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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Pain Of Death

The Pain Of Death

"God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,

"I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence." Acts 2:24-28

PANGS:
"Odin", a pang or throe, especially of childbirth; akin to "odyne" (grief) and "duno" (to go down"

The "pain" of death for Jesus was not loosened until God raised Him up. Thus, the pain that Jesus suffered, the deepest pain, was not from the crown of thorns, the beating and flogging...not even the crucifixion. All of these pains would be loosened when His heart and mind shut down, dropping His body into the numbness of death. But Peter says that God loosed the pain of death at the time of the resurrection. Even when Jesus slumped dead on the cross, and His Spirit had departed, the pain of death must have been excruiciating, else Peter would not have said that it was not loosed until the resurrection.

The pain of death for Jesus was spiritual. The tons of sin-weight and guilt on behalf of the world and the complete separation from His Father...this was the pain of death.

Not until God judged Jesus as innocent on the basis of His perfect sacrifice did Jesus experience release from the pain of death. Resurrection from death brought complete union with His Father and glorification as His Child.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How is the pain of death the same, or different, for us?

"Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses." Acts 2:29-32

David was not the Christ, but God granted David to be a prophet, warning and encouraging the people of Israel, and us, about the Christ.

Peter was confident that David was dead and buried, not resurrected from death. He was confident that Davids tomb could be opened and Davids bones could be seen and touched.

David spoke on behalf of the Christ, praising God that His sacrifice for sin would be accepted, and He would be resurrected to glory and intimacy with God.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? When David died, when we die, our body remains in the tomb or the grave. What biblical basis is there for our bodies to experience resurrection?

THE LORD AND MY LORD

"Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

"The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool." Acts 2:33-35

LORD:
"Kyrios", supreme in authority, controller, Mr. (as a respectful title); from "kuros" (supremacy)

David, speaking prophetically, called God Almighty, "Lord", and used the same word for the Christ.

"Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. Acts 2:36

CHRIST:
"Christos", anointed, the Messiah; from "chrio" (to smear or rub with oil, to consecrate); akin to "chraomai" (to furnish what is needed, to touch lightly)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How can you see the two different aspects of Jesus, Lord and Christ, affecting a typical day of your life?

Image courtesy of www.sxc.hu/profile/bebobebo

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Filled With New Wine

Filled With New Wine

"But others mocking said, They are filled with new wine. But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

"And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy." Acts 2:13-18

All of these words mean plainly what they describe. "Prophesy" means to foretell events and declare truth; "visions" and "dreams" mean things seen, whether awake or asleep.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Few of us ever experience such powerful demonstrations of God's Spirit: speaking unknown languages, foretelling the future, seeing visions or dreams that become real. Is the rarity of miracles such as these a function of our modern-day lack of faith, or God's timing and purpose?

"And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’" Acts 2:19-21

Peter referenced the Book of Joel, quoting exactly except for an addition to the last verse:

"And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls." Joel 2:32 (ESV)

The prophet Joel was warning the nation of Israel to return to faith and dependence upon God, before God's wrath allowed an foreign invasion that would devastate the land:

"A nation has come up against my land, powerful and beyond number; its teeth are lions’ teeth, and it has the fangs of a lioness. It has laid waste my vine and splintered my fig tree; it has stripped off their bark and thrown it down; their branches are made white." Joel 1:6-7 (ESV)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What similarities do you see in the foreign invasion of Israel and the death of Christ?

THE MURDER OF A GOOD MAN

"Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know — this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men." Acts 2:22-23

DEFINITE:
"Horizo", to mark out or bound; from "horion" (a boundary line) and "horos" (a bound or limit)

PLAN:
"Boule", volition, advice or purpose; from "boulomai" (to will or be willing)

FOREKNOWLEDGE:
"Prognosis", forethought; from "proginosko" (to know beforehand, foresee) and "ginosko" (to know)

LAWLESS:
"Anomos", not subject to law, a Gentile, or wicked; from "nomos" (law or regulation) and "nemo" (to parcel out food or grazing)

WHAT DO YOU THINK? How can God voluntarily, willingly plan and direct the murder of His innocent Son, yet still condemn His killers as wicked? How can God not be charged with the murder?

Image courtesy of Edwin Pijpe

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Five Philosophies

Five Philosophies

"How to Bring Back Young Adults Who Have Left the Faith", an article by Whitney Hopler, Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer, posted by www.crosswalk.com, Tuesday, May 17, 2011.

Interesting article that classifies people into five philosophies, depending upon how they incorporate faith and ethics:

  • Postmoderns
  • Recoilers
  • Moderns
  • Neopagans
  • Rebels

I'm not completely sure this list is comprehensive, but it is definitely thought-provoking.

I reject manipulative tactics that attempt to sell Christianity to different markets, or put a spin on the Gospel in order to proselytize to different mindsets. This article does not try to do that.

Instead, this article is aimed at trying to help us understand other people, with compassion and humility. I can easily put myself into at least one of these categories, and the descriptions help me see a bit more of life from perspectives that I've not experienced.

Christianity, genuine love and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, is not a club, not a religion, not a even a lifestyle. It's a radical change in a person's heart accomplished by God's Spirit, working through Scripture, circumstance, and other people.

I've got little interest in trying to sell Christianity, but I do have enormous interest in glorifying God by allowing Him to make my heart and mind humble and wise.

Part of that glory involves understanding where other people might be spiritually. And this article helps to do that.

Read the entire article here...

Here's a quick description of each of the five categories of philosophy mentioned in the article:

Postmoderns think that moral absolutes are dangerous, because those absolute beliefs may be forced on other people.

Recoilers are people who have left Christianity because of the emotional pain they’ve endured and associated with God somehow.

Moderns search for truth through scientific investigation rather than spiritual revelation.

While neo-pagans correctly sense the sacredness of creation, they end up worshipping the creation rather than the Creator that it reflects.

Rebels are people who leave Christianity because they find sinful pursuits more appealing than following the faith’s moral standards.

What do you think? Do you see yourself falling into one or more of these categories? Does the whole idea of generalizing or classifying people offend you? Does this article help you see life from a different perspective?

Image courtesy of Orlando Pinto

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Multitudes Amazed and Perplexed

Multitudes Amazed and Perplexed

A group of Christians gathered in one large house in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost, the fiftieth day after Passover. Pentecost was the common name of the Feast of Harvest, one of three major celebrations commanded of the Jews by God (Exodus 23:14-16).

Pentecost was a celebration of the first harvest of crops, a thankful feast in honor of God's providence.

It was during the celebration of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit completely overwhelmed that group of Christians:

"And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." Acts 2:4

The Christians rushed out to find people with whom they could share the wonderful news, only to find themselves surrounded by a crowd of foreigners, Jews from many different countries and many different languages, also celebrating Pentecost. To everyone's surprise, the Holy Spirit allowed the words of praise and worship and exhortation to be completely and clearly understood by everyone, no matter the language.

"Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, 'Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.'" Acts 2:5-11

It's difficult for modern readers to visualize the different parts of the world mentioned by Luke, the writer of the Book of Acts. Many of the names of countries and people groups have changed. I'm not a keen geography or political history buff, but I did wonder from where all these people came that were amazed and perplexed by a powerful display of God's Holy Spirit.

My Geographica, The Complete Illustrated Atlas of the World, is a great resource. I enjoy browsing the maps and descriptions of every country in the world. But few of Luke's references are found in the Geographica's index. I had to turn to our culture's Source of All Knowledge: Google.com.

Google's map resources gave me a base map that stretched over all of the mid-East, Africa, Saudi Arabia, and parts of Europe.

Bible Explorer 4.0 gave me a good description of each province or region mentioned by Luke. Most of the references were from Smith's Bible Dictionary, included free with Bible Explorer.

BibleStudy.org provided a ton of maps and charts. I downloaded several map images and used GIMP to superimpose, resize, and add transparency in order to visualize where the ancient regions were in relation to modern political boundaries.

Here are the results of combining all my resources:

The people from Parthia lived near the mountains that separated the Persian desert from the desert of Kharesm. The region was south of Hyrcania, east of Media, and north of Sagartia. In modern terms, it was in Iran, near the northern border, near the Caspian Sea.

Media was northwest of Persia, south and southwest of the Caspian Sea, east of Armenia and Assyria, west of the great salt desert of Iran.

The area called Elam was most likely south of Assyria and east of Persia. Herodotus called it Cissia (iii. 91, v. 49, etc.). Geographers termed it Susis or Susiana. The capital of Elam was Susa. This country was originally peopled by descendents of Shem.

Mesopotamia, "between-the-rivers", is the entire country between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The biblical region of Mesopotamia was limited to just the northwestern section of this land.

Judea was a district of the Roman Empire, west of the Jordan and south of Samaria. This region is now in the center of Israel.

Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, and Phamphylia are all contained within the country now known as Turkey.

Egypt was Egypt as Egypt is now.

Libya during biblical times lay alongside the Mediterranean Sea, north of Egypt.

Cyrene was also north of Egypt, just west of Libya, now the modern city of Tripoli.

Rome was Rome as Rome is now.

The island country of Crete was, and is, in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Greece.

Arabia originally included all of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

Luke's list of Pentecost Pilgrims to Jerusalem described quite a large area. The base map from Google.com showed a scale of 500 miles to the inch. Perhaps 2500 miles from Rome to Arabia?

Probably all of the Jewish foreigners all spoke basic Greek or Latin, but their native languages had to have been all much different.

And God's Holy Spirit was more than able to bridge the language barrier.

Link to high resolution animated gif image (610K)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tongues Of Fire

Tongues Of Fire

"And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them." Acts 2:3

DIVIDED:
"Diamerízo", to partition thoroughly (literally in distribution, figuratively in dissension); from "diá" (through) and "merízo" (to part, to apportion, bestow, share) and "méros" (a division or share) and "meiromai" (to get as a section or allotment)

TONGUES:
"Glossa", the tongue; by implication, a language (specially, one naturally unacquired);

FIRE:
"Pyr", "fire" (specially, lightning)

APPEARED:
"Optánomai", to gaze with wide-open eyes, as at something remarkable;

RESTED:
"Kathízo", to seat down, i.e. set (figuratively, appoint); intransitively, to sit (down); figuratively, to settle (hover, dwell); from "kathézomai" (to sit down) and "katá" (down, in place or time) and "hedraîos" (sedentary, immovable)

The work of witnessing for Jesus could be described using characteristics of wind and fire. The apostles would be carried and guided by a overwhelming, powerful, unseen force. Their words would ignite controversy and passion, for and against Christ.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? To what purpose were the physical signs, the loud, frightening sounds of wind and the flickering visions of fire? Would not the sudden ability to speak in other languages be sufficient evidence of the indwelling Spirit of God?

FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT

"And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." Acts 2:4

FILLED:
"Pletho", to "fill" (literally or figuratively (imbue, influence, supply); specially, to fulfil (time);

This word is related to that used in verse two ("Pleróo"), but is more general in meaning, from physically filling to the spiritual filling of the Holy Spirit.

UTTERANCE:
"Apophthengomai", to enunciate plainly, declare; from "apo" (off or away) and "phthengomai" (to utter a clear sound, to proclaim) and "phengos" (brilliancy) and "phos" (luminousness) and "phemi" (to show or make known ones thoughts) and "phaino" (to lighten or shine)

The Holy Spirit gave incredible, surprising, powerful understanding and clarity in speech. The words were overwhelmingly effective in making the Spirits brightness known to everyone who heard, no matter the language.

This world-shaking shining forth of the Holy Spirits speaking through people happened to a group of about 120 Christians, including the eleven disciples chosen by Jesus, their families and friends, as well as the family of Jesus. (Acts 1:12-15)

This first church of Christians were gathering together often to pray. Peter was seen as their leader. Jesus had earlier specially commissioned Peter to be a shepherd to His Flock:

"Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? He said to him, Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. He said to him, Feed my lambs. He said to him a second time, Simon, son of John, do you love me? He said to him, Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. He said to him, Tend my sheep. He said to him the third time, Simon, son of John, do you love me? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, Do you love me? and he said to him, Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you. Jesus said to him, Feed my sheep." John 21:15-17 (ESV)

With Peters guidance the Church had appointed an apostle to replace Judas Iscariot, and the Church gathered often to pray, worship, exhort, and celebrate. It was during the celebration of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit filled them all, enabling them to speak clearly and brilliantly in every language.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Jesus commanded only one thing of Peter, the first pastor appointed by Jesus: “Feed my sheep.” What duties of our pastor would fall under this category of “sheep-feeding”? More importantly, what duties might we expect of our pastor despite it NOT being “sheep-feeding”?

Image courtesy of Stefan Glase

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Outward Signs Of Inward Change: Wind And Fire

Outward Signs Of Inward Change: Wind And Fire

"And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting." Acts 2:2

SOUND:
"Echos", a loud or confused noise ("echo"), i.e. roar; figuratively, a rumor

The same Greek word, "echos" (translated as "reports"), was used to describe the rumors flying around the country regarding Jesus.

"And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region." Luke 4:37

"Echos" (translated as "sound") was also used to describe the voice of God experienced by the Jews led by Moses.

"For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them." Hebrews 12:18

The word implies frightening, loud sounds from all directions.

MIGHTY:
"Bíaios", violent; from "bía" (force)

RUSHING:
"Phéro", to "bear" or carry

WIND:
"Pnoe", respiration, a breeze; from "pnéo" (to breathe hard, i.e. breeze)

FILLED:
"Pleróo", to make replete, i.e. (literally) to cram (a net); from "pleres" (replete, or covered over; by analogy, complete) and "pletho" to "fill" (literally or figuratively)

"Pleróo" is used primarily in the sense of fulfillment, completion of a period of time or purpose. There are a few instances in which the word (translated as "full") refers to the physical filling up to capacity:

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad." Matthew 13:47-48

Infrequently, this word describes the filling of the Holy Spirit.

"And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit." Acts 13:52

Every descriptive word contributes to a sense of unseen, overwhelming power. Notice that the Holy Spirit descended from heaven with the sound of a powerful wind, but there is no evidence that it was an actual wind.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Why would the sound of a powerful wind be an fitting indicator of Gods Holy Spirit? Why would it be only the sound, and not an actual wind? Why would it be a one-time-only manifestation?

Image courtesy of Thomas Boulvin