Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Season

Thanksgiving is the most celebrated holiday, BUT Christmas is the most loved holiday.
AND, what we love and enjoy, we want to last!

So... 1)  Advent = the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas.
        2)  Christmas Eve, Christmas Day
Then it's over, unless you recognize
Aka:  the 12 days of Christmas - recognition of what God has done through Christ
-- in the west - Dec. 26 - Jan. 6, the last night being "12th. night" - which is the end of Christmas festivities

So...... gift each day for 12 days!!! - Song:  "Twelve Days of Christmas" - 1st. published in 1780 in England, the origin is unknown and there are many variations.

During the 12 days are several notable 'feasts' (ie:  holy days, days of commemoration)
these are designed to 1) commemorate persons or events to 2)  inspire us

Today - will review 3 feast days.
I.  The feast of Stephen
II.  Epiphany
III.  The feast of Innocents

I.  The Feast of Stephen  (St. Stephen's Day) - Dec. 26th.
Stephen was:  A)  the deacon - Acts 6:1-5
                      B)  the witness - Acts 6:8-10
                     C)  the martyr - Acts 6:11-23, 7:54-58

Stephen was the 1st. Christian martyr - so Dec. 26th. = day of distribution to the poor (giving day)
The song:  "Good King Wensaslas" - story of Feast of Stephen
The moral/point - last 4 lines of the song:
"Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth of rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing."  Prov. 19:17
(note:  effect of Stephen's witness??  Acts 7:58 - 8:1  Point being:  our good deeds/lifestyle are an essential part of witness.

II.  Epiphany - last day - Jan. 6th.   Definition of epiphany = a manifestation, a striking appearance
(west)  A.)  the Coming of the Magi
           B.)  the revelation of the Christ to the Gentiles  Matt. 2:1-12 - priestly caste of scholars - astrologers - "magicians"
Point:  He is the light of the world and WE are to hold forth that light!!

III.  The Feast of the Innocents - Matt. 2:13-21
Estimated number of young children killed - around 20 - 1st. Christian martyrs??  they were killed because of the testimony of the Magi
This is also called "Childermas"

Remember:  Christmas is not all about peace, joy, celebration, etc.
It is also about sin, sorrow, grief, evil, spiritual warfare - Rev. 12:1-17, 13:9-10
When Christ came into the world, Satan and forces of evil were not happy.
The battle is not over.  Peace has not arrived.  Calls for great perseverance on our part. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Imitating Santa

The personification of Santa Claus originated with  real person - St. Nicholas

Born - approximately 270 AD at Patara - port on the Mediterranean Sea.  (present day Turkey)

Parents - wealthy/upper class - both died in an epidemic while Nicholas was a boy.

Raised by his Uncle Nicholas - founder and abbot at New Zion Monastery in Patara - which led to Nicholas' desire to become a monk.

He had money, but while was still young, decided to give away his fortune and inheritance.  AND, to do so quietly.  (his rule for this - Matt. 6:3-4 )

As a teen - sent out by his uncle to study at Alexandria in Egypt - one of the greatest learning centers of the world at that time (like going to Harvard or Princeton today).  So - he went to the Christian School of Alexandria - which was founded by John Mark!!  Basically - the first Christian seminary.

Next - he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land (to round out his education)
He hoped for confirmation of his desire (heart) which was to become a monk. 
He received a call in a vision/dream - 'no, not going to be a monk'.  "This is not the vineyard where you shall bear fruit for me.  Return to the world and glorify my name there."

En route home, the ship was caught in a storm - he prays and his prayer calms the storm - and he raises a young sailor who had fallen to his death during the storm.
So.... during a stop at the port of Myra - he enters the church there early one morning to pray and give thanks.  Meanwhile, (unknown to Nicholas), the hierarchy (chief bishop) of the area had died. 
The other bishops ga6thered to choose his successor.  Legend has it that the oldest bishop had a dream that God said that "1st. person named Nicholas to enter the church would become the chief bishop"

So........ he became Bishop of Myra (and served there until his death around 343 AD)  He didn't want to be a bishop, but......

Around 303 AD - Diocletian comes to the throne and began the Great Persecution.  Feb. 24, 303, Diacletian's first "Edict Against the Christians"
ordered - "the destruction of Christian scripture, liturgical books and place of worship".
Christians were deprived of the right to petition courts (no legal rights or recourse)
Christian politicians, senators, office holders, government officials, veterans & soldiers - were deprived of their offices and ranks - and imperial freedmen were re-enslaved. 
Burning alive was the recommended form of execution by Galerius.

3 more edicts followed.  Eusebius wrote: "the prison system filled with/deacons, pastors, priests, bishops to the point that criminals had to be released".  One of these imprisoned was Nicholas.

Approximate length of imprisonment - reasonable guess - 7 years.

Then, the Edict of toleration - by Galerius in 311 - backed off and said to let Christians worship
               Edict of Milan - by Constantine in 313 - all religions are to be equal and he promoted Christianity.

Nicholas was released and returned to Myra where he resumed his office.

His next appearance - Council of Nicea - 325 AD

325 - AD - all bishops invited by Constantine to attend, address issues of orthodoxy, and establish uniform doctrine.

One main point - the nature and deity of Christ (doctrine of the Trinity) - co-eternal/equal with God? - ortho/trinity OR the first created being?  - the view of Arius (Arianism)

In the midst of heated debate, Nicholas slaps Arius!!!  He is arrested, stripped of Bishop's robe, put in a cell.  The next morning, he is in his cell, un-shackled with his garments (vestments) on and scripture!!!  (this, according to legend)

Nicholas continued as Bishop of Myra until his death - Dec. 6th, 343.  On the church calendar this date is St. Nicholas Day.

Eventually he was sainted and became the patron saint of many groups/peoples - especially 1) sailors and 2) children.

Then, St. Nicholas became known as Father Christmas, Sinter Klauss in the Netherlands w/white hair, bishop's hat, which turned into Santa Claus.


Nicholas was not a perfect Christian or perfect man - but he does = model Christian
ie:  we should A) look up to  B) Imitate

Set aside that he was a Bishop, miracle worker, friend of the Emperor, and look at his ordinary, common traits that made him and uncommon man.

He was:
1.  A seeker - of God, of truth.  (therefore - desire of  'monk')
Deut. 4:29 - Seek"
A)  requires effort, diligence, discipline, and B) = a lifelong pursuit.

2. A responder - example:  heart's desire = monk/calling = minister
Application is more than a life calling, it is a daily calling - a call to apply a truth, repent of an action/attitude
If won't respond to what God has already shown you, won't go very far.

3.  A student - before can do His will, must know His will!!!  Note:  an enthusiastic adherent without knowledge can lead to heresy.  Rom. 10:2 

4.  A servant - obviously A) of God, but also B) of the people!!  John 21 - "Peter, do you love me? Then ????"  A student who is NOT a servant has missed the gospel.  Cannot be a servant of God and not be a servant of people.
But, he was more than a servant -

5.  An advocate - ie.  helper, defender, protector - example - the 3 innocents - he literally stepped in and stopped the execution of three wrongly accused men.
1 Pet. 5:1-2 - written to pastors, but we are not exempt from this.

6.  A steward - ie:  a manager of the Master's wealth - one who handles well what's entrusted to him. 
This is more than just money - also, time, talents, abilities AND opportunities!!
Example:  during terrible famine in Myra, Nicholas went to Constantine and asked him to lower taxes on the people because they were in such dire straits.

Question:  "Why me?"  Because, "best suited, best situated, etc.

Because he was Christ's steward, he was also
7.  A giver - more than money, but includes money.
Step #1 - give yourself, then can #2. give stuff

Underlying all this = Nicholas was who he was because:
#1.  He was a Christian

#2.  He was a Christian follower - head, heart, HANDS

So, imitate Santa/Nicholas, etc.
BUT:  Follow Christ!!!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Celebration

IF Thanksgiving is the most celebrated U.S. holiday (ie:  # of people)
SO Christmas is the most loved - it's more than Christmas Day, it's the Christmas Season!!

Question?  What does the Bible say about the celebration of Christmas?
Answer - Nothing!!
On one hand, much is said about His Birth - and the importance of His birth,
But, not much said about a special day, observation, ritual, etc.

Question?  Why has Christmas become such a holiday??
Answer - a mixture of secular and Christian reasons.
A)  for Christians - it's natural to commemorate, celebrate and event as important as the incarnation!  (God coming in the flesh)
B)  for people generally - people are always ready for a holiday - Christmas has special appeal!

Question?  When did the celebration of Christmas begin?
Answer - don't know exactly, ..... but early.  The 1st. known reference to the December 25th. date is in "Chronology of 354" (an illustrated, codex calendar)

Question?  Do Christmas traditions have pagan roots?
Answer - possibly, likely ... example:  winter solstice;  Deus Sol Invictus = the Undefeated Sun god - celebrated in 3rd. century Rome on December 25th.

BUT, if this date was "borrowed" from pagans, it was instilled with Christian truths!!  - Example:  John 1:4-5,9

Naturally, some early Christians objected because:
1)  not told to celebrate Christmas
2)  don't know the date of His birth
3) some pagans often celebrated birthdays

Christmas as a holy day (holiday) was common by the Middle Ages ...
Charlemagne - crowned emperor - Christmas day AD800 by Pope Leo III
Likewise, King Edmund in 855, William I of England in 1066.
 1377 AD, King Richard II of England hosted a Christmas feat with 28 oxen and 300 sheep - "merry making" led to common "misrule" which led to more serious problems.  Became an excuse for lewid behavior.  Became a "hybrid holiday" - church (religious) and secular

So.... the protestant reformers often opposed the celebration of Christmas.
Example:  after the English Civil War (& the execution of Charles I), Parliament (with a majority of Puritans) BANNED Christmas in 1647 as "a popish festival with no biblical justification".
(Churches were closed, shops open, fines for celebrating levied)
This led to A)  Riots in Canterbury
                 B) the book "The Vindication of Christmas" - in 1652.
The ban ended in 1660 when Charles II was restored to the throne.

The English were not the only ones!  In 1640, Scotland's Parliament banned the observance of Christmas, stating "the church has been purged of all superstitious observance of days".  (It was not re-instated as a public holiday in Scotland until 1958!!!)

In America??
-- Celebration of Christmas was banned in Boston 1659 - 1681
-- ban was lifted 1681, but most didn't celebrate Christmas till the mid-19th. century (in the Boston area)

Other colonies celebrated Christmas enthusiastically, BUT, Christmas fell out of favor with the colonies after the Revolutionary War because it was considered an English custom!!

Naturally, Christmas prevails.
In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore wrote "A Visit From St. Nicholas" (Night Before Christmas)
1843 - 1st. Commercial Christmas cards
1850 - A Harriet Beecher Stowe character complains of "the true meaning of Christmas lost in a shopping spree".
By 1860, 14 states adopted Christmas as a legal holiday.
1870 - it was declared a US Federal Holiday (by Ulysses S. Grant)

BUT, objections continue..... ACLU - "government funded displays of Christmas imagery and traditions violate the 1st. Amendment"  (at least they recognize the religious significance)

So.... The Christmas celebration has long, varied, interesting history and we ought to be cautious declaring HOW it should be celebrated.

BUT, if you celebrate as a Christian, then you should remember the Essence (heart, core) of the celebration = the INCARNATION!!!!!  - God made flesh Phil. 2:6-7 - did it to Himself

On one hand, God visited His people many times, but this visitation was special and unique.  John 1:1, 14  It was unparalleled - Matt. 1:23 - Emmanuel - literal (God with us)

Two Questions:
I.  The How of the Incarnation
ie:  How God became man yet remained God?
        Short answer = the Trinity (3 beings in one)
        Long answer = it's a mystery
1 Tim. 3:16 - the Trinity makes it possible

II.  The Why of Incarnation
ie:  Why did God become man??
Some answers:
Primary - A)  To Redeem Us  ie:  to buy back/through a physical sacrifice of Himself.   Physical sacrifice/death requires physical life.
Question = HAD to???   Matt. 16:21   Luke 24:26, 46  Heb. 10:5-7  Mark 14:35-36

which leads to:  B) to Reconcile us - 2 Cor. 5:18-19  Heb. 4:16 - we can know God as Father in a different way.

Also, C) to Reveal truth(s) to us - John 1:18 - Jesus came to teach things

Therefore:  D) to inform/instruct us - Mark 6:34 - about the Kingdom of God

And, believe also to E) identify with us - we identify with a person better - one born of woman, lived as a boy, lived as a man
Heb. 1:1-2, 4:14-15 - He was a person, but the Incarnation was not for Him, but for us!!

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Development of The Church Service

A man named Justin Martyr - born about 100 AD, after exploring the various philosophies of life as presented by the Greek culture of the time, became convinced that the writings of the ancient prophets and the Apostles were more reliable than those of the Greeks. 
After becoming a Christian, he spent the remainder of his life spreading the philosophy of life in Christ. 

We have two works of Justin - 1st. and 2nd. Apology of Justin.  He was martyred around age 65 for his stance as as Christian which was against the law at that time.

In his first apology he gave a description of the gathering of Christians (ie:  order of service)

Here is a Breakdown of the early Christian church service: 
#1.  They gathered - A) at home (first church building was around 240 AD.
                                B) on the "Lord's Day" - (contrast 1st. day - a Jewish term/ Sunday - pagan terminology - day of the Sun.   "Lord's Day" = day of Resurrection, day of separation - Gen. 1:3-5 - light from darkness

#2.  They read scripture - "memoirs of the apostles.../writings - of the prophets" - because
A) was the Inspired Word
B)  the Rule Book
C)  few owned by individuals

#3.  They heard a sermon - ie: application of the text which was personal and practical,  2 Tim. 3:16-17

#4.  They prayed  (corporately/ led prayer)
3 phrases used:  "send up, "stand up" - showing freedom/boldness as a result of understanding what Jesus Christ did in their lives, "sing out" assent - "Amen" - (I agree, so be it)

#5. They celebrated the Lord's Supper - bread and wine and water - signifying the body and blood of Christ.  (water used to dilute wine from normal strength for the Lord's Supper)
Note:  the Un-baptized were asked to leave.  They saw the Lord's Supper as a testimony of receiving Christ as Savior and unbelievers had no part in that.  Were outside the family.

#6.  They received the offering - freewill/for benevolence/in keeping with the prophets and Apostles - 1 Cor. 16:1-2

Not mention here, but
#7.  They sang praises - psalms, chants, songs = praise plus!!! - Adoration spilling over.

So, on one hand, today's worship service is not much different.
But, on the other hand, it needn't be!!

IF - your view of church is guided by scripture (memoirs, writings), THEN your worship will look something like this.

Obviously = variations - singing/instruments, mode of baptism, serving the Lord's Supper, church property, building, government, etc.
BUT the basic format remains.  IE:

#1.  Gather (though not mandated, it is assumed) - it was the thing to do.
Gather to:
#2.  Worship - declare His worth - corporately, publicly - through praise, thanksgiving, singing, Lord's Supper, etc.
#3.  Petition - ie. prayers of request - Heb. 4:16
#4.  Listen - the content of Scripture
#5.  Learn - the Application of Scripture   Eph. 4:1
#6.  Give - (Give back, share)
#7.  Scatter - (go) - on one hand the gathering is very important, but, time-wise, it equals a very small percentage of the Christian life. - We are to be Christians in the outside world and spread the Word.

So, when you gather at a typical church worship service, you are participating in an ancient tradition based on eternal truths.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is the most celebrated holiday in America.  AND, rightfully so because we have A LOT to be thankful for.

So, although this is not new information, it IS a reminder that....
            we ought to  A)  Be thankful and B) Give thanks!


#1.  Monetary Blessings - regarding A) money   B) Annual income  and C) Compared worldwide
Some statistics:
After taxes, bring home income for a family of four - poverty level is $22,350.00
That puts you in the top 11% in the world.  Your income is higher than 89% of the world's population.

If your bring home income is $25,000.00, you're in the top 10%
                                             $30,000.00 ------------------7%
                                             $35,000.00 ----------------    5%
                                             $40,000.00 ----------------    3%
The top 1% - $47,500.00

#2.  National Blessings  (blessings because you live in the USA)
     A)  Prosperity - USA accounts for 25% of the world's wealth
     B)  Resources - we're blessed with abundance which assures future prosperity - water, farmland, timberland, minerals, etc.
     C)  Freedoms - free to campaign, complain, criticize
     D)  Stability - Post-election - no riots.  no military coup.
     E)  Security - when was the last time the US was invaded?  neighbors to the north or south launched a missile over the border on one or more of our cities?  people had to move to refugee camps?

Deut. 8:10

#3.  Opportunity Blessings - because in America we HAVE opportunity to pursue money, career, business, education, relocation, etc.  Question?  Why do so many with to immigrate??  - Because this IS the "Land of Opportunity".

#4.  Community Blessings - On one hand, we live in the low income section of a low income state.  Therefore, most people are here by choice with a lot of good people AND blessed with beauty!!

#5.  Health Blessings - not all but most live a long, relatively healthy life.
Compare to other parts of the world:
A.  Life Expectancy - in the USA - 78 1/2 years
       Compare                Djibouti -55 years
                                    Ethiopia - 53 years
                                    Somalia - 48 years
                              Afghanistan - 44 years
                                    Zambia - 42 years
                           Mozambique - 39 years

B.  Infant Mortality - deaths per 1,000 live births within 1 year.
                  USA = 7
            Ukraine = 14
             Mexico = 22
                Brazil = 28
                  Iraq = 36
         Botswana = 54
                India = 61
                 Haiti = 70
            Ethiopia = 87
            Djibouti = 91
          Somalia = 113
    Afghanistan = 144

A.  Those people given our health benefits - would live longer!
B.  Those babies given our health benefits would not die!

#6.  Relational Blessings - most people hesitate to end a poor relationship!!  Because, even  a poor one
= great blessings. 

These blessings are more than we deserve.  We have these because God is good and has blessed us.

And, now add...
#7.  Spiritual Blessings - (the greatest of blessings)
If you are a Christian, you have forgiveness, reconciliation, eternal life, eternal security, a heavenly Father, divine Presence, glorious expectations, etc.

So, today we are taking the Lord's Supper because  1)  these blessings are ours through the Person and work of Jesus Christ
                                                                                2)  These elements represent His sacrifice for us.

Many places the word "Eucharist" is used for the elements of the Lord's Supper.  The word Eucharist means "to give thanks".

Eph. 1:3   John 1:16   Psalm 35:18

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Rise of the Church

After the Resurrection,
1)  Recognition of Jesus ans Messiah
2)  the Spreading of the Word
3)  the development of the New Testament
4)  the Rise of THE CHURCH.  Acts 2:41 - Pentecost (50 days after the resurrection) - note:  added to their number - already a church started

The word "church" was seldom used in the Gospels - only found 3 times in our English Translations.  Matt. 16/18  (however, the concept is there)

But, after Acts 5, the word "church" was used prominently and then throughout church history

The Greek word for church - secular word meaning a called out assembly, a group summoned to gather.
So, it was natural for believers to adopt this word/term.

Because, they believed themselves - 1) called, summoned (by the Holy Spirit)
                                                       2) called out - of lifestyle, belief system, world view
                                                       3) called unto (into) - a Christian life, a life with Christ & His teachings.
                                                       4)  called to gather (assemble, congregate)
AND, they believed that, ultimately and finally, they would be gathered!!  (assembled together) - Matt. 25:31-34

So, they became "the church" - (called out ones) - whether gathered or scattered
And, as they scattered, they:  a) spread the News and b) established new churches

Until today there are roughly 338,000 congregations in the US.  Median size is 75.
And, there are roughly 38,000 different denominations in the world - 217 in the US.

The numbers of people who claim to attend church at least once a week -
Nigeria - 89% of all adults
Ireland - 84%  of all adults
USA -   44% (self-proclaimed)  When actual church attendance is polled, in the US that drops to about 20%.

The Importance of the Church (Scriptural view)
1.  founded by Christ - Matt. 16:18 - His church, His people
2.  Paid for by Christ - Acts 20:28 - true church made up of redeemed people that Christ died for
3.  Identified with Christ  - Acts 9:4 - the church cannot be separated from Christ
4.  An Extension of Christ - Eph. 1:22-23, 4:11-12
Quote from Bill Hybols - "only hope for the world is the New Testament Church".

The Work of the Church (a historical view)
The church has always been -
1.  The primary means of spreading the Gospel - primary mode of Evangelism
2.  The primary means of developing believers - taught, grown, discipled
3.  The primary place of prayer and worship - of course we are to pray on our own, but there is real power in corporate prayer
4.  The primary platform for mission work
5.  The primary pipeline for mission support - money comes out of churches

So, where Christianity grows, the church grows, and where the church grows, Christianity grows, until they are synonymous.  Christianity = the church

#1.  The church is not perfect.  Why?  Because it's made of people - and people are seriously flawed.  Will it be?  Rev. 19:6-9 - will be perfect at the end and will find perfection on the other side.
#2.  The benefits of the church far, far outweigh her faults.

Therefore, it follows that:
#3.  It is foolish to abandon (or anyway ignore) the church.  From the viewpoint of common sense and Scripture.

#4.  The New Testament makes no recognition of Lone Christianity. - it simply does not exist.
Salvation?  - Individually applied.  Sanctification? - personally pursued
BUT - the pursuit of the faith apart from the community of believers is totally foreign to the New Testament!!!

Conclusion: - On one hand, the church needs you (if called to a particular body)
                       On the other hand, you need the church!!!  - Example:  can the body survive without a hand? - answer - yes.  But, can the hand survive without the body?  No way!

Frequent objection!! - I don't need the church to be Christian!!   Yes, and you can go on a garlic diet - you may stay alive but you won't be healthy or pleasant to be around!!!

Entry to the church
#1.   Attend and be part
#2.  Participate

But,  it is important, critical, essential - to come to the Father through the Son - John 14:6

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Birth of the Christian Bible

We have several weeks looking at "Messiah" - (the Christ)
         1)  the expected Messiah
         2) the surprise Messiah - Matt. 1:21  Luke 19:10
        3) the acceptance of this Messiah  (Christianity, the church)

Last week - Spreading the Word that  A.  Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ
                                     and.....           B.  in Him is found forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation

As the gospel spread and Christianity grew, there developed a written document that has influenced the world more than any other writings .... before or since - ie.  the New Testament

Question:  What Bible did the Apostles use??? the first Christians???  - Answer: They probably didn't.  They had the Old Testament scroll(s) - individual, extremely valuable - there were no books as we know books. and when did the New Testament develop??

Stages of Development:
Began with the Letters of Paul - 1 Cor. 1:1-3  Gal. 1:1-2  (churches - plural)
Also, Peter, James, John, Jude
These were read, circulated, copied for circulation - 1 Thess. 5:27

Then followed the Gospels, Acts - story form (history)
example:  Luke 1:1-4 then the sequel - Acts 1:1-2 (a)

Finally, Revelation (around AD 90 or so) - Rev. 21:5

 Expanded..... 1st. Century (death of Christ to AD 100) - written, copied, circulated

                      2nd. Century - 1) cited as authoritative!
Examples:  "it is written" - Matt. 22:14
                 "as it says in these scriptures" - Eph. 4:26

                                            2) translated into various languages, (therefore more widely distributed)

                     3rd. Century - the various "book" being collected and compiled in One book
(beginning of Codex (book) form ... Christians were the first to use this form widely!!)

                     4th. Century - formal Canonization (these were the books that one divinely inspired) - Council of Carthage - 397 AD - "aside from the canonical Scriptures nothing is tho be read in church under the Name of Divine Scriptures."   If it's call scripture, it must be from the Scriptures.
Then it was even more extensively translated, copied, and circulated .....

The Result???

Today we have 5800 surviving Greek manuscripts (ie: hand-copied scrolls, Codex)
plus.. 10,000 Latin manuscripts - handwritten
plus .. thousands of manuscripts from other languages (Coptic, Syrian, Arabic, Slavonic...)

The point being:  we have well over 20,000 hand copied manuscripts of the New Testament (not all complete) that pre-date the printing press (1439) - Johannes Gutenberg's movable type printing press

Note:  the New Testament remains today - the most printed, translated, circulated, owned, recognized book in history!!

Next Question?  How was it determined which books would be included in the New Testament Canon of 27?  There were a LOT of writings out there.
CANON:  rule, measuring stick, therefore the writings that measure up, make the grade

And... By which we measure!  (Standard)
        A.  Note:  it was a process
        B.  the process partly spurred on by heresy, heretics - Example:  Marcion - AD 140/Rome - put together his own canon because he disagreed with the church.
These situations led to the church leaders making official, formal, in depth examinations - decisions - declarations.

Criteria for a book to be considered scripture:
#1. Apostolic Origin - which means either
         A)  written by an Apostle - Matthew, John, Romans, I & II Peter
or      B)  written under the immediate direction and sanction of an Apostle - Mark (wrote for Peter),  Luke (wrote for Paul), Acts

#2.  Reception by the Primitive Church - very 1st. one - they were there, they knew the Apostles
(note Peter's recognition of Paul's scripture) - 2 Pet. 3:15-16

#3.  Compatibility of Doctrine (or teachings)
especially:  in relation to the un-contested books
(therefore:  there were issues with Hebrews, especially Chapters 6 & 10) BUT the early church recognized
Paul as the author!)

This is how they determined which books were included in the New Testament Canon.

So then ... what was the Early Church's view of New Testament Scripture?   What became the Orthodox view?)
(Greek/Latin ortho = right/correct    doxa= opinion/belief) = Orthodox - proper belief system

#1.  It was inspired - ie;  of divine origin/from God
2 Tim. 3:16 - God breathed out
Heb. 1:1-2

#2.  It was received - Receptus (came from God and they simply received it) vs. formulated/discovered
2 Pet. 1:20-21

#3.  It was Authoritative - Sola Scripture (Scripture alone) - This is God's Word on the subject

#4.  dependable (reliable/trustworthy/without error)

#5.  practical - 2 Tim. 3:16-17 (useful, functional)
#6.  Effective - 1 Thess. 2:13

Application:  3 Questions

1.  What is your view of the New Testament? - it's source, authority, it's reliability? - Belief

2.  What is your knowledge of the New Testament? - to believe it is inspired yet ignore its content ...???  Heb. 2:1  - Knowledge      
The amount of Christian ignorance of Scripture is astounding.

3.  Do you live according to the New Testament?  - Practice - Eph. 4:1

Monday, October 29, 2012

Spreading the Word

Acts 5:27-42
The Messiah, by the Jews, was predicted, expected, anticipated, BUT overlooked (missed)
Because - they misunderstood the primary role - Luke 19:10  Matt. 1:21 - overlooked that He would be the sacrifice for sins.

BUT, after the resurrection (Pentecost) His followers got it!!!

So:  #1.  They accepted, embraced, began to follow this Messiah who saves, forgives, redeems.
Who reveals God, expresses the love of the Father, Reconciles!
Who lives..... is ever present and ever caring!!!  AND IS LORD!!

#2.  They began to tell others.  -
Book of Acts - Historical account of the early church.
           Pentecost - Acts 2:41 - Holy Spirit fell upon the Apostles - birth of the church in a big way.
          Apostles in the temple outer courts/before the Sanhedrin - Acts 4:11-12
          Birth of the church/growth of "The Way"  Acts 6:7
          Beginning of persecutions - Acts 8:1-4 0 heavy for the next 300 years - scattered believers out of Jerusalem and the word spread even more.
         Conversion of Saul - Acts 9:20-22
Until this time, this was a Jewish Messiah, Jews were being converted.
        Conversion and acceptance of Gentiles!!   Acts chapters 10 & 11
        Peter's Report - Acts 11:18

So....... Acts 11:21 - etc.

Book of Acts closes about A.D. 60  with Paul in prison in Rome.
Question?  How have we done since then??

YEAR               Ration Non-Christians to Christians in the world (people who claim Christianity as their
                                                                                                    religion by their description)

100                        360 to 1
1000                      220 to 1
1500                        69 to 1
1900                        27 to 1
1950                        21 to 1
1980                        11 to 1
1992                       6.8 to 1
2012                          2 to 1

33% of the world's population are self-described Christians.  (Islam = 20%, Hindu = 13%)

BUT....Are we losing ground today?!!  No - still growing.    The 2012 population of the USA is around 312 million.  Since 2005 the number of Christians increased by more than 300 million!!
Though Christianity is decreasing in Europe, it is increasing in Asia and Africa.
Example:  in the continent of Africa in 1900 = 8.7 million Christians - today = 390 million.  Estimates for 2025 = 600 million.

Objection:  Islam is growing faster!!!
A.  only slightly  (Christians = 1.36%/year.  Islam = 1.9%/year)
B.  mostly due to birthrates - more born to Muslim families
But, this is due to converge by 2015 - as Muslim birthrates are decreasing and Christian birthrates are increasing.
C.  Adult conversion fate for Christianity??? = twice the number of converts from all other religions (in the world) combined!!

So, on one hand, the growth/spread/work of Christians is remarkable.  social transformation, personal transformation.
But, there is still a huge task before us.

From a different perspective:
On one hand:  the ratio is 2 non-Christians to every Christian.  That translates to 2 billion plus Christians!!
On the other hand:  That also translates to 4 billion plus non-Christians!!
And of the 2 billion plus Christians, safe to say 1/2 of those are notional Christians! - no real adherence to Christ, and the Christian religion, so, still 5 billion souls who don't follow Christ.

POINT:   Much accomplished.... much to accomplish!!!

We've been given......

1.  A charge/a command to do it - Matt. 28:18-20
The need has not changed one bit - identical to what it was 2000 years ago.

2.  A Commission - ie. a charge to do it w/authority behind it.  2 Cor. 5:18-30 

3.  A promise - "go & I'll go with you" - Acts 1:1 - work did not cease after Christ ascended into heaven
Therefore:  no distinction made between what the disciples accomplished and what the Lord accomplished.


1.  This is part of God's will for you.
You are A) saved to go
             B) summoned to go - call is clear in the Scriptures.  Requires no other summons.
             C) gifted to go.  Eph. 2:10

2.  When God's people go, it makes a difference.
Past/History = numbers, individual transformation, social transformation
Future = eternal Kingdom!!

3.  When you go , it makes a difference.
      A.  In the world, society, the Kingdom
      B.  in You!!  Philemon 6 - won't grow without sharing faith

Question:  Are we obligated to go?  Answer = yes and no
On one hand:   not obligated because you're saved by grace alone!!
On the other hand:   are obligated because you're saved by grace alone! - it's a free gift!
Rom. 1:14-15  "debt" - owed to Christ, payable to mankind.

Rom. 1:16
So........ the challenge is:  1.  come to Christ - receive Him
                                       2.  go and make disciples - tell what He's done.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Surprising Messiah

We've seen Messiah - defined, predicted, expected, anticipated....
Today  we see Messiah overlooked, misunderstood, misinterpreted, missed!!!

Isa. 52:13-53:12  - Who is the suffering servant? Nation of Israel??  Isaiah????
The Jews didn't equate this with Messiah - didn't fit their concept of Messiah.

Answer:  Luke 24:25-27, 45-47  (Christ = Messiah) - this part of the Messiahship was missed before the resurrection.  BUT, after the resurrection and the 40 days following, they began to see.

So....... for example, Phillip - Acts 8:26-35

If there is a summary statement of "Surprising Messiah" - it is Luke 19:10 - "to seek and to save" (surprising to these people)
On one hand, not His only role as Messiah (leader, guide, ruler, King, warrior...)
However, if all subjects of the Kingdom are lost? (hell-bound), then where is the Kingdom?  A Kingdom is made of people.

Focus 1st. on "save". - without this role, the other roles are unimportant or not existent.

Save From??? - Matt. 1:21 - sin/sins
Sin --> separation --> destruction & damnation!!  And the bad news is, can't cure this situation.

Save To???  Restoration of life, Reconciliation/Right-standing with God

Save How????

What's needed??

#1.  Propitiation = to appease, satisfy the demands of holiness and justice ... in order to regain favor/standing.
On one hand it is forgiveness, But with the proper payment!!

#2.  Expiation - verb = erase the guilt, remove the sin.
ie:  forgiveness accompanied by removal/cleansing...

#3.  Substitution - We're not good enough to pay the price/remove sins
Example - the two goats from Lev. 16) - one as sacrifice for sins, one to bear the sins and carry them away from the people.

#4.  Incarnation   Heb. 10:5-7  (John 1:29) - God in the flesh coming here.

#5.  Execution/crucifixion (He had to die/give His lifeblood) - 1 Pet. 2:24
Remember?  Suffering servant?  Messiah? - the Jewish Messiah was seen as keeper of Law, defender/promoter/teacher/advocate.....
BUT not seen as fulfillment of Law!  Completion of Law!! - the Jews missed this.

#6.  Resurrection - because not only paid for sin, He conquered sin.  (greatest enemy)
Christ didn't come just to die for our sins, but to conquer it, and He will raise us victorious over sin as well.

One more step:
#7.  Imputation = ascribe to/credit to... 1/2 of imputation = our sin TO Christ ... therefore,  2 Cor. 5:21 - other 1/2 = He  gives me His righteousness.

Question????  Is all this necessary?  Heb. 7:26-27 - only thing we NEED is reconciliation with the Father.  He came to meet our needs, not our wants.

Question???  Was there any other way???  Mk. 14:35-36   If there was, God chose not to use it.  This is not my way, or the church way, or the Christian way --- it is God's way. 
People will say it is arrogant to say there is only one way.
The arrogance is saying I know more than Peter, Jesus, God..........

NOTE:  This is God's work - it is all from God.  His gift to us.
2 Cor. 5:18-19 (a)  (John 19:30)

It was completed under God's initiative.....
He took the initiative in.....
Designing Redemption
Sending Messiah
Drawing you.
Luke 19:10 - "seek and save"
(you don't respond because you're good .... but because He is!!)

AND, it requires your response.

1)  examine the claims - not the invention of man
2)  consider His drawing (Holy Spirit wooing)
3)  decide
If you agree:
4)  A - B - C  admit (your need, your separation), believe (Christ died for your sins), confess (Jesus as your Lord)   Rom. 10:9-10
5)  follow - Him (student, disciple)
6)  promote Him  ("we are Christ's ambassadors")
7) anticipate (Him, next coming, His other roles)!!   Matt. 25:31-34


Monday, October 15, 2012

The Unfinished Work of Messiah

On the road to Emmaus.  Luke 24:13-27, 44-48 - Vs. 19 - now referred to as "Jesus of Nazareth" - they thought He was dead, and therefore, not the Christ.

After the Resurrection (and appearances - during the 40 days following - showed Himself repeatedly to the disciples), the Disciples were CONVINCED once and for all!!

1.  Jesus was (is) Messiah!!

2.  He had fulfilled Messianic roles that had been overlooked or misunderstood.
Examples:  Savior from sins), Redeemer from Separation from God, the Substitutionary Sacrifice for sins, Eternal High Priest, etc.  He was a Messiah for all people!!

BUT, they were also convinced....
3.  Jesus' Messianic duties were not completed!  
Still prophesies to fulfill, roles to play.
Examples:  Isa.2:1-4, 9:6-7, 11:1-9

Therefore: (with this new understanding... they (the disciples)....
A.  Re-searched the scripture - Old Testament prophesies, and
B. Re-viewed Jesus' teachings - missed the most fundamental teachings.

AND they concluded....
1.  The Kingdom is here with us, but not yet, not fully!!
2.  The King is with us but still to come!!!

So.... Peter:  Acts 3:17-21 - work of Messiah not complete at the cross
         Paul:  1 Thess. 4:13-18 - He's coming back
                   2 Tim. 4:1   Tit.2:13  Heb. 9:28 - He will appear a Second Time
"classic" - 2 Pet. 3:3-4, 8-13

Point:  He will return to complete what He's begun!   Rev. 1:8

Concerning His Return....
When it'll happen
What it'll look like
Exactly what will transpire
Christians have speculated broadly about these things for 2,000 years.

1).  Earliest idea:  Christ will return soon - few years at the most.
2)  the idea that the Millennium (1,000 year, literal, earthly reign of Christ) began with the Resurrection.

3)  Millennium would start with Jesus' return
(Justin Martyr 100-165 AD - 1st. pre-millennial writing.)

4)  "Christ can't return before the rise of anti-Christ", with the focus on 'watch for anti-Christ'. 
Anti-Christs rose by the hoards after this time.

5)  Early 3rd. Century - Hippolytus of Rome - predicted the Millennium would begin 496 AD
(from Daniel's 70 weeks and 6,000 years after creation)

6)  303 AD - The Great Persecution (under Diocletian)  Many were convinced 'the Great Tribulation' had begun - (Rev. 13)

7)  312 Constantine - won the Empire in battle - became a Christian - halted the persecution - Many declared "the Millennium has begun".
8)  the A-millennials - said the Millennium was not literal but symbolic, and therefore No way to measure or predict (Just watch and wait)

So.......... on and on.......... until today!

Question??  Is there Any Common Consensus?? (concerning the Return)
AnswerYes .. on primary issues, all agree.......

#1.  Christ will return - clearly, visibly, bodily, in power, glory, victory - Rev. 19:11-16

#2.  There will be a Resurrection - of all people who have died (one?  two?)  1 Thess. 4, 1 Cor. 15

#3.  There will be Judgment (part of the Messianic work that's not completed) - how many?  exactly when?

#4.  Christ will usher in Eternity (new era, new age)

#5.  There will be Restoration - not sure exactly what this entails.
     Rev. 21:1-5 (a)

#6.  Jesus Christ will Rule (over all peoples, powers, things)
#7.  These things are Certain and True - Rev. 21:5

So........ Our part in this???? 
Simple Summary:
 Be Ready (Watch) - Mark 13:32-37 - No one know the day or hour.
Be Faithful- John 21:20-22 - be about His businessBe Encouraged - Rev. 1:17-19 - He is Messiah.  His work is not done!

Rev. 22:20-21

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Jesus Messiah

Acts 5:29, 33-40 - these made claims that God was with them in their revolt - Judas Messiah (the Galilean - referred to last week)?  Theudas (name given to several would be messiahs) Messiah?  Jesus Messiah?

I.  The Title (Messiah or Christ) - New Testament = Jesus Christ, not Jesus Messiah - Christ - transliterated to English from the Greek.  In the Old Testament - the word Messiah is transliterated into English from Hebrew
A.  the words are interchangeable
B.  this is a title, not a name.  (Jesus bar Joseph, Jesus of Nazareth)
John 1:41

II.  The Office (of Messiah .... who?  what?)
(the concept of many First century Jews)
 Who?? - a man, foretold, anointed, of David's lineage
What?? to deliver (from Roman oppression), to lead, to rule (as King), to restore (people, kingdom, etc)

(Jesus will ADD MANY new dimensions to this concept.)

III.  The origin of this doctrine (this concept of Messiah??)
Prophetic revelation and Intertestamental examination - looking back at ancient sources.
During the 400 year Intertestamental period, the idea of Messiah got stronger and stronger.

Post exile - Mal. 3:1, Zech. 9:9-10, Hag. 2:6-7 - believed Messiah would come during the time of the 2nd. temple

In exile - Dan. 7:13-14 - son of man - Messianic term - only used in the New Testament of Jesus, or by Jesus about Himself.

Pre- exile - Jer. 23:5-6 - vs. 6 - LORD=Yahweh,  Isa. 9:1-2,6-7  Mic. 5:2

Moses - Deut. 18:15 - at the right time

Jacob - Gen. 49:10 - KJV - Shiloh - another name for Messiah

The beginning - Gen. 3:14-15 - one is coming who will crush the head of Satan

So.... John 1:45

NOTE:  After the resurrection, the Apostles examine scripture in new light....... and see - (examples:)  Virgin birth, suffering servant, stone rejected, etc.   Luke 24:25-27
Note:  all these prophesies, promises STILL STAND!!!

IV.  How do we know He was/Is Messiah???
Ask the Apostles - what convinced them??
His claims?  teachings? miracles?  fulfilled prophecy?  witness of the Holy Spirit?
Answer:  YES - until - His death!!  because there were a lot of would-be messiahs who died, and nobody follows a dead messiah.
Final convincing proof?????  The Resurrection!!!  - John 20:28   This Messiah also overcame death.  Then they were absolutely, positively convinced.!!!!

V.  Do we still need a Messiah?
on one hand, as the 1st. century Jewish leaders saw Messiah?  - No........
However, as post-resurrection Apostles saw Messiah???? - ABSOLUTELY!!

Matt. 1:21  John 8:24   1 Tim. 1:15    John 20:31

VI.  What about all the unfulfilled prophecy (of Messiah)??
Answer: - next week

But today:  Acts 2:36-39 - coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  Promises are for  us - they are not over.  We need Him!!

The Messianic Hope

Last week - wrapped up Old Testament with the Intertestamental Period.

Now, the First 70 years - birth of a new millennium, Birth of Christ.

Short overview:
538 BC - Return from Exile (under Persian rule)
330 BC - Alexander the Great conquers Persia (under Greek rule)
326 BC - Alexander dies - his kingdom divides into 4 parts - we looked at the Ptolomies (Egypt) and the Selucids (Syria and Palestine)
175 BC - Antiochus Epiphanes rules - hated the Jews - forced Hellenization on them, desecrated the temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar in the Holy of Holies to Zues
164 BC - the Maccabean Revolt - guerrilla warfare - Jews had limited self rule - religious freedom - cleansed and rededicated the temple, etc.
63 BC - Pompey takes Jerusalem and conquered Syria and Palestine (Rome)
40 BC - Herod becomes King (appointed by the Roman Senate) - half Jew (from Edom, Idumea, considered himself Jewish) - practiced the religion but without the lifestyle
 BUT - since he was not of pure bloodline and did not practice a Jewish lifestyle, he was tolerated, but hated by the people.

NOTE:  "under the rule of...."  non-Jewish pagan nations

Jesus is born.
Herod dies - just after Jesus' birth

Herod's son, Archelaus, takes the throne.  Immediately clashes with the Jews, sends in troops, kills 3,000 at Passover at the temple!!
More uproar results - Roman troops dispatched - they capture & crucify 2,000 insurrectionists.

6 AD - Archelaus is replaced by a Roman Governor
NOW, 1)  Judea is ruled DIRECTLY by Rome with a governor - no more Jewish King
            2)  the people pay taxes DIRECTLY to Caesar (tribute) - goes against the Jews who say they give tribute to no one except God.

Enter:  Judas the Galilean - Luke 20:22 - introduced the philosophy of the Zealots - saying wrong to pay taxes to Caesar.

Next 60 years - tension, conflict, uprisings, revolts ............  AND, then it gets worse!!!!

54 AD - Nero becomes Emperor which leads to the final 4 - Felix, Festus, Albinus, Florus (who was the worst).  Nero hates Christians, and hates Jews

66 AD - Florus forcefully takes money from the temple treasury which causes a riot which brings in the troops to the Market area - they randomly slay, capture, crucify 3600 men, women, children.
66 AD - Beginning of the Jewish Revolt - lasts 4 years.
70 AD - Jerusalem falls under Roman general Titus - the temple is destroyed down to its foundation

During this time develops ........... The Messianic Hope

Messiah = an anointed leader who would arise and deliver
Hope = EXPECTATION!!  Based on the word, the prophets - all the way back to the Garden of Eden

Who Messiah would be:  1).  a man - (human, Jew)
                                       2)  foretold = predicted, promised, expected
                                       3)  anointed = chosen, gifted, empowered
                                       4)  of David's lineage - "tribe of Judah, house of David"

What Messiah would do:   1) deliver - from oppression, oppressors
                                          2)  lead - the people in the effort
                                          3)  rule - the nation - KING
                                          4)  restore - the Kingdom to Israel, to former glory of Solomon

into this atmosphere comes ............ Jesus of Nazareth
with marvelous teachings, incredible miracles, preceded by John the Baptist (first prophet in 400 years), preaching the Kingdom (of God), common man with a heart for the common people.

Question??  What are the people going to do??
Answer:  press Him to be Messiah!!!
PROBLEM!! - (absurdity) "riding a donkey colt?" - military victors don't ride donkey colts.  He's accepting their praise and admitting He's the Messiah, but not the Messiah they wanted - He's God's Messiah

Why??  Because He's NOT the people's Messiah - He's the LORD's Messiah!! - so He will deliver, lead, rule, restore
BUT, according to God's  plan, wisdom, timetable, will - not according to the people

So... (few days later) - Mark 15:6-15 - they chose the insurrectionist, rejected the Messiah - because they wanted a Messiah who would deliver them from Rome, not their sins.

Question:   how much different are we?  you?   Is yours the Lord's Messiah, or your custom-made Messiah?

The Problem:  I (tend to) project ONTO Christ - my views
                                                                        - my morals
                                                                        - my rationale
                                                                        - my politics
                                                                        - my conclusions

Objection:  I've accepted Christ......

Compare:  Matt. 16:13-18 - Peter's confession, Jesus' confirmation and praise....

                 Matt. 16:21 -25 - don't have in mind things of God, but the things of men

Matt. 16:24-25 - must follow HIM as He is, not what I want Him to be.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Intertestamental Period

Been through a journey through the Major Events of the Old Testament.

The Patriarchs
The Exodus - under Moses
The Wandering
The Conquest - under Joshua
The Judges - "every man did what was right in his own eyes"
The Kings - Saul, David, Solomon
The Divided Kingdom - Northern 10 tribes - Israel  Southern 2 tribes - Judah
The Prophets - (the ones who prophesied during the period of the Divided Kingdom
The Exile - Israel - 722 BC, Judah - 586 BC
The Return - (the Post Exile Prophets)

Next:  New Testament - coming of the next prophet - Mark 1:1-4 - John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Christ.

Question:  What happened between the testaments?  400 years?  Anything of consequence?  importance?

400 Silent Years - The Intertestamental Period - Malachi to Matthew
(no prophetic voice - no recognized prophet rose up)

Israel returns from exile - 538 BC
Ruled by Persia - 539BC - 330 BC - allowed to go home, rebuild temple, etc.  but still under Persian rule.
Ruled by Greece - 330 BC - 166 BC
Independent Rule - 166 BC - 63 BC - basically self-governing
Roman Rule - 63 BC - Birth of Christ

There was a lot of stuff going on in the world during this time period.

430 BC - Malachi prophesied - the old testament closes

336 BC - Alexander the Great takes the throne at 20 yrs. of age after father, Phillip, is assassinated.

330 BC - Alexander defeats the Persians - 24 yrs. old - by age 30 has the largest empire in the ancient world.  Never defeated in a battle.

NOTE:  Alexander's education/world view came from Aristotle - personal tutor
A).  Aristotle had a passion for unity, ie:  all people with a common culture, language, religion, world view, etc.  so...
B.)   Alexander devoted himself to conquer and unify the world --- "Hellenization" - (Greekify the whole world)

326 BC - Alexander the Great dies - at age 30 - had no heir.
So the kingdom was divided between 4 generals

Our focus is on two generals - Ptolemy who took over area of Egypt and
                                               Seleucid who took over area of Syria

Compare:  Israel - 1)  culturally??? not excited about Hellenization - not interested in accepting Greek gods, and the Greek worldview.
                            2)  geographically?  between Egypt and Syria

So........constantly caught in the middle of:
1)  Political maneuvering (war)
2.)  Forced Hellenization - to the point of being killed if didn't comply

175 BC - (a Seleucid) - Antiochus Epiphanes came to the throne (Epiphanes = manifestation of god - claimed to be the "revealed god")   He was also referred to as "Epemines" - meaning demented/insane

Jews revolted/army came/killed 40,000 Jews/sold 40,000 into slavery
Established Laws - 1) assembly for prayer forbidden
                              2)  Sabbath observance forbidden
                              3)  possession of scripture illegal
                              4)  circumcision illegal
These were capital offenses - die publicly

Then Antiochus entered the Holy of Holies and sacrificed a pig to Zeus.

164 BC - Maccabean Revolt - Mattathias refused to sacrifice the pig on the altar, and then killed the priest who said he'd do it.  When Mattathias died, his son, Judas Maccabee, took over leadership and engaged in guerrilla warfare - won Israel's freedom - purged and rededicated the temple.  Finished this on December 25 and commemorated it with a sacred day they call Hanukkah.

So......... 166 BC - 63 BC - Israel self-ruled

63 BC - Pompey, a Roman general, takes Jerusalem and Palestine becomes part of the Roman Empire.

40 BC - Herod the Great was made a puppet king of Palestine by the Roman Senate.  (He was on throne when Jesus was born, had the infants killed, the one the Wise Men went to see.)

Herod rebuilds the temple to be greater than Solomon's ... (construction from 20 BC to 63 AD

What's going on here???

Answer:  God knows.  Dan. 2:31-45
                                   Matt. 3:1-2 - next kingdom is near - the Kingdom of God

Gal. 4:4-5 - "fullness of time" - Right time, Appointed time.  Christ will return at the right time, the appointed time.

Application for us?  today?

2 Pet. 3:1-4, 8-14, 17-18

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Return

So far this series has covered:
The Patriarchs
The Exodus
The Wandering
The Conquest
The Judges
The Kings
        "    - the Divided Kingdom
                the Prophets
The Exile

And today, the next event - The Return from exile.

The History of How this Happened:
722BC - Israel falls to Assyria
586BC - Judah falls to Babylon
562 BC - Nebuchadnezzer dies - he was an incredible leader, and immediately the empire begins to crumble
539 BC - Babylon falls without a fight to Cyrus (the Great) - Persian.  The city was so disorganized that they didn't fight, just fell.  He didn't destroy the city, just occupied it.
538 BC - Cyrus signs the decree stating that all Jews can go back home if they so desire.
537 BC - The 1st. return - Zerubbabel - roughly 50,000 Jews go back to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple
536 BC - temple reconstruction begins.  For about 10 years nothing much done after the start due to a lot of opposition and discouragement.  Around 520 BC the prophets Haggai and Zachariah rise up to encourage the people to resume repairs.
516 BC - the temple is completed - much weeping amongst the people - some from great joy because of the miraculous return to their homeland (the younger ones) - some in great sorrow for remembrance of the glory of Solomon's temple (the older generation)
458 BC - the 2nd. return - under Ezra
445 BC - the 3rd. return - Nehemiah
Esther - was during these returns but she stayed in Babylon.  Many Jews stayed in Babylon instead of going back.  These are referred to as the "dispersia" in the New Testament

4 Events Related To the Return

1.  The letter of Jeremiah - written to the exiles in Babylon (these exiles thought they were going to return home right away).  So, Jeremiah writes a letter to them.  Jer. 29:1, 4-10, 11-14 = exile going to last 70 years

2.  The Vision of Ezekiel who was living in exile in Babylon - Ezek. 37:1-14 - saying the same as Jeremiah.
Also, "....when all hope is gone, I will bring you back, and then you will know that I am the LORD!"

How???  It's 900 miles back, 4 month journey, no permission, no means, no support....???
Answer:  Exra 1:1-11 - Cyrus authorizes the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, encourages financing, and returns the articles stolen from the temple

#3.  The Prophecy of Isaiah - Isa. 44:24-28, 45:1-7 - God = power behind Cyrus.  Vs. 28 - prophecy about Cyrus - written 150 years before Cyrus was born.

#4.  The Prayer of Daniel - in exile in Babylon - taken in the first deportation.  Has been in exile 66 years when he writes this.  Read the scroll of Jeremiah that said exile would last 70 years, so he realized that was coming shortly. 
Daniel 9:1-7 (a), Daniel 9:17-19 -not because we are righteous, but because You are a merciful and great God.

Lessons:  God is faithful, wise, long suffering, goes to any lengths to draw his people to Him.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Prophets

What we've already covered:
The Patriarchs
The Exodus
The Wandering - 1 year for each day the spies were in the land
The Conquest - settled, well-established
The Judges - dark time where every man did what was right in his own eyes.  Ends with Samuel
The Kings -
       The Divided Kingdom - 10 northern tribes = Israel   2 southern tribes = Judah
The Prophets
The Exile

Last week - 930 BC Israel was at its peak - moral state, spiritual condition.

Israel - went into exile - around 722 BC.  Judah around 586 BC

However, economic condition during this time before the exile was very good.  The two nations cooperating, no major internal crisis.  They did extremely well financially for some time.

BUT, on the other hand, 1) the poor were exploited and the gap between rich and poor got wider and wider.
2) the courts became corrupt - you could buy a verdict.
3)  personal immorality was rampant

ENTER:  The Prophets...... who speak for God. - PRE-EXILIC (preached prior to the falls - 7th. & 8th. century BC) and                                                   CANONICAL  - meaning have books in the Bible

A.)  They are inspired to speak for Him - Jer. 20:9 and
B)  Empowered to speak for Him --- Holy Spirit

We are looking at some of the Canonical prophets who preached prior to the exile

The movement begins with:
#1.  Amos - the herdsman/shepherd - was from Judah.  Sent to preach to Israel, which didn't sit well up there.
Amos 7:10-17 (a) - "what the LORD says...."

#2.  Hosea - from Israel - preached to his own people - Israel  Hos. 1:2  "your sin against God's LAW and God's LOVE"  - He would forgive them if they would just return to Him.
According to tradition:  Hosea had no converts, and died of heartbreak

#3.  Micah - country boy/peasant preacher (experienced injustice!)
He predicted:  the fall of Samaria, the destruction of Jerusalem, Babylonian captivity, return, AND the Birth of Messiah - Matt. 2:6 - Classic summary verse:  Micah 6:6-8

#4.  Isaiah - upper class/in the courts/preaches to Kings (wife was a prophetess) in Judah
Isa. 1:10-18 - preached for 50 years, 5 kings - last king Manasseh got tired of his preaching, and, according to tradition, had him put in a hollow log and sawed in two.

#5.  Nahum (the Elkoshite???)  nobody out of nowhere. - "woe to Nineveh", capital of Assyria.  Preached in Judah after the fall of Israel.  (mid 7th. century)  Nahum 1:7-8, 3:19

#6.  Zephaniah (bipolar prophet) - the extremes of the "Day of the Lord".
On one hand - Zeph. 1:14-18 - hellfire and damnation, wrath of God
On the other hand - Zeph. 3:19-20, 3:17 - Love of God for His people

#7.  Habakkuk (name means "embrace")
"Lord..... do something!"  BUT "not that!!" - (the Babylonians)  Hab. 3:16-18

#8.  Jeremiah (weeping prophet) - warned  them for 40 years/ 5 kings, to the end (after three assaults, three deportations) - then he wrote "Lamentations" - a funeral dirge for the people, the nation, the temple.
Jer. 20:7-9 - epitomizes all of the 8th. century prophets.  Spoke for the LORD in their own free will.

We should stand in AWE  of their Courage and Commitment - to God, to His people (they were patriots as well as prophets)

That covers a lot of ground! 

Question:  Can we summarize the message of the (7th. & 8th. century) prophets??

Answer:  We CAN!  In fact, Jesus did it for us....  Matt. 22:34-40

So????  What do you want of me?  Isaiah?  Amos?  Nahum?  Zephaniah?

Answer:  Go..... LOVE God - with head, heart, & hands
                     & LOVE neighbor.

BUT - "not always easy!  This is the 21st. Century!! - church is full of hypocrites!  my neighbor is a jerk!  society mocks righteousness, persecutes the Godly!
Besides..... where are the Rewards?  what are the blessings??? & I'm tired, weary, battle worn.....

Answer:  like the 8th & 7th Century BC.... God still needs believers who'll believe, servants who will serve, followers who will follow, people who will stand!!

The call remains to serve, follow, represent, etc. 

What He requires of us = Love the Lord, Love your neighbor.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Jewish Exile

ISRAEL (northern 10 tribes) - Summary account - 2 Kings 17  - about 722 BC

1.  The Seige (3 years)

2.  The fall of the capital city of Samaria

3.  Deportation of the Jews

4.  Importation - of other conquered peoples into the land

5.  Melding (merging/mixing) - of beliefs & practices

6.  Samaritans - from this mixing - of Jesus' day.

JUDAH (southern two tribes) - Summary account - 2 Kings 24 & 25

605 BC - (Jehoiakim) - 1st attack by Babylon and deportation - this included Daniel.   Then Judah becomes a vassal kingdom and THEN they rebelled

597 BC - (Jehoichin) - took the throne during the siege after his father's rebellion - at age 18 - reigned 3 months and 10 days!!
Then the 2nd. attack by Babylon & deportation - this one included Ezekiel.  The temple was stripped!!  and Zedekiah, Jehoichin's uncle, was placed on the throne by king of Babylon.

586 BC- Zedekiah rebelled - siege, famine, fall.  His sons were all killed, he was blinded and deported to Babylon along with another group of the people.  Jerusalem was destroyed!!  All the Babylonians left behind were the very poorest of the poor.

All along, the prophet Jeremiah told the kings they'd better not rebel as this was God's hand of retribution.

2 Kings 25:21 (b) - "so Judah went into captivity away from her land" - the land God had promised to them, but because of continued sin - exile.


GOD IS FAITHFUL - we like to think that God's faithfulness is all nice, sugar and spice.  No, God is righteous, just, etc.
"God is Faithful" could be the lesson of every sermon:
         The Patriarchs - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, 12 sons
         Egypt - seeking relief from famine
         The Exodus - around 1450 BC - God sends Moses into Egypt to free his people
         The (40 years) Wandering (the rebellion) - after came out of Egypt - 1st. generation refused to go in and take the land
         The Conquest - leadership passed to Joshua - 2nd generation went in and settled the land, although were still pockets of the original inhabitants
         The Judges - no strong leader - the people fell into sin, God let them be conquered by the neighboring peoples, they cried out for help, God raised up a judge who led them into conquest, they prospered, the judge died, they fell back into sin, etc., etc., etc.
         The Kings - Saul, David, Solomon - under Solomon, Israel reached the golden age.  When Solomon died his son, Rehoboam took over - he was tougher than Solomon.
               The Divided Kingdom - The 10 northern tribes pulled away from Rehoboam and set Jeroboam up as king.  He established two temples of worship - one in the north at Dan and one in the south at Bethel and set up golden calves so the gods who led them out of Egypt.  The next 200 years saw Israel (the northern 10 tribes) slide down, down, down.  20 kings - all did evil in the sight of the Lord.
722 BC - taken over by Assyria - deported & imported.
             The 2 southern tribes, Benjamin and Judah (Judah) - held on longer but started the downhill slide as well.  586 BC - conquered by Babylon.  Had a few good kings who brought reform but the downward slide couldn't be stopped.

I.  God is Faithful to His WORD - Lam. 2:17 (a) - Remember???  Renewal of the Covenant??? - Mt. Gerizim/Mt. Ebal - blessings and cursings - Deut. 28:45-52 - promise in God's word.
So..... read John 3:18 - Take it serious!!  Because God is faithful to His Word!!
Not our place to revamp, re-apply, revise it.
Example:  recent popular bumper sticker:  "God said it, I believe it, that settles it"  Not true!!  "God said it, that settles it"  Makes no difference if we believe it or not.

II.  God is faithful to His Purpose -
Which is:  draw all men to Him  - example:  John 12:32   ie:  reveals Himself to draw men

Question:  How does the exile accomplish this??? - Ezek. 6:8-10, 12-14
Point being:  He reveals Himself in discouragement, tragedy, as well as in blessings/prosperity.
The exile is for the salvation of Israel - couldn't teach it in the prosperity

(Having said I & II, we can now say...)
III.  God is Faithful to His People - this has to come after I & II
means He is faithful, dependable, trustworthy in His dealings with you .... what we need.
Does not mean He is faithful to give what you want, desire, assume, think you should have.
Example:  Jesus - John 2:23-24 - "I will be your king, but I will not do what you want me to do."  He is not obligated to your idea of faithfulness.

On one hand, this is hard to accept.  However, Heb. 12:5-12

SUMMARY:  Jeremiah said "exile" - false prophets said "no way!  God is faithful!!"  They were, in fact, denying God's faithfulness!!!  Because He is faithful to His Word and His purpose.

APPLICATION:  God is Faithful!  You CAN depend on Him.... BUT, best get in line with Him ... not faithful to do what the masses say, TV preachers say, etc.
Because He IS faithful to His Word, His purpose, Him self first.  2 Tim. 2:13  Also, trust that if you Don't accept the Son, there is NO other way to the Father.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Monarchy

Gen. 12:1-7 - beginning of the Jewish race, Hebrew history.
Followed the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob) ---> Egypt ---> Exodus ---> 40 yrs. wanderings ---> conquest ---> judges.  This period from Abraham to Judges = about 1000 years.

Now - a new era - The Kings/The Monarchy - 1 Sam. 8:1-22 - Vs. 7 very important - people rejected God as their king.
Begins with Samuel - last judge and 1st. prophet of this era.

Did God have objection to the monarchy? or objection to peoples' hearts?  Gen. 17:5-6   Deut. 17:14-20
Lord had no objection to kingship, but to the people's hearts rejecting Him.

Result of the monarchy???
Saul??  - good start - poor ending  (42 years) - reign was so-so.
David?? - established Jerusalem, expanded the Kingdom!!  (40 years).  Mostly his kingship was pretty good.  He brought the kingdom up in a great way.   Personal life not so much
Solomon?  temple builder, Kingdom builder!!! (40 years)
Israel comes to pinnacle under Solomon.  But, it was built on the backs of his people.

BUT..... 1 Kings 11:1-13 - then during Solomon's latter days, the kingdom starts unraveling.

So.... Jeroboam (in charge of conscripted labor.  Became king of northern tribes) ---> Ahijah ---> death of Solomon ---> Israel divided

Next???  1 Kings 12:26-30

A:  So... Israel (10 tribes) = 20 kings/200 years ---> 722 BC - totally destroyed by Assyria

B.  Judah = 20 kings/350 years ---> 586 BC - totally destroyed by Babylon

Summary:  after Solomon ... there were 40 kings over 350 years, of which 11 followed after the Lord, of which 7 forgot Him at the end of their reign!!  There were only 4 Godly kings over 2 nations in 350 years.

This covers a very long period (1500 years from Abraham's promise to the end of Kings) and has many lessons.

#1.  Man is a terrible substitute for God - Mankind will always be a terrible substitute for God.
1 Sam. 8:19 "...we want a king over us." - any man, group of men, establishment, government, etc.

On one hand governments,authorities are ordained of God   (Rom. 13)
But, Any government is a poor substitute for God

God's intent for the monarchy? = a Theocracy where He rules through man (the king/leader)
(That's why when a king was crowned there was both a coronation and an anointing.)

So.... God's intent for any leader = Servant... OF God ... for  the people.  It didn't work out that way because man is so prone to sin.

#2.  The Monarchy is not over.  On one hand it ended with the exile (Gen 49:10) --> Rev. 5:5 ---> Rev. 19:11-16 - but on the other hand, it is still to come - yet to unfold.

#3.  (meanwhile) You choose your King.
You may not choose your earthly king, president, governor, county commissioner, etc.
But, do get to choose your Sovereign, your Lord!!  Regardless of earthly authorities.  When He returns, there'll be no more choice.  He WILL establish His kingdom on earth.

Too often we take the throne back, not consciously and intentionally all the time, and we make lousy kings!!!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lessons from the Judges

Last week - we discussed the Conquest by the 2nd. Generation

This week = Israel settled in the land - after the life of Joshua
(Note:  the land is secured BUT the conquest incomplete) - many pockets of enemies left that they are to run out and defeat.

We begin with The Covenant Renewal
(as Moses did before the conquest, now Joshua did after the conquest)
Josh. 24:1, 14-31 - notice:  Sheckem - same spot where God promised all this land to Abraham 700 years prior.

Then........ The Judges - (350 years between the conquest and the monarchy) - this was a dark time in the life of Israel.


Apostasy --> Judgment --> Repentance --> Deliverance
 (turned to other gods in land)                                   (God raised up a leader, savior, judge)

(in the text)
Step 1.  "Israel did evil in the eyes of the LORD" - repeated at least 7 times in the book of Judges

Step 2.  "God handed them over...." - gave, delivered, sold into hands of, etc.
Examples:  ruled by Aram (8 yrs), Moab (18 yrs), Canaanites (20 yrs), Philistines (40 yrs.)

Step 3.  Israel cried out to the LORD (turned away from foreign gods)
Question:  True repentance????

Step 4.  God raised up a deliverer (judge)
Othneil, Ehud, Deborah & Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson - some of the judges

Step 5.  "the land had peace".... "till the judge died!!!!  (40 - 80 years)

Step 6.  "Israel did evil in the eyes of the LORD"

Summary:  Judges 2:6-19

So..... they have a time characterized by rebellion, lawlessness, moral decline, decadence and seared consciences leading to bizarre behavior.
Examples:  Abimalech slaying his 70 half brothers so not to have to share, Samson and Delilah, the Danites and the priest, the Levite and his concubine, the slaughter of the men of Benjamin and then allowing the remnant to kidnap their daughters to keep the tribe going.

What's going on here????  NOTE:  The book of Judges is never a commendation of the behavior of the Israelites.  Judges 21:25

I.  This is man being self-righteous - everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Compare:  Judges 14:1-3 - literal Hebrew = "right in my eyes" - don't need God or priest or church to tell me what I need.

Contrast:  Judges 2:11 (a) - ".... in the eyes of the LORD" - going from "in the eyes of the LORD" to "right in my eyes" - doesn't happen over night but over time.

II  This is a cycle becoming a spiral
Remember:  Rom. 1 - God gave them over to.... sinful desires --> shameful lusts --> a depraved mind....
Man exercises self-righteousness, not God righteousness.
For this to be true of a nation, it must be true of the individual people within the nation!!  A nation cannot be given over unless its people are given over.
We don't dwell well in a vacuum morally.  Won't stay in the same cycle, but will begin to spiral downward.

III.  This is God being faithful
Faithful to deliver
Faithful to chastise & curse - God has promised BOTH in His Covenant.
Ex.  Deut. 27:11-14 - blessings vs. cursings
       Deut. 30:15, 19-20

1.  You have a tendency to self-righteousness - everybody does.  It is a universal human trait.
What matters is what's right in the eyes of God - no matter what you think.

2.  You have a tendency to spiral.

3.  You have a God who longs to deliver you from both - a God who is faithful - He wants to free us out of the spiral.  We have a perpetual battle with sin - even in the very best of times.  But, God stands as our deliverer.