Thursday, July 31, 2008

Even Pilate Claimed Jesus as God

You'll recall that when the Roman governor Pontius Pilate gave into the political pressure to have Yahshua (Jesus) executed on a cross, he had his soldiers hang a sign on the cross to announce the prisoner's crime. John 19:19-22 says:
19Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." 20Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but rather, 'This man said, I am King of the Jews.'" 22Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written."
According to this article,
... the chief priests were infuriated when they saw the Hebrew inscription hanging over Yahshua’s head as He was dying on the tree.... By taking the first Hebrew letter of each word of the inscription hanging over His head, Yahshua Hanotzrei Vemelech Hayehudim....
you get YHVH, the Tetragrammaton, which in modern English is usually rendered YHWH or Yahweh, or in older English, JHVH (and intentionally mangled by many translators into the man-made corruption of "JeHoVaH").

(Yahshua = Jesus; Hanotzrei = the Nazarene (or of Nazareth); Vemelech = and king of; Hayehudim = the Judahites, Jews)

Pilate, unwittingly, announced to the world that Jesus is Yahweh, the God of Israel.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Why did Jesus Quote from Deuteronomy at his Temptation?

(Thanks to my sister/friend Evelyn for helping me to see this lesson.)

You may have noticed that in Luke 4, when Jesus was tempted three times by Satan, each time Jesus responded with a quote from Deuteronomy.

Why didn't Jesus respond with quotes from other passages in the Tanakh? When Satan finally resorted to quoting the Bible himself in his temptations, he did so from the book of Psalms. Yet Jesus, rather than providing an answer from Psalms, continued quoting from Deuteronomy.

Is there any significance here?

It seems to me that there might be.

First, notice that Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days, during which he was tempted (Luke 4:1-2). This is a parallel to Israel being in the wilderness for forty years, during which they were tested (Deut 8:2). So already we're primed to associate these two events together.

Secondly, Jesus did not bounce all around in Deuteronomy, but remained focused on one small section of Deuteronomy, a section that every Jew in Jerusalem at the time would associate with the Shema.

The Shema (from the Hebrew word for "listen") was the passage in Deuteronomy 6, starting at verse 4, which says this:
Hear, O Israel: YHWH our God, YHWH is one. Love YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
The Jews knew this passage by heart, reciting much of it twice a day as part of their customs. The passage continues on into chapter 8, where we read the response of Jesus to his first temptation: "Man does not live on bread alone." The whole Shema passage screams the central point: "Listen! Listen to God!"

The message is "YHWH YHWH YHWH", not "Me Me Me".

By focusing on this Shema passage, Jesus is clearly telling his Eastern-mindset culture to listen to God, not to anyone or anything else. Later, he makes it clear for those of us with a Western-mindset who don't "get" the Eastern way of thinking. He puts in in plain words for us in Mark 12:29-30:
"The most important [command]," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'"

Listen to God.

Then again, perhaps its something much more mundane. Every Jewish male was sent to Bet Sepher, "elementary school", at about age six, where he studied the Torah (containing the first five books of the Bible, including Deuteronomy). Perhaps Jesus restricted his quotations to those of the Shema section from Deuteronomy because like all male Jews of the time, that section of the text would have been the most familiar to him since his childhood.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Resist the Devil

Since a child I've been aware of the instruction in James 4:7 to "Resist the devil and he will flee from you". But this morning in Bible class, the Lord used our new preacher to open my eyes to an additional instruction in that verse, one which is required to even make resistance to the devil possible. Here's the entire verse:
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
As the preacher pointed out, people often try to resist the devil without first submitting themselves to God. Thus they're in and out and then back in, repeatedly, the drug and alcohol rehabs, but the "fix" never really takes hold.

You simply can't resist the devil without first submitting yourself to God.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Brother X

I just came across a reminder that sometimes people in the church will address each other as "Brother Smith" or "Sister Nancy", etc.

Whereas I'm confident that God is in no wise offended by this, and whereas I'm also confident that it might actually serve a good purpose in reminding us that we are indeed brothers and sisters, I just want to point out that this practice is not Biblical.

Sometimes the New Testament writers would refer to each other as brothers or sisters, but as near as I can ascertain, they never addressed each other as "Brother This" or "Sister That".

So whereas the habit might have its positives, I think I'll not contribute to this practice which appears to be absent in the early church.

Just thought I'd make this observation.

Friday, July 18, 2008

An Original Poem

I just came across some old papers I had written years ago, and found this poem. It's not art, but I found it interesting.


One bright day in the middle of the night
Two dead boys got up to fight.
Back to back, they faced each other;
Drew their swords and shot each other.

A deaf policeman heard the noise
And came and shot the two dead boys.
If you don't believe this lie is true,
Ask the blind man; he saw it too.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Was Beatle John Lennon Pro-Christ?

According to this article, a 1969 interview with John Lennon, of the Beatles, has him saying,
If the Beatles get on the side of Christ, which they always were, and let people know that, then maybe the churches won't be full, but there'll be a lot of Christians dancing in the dance halls. Whatever they celebrate, God and Christ, I don't think it matters as long as they're aware of Him and His message.
... if I can turn the focus on the Beatles on to Christ's message, then that's what we're here to do.
Concerning his statement that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, he said his statement was misunderstood:
It's just an expression meaning the Beatles seem to me to have more influence over youth than Christ," he said. "Now I wasn't saying that was a good idea, 'cos I'm one of Christ's biggest fans."
I've never been much of a fan of the Beatles, and I don't know anything more about John Lennon and the others than what little snippets I catch from the mainstream media, but if Lennon really felt this way, and these statements are not out-of-context or an attempt at damage-control on his part, I'm very encouraged about Lennon. From what little evidence I've seen, I don't believe I would likely be persuaded that he was "a good Christian man", but I might be persuaded that he was a fallen, confused man, like us all, who perhaps had his moments of reaching out to the True One in his own broken, less-than-churchly way.

The Biblical Order for Financial Assistance to Others

1. Family
Now if anyone does not provide for his own relatives, and especially for his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
--- 1 Tim 5:8 (HCSB) ---

2. Church Family
Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.
--- Gal 6:19 (HCSB) ---

3. Others (See #2 above)

Just another Biblical example of hand-raising

Just another example of hands being raised in praise ...
So I will praise You as long as I live;
at Your name, I will lift up my hands.
--- Psalm 63:4 (HCSB) ---

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why was Paul heading to Jerusalem in Acts 20:16?

We were studying Acts 20 last night at church, reading in Acts 20:16 that Paul was heading to Jerusalem, and someone asked, "Why was Paul heading to Jerusalem?"

The answer given in class is that he was going to where he'd find a large gathering of people who might be receptive to the Gospel.

I think this is a true answer, but it must be remembered that this answer is assumed, and is never stated in the text.

A second likely reason is that Jewish men went to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Paul was Jewish, and as covered in my last blog entry, he, at least for a time, retained his Jewish habits.

A third reason is specifically stated by Paul in Acts 24:11 -- "to worship". The implication (and that's all it is) is that he was going to Jerusalem to participate in the Jewish Passover worship activities (as opposed to Christian worship activities, which would not have required a trip to Jerusalem).

A fourth reason is also specifically stated by Paul, in Acts 24:17 -- "to deliver alms and offerings to my nation". By "my nation", he might be referring to his Christian brothers and sisters (and we know from other passages that was his task), but the context seems to indicate that he intended his listeners to understand the phrase as referring to the physical Jewish nation, implying that Paul considered the Christians in Jerusalem as part of the physical Jewish nation.

So, Paul was going to Jerusalem:
1. to deliver financial aid to the Jewish church
2. to teach the Gospel (a probable reason)
3. because he was a Jew and that's what Jews did (also a probable reason)
4. to worship.

Two Churches in the First Century

I believe I've written about this before, but it has come up again at church, so I'm compelled to once again cover the matter.

I made the comment that the Jewish Christians probably met as Jews in the synagogue on Saturday-Day, and when six pm rolled around, the Gentile Christians joined them, and the meeting morphed into a Christian assembly as the first day of the week began at the close of the Sabbath, our Saturday-Night.

The idea that Jewish Christians were still meeting in the synagogue as Jews didn't seem to sit well with some. This is probably because many Christians today believe that keeping the Mosaic Law after Jesus' resurrection is sinful, based on a faulty understanding of Paul's writings that the Law has been done away with.

Paul didn't say that keeping the Law was sinful; he said that trying to be justified by keeping the Law was sinful. He further said that the Law was good.

We have traditionally misunderstood these warnings in the New Testament against adhering to the Mosaic Law. It is not a sin to keep the Law; it is a sin to seek justification by keeping the Law. This misunderstanding has led to the further misunderstanding of much of the history of the church in the first century.

Paul, himself, kept the Law. From Acts 21:
21[The Jews] have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. ... so do what we tell you. ... Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law..."

... 26The next day Paul [did as they suggested].

Not only Paul, but the entire church kept the Law for the first decade or so of the church. The whole reason for the Jerusalem conference in Acts 15 is because up until then, every Christian was a Jew keeping the Law of Moses; it likely had never even crossed their minds that Gentiles could become Christians before Peter met Cornelius, much less that they could do so without "becoming Jews" and keeping the Law of Moses. The entire conference was about this issue, and even the Apostles and other leaders of the church had to be swayed by the Holy Spirit before they'd accept the idea that the Law of Moses was not required of the Gentile converts (although they insisted that the Gentiles keep a few basics to keep from offending the Jews living in Gentile cities). The New Testament has several examples of Law-keeping Jewish Christians still trying years later to coerce the Gentile Christians to keep the Law of Moses, particularly circumcision. (Those Jewish Christians must not have gotten the memo; or they just disagreed with it.)

Modern-day Christians, if they truly want to be Biblical, need to realize that in the first decade or so of the church Christians were exclusively Moses-obeying Jews, and then for the next few decades there were "two" churches : a Moses-obeying Jewish church, and a non-Moses-obeying Gentile church. Paul had to constantly remind the Christians that they had been made into "one" by the blood of Christ which made this distinction a merely cultural one that no longer mattered. Thus he could add that keeping a Jewish holy day special didn't matter one way or the other (Rom 14:5ff); Jewish dietary restrictions didn't matter one way or the other (Rom 14:6ff); Jewish circumcision didn't matter one way or the other (1 Cor 7:19). Once the Jews got that into their heads, they either started letting go of Moses, or started letting go of Christ in order to hold onto Moses, and the result was a gradual morphing of the church into a predominantly non-Moses-obeying Gentile church, which is what we have today.

This lesson is hard to accept for modern Christians because it brings into question doctrines many of us have held all our lives, such as our thinking about observing religious holidays. But our job is not to hold onto our life-long-held doctrines, but to examine the Scriptures daily to see if these things be so.

Breaking of Bread in Acts 20:7

To insist that the phrase "break bread" in Acts 20:7 refers to the Lord's Supper is to go beyond what is written. This is a possible meaning, but it is by no means certain.

This meaning is often arrived at by circular reasoning:
A. The claim is made that the church met on the first day of the week to have communion.
B. How do we know?
C. Because Acts 20:7 talks about meeting on the first day of the week to break bread.
D. How do we know this "break bread" refers to the communion?
A. Because that's what the church did when they met on the first day of the week.