Raised to Walk Podcast

Carla Alvarez

Christ came to earth, died, and rose again not only to enable us to have eternal salvation but so that we can live a life empowered by the Holy Spirit filled by the peace of God and free from bondage and oppression. This podcast discusses what the life actually looks like with interviews with every day saints on the street and discussion on various topics. Join us for the adventure! Subscribe to the podcast, get updates at http://raisedtowalk.org/news, read less
Religion & SpiritualityReligion & Spirituality
EducationEducation
ChristianityChristianity
Self-ImprovementSelf-Improvement

Episodes

The Power of a Spiritual Journey: A Review of “By Faith” by Nancy Gavilanes
Oct 11 2018
The Power of a Spiritual Journey: A Review of “By Faith” by Nancy Gavilanes
Sometimes our fears hold us back from experiencing God’s blessings.  Sometimes we need to be brave enough to step out of our comfort zones. ~ By Faith, Nancy Gavilanes, pg. 93 Before ascending to Heaven, Jesus told his disciples, “and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. “ (Acts 1:8)  From the beginning, personal testimony has been a key component of Jesus’s “marketing strategy” in spreading the message of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Paul gave as validation for his message references to others who had seen the resurrected Jesus, including 500 at one time. (1 Corinthians 15:38)  Peter, as well as John, assures the church that he was sharing what he himself had witnessed. (2 Peter 1:16, 1 John 1:3)  He was not telling a story he had heard, but one he knew to be true because he had witnessed it first hand. As apologist Lee Strobel taught our class on Evangelism at Houston Baptist University, everyone has a testimony.  If you are a believer in Christ, you have a story of how you came to faith. [1]   A personal testimony where you share, “This is how I was before Christ. This is how I met Christ, and this is what he has done for me since then.”  As Nicole Howe points out in her essay on Augustine’s Confessions in An Unexpected Journal, “Spiritual autobiographies give back to others what God has given to us by inspiring them with the truth of what God has done and can do through our example."[2] However, often when we think of sharing our personal testimony, we focus solely on our conversion and the time before, almost as if that is the end of the story . . . and that is not the case at all.  By Faith by Nancy Gavilanes is her personal testimony of how she came to know Christ as Savior; however, it does not fall into the trap that so many personal testimonies do.  The main focus of the account is one that is in Christ, one of walking it out and following where God leads even when the destinations are completely unexpected. An Unexpected Journey She begins with an overview of growing up with a Christian background, but one which did not have deep roots.  Like many, she put her own goals and ambitions front and center, placing the role of God in her life on a back burner.   She shares the origins of her passion for writing and her strong and  determined desire to write about the premier events of the sports she loved. All of which she achieved, but, like so many, when she reached her goal she found it empty. This began her search to find the One who promised not only eternal life, but purpose and true meaning in this life as well. I have talked to people who have told me that they know they need Jesus, that they know he is who he says he is, but that “they’re not ready.”  They aren’t ready to make a commitment, give up their self will, and submit to him.  They fear that they may miss out on some “fun.” Gavilanes’s account is one that I have found true as well, it is only when we give our life over to God and say, “I’ll go wherever you want me to go” that we truly start living. God will take you places that you would not only never expect, but that you would have never thought you wanted to go.  Gavilanes, a New York writer who loved figure skating, finds herself digging post holes to build a church in Brazil, ministering in HIV foster homes in Africa, and seeing the dead brought back to life. Coming from a culture with push button lives to one where the battle between life and death is a daily event, it gave her new insight into the impact of Jesus's words and actions. An Ongoing Story When we make Jesus the Lord of our life, it is a new beginning, a pristine new page.  As we follow him, he takes us on a journey.  He makes us a part of his ongoing story.  By Faith is a testimony of how varied that journey can be and how different can be the circumstances in which we have to learn to follow God’s lead: learning to follow in fellowship,
Psalm 23: A Praise for Spiritual Warfare
Sep 28 2018
Psalm 23: A Praise for Spiritual Warfare
The 23rd Psalm is familiar  to many.  It is a reminder of God’s faithfulness and evokes beautiful mental imagery.  We can imagine beautiful hillsides, lush pastures, and the peaceful streams.  Even in our Biblically illiterate culture, if people know any passage of Scripture, it is likely to be this one. It is encouragement in times of trouble, but more than that, it is a declaration of victory. We have been studying Psalms 23 for the past eight weeks in our third grade Sunday school class, going through it verse by verse.  It talks about God’s love and care for us, who He is and the roles He takes in our lives.  He is our Shepherd, our Provider, Our Protector, and our Guide.  If you’ve read the Psalm once, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. But more than that, this Psalm is a battle cry.  It is a song of warfare.  It is a song of faith where David “calls the things that are not, as though they were.” (Romans 4:17) David’s Back Story To understand the full import of the Psalm, we have to look at David’s back story. He grew up in Bethlehem during the reign of King Saul, the first king of Israel.  He was the youngest of eight brothers, and while they were off taking care of other responsibilities for the family, he had the lowly job of shepherd of his father’s flocks (the same job Rebekah was performing when Abraham’s servant happened across her. Genesis 24 ) Saul had been skating back and forth across the line of God’s commands  (1 Samuel 13:7-14,) and finally he went too far.  He was to completely destroy the Amalekites, but instead, he kept the plunder for himself (1 Samuel 15).[1]  Because of that willful action, the kingship of Israel was removed from  his family. God sent Samuel the town of Bethlehem[2]  and invited Jesse, David’s father, to come as Samuel made a sacrifice. As each son came out before he, Samuel thought, “He must be the one,” but each time God said no.  Like the Prince searching for Cinderella, Samuel asked, “Is there anyone else?” and so David was sent for.  He didn’t even rank high enough in his family’s mind that they didn’t include him until asked.  ( Samuel 16:1-13 ) When David came before Samuel, God told him, “He is the one” However, unlike Cinderella who left her pots and pans and rode off with her prince into the sunset, David went back to his sheep.  And there he stayed, we don’t know exactly how long, but time passed until there was trouble at the border with the Philistines.  When David was sent to take supplies to his brothers at the front, he heard the Philistines, led by Goliath, mocking the Israelites. (1 Samuel 17:22-23) This infuriated David and he asked, “Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26)  His brothers, both dismissive and indignant, asked him who he thought he was and what he could possibly do about it. (1 Samuel 17:28) Goliath had challenged Saul’s army to a one on one combat. He would face their champion and the winner would decide the war.  David volunteered to be this champion, and when again mocked by his brothers, he insisted. You see, Goliath was not the first big and scary thing that David had faced.  While he was out alone in the fields with his sheep, other predators had come against him.  He said,  “God was with me when I killed a bear and a lion, he will be with me here.” (1 Samuel 17:34-36) These little things, facing wild animals to protect dumb ones, were preparation, a building of faith . . . the making of a hero . . . for when he faced a giant and where the outcome determined the course of a nation.  No pressure. You know the story.  He declined the weapons of war that Saul wanted to give him and instead, stuck with his slingshot and five smooth stones.  With that, he felled the giant. (1 Samuel 17:40-50) The army and the people were ecstatic.  David was the man of the hour.  And Saul, recognizing this popularity, kept him close.  (1 Samuel 18:2)
Can You Find God Without Religion?
Sep 14 2018
Can You Find God Without Religion?
Many people want to find God.   There are many books on the subject which promise to put you on the path to find Him.  Most of religions of the world make the claim to make you one of His own.1  However, there are some people who want to find God without religion. They might say (and many do), “I’m spiritual, not religious.” They might not want to follow anyone’s guidance or rules.  Or, as happens frequently, they have been hurt by a faith community in the past and want to now avoid it entirely. So is it possible?  Can you find God without religion?  In order to answer this question, let’s first look at who God is as well as the definition of religion. Who Is God? We have always believed in something other: a Creator God, a pantheon, even the desired end of “nothingness” in Buddhism is logically something beyond what we know.  We have a sense of right, a belief that there is an absolute truth and order . . . a law . . . and by extension a Lawgiver.  In order for there to be an absolute rightness and absolute justice, there must be One who is absolutely righteous, absolutely just, a perfect Being. Those Thomas Aquinas referred to as “virtuous pagans,” such as Plato’s Socrates and Aristotle, explored this concept long before the Christian church.  Plato’s perfect forms were beyond matter and beyond space, the ultimate reality, and Aristotle believed in a perfect self-consciousness with a separate essence from the created world.  But it was Anselm in the Middle Ages who set about to clarify and distinguish the God Christians worshiped from the pantheons surrounding them through the nature and quality of His Being. Anslem’s reasoning, which became known as the “ontological argument,” is that God is the maximally great being.  He is the greatest thing that we can conceive of, beyond all other things.  The second part of his argument for God is that as actual things are greater than our ideas of the thing, that if we can conceive of a maximally great being then there must be such a being because if He was not actual . . . then we would be able to conceive of something greater. This is a simplified form of his argument, and as an argument for the existence of God, I know this sounds a little circular . . . Philosophers love to debate it. However, for the purpose of this discussion, I just want to point out what we mean by God: He is the Greatest Thing, being absolutely perfect, all knowing, all powerful, absolutely just, and outside of space and time.  That is God. If the thing you are searching for is something other than that . . . that isn’t God. How Should We Respond to God? Now that we have defined who God is, the Maximally Great Being, let’s think about what our interaction with Him should be.  In our egalitarian Western culture, we have, for the most part, lost the concept of showing respect and honoring someone.  As we are all equal, no one is deserving of more honor than another and, let’s be honest, pride factors into that as well. However, we do still honor what we perceive as “greatness,” it’s just usually not an authority figure and our perception is often shaped by very shallow reasons such as money or fame. But shallow or not, let’s use that as an example. Take an activity that you are involved in or follow and think of the absolute greatest person in that field, the all-time absolute best.  So if you are into swimming, maybe Michael Phelps comes into your mind, basketball might be Michael Jordan, or painting might be Michelangelo.  Imagine yourself having the opportunity to talk to them. How would you approach them?  Would you barge into their room without knocking in your ratted out t-shirt and flip flops, with hair that hasn’t been brushed in days, smacking on gum and talking on the phone while standing in front of them?  If they tried to critique your technique and give you guidance, would you bristle and begin to criticize and tell them the way they should be doing it? Of course not.
Why God Gave Us Dogs
Sep 8 2018
Why God Gave Us Dogs
My daughter started an Instagram account for our dog recently, @fernandothepup. I thought it was a sweet idea, a way to give her sister who just went to college her Fernando fix. I didn’t realize that dog accounts are actually a big thing on Instagram. Did you know this? She’s had a brand contact her already. This is a dog God did actually send us because I definitely did not seek him out. When God Sends You a Dog One day my youngest said, “Mom, a dog followed me home.” I was more focused on a strange stray dog, I told her, “You’re fine.” Then my tenderhearted middle daughter had to go and check on this stray dog. This was the beginning of the end. She and her friend found him laying on the sidewalk panting in the September Houston heat. She said, “Mom, can we take him to a shelter?” I looked at this black dog that could be any sort of a mix between a boxer, pitbull, and a hound and I thought, “he will be put to sleep if we take him there.” Houston is notorious for abandoned animals and shelters and fosters are overflowing. It is very difficult to get a dog into a no-kill shelter and most of the rest will put them to sleep after three days. If I knew a little more about dogs, I probably would have been able to tell right away that this wasn’t a “lost” dog. I am now fairly certain he was dumped because even in his excursions made during the occasional times he has escaped, he has always stayed close to home. He is not dumb; he knows who feeds him. According to the vet, he was about a year and a half when we took him in. Once he got his energy back, he was very rambunctious, as the vet said, he had “puppy brain.” He would jump on people in excitement, chewed everything up, and was so strong he could pull my girls off their feet when they took him for a walk. I think he got past the point of cute little puppy stage, was too much for someone to handle and so they dumped him, because when we took him in he had scratches all over him, was losing hair in places, and had callouses on his legs where it looked like he had been laying on concrete. But being unaware at the time, we tried to find his owner. As you can tell, no luck. We tried a local foster organization and had very limited interest. Partly due to the fact that during this time I was trying to keep up with graduate school as well as the activities of three girls and I didn’t have the time to spare to spend afternoons sitting at adoption days. Two years later, we still have this dog and now my girls are attached. A Picture of Redemption My youngest named him “Fernando” and my girls play his theme song for him all the time. I gave him the middle name “Sylvester” and I think it suits him. Fernando means “redeemed” and Sylvester means “strong in spirit.” He is a redeemed puppy, brought in from the wilderness. This unwanted dog that most people are afraid of on sight has become an object of love for the entire family. My youngest always says, “Fernando is the best dog, we are so lucky we found him.” I’ll be honest, “lucky” wasn’t how I was feeling when he was chewing up remotes, ripping and detaching couch cushions from the frame from sitting on them, and when I was spending an hour chasing him through the neighborhood after he escaped while we were trying to load up Girl Scout cookies for a booth. But sometimes, God sends us what He knows we need . . . Not what we think we want. Somehow, this dog is part of the plan God has for us. His story is an illustration of redemption. He was lost and now he is found. He was unwanted and now he is loved. He was alone and now he is part of a family. Experiencing the Love of God God illustrates His love and plan for us in many ways: through history, through the cosmos, and, yes, through dogs. As humans, we were made to be in fellowship, with God and with others. But so often we close ourselves off. It may be because we have been hurt, betrayed, or let down by others in the past.
A Review of “Atheist Delusions” by David Bentley Hart
May 22 2018
A Review of “Atheist Delusions” by David Bentley Hart
All of us know someone who is not a believer in Christ.  Many of us likely know someone who is not only an unbeliever, but one who is aggressive in their unbelief.   If the subject of religion or faith comes up, they bring up an area in which they think Christians or Christianity itself reflects poorly and hammer relentlessly against your faith.  At times, religion doesn’t even have to come up at all, knowing you are a Christian, they will bring it up using you as a target for their bully pulpit. If you have experienced anything along these lines, or someone you care about is an unbeliever, Atheist Delusions by David Bentley Hart is for you . . . it is not for your unbelieving friend . . . it is for you.  Not that an unbelieving friend couldn’t benefit from reading this book.  However, in Peter’s exhortation to “always be ready” to give an answer for the “hope that is within you,” the qualification is to do so “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15) and Hart provides very strong answers in this book. Hart is a theologian, a visiting professor, and is referred to as a “polemicist.”  Atheist Delusions is an overview of how frequently and consistently full historical context is ignored in order to serve a humanist agenda.  Hart sets the record straight on a number of distorted narratives and he begins with this note: Perfect detachment is impossible for even the soberest of historians, since the writing of history necessarily demands some sort of narrative of causes and effects, and is thus necessarily an act of interpretation, which by its nature can never be wholly free of prejudice.[1] This is important to remember as often information is presented as an unbiased and clear view of history, when in fact, the presentation is a result of a very distorted lens.  Everyone, even historians, bring preconceptions and a particular worldview to the table.  Beware  of those who are not honest about it. Hart’s intention with the book is to present a more even handed history of the church for the first five centuries,[2] or if one does not believe a Christian can do that objectively, a reader will at least have to consider the case Hart makes as it is much more fully sourced and comprehensive than the standard church detractors. Specifically, he states: My chief ambition in writing is to call attention to the peculiar and radical nature of the new faith in that setting: how enormous a transformation of thought, sensibility, culture, morality, and spiritual imagination Christianity constituted in the age of pagan Rome; the liberation it offered from fatalism, cosmic despair, and the terror of the occult agencies; the immense dignity it conferred upon the human person; its subversion of the cruelest aspects of pagan society; its (alas, only partial) demystification of political power; its ability to create moral community where none had existed before; and its elevation of active charity above all other virtues. Stated in its most elementary and most buoyantly positive form, my argument is, first of all, that among all the many great transitions that have sparked the evolution of Western civilization, whether convulsive or gradual, political or philosophical, social or scientific, material or spiritual, there has been only one — the triumph of Christianity—that can be called in the fullest sense a “revolution”: a truly massive and epochal revision of humanity’s prevailing vision of reality, so pervasive in its influence and so vast in its consequences as actually to have created a new conception of the world, of history, of human nature, of time, and of the moral good. To my mind, I should add, it was an event immeasurably more impressive in its cultural creativity and more ennobling in its moral power than any other movement of spirit, will, imagination, aspiration, or accomplishment in the history of the West.[3] (When you read about the transformative power the church has had on culture,
Two Babies and a Funeral
Apr 30 2018
Two Babies and a Funeral
+It’s been an eventful week. Barbara Bush, the wife of our 41st president went home on April 17th and her funeral was held at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston on April 21st.[1]  First families from the Clintons on attended to show their respect and demonstrate that a person is not defined solely by their political affiliation.  Across the pond, two other momentous occasions occurred.  Prince William and Kate welcomed their third child and second son, Prince Louis.[2]  In contrast to this joyous occasion, a battle was being waged over the life of another little one, Alfie Evans.[3] Before we discuss baby Alfie, let’s return to Barbara Bush.  Millenials will not remember her time as First Lady, but she was known as gracious and welcoming.  A friend of public education, she made literacy her cause while in the White House.  After leaving the White House, she and Bush Sr. spent much of their time in Houston and after she passed, many local residents shared fond memories of interacting with her.  She was friendly to everyone and loved kids. Sixty-Five Years Ago in Midland, Texas The part of her life that wasn’t often discussed in the many years she was in her public eye was not her famous sons, but the daughter that they lost.   When their daughter, Robin, was only three years old . . . Not much older than Alfie Evans . . . She began feeling tired and did not want to go out and play.[4]  Concerned, Barbara took her to the doctor and the diagnosis came back.  It was a strange disease called Leukemia, one that not was much known about and for which there was no cure.  The doctor told the Bushes, “There is nothing that can be done, just take her home to die quietly.” Today in Liverpool, England Today in England, there is a battle waging over a little one named Alfie Evans.  Alfie’s parents took him to the doctor sixteen months ago after suffering seizures.  The doctors have not been able to diagnose the cause.[5]  He had been in the care of Alder Hey Hospital during that time and the issue is the doctors have told the parents that there is nothing more that they can do for him; however, they refused to allow the parents to take Alfie to any other provider. Alder Hey told the Evans the same thing doctors told the Bushes about their daughter, Robin, “There is nothing more we can do, make her comfortable, and take her home to die.” The Fighting Spirit Like the Evans, Ms. Barbara did not accept the doctors’ decree.  She was not just going to lay down and passively accept losing her daughter.  If there was any way, any solution, she would find it. She took Robin to Memorial-Sloan Kettering cancer center for experimental treatments and for eight long months, she watched her daughter go through the treatments and hoped for a cure.[6] Because that is what love does.  It never gives up.  It always believes.  It always hopes. The stress and strain of those months turned Ms. Barbara’s hair prematurely white.   This time hope died.  There was no cure for Robin on this side of heaven. It changed the Bushes as a family and it changed them individually.   Friends of the family, and Barbara herself, have said they believe this event was formational in shaping George W.’S personality.  He has said that he can still remember the day when they came home without Robin.  From that time on, he was there for his mom and always cutting up trying to make her laugh because she was so sad.[7] D-O-C does not equal G-O-D Doctors have to face death every day.   They have to operate in reality and probabilities.  They know what is likely to happen, but they do not know what will happen.  They can be, and often are, wrong. Today leukemia is not a death sentence.  It is a serious situation, but it is not now certain death.  Today, people with leukemia have a strong hope because there were doctors and researchers, parents, and patients who would not give up.  They determined to keep looking until a cure was found and leukemia beat.
Justice and Mercy Meet in Grace: A Review of the Two Powers in Heaven
Apr 23 2018
Justice and Mercy Meet in Grace: A Review of the Two Powers in Heaven
The Trinity is one of the biggest issues encountered when discussing the Christian faith with those who believe in God, but not quite the God of Christianity.  Mormons, Muslims and Jews all believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; however, they believe in a strictly monotheistic God, one being and one person (’yachid’ in Hebrew meaning a solitary numeric one), while Christians are monotheists who believe in God who is three persons in one being (’echad’, a composite oneness in unity and essence).   In the course of the conversation, the yachidist[1] monotheist might say something along the lines of “The Jews of Jesus’ day had no concept of multiple persons in the Godhead.  The trinity is a later invention forced on the church by Constantine and incorporated beliefs of Babylonian/Egyptian/Greek/take-your-pick paganism”[2] Many people believe this, but it is not at all true. Two Powers in Heaven by Alan Segal explores and analyzes the early rabbinic commentary against those who believed there were “two powers” in heaven. Segal writes from a position that opposes Trinitarianism and that is considered orthodox within modern Judaism. He was a “yachidist,” a strict monotheist. Segal did not believe that there are “two powers” which are God and he considered the belief in “two powers” a heresy; however, he did recognize that this belief was found within Judaism in the first century and earlier. The book researches the first arguments against the “two powers heresy” and explores the possibilities for the targets, including Christians, Gnostics, and sects of Judaism. The Origins of Modern Judaism Before I review the actual book, I would like to give a brief history of the origins of modern Judaism. During the Second Temple period, there were a number of sects of Judaism.  Through reading the New Testament, we are familiar with two of those sects, the Pharisees and the Sadducees; however, there were other sects such as the Essenes and the Zealots.  Within those sects, there were also varying beliefs.  After the destruction of the Temple by Titus in 70 A.D.,  the Levitical system of worship and sacrifice came to an end and what became rabbinic Judaism formed out of the Pharisaical schools.  Rabbinic writings, such as the Mishnah and the Talmud, began to be codified at the end of the second century A.D[3]. as Segal notes, in the “Two Powers.”  Many of the earliest writings found in the Mishnah and Talmud are polemics written in response to Christian beliefs which the rabbis rejected. An Overview of the Two Powers in Heaven Segal begins by giving an overview of the rabbinic discussion regarding the “two powers” heresy and presents possibilities for their object.   Just as we today have a plurality of beliefs about God and his nature, there were diverse beliefs at the time of the second century.  Beyond the Christians who believed in three persons of the Godhead, Gnostics were also prevalent.  The most common form of Gnosticism was dualistic in nature believing in two opposing deities, one good and one evil; however, there also appears to have been atheists who believed in “no power in heaven.[4]”  Regardless, the “two powers” polemic was directed towards all those who were not monotheists,[5] and more specifically, those who did not believe in a God with a single person, one who was “yachid.” In part two, Segal lays out the evidence of the issue itself and explains why it was so hotly debated. He includes references in Scripture of what he considers to be “conflicting” appearances of God along with rabbinic interpretation. A discussion on the nature and purpose of angelic powers is also covered. The final section discusses the differing views at the time of the beginning of the new millennia. Segal examines how philosophers such as Philo (more on this later) viewed the text as well as apocalyptic sects such as the Essenes. Segal also presents the case of the early church writers and the Gnostic view.
What is the Origin of Easter?
Mar 12 2018
What is the Origin of Easter?
So what is the origin of Easter?  The answer is extremely obvious, yet skeptics and even some Christians seem to think it is a perversion of the Apostolic faith. This is far, far from the truth.  Apart from the move of the Sabbath observance, one of worship, communion, and reflection, from the seventh day of the week to the first because it was considered "the Lord's Day,"[1] the observance of Easter Sunday was one of the first annual observances of the church.[2] Sunday, sometimes referred to the "eighth day" and signifying the new beginning, is considered the Lord's Day because that is the third day after he was crucified and when he rose from the dead. Easter is the Whole Point Easter marks the great day, the pivotal point, the day when the Earth and the Heavens changed.  It was the day when Christ broke the chains of death and the grave and when he fulfilled the promise given to Adam and Eve that: And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel." Genesis 3:15 NASB[3] Of course, it was not called "Easter" as "Easter" is a Germanic word that this remembrance of the Resurrection came to be known by in countries with languages of Germanic origins. It was known as Pascha in the earliest Aramaic, then Greek, then Latin, speaking church . . . And still is in the Orthodox church. Why "Pascha" Why was the day of the Resurrection known as the "Paschal" Sunday? From Goshen, Egypt to a Cross in Jerusalem The story begins long before a dark day in 30 A.D. There once was a people who were foreigners in the land, invited to stay by the ruler of the world power of the day.  They made it their home, investing in the welfare of their host country. However, there came a time when a new ruler came to power who had forgotten the promise made to this people and saw them simply as a resource to dominate and exploit.  He made them slaves, took away their rights, and imposed upon them ever changing conditions that were impossible to meet. There was nothing they could do . . . At least not in their own power.  The military force was too great, the laws . . . being the will of the ruler . . . were against them, and the native citizens were largely unconcerned about their plight. But they remembered a promise.  God promised their ancestors that He would be with them, that He would be on their side.  It was a distant memory, for in the years that passed, they had made their host country's gods and ways their own. But when they came to the end of their own strength, they cried out to him for help . . . And He answered. He sent an unlikely champion to speak for them, one who had issues and baggage of his own. The words were accompanied by signs, catastrophic events that rocked this great nation. On the Plagues of Egypt Note on the plagues of Egypt:  Some think the plagues of Egypt sound fantastic, too unbelievable to be true.  I ask you, 100 years from now, would anyone believe the series of events that have occurred in the United States in the past six months? We have had three major Hurricanes, while at the same time fires devastated the West.  Tremors have been rattling across the nation.  Bizarre and severe weather has occurred nationwide including two "bomb cyclones." At the same time, the social foundation of our country has been rocked.  Decades of deceit and oppression were exposed to the light beginning with Harvey Weinstein.  In every area, people have been called to account for behavior that was once given a pass. If you don't know what a move of God looks like, we are in the middle of one.  There is no reason that the accusations against Weinstein gained traction other than the grace of God, the time given to repent, came to an end. These stories had been around for years.  No one cared.   Now everyone does. It's not over. This judgement began with a flood . . .
What Does the Bible Say About that?
Jan 29 2018
What Does the Bible Say About that?
It's amazing the things you miss when you take a break from online media.  I checked my Facebook feed today after a short break and found a slew of unbelieving friends slamming evangelical Christians.   Some of the claims they were making made absolutely no sense and the posts they were sharing made assertions that were just not true at all. But reading a little farther apart from all of the bogus information, the kernel of the issue are comments by Jerry Falwell, Jr., giving a pass to Trump 's infidelity that was recently exposed.[1] This particular instance happened over a decade ago, but the other party was paid off right before the election to keep silent.[2] So let me just get this out there, none of this comes as a surprise.  Not that Trump had an affair, not that he paid off his affair partner, and not that Falwell would give him a pass.[3] We did not need this latest revelation to know that.   At this point, we should just expect that Falwell will excuse anything and everything the candidate he supported does.[4]  In this he is no different than most people.  Most will ignore actions in the people they support that they would condemn in others. My question is to Christians attending Liberty . . . Why?  If it is because Liberty has a wide range of online classes, okay I get that.  Although Liberty does not have an edge any longer when it comes to online education.  Many colleges now offer online and hybrid degrees that parallel their onsite classes. However, if you choose Liberty University because you were looking for classes presented with a Biblical worldview, I would ask you to consider how that could be so when the founder clearly has such a distorted view of what that is.   At this point, the things Falwell is saying is just as distorted as anything coming out of the progressive emergent churches, it is just slanted in a different way. As Paula Boyer of PJ Media pointed out, Falwell "struggled to explain the doctrines of sin and forgiveness."  Do you really want to trust the guidance of your theological education to a university whose founder present such a twisted message? https://twitter.com/pbolyard/status/956343406112006145 What Did Jesus Actually Say? https://twitter.com/JerryFalwellJr/status/956682026714845184 Again, the hypocrisy doesn't surprise me, but the level of . . . I'm trying to be charitable but the only word that is coming to my mind right now is ignorance . . . Is shocking to me coming from the head of a conservative Christian University that offers degrees in Theology. So what does the Bible actually say about governing.   Falwell puts words in Jesus' mouth, but when Jesus walked on earth, he did so as a man living under the authority of Roman rule.  Unlike the Zealots, he did not attempt to instigate an uprising against the Roman overlords but instead told his followers to pay their taxes.  (Matthew 22:21). That is pretty much all Jesus said that had political ramifications.  Most of his strong words were directed against the corrupt and hypocritical religious leaders of his day. What are God's Directives for Governance? So what does God actually say about governance?  We can get a clear picture of what right rule looks like if we go back to the Old Testament and examine God's instructions to Israel on how they should operate as a community and as a nation. I won't go back through all 613 Levitical commands, but let's just review the instructions related to Falwell 's tweet. Falwell: "Jesus said to love our neighbor as ourselves but he never told Caesar how to run Rome" Response: No, Jesus of Nazareth did not tell Caesar how to run Rome.  However, Rome was not "his people.". It was not an earthly kingdom committed to him and the Romans did not know him . . . Yet. Jesus, the Christ, Son of the Living God and the Word who was made flesh and dwelt among us . . . the Logos . . . did give very clear and explicit instructions on how to rule with integrity...
2018 When Good Intentions Aren't Enough
Jan 25 2018
2018 When Good Intentions Aren't Enough
At the beginning of each New Year, most of us start with new resolution and good intentions.    It is a time for fresh starts and new beginnings. We resolve to read more, to eat right, and to follow through on that exercise program.  But according to research, only 8 percent[1] of us follow through on those New Year’s goals and 80 percent of resolutions are given up by February. Such good intentions but life gets in the way. There is a difference between an intention and a resolution. The Bible is full of people who began with good intentions, such as the man of God who heard God’s voice, but thought he was done when he wasn’t, or Solomon who had high ideals when he succeeded his father, but then got caught up in his own press. They had that in common with two other people in the Bible that we typically view as villains, Balaam and Herod the tetrarch. Balaam, who was paid to curse Israel, in the end gave one of the most well known prophecies regarding the birth of the Messiah, one that features prominently around the Christmas season. “A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” (Numbers 24:17)   That is the part we focus upon, but you have to read the whole verse to get a sense of the scope of what was going on: "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the people of Sheth.” Sounds a little extreme doesn’t it? But there is even more drama. On Balak and Balaam The story begins in the book of Numbers, Israel had been wandering around in the wilderness for 40 years because they had refused to enter the land of Canaan and lost the opportunity for the blessing. Aaron and Moses also missed the promised land because they did not follow God’s instructions precisely. ( Numbers 20:2-12) They were wandering through the desert, moving from place to place, with the Promised Land always in sight. When moving to a new location, Moses asked permission of the ruling power of the land to pass through, promising not to disturb anything. In a continuing pattern, the ruler refused to allow passage through their land (Numbers 20:14-21 interaction with Edom). This antipathy escalated with the king of Arad attacking and capturing a group of the Israelites. This led to a war between Arad and Israel where Israel utterly conquered. (Numbers 21:1-3). After more drama with complaints, snakes, and more opposition to Israel’s passage where Israel won a battle over the strongest warrior in the land (Numbers 21:33-35), Balak, the ruler of nearby Moab, got nervous. (Numbers 22:1-3) Balak was worried because he saw the victories of the Israelites, victories over people that had pushed Moab out of their previously inhabited land. The root of the Israelites campaign to conquer the promised land goes back further than God’s promise to the Israelites at Sinai (Exodus 33:1), It goes back further than God’s directive to Moses, and it even goes back before the promise of God to Jacob at Bethel or Abraham (Genesis 17:8). It begins in Genesis 9:20-27 when Noah curses Ham’s son Canaan. The directive was to conquer the land of the Canaanites, not the surrounding lands. Why the Canaanites were singled out is a topic for another day, but the point is Balak didn’t have anything to worry about. The Moabites descended from Lot (Genesis 19:37), and God told Moses not to bother them because they were in the land He had given them (Deuteronomy 2:9). Balak knew about God, but he didn’t know God. He let fear overtake him without knowing the circumstances and he sought out Balaam, someone he knew was a prophet of God. Balak knew that if he could get Balaam to speak against Israel, that it would be so. Balak sent ambassadors to Balaam and said: “And now come, curse for me this people, since it is stronger than we are, if we may be able to strike some of them,
What does God really Mean by That?
Nov 22 2017
What does God really Mean by That?
When reading the Bible people often ask “What does that mean?” Some things are very clear, such as God’s plan of salvation. Some points of connection in God’s overarching theme throughout the Bible are clear such as God’s command to put the blood of a slain lamb on the entrance to the home, saving the Israelites from death in the tenth plague of Egypt was a foreshadowing and a physical confession in the salvation of God . . .Yeshua. Why All the Differences of Opinion in the Christian Church? However, we often enter murky waters beyond that when it comes to making a connection between the Old Testament and the New. Some of the most spirited, and often vicious, debates in the church over the past two millennia have related to the doctrine of the church. How are we saved? It is for all (John 3:16, John 3:9) or only for a select few? Can we choose to come to God or are we compelled irresistibly by God? Is salvation complete at the moment of confession or is it a progressive process? Each of these questions have caused massive rifts within the body of Christ. What we individually believe about each of these issues is very often dictated by our denominational background. We believe a certain way because that is what we have been taught. Each of these positions have been vigorously defended over time and each side has a fair number adherents. However, just because a number of people believe a certain thing does not make it true. So, how do we determine what a particular passage of Scripture really means? How are we to understand it? How do we interpret it? Rediscovering the Original Context of Scripture All of the words Jesus spoke were to Jews within the land of Israel who followed the Levitical laws and the sacrificial system established at the time of the Exodus. Every letter of the New Testament was written by a Jew (except for perhaps Hebrews) that was raised in that environment since birth. Every word spoken and written was either by or to people who saw the observance of the Day of Atonement as a mandatory act, one that was required to be observed each year in order to have their name written in the Book of Life. We can’t have any sort of meaningful conversation about the big questions in Christianity until we look at how each of the concepts underlying our doctrines were originally understood by observant Jews. By observant Jews, I mean those of the Second Temple period. Jesus and his apostles would not recognize very much in the practices of modern Judaism. A Christian researching this era must also understand that even the Talmud and the Mishnah, Jewish commentary on Scriptures and practices, postdate Christianity by at least two centuries and only reflect the beliefs of one particular sect of Second Temple Judaism . . . The Pharisees. The Influence of Culture If someone said to you, “May the force be with you,” you understand the reference. Anyone who was raised in Western culture understands that you are referring to the fictional force in Star Wars and they are wishing you success in your efforts. However, let’s imagine for a minute that there is a major cataclysm, 95 percent of humanity is wiped out, and 1,000 years from now archaeologists are trying to figure out what this phrase that they found written in graffiti on a fragment of a wall means. (It would have to be graffiti as most of our communication is now digital and our books aren’t made to last as they were in the days of Jesus.) Without knowing about the Star Wars series and its huge popularity, they would have no idea what it means. What would they come up with? Would they think the person was talking about a military force? Would they think it was a reference to a natural force like gravity? Without knowing the culture, they could come up with some pretty wild ideas. They would need to know other facts in order to place the reference properly: perhaps a collectors tin with a summary still legible,
What does God think of your house?
Oct 2 2017
What does God think of your house?
Would God be happy with your house?   Psalm 101 tells us what God expects from us, how he wants us to live, and what the lifestyle of people who are called by his name is supposed to look like. It addresses both our own actions as well as those with whom we associate.  Actually, the associations are part of the life of personal integrity David commits to in verse 2.   I will be careful to live a blameless life—    when will you come to help me?I will lead a life of integrity    in my own home. Then begins a description of what that life of integrity looks like.  Isn't it interesting that the very first item listed is a guard against what he sees. I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar.  (Psalm 101:3a) “Vile and vulgar,” how much of what is presented as entertainment in our culture today is described by those two words?  Is there anything vile and vulgar that comes into your sphere?  Movies, TV shows, magazines, news, music, and Internet sites visited, would they all pass muster? Then David moves on into associations; I hate all who deal crookedly;  I will have nothing to do with them. (Psalm 101:3b) Part of living with integrity is not only your own actions, but those of your associates.  We all know people who cannot be trusted, those who will take advantage, cheat, skim, and sometimes outright steal if they can get away with it.  Because they are friends, we look the other way and excuse it.  That is not right.  That is an implicit endorsement on our part, it makes us part of the dishonesty and lies. True integrity is having no part in it, not only the actions but with the people doing it. In the next verse, David not only commits to guarding what he sees, but also what he thinks. I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil.  (Psalm 101:4a) Perverse ideas, because those ideas are the root from which actions spring. David then turns again to identifying behaviors that he will not tolerate in friends and associates. 5 I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride.6 I will search for faithful people to be my companions.  Only those who are above reproach Conceit and pride, how prevalent is that today?  Pride is even being pushed as a “good” thing today, something people should have.   No, it is not, or I suppose it depends on who you serve.  Anyone who serve Yahweh should know beyond question that anything that has a whiff of pride should be avoided.   7 I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house,    and liars will not stay in my presence.8 My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked    and free the city of the Lord from their grip. This was the passage that really stood out to me today as I listened to Day 1 of Reading through the Psalms.    David was the king and when he referred to his “house,” he was not just referring to domestic servants, he was talking about those who he put in authority, his appointed government.  Liars and deceivers need not apply. We are in David’s shoes today.  We are not rulers; however, in the U.S. we have the ability and responsibility to elect our government.  They are public servants and we are the ones held accountable for putting them there. What do you think God would have to say about your house? Be very careful here not to mistake the ideology of a particular political party for integrity that meets the standard of God. Also, do your servants’ words match up with their actions? Throwing in a few mentions of God and showing up for a couple of prayer services doesn't cut it.  The Pharisees did far more than that and Jesus called them hypocrites. What is the fruit of their life?  Is it love, Joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control?  (Galatians 5:22-23). If not, don't be fooled by a politician’s claims to being devout. Do they care about righteousness and justice?  Are they “ferreting out” wrong doers,
It’s Not All About You: A Lesson from the Life of Solomon
Sep 20 2017
It’s Not All About You: A Lesson from the Life of Solomon
“It’s not all about you.” We say that to people sometimes. We may be in the middle of a conversation about something and they make it all about them, completely missing the point. Because their focus is directed inward, towards themselves rather than outward to others, they miss the point and don’t understand what is being said. We had a talk in Sunday School about a person with that failing. No, it wasn’t on Moses’ pharaoh, Daniel’s Nebuchadnezzar, or Paul’s Agrippa. It was 1 Kings 3 and the account of Solomon who asked God for wisdom. Solomon is known for many things such as the wisest man that ever lived and one who had wealth beyond imagination. We celebrate him as a hero of the faith and someone to admire; however, in truth he is one of the most conflicted characters in the Bible. We often put these people recounted in the Bible on pedestals, and yes, there are many things to admire. Hebrews chapter 11 lists many to follow in example. But while we can admire certain actions, we have to always remember that no matter how great a person was in faith, they are still fallen and corruptible human beings. Accounts of those failings are given as well. Just because a person in the Bible did a certain thing does not mean that God approved of that action. Abraham pimped out Sarah. Jacob lied and swindled. David was an adulterer and a murderer, and Solomon thought it was all about him. If you know who Solomon is, I’m sure you know the story. God appeared to Solomon in a dream and told him that because of his love for his father, David, that he would give him anything that he asked. In response, Solomon asked for wisdom and discernment, to know the difference between right and wrong, in order to judge God’s people fairly. He knew that the job was too big to do on his own and that it was only possible through God’s help. Because of this selfless request motivated by the desire to serve others and to serve them well, God gave Solomon what he didn’t ask for, wealth, a great name, and promise for a long life, conditional on if he continued to follow God’s precepts. Solomon was at a critical point in his life. He was beginning his reign. He had already made a couple of missteps by marrying the Pharaoh’s daughter, which was prohibited by Levitical law, placing his trust in an alliance with man rather than God. He also continued to attend the worship of pagan idols. He loved God, but he had his feet in both camps. That God offered him a request is evidence of God’s faithfulness. In the dream, God did not say it was on account of Solomon he came, but David. This was a generational blessing. This was Solomon’s opportunity to step into a closer communion and fellowship with God himself. He made the right request, but we can see in many ways he had a misapplication. He made it all about him. How do we know this?  A little later in the book of 1 Kings we find out that not only did Solomon take pharaoh’s daughter for a wife, but he took many wives.  He had 700 wives and 300 concubines.  (1 Kings 11:3[1]) The communion and fellowship that God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman  was gone.  The picture painted in the Song of Solomon did not match Solomon’s reality.  What is more, we find that all of these connections and relationships led Solomon away from God.  In the book of Ecclesiastes, his despair and weariness over the emptiness of life is evident.   In the end, he acknowledges that the only thing of true value is God, but his life was spent in futile pursuits. Not only was his relationship with God broken, but the trust with the people of Israel was destroyed as well. He laid heavy taxes on them and came to see them as simply a means to his own ends rather than acknowledging and fulfilling his purpose to serve them. He made it all about him, and because of that, Israel revolted against his son and the nation was divided, not to be restored again as a unified and sovereign nation until almost 3,
The Duggars, Servants, and Our Post-Modern World
Jan 11 2017
The Duggars, Servants, and Our Post-Modern World
I don't watch the Duggars and don't have an opinion on them other than holding the opinion that you shouldn't be taking about "God's Will" in relation to family size unless you are actually raising a baby the way we were naturally designed to do, which is extended and on demand nursing and weaning between ages 2 to 3 rather than at 6 months. Google, I guess, seems to think I am interested in them as this article was suggested in my feed. The headline: Jim Bob and Michelle Keep Calling Their Kids Servants The uproar began over an update on the Duggar's Facebook page that showed a couple of the boys helping out with the dishes. But wait, that's not all. The accompanying caption included a comment saying that they have a "servant's heart." Some people are ticked. Seriously. If you read the Bible and understand the reference and context, you are probably laughing right now . . . But really . . . People are serious about this. The author goes on to say that this has been an ongoing "controversy" with the Duggars and that one of the daughters raised a ruckus when she said a sister-in-law had a "servant's heart." Some think sis is being dissed. The Culture We Live In However, this article is an example of two things. One, a society that thinks that a child should not be expected to do anything other than play video games and be shuttled to soccer. There is nothing wrong with expecting kids to do housework and teaching them that life isn't centered around them. The second thing is it is a CLEAR illustration that Biblical references in general and Christian concepts in particular are completely foreign to large segments of our society.  In an interview with The Atlantic, Michael Wear, President Obama’s former director of faith outreach efforts, talked about this unfamiliarity.  As an illustration, he shared a story of a speech that he wrote which included the phrase, “even the least of these.[1]”  Other staffers kept editing it, they did not understand what it meant at all and thought it was a typo.[2] A Transformed Worldview and A Servant’s Heart If you’re a Christian and most of the people you hang with are as well, sometimes it’s easy to forget just how counter-cultural and opposite human nature some of the teachings of Jesus are. He was God, come as the Son of Man, yet he did not seek accolades or glory for himself. Everything he did was to bring glory to the Father. (John 17:1) Jesus’ way is not the way of our modern celebrity culture which glorifies overexposed individuals. He tells us to help others, to encourage others, and to pray for others. Our focus, and to where we should be directing people, is always to be on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2) Even more than that, Jesus told his disciples repeatedly: Whoever would be greatest among you must be servant of all. (Matthew 20:26, Mark 10:43, Matthew 23:11, Mark 9:35, Matthew 10:44) When one looks at the context of the statement, saying that someone has a servant’s heart is not being dismissive. It is an honorific. The Heart Motive Sometimes people do things for others with an ulterior motive. I’m not talking about those who do for you either to manipulate you into doing something for them or to put you under obligation, although that does happen as well. I’m talking about people who are always doing for other people just so that everyone will see that they are always doing for others. We all know people like that. They do it to be the “in” person. They do it to be publicly acknowledged and to get awards. They do it to fill a void in their lives. They do it to be accepted. The heart motive is not about the other person, but about themselves. I have been that person. I used to overcommit and run myself into the ground volunteering all over the place. Then one day when I was run down and feeling unappreciated and a little resentful, the Holy Spirit convicted me. Who was I really doing it for?
Atheists, Cessationists, and What they Have in Common
Jan 5 2017
Atheists, Cessationists, and What they Have in Common
Atheists and cessationists are those who hold two very different belief systems. One says that there is no God, the other believes in God and Christ as Lord, so what could they have in common? Definitions First, let’s define our terms: Atheist: An atheist is one that believes that there is no God. Buddhism is one of the few religions that believes that there is no God. It is atheistic. Theist: A theist believes that there is a God or multiple gods. Most religions of the world are theistic. They believe in some sort of Supreme Being even if they disagree on who that being is. Deist: A deist is a form of a theist, one who believes there is a God. This is usually explained as being a Creator God but one who is not concerned with His creation. In fact, the idea that this God interacts with His creation is strongly rejected. Agnostic: An agnostic is one who just comes out and says that they have no idea. There are two main forms of agnostics. Some say that they personally do not know if there is a God. Others will say that it cannot be known that there is a God, he may be there but we will just never be sure. Cessationism: Cessationists are Christians, normally in the Protestant tradition, who believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the New Testament have ceased and that miracles are not possible today. Continuationism: In opposition to cessationists, continuationism is the label for those who believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit did not cease, that they have continued since Pentecost, and that miracles are possible today. What Does Cessationism have in Common with Atheism With our definitions in place, how could there be anything in common between atheists and cessationists when one believes that there is no God, the other professes Christ as Lord? Worldviews in a Nutshell: Atheists: There is no God. There is nothing outside of the natural world. It is a closed system Deists: There is a Creator, but he doesn’t bother with us. He went away. It is a closed system not because God is not there, but because He chooses it to be. Cessationists: There is a God and he came to save us, but he doesn’t bother with us anymore. He doesn’t speak to us. There is no prophecy today, and any claim to spiritual gifts is false and from a deceiving source. Christ is Lord, but until we get to heaven, we are living in a closed system. While cessationists do believe in God and specifically in Christ, like atheists, the most strident cessationists argue very strongly against miracles and the possibility of God actually speaking to a person. The cessationist believes in a modified form of a closed system, not because there is no God, but because God chooses it to be so. I recently read a polemic against a popular Bible teacher in which the author comes just short of calling the teacher a heretic. What was the teacher’s transgression? The teacher claims God speaks to them. There is another dynamic going on that inflames the invective against this particular teacher, but the argument was essentially that God doesn’t spearmint  anymore and therefore this teacher is either being deliberately deceptive or seriously deluded. It would be hard to differentiate between the commentary within the article and the comments that followed on this Christian site from those that are found on any number of atheist blogs in the discussion on the possibility of God speaking. At least atheists have the excuse that they don’t believe in any God. My question to the cessationist is . . . Who exactly is the God that you believe in? Who is God? The God of the Bible and the Savior in which Christians believe is not part of creation or one with the universe. The God we believe in is Creator, uncreated, and Jesus, the Logos or Word of God, through which all things are made. His essence is apart from the universe. The God of the Bible is not disinterested, like some absent minded professor with a laboratory of discarded inventions.
Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? On the Biblical Basis for Christmas
Dec 20 2016
Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? On the Biblical Basis for Christmas
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnYo-X5c4mE Subscribe on Youtube Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is coming.  But along with the Christmas season, come those who criticize and bash it.  It is easy to respond to attacks from atheists and Christian cults such as the Jehovah Witnesses that don’t believe anything should be celebrated; however, often Christians have a hard time responding to those who have bought into the propaganda stemming from spurious works such as James Frazier’s “The Golden Bough”[1] and believe that anything related to Christmas, and even the origin itself, has pagan roots. Video on Youtube: Should Christians Celebrate Christmas. Each of the spurious claims could be addressed; however, the question is not whether people used one element or another in pagan religions. After all, pagans made sacrifices on altar, used incense, and burned lamps with oil in worship, all of which are proscribed by God in the Old Testament for use in Jewish worship. It isn’t about the trappings, it is about the purpose and the focus. And I will argue that based on the example set by the Feasts of the Lord that every Christian should feel free to celebrate Christmas because it fulfills three purposes. The first purpose is to look to the past and remind us what God has done for us The second purpose is to look at the present and give thanks for what he has given us The third purpose is to look to the future and build the community. Purpose #1 of Celebrations: Remember What God Has Done The first purpose is to remember what God has done for us in the past.  In Leviticus,[2] God gave Moses instructions for feasts days that were to be observed by the Jewish people: the spring feasts which included Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, First Fruits and Shavout, and the Fall feasts, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. The spring feasts were a continual reminder of God’s deliverance of the Jewish people from their bondage in Egypt. The purpose of holy days, or holidays, are to be a reminder of what God has already done. At Christmas, we look back to that day when the angels were able to finally announce that the long looked for Redeemer had come. Purpose #2 of Celebrations: Give Thanks to God The second purpose of the times of celebration was to give thanks to God.  Throughout their growing and harvest season, the timing of the feasts was designed to give the Jewish people an opportunity to thank God for the harvest he had given them and to acknowledge that He is owed our first and best.  Deut 16:15[3] states that the purpose is to remind them that it is God who blesses us with a bountiful harvest and gives us success in all our work.[4] The purpose of holidays is to give thanks to God for what he has given us. We don’t bring our grain and oxen to the temple anymore, but as a church particularly at Christmas, we bring gifts to share with those in need. It reminds me of 2 Corinthians 9:11b-13 “And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 1 So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.”  2 Corinthians 9:11b-13[5] Purpose #3 of Celebrations: To Build Community The third purpose of the feasts was to build community. The Jewish people were to come together at the appointed times to Jerusalem as one. It wasn’t just about the sacrifices to God, it was about togetherness. Generations are bound together by tradition. Those traditions give us a sense of stability, continuity, and even identity. It helps us know who we are as a people, where we come from, and where we are going. At Christmas, we look back and remember who we are, who our Savior is, how he came and what his purpose was. We share that and build community and look to the future and our future hope when Jesus will return again.
Supernatural Book Review
Jun 28 2016
Supernatural Book Review
We know of the Bible as the story of God's plan of salvation for mankind. From the first page to the last, we see that he had the end in mind from the very beginning. However, most of the time we see just two parties to the story: the Triune God and mankind, those inhabitants of the third heaven and the first. However, there is another group that plays the role, the divine council. Part of the group referenced in Ephesians 6:12 which refers to the unseen realm ruled by principalities, two of which are named in a brief reference in Daniel 9. There are a few explicit references to these beings in the Bible along with many references that are implicit. Without understanding that yes, there is an actual unseen realm and a variety of beings who inhabit it and that some of the words spoken in the Bible are judgments against them, we can completely miss the context of what certain passages are saying. Supernatural Overview Dr. Michael Heiser has made an extensive study of the Divine Council. An expert in ancient Near East languages, he has collected over 4,800 references related to it. This 168 page book is a synthesis of those resources and gives an overview of the structure and dynamics of the conflict from Genesis to Revelation. The book reminds me of Mere Christianity. But while Lewis began at square one beginning with a defense that there must be a God and then follows with arguments as to why the Christian God rings true in every area, this book is written for a Christian audience. Heiser assumes that the reader believes in God and that Christ is the Redeemer of mankind; however, be prepared to check every other assumption you have regarding the make-up of the heavens at the door. I'll admit, when I first came across his blog, drmsh.com, and read about the Divine Council, it was uncomfortable. It didn't fit with what I had been taught in Sunday School, Bible study or church. But having that information, when I read through the Bible, there were passages that opened up to me. There was significance where before it had been just words. What Do You Really Believe The book begins with the question, "Do you really believe what the Bible says?" The chapter continues point out that while as Christians we profess to believe in a God, Creator, and Redeemer who is outside of space and time, very often we act like confirmed skeptics when it comes to supernatural accounts in the Bible. We skip over the parts that are hard, make us uncomfortable, or don't fit within the worldview we've created. What it covers The make-up of the heavenly government of God, the heads of which were 70 heavenly beings/principalities which were assigned people groups at the dispersion at the Tower of Babel as told in Deuteronomy 32:8. There is a whole other layer to the salvation plan and it was this group, this council, that Jesus is made Lord of all, the name above all other names (Philippians 2:9.) This is the government that he is Lord of, which he won through victory at the cross. (Isaiah 9:6) It explains who the Bible is referring to when the world "Elohim" is used. It answers questions about those weird verses referring to the Nephilim and the Watchers It explains our purpose as God's "imagers." It talks about free will, God's will, destiny, and our purpose. It gives a fuller picture of what is truly going on, the "battleground in two realms." (pg 42) It explains how the celestial interacts with the terrestrial (Chapter 5: Cosmic Geography) It explains the purpose of the Law (Chapter 7: Rules of Engagement.) I think when we as Christians read the Old Testament, we get hung up on all the sacrifices and completely miss that the way to salvation has always, from first to last, been through faith in the Redeemer, God's Salvation, Yeshua. (Genesis 15:6, Job 19:25) It also explains the truly demonically inspired effort to eradicate both the Jewish people and the nation of Israel (pg 75.)