The Relevance of Jesus as a Jew

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Not only has the nature of Jesus been debated over the centuries, so has the claim that he is a Jew. One theory is that he was “Judean” because he lived in Judea but not a Jew because those ancestors who were originally from Judah actually lived in Asia at the time of Jesus. Then there are those who assert that his ancestors were from Edom. The Edomites were allegedly converted to become “Jews” when they migrated to Judea prior to the birth of Jesus.

There is much Biblical evidence to prove these views are false. Ethnically, Jesus is a Jew because his ancestry is traced back to David and Abraham (Matthew 1; Luke 3:23-38). David was from the tribe of Judah through whom the Messiah would come (note: “the sceptre of Judah,” Genesis 49:8-12; Psalm 2:4-9; 60:7; 72:8; 108:8 in connection with Jesus Messiah: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham,” Matt. 1:1; also Luke 1:32-33). Jesus is called Christ (Greek) or Messiah (Hebrew), “the Anointed of God,” and “son of David,” (Matt. 21:9). The Apostle Peter pointed out that Jesus is also the son of Abraham, the father of the Jews (Acts 3:12-25). He also points out that this son of Abraham is Messiah in fulfillment of prophecy (vss. 17-26).

Even though the Hebrew people who came from the line of Jacob were themselves Israelites, by the time of Christ they became identified as “Jews” regardless which tribe they were from. One example is the Apostle Paul. Even though Paul was from the tribe of Benjamin, he considered himself a “Jew” in the general sense (Philippians 3:5; Acts 21:39; 22:3; Rom. 11:1; 2 Cor. 11:22). But Jesus’ roots came directly from the tribe of Judah, so he truly was a Jew according to his bloodline.

The birth of Jesus the Jew is evidenced by the many references in both Old and New Testaments. For example, the magi sought the One who was born “King of the Jews” in accordance with Old Testament prophecy and, therefore, is Jewish, (Matt. 2:1-6). Another example is Hebrews 7:14-17 which connects, “It is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe…” with the priesthood of Jesus according to the order of the King/Priest Melchizedek, a type of Christ (Gen. 14:17-24; Psa. 110:4; Heb. 7:1-8:13). By the way, Jesus came from a close Jewish family: His mother, Mary, a relative of Elizabeth (descendant of Aaron), wife of Zacharias, a priest, and his cousin John (the baptist) were devout Jews (Luke 1:5-25). A third example is that Jesus’ circumcision was performed according to Jewish law (Luke 2:24; Leviticus 12:6-28). (reference: http://jesusisajew.org/Jesus_is_a_Jew.php#8

Jesus’ biological mother, Mary, and his foster father, Joseph, could trace their heritage to the tribe of Judah. Matthew 1:2-17 records the genealogy of Joseph and Luke 3:23-38 records the genealogy of Mary. Both Mary and Joseph were descendants of David. Joseph and Mary who was expecting Jesus at the time had to register in Bethlehem “because he was of the house and family of David,” according to Luke 2:4-5.

Matthew traces Joseph’s ancestry to David’s son, Solomon, whereas Luke traces Mary’s ancestry to another son of David, Nathan. It is also shown that while Joseph was the son of Jacob (Matt. 1:16) he was also son-in-law of Heli who was Mary’s father (Luke 3:23). Note that Joseph did not “begat” Jesus but was, instead, the foster father since he is recorded as “the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called the Christ,” Matt. 1:16). (Dr. Alva G. Huffer, Systematic Theology)

Even though Joseph was not the natural paternal father of Jesus, he had legal right to be called his father according to the law. John 1:45 says, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” I imagine Joseph probably felt very humbled and honored to learn he would raise the One who “will save his people from their sins,” (Matt. 1:18-25). Naturally, Joseph and Jesus had a special father-son relationship which many in the Jewish community recognized (Matt. 13:55; John 6:42). In the context of this relationship, Mary referred to her husband as Jesus’ father when she expressed their sorrow the time they found him in the temple (Luke 2:48). But the youthful Jesus respectfully replied that he was there doing the business of his heavenly Father (vs. 49). (ibid.)

In addition to his ethnicity, Jesus Christ is not only the Son of Man through the lineage of David and Abraham, he is also divine—that is, he is the Son of God. Peter confessed, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” (Matt. 16:16). Jesus Christ the Jew is the only begotten Son of God born in the flesh (John 1:13-14; 3:16).  The divinity of Jesus as God’s Son and his humanity gives even more credence to the relevancy that he is a Jew. For, through him, God’s promises are fulfilled in the fact that he, a Jew, was born for the Jews first and then the Gentiles to save them from sin and to provide eternal salvation. This is what the Good News or Gospel is all about: Rom. 1:16; 2:9-10.

Though the Jewish leaders and their supporters rejected Jesus as God’s only begotten Son and Messiah and had him crucified on the cross, God used their disbelief to provide hope and salvation to the rest of those who would believe including Gentiles. For this, we can praise our wise and gracious God. Quoting Psalm 69:22-23, the Apostle Paul wrote concerning Israel, “And David says: ‘Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution to them. Let their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.” I ask then, did they stumble so as to lose their share? Absolutely not! However, because of their trespass, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel jealous. But if their trespass means riches for the world, and their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!…” (Rom. 11:9-11, Berean Study Bible, BSB)

There’s more Good News: The day will come when the Jewish nation whom Jesus came to save will be converted. Ever since Israel has returned to the land God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they are still “blind” to the truth concerning Jesus (Rom. 11:7- 10, 25-27). This blindness will continue in part until the “fullness of the Gentiles” takes place signalling the end of this age.

We also know there will be “a time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7) in which there will be “great tribulation” upon the nation of Israel like never before (Dan. 9:27; Matt. 24:15-31; Zechariah 13:8). But Jesus Christ will come to deliver his Jewish people at which time they will finally recognize that he is the One who, all along, has been the true Messiah, the Son of God (Zech. 13:9; 12:10; Revelation 1:7). So, “all Israel will be saved,” (Rom. 11:26; Ezek. 36:27; 37:15-28). It will be then that Israel will be exalted among the nations of the earth and all the world will be blessed (Isaiah 60:1-22; Jer. 31:27-34; Zech. 8:18-23; 14:16-21).

Since Jesus Christ, the Jew, is the Son of God as well as the Son of Man, he has the divine right to claim his position as prophet, priest, and king. To believers in Christ this truth is most relevant whether one is born a Jew or a Gentile. As prophet, Jesus the Jew teaches us about God’s plan of salvation and events that he will fulfill not only in this age but the Kingdom age to come (Matt. 21:11; Deut. 18:15, 18; Acts 3:21-23; 7:37). As priest, Jesus the Jew intercedes for us and performs the perfect atonement for our sins (Heb. 5:5-10; 7:1-3). Interestingly, both as prophet and priest, Jesus is greater than Moses (Heb. 3:1-6, “Christ was faithful as a Son over his own household….”). As king, Jesus the Jew has divine authority which he will use to rule over Israel and all the nations as King of kings and Lord of lords on the throne of his father, David, in Jerusalem the coming world capital (Isaiah 9:7; Zech. 14:16; Luke 1:31-33; Rev. 19:11-19).

In summary, Jesus is a Jew in his ethnicity, divinity, and position as prophet, priest, and king. If he were not a Jew he would not be qualified to be our Lord and Saviour according to the scriptures (for example, “the seed of Abraham,” Gal. 3:16 and David, Rom. 1:1-6; John 7:42). We eagerly look forward to the King of the Jews to take his rightful place when believers rule with him in his kingdom (Rom. 8:17; Rev. 5:5,10). What a glorious day that will be!

Here is a song about the time the Jews hailed Jesus proclaiming him, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” and how it points to his return (Matt. 21:9; 23:39; Mark 11:9-10; Luke 19:38):
https://youtu.be/pTewdLXna2o

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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No Excuses For Excuses

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You learn a lot about human nature when you hear “explanations” which really turn out to be excuses. Some time ago, the advice columnist Ann Landers (actual name, Esther Pauline “Eppie” Lederer, 1918-2002) cited some humorous examples from insurance reports provided to one insurance company:

“A pedestrian hit me and went under my car.”

“The guy was all over the place. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.”

“The accident occurred when I was attempting to bring my car out of a skid by steering into the other vehicle.”

“As I approached the intersection, a stop sign suddenly appeared in a place where no stop sign had ever appeared before. I was unable to stop in time to avoid the accident.”

“The telephone pole was approaching fast. I was attempting to swerve out of its path when it struck my front end.”

“To avoid hitting the bumper of the car in front, I struck the pedestrian.”

“An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my vehicle and vanished.”

“The pedestrian had no idea which direction to go, so I ran him over.”

The excuses we give God sound just as lame. (750 Engaging Illustrations)

Excuses go back as far as sin itself. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, they immediately started making excuses: Adam’s excuse for eating the forbidden fruit was telling God, “The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12 New American Standard Bible, NASB) The woman said to God, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.” (v. 13, NASB)

Neither the man or the woman admitted it was their own fault. Instead, they responded to their Creator by playing the blame game. It has become the oldest game played by humanity.

If something happens that doesn’t go our way, we’re quick to point our fingers at others and make excuses for it. The only problem is, like they say, while one finger is pointing at someone else, there are three other fingers point back.

Excuses only reveal our guilt all the more. Excuses prove how weak and susceptible we are to sin. God didn’t excuse the excuses Adam and Eve gave to him. Instead, he sentenced them to a curse we’ve all been paying ever since. Not even the serpent was excused. (vss. 14-24)

Jesus, the Son of God, didn’t like excuses, as well. Onetime he told a parable (a story told to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson) about some people invited to a big dinner party. The head of the household extended an invitation to many of his friends in the community: “Come, for everything is ready.”

Then came the excuses: I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.” “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.” “I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.”

The head of the household wasn’t going to let their excuses rain on his parade. “Forget them!” he said, “They won’t taste of my dinner!” Instead, he invited others who most persons in the community had little use for: the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. Even those who were total strangers outside the community were urged to come to the party. (Luke 14:16-24)

More often than not, excuses are disguised as good reasons. In the parable, each of those who were first invited to the party declined because they thought they had good reasons. In a way, they had legitimate concerns. In the Middle East, for example, if a person pays a deposit to purchase land he must stick to his agreement to look at it during a specified time and decide on the agreement. If he fails to do this, he either loses his deposit or must pay the balance which is agreed upon. In such situations, Orientals are not excused for breaking their agreement just to attend a party.

In the next scene, oxen and horses were customarily purchased on trial. In Jesus’ day, the buyer was not at liberty to return the animals if they weren’t suited for his purpose. Bother salesman and purchaser had to be present when the animals were examined and tried out in the presence of witnesses.

Finally, in the last example, in Moslem countries when a man marries, he is exempt from the Army for a year and from other government duties which would take him away from his wife. This is taken from a Jewish custom going back to the Law of Moses: Deuteronomy 24:5. (Gospel Light, George M. Lamsa)

So, on the surface, it seems each of these persons had good reasons not to come to the party. But Jesus said this still didn’t excuse them for coming to the dinner party. For the lesson is generally in reference to the Kingdom of God and primarily in connection with Israel. The Jewish people were the first ones to be invited to the banquet feast in the Kingdom of God. But they refused to accept Jesus’ invitation by giving what they thought were legitimate reasons according to their customs and laws. What they failed to do, on account of their own pride and prejudice, was count the cost of accepting Jesus as their Messiah and making his invitation to enter the Kingdom of God as most important. So, Jesus turns to the outcasts who he knew would come because they were humble and eager to accept such an invitation. Moreover, the strangers or Gentiles who were not even a part of their community, are also compelled to come.

What Jesus’ parable says to us is that when it comes to accepting the invitation to enter the Kingdom of God when Jesus returns there are no excuses for excuses. In Revelation 22:17 the invitation is extended: “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” What does this mean? It means that the call of Christ is universal, so the opportunity for all is given. No one is excused; no one has to pay a price to enter for the price has been paid by Christ, himself. Through his sacrifice, the price was paid. But we are compelled to accept it. We have no excuse to refuse the water of life and be thirsty to drink it.

We think of what Jesus said when he warned that on Judgment Day, there will be those with excuses on why they were not found faithful to the Lord. Some will say that they were simply trying to play it safe for fear that their Master was hard to please. So they didn’t utilize the one talent they had but, instead, kept it hidden. But Jesus points out that this is only an excuse for not being responsible for the God-given talent they have. Jesus says such a person is really wicked and lazy. This person’s only place is to be cast into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, to miss entering God’s Kingdom. (Matthew. 25:24-30)

Others will make the excuse that they just could not get around to all the deeds of kindness that were expected of them. They simply refused to accept that neglecting the needs of others like feeding the hungry, taking care of the sick, and providing for the needy was the same as doing it for Jesus. Neglect is no excuse. All persons who pretend to be Christians but ignore helping “the least of these” will go into everlasting punishment, according to Jesus: (Matt. 25:44-46).

Sill others will be rejected on Judgment Day even though they’ve done some amazing things for the Lord. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’” (Matt. 7:21-23, Holman Christian Bible, HCB) Just doing something in the name of the Lord is no excuse for thinking one is truly doing the will of God. It’s not that these Christians didn’t perform great religious works. But they were only in it for themselves and not for the glory of the Lord.

We could go on for many pages citing other examples in the Bible where people gave excuses. The bottom line is God doesn’t accept our excuses. But he does accept our humble desire to be responsible believers. When we allow him to take control and trust him for guidance, wisdom and power, we will not need to make excuses. Instead, we will move forward in faith and confidence as the Apostle Paul wrote, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore as many as are perfect [mature], have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained,” (Philippians 3:14-16, NASB).

Here’s a timely song about excuses by John A. Giurin: http://youtu.be/W9uZF-HrVUs

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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10 Great Features of Abundant Living

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It is reported that shortly after the Communist revolution in Cuba, there were strong persuasive attempts at turning the people away from God. In grade schools, teachers would ask their students whether God could live up to His promises or not. Of course, the students said yes. The teacher would then illustrate how impotent God actually was. The teacher instructed the students to fervently pray for candy. After ten minutes, the teacher would ask if anyone received any candy. The students responded with a sad “No.” Then the teacher would ask the students to ask the Communist state for candy. With expectant hearts, the students did so, and the teacher went around the room filling the students’ hands with sweets. This truly is a differing perspective. Communism as a cure for social ills has no room for a loving God. The state’s protection of the individual for the benefit of the state will never replace God’s own Son dying for our sins on the cross. — James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 110-111.

The communists used a false concept of God to brainwash the impressionable students. It was based on the premise that God gives us whatever things we want. But if he doesn’t give us anything we want, according to their indoctrination, then there must not be a loving God. Instead, the only “god” they can truly rely on is the communist government. NOT!

The more and more any government is relied on for giving the people what they want, the less and less God is relied on for providing us with the abundant life. By referring to the “abundant life,” however, I am not speaking of receiving anything we want. Truly, government cannot do it because, when it’s all said and done, it taketh more than it giveth anyway. God, as well, does not give us anything we want but he does give us “more than enough” in the way of blessings. That’s what real abundance is all about.

The word “abundant” is found several times in the scriptures to describe God’s bountiful blessings upon his people. In the Greek, perissós (an adjective….derived from perí, “all-around, excess”) – properly all-around, “more than” (“abundantly”); beyond what is anticipated, exceeding expectation; “more abundant,” going past the expected limit (“more than enough . . . “). (as cited in biblehub .com, HELPS Word-Studies)

Our lives are exceedingly enriched when we rely on God’s abundance. He gives us blessings beyond what we expect even though we don’t deserve them. These blessings, however, are not necessarily based on material things which are only temporary but spiritual values that endure, making life more satisfying as we apply them. Consider these 10 features of abundant living:

  1. The Lord is abundant in mercy: Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:27; Psalm 86:5; 15; 1 Peter 1:3. “Mercy” means to be spared or rescued from judgment, danger, harm, or trouble. We experience failure because humanity is weak. So we need God’s abundant mercy. If it were not for God’s abundant mercy we would not have much hope. Check that…we would not have any hope. Because of his mercy and love, we are saved from our sins (Titus 3:5).
  2. God is abundant in kindness: Neh. 9:17; Jonah 4:2. How many times have you done something you regretted because you knew it was wrong? Only because of God’s kindness were you able to seek forgiveness, put the past behind you, and go on with life.
  3. He is excellent in abundant justice: Job 37:23. In this day and age we question where true justice abounds. Human judges tend be corrupt, misguided by their own prejudice and political persuasion. We become disheartened when they punish the victims and let the criminals go free or when activist judges change laws that go against biblical teachings all in the name of political correction. God’s justice is perfectly flawless. We can depend upon him to right all wrongs in his time: Psalm 7:11; 50:1-23.
  4. With him is abundant redemption: Psalm 130:7. “Redemption” means “the payment of a ransom price.” The ransom price God offered to save us from sin is blood. Blood sacrifices of animals in the Old Testament typified the ultimate sacrifice of Christ in the New Testament who shed his blood and died on the cross to redeem us from sin (Hebrews 9:12).
  5. He abundantly pardons: Isaiah 55:7. Imagine the feeling if you were on death row, just about to be lethally injected when a phone call is received from the governor. Then, they give you the news: You have been fully pardoned! Because of sin, we deserve the eternal death penalty; but through Jesus Christ who died in our place (2 Cor. 5:21), God has granted us a pardon and now we can look forward to eternal life in God’s kingdom.
  6. He is able to abundantly answer our prayers: Ephesians 3:20; Matthew 7:7; 21:22; Mark 11:24; Luke 11:9; John 15:7; 16:24. This does not mean that God gives us carte blanche toward anything we so desire. I agree with what one resource says: “If we assume that ‘ask and you will receive’ means ‘ask for anything you want and I’ll give it to you,’ then we have turned the Lord into a cosmic genie who serves our every whim. This is the problem of prosperity gospel and word of faith teachings.”  (gotquestions.org)
    God answers our prayers as we pray “Thy will be done,” as Jesus taught us to pray (Matt. 6:10). We can be sure if we accept our Father’s will he will abundantly provide his children with an answer that will be “yes,” “no,” or “wait a while.” His ways are higher and wiser than ours (Isa. 55:8-9).
  7. His grace is exceedingly abundant: 1 Timothy 1:13. God’s grace and mercy are related in conjunction with love, one of his three primary characteristics. (The other two are holiness and truth.) Dr. Alva G. Huffer wrote, “Mercy is God’s love as it is related to man’s misery, weakness, and helplessness. Grace is God’s love as it is related to man’s sin and guilt,” (Systematic Theology, Atlanta Bible College, McDonough, Georgia, 1960) p. 331. (see Ephesians 2:8.)
  8. God has abundantly poured out his Holy Spirit upon his church: Titus 3:5. We are not able to experience God’s blessings under our own power. His Holy Spirit is sufficient to supply us with the power we need to grow and thrive in this world. The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) produces the characteristics that help us live the abundant life.
  9. God will abundantly supply our entrance through Jesus Christ into his coming kingdom: 2 Peter 1:11. This is one of the greatest features of his abundance. We look beyond this present evil age to the everlasting age to come when Jesus returns in power and great glory. Jesus will bring peace and lasting justice to the earth when he rules the nations in his kingdom (Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:2-3). Israel will be exalted as God has promised (Isa. 61:4-6; Zechariah 8:22-23). All nature will be in harmony, and all the earth will be paradise (Isa. 11:1-10; 35; 65:25; Revelation 22:1-5). And all the world will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14). Jesus will come to resurrect the dead, to give everlasting life to all the faithful, to judge the wicked, and to defeat the greatest enemy of all—death (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; 1 Corinthians 15:23-58; Rev. 20:11-15; 21:1-8 ).
  10. God gives abundant living through his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ: John 10:10. According to one resource, this verse is rendered, “I came in order that they [believers] might continuously have life, even that they may continuously have it all-around /perissós).” (op. cit., biblehub.com.) Jesus is the perfect reflection of his Father’s abundance toward us. Jesus gives us the reason to live the abundant life for he is our role model to follow and emulate. He is “the way, the truth, and the [abundant] life,” John 14:6.

You could add one more feature: the result of God’s abundance is our rejoicing: Philippians 4:4-9. Through Christ, we rejoice in the many blessings we receive due to the abundant life our God of abundance provides. We worship him, rejoicing out of gratitude, respect, and love as we eagerly anticipate that Great Day coming.

I encourage you to study the Bible passages I’ve cited. They will lift you up when you are down; empower you with strength when you are weak; give you peace when you are troubled. You can’t help but be inspired to pursue the abundant life in Christ as you read the many blessings God wants you to receive according to his Word. No human government or earthly individual can do that for you.

As Christian singer Jeremy Camp shares, because of the abundant life God provides through Jesus his Son, we have “more than enough” to bless us everyday: https://youtu.be/Af48ls6gAxs

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

 

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Measured By Christ

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When God works in our lives, we don’t always know who he will use to bring us closer to him. Sometimes he uses those we would least expect. In one such case, he used an agnostic to inspire a general who wrote a book which led him to discover the Christ.

In 1876, General Lew Wallace was riding on a train heading toward the Indianapolis Central Station for a reunion of Union soldiers who fought valiantly during the Civil War. On that same train was the well-known agnostic, Robert Ingersoll. It so happened that Ingersoll, who was a colonel with the 11th Illinois Cavalry volunteers, fought under the general in the battle of Shiloh. During the ride, Ingersoll invited Wallace to his compartment for a visit. As Lew later recounted, the agnostic offered Lew to choose his topic of conversation. Lew chose to discuss religion.

The outspoken agnostic immediately launched into his views. According to Lew, Colonel Ingersoll “was in prime mood; and beginning, his ideas turned to speech, slowing like a heated river. His manner of putting things was marvelous….” With colorful description, Lew said he “sat spellbound” while he listened to the agnostic’s “medley of argument, eloquence, wit, satire, audacity, irreverence, poetry, brilliant antitheses, and pungent excoriation of believers in God, Christ, and Heaven, the like of which I had never heard. He surpassed himself, and that is saying a great deal.”

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Robert G. Ingersoll

Two hours later the train arrived that evening and the two men departed to their destinations. Ingersoll was going to a local hotel but Wallace was to lodge at his brother’s place. Instead of taking a street car, Lew decided to walk even though his brother lived a considerable distance. Evidently, Lew’s mind was spinning with all the thoughts the agnostic presented during the train ride and the general just wanted time to sort things out as he trod along the dark streets that night. Lew grew up in the Methodist faith. So, it wasn’t that he was unfamiliar with Christianity. But as yet he really hadn’t taken his faith seriously. His encounter with the agnostic stirred his thinking.

As Lew tells it,

…it is necessary now to confess that my attitude with respect to religion had been one of absolute indifference. I had heard it argued times innumerable, always without interest. So, too, I had read the sermons of great preachers…but always for the surpassing charm of their rhetoric. But—how strange! To lift me out of my indifference, one would think only strong affirmations of things regarded holiest would do. Yet here I was now moved as never before, and by what? The most outrageous denials of all human knowledge of God, Christ, Heaven, and the Hereafter which figures so in the hope and faith of the believing everywhere. Was the Colonel right? What had I on which to answer yes or no?

Thanks to an agnostic, Lew started to take a sobering look at his own faith. The experience would make a profound impact upon his life and his future. He went on to say that Ingersoll,

…made me ashamed of my ignorance: and then—here is the unexpected of the affair—as I walked on in the cool darkness, I was aroused for the time to the importance of religion. To write all my reflections would require many pages. I pass them to say simply that I resolved to study the subject…It only remains to say that I did as resolved, with results—first, the book of Ben Hur, and second, a conviction amounting to absolute belief in God and the Divinity of Christ.

It was while General Lew Wallace was writing Ben Hur—A Tale of the Christ that he became convicted of his faith in Christ. For Ben Hur was a literary result of his seven-year investigation leading to his belief in Christ and his teachings.

If you’ve read the book, or seen the blockbuster movie—especially the 1959 classic starring Charlton Heston—you can understand how compelling this story is. As I said in my last post, the 1959 version is my all-time favorite movie for it depicts so dramatically and so effectively the transforming message of Jesus Christ. It’s a message that affected the author of Ben Hur, himself.

According to my research, Lew’s life was beginning to change as he was writing his book. He was beginning to discover for the first time how Christ was able to influence him in a personal way just like Judah Ben Hur in the story. For Judah was like a lot of Jews during his day—looking for a king to conquer mighty Rome, not a Saviour who would suffer and die for his sins and be raised to give him hope. Judah was at war with is own feelings of hate and revenge until he found Christ in his life. General Lew Wallace, who himself was looking for meaning in a day when brother had fought against brother, discovered that Christ came to heal and bring deliverance from the confusion and chaos we all face in our lives.

As Lew, himself, testified, “It is not an easy thing to shake off in a moment the expectations nurtured through the years…He [Ben-Hur] persisted, as men do yet today in measuring the Christ by himself. How much better if we measured ourselves by the Christ?”

Lew learned what Ingersoll sadly missed: When we measure ourselves by the Christ we look to him as our perfect model for living a life worthy of his calling. It’s like the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:13, “…till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ….” We strive toward perfection in faith when we measure ourselves by the fulness of Christ and his teachings in our lives.

(References: Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, christian.com; Ben Hur: A Christian Triumph, Christian Heritage Fellowship, Inc.)

Here is the end scene after the crucifixion. Judah’s sister and mother are miraculously healed of leprosy while the rain washes Jesus’ blood into muddy streams of water. Judah returns home to meet Esther. Judah recalls witnessing Jesus on the cross when he said, “Father forgive them for they know what they do.” Judah declares, “And I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand.” Then, his sister and mother appear to him, healed, and he embraces them with affection and joy. http://youtu.be/JbSaNxldiSQ

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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‘Ben Hur, A Tale of the Christ’

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My all-time favorite movie is the 1959 classic, Ben Hur, A Tale of the Christ, starring Charlton Heston as Judah Ben Hur. The first time I saw this epic film I was around eight years old. My grandparents were with me at the time. Apparently they had already seen it and liked it so much they wanted me to see it, too.

This blockbuster movie left a big impression on me. Aside from the boat collision and the chariot race, the greatest influence it had on me was the depiction of Christ. Unlike the recent 2016 cut-rate version, the previous film started out with the manger scene and the birth of Christ. And it followed the life of Christ as a subtle back drop all throughout the life of Judah Ben Hur.

As the story goes, Judah was a wealthy prince who lived with his mother and sister, their loyal servant, and his daughter, Esther. Through an unfortunate occurrence, Judah was falsely accused of treason by his childhood friend, Messala, an officer of the Roman army.

Here’s how it all started: During a parade for the new governor Judea, Judah went up on the roof to view the event. While leaning at the edge of the roof to look down at the Romans passing by their house, a loose tile accidentally falls to the ground and the governor is almost thrown from his horse and killed. Messala knew it was an accident but decides to make an example of Judah and his family to show all Jews, especially those who so bitterly opposed Roman authority, what happens to those who make trouble.

Consequently, Judah was sentenced to be a galley slave aboard a Roman war ship where he would be an oarsman for the next three years. The only thing that kept Judah alive during his whole ordeal was his desire for revenge against his former friend.

In the meantime, his mother and sister who were residing with him were also falsely accused as co-conspirators and imprisoned. Even the servant was tortured but Esther was able to escape any harm. Years later, Judah will be saddened and angered to discover that his mother and sister became lepers while in prison and live as outcasts in a leper colony.

But while Judah’s heart was filled with indignation toward an injustice done to him and his family through out his whole ordeal, there were several instances when he unwittingly crosses paths with Jesus the Christ. His first encounter was when he was chained with other slaves who were being forced on the way to the galleys. He, like the others, was famished with thirst. Just then, as they entered a village a young carpenter approached and gave him a drink of water. You can probably figure out who that carpenter was.

Eventually, Judah miraculously escaped as galley slave when his ship was rammed and destroyed during a battle with a fleet of Macedonian pirates. After a series of events, Judah found himself in the position of getting the revenge he sought against Messala. It took place in the chariot race  that pitted himself against his old nemesis along with some other chariot drivers from various countries. Except for Judah, all in the race lost when their chariots wrecked including Messala’s. In his attempt to destroy Judah’s chariot, Messala’s own chariot is destroyed. As fate would have it, Messala suffered a horrific end after being trampled to death by the galloping horses. Judah’s victory was bittersweet. He won the race but was deeply grieved to lose his childhood friend. He had his revenge but it left him empty inside.

Upon returning home and reuniting with Esther, she tells him about a rabbi who preaches about forgiveness and loving your enemies. While walking along with her, they pass this rabbi who is teaching a multitude of people from the side of a mountain. It happens to be the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7). Esther has now become one of his followers and shares the message of Jesus with Judah with whom she is in love. She tells him about the rabbi’s ability to heal the sick and bring the dead to life. Little does he realize at the time it’s the carpenter he encountered as a thirsting slave.

It’s when Judah finds his leprous mother and sister that he decides their best hope is to take Esther at her word and find this Jesus of Nazareth. So as they enter Jerusalem they see a  crowd stirring on the main street. There, they spot this same familiar rabbi now with his face beaten, body whipped and bloodied, wearing a crown of thorns on his head, while slowly dragging a heavy wooden cross. Soldiers on horses were forcing him along the way, snapping their whips and yelling at the onlookers to step aside.

When the struggling rabbi stumbles and falls during the chaos, Judah rushes over to give him a drink of water. He looks into the face of this suffering man and he suddenly recognizes him—the same carpenter who years earlier gave him that drink in the village, that rabbi on the mount who taught love for one’s enemies instead of vengeance. Judah could not understand why an innocent man like that should suffer.

Because of the circumstances, Judah could not get his mother and sister to Jesus. So, Esther started to take them back home. But Judah, filled with curiosity, stayed behind with the crowd who was following Jesus outside of the city gate to be crucified.
Judah later recalled what he saw: How Jesus showed love and peace on his face even while he was being mocked and nailed to the cross. And Judah heard him pray, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” (Luke 23:24). Later, Judah would declare to Esther, “And I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand.” Judah was finally able to deal with his anger when Christ transformed his life. His life changed from revenge to that of redemption.

To add to the drama, Judah’s mother and sister are miraculously healed during the rainstorm following the crucifixion. As the rain washed the blood of Jesus from the cross streams of water begin to form down along the pathways. The blood and water are reminders of the cleansing power of Jesus and how he frees us from our sins.

This is why the 1959 classic has such an impact on me. I still get chills up and down my spine whenever I see the movie, especially the scenes where Christ is presented. It has a subtle, yet effective message as it truly lives up to the subtitle, “A Tale of the Christ.”

The new version that just came out makes for a good action-packed adventure movie, especially with the chariot scene. But it barely brushes over the Christ imagery that was so effectively projected in the previous one. That’s unfortunate for younger minds who need Christ to make a change in their lives today.

In my next post, I will go into the background of the movie which is taken from the book by the same name written by General Lew Wallace. Wallace, himself, provides a fascinating testimony of Christ and what led him to write the book.

Here is a powerful scene where Jesus gives Judah Ben Hur the water:
https://youtu.be/tVlf7OiiTJE

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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You Can’t Ignore Ignorance

 

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In March of 1994 a German tourist checked into a hotel near Miami International Airport. That night in his room he noticed a foul odor. But travelers must put up with discomforts, so he slept in the bed that night without a complaint to the front desk.

The next morning when he awoke, the odor was only worse. So as he checked out of the hotel, he reported the problem. On Friday, March 11, a maid cleaning the room discovered the source of the odor. Under the bed she found a corpse. (Contemporary Illustrations)

This account illustrates the opposite of the saying, “Ignorance is bliss.” Ignoring the odor did not make the problem go away. The smell only got worse. And it didn’t change the fact that a corpse was under the bed, either.

There are certain things we cannot ignore even when we think they will go away. It does us no good to be like the proverbial ostrich with his head buried in the sand believing that we don’t have a problem when we really do have a problem. It’s akin to the idea that what you don’t know won’t hurt you. This is like walking on thin ice and falling through into the chilling water because you ignored the signs warning you of the danger.

The problem with ignorance is that if we ignore it then we remain ignorant. Instead, we must deal with it by not ignoring it any longer. It starts with how we think.

The Apostle Paul commented on the way worldly persons think: “… in the futility of their thinking,” (Ephesians 4:17, New International Version, NIV). He explains, “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed,” (NIV).

Ignoring what is right and wrong gives way to sin. Like they say, “Sin is mothered by ignorance.” And I am afraid that ignorance breeds many children who have hardened their hearts by living apart from the life God through Christ teaches us to live.

Paul urges Christians to not be like the world. Instead of ignoring the teachings of truth in Christ he says, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness,” (Eph. 4:22-24, NIV).

Paul made this appeal to his fellow believers because he, himself, once lived in ignorance and was blind to the Lord and his salvation. But, ironically, when Jesus opened his eyes by literally blinding him on the road to Damascus, Paul was no longer ignorant of the truth. His own testimony before King Agrippa reveals how his life was changed because he saw the light concerning Jesus and the hope he gives: Acts 26:1-32.

Since the time of his conversion, the apostle’s calling was to shed the light of Christ toward those living in the darkness of their own superstition and ignorance. When he spoke to the philosophers and other “enlightened” thinkers of his day, the Bible says, “Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, ‘You men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore you ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you,'” (Acts 17:22-23, King James Version, KJV). Paul apparently believed that the darkest ignorance is man’s ignorance of God.

Paul then proceeded to teach the truth about the one true God, creator and sustainer of all life, and the fact that he gave his Son who died and was raised from the dead. He told them, “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead,” (vss. 29-31).

Many of them mocked Paul’s message, especially the part about the resurrection of the dead. They chose to remain ignorant of the gospel truth. Others, on the other hand, were willing to hear more about what he had to say: “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, ‘We will hear you again of this matter,'” (v. 32). As it turned out, a few did confront their ignorance, accepted the truth and converted to Christ (v. 34).

You can’t ignore ignorance if you are seeking the truth. Unlike the traveler, there is an odor that you can’t afford to ignore especially when it comes to the stench of sin. For right under our noses lies the truth if we’re willing to look for it instead of ignoring it. The times of ignorance cannot be ignored since Jesus was born to save us and all are called to repent in preparation for the “appointed time” of his return.

Here is Hillsong with “Open My Eyes”: http://youtu.be/Uku6V5oyWSc

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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Sound Doctrine / Sound Living

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A Peanuts cartoon pictured Lucy and Linus looking out the window at a steady downpour of rain. “Boy,” said Lucy, “look at it rain. What if it floods the whole world?”

“It will never do that,” Linus replied confidently. “In the ninth chapter of Genesis, God promised Noah that would never happen again and the sign of the promise is a rainbow.”

“You’ve taken a great load off my mind,” said Lucy with a relieved smile.

“Sound theology,” pontificated Linus, “has a way of doing that!” (1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching)

There a lot of nervous people in the world who could be just as relieved as Lucy if they only knew the Bible like Linus. If more people knew that God’s word promises hope for the future, their lives would be remarkably happier. But lack of knowledge leads them to confusion and despair.

Even worse, God has indicated that lack of knowledge leads to destruction. In Hosea 4:6, God says,

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
because you have rejected knowledge,
I reject you from being a priest to me.
And since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children. (English Standard Version, ESV)

God wants his people to know what his Word says. Why? Because he wants us to know the truth about how we should live. Moreover, he wants us to know the truth about what’s in store for us according to his wonderful plan of salvation. In essence, he has established sound doctrine so that we might experience sound living according to his will.

In Titus 2:1, Paul advised his associate Titus, “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” In this chapter, he proceeds to advise Titus on how he should counsel various ages and groups in his congregation from seniors down to the young people and even the servants. In the next chapter, he gives instructions on the duties of citizens and how they should honor all rulers and authorities (Read chapter 3.). Interestingly, he is not so concerned about rights as much as he is about responsibilities. If we living up to our responsibilities, we will pursue the teachings by which we are to live.

His aim for emphasizing sound doctrine includes sound living in this present age and eternal hope for the future. Paul wrote, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…,” (Titus 2:11-13, ESV).

Sound doctrine and sound living go hand in hand as we prepare for the soon appearance of Christ and the kingdom of God. All believers want to be ready for the return of Christ for we do not know the day or the hour he will appear (Matt. 24: 42-51). Sound doctrine, therefore, is the key to wholesome, healthy living for those who look for him to come.

The meaning of the word “doctrine” in the Greek is “teaching.” The teachings of the scriptures are based on God’s commandments. They are given upon the recognition of God’s moral nature and his instructions on how we should live. God’s Son said he came to fulfill God’s commandments (Matthew 5:17-20), and so Christians believe in pursuing sound doctrine.

The meaning of “sound” in the Greek has connotations of being physically healthy (see Luke 5:31; Luke 7:10; Luke 15:27; and 3 John 1:2.) You can be physically sound or unsound. You can also be spiritually sound or unsound, as well.

In other passages, Paul uses the words, “sound doctrine” or “sound teaching” in the same context of sound living. Notice from the following passages what he not only considers “sound doctrine” (i.e., “healthy te`aching”) but what he says is contradictory to “sound doctrine,” as well:

1 Tim. 1:8-11 (New American Standard Bible, NASB) “But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.”

2 Tim. 4:1-3 (NASB) “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires…”

Titus 1:7-9 (NASB) “For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.”

Apparently, the Apostle Paul believed that sound doctrine was essential for Christians. I think he would have liked the Peanuts cartoon and the little quip that Linus made about “sound theology.” Truly, we can’t live without it.

For your inspiration, here is a scripture song titled “The Law of the Lord is Perfect” from Psalm 19:7-11, https://youtu.be/C-1tGZFgN3g

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

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