Joy

bes tday ever

Tuesday was my grandsons 1st birthday.

This picture was taken Sunday at his early birthday party. Every time I look at this picture I smile and laugh out loud.

What I see in this picture is joy. Unrestrained this is awesome, I can’t believe this is happening, this is the best,

Joy.

My wife suggested a great title for this picture would be

“Best Day Ever”

I agree.

I had the honor of preaching my first funeral on Tuesday which ironically was also my grandsons official birthday. On the same day we honored a saint who has gone home and celebrated a life just beginning, a precious little one, a gift from God.

A few weeks ago I wrote about seasons, how scripture reminds us there is a time for everything. The meaning of that was not as clear to me then as it is now.

A time to live a time to die….

So I made a promise to myself on Tuesday that in this season of my life I will enjoy the gifts God has given me. Every day, every moment. With the same exuberant, unrestrained, best day ever joy that I see in my grandson when this picture was taken.

You should do the same.

John 10:10I came to give life with joy and abundance”.

Who Do You Say He Is?

 

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Who Do You Say He Is?

 

Easter and Christmas are the two times a year that we are more inclined to think about Jesus. With Easter drawing near I would like to provide some thoughts and commentary on the historical and Biblical Jesus. In the next few weeks I also plan to write about Jesus’ trial, crucifixion and resurrection.

 Jesus.

There are few names in history that provoke more discussion, disagreement and controversy.

There is little information outside the Bible about Jesus.His life here on earth was relatively short, 33 years and he never traveled more than 200 miles from his home.

Keep in mind that it would be amazing if there was an ancient record of Jesus outside of the Bible. Jesus lived over 2000 years ago. He is an ANCIENT figure from history, and there are some things that we need to remember about historical figures and events from this period of time:

1. There are amazingly few manuscripts of ANY text, about anyone written during Jesus’ time
2. Historians of this period wrote amazingly little about religious figures anyway
3. Jesus was active for an amazingly short period of time (just three years)
4. Jesus ministered in an amazingly remote corner of the Roman Empire **

There are a number of ancient classical accounts of Jesus from pagan Greek sources. These accounts are generally hostile to Christianity and try to explain away the miraculous nature of Jesus and the events that surrounded his life.

 

Thallus (52AD)
Thallus is perhaps the earliest secular writer to mention Jesus and he is so ancient that his writings don’t even exist anymore. But Julius Africanus, writing around 221AD does quote Thallus who had previously tried to explain away the darkness that occurred at the point of Jesus’ crucifixion:

“On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.” (Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18:1)

There are some things we can conclude from this account: Jesus lived, he was crucified, and there was an earthquake and darkness at the point of his crucifixion.

 

Pliny the Younger (61-113AD)
Early Christians are also described in secular history. Pliny the Younger, in a letter to the Roman emperor Trajan, describes the lifestyles of early Christians:

“They (the Christians) were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food—but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.”

This EARLY description of the first Christians documents several facts: the first Christians believed that Jesus was GOD, the first Christians upheld a high moral code, and these early followers met regularly to worship Jesus.

 

Tacitus (56-120AD)
Cornelius Tacitus was known for his analysis and examination of historical documents and is among the most trusted of ancient historians. He was a senator under Emperor Vespasian and was also proconsul of Asia. In his “Annals’ of 116AD, he describes Emperor Nero’s response to the great fire in Rome and Nero’s claim that the Christians were to blame:

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular.”

In this account, Tacitus confirms for us that Jesus lived in Judea, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and had followers who were persecuted for their faith in Christ.

 

Mara Bar-Serapion (70AD)
Sometime after 70AD, a Syrian philosopher named Mara Bar-Serapion, writing to encourage his son, compared the life and persecution of Jesus with that of other philosophers who were persecuted for their ideas. The fact that Jesus is known to be a real person with this kind of influence is important. As a matter of fact, Mara Bar-Serapion refers to Jesus as the “Wise King”:

“What benefit did the Athenians obtain by putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as judgment for their crime. Or, the people of Samos for burning Pythagoras? In one moment their country was covered with sand. Or the Jews by murdering their wise king?…After that their kingdom was abolished. God rightly avenged these men…The wise king…Lived on in the teachings he enacted.”

From this account, we can add to our understanding of Jesus. We can conclude that Jesus was a wise and influential man who died for his beliefs. We can also conclude that his followers adopted these beliefs and lived lives that reflected them to the world in which they lived. *

 

In doing the research for this post I found some interesting statistics:

 

The name Jesus is searched for on the internet 500,000 times a day 16,000,000 times a month.

 

When I typed in “Jesus” I received 184,000,000 results in .36 seconds.

 

I could not come up with a definitive answer as to how many books have been written about Jesus. It was clear from the information available however that even that simple question inspires a great amount of interest, controversy, and disagreement.

 But what about the Biblical record? What did Jesus contemporaries have to say about Jesus?

Matthew 2:13-14

Herod tried to kill him because he threatened his kingdom

 After the wise men left, a messenger of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.

Messenger of the Lord (to Joseph): Get up, take the child and His mother, and head to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you it is safe to leave. For Herod understands that Jesus threatens him and all he stands for. He is planning to search for the child and kill Him. But you will be safe in Egypt.

 

The Pharisees the religious elite of the day accused Jesus

Matthew 12:10 Accused of being a lawbreaker

“He noticed a man with a deformed hand. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Does the law permit a person to work by healing on the Sabbath?” (They were hoping he would say yes, so they could bring charges against him.)”

 

Mark 3:22-30 Accused of being demon possessed
And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He has Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casts he out devils.

John 7:20
The people answered and said, You have a devil: who goes about to kill you?

 

Luke 7:34 Accused of being a drunkard and a glutton

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’

 

Mark 6:3 Accused of being illegitimate

Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son?

 

Mark 3:21 Accused of being insane

When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

What did the people say about Jesus?

John 4:5-26

To the woman at the well he knew everything about her, but did not condemn her

John 8:1-11

To the woman caught in adultery he was her rescuer

John 9:1-6

To the blind man, he was healer

Matthew 16:13-20

To Peter he was the Christ, the Anointed One, the Son of the Living God

Matthew 15:23 ;Luke 9:38

To the parents with a demon possessed child he was the deliverer

Luke 23:40-43

To the thief on the cross he was Savior

Matthew 27:19-24

To Pilate he was innocent

 

As we have looked at all of these statements about Jesus I want to finish up with a quote by C.S. Lewis

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg–or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”

Jesus could only have been one of four things: a legend, a liar, a lunatic–or Lord and God. **

 

For each of us there are questions we must ask…

Who do you say Jesus is?

Legend

Liar

Lunatic

Lord

 

What are you going to do with Jesus?

Ignore him?

Reject him?

Accept him?

 

It is a choice we must all make.

 

In light of the following verse, is rejecting or ignoring him a chance we really want to take?

Philippians 2:9-11

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

 

* Information provided by pleaseconvinceus.com

** C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity

 

Its my life

It's My Life
It’s my life
One of my main concerns about writing a blog was running out of ideas to write about.
I have learned that inspiration can come from unexpected places.
Like t.v.
My preference in entertainment leans toward the things most guys enjoy. Sports, war, C.S.I (pick a city), Point of Interest, M.A.S.H, Person of Interest, Revolution you get the picture.

Recently I came across an episode of Castle that provided the inspiration for this post.
If you are not familiar with this program let me get you up to speed. The plot revolves around a famous mystery writer (man) who in the process of doing research for his books befriends the at first reluctant NYC detective (woman). Together they solve crimes, she with her sharp analytical skills, he with unorthodox, outside the box thinking and as a bonus they eventually find themselves in a relationship.
The inspiration came as he was returning home from solving the latest case and finds his daughter suitcase in hand preparing to leave.
“Are you sure this is what you want to do? Why don’t wait a while, get to know him better? (great advice because in a previous episode the boyfriend had been living on Castles couch because he could not find a job or afford an apartment)
The daughter Alexis replies, “If I am making a mistake, you have made mistakes also and you turned out o.k. It’s my life”.
It’s my life…How many times have you heard this statement? From friends, children, yourself?
Although the person making this statement wants to believe otherwise this declaration usually precedes disaster.

It is true that legally and theoretically that it is “your life” but is it only your life your decisions and actions affect? The following is taken from an article in the San Francisco Examiner

How many times have we, as a parent, heard our children say, “I’m an adult now, Mom, I need to live my life, my way,” only to find ourselves picking up the pieces after a really bad decision that the “adult” child made? Emotionally, financially and as a life-disrupting event for a parent, our adult children’s decisions affect us in a big way.

Parents often put their own lives on hold while they help their kids pull their own lives back together. So, whose life was affected by the child’s bad decision? Not just the adult child’s life was affected by bad judgment and an unwillingness to listen to reasoning that might have prevented the bad situation; the aging parent’s life is often greatly affected, as well.

There are certainly those of you among our readers who will argue that everyone has a right to live their own lives, and kids need to make mistakes in order to learn. Of course that’s true. Unfortunately, so often one person’s right to do their own thing and live their own life often means that their loved ones will be left paying the price for it.

The article goes on to say that it is not just the adult child’s decisions that affect family and even society, but adults as well.
“How many of us have cared for dying parents who refused to quit smoking all of their lives because it was “their own choice?” “It’s my life and I’ll smoke if I want to,” is the mantra of most smokers. But is it their life or yours as well, that is interrupted and thrown into a painful saga of treatments, turmoil and sadness when the smoking catches up with them in later years”?
Add to this drug addiction, over-eating, extra-marital affairs that destroy families, sexual promiscuity that produces children with one parent and sometimes no parent?
All in the name of “It’s my life”.
My pastor recently said that the greatest of all idolatry is the “worship of me”.
When life is lived for self alone it becomes a life lived alone. But not without consequences for others.

am I living

Prodigals

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I was on my way home from work when my wife called. She had picked up our 17 year old daughter from work. There had been an argument over some questions my wife asked her and she jumped out of the car and informed my wife that she was tired of our questions and our interfering with her life. She was not coming home, moving out.

And that is what she did.

We should have seen it coming. It was not the first confrontation but you always want to believe the best about your child.

There were many questions that went through our minds over the next days weeks and months. Most beginning with “why”. Along with the questions, emotions. Denial, anger, frustration, disappointment fear (big one) sorrow, loss.

And you remember. The day she was born so tiny and helpless. Her first steps, her smile and laughter. Her first day of school standing there with her little back-pack trying to look brave, an image captured on film and in your mind forever. Her first play at school, the first tooth she lost. The hugs and her telling you “You are the best mommy and daddy ever I love you so much”. The times you went fishing and camping, the times she wanted to be anywhere you were. Sitting with her when she was scared of the storm,  planting a tree in the front yard, when she went to the altar and gave her life to Jesus and the joy you felt as the tears ran down her face and she said “Daddy I asked Jesus into my heart”. The first time she saw the ocean, her first dance, teaching her to drive, all the firsts, all the memories…..

And you remember the time you didn’t take to spend with her, the busyness that you allowed to steal precious moments, never to be gotten back. It is easy in times like this to blame yourself for what has happened, to think “If only I had done or not done  this or that, if I had been more strict, less strict. And in many ways you are right. If only…

The truth though is that the one thing God will not control is our will. Not mine, not yours, not my daughters. It is a gift He gave us that at it’s best brings tremendous blessing, and at its worst a horrible curse.

C.S. Lewis said;

“God created things (people) with free will. That means creatures which can go right or wrong. If a person is free to be good they are also free to be bad. Freewill though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes any love or goodness or joy worth having. Of course God knew what would happen if we used our freedom the wrong way: apparently He thought it worth the risk”.

It has been two years since our daughter left home. Early on in our journey I read a story about a another child who left his home

 Once there was this man who had two sons. 12 One day the younger son came to his father and said, “Father, eventually I’m going to inherit my share of your estate. Rather than waiting until you die, I want you to give me my share now.” And so the father liquidated assets and divided them. 13 A few days passed and this younger son gathered all his wealth and set off on a journey to a distant land. Luke 15:12-13

Many of you have read this story, how the son wasted all his father had given him in wild irresponsible living. Broke and hungry he found himself feeding pigs, with not even enough to buy food. Broken and alone he decided that being a hired hand for his father would be better than where he was.

” So he got up and returned to his father. The father looked off in the distance and saw the young man returning. He felt compassion for his son and ran out to him, enfolded him in an embrace, and kissed him”.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him” Luke 15:20

Prodigals. All of us were at one time. Some of us still are.

It has been over two years since my daughter went on her journey. Like the father who kept watching for his sons return, I keep watching for her return.

It’s been said that the waiting is always the hardest part. For a parent watching a child go through a prodigal journey this is especially true. As hours turn into days, and days turn into months, and months turn into years, a parent can become frustrated. “It has not changed, it will never change”, we’ll say to ourselves in sorrow and sometimes anger. In these times our feelings become a terrible enemy. But we must keep praying and watching as the father in Luke 15 did—waiting for his beloved child to return. Be still and know that He is God and is able to bring her safely home.

Father it is amazing to me when I realize that Your love for my daughter is even greater than the love I have for her and that the depth of your feeling for her goes even deeper than my own. I am comforted to know that you care for them and that they are always before you. As I watch my daughter and her prodigal journey, I know that though she is now far from you that she is not out of your sight. Lord, help me to persevere in prayer for her—trusting in your ability to bring her safely home.

 

Culture

Culture

It’s  a word we hear a lot in the 21st century.

Pop-culture, cross-culture, multi-culture, western culture, eastern culture, counter-culture, culture shock, culture wars, sub-culture.

In the 21st century our culture is described by some as post-modern or post-Christian.

This statement advances the view that Christianity is no longer the dominant civil, moral religion of our society. The evidence that would seem to support this view is that in the U.S. and parts of Europe since the 1960’s there has been a shift away from traditional Judeo-Christian values.In 1910 66.3 of the worlds Christians were Europeans.

In studies performed in 2011 the number has dropped to 25.9% *

World-wide there has been increased persecution, imprisonment and death of Christians unlike anything seen in modern times. Islam is said to be the fastest growing religion in the world along with an interest in and resurgence of other world religions. This would certainly seem to indicate a world-wide shift and trend towards a post-modern/post-Christian  world-view.

But in reality is this an accurate assessment of the culture and world at large?

It is important to note that in our day of instant information and social media a lifestyle, an idea or a movement  can seem to be the “majority” view when in reality it is not.

Joseph Goebbels minister of propaganda in Nazi Germany said it well all those years ago.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

And when you mix some truth with the lie it is especially effective. Consider this explanation of propaganda:

Historically true propaganda hasn’t always been  full of outright lies or deception, as many people believe. Rather it’s the statement of facts and beliefs with the intention of influencing a particular audience, trademarked by the omission of any details that might persuade the audience to the other side. So we are bombarded with persuasive messages on a nearly constant basis, sometimes by paid advertisers and other times by groups looking to forward their own interests.

The entities behind these messages all have the same idea in mind: Convince the audience to agree with the message presented and adopt it as their own belief, thus rejecting the viewpoints of the “other” side. We call it propaganda first coined as a term by Pope Gregory XV in 1622 to win back Catholics who had taken up the Protestant faith during the Reformation. **

In our time the purpose of a post-Christian view is to convince us that the world has changed and along with it the need for Christian morals, values and beliefs.

A second question we need to consider is should our culture be of importance or of interest to a Christian? I believe the answer to both should be yes.

1. In an age of pluralism where all world-views are correct, where it is intolerable to state otherwise, secularism reigns. Absolutes have ceased to exist and truth is relative. Jesus commanded his followers to be light and salt. To refuse to have any interest or place any importance on our culture and those living in it would be to refuse an important command.

2. We must decide what we will be defined by. As Christian values and beliefs are increasingly presented in  negative ways, the  danger of allowing “unpopular opinion”to cause us to compromise or abandon the mission altogether is  a danger we must avoid. To do so would be spiritual suicide.

3. We must understand that no culture or even national stance defines everyone. World-wide the number of Christians in Africa, Asia and the Americas are on the rise. The U.S. based Pew Forum reports that the number of Christians in the world is currently 2.18 billion with a total population of 7 billion, one third of the worlds population. This number represents a rise from the 1910 population, when the world had 600 million Christians with a total world population of 1.8 billion.

Reaching out to the world regardless of the culture or opinion of the world was and still is most important in expressing our faith. It was the foremost issue to Jesus “You have heard others say, Be patient; we have four more months to wait until the crops are ready for the harvest. I say, take a closer look and you will see the fields are ripe and ready for harvest”. John 4:35

I want to leave you with some thoughts that will hopefully encourage you as you engage our present culture.

It is His story. God’s hand is on history at every point, kingdoms, culture and all history indeed, is no more than “His story”, the unfolding of the eternal plan, and the kingdom that will triumph in the end is God’s*** Revelations 1:4-8

Times and culture may change but the mission is the same. “Go and make disciples”. Matthew 28:18-20

Do not be afraid. Jesus said this many times. He knew what was ahead for his disciples. His word to the disciples then and now has not changed. “Do not be afraid”. John 14:25-31

Fight the good fight. The apostle Paul used the imagery of running and fighting many times in describing his battle to stand for and share the gospel. His race was not without hardship and struggle, ours will not be either. In his last letter to Timothy he writes:”I have fought the good fight, I have stayed on course and finished the race, and through it all, I have kept the faith.

May that be said of all of us!

Sources

* Pew Forum

** How it works

***J.I. Packer “Knowing God”