Monday, December 26, 2011

The Untold Christmas Story

Simeon and Anna, seeing the infant Jesus in the Temple
Joseph, Mary and Jesus with Simeon and Anna

My wife and I sat down the other night to listen to a christmas sermon from David Pawson, preached I think in 1971 lol.
I title this the Untold Story because, as he pointed out, not many people know, tell or even sing the whole Christmas story. In fact some of the most important bits have been left out.
These bits are the parts where Jesus was circumcised, was taken to Jerusalem where he was met by Simeon and Anna, two amazing old people.

So what are the significance of these occurrences?

Well, they belong in the Christmas story because they occur between the shepherds and the wise men.

More importantly it is often missed out that Jesus was a JEW - he was circumcised. It is an important part of the Christmas story because it was at this occasion that Jesus became under the Mosaic law. It was the first time that Jesus shed blood for us in a sense. It was also the time that He was named Jesus, or "Saviour" in the Bible.

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

They then took Jesus to Jerusalem where Mary offered her offering for being unclean and to dedicate Jesus as their first fruits or firstborn male to God.

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”[b]),24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”[c]

The pair of doves or two young pigeons indicated they were very poor since they could not afford the lamb that was normally sacrificed. The really interesting part to this passage is it says they went up to give Jesus to God but there is no record of them paying the price to redeem Him! as commanded by God in the law of Moses.
This possibly explains one reason why Jesus at the age of 12 said that He needed to be about his Father's business when scolded by His parents for not following them. Jesus was God's, He was the first born sacrifice to God the Father for us. He wasn't redeemed as we all are.

And then there is the beautiful story of Simeon and Anna when they met the Saviour, it really speaks for itself.

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss
[d] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[e] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Observations From Sulam Yaakov

Sulam Yaakov is known to us as Jacob's Ladder. It is a inter-dimensional ladder and the only means of traveling from this reality into God's. It can be seen in Genesis 28:10–19.

"Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.And behold, the Lord stood above it [or "beside him"] and said, "I am the Lord (Yahweh), the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; "

We also see in John 1:51 that it is the Word of God, Y'shua, who is this ladder.

"And he said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter you shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man."

Also, when John ascended into Heaven, in Revelation 4, he was in the presence of Sulam Yaakov, Y'shua.

Observation #1

Since angels can only ascend and descend into heaven on Jacob’s ladder, then does Satan use Jacob’s ladder to gain access to the throne of God in order to accuse us before God?

Observation #2

Does the souls of God's Elect also gain access that way? Therefore, when we die and we are in the presence of the Lord(II Corinthians 5:8), does this mean we are at the foot of Sulam Yaakov, Jacob's Ladder?

Observation #3

After Jacob had his dream, he named the place Beth-El, the House of God. Is this a physical portal into the House of God or is symbolic of something else or both?

As we delve into these and other questions or observations within the Word of God, we gain a more intimate knowledge of our Lord and G-d thereby growing closer to him.

Shabbat Shalom my Friends

Sunday, November 20, 2011

And This Is Love?????

It's a simple concept or is it?

So....How do we love God?

How does God love us?

How do we share the love of God with each other?

Many of Gods children are dumbfounded by this question and their answers are varied.

I believe the answer can be found in what appears to be one simple verse.

And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.

Isn't this what it is all about?

What are your thoughts?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Whimsical Holiness

This post (by Hugh Halter) attempts to describe the way in which Jesus was holy, and thus the way in which we should be holy.

In summary, the holiness we should pursue is:
  • Holding fast to personal convictions and values of Christ-likeness (which includes purity from sin)
  • Being deeply integrated in non-condemning, whimsical relationships with people who do not hold the same convictions.
I agree with these two statements.
    But the author takes artistic license too far and fails to recognize the context or purpose of the scripture he refers to. He ends up painting a very lopsided view of Christ - one which fails to use any form of sternness toward sinful hearts as a part of being 'whimsical'.

    You can read the article yourself, but I want to specifically address the four example relationships used while painting this picture:
    • 'Jesus made more wine for people who were already hammered drunk'. I don't read that they were drunk (but they may have been). God is deliberate about what He puts in (and leaves out of) scripture. I don't think He wanted us to learn this point from this incident. Rather, the point seemed to be an induction of the ministry of Jesus, proving to people that He was the Son of God.
    • 'Jesus purposefully neglected to remind His disciples to wash their hands correctly before eating'. The purpose was NOT to instruct us on how to deliberately avoid appearances of sternness in upholding purity. Rather it was to redirect where we should be stern - real purity is joyful heart submission to Christ as Lord.
    • 'Jesus bend down and drew something in the tear-moistened dirt beneath the sex-addicted woman caught in adultery'. This is beautiful and encouraging. I have no doubt Jesus continued to be gentle and patient with her as she followed Him. But He knew that sternness about upholding purity was part of His love for them, and part of why sinners found Him whimsical. So He DID say to her afterwards, with full authority and without apology - 'Go, and sin no more'.
    • 'Jesus ate with tax collectors and prostitutes'. Interesting that all the specific examples we have of these sinners in the Gospels were extremely repentant, more so than many 'holy' people in church today! I think it is a mistake to assume Jesus was 'friends' of every single sinner. Rather He was friends with sinners who had been called by God to recognize their need for a doctor, to hunger and thirst after righteousness. For these people, just being in their midst was probably stern enough in upholding purity! This does not apply to every group of sinners on earth. Besides, these would respond with gratitude to the perfectly wise and gentle sternness which I am sure Jesus gave to them.
    I agree that we should pursue integrated relationships with sinners, even the worst, and that we should be whimsical in our holiness, not condemning. But we also need to be wise and humble before the Lord - seeking His leading about when and where we should apply sternness as part of our whimsical love toward those observing, and about which sinners are being called by Him to hunger after purity.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    The Universal Human Condition

    This post nicely describes how God sees the universal human condition.

    Actually, it describes key aspects of C. S. Lewis' ideas, on how God sees the universal human condition. But I think its what the Bible teaches too...

    In summary:

    1) There is a sense in which God can completely agree with and encourage the fundamental desires of ALL men everywhere. This is because He WANTS the greatest good, the deepest joy, and the eternal satisfaction of His people. Which is, fundamentally, what every single human wants and pursues - even those who self-harm or commit murder. In fact this is essential for true faith - this satisfaction can ONLY be truly realized in God, and part of faith is recognizing this and subsequently pursuing it with the heart.

    2) Because God is absolutely committed to this (encouraging and pursuing our fundamental desires with us), there is a real sense in which He MUST oppose most of our own personal attempts. This is because they are usually self-destructive (for us and often for others), and certainly do not succeed in attaining our fundamental desires. Worse, they discourage any real progress towards God's goals and our goals by making light of the satisfying value of Christ.

    Read the post and see what you think :)

    Saturday, October 15, 2011

    Old debate

    red apple core
    "Stan the half truth teller" and I had a big debate over at my blog "Pilgrimage" about whether Adam and Eve knew it was wrong to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil since they did not yet "know" good and evil.

    Originally I claimed that they obviously did have some but not full "knowledge" before they ate of the tree or else God would not expect them to understand that it was wrong to disobey Him. They still didn't have full knowledge yet which they were protected from.

    I heard a preacher ages ago suggest that to "know" in the Bible was to choose to have a relationship with someone. Then it hit me. The word "knew" used in the phrase in Genesis where Adam "knew" Eve is exactly the same Hebrew word as to "know" good and evil.

    Genesis 4:1
    Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the LORD.”
    Go figure, to "know" doesn't just mean to have knowledge it means to have a relationship with..."

    Revelation... ding ding

    Friday, September 9, 2011

    Is rock music evil?

    Photo by xtinelabbe

    Thats the question many ask among conservative christian circles (I say "conservative" as a point of fact and not as "point the finger") I like to think of myself as conservative lol.

    This piece is written as a quick overview to begin a further discussion on the topic.

    I too asked the question "Is rock music evil?" when I saw the amount of damage it can have on people and looking at its roots. My wife and I finished reading a book by Jeff Godwin and in this book he evaluates many bands and their fruit. He also drifts into talking about the music in general (christian also) and its negative elements. Well, for a start I appreciated how this book caused me to reassess many bands and to check who and what I listen to. I however strongly disagree with how far this book takes the "evils" of rock music.

    As for his arguments which you can find in more detail in his book, he used a very broad brush and lacked specifics. He claims that rock music is bad because:
    1. It evolved from voodoo beats from Africa and therefore anything with a voodoo beat is wrong
    2. It influences society negatively
    3. It influences plants negatively... the logic follows that since plants don't like it then it is bad for us.
    4. It is of the world. He quotes the book of James where he says that if you are a friend of the world then you are an enemy of God.
    5. The music is rebellious and creates chemical imbalances
    6. Regarding using rock music as an evangelistic tool, he likens "doing" christian rock music to becoming a fornicator, to become like a fornicator so that we can reach the fornicators.

    Well, those are some that I can think of off the top of my head.
    Where do I start? I had hoped he would bring some more technical reasons why the music rhythms are wrong but he didn't enlighten us.

    I probably would reply to reason 1. By asking "what about the Polynesian drum beats?"
    Why can't have rock come from there? What's the deal with assuming that because beat music was used for voodoo it all of a sudden makes it wrong?
    I don't follow. Criminals use guns for crime, hunters use guns for game. What's the difference? Intent. Music is a tool; a sad piece of music can create an atmosphere that is not good in a certain context. A sad piece of music can also be very useful to portray a story or likewise in a good context.

    2. Although there is a lot of truth in this, rock music has done a lot of good also. I know it has done me good in my life and helped pull me through some tough times, listening to MercyMe, Switchfoot and Petra etc.

    3. The whole plant thing is totally irrelevant let alone the fact that I doubt this is even true. Because plants may dislike rock music does not mean that it is wrong for people to like it. Plants aren't people and people aren't plants.

    4. Heavy implication here. According to the writer of this book anyone who approves rock music is not saved... an enemy of God. We need to ask what the "world" is in the Bible. I don't think it is cultural music, it is sin. And God spells out quite plainly in scripture what is sin and what isn't. Paul does warn us however that all things are lawful for us to do but not all things are helpful. 1 Cor 6:11-13.

    5. Although I would agree to a point that different styles of music influence us in different ways. Jazz can be quite sensual, Rock is gutsy, classical is peaceful (sometimes depressing). Each is for its own occasion. To suggest that rock music is wrong because it causes imbalances is simply ridiculous, I am sorry to have to say it. If I want to have a romantic evening with my wife, I will put on romantic music. If it is sensual then why is it wrong? I go to the beach to enjoy the sun, the waves, the sand. It makes me feel happier than I would at home; it gives me a chemical "imbalance". I don't think chemical imbalances are wrong, each is for its own occasion.

    6. Where in God's Word is any type of music referred to as on the same par as fornicating? I refer back to number 4. Paul became a Jew to the Jews and a Gentile to the Gentiles; Yet he always preached the same acts of sin to all people. Music is not listed as one of those sins. Unless all their music back then was used for "holy" purposes... I doubt it.

    Well, there are a few thoughts thrown together. I will be interested in anyone's thoughts.

    Saturday, August 27, 2011

    God's Sovereignty over the Church's Destiny

    This post by John Piper at Desiring God, deals with the issue of how the Christian should view the sovereignty of God - especially as it applies to evangelism & missions, history & the end times, and uncertainty or risk in general.

    A summary:

    • It is impossible for God take ‘risks’ since He is absolutely sovereign and knows the outcome of all his activity. Instead, He makes ‘sacrifices’ that will certainly result in the ultimate good and delight of His church, in the glory of Christ.
    • Any ‘risks’ we take of losing the smaller pleasures of this life (including the gift of life itself on this earth), are actually ‘sacrifices’ that we know will work for the cause of ultimate good. There is no real 'risk' for the Christian.
    • Some people see whole history of the church from the First to the Second Coming of Christ, as resting ultimately and without any certainty upon the individual decisions that men make – especially that of the first disciples after Pentecost – with a real and frightening 'risk' of failure and defeat.
    • This view is false to Scripture, built on false philosophical presuppositions, damaging to the mission of Christ in the world, and belittling to the glory of God. God can't and doesn't take 'risks'.

    Read the post for more details :)

    I know John Piper’s views on things reasonably well, so I can say I agree with everything he’s trying to say. However, I wish he had emphasised two (potentially balancing) points, which I know he believes:

    • First, there is a very real sense that certain wills and decisions of man ARE NECESSARY for history to occur as it has, and also for Christ’s purposes to prevail in the future. It DOES rest upon the decisions of man, which spring from within himself (i.e. not robotically or coerced – we do it because we actually have decided to do it).
    • However, if man’s decisions are necessary steps, it does NOT mean they are ultimate or foundational or self-determining steps, or that there is a possibility of them not occuring. They are merely links in the chain of God’s sovereignty – the whole chain is necessary, but there is NO possibility that it will not form.
    • Following on from that, the paradox that God is sovereign and yet we are responsible can be defined more precisely as this: God can pre-determine human decisions, and yet they can still spring from within humanity without coercion and with personal volition.

    • Secondly, this paradox – while being a paradox we may never understand fully – is able to be understood more and more as it is contemplated and pursued! I know this from personal experience, from the experience of others far wiser than myself, and from drawing analogies from science.
    • For example, science has occasionally had to switch its whole understanding of certain aspects of the world to something completely foreign – Copernican astronomy, Newtonian physics, special and general relativity, genetics and microbiology, quantum physics, atomic chemistry, etc. People have always struggled to understand things which seem to contradict our experience or current understanding, despite the truth of these ideas. Yet those who commit themselves to understanding such models can reach a level of understanding where it actually DOES work in the mind (at least to a greater degree than before).
    • I think the same can be said of the sovereignty of God and human ‘free will’. Just because it is a paradox which may not be completely understood, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pursue understanding of it.

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    C.S. Lewis on Education

    I really like this post by Joe Rigney at Desiring God, about C.S. Lewis’ view of education, and life in general.


    1. Objective realities exist. We should aim to know these realities.
    2. Objective values about objective realities exist. We should aim to know these values.
    3. These objective realities and values merit specific emotional responses. We should aim to respond appropriately to these realities and values.
    4. Education should aim to help others fulfil these three steps as well.

    I agree 100% with the first three points. And I think I agree with number four, at least partly – it is a laudable aim to help others reach this in a general sense.

    However, the methods used in such ‘education’ could encroach into the ethical controversies underpinning the conflict between socialsm and capitalism. It is certainly possible to breach human autonomy. And since our perception of how to pursue this must have at least some subjectivity to it – it is also possible to cause harm and pervert justice.

    Even if we focus purely on maximising this ideal ‘educated’ state in humanity (ignoring these other ethical dimensions), this subjectivity easily has the potential to thwart our very aim. From an evangelism point of view, our pursuit of helping others see and respond appropriately to the truth of Christ, has the potential to drive people in the opposite direction by our imperfect (or imperfectly applied) methods of ‘education’.

    What importance should these negative outcomes have in our thinking? Are there any guiding principles we can use to protect ourselves from them, or form the opposite danger of avoiding appropriate 'education'?

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Church as 'Missional Communities'

    This post by Jeff Vanderstelt (posting at Desiring God) describes ‘missional communities’ in terms of their four essential characteristics – family, missionaries, servants, disciples.

    Some people think this is what ‘church’ is meant to be. I personally really like the ideas presented here, and agree to an extent that this is what ‘church’ is meant to be. But I think we should be really careful if we say that...

    Firstly we need to define ‘church’. The Bible uses the word ‘church’ to refer to a group of people in a particular city, not to any particular building or activity or event. So the question of what ‘church’ is meant to be is basically asking what a ‘Christian community’ is meant to be. Which makes it a very broad question with broad answers. Essentially, to see Christ, to delight in what we see, and to express what we see in words and actions.

    Perhaps it would be more helpful to ask ‘what is church meant to be, that is distinct from private Christian life’. Why did God ask us to be a community of believers rather than lone rangers? Somehow Christ can only fully be expressed in the complex contexts of a community where individuals have different strengths and weaknesses. And as we see Christ more fully in such a community, we delight in this and become more like Christ – we mature in the faith, and thus express Christ more fully ourselves. Discipleship/missions happen as we and others (Christians and non-Christians) are brought into this community Christ-expressing atmosphere and are exposed to the image of Christ. And this Christ-expression and discipleship can happen all of the almost infinite number of contexts that arise in community life.

    Which brings me to my second caution: obviously there are contexts that ‘church’ is meant to encompass (at least some of the time) that aren’t directly mentioned in this post and may not arise so naturally in a community – like communion, worship, etc… But I think these could easily be incorporated into this model. In fact, a community that worships and has communion together will more effectively display Christ to those who interact with or within that community.

    Finally, any critical analysis of 'church' has the danger of encouraging sin - offense, pride, self-righteousness, legalism, dissatisfaction, selfishness, gossip, disunity, bitterness, fear, etc... These are generally considered bad ;) We have to walk a fine line between having a constructive vision for 'church' that we apply in ways that build the body of Christ and honor God, and having a destructive vision that we apply in ways that destroy the body and dishonor God.

    I really appreciate the way this view can expand our view of church and missions to include, essentially, all of life – as it is lived out in community with a gospel intent and the support of other believers. We’ve probably all heard something similar before, but for some reason this particular description makes it seem much more practical and down to earth – and also a lot more faith-filled and exciting and God-glorifying – than many other ways I’ve heard it described… a much needed view I think. God help us joyfully, humbly, and constructively pursue your vision for Church in the power and leading and grace of Your Spirit!

    Anyway, what do y’all think?