Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Brutality is Always Unfair

My apologies for the delayed posting. I was under the weather last week. But this was in the cue:
In light of the terrible tragedy last Friday I thought I'd put my two bits in.

When I hear people complain about what happened and blaming it on God I cringe. They ask, "Why did God allow this to happen?" "And, so close to Christmas?" I hate those questions because so much of the ugliness in this world is our fault. I liken it to a spoiled kid running around in slick shoes on wet glossy tile then asking, "why did I fall down?"

When you look at history this is not the first time young children have been senselessly killed.  In fact, if you take a look at Matthew 2 you'll see that a major baby slaughter took place some time after the first Christmas. Can you image the guilt Joseph and Mary felt when they found out their kinsmen and friends of the family had lost their babies? Knowing why they were spared such a loss and pain, and yet the town that found favor enough to herald the birth of the messiah was not. Can you image the confusion the families had? Wondering what did they do that warranted such an evil attack from the jealous lunatic that ruled the land?

I am so thankful that in the midst of our confusion and bewilderment we all have a God who knows this pain. Who has helped others through it all. He's seen it. He knows it. He will comfort.

But each must choose to turn to Jesus for comfort. It's part of the gift of free will that God gives us. The will to worship him or not worship him. The will to obey his laws or not obey them. The will to walk in the path of righteousness and blessing; or to follow our every desire, casting possible consequences to the wind. The will to turn to him and receive the comfort that only he can give, or to not turn to him.

He's not the reason for this pain we feel. He's the solution.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Not Alone

When you read or see the Christmas story presented do you get a sense of Mary taking off to Elizabeth's house all on her own? Have you read about the roads in those days? Jesus wasn't making it up in Luke 10 when he says a man was attacked on the road.  While some roads were more dangerous than others, no one in their right mind traveled alone, including the Romans.

I have to ask . . . Do you think any righteous man would allow his teenage daughter to travel several days south to see a relative by herself? Not.

Do you think her promised husband would agree to it if by some far off chance her father did allow it? Not.

Mary had to have been accompanied by someone when she went to see Elizabeth.  She was not alone in her travels. Yes, she was alone in the weight of the circumstances she bore. But, she would not have been alone physically. Have you heard people say you can feel all alone in a crowd? I'm sure Mary felt this way often.

And, while we see Joseph taking Mary alone on a donkey to Bethlehem let's not forget that Mary's family was of the same lineage. So they too would have to travel to Bethlehem. The importance of the statement in Luke 2 is not that Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem, but that Mary traveled with Joseph as his wife rather than traveling with her family.

I know this is a foreign thought to many of you, but think about it. Yes, the weight of what was happening to them was squarely on their shoulders. And some supporters may not have completely understood. But God did not hang them out to dry. They did have support and prayers being lifted up for them in the challenges they faced. They were, in that sense, not alone.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I'm What?

Have you ever stopped to think about the enormity of Mary's pregnancy? Of how brave she was to accept God's call?

Being pregnant out of wedlock is bad enough for most cultures nowadays. But back then you could be disowned by your family and I mean never-see-the-family-again-ever disowned. Not to mention the village kicking you out for giving them a bad name.

Think about it . . . imagine you're a teenager.  You love finding quiet places to talk to God alone, but you rarely get a chance because you're helping with your siblings. You're up at night to fill the oil in the lamp. Then, rise early in the morning to start the whole process of making bread and drawing the water. So you sing psalms as you work and pray as you go.

All your efforts going to prepare yourself to be the best wife and, someday, mother that you can be. You think you've pleased your father in your efforts because he's arranged a marriage for you with one of the most righteous men in town. So, you feel blessed. . . things are going as planned.

Then one day, life comes tumbling in on you. An angel appears. Tells you you are going to have a baby. And not just any baby. The baby that so many women around the country have been feigning. You're going to give birth to the Messiah. The Messiah. The Savior of your people.

Who wouldn't want this? Even it means all your plans for the future have just been shot out the window? But who would believe a young girl from the backwaters part of the country would be chosen by God Most High for such a feat? And what will the others think? It doesn't say how long it took Mary to answer the angel, but she does the bravest thing of all. She accepts God's calling on her life.

Mary took the chance that God knew what he was doing. That he would provide for her even if it looked like her world could quickly fall down around her and everything she knew would be gone. She still said yes. That's brave.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

How Dead is Really Dead?

Among all the people Jesus raised from the dead whose would you say made the biggest comeback? There was a little girl, a little boy, a servant and then there was Lazarus. (Luke 7,8; Matthew 8; John 11) I learned something about these miracles while reading my study books this weekend. Well, actually, two somethings.

One is that Lazarus is the only one who lived close to Jerusalem.  All the others were in the Galilee region.  So, the Pharisees could easily ignore "such rumors" if they chose. I mean think about it, if there's a place you could care less about, would you care what happened within its borders? Point blank, the pharisees had no respect for Galileans. So, the Pharisees probably could care less that dead people were brought back to life in a part of the kingdom they cared nothing about. Only when the well-known and respected Lazarus, who lived just down the road, died did it get their full attention. Now the second thing I learned comes into play.

Back then the people felt that the spirit, well soul, of a person stayed with the body until the fourth day.  That's when the soul was said to leave the body. . . in other words, the body was really dead then. And, it's decay began. So, Jesus coming along on the fourth day meant both women thought their brother was beyond returning in this lifetime. They knew Jesus could have helped; could have brought their brother back if he had gotten there sooner.  Even still their faith in Jesus did not waiver, even in spite of their brother's death; believing all things were possible through Jesus. But, to raise a body that was considered without a soul was something no one had thought of.

When Lazarus returned to life it got everyone's attention and I mean everyone; there were people from all over the region there comforting Martha and Mary.  Some of the people reported to the pharisees all that had happened, which got their attention and definitely got the ball rolling toward the day that would be relived forever. But, others followed Jesus to hear what he had to say; for now they believed in him. They were looking for him, and Lazarus, as they arrived in Jerusalem for the ritual cleaning before the Passover. And adding even more fuel to the fire was Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem, on a donkey, with a large crowd of people waving palm branches in the air. Now that's a way to make a comeback.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Not a New Thing

Sometimes I have to wonder where my head is.  You would think that connecting point A and point B would be an easy process.  But it's not always easy or quick.  And I admit I often feel foolish for not seeing the connection right away. This week I learned two interesting facts that fit this scenario.

All these years I never connected that baptism was a form of washing. You might remember I previously mentioned the people washing before entering the temple. By the way it was demonstrated on an episode of Days of Discovery I should have seen the connection. (People walking through the pool water, immersing themselves and then walking out 'clean.' Duh, that's a form of baptism.)

And, for years I was under the misunderstanding that John introduced baptism, but he didn't; it was already a practice. And, it wasn't new to non-Jews either.  The Chronological Study Bible mentions that other religions had some form of baptism in their ritual practices. In all cases it symbolized a kind of cleansing, a step in a new direction, a purification of sorts. What was new was being baptized in a river, away from the Temple, for the purpose of getting right with God without a sacrifice attached to it. That would have gotten everybody's attention.

The other fact I learned was in regard to the statement Jesus made in Luke 4 about the physician healing himself. I never understood why he pointed out doctors to a group of villagers who weren't doctors. Well, according to CSB people use to gather in public areas and discuss what was ailing them. They'd compare treatments.  What was working. What wasn't working. So in a sense, the people were their own doctors. Now, I can see the connection. 

What's funny is that we still do this to some degree today, don't we? How many times have you seen or heard people discussing their ailments and treatments at church, or at work, or in the middle of the neighborhood street? I guess in many ways the proverb still holds true, and we are still physicians trying to heal ourselves.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

There's a Reason

When reading about the healing of ten lepers (Luke 17) I never gave much attention to the location.  I was thinking it was nice that Luke was kind enough to tell us where Jesus was for this particular miracle.  But I should know better; there's always a reason for specific details.  And, Luke mentioned their bearings for a reason. 

Turns out that the location is near the place where Naaman was told by Elisha what to do to also be healed of leprosy (2 Kings 5).  While Naaman was told to go wash up in the Jordan river seven times, the ten lepers were told to report to the priests.  (Just so you know, if they went all the way to Jerusalem for their healing there was a room, or chamber area, for lepers attached to the northwest corner of the court of women in the temple compound.)

Here's an interesting fact. Naaman was a foreigner (from a country that had recently attacked Israel) but God healed him through the prophet Elisha anyway. And among the ten leprous men who approached Jesus was a Samaritan, you know, the people most hated by a good number of  Hebrews.

Yet, he was the only one who returned to thank Jesus while praising God for the healing. Jesus noticed this. He received the man's offering of thanks and blessed him as well.  How sad that the other nine missed out on the blessing from Jesus.

Jesus has always provided healing for all people, no matter where they are from or what others think of them.  He's still for everyone.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


"Wash you hands before you eat!"  How many of us have been told this? Or said it to others?  In case you thought it was a modern concept, think again.

As you know the Pharisees were very legalistic and held many rituals (some times called 'the tradition of the elders').  One ritual was washing the hands in a particular way before they would eat.  Not to mention the washing of cups, pitchers, jugs, copper vessels, pans, sleeping mats and couches. (See Mark7)

I use to think this strange that the Pharisees would be so particular.  Modern man might even call this OCD . . . having to have things just so before proceeding. But I recently learned that the Pharisees weren't the only ones that were so ritualistic. In fact, according to the Chronological Study Bible, the Romans were just as bad about rituals, maybe more so. If they skipped a step in a ritual process, they stopped and started all over again until it was done properly and completely.  That could take a while.

And as far as washing up goes, we know the Hebrews used large water pots for cleansing (like the wedding in Cana).  But what about soap?  Have you ever wondered about soap?  Again according to the Chronological Study Bible soap wasn't really known in Judea.  So how did they wash up?  Well, for cleaning clothes apparently they used either a sodium carbonate-like substance or ashes or a superfine clay called fuller's earth. And then they would beat the clothes on rocks or stones.  With no soap for the hands and questionable substances for clothes it makes you wonder, just how clean did things really get?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Insult Beyond Insult

When I read about Jesus telling the Pharisees they were offspring of vipers, I didn't realize the full impact of his words.  (Matthew 12:34; 23:33-35) I mean who wants to be compared to a snake? Slithering quietly they curl up under rocks or in crevices or in trees until they're ready to strike their victims. Who may not even know what hit them.

But Jesus didn't just call the pharisees snakes. No, he called the men thought to be the most religious people around a group of vipers. Vipers? They're poisonous snakes that often hunt at night, striking their victim then following it until it dies. Can you say, cruel?
On the surface a comparison to vipers may seem bad enough. But according to the Chronological Bible there was a prevalent ancient belief that held vipers to be the worst among snakes because they were parent killers. It went something like this: the female ate the male following impregnation; then the babies killed the mother by eating their way through her as they made their way out. Though the people understood the babies to be avenging their father's death, this gave the viper a bad rap.

To dishonor a parent was bad enough to most people, but to the Hebrew killing a parent was the worst thing ever.  No other crime could surpass that.

So, Jesus wasn't just calling the pharisees sneaky and ready to stop the unsuspecting.  He was insinuating that they didn't even honor their own parents and were ready to do unspeakable evil. I'm sure for those hearing this comparison an even greater dislike for the pharisees developed and any respect they had for their teaching was diminished.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Not Just a Place But a Time

Back in May I wrote about Capernaum being a great place for Jesus to set up a base camp for his ministry to the Galilee area.  And, recently I realized it was also a perfect time for Jesus to come.

The country was under the control of the Roman military.  Roman guard stations were everywhere.  Even though the actual military headquarters location was Caesarea (not Philippi) the people didn't have to go far before running into some kind of roman military place.  This was because Israel was a border province which meant there was a greater concentration of military posts.

While the roman military is known for being cruel and demanding (taking land, food, etc to serve their own needs) there is an interesting policy of the government that I had never heard of before doing my research.  The administrators of the roman government allowed the local authorities of conquered territories a certain amount of independence in running their place.  It was the job of the military to ensure the peace of Rome, so when they deemed it necessary they would intervene.   Previously, all the other nations that had captured Jerusalem and Israel either scattered the people to the four winds, or took them back to their home country to try to brainwash them.

While many may see the roman occupation as a hindrance that Jesus had to work around, I see it as a tool to get the word out.  Let's look at the positive side of this time period.  Jesus and the rest of the Jews got to keep their religious practices, rules and regulations as they had for centuries.  Roman guards desiring to ensure peace might have stood nearby the large crowds that gathered to hear Jesus speak.  Luke 7 let's us know there were some roman guards who understood what Jesus was about and understood what he was saying.  They could easily have spread the word when they got home.  And who's to say, they might even have spread the word to the people of the next territory to which they were sent. 

There's more than one way to get the word out.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Where Did It Go?

Perhaps I just wasn't thinking clearly.  Or I didn't connect all the dots.  But I thought when the curtain tore in two pieces at the death of Jesus, the ark of the covenant was now available for all to see.

Of course I forgot to take into account that it was inside the Holy of Holies, behind the Holy place and enclosed by the walls of the courtyard.  It was silly of me to think that the priests would suddenly allow everyone to come see for themselves.

Knowing the Ark is no longer around, I just assumed it disappeared when the Romans destroyed the temple and city.  But, I was wrong.  It wasn't even around in the days of Jesus.

Back when the city was under attack by the Babylonians, it disappeared.  It was around 586 B.C. that loyal priests, and possibly a son of King Solomon, removed it from the city.  There's an underground tunnel leading out of the city that would have taken them to safety.  Some say the Ark went into Egypt, others say to Ethiopia, still others say deeper into Africa.  But, no one has found it to this day.

My vote is on the place in Ethiopia, a Jewish settlement that became Christianized around 4AD.  A small church made of stone and green tile with blue barred windows supposedly holds the ark.  As Christian believers the people of the area have given the honor and responsibility to one man at a time to watch over the church holding the Ark, protecting it and praying by its side, allowing no one entrance to the building.

Never-the-less we currently have no physical reminder of God's presence and power.  But, we do have faith.  That was the focus of Jesus . . . to have faith in him, to believe without seeing the proof.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Little 'Ol Me

You've heard of Caesarea Philippi, right?  It was beautifully located by Mt Hermon, the highest snow-capped mountain around.  Water running down from the mountain into a creek below along a gigantic cliff lent to the tranquility of the area.

But it was the cliff that held significance for the people of the region.  It was very long and hundreds of feet high.  It became their worship center and a place where Roman met Greek.  Temples and shrines were erected to worship multiple deities.  And in the middle of this cliff was a massive cave opening, which was said to be the gate to Hades.

Can you imagine Jesus and his small entourage walking by all this when he asks, "...who do you say I am?"  There they are with the only son of the one true God, standing near the supposed gate to Sheol.  When Peter gives the right answer he's rewarded with a prophetic word.

Think about it.  There he stands at the foot of this gigantic rock cliff and he's told that his going to be 'the rock' that Jesus will build his church on.  To be compared to that rock cliff must have been a bit overwhelming.  Then Jesus tells him the gates of Hades will not prevail against this church.  That massive cave opening would not stop the church that would rest on Peter's shoulders.

Can you not picture Peter looking back to the cave behind him after the blessing is spoken and taking in the enormousness of that thought.  And thinking, Me? Whoa!

That had to be one mind-boggling concept to swallow and accept.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What a Hiding Place!

Have you ever read Revelation 6 and wondered why in the world would any one in their right mind run underground in the midst of the world's worst earthquake?  I mean it's suppose to be a doozie of an earthquake with the moon and sun doing ecliptical things at the same time.  Men are suppose to want the caves and rocks to hide them from God and from the wrath of Jesus.

First of all, living in Texas I found this irrational.  In a land that, albeit slowly, continually shifts and cracks, who would want to run into a cave that might just collapse on you during a great earthquake?  Or, suddenly burst open from underneath and allow water from the aquifers below to fill the caverns? 

What I didn't know was that someone in Turkey or Ethiopia reading that same passage would have complete understanding.  Watching "Cities of the Underworld" my eyes were opened in a whole new way.  Now, I get it.

In the area known as Cappadocia there are hundreds of cities lying beneath the towns and cities that populate the country side.  What looks like caves lead and open up into vast rooms and tunnels leading to other rooms, even cathedrals.  The builders included ventilation systems, communication channels, food storage areas, water holding tanks, even burial rooms.

Initially, these cities were built for protection from attackers.  And, rather than creating strongholds above ground that would hold off the enemy the people dug down deep into the ground.  It's incredible how these places have survived the test of time, weather and earthquakes.

Throughout the centuries other peoples have utilized these tunnel systems.  And I imagine for those who know where the cities are at, when that great earthquake hits, that's where the people from all walks of life will run.

Now, Revelation 6 makes total sense.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tidbits of Info

The program "Day of Discovery" is a great resource of knowledge regarding Israel.  I have learned so much from watching their shows.  Thought you might enjoy some little tidbits of information I've gleaned from them.

Did you know the fault line running through the African Rift Valley continues up through the Jordan Valley?  It's interesting how different parts of the world can be connected.

Did you know that there are lava rocks on the hillsides of the Galilee?  This means there's a dormant volcano in the area.  I have to wonder how many times lava flowed from it, and just how did it shape the land of Israel we know today.

Did you know that the Sea of Galilee lies 640 feet below sea level?  It's the lowest fresh water lake in the world.

Did you know that the temple in Jerusalem was thought to be about 18 stories high?  That's a tall building.  And sitting on top of the highest hill in the area it's no wonder it could be seen from far away.

Sometimes it's the overlooked facts that can change how we look at an old object or subject.  Knowing these things has helped me see Israel in a different way.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Going There Again?

As you know I'm researching Biblical history, and discovering some little known facts.  In reading A Visual Guide to Bible Events my eyes were open, so to speak, to a connection I never saw before.

The first time Jesus takes the disciples to the Decapolis region a whole herd of pigs die, and they're asked to leave.  Thank you very much.  The second time was preceded by the disciples witnessing the healing of a Phoenician woman's daughter.  As if seeing that wasn't enough, he takes them back to the 'other side.'

According to Mark 7 they went by foot this time, not by boat like they did before.  I have to wonder if the disciples thought they'd be killed before they could high-tail-and-run.  Any fears the disciples had was pushed aside by the greeting they received.

Upon arriving to the Hippos area a deaf man is brought to them for healing.  (According to Matthew 15 the list of ailments is longer.)  The people are amazed this time.  Not only do they not ask him to leave, they don't leave him.  In fact, they stayed three days before Jesus tells his disciples to feed the four thousand people who are there.

What can be easily overlooked, well at least I overlooked it, is that these people were gentiles.  And just how did these people know to go to Jesus when he arrived to the Hippos area?

Well, remember the man whose freedom from demons killed that herd of pigs?  Remember Jesus told him to share what had happened to him with his family and his people?  Well, he did a good job.  Because the next time Jesus came their way the people were open to hear what he had to say and what he had to offer.

So in one trip away from the Galilee region, Jesus shows his disciples that he came for every one, even the ones Jews felt didn't deserve it. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

To Heal Or Not To Heal

Have you ever wondered why Jesus referred to the woman in Matthew 15 as a dog?  The gospels don't report him specifically calling any one else a dog.  Even the Romans who made requests didn't receive an insult like that.  So, what did she do to deserve such a comment?

The rest of the story lies in location, location, location.  She was from the area of Tyre and Sidon, along the coastline in the region known as Phoenicia.  So? You might think.

Well, the country of Phoenicia started out by helping Israel.  Over the years, Israel accepted the idolatry brought in by a Phoenician queen.  Then by the time Israel was invaded by the Babylonians, the Phoenicians turned their backs on them, celebrated their removal from the land, and sold those who escaped captivity as slaves.  It was so bad that God himself spoke against them through his prophets Amos, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah.  (A Visual Guide To Bible Events)  So, of course the people of Judea and Galilee had very little respect or compassion for anyone in this area.

It's no wonder the disciples were begging Jesus to send the woman away in verse 23.  They didn't want to give anything to those who had treated their ancestors so poorly.  (I'm sure they had already attempted to keep her away from their leader, but she wouldn't go.)

Here's an aside thought.  They were 60-90 miles away from where Jesus was doing his teaching and, yet, she already knew about him and his work.  Oh, how news travels.  Seeing a large group of strangers coming into town, wearing clothing from the Galilee area got her attention.  Finding him at the center of the group, she kept calling out to him by a proper description too . . . Son of David.  She knew, he had the solution to her daughter's problems.

And, what does Jesus do?  After a faith-filled answer he gives her want she desires.  Can you say forgiveness?

So, I see two things here.  Jesus' move to Capernaum was working and the word was getting out. And, he allowed healing to any one whose faith caused them to call out to him.  He still does.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


Have you heard the song "Days of Elijah" which talks about the year of jubilee?  I love that song.  By definition jubilee means a celebration of certain anniversaries, like a twenty-fifth anniversary.  Did you know that it all started in the Bible?

In Leviticus 25 God introduces the concept of a year of jubilee which was to take place every fifty years. In that year of jubilee all debt could be cancelled and land that was once sold could be returned back to the original owner.  Since the tribes have been divided they have not celebrated this.

When Jesus read from the scriptures in Nazareth (Luke 4) he read from Isaiah 61.  Interestingly enough, in this reading he not only claimed to be the Messiah but he also proclaimed himself as bringing the jubilee. This was something the people anticipated the messiah doing.  They just didn't like Jesus making that announcement.

Lois Tverberg points out in  Listening to the Language of the Bible that Jesus spoke many times of this jubilee freedom from debt, from sin.  It was a big part of his teaching to the people who listened. 

He did bring a freedom from the debt of sin.  And it doesn't happen once every fifty years.  It happens once when we bring him into our life.  And, it's renewed each time we confess our failures and shortcomings.  How cool is that?  To have that feeling of jubilee each and every morning.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Have you ever noticed the tassels hanging from the prayer shawls being worn by visitors to the western wall in Jerusalem?  Ever wonder why they wear them?

Well, in Numbers 15 God instructs them to wear the tassels.  He tells them it's a reminder of how He has commanded them, of how they are to obey, and how they are to seek to be holy to Him. That's a cool way to have something always before you as a reminder.

Did you read that the tassels were tied with a blue cord or had a blue cord running through them?  According to Listening to the Language of the Bible  not only were tassels a sign of royalty but the high priest had blue threading in his robes.  So in essence, when wearing the blue threaded tassels on the outer garment the statement being made was 'I am a child of the Holy King, chosen to serve God in heaven.'  And while this was intended to give the people reminders it did get the attention of the nations around them.  Who, in turn, watched the Hebrews to learn about their God.

As I read Listening to the Language of the Bible I learned another interesting detail.  When the bleeding woman of Luke 8:44 touched Jesus she was actually touching the tassels of his clothing.  The Greek word used in Luke 8 (kras'-pe-don) and the Hebrew word in Numbers 15 (tzitzit) both can mean 'tassels'.

I had never thought about Jesus wearing tassels, but he did.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

So You Want Some Bread?

If you suddenly realize you forgot to get a loaf of bread, what is the first thing you think of?  Getting back in the car and running to the store again, right?  Ugh, sometimes that seems like such a bother.

But, when I compare this with what a woman had to do to make bread for dinner say two thousand years ago I realize how easy I have it made.

After rising early enough to get started.  Turning the millstone to get the grain needed.  Then continuing to grind the grain until small enough pieces fall onto an animal skin placed under the millstone.  Mixing it with water and maybe adding a lump from the day before for flavor.  Then it was time to heat the ovens to bake the bread.

There were two types of ovens that were used.

One was a hole in the sand that was lined with stones.  The fire to heat this oven was built at the bottom of the hole.  When the stones were hot the bread pieces were laid on top of them.  Since the bread was more a flat variety it cooked quickly on the stones.  (No multitasking here.)

The other type of oven was an earthen jar that stood about three feet high.  It had an opening at the top and was wider at the bottom where there was a hole through which the fire was built.  When the jar reached the right temperature the thin bread was placed on the outside portion of the jar.  But, it could also be placed on the inside of the jar.  The bread cooked quickly in this method as well.  (Again, no multitasking for those cooks.)

I'm exhausted just thinking about the energy needed to do what women had to do everyday, with the exception of the Sabbath.  Whew.  Like I said . . . I'm spoiled.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

What's Community?

Ever wonder what people did before TV and radio, or even the internet?  What was their form of entertainment in the evenings?  How did they get any news? Well, in my grandmother's day they would sit out on the front porch and talk with anyone walking by.

According to the book Bible Almanac, in biblical days there was a routine.  After dinner the men of the town would gather together in a large circle in an outdoor meeting area, possibly with a fire going to light up the place when the sun set.  The older and more respected men would be at the center, with the younger boys to the outer edge.

They would begin by sharing all the day's occurrences.  You know, like the birth of a baby, or someone being sick, or a lion coming near the town, or things heard to be going on elsewhere; the list goes on.  Then there would be a time of silence, which would be brought to a close by one of the older men reciting a poem of heroic deeds, say something about  King David or Moses. Then a song would be sung.

To finish the night out on a happy note someone would quote one portion of a proverb.  Others chiming in with witty examples of that statement would bring laughter to all who were gathered.

What a way to know each other. What a way to support one another through the tough times.  What a way to get the word out.  Now that was community.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wash up First

"Wash your hands before you eat that."  How many times have you heard, or said those very words?  Not pouring water over cupped hands before eating was one of the things that made the Pharisees angry with Jesus and his disciples.  Mark 7 mentions that there were all kinds of 'washing-up' rules that the Pharisees clung to. There was one practice that was not mentioned in the gospels, however.

The Hebrews would wash-up before going to the temple.

I learned this while watching "The Temple Controversy" episode on the series Day of Discovery.  There were, in fact, pools along the southern entrance of the temple area that were for that very purpose.  The walls being plastered in such a way kept the water flowing in and out of the pool.  The people would enter from one end (considering themselves unclean), immerse themselves at the deeper end (which was only waist deep), and then walk out the other side (considering themselves clean).

This was new to me.

What an awesome concept though.  Whether going to temple to offer sacrifices that confessed their sins, or to bring an offering, or just to worship, the people made the effort to clean the dirt off that had accumulated from the road and others.  It's a superficial cleaning, but one performed to make themselves presentable before God in his house. Once clean offerings could be presented, they could be free to go about the temple, worshiping with the singers, listening to the teachings of the scribes, learning more about their wonderful God.

Albeit we don't have to offer blood sacrifices anymore because Jesus did that for us on the cross.  But, do we make the effort to clean up? Putting aside things that might make the outer man appear dirty compared to our clean God?  Confessing our missteps before we sit down to read or study the Bible?  Do we do our part to come clean first so we can better worship and learn about our God?

When I remember to confess sins and shortcomings beforehand, I feel as though I have a clean slate.  It sure does make my worship time sweeter.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Strategic Placement

In an earlier posting, May 30th, I mentioned the Evangelical Triangle. I learned of this in the book A Visual Guide to Bible Events. The three cities mentioned in Matthew 11 form a triangle when lines are drawn near them. Interesting.

The book points out that if we just read the gospels at face value we don't see the set-up.  Jesus performed miracles near the international highway and in places that visitors from all over the world would be traveling.

Now that's the way to get the word out.  No wonder the people of the cities Bethsaida, Capernaum, and Korazin saw so many miraculous activities.  How unfortunate for them that they became so accustomed to seeing miracles happen that they forgot why Jesus was doing them.  Taking the healing at face value they forgot to turn their hearts to God.  To make changes.  To get their lives back on the right path with God.

Can you imagine being compared to the sin-filled cities of Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom? 

So I have to wonder as I sit in the middle of the modern–day evangelical circle, how would the overall church of today fare in comparisons? Each country that made significant steps for the christian faith in the past have slipped away from their strong faith.

Have we forgotten the privilege we have to call on Jesus anywhere we are?  Or are we complacent because we can meet together anywhere to worship and learn about God?  Where does Jesus fit in our activities? Is he right there with us or in the truck bed?

My hope is that as others look at me and my walk they can say Jesus is along side me walking every step of the way.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

What's the Big Deal?

 Do you know why the chief priests went wild when the Roman guards posted the notice "Jesus the Nazarene, the king of the Jews?" (John 19)  I was once told in a sermon that when all the first letters were placed together it spelled the name of God.  A name the Hebrews were not allowed to speak.

 Have you ever wondered why they weren't allowed to speak it?

 Well, according to The New Testament Environment, speaking the proper name of God risked taking on the responsibility of guilt for misusing his name, or worse degrading his name from its holy status to a level of profanity.  When they spoke of the holiness of God it was with a great amount of deep respect, awe, and admiration.

 In order to acknowledge him many other names are used: the Lord, the Most High, the Word, the Almighty, the list goes on.  Often one of his attributes or the word heaven has been used instead of his name, or when referring to him.

 I find this intriguing.  How wonderful that we can approach Jesus, the Son of God, as a friend.  But, his Heavenly Father (and ours) is still the Almighty whose name is holy.  We still need to treat him with the same awe and respect and admiration that was given to him by the ancient Hebrews.  This we must remember.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

What Don't You Get?

Have you ever wondered what it was that the Pharisees didn't get about Jesus?

I mean so many people could tell he knew what he was talking about.  How many times did some one comment in the scriptures that he spoke with authority?  Yes, people followed him just so they could see the miracles performed in front of their eyes.

Of course, he made the Pharisees mad when he went to parties given by sinners and had a good time.  (It would've been different if he went out of obligation and abhorred each moment while eating the food.)  But, apparently the people at the parties enjoyed his presence as well . . . there is no mention of him being kicked out of a party because of what he said.

Don't forget, when the Pharisees asked Jesus about a difficult subject he either threw it back at them with another question or answered in a riddle of a story.  Of course, the answers to the questions were at times more frustrating than anything else.  And when they did get it, they wanted him out of the picture. 

What I didn't realize about the difficult questions the Pharisees were asking was that they were actually looking for a messiah that could give critical explanations of scripture. (They didn't see the fulfilling of scripture happening in front of their eyes.)

According to The New Testament Environment, originally written by Eduard Lohse, people knew there would be miracles occurring during the time of the Messiah's coming.  They just didn't expect the miracles to come from the Messiah.  They thought, or rather expected, the Messiah to give demonstration of being the Messiah by fulfilling scripture and thereby explaining critical points.

I always felt that references back to the prophecies about Jesus was just a nice thing the New Testament writers did for us.  But there again, there was a reason and a purpose.  The thought of the day would have been . . . Jesus performing miracles and being the Messiah, how is this possible?  So, they needed to show all readers of their books and letters that Jesus spoke in certain ways, did certain actions and found himself in certain places so that all prophecies could be fulfilled.

Even today, sometimes things happen in ways so different from what we expect that we can't see that God is working and how he's working until we've walked through it.  Jesus came and is still alive.  He just came in a different package than the people, including the Pharisees, were expecting.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Take It to The Roof

Most homes in most places have lost the benefit of a good old fashioned, and I mean Biblically-old-fashioned roof top.  They were flat, covered in clay, and if there was a crack somewhere then grass was thrown on it to keep the rain out. (A History of Hebrew CivilizationThe Bible Almanac)

I know, that doesn't really sound too appealing.  But there were some features that made the roof tops back then unique:
-If you wanted to build an altar so that it was close to heaven, it was built on the roof.  In fact, that's where you could meditate on God's word, or spend time in prayer and private worship.

-If you wanted to make an announcement so that everyone could hear, it was done from the roof.  But, it was also the place for private conversation and reflection.

-If you wanted a better view of what was happening in the streets then going to the roof gave you that vantage point.  You could even access it from outside the house.  That's how the men in Mark 2 carried the paralytic man on a stretcher to the roof.

-Upper rooms were built on the roof.  All kinds of things were dried up on the roof (flax, fruit, linen, corn).  And, in some places, your neighbors' roofs were connected to yours, with a small raised wall to separate the homes.

I have to wonder if we've lost some of the pleasures a roof can offer.  Where a fenced-in backyard might come close to the same features, there's something to be said for the ability to be up and away from the activities of the house.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Biblical Bread Making

Did you ever wonder how the people of Biblical days leavened their bread?

Recently, I learned they would moisten flour then allow it to get sour and develop bubbles over the course of a couple of days by letting it sit out. To achieve the same flavor faster they would take a lump from the day before and add it to the fresh bread to bake.

So, essentially, they took 'bad stuff,' added it to flour, and made bread.  Thus, giving it a sour flavor.  Ah, sour dough bread.  Without this 'bad stuff' the bread was a sweet tasting bread.

Lois Tverberg points out in the book, Listening to the Language of the Bible, that Paul and other believers of the day understood how this leavening process worked.  That's why Paul used it as an example of how sin changes us. (1 Corinthians 5)

Anyway, when Jesus held up the bread and said 'this is my body,' it was Passover.  The Jews only eat unleavened bread at Passover.  The sweet tasting stuff.  The bread without the fermenting, sour-tasting lump added in.

In other words, he held up the clean bread that didn't have a representation of sin in it.  When he spoke, he was saying not only is he the clean, flawless lamb but also the sweet-tasting, leaven-free grain.   Which by the way fit in to the requirement for sacrifices and offerings . . . no leaven was allowed in grain offerings made at the temple.

The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross covered our sins.  But it can also be seen as an offering . . . a gift to our Heavenly Father. (Leviticus 2)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

You Want To Be Like Who?

Have you ever had someone pressure you into doing something you didn't want to do?  And the next thing you know, an old friend or relative is trying to be just like that person?

In my studying of the day and times of Jesus, I found several sources stating that Galileans wanted to speak Greek and be like the Greeks, albeit they were not very good at it.  The Judeans resented this.

I had not fully grasped the why of it all until I was reading A Visual Guide To Bible Events.

Did you know that the whole region was part of the Greek empire captured by Alexander the Great?  I did.

But did you know that after Alexander's death Ptolemy (Ptolemies) and Seleucus (Seleucids) fought to gain control over each other?  They battled for 75 years, in Israel.  The Seleucids winning that war, at the same time, ended up losing the rest of their kingdom to Rome.   Of course, the treaty required paying a hefty sum.

Their leader, Antiochus IV, on top of increasing taxes planned to make everyone in Judea and Jerusalem Greek, in other words Hellenizing them.  This took years.  Eventually, it resulted in his changing the Levitical leadership to those embracing his efforts and willing to charge more at the temple.

He didn't stop there.  Later, he entered the temple, robbed the treasury, sacrificed a pig in the sanctuary area (the holy place), and renamed the temple after Zeus.  Ouch. 

Still, that was not enough.  He burned some of the Torah scrolls, outlawed the Sabbath and the Jewish strict diet, and executed anyone caught circumcising their sons.  These things were not easily forgotten.

A century and a half later, the Judeans still harbored ill feelings toward those who tried to speak Greek...who tried to embrace some form of Greek in their daily life.  Can you see why Galileans were looked at as not loving the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

I'm not sure where I would fall if I lived back then...with the forgiving Galileans or the non-forgiving Judeans.  But, this has given me a better understanding toward those who thought so little of Nazareth and the Galilee.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

When Water Isn't Just Water

Have you ever wondered why Jesus referred to himself as having living water? (John 4)  And the Samaritan woman seemed to understand his meaning?

I admit, I didn't understand it.  Each time I read the passage I wondered what in the world that water.  Did it mean some kind of super mineral water?  Or, water that was crystal clear?  Or, water that wasn't really water?

Sadly, even with all my curiosities I never researched it.  I put it on the back burner and forgot that there had to be more to the story.  While reading the book, Listening to the Language of the Bible by Lois Tverberg, I was finally given the answer.

Lois referred back to Ezekiel 47.  The wonderful passage describes water flowing from the sanctuary and bringing life back to all the areas of land that it touched.  This refreshing, renewing, re-birthing water was anticipated by all in that part of the world.

No wonder the Samaritan woman didn't balk at his reference to giving her living water.  Like most of us, it took further divulging about her past to make her realize who the giver of this living water was.

Note: the living water in Ezekiel starts out as a small trickle and builds on itself.  Expanding and expanding until it finally transforms the Dead Sea which did not have anything living in it into a place brimming with life.

What a concept.  One taste of the living water Jesus gave brought healing to the Samaritan woman. Freeing her from all the sins in her past.  Starting all over again, fresh, as if nothing before had happened.  Now I get it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Feed How Many People?

Can you imagine standing on the field at a packed high school football stadium and being told to feed the spectators?  And all you have is a lunch box of food. Yep, that's what Jesus asked of his followers.

Even though each gospel mentions this happening, they each brought their own perspective to the story. So, all together this is what we know:
    It was along the Sea of Galilee at a place known to be without people.
    People from nearby towns followed his boat and met him when he landed.
    There was a hill where Jesus sat while teaching and healing the people.
    It was a large area that could hold five thousand men...
       plus the women, children and slaves that came along...
       and they were able to sit in groups of fifty and a hundred.

Only John points out that it was near the passover.  You may be thinking, 'so?'

Turns out there is a I never saw or was taught.  Once again the writers of A Visual Guide to Bible Events show Jesus choose this time to re-enact a significant action done in Jewish history.

What a perfect time to bring to life part of what they were going to be celebrating...God's provision in the middle of a place known to be without people.  Jesus provided food where there was no abundance of food...just as the Lord did through Moses.

Something the people could relate to...No wonder the people so quickly embraced the concept of Jesus as the Prophet.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Triangle?

Imagine this.  You settle in a city.  And, after speaking up in church the people let you speak often, even following you home to hear what more you have to say.  Watching you.  Asking miracles of you.  Begging you to help them get better.  But, do they change their ways, see the light, pronounce a change in lifestyle so that they can become more like you?

Not for Jesus...not in Capernaum.

It's easy to forget that Capernaum accepted Jesus and his teachings, yet it didn't see him as the Messiah.  Matthew 11 shares how Jesus spoke a 'woe' on three cities.  And, Capernaum was one of them.

Here's an curious fact, if you look at those cities they create a triangle.  The book, A Visual Guide To Bible Events, draws the triangle to include Gennesaret, and calls it "the evangelical triangle."

Interesting.  I have never heard this term before. 

This triangle was, after all, the countryside around Capernaum.  Matthew 11 tells us enough miracles were done in those towns that they should have had a change of heart toward God.

It's tough when the folks you pour your efforts into just don't get it.

But, the story doesn't end there.  People from different places got the word...check out Matthew chapter four.  How did they get the word?

Well, the "triangle" laid alongside the international highway, where visitors from all over the world heard and saw those same miracles and teachings...they got it...they spread the word...they sought out change.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

You Want to go Where?

Have you ever wondered what the big deal was in referring to the opposite side of the Sea of Galilee as 'the other side?' I have actually given it very little thought until now.

Well, 'the other side' is like saying the dark side...or the wrong side of the tracks...maybe, even the slums. You see, they raised pigs. Large herds of them. Plus, the people were thought to have connections to demons and such.

And, sadly, this treasured piece of real estate fought for by the Jewish nation and inherited by part of the Manasseh tribe over time became a place that fully embraced Greek and Roman culture, religion and architecture. As far as places to avoid go, this ranked up there with Samaria.

But none-the-less, that's where Jesus wanted to go.

So they all got into one of the fishing boats and head out. The disciples probably figured after Jesus took them slowly through Samaria and spoke to a woman, how bad could it be? Who knew a storm would blow in? Hello, storm on the water, can you say "what are we doing?" "Let's get out of here."

They were definitely following God's leading, going where he wanted them to would think it would be smooth sailing to get there...but,not so in this case.

In the book, A Visual Guide to Bible Events, the writers point out that the storm, or sharkia, that rose up was an attempt to drive Jesus and his men from the 'dark side.' By calming the storm Jesus not only amazed his followers but, also let Satan and his minions know that the Kingdom of God would not be stopped. The light had come.

Here's another interesting tidbit. Have you ever wondered why demons would want to go inside pigs? What purpose did that serve? Well, according to the writers there were two reasons and both were another attempt to undermine any work Jesus did on the dark side of the sea.

By drowning two thousand pigs who are usually bouyant and good swimmers it cut into the economy of the people. Of course, the people are going to ask Jesus to leave. Who wants to lose income?

And, it attacked the Roman legion who controlled that area...they had a running boar on their coins. It made it look like Jesus was making a statement against the Romans.

I never knew these things. I just thought it was a herd of dirty, noisy pigs that no one probably cared about. But, no, like everything Jesus did, it had a purpose. Jesus and his disciples did not stay long that visit, but while there, he healed a man who ended up getting the word out to the rest of the people in that territory. When Jesus made a return visit he was met by a large crowd anticipating his return. Ah, his purpose.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

All of ME?

Do you know the song "Love the Lord" sung by Lincoln Brewster?  It's one of my favorites. And, it's based on a scripture Jesus quoted in Luke 10.

It talks about what to love the Lord with: your heart; your soul; your mind; your strength.  I have often wondered if there were any more parts of me for this love to encompass.

But, according to Listening to the Language of the Bible by Lois Tverberg, the Jewish interpretation isn't focused on the many parts of me but on the essence of my life.  Every movement, moment and thought should be on loving God.

Lois even mentioned that traditionally a further interpretation of "soul" is to even die for God.  I have been taught that only a few have the courage and strength to be martyrs.  But really, that should be a goal of our love for him...that we would sacrifice our lives for him.

The next time I sing that song the words will definitely have a different emphasis for me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

You Moved?

Capernaum?  Why Capernaum?  Have you ever wondered what prompted Jesus to move to Capernaum...other than fulfilling what the Hebrews knew to be a prophecy about him? (see Isaiah 9)

Isaiah writes about the states, and the New Testament mentions only the cities.  But if we put the two together it would read Nazareth, Zebulun and Capernaum, Naphatli.  The whole area around them was the Galilee...the Galilee of the Gentiles.

So, in a sense, growing up and living in Nazareth fulfilled part of that prophecy.  But Jesus is about fulfilling all of a prophecy, so his first step was to move to Capernaum.

So what's the deal about Capernaum?

An interesting thing about the Isaiah prophecy (mentioned in Matthew 4) is the phrase 'by the way of the sea.'  There is a major crossroad in ancient roadway called The Way of The Sea, or Via Maris, although some books refer to it as the International Highway.

I'm thinking the folks in Capernaum were probably looking for the Messiah as a result of Isaiah.  So, it makes total sense why his arrival was so welcomed. Why his ministry went beyond the synagogue to Peter's house. And why crowds followed him.  During his three-year ministry, this was his headquarters as he finished out the prophecy of shining light throughout the Galilee.

A Visual Guide To Bible Events likens this change in address to Jesus moving "from the shadows into the spotlight." (p.167) You see, while he was in Nazareth for years, his light did not shine much beyond the town's synagogue.  He moves to the bigger city, with international connections going through it all the time and his words and actions are received, taken, and spread to others throughout the known world, not just the Galilee.

So Capernaum turned out to be the best place to get the word out that the Messiah was here, and had something to say.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

You Put The Wine Where?

So you're at a wedding in Cana and the host has the appropriate jars for the ritual cleansing that's done before and after the meals. Six large jars, in fact.  Until now, I've never given much thought to these jars.  While many teachers focus on the place and the reason for the miracle I am fascinated by what I've discovered about the jars.

These jars were huge.  Each one was 2-3 metretes (that's Greek, and each metrete would be 9 gallons, or 40 liters) which means we are talking about 18-27 gallons, or 80 to 120 liters, in each jar. Can you say heavy?

You either had to be one big dude to lift those, or take several fellow servants along to get the job done.  Think about it, those servants had to carry all the jars down to the well then lug them back up to the house where the party was happening.

Now you're probably thinking, "sooo?"

Well, what's interesting about those water pots is the water that initially went into them.  It was used for ceremonial cleansing, covered until it was needed in order to keep it pure, and accessed several times during the whole celebration process.  According to A Visual Guide To Bible Events this water was strictly for the cleansing process. It was not for taking a bath and definitely not for drinking.

Can you picture the expressions on the servants' faces when they saw which pots Jesus asked them to fill?  With well water...possibly impure well water...not clean ceremonial water?  Never the less, they were servants, so they obeyed.

Then, can you imagine what thoughts flitted about when, what they knew to be water was served up as wine?

According to The Bible Knowledge Commentary since the man running the celebration didn't know where the wine came from, the jars had to be positioned away from him.  More than likely they were outside the house. Otherwise, he would not have drunk the wine.  And, that's why in chapter 2, John pointed out that the man was not acting in a sacrilegious way.

Jesus took jars saved for cleansing and purification, filled them with unclean water, and made wine.   Great wine.  How awesome is that?  How unexpected?  He still takes the 'set-apart,' puts them in unusual situations, and comes out with the extraordinaire.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wisdom Bible-Style

Wisdom? The use of knowledge that can only come from experience.  Or, a heavenly gift to see beyond what's obvious and come up with a perfect solution to any problem. Right? Well, the Old Testament uses a word that reaches far beyond that. Lois Tverberg wrote a book with Bruce Okkema entitled Listening To The Language of the Bible, which holds eye-opening lessons.

The word used in the Old Testament is chakam.  The Hebrew definition is 'wise' which includes intelligent, skillful, artful, experienced, clever, cunning, prudent, wise-hearted man in it's application. A further look into the lexical definitions in the back of my bible shows it can refer to the skillfulness of artisans or diplomats or shrewd men. (Exodus 35:10; 1 Kings 5:7; 2 Samuel 14:2)

Lois Tverberg wrote that this word for wisdom works two ways. It applies to those who choose the right way to approach situations, and also to the ability to do a job well. Wisdom is practical not just something we get from heaven. Hmmm.

Listen to this from Lois Tverberg's book:
"As Westerners, we tend to believe that God is only involved in our 'spiritual' activities, such as Bible study or prayer. We imagine that the rest of our tasks are 'secular' and not God's concern. But here we learn that biblically it is considered 'wisdom' to do our jobs well, no matter what they are: using a photocopier, programming a computer, running a lawn mower, or even doing custodial work."
Lois also wrote,
"God is practical and down-to-earth. He cares about out credit card debt, about whether our house is a chronic mess, or about how much we watch television. His desire is that we have wisdom in all things in order to live the life he gave us to the very best."
Now I see why it's so important to God when I follow his directions to return to the path I just crossed and pick up a piece of trash on the ground. It's showing wisdom in the care of his planet.

God cares what I do and how I do it...this I've always matter what it is. I just never realized that it involved wisdom in it's practical, skillful, wise-hearted sense.  I can show wisdom in my actions, not just in answers to heavy questions posed to me.  And, not just in choosing the better path in life.

In many ways this is freeing.Yet, in other ways this puts more pressure on me to honor Jesus in all things, not just in my Bible reading or church attendance or prayer time. But then, I think, that's what being a christian is all about, isn't it?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Making Room For Mom

In the process of making room for mom I am having to - get this - throw things away. Things I don't need anymore. I mean I haven't set eyes on some items in 10 years. So, I find no matter how it hurts I have to pitch it.

Some of these things have meaning behind them...they were important at the time. How and when did they lose meaning? It hurt, somehow, to toss them.

There was one treasure I came upon that will not be thrown dad's poetry.

How strange things work out. The first poem in the bundle hit home and here it is:

Among My Treasures

As I sit here among my treasures
Sports trophies, photo albums, certificates,
I realize ... nobody cares but me

My house with all its memories,
Tragedies, joys, and pleasures,
Nobody cares but me

Someday, someone will sit and look
At each precious treasure in turn,
Giving it a second, or maybe two,
Then consign it to a cardboard box
My life to be carried away ...
Nobody cares but me, but me,
Nobody cares but me

We all have our days of depression,
I think I've just had one too
As I sit here among my treasures,
I realize ... they are for me, not for you
Each brings a special memory
A sign of accomplishment, success, and joy,
Proof that God has blessed my life
So, go gather treasures of your own.

Ed Cloyd, 5 Sept 1996

So as we settle mom in, I will follow Dad's advice and continue to gather treasures that come my way. Things that will remind me that Jesus cares enough to bring rays of sunshine and blessings to my life, even if it's only for a short period of time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? Peter? (part 2)

Have you ever felt led by God to walk away from something you knew and felt secure with? To walk toward the slightly familiar, slightly unknown? Peter did this.

Though Peter is described as a plain man in Acts, by Luke the physician, he actually came from a family whose fishing business was successful enough they hired workers and were partnered with James and John. When he walked away from the fishing business he walked away from security, but he walked toward the work Jesus asked him to do. (John 21)

In fact, the often quoted verse, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13 NKJV) reminds me of Peter.

Before the Spirit of God got a hold of him I notice his attitude takes on an "if he can do it then so can I" bent. Jesus walked on water, he wanted to do it also. (Matthew 14) Jesus said he was going to suffer, Peter offered to suffer until death with him.(Matthew 26) Of course, things being what they were Peter was shown he wasn't Jesus. He couldn't do the things only Jesus could successfully do.

Even still he was looked at as the leader. He is always mentioned first in the list of apostles. Was the one who inquired what kind of reward the apostles would receive. (Matthew 19) Asked for clarification of the parable in Matthew 15. Gave the confession of faith for the group in John 6 and Matthew 16.

And, have you noticed how often he shows a spastic energy causing him to speak and act before thinking: he was going to build tents on top of a mountain with no tools around (Matthew 17); he jumped off a boat twice, once to walk on the water, and once to reach Jesus before the others (never mind they were still a distance away from the shoreline so he had to swim the whole way) (Matthew 14, John 21); he wanted Jesus to wash his whole body not just his feet (John 13); he drew a sword and cut off a servant's ear as his form of attack on those arresting Jesus (John 18).

However, once the Spirit of God got a hold of him, he became the invincible man we know him to be. He spoke to a large multi-nation crowd right after the tongues of fire settled on him.(Acts 2) He was arrested for teaching and healing people.(Acts 4,5,12) He exposed the unrighteous pretending to be righteous.(Acts 5) He was thought of as a pillar of the church.(Galatians 2:9) He wrote two books to encourage and instruct believers. (1,2 Peter)

And, in the end, he stood strong when he was brought before the council in the sight of everyone. Not only did he admit he knew Jesus, he told the council he would not stop talking about him.

What a change! He did do all things through Christ. This makes me realize that if he can do it then so can we.

There are so many verses that talk about Peter. He is mentioned throughout the gospels, Acts, 1 Corinthians, 1 and 2 Peter.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? Peter?

It's hard to believe but we are on our last apostle. Where has the time gone?

Peter is such a colorful fellow. He wasn't thundering-explosive like James and John but he holds a picture all his own.

This week I thought we could review what most of us know about Peter. He made a huge mistake...a great blunder...showed his weakness to all mankind. You can't miss it because it's in all the gospels.

What is it? What's he remembered for? His denial of knowing Jesus.

I suppose most people read the verses and think there's no way they would ever do that. But, unfortunate as it was, this has made Peter more real to me. I can relate to this weakness far more than I care to admit.

Perhaps you can relate to it this way. Have you ever changed your wording of an event or revelation based on who is standing in the room? Have you ever kept your mouth closed because everyone else in the room holds a strong opinion that stands against your beliefs? And, you felt you couldn't defend your beliefs? Have you ever failed to correct someone who's standing right in front of you, who curses using the name of God? The list could go on, but you get the picture. I think it's easy to drop the ball, just like Peter.

Just when he thought he had the guts to face all opposition he hit a wall in the self-confidence realm. Backing down and sniffling away. Regretting his failure.

Oh there were things that set him up for the failure, such as announcing he would 'never' abandon Jesus. Hello, can you say 'bring it on?' That opened him him up for an attack for sure.

Then he allowed the 'high' from the early passover meal to cloud his judgement and not recognize the seriousness on the face of his teacher; the indication that the huge change Jesus had warned them about was close to its realization.

And worst of all, he stopped in the courtyard, right in the middle of the people angry at Jesus. Of course, he was going to face opposition. Why didn't he follow John all the way in, to where he was standing? You know, to be by a fellow believer.

It is so much easier to stand strong if you have the support of another believer in the room, or if you realize something is about to happen so your brain is on alert, or if you think before speaking any definitive on yourself.

In the end, on the beach, walking with Jesus by his side, Peter discovered Jesus did forgive him. With each confession of his love for Jesus, Jesus asked more from Peter, giving him more responsibility in the care of the flock. (John 21)

Good to know: this same forgiveness is there for all of us, just like Peter.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? John? (part 2)

We are back to John, the younger brother of James. The two shared many experiences and lessons along the way, so that reading about James is like reading about John. They had a strong family bond.

But, there are significant differences. As you know, John lived a long life of speaking and teaching and writing the saints, even from his prison on the island of Patmos. And, he was the only apostle to die of natural causes.

Another thing that catches my eye is how John stands out when he intentionally follows the angry mob that arrests Jesus. He had guts, man.

Think about it, if a group of military police accompanied by angry men waving their arms in the air come to the park where you're resting, and take the guy who's been teaching your Bible study group, would you follow them? Would you enter the building they take him to for questioning? Would you use your security pass to get close to the action? Would you then turn around, make your way back through the angry crowd, retrieve a fellow member of the group and bring him through the door into the midst of the crowd?

John did. Like I said, guts.

And, even though he knew how this ruling group of the church felt about Jesus he still made the decision to stay near Jesus, to stand with his mother at the cross while they watched him die, to leave the protection of the upper room to see if Jesus was gone from the tomb. Guts.

Also, he was astute. Notice, who's the first one to recognize Jesus when another miraculous catch is made? (John 21) John, that's who. I can just see him lighting up when he realizes who's back to see them.

It must have spark a new eagerness in him. You know, like the eagerness you had when you first became a believer? To learn everything you could about Jesus and all the teachings about him?

After that catch we can see this. John was intent to hear everything Jesus had to say, even to the point of following him and Peter during a private conversation. Perhaps it may have been rude, but John seems eager to take in every word.

Then he accompanied Peter when their time of ministry first began. They taught together, and were arrested together. He even went along to Samaria with Peter. John learned what Peter understood and what Peter did to reach out to the new believers. He didn't stop learning the day Jesus returned to heaven.

And, even in his old age when he had so much experience, and respect from the believers, he maintained a humbleness. You can see this when he is given all the information to write for the book of Revelations (chapter 22).

Through his writings we see gone were the days of fiery attitudes and thunderous outbursts. He became the man from whom the love of God flowed.

What a goal to try to achieve. I so hope when my time comes that people will be able to see a difference in me between the start and the finish of my life.

You can read about him in the following passages: Matthew 4,10,17,20; Mark 1,3,5,9, 10,14; John 13,18,19,20,21; Luke 5,6,8,9,22,24; Acts 1,3,4,8; Revelations 1,10,22.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? John?

We're almost finished with our group of apostles. Only two left. And, yet, there is so much to say about these next two apostles I plan to break each one up into two smaller posts.

Have you ever wondered what the perfect age is to do something big? John is the younger brother of the apostle James. Yet, the five books he wrote weren't written until late in his life. Just goes to show it's never too late to accomplish something that can affect many lives.

Have you ever tried to take on another person's battle and had it come back to bite you? One thing I missed last week was that both John and James quickly asked to destroy a town simply because it wouldn't let Jesus and his group stay the night. No matter how they disliked this rejection, they were rebuked for this. (Luke 9:51-56)

Have you ever been part of a church or Bible study that felt only they had the right answers and were on the right track; everyone else was in the wrong? John thought, at one time, only their group should be able to cast out demons. After instructing another group not to do it, he was rebuked by Jesus. (Mark 9:38-41; Luke 9:49-50)

Have you ever held back totally believing someone's statement until you could see for yourself? I know I have, and so did John. He didn't believe Mary Magdalene when she reported the tomb was empty. He had to see for himself. Only then, he confesses, did he believe what she said. I can so relate to this. (John 20:1-10)

Have you ever wished you could learn a lesson once and not have to repeat it again before it becomes a real part of your life? The word John used to describe himself addresses this. He is unique in that he does not called himself by name, but instead refers to himself as the 'other disciple' or 'the disciple Jesus loved.' A word study showed me that John choose the word describing a pupil who once the lesson is heard applies it to his life and adheres to it as his rule of conduct. Wow.

He was learning for keeps, not just for the tickling of his ears.

And, it's obvious he did that. At the start of Jesus' ministry he was one of the "Sons of Thunder" but by the time of the cross Jesus saw fit to ask John to care for his mother. (John 19:25-27)

He must have changed that much. And knowing it's possible, he encourages believers in their learning and application process in his books. It's no wonder his books are among my favorites.

John is a great example to all of us that no matter how rough the start may be there is always hope for change.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? James?

Shaking their hands in the air at one another while yelling and pointing at the choir members; I just knew a fight would break out at any moment. My only comfort came in that I was in a church, these people loved each other, and they wanted to share a meal with us. Sons of thunder come to mind when I think back to that day in Romania.

Thunder rumbles in the air above as storms begin to roll in; unlike lightening which quickly appears, strikes an object, then disappears. Can you not see these sons of thunder walking about after they heard something they disagreed with mumbling and grumbling to themselves and perhaps with each other? It had to be loud enough for everyone to take notice. They obviously spoke their minds, but they loved each other none the less. And, Jesus tolerated this, forgiving them for the weakness in their outlook.

James was the older, responsible brother who stayed behind with the family while his younger brother, John, went to hear John the Baptizer's teachings. He was part of a successful family business which had hired workers in two towns.

He is most known for falling asleep when Jesus prayed in the garden before being arrested by the Roman guards. Yet, that was not the first time. Luke 9:32 talks about the time right before Elijah and Moses show up to the mountain top. Intercession was not his driving force to stay awake.

It was in that same experience that he heard the voice of God for the first time, coming out of the cloud that surrounded him. He feared God enough to know to drop to the ground immediately, face first. And, he didn't get up until Jesus gave the all's clear.

Then after all that, when the group was making their final trip up to Jerusalem he had the guts to ask Jesus to seat him at his side in heaven. Or was it audacity? Took a lot of nerve to ask such a question, especially right after Jesus tells the group about the trauma he's about to face when they get to Jerusalem. All the same, James knew Jesus well enough to know he could ask anything. The answer he received was a gentle rebuke resulting in the promise of a tough road before reaching heaven.

As a believer he had it all. Saw the appearance of Jesus change when he prayed privately. Had the favor of being asked into the inner circle; up close and personal with the Son of God, so to speak. Seeing miracles close at hand (a huge catch of fish after a night of failure; the spirit return to the dead body of Jairus's daughter).

From the outside one would think he was going places...that nothing could stop him because he had the favor of God. But, in the end, he was cut off before he could get very far. Acts 12 tells us he was struck down by Herod's sword.

I think it's wonderful that James knew Jesus well enough that he felt free to ask whatever was on his mind and to just be himself without any pretenses. And, I can definitely relate to how hard it is to continue to be in prayer when someone else is doing the is not always easy.

You can read about him in the following passages: Matthew 4:21, 10:2, 17:1-13, 26:36-46; Mark 1:19, 3:7-18, 5:35-43, 9:2-13, 10:35-45, 14:32-42; Luke 5:1-11, 6:14, 8:49-56, 9:28-36; John 21; Acts 12:1-2.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? Matthew?

Has someone else been put into a position, or given a job, for which you have lots of experience? And, after seeing how poorly the job was performed wondered why they didn't remove that person and ask you to do it?

That was Matthew. He was use to handling money as a tax collector, but the job of handling the money box was given to Judas, who along the way skimmed funds from it. How hard was it for Matthew to see that happen?

But as a tax collector Matthew knew exactly how other Jews viewed him. Like scum. He never forgave himself for this; he always referred to himself as the "tax-collector."

In other words, he knew the moment he joined the group that the others didn't like him. That they wouldn't have chosen him to be part of the select group to support and learn from Jesus. He was for a period of time the outsider to the inside group...the odd man out, so to speak.

How much did Matthew have to do to show he had changed? That he could be trusted? That he was faithful to the group and to Jesus? Did they trust the changes they saw he made in his actions and words?

Perhaps the dinner party he threw was an effort to show everyone he was for Jesus and his message. Luke mentions it was a great feast with other tax collectors and back-slidden Jews in attendance, thus giving the opportunity for the word to get out to those he knew.

Which brings up another point about Matthew. He was well respected among his fellow tax collectors or they wouldn't have gone to the dinner. Why would they go see a man who was calling for change in the way life was lived? Even if he was making the pharisees mad.

In the end, by the time the gospels were written only Matthew continues to refer to his previous profession. All the other gospels refer to him simply as Matthew. They forgave him. They saw the change. They accepted him and included him in as part of the group. He continued as one of them even after the master's death.

I can relate to Matthew on so many levels. I sometimes have trouble forgiving myself for past actions that others have long forgotten; regretting they ever happened and being unable to erase the past. As for being overlooked for jobs or positions, this has not been an easy thing to experience. But, if I wait long enough I do see God's hand in it.

Matthew is thought to have preached in Parthia and Ethopia, where he died as a martyr. In his gospel you can read how he viewed Jesus as fulfilling prophecy as the Messiah, the King of the Jews, with a focus on his teachings. In the following passages you can read about him: Matthew 9:9-17, 10:3; Mark 2:14-22, 3:18; Luke 5:29-39, 6:15; Acts 1:13.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? Andrew?

Have you ever known someone who seems to have it all and still is looking for more? Not satisfied with all he has? Or, maybe knows something is missing in his life? Well, that was Andrew.

He was a fisherman from the Bethsaida/Capernaum area. So, he had to be a strong muscular man from all the years of pulling in nets filled with fish. The book of Luke tells us he and his brother were business partners with Zebedee's sons, who by the way employed workers. (Luke 5)

His house was big enough to hold more than one family in it, and several after-temple he was a well-to-do man, not wealthy, but better off than most in those days. (Mark 1)

So, in other words, he led a fulfilled life as many might see it. He was in great physical shape, had a thriving business, and a house many would have desired. Yet, he was seeking more.

In his search for more he went to hear John the Baptist and ended up staying, even becoming a disciple of his. He was there when Jesus returned after his forty days of temptation, and when John the Baptist specifically pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God, Andrew and John followed Jesus immediately without hesitation. And after spending a short period of time with Jesus he went to fetch his brother. (John 1)

He was spreading the word.

And when the time was right to begin their travels, Jesus came to Andrew's place of business and called for him. Andrew just dropped it all to follow him. No questions asked. No requests to inform his family of his whereabouts. (Matthew 4)

He had the right priorities in his life.

Have you ever been looking in the right direction at the right time and see something no one else sees? That was Andrew when he spotted the boy with the fish and loaves when it was time to feed the multitude. (John 6)

Have you ever gone to help a friend out and had it bite you back? That was Andrew when he helped Philip with a request. (John 12)

Have you ever been a close friend to someone who knew all the answers and you wanted to know them too? Andrew was the number four man of the inner circle around Jesus. And, like the rest of them, he desired to know the details of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the future. (Mark 13)

I can relate to his desire to know the Messiah, it is a daily part of my journey through life. As far as the end of time details, it is the subject of many sermons and Bible studies. We're all curious.

I can say that I am not always able to drop what I'm working on and just leave it. I suppose, though, if Jesus were standing there in person and directing me it might be more easily done.

Andrew is said to have preached in Asia Minor, Greece and Scythia before being crucified on a St. Andrew's cross, which is 'X' shaped. There are many verses to peruse regarding Andrew: Mt 4:18-20; 10:2. Mark 1:16-20, 29-31; 3:18; 13:1-23. Luke 5:1-11; 6:14. John 1:35-44; 6:8-9; 12:20-22; Acts 1:13.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? Judas Iscariot?

I wasn't sure when and how to bring up the one apostle nobody likes or wants to talk about, Judas Iscariot. But last week we learned that we can be on the wrong path for the right reasons, and I have to wonder if Judas fell into this very thing. Only he choose not to change what his mind had already decided to do.

He thought he knew better than the voice of God speaking to him. Possibly, he thought that he was forcing Jesus to show his hand. To show others that he was the Messiah come to save his people from the wicked hand of the Romans.

Here's an awful many times do we do the same thing? How many times do we argue with the voice of the Holy Spirit? How many times do we think we know better than the warning friends or fellow church members give us?

Ouch. I know I can relate to this more than I want to think about.

But, here's where the difference comes in. Judas didn't do his deed out of the kindness of his heart; he took money to point out who Jesus was. In Matthew 26, he even asks how much the priests will pay him to deliver Jesus to them. John 12 mentions that Judas had control of the money box and that he would skim off some of the group's funds.

Even though Judas was in the daily presence of Jesus, walking and talking with him, this one him up to the influence of evil. He was even warned by Jesus (Mark 14, Matthew 26, John 13). But he did it anyway. (And, by the way, Jesus sent him on his way to do his dastardly deed.)

Once it was done the evil influence left him. We know this because we read how he came to his senses and realized what he'd done. (Matthew 27)

He tried to correct it, but it was too late.

As a result, he was so grief stricken that he took his own life. He fulfilled prophecy, and yet the ultimate responsibility of Jesus being tried and crucified fell on his shoulders. And, he knew it.

My hope, that I don't allow any weakness in me that opens up an influence of evil and unrighteousness. It is scary that it can happen to anyone, no matter how close they walk with Jesus.

Unlike the apostles we've spoken about in the past few weeks there is quite a bit written about Judas. You can read about him in: Psalm 41:9, 109:8; Zechariah 11:12; Matthew 10, 26, 27; Mark 3, 14; Luke 6, 22; John 6, 12, 13, 17, 18; Acts 1.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? Simon?

Here we go again. Another popular name. The name Simon is mentioned several times in the New Testament. But our Simon today is called 'the Zealot', 'the Cananean.'(NKJV)

Like some of the others, he didn't speak up and ask questions, or take any actions worthy of mention in the gospels. But, the two words describing him tell us quite a bit.

Cananean translates to enthusiast. He was also called a zealot. Those who were known to be outspoken for God, willing to stand against the Roman leaders by refusing to pay taxes, willing to take things into their own hands to bring about the kingdom of God by force if need be. They did not want to sit back and do nothing about Rome occupying their land. To do so, to them, meant they were abandoning the first commandment. (The Bible Almanac by Packer, Tenney and White; The New Testament Environment by Eduardo Lohse)

He obviously spoke about these things so that the others knew where he stood, hence he was known as 'the zealot.' But he was obedient to listen to Jesus.

We know he made this change because if he hadn't he would have made the gospels as an example of what not to do as a follower of Jesus.

He put aside his beliefs and actions to follow the one he saw and learned was the true Messiah. He changed how he had been acting for years to follow the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)

Interestingly enough, the name Simon has two meanings: 'he has heard' and 'obedient one.' He is our example among the apostles of how we can be on the wrong track for the right reason. Yet, he demonstrated how we should change our lives and our actions when God redirects us to a different road or path.

I have experienced this a few times in the past. Fortunately, Jesus is so faithful to give me new direction to get back on the track he wants me on.

As for Simon, traditionally he was crucified. You can read about him in: Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? Thaddaeus?

It happens all the time, two people hanging out in the same group having the same first name have to be differentiated some how. Fellow members either give out nicknames or call them by their last names. The writers of the gospels appear to have done this. However, in doing this they have created a little confusion.

You see, our next apostle goes by 'Lebbaeus' in KJV's Matthew. 'Thaddaeus' in Mark and other translations of Matthew. 'Judas, not Iscariot,' in John. And, Luke calls him 'Judas the son of James.'

The NKJV states Thaddaeus was actually his surname. And, since most translations call him Thaddaeus in the gospels Matthew and Mark then we'll call him that.

He too is a quiet worker for whom there is little information. There is one insight given to us from John.

In Chapter 14, John quotes Thaddaeus as asking a question. And, this one question reflects that Thaddaeus was paying attention to the point of reading between the lines of what Jesus was teaching. He knew something was about to change.

He was observant.

I can say there have been times I 'get it' before anyone else does. This can be a satisfying feeling, especially when there are times I'm the last one to understand what is said or implied.

But, I have to wonder if Thaddaeus was continually trying to keep his good name above water. He wanted it clear who he was, so he went by his last name. There was no problem with the two James's, but obviously there was with the two Judas's.

Traditionally he preached in Assyria and Persia; dieing as a martyr in Persia.

You can read about Thaddaeus in Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:16; John 14; Acts 1:13.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? James?

Which one? Have you ever been in a room with too many people by the same name? Well, that happened all the time in Bible days. That's why you see them write the 'son of,' 'the father of,' 'of Galilee,' and so on.

There were several who were named James among the group who followed Jesus, with two of them being apostles.

This James was the son of Alphaeus. Alphaeus had to be a significant, respectable name worthy and familiar enough with the readers in that day to attached it to another name. Otherwise they would have picked some other way to identify this particular James.

Have you ever known someone who was always there, did their job quietly, listened at all the meetings and knew what was to be done and did it without asking a lot of stupid unnecessary questions? But they are not the ones recognized for their efforts? Others get the credit?

James was this way.

James the son of Alphaeus has nothing ill spoken of him specifically. He didn't ask questions that received mention in any of the gospels.

He isn't noted for spastic acts or standing out in the crowd.

He is a quiet worker who did not receive fanfare down here on earth. But by his death we know he did a well enough job trying to spread the news of the Messiah....After preaching in Palestine, he went to Egypt, more than likely to the Jewish settlements there, to tell them about Jesus and what he did for all of us. Only someone in one of those settlements didn't take too kindly to it and he was crucified there...martyrdom.

Where I tend to be the foot-in-the-mouth-question-asker and don't relate much to this quiet worker, I do know several who have this temperament. They are a blessing to know. I need to be more like this James.

You can read about the son of Alphaeus in the following verses: Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? Thomas?

"You're such a doubting Thomas."

Thomas, the only apostle who was left out of the first encounter the group had with the risen Jesus made one statement, request, and has been remembered for nothing else.

Have you ever missed a party or gathering of friends? And every time someone mentions a funny thing that happened there, you're reminded you weren't there? Do you feel left out? Now I get Thomas.

All Thomas did was to demand the same thing the rest of the apostles got. He wanted equality. Who knows where he was or where he went, but he missed it all. Missed seeing Jesus. Missed the blessing/commission Jesus spoke over them. Missed it! He was, more than likely, frustrated just thinking he would never get the opportunity to partake in what everyone else received...after all, eight days passed before Jesus came back to them. I understand that feeling.

As I looked at Thomas I saw a few things.

When Jesus appeared in the locked upper room the others didn't recognize him...who's doubting Mary Magdalene now?...that is until Jesus shows them his hands and his side. Then they rejoice. Hmm. So when Jesus made his statement in John 20:29, was he talking to the whole room and not just to Thomas? Hmm.

Why was Thomas so upset about being left out?

Well, if you look back in John 11 we see Thomas as a leader. The apostles just finished trying to stop Jesus from going to see Lazarus because he might get killed in the process, which was something they didn't want. But Jesus not only insists on going to see Lazarus, he tells them he has something to show them.

It's Thomas who speaks up and tells the doubting disciples, "Come on people, let's support our leader, our teacher. He wants to show us something. Even if we die with him we have to go see what he wants to teach us."

Thomas was a leader and an encourager.

By the question/answer exchange in John 14 we see that Thomas was asking as spokesman for the group. His question shows his heart was ready to go with Jesus and didn't want to miss being with him.

So, of course he was defensive at losing out on what at the time seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime-event.

In closing, Thomas was called the twin, Didymus. Who was he a twin to? No explanation is given. He hailed from the Galilee and tradition holds that he was a quiet worker in Parthia, Persia, and India, but faced martyrdom near Madras at Mount St. Thomas.

You can read about Thomas in: Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; John 11:16, 14:1-5, 20:24-28.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? Nathanael?

Can you imagine being told that everything you've done and thought was on the up-and-up? That any time you spoke your mind was the right response?

That's what happened to Nathanael, our next apostle.

He couldn't believe his ears. He was even somewhat taken aback...'Do I know you? How do you know these things about me?'

Of course, once he heard Jesus' answer he was the first to publicly announce what would take the others years to believe. You always hear about Peter's confession, but Nathanael was the first to have the specific words flow over his lips.

Never mind that he almost didn't go because he thought Jesus came from the wrong side of the tracks. He went against his better judgement, so to speak, and trusted a friend. And, boy, did that pay off.

He left Cana in Galilee; followed the man he recognized as the Son of God; went by a second name (Bartholomew - which means 'son of Tolmai'); suffered the loss of his master teacher; saw angels ascending and descending on Jesus who in the end returned to life, and he lived to tell about it.

And tell about it he did, albeit quietly as compared to some of the others. He went to Armenia and was flayed to death for his teachings.

Nathanael is not mentioned in any of the gospels as asking questions that were left better unsaid. He probably knew when to keep his mouth shut, or waited to hear things out before saying anything.

How I would love to say I have some of what this man possessed...
no deceit in any part of him, an upright-thinking man who knew when to speak up and when to keep his mouth shut. A man who allowed others to take a closer role with Jesus even though he was the first to recognize him for who he truly was. A humble man who watched and absorbed all that took place.

He even wrote a gospel, according to the historian Jerome. I'm sure it reached those for whom it was intended even though it didn't make the Bible.

You can read about him in: Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:13-14; John 1:45-51, 21:1-11; Acts 1:13-14.