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.