t neccessarily act morally. We like David often pronouce strong judgments on our immoral actions (Romans 2:1 and Genesis 3:4-5).  But it is our actions that slowly erode our moral compass.  Like Romans 1:18 says we “suppress the truth by our wickedness.”

We watch ourselves sin, know it is wrong, and then judge ourselves.  Sadly, a new moral compass won’t help.  Many today just thing we need to fix the compass or try some new programs to reteach morality – it won’t work.  It is actually also part of the problem.  We love to sin but don’t like to face the consequence – death. Fortunately we have a Savior who died so that we wouldn’t have to.

Who is most like Jesus? In this story who is most like Jesus?  Is it David? Uriah? Bathsheba? or Nathan (he confronted David about his sin)?

It is actually Uriah, he shows us the suffering side of Jesus.

  • Uriah refused to take the easy path, enjoying life while others suffered.
  • Uriah refused to have his feet washed, instead staying with the servants/body guards – Jesus washed feet as a servant
  • Jesus kissed Judas as He was being betrayed – Uriah honored David by staying with the servants/body guards.
  • Jesus was betrayed by one close to Him Uriah was betrayed by the whom he served
  • Uriah made the right decisions
  • David used someone else, war to kill Uriah.  The Jews used Roman law to have Jesus killed.

Are we willing to admit that we are morally bankrupt and in need of a Savior? It is hard to say that we are screwed up and don’t know right from wrong in the depths of our heart.  We need Jesus’ help to make sure we avoid temptations.

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