Monday, December 19, 2011

Joseph: A Man of Great Faith

My favorite Bible character from the Old Testament is Joseph, the son of Jacob and his beloved Rachel. He proved himself to be a man of great faith, even though he was hated and sold into slavery by his brothers, even though he was falsely accused of a crime he did not commit, and even though he was thrown into prison and then forgotten by the cupbearer of Pharaoh after he had done the man a great service. Joseph never did give up and blame God for his predicament. Instead, he remained faithful, and God blessed him greatly.

However, this article is not about that Joseph, as important as he is to the Bible narrative. Instead, I want to consider another Joseph, one who is much less well-known, but who nevertheless also showed himself to be a man of great faith. At this time of year, we think of Mary and Joseph, the newborn Jesus, and all that goes with the Nativity scene. Much attention is paid to Mary, the Christ-child, the shepherds, and even the wise men who showed up many months later. The one individual who tends to be somewhat and sometimes totally ignored is Joseph, who, although not the biological father of Jesus, assumed all the legal responsibilities of fatherhood.

Joseph revealed himself as a man of great faith from the time he first heard his wife-to-be, Mary, was pregnant. This was no minor situation. The period of engagement was certainly different in that time and culture than it is today. Engagement (“betrothal” or “espousal”) was a binding commitment that could only be broken by a bill of divorcement, and unfaithfulness during that time was no less of an issue than unfaithfulness during marriage. The penalty for the guilty party could be death by stoning. Clearly Joseph at first believed Mary had been unfaithful, because he knew he had not had a physical relationship with her, and he knew she was pregnant. Without a doubt, his heart was broken, but he still loved her and opted for a private bill of divorcement rather than exposing her to public disgrace and having her stoned. His faith is shown by his response to the message the angel brought to him.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus (Matthew 1:18-25, NASB).

The angel told Joseph that the child to which Mary would give birth would be the very Son of God. Many men might have doubted this and would have gone through with the divorce. Joseph, however, quite obviously believed what the angel said, because he acted on the message. Obedience is the best evidence of faith. It is quite easy to say, “I believe,” but it is another thing entirely to act on a message that seems difficult or even impossible. Joseph was asked to believe and act on the reality of a virgin birth. This is clearly impossible with man, but not with God.

A virgin birth is not like a “married bachelor” or a “square circle.” These things are logical absurdities. A virgin birth is not a logical absurdity; it is merely an impossibility. God is powerful to accomplish the impossible, and Joseph both believed and acted on this fact. He “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.” There is no indication that Joseph wavered or doubted. He believed the message from God and acted on it. He knew Mary was still a virgin, and he kept her so until after the birth of Jesus. His actions were likely illogical to others around him, but he acted in obedience to the Lord, so the opinions of his friends and acquaintances were irrelevant.

Some time after His birth, King Herod heard from the wise men that one had been born who would be the new king. Of course, Herod being the paranoid scoundrel he was, immediately came up with a plan to kill this threat to his throne. Many young children were slaughtered in the carrying out of Herod’s evil plan, but of course Jesus escaped. Joseph was warned to take Mary and the child Jesus to Egypt. Once again, Joseph acted in faith and immediately obeyed.

Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON” (Matthew 2:13-15, NASB).

Many men might have replied with skepticism and questioned the wisdom of the angel’s message. It was surely a scary prospect to move to a different country with no notice ahead of time and no time to plan, yet Joseph, in another display of great faith, immediately “got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt.” He did not delay, nor did he express doubt. He simply obeyed the Lord’s command and did something that would have seemed illogical to many, but Joseph obviously knew that the only place of safety was in the center of God’s will.

After a period of time, an angel again came to Joseph and told him to return to Israel.

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2, 19-23, NASB).

By this time, the little family was certainly settled in Egypt, and again, it would have been easy for Joseph to second-guess the angel’s message. He could have considered Egypt to be the best place to safely raise Jesus, since it was away from the place where His life had been in jeopardy. However, just like in the other situations, Joseph acted in faith, believing the message and acting on it. He “got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the Land of Israel.” After coming back to Israel, Joseph was warned by God in a dream and again responded in faith and “left for the regions of Galilee, and came and lived in a city called Nazareth.”

Every step of the way, Joseph responded in faith by acting on what God told him. We know very little more about this man other than what we can assume from his godly character. We assume he died some time between the visit to the temple when Jesus was twelve years old and the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. We can also assume that he was faithful to the responsibility of being the earthly, adoptive father of the Son of God, teaching Him many things, including the carpenter trade.

The Scripture tells us that Joseph was “a righteous man,” and there is no reason to believe he did not operate in the rest of his life in the same manner in which we observe him operating in the parts of his life we know about. He is frequently overlooked among biblical heroes, but what we do know of him makes Joseph a great hero of the faith.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Daniel’s Prayer of Thanksgiving

We so often think of this time of year as a time to thank God for all His blessings – material things – our homes, our cars, our wealth relative to the rest of the world, our country, our freedom, food, etc. For these things we most certainly should be thankful, but Daniel’s prayer of thanksgiving teaches us the importance of being thankful for much more. It reveals a great deal about the nature and character of God – the things on which are based all His blessings to us. We need to be especially thankful all the time, not just at a special time of year.

Daniel’s prayer is found in the second chapter of his prophecy. King Nebuchadnezzar had his dream of the great image, and it troubled him, because he did not know what it meant. He called in all of his magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and Chaldeans – in other words, his alleged “wise men.” Of course, these men were not truly wise at all. They had no connection with the God of heaven. It quickly became clear that Nebuchadnezzar did not really trust the wise men, because he demanded not only the interpretation but the content of the dream itself. When the wise men asked him to tell them the dream so they could interpret it, he accused them of stalling and threatened to destroy them if they could not tell him the dream, but he promised great rewards for anyone who could do so.

Their response rang quite true. Even these heathen “wise men” had enough sense to know that only God (or “the gods” as they put it) could do what the king was asking. The Chaldeans answered the king, and said, There is not a man on earth who can tell the king's matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean. It is a difficult thing that the king requests, and there is no other who can tell it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh (Daniel 2:10-11, NKJV).

Nevertheless, the king gave orders to have all of the wise men of Babylon destroyed, and this order included Daniel and his friends. When Daniel found out about the king’s command, he went to his house, along with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. There they prayed and asked for the answer so that they might not be destroyed with the rest of the “wise men” of Babylon.

Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said: "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, And light dwells with Him. I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers; You have given me wisdom and might, And have now made known to me what we asked of You, For You have made known to us the king's demand" (Daniel 2:19-23, NKJV).

This prayer recognizes the superiority of the God of the universe, the God of the Bible, over all false gods that men have created. This we should be thankful for on a daily basis, because if we did not have such a God, He most certainly could not provide for us all of the other things we think about when we list the things for which we are thankful.

Notice the specific content of the prayer.

Blessed be the name of God forever and ever…   God is eternal. He is outside of time. He is not limited as we are. We need to see things in eternal perspective and not just temporal perspective. He is eternally worthy of our praise and worship.

…wisdom and might are His.  God is all-knowing and all-powerful. All of our questions find their answers in Him, and He is the one who can do something about our situations. There is no situation too big for Him to handle.

He changes the times and the seasons…   God controls His creation. This contrasts God with Babylonian fatalism based on astrology. They looked to the stars, but God made the stars. God has power and control over all those things men look to. In spite of the evidence, man has chosen to worship the created thing instead of the Creator.

Romans 1 tells us that …the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse…who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever (Romans 1:18-20, 25, NKJV).

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork (Psalm 19:1, NKJV),

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? (Psalm 8:3-4, NKJV).

He removes kings and raises up kings…   God is sovereign. This statement contrasts a sovereign God with the weakness of Babylon deities. We sometimes wonder why God allows certain men – dictators, tyrants – to be in power. We can be confident that He has His reasons. And ultimately, all will bow to Him.

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11, NKJV).

He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things…   God is the source of all wisdom and knowledge. The wise men of Babylon were not really wise men. They were not recipients of divine wisdom. Man is completely dependent on God for wisdom. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:22, NKJV). There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV).

He knows what is in the darkness…   There is no hiding place from God. He knows all about us.

…light dwells with Him.   He is the source of light, in contrast to the darkness. Only He can save human beings.

I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers; you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of You, for You have made known to us the king's demand.  We ought to first and foremost thank God for all He is, and then it will be very natural to thank Him for all He provides.

Coming to grips with the very nature and character of God helps put all things into perspective. No matter what comes into our lives, we who know the Lord can accept it as from the hand of our Heavenly Father who knows all things, who is in control of all things, and who loves us with an everlasting love.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Two Fire Chiefs

There once was a fire chief whose time as chief was coming to an end. In all the excitement surrounding his impending retirement, he became careless about a number of things, including what he did with the used motor oil from the fire engines and other official vehicles. Instead of recycling it, he had it poured out on the ground near the fire station. He knew of the danger, and several of his employees warned him that something bad could happen, but his attention was focused elsewhere, and he ignored their advice.

The incoming chief was a younger man with very little experience. In fact, he had never even been a firefighter, but he had done a great deal of organizing for the firefighters’ union. He was to take charge at the end of the chief’s retirement ceremony. He had ascended to the position by promising “change” and also promising never to return to the “failed policies of the past,” such as putting out fires with water and other proven methods of fire suppression.

The day of the chief’s retirement finally arrived. The firefighters had planned a retirement celebration which had gotten underway. During the celebration, the oil near the station caught fire. (It was suspected that some of the new chief’s friends actually set the fire in an attempt to help him off to a good start by giving him a chance to look good right away.)

Soon the fire station itself was on fire. The retiring chief took charge and began the process of getting the fire put out with the help of all the firefighters present. Good progress was being made, but before the fire was completely extinguished, the time came for the transition of leadership to take place.

The new fire chief immediately announced that he was in charge, and although he had no idea what to do about the fire, he asked his predecessor to leave. Before addressing the issue, he gave an acceptance speech in which he proclaimed that from now on, all problems involving fires would automatically and almost miraculously cease due to his presence with the department.

Even though he had no answers, the first thing he did after his speech was stop all firefighting activity and call a press conference to make it clear to everyone that he had inherited the fire from his predecessor. He then formed a committee of college professors and lawyers to study the situation, and he appointed a “Fire Czar” to oversee the committee. He then went to the city council to request funds to finance the new committee and the new czar’s salary, complete with all the benefits and freebies appropriate for someone in such an exalted position.

After meeting with his new czar and committee, he returned to the scene of the fire and called another press conference to announce that a plan was in place to put out the fire, pending approval of the environmental impact study and completion of numerous other reports and studies. Since this was going to take some time, he sent all the firefighters on vacation. He then decided that he might as well play some golf.

When the studies and reports were complete and approved, he finished his 74th round of golf since the fire started, left the golf course, and sent some firefighters to fight the fire, which now was in the process of burning all the buildings within a mile in all directions, by pouring 5,000 gallons of gasoline on it. When the fire got bigger, he ordered them to pour 10,000 gallons of gasoline on it. Not only did the fire not go out as he had decreed, it now was totally out of control, engulfing many city blocks and creeping into the nearby forest.

He finally came up with a solution. He ordered his firefighters to pour 500,000 gallons of gasoline on the fire. This, of course, made the fire much larger, which surprised him greatly, since his ideology told him the fire should have immediately gone ont. It also used up most of the reserves of gasoline, which would be hard to replace, since oil drilling, pipelines, and refineries were all on his “hit list.” When people accused him of making the fire worse through his solution, he reminded them that he had inherited the problem, and if he had not poured the gasoline on the fire, it would have become much worse. People should be thankful that his efforts had saved the city from a much larger disaster.

Three years went by, and he continued to have gasoline poured on the fire. Of course, the fire continued to burn and get larger. He used up many city resources that had been designated for other things, including police personnel and equipment and additional firefighting equipment as he bought more and more gasoline. He continued to blame his predecessor – “I inherited this problem, and if I had not acted decisively, it would be much worse.”

He continued to believe that the only way to put out the fire would be to re-double his efforts with the gasoline, but some of his own men balked at that idea, suggesting that they needed to use the fire control efforts they knew would work. He again responded that it would be irresponsible to go back to the “failed ideas of the past,” completely ignoring the facts that those procedures had a proven track record of putting out fires and also that his procedure had done nothing but make the problem worse.

He continued to blame his predecessor – “I inherited this problem. It’s his fault.” He went on by claiming it was his opponents – probably those pesky police officers – not his own men, who were preventing him from doing what was necessary.

The fire never did get put out. Instead, it just ran out of fuel and went out on its own. However, at least he was able to continue to blame his predecessor, and he was able to get more borrowed money allocated to further cover the cost of his new committee. Of course, he did not use the revenue for that purpose. Instead, he gave it to his friends who ran the unions.

In spite of all of his efforts to make things better, it soon became obvious that total tax revenue was going down, because the fire had destroyed so many businesses and homes, forcing people out of the area, which in turn made the tax base smaller. This caused him to petition city hall to further raise taxes to make up the shortfall. He demanded that those who were already paying all the taxes be compelled to pay their “fair share.” That way, he figured he could raise enough revenue for more gasoline to put out the fire, but he could also give rebates to all those who paid no taxes at all. That would be “win-win” for him. Just in case the revenue did not come in from the greedy rich people, he made alternate plans to borrow whatever amount was needed from China. Hopefully, that would provide enough that he could actually exempt all those who liked him from paying any taxes at all and shift the entire tax burden to his political enemies.

Even though he knew, in spite of all of the evidence, that gasoline was extremely effective in putting out fires, he also requested an additional amount of revenue to study alternative fire suppression sources, since as ethanol, wind, solar, etc. He figured that would get him in good with the environmental lobby and other anti-oil groups.

He also requested twenty-five 50,000 gallon gasoline tanks to be used to fight future fires, if and when the city and the fire station ever got rebuilt. His wisdom told him that the best way to solve a problem is to do more of what caused the problem. Of course, the city and the forest were all but completely destroyed, but forests could grow again, and “the rich” and businesses, at least those who did not move away, could always be soaked for even more taxes in order to pay for more of his brilliant solutions to problems that weren’t his fault.

Thankfully, his term as chief finally came to an end, and there was nothing better at the end than it had been at the beginning. Actually, everything was much worse. But come on… at least he was sincere.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Tribute to My Dad: World War 2 Veteran

Wayne W. Livesay

June 16, 1922 – October 31, 2009

On this Veteran's Day, I honor my dad for his service to our country and for his service to our Lord.

My dad was not famous, but he did more for his country than most of us could ever imagine. He fought and bled for the freedom we all enjoy, even for the freedoms of those who today spit on the flag and make a mockery of the liberty we have in this country. His thirty-three missions in B-17 bombers were many beyond the average life-expectancy of bomber crews in World War 2. His nine months as a prisoner of war in Germany took a toll on his body that caused him to suffer until the end of his life.

In addition to his service to his country, he had a long life of service to the Lord, serving as a pastor and church planter, teaching adult Sunday school for many years, and presenting the gospel of Christ to unbelievers. His life’s verse was Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Go Lady Warriors!

Here it is … the first day of basketball practice … and I am not there. I finally came to a decision a couple of weeks ago … a decision I really knew I needed to make. I stepped down as varsity girls’ basketball coach and left the team in the very able hands of my long-time assistant.

As I saw the season approaching, I found myself doing something I had never done before … I was dreading it. I was dreading spending two hours a day in practice. I was dreading the games two nights a week, especially the away games and late return times on school nights. I was also dreading what it might do to my effectiveness in the classroom.

I always told my teams that basketball is a game, and games are played for fun. I also told them that if they could not have fun and enjoy it, they should not play. I know that applies to coaches, as well. Even though basketball, as well as other sports, can be a great vehicle for teaching biblical principles, what I do in the classroom as a Bible and math teacher is of far greater significance than anything I might do in the gym.

I knew a long time ago that when the time came to step away from coaching, I would just do it with no regrets. I thoroughly enjoyed my 22 seasons of coaching at the varsity level and several other seasons at the JV and junior high levels.

Coaching is very tiring and time-consuming, and we all reach the age where we have to slow down and realize we can no longer do everything we used to do. I step away with many fond memories of past seasons. The Lord was very good to me and to my teams over the years, and I thank Him for the experience.

Now I say to the team, “Go Lady Warriors! Play with all your might as unto the Lord! Have a great season!”

All of the Proof for Darwinian Evolution is Between the Lines



Sunday, October 23, 2011

Moral Relativism

By My Annonymous Friend

I watched a documentary yesterday telling the story of the Canadian military in Afghanistan. At one point the narrator opened a window to his mind and world view when he stated that Afghanistan created a problem for him intellectually. He said that he was raised to believe in a morally relative world where distinctions between right and wrong, or good or evil, were blurred or perhaps non existent. It is true that this view is prominent in western culture. A Zogby poll some years ago showed that 75% of American college professors teach and believe that there is no such a thing as right or wrong. Individuals and cultures must make decisions about what is right or wrong for them. This is how we hear statements like "I decide what is right for me!" or, "This is my truth!" A variation of this thinking is an absurdity I sometimes offer in jest – "I stand up for the truth whether it is right or wrong!"

Back to the Afghan documentary. Why did the narrator face an intellectual dilemma? The reason he cited is that is that he could not explain the Taliban who restrict education, force women into despicable life styles, blow up historic and religious shrines and monuments, and so on. I smiled when I heard him talk about this. Of course he faced a troubling situation. The world he was told existed was in reality a different kind of world. Some have said that moral relativists in fact see the world more as they would like it to be rather than how it is in fact. I think that is true. For many moral absolutism is annoying and interferes with how they live. I commend the narrator for his honesty!

I am aware that I have selected a major and very serious topic. There is a great deal in ancient philosophy and religion about the topic of good and evil. It is for some a reason to believe that God does not exist because if He is a good God then He could not allow evil to exist. This argument has an answer. In Taoism, the ying and yang concept is an effort to show that there is a complementarity between good and evil. I reject this way of thinking as well.

Today's disciples of moral relativism claim that tolerance and neutrality are their virtues. For example, the President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America once stated, "…teaching morality doesn't mean imposing my moral values on others. It means sharing wisdom, giving reasons for believing as I do - and then trusting others to think and judge for themselves." She claims to be morally neutral, but this is categorically untrue. Recent talks about defunding Planned Parenthood have been met with howls of protests and incredibly dishonest propaganda. Those who promote abortions are in no mood to hear the arguments of those who value the life of the unborn. Here is another example of supposed tolerance and neutrality. I found it amusing and also disappointing that a recent climate change (it is now embarrassing to call it “global warming”) conference refused to allow a leading British author and skeptic of this politically fashionable theory to speak at a conference on climate change. So much for tolerance!

Our society is paying a huge price for the false teaching of moral relativism. Contrast today's world with the thinking of George Washington. In his September 19, 1796 Farewell Address to the nation, George Washington stated, "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great Pillars."

William McGuffey, author of the McGuffey's Readers, which were used by students in America's public school system from the early 1800's to the early 1900's, wrote, "Erase all thought and fear of God from a community, and selfishness and sensuality would absorb the whole man." McGuffey's ideas are being validated every day when we watch the evening news!

God is not the author of evil! Mankind was given a choice and chose evil. Ever since, humans have been born with both an evil nature and an evil desire. I marvel that it is not necessary to teach small children to be naughty, mean-spirited, to fight with each other, to take away each other's toys, and so on. Even my angelic children, and now grandchildren, seem to take to all these kinds of behaviors with ease. As we continue in life, we continue to make wrong and hurtful choices at times which have horrible consequences.

I commend the honesty and integrity of the narrator of the documentary I saw. Would that others in our society would honestly examine the world in which we live and question their presuppositions and theories. Moral relativism has serious flaws. It cannot answer for the behavior of brutal regimes like the Taliban and others. Nor can it answer for the evil nature that is present in each of us as well.

The great news is that God has an answer for evil. Without compromising His own righteousness and perfection, He established a way for forgiveness and restoration to be possible. This was accomplished by asking His Son, a perfect and thus legally acceptable sacrifice, to assume all the guilt of humanity by dying. Now the offer of salvation and forgiveness has solid philosophical and theological grounds. Justice and mercy were perfectly combined on the Cross.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Glenn E. Chatfield has posted an article entitled "Is Your Church Too 'Bibley?'" on one of his blogs, "The Watchman's Bagpipes." This brief article touches on something very important in the church today -- the teaching of God's Word. I commented on his post as follows:

I really like your new word, "Bibley." Wish I had thought of it. Thank the Lord for "Bibley" churches and "Bibley" pastors.

I have always believed that there is no substitute for teaching the Scriptures, and that is what I have practiced in my 20+ years of teaching adult Sunday school. All of the topical and "timely" and "relevant" material in the world cannot replace the teaching of the Word of God. As for me, I plan to remain "Bibley" in my approach.

I fugure if someone doesn't like the "Bibley" approach, they have come to the wrong church and the wrong Sunday school class.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Qualifications for the Office of President

The Constitution makes it clear that there are some specific requirements for the office of President, as follows:

• Must be a natural born citizen,

• Must be at least thirty-five years old, and

• Must have been a resident of the United States for fourteen years.

(US Constitution, Article II, Section 1)

It seems that some have now added to those requirements:

• Must “believe in science,” to be defined as believing in the existence of “man-made global warming,” otherwise known as “climate change,” and also must believe in evolution, regardless of biblical truth, common sense, and the evidence.

• Must not believe in God, especially the God of Christianity, regardless of references to God in other founding documents, and regardless of the intent of the framers of the Constitution.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Biblical Function of Government

I determined from the very beginning of this blog that I would stay away from political issues. However, sometimes people call things “political issues” when in reality, they are biblical and moral issues. So often, Christians avoid clearly biblical issues for fear of crossing the mythical line of “separation of church and state.”

So frequently today, we see government at all levels overreaching and doing a myriad of things that government has no business doing, either constitutionally or biblically, while all but ignoring the biblical mandate in this area. It is not my purpose to point out those things. The Bible is very clear relative to the legitimate functions of government. We would all be a great deal better off if governments would follow the biblical mandate.

When God established human government, He gave man the right and responsibility to punish evildoers, up to and including capital punishment. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6, NASB). This point is further reinforced in the New Testament. Speaking of government, Paul says, “…it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (Romans 13:4, NASB). Peter further teaches us that government authorities have been sent “…for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right” (1 Peter 2:14, NASB).

A tremendous instruction to believers is that we are to pray for our leaders so that they might have the wisdom to protect the citizens from the dangers of evildoers, both domestic and foreign, and to lead in a manner consistent with the Word of God, to the end that we might have the freedom to live godly lives. “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2, NASB).

Government needs to first and foremost take care of this responsibility. To neglect this in order to do other things not included in God’s commands is to lead a country in the wrong direction. This is so often the case as government tends to concentrate on overreaching into inappropriate areas at the expense of legitimate functions. Roads, bridges, etc. have their place, but these things become nearly meaningless unless government puts first things first ..."so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”

An excellent article, entitled “The Five Functions of Government,” is found here.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

When Not to Talk

By My Anonymous Friend

I have a variety of interests as I am sure you do also. One activity I enjoy is picking up new recreational vehicles from the factory on occasion and delivering them to a local RV dealer. This past week I made such a trip … to pick up a beautiful new trailer. As I drove I listened to various talk radio stations as I often do. Doing so led me to my theme for this week.

As I listened I was chagrined to hear information being passed off as fact that I knew to be either greatly exaggerated or else patently false. The host of the talk show never once questioned the veracity of the information he was using. What happens a lot in our world today is that bloggers write about things important to them and media outlets use these blogs as their sources without ever doing the kind of fact checking that good journalism requires. Information is then made public in established print or electronic media and picked up by talk show hosts or the public. It is assumed to be true but may in fact not be so at all. At times all spectrums of the political landscape are guilty of this carelessness. This guilt extends far beyond just political discourse and includes business, family, and church life equally. As Winston Churchill once said, "A lie makes its way half way around the world before truth has put its pants on!"

It is very critical for us to be sure we have facts before we speak about them. We can do serious damage to someone's reputation or cause when we pass along information that may not be accurate. Sometimes even when we have facts it is still good judgment to guard what we say. Scripture warns of this in many references.

1. We should not talk if we do not possess the facts. "He who gives an answer before he hears it is folly and shame to him" (Prov. 18:13).

2. We should not talk if our words would only inflame a situation. "He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding" (Prov. 17:27).

3. We should not talk if our words could damage a friendship or hurt another's reputation. "A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are as a scorching fire" (Prov. 16:27).  "A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends" (Prov. 16:28).  "Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof" (Prov. 18:21).

4. We should not talk if doing so might put us into a realm where we do not belong. "Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks evil against his brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge of it" (James 4:11).

As someone for whom talking was a way of life for many years and still is to a great degree, these admonitions are at times very convicting to me. I wonder how many people I have hurt over the years with careless things I have said. James wrote of the power of the tongue. We have all experienced the positive power when a sincere compliment is given. It lifts our spirits and elevates our sense of well being. But we have also experienced the piercing pain that an unthoughtful comment can deliver. It stings and hurts.

My prayer for myself and for you is that we might only use speech that in the words of Paul in Ephesians 4:29 might give grace to the hearer.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


By My Anonymous Friend

This past week some friends of ours celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. It was a delight to join with family and friends to help celebrate this significant milestone in their lives.

Our friends served for some years as missionaries in Vietnam before being forced to leave in 1975. They shared many stories of their work there and how they survived the Tet offensive in 1968 and the final weeks before the war ended in 1975. Some readers may recall that several missionaries were killed during the war and our friends were involved in recovering the bodies and seeking to honor their lives with a dignified burial.

Such stories provide intrigue and fascinate a listener but in my view there is something infinitely more significant about the life and ministry of our friends. Their work did not end in 1975. For years and continuing into the present, they have continued to work in various ways in this SE Asian country. They have provided a voice for the persecuted church there. They continue to advocate for those who have no platform from which to speak. God continues to provide amazing opportunities to serve. In recent months positive contacts have been established with individuals in government service. Recently a television station there featured an interview with our friend. I could continue.

All this spells one thing!  F-A-I-T-H-F-U-L-N-E-S-S. What a tribute to be able to say about a person that after 50 years of marriage he or she has been faithful in their service to their Lord!  I have a conviction that their work is not yet complete and that perhaps even greater ministry opportunities await them. This we simply entrust to the sovereign will and plan of God.

Scripture says that of a steward it is required that he be faithful. Our friends have been faithful for sure. They have several children who currently live abroad who are continuing in the pattern created by their parents. Thus their work will continue through their children even after their time on this earth is completed. I celebrate and rejoice.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ whom you are serving”  (Colossians 3:23-24).

I share this with you today to encourage you to be faithful and to serve day by day in the spirit of Paul's admonition to the Colossian church. Perhaps like our friends, you are serving in a way or in a place where you receive little recognition from others. Do not let this discourage you.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Institutions or People?

By My Anonymous Friend

Recently we watched the movie, "Patch Adams" again. It is based on the true story of a medical student (played by Robin Williams) who rebelled against the institutional medical traditions and barely was able to graduate even though his grades were at or near the top of his class. Hunter "Patch" Adams'  basic frustration was that medicine did not treat patients as humans. He believed that quality of life should count for something as well. He founded a clinic named  the Gesundheit Institute in W. Virginia that treated people free of charge. In real life, at one point 1000 physicians were on a waiting list to serve in this facility. Its purpose is to revolutionize the medical industry by replacing greed and competition with generosity and compassion. In recent years it has expanded its scope to offer a variety of holistic kind of care as well.

This movie resonates strongly with me. In my view any institution must recognize the  danger of losing sight of its most important work – people!  Over time, tradition and ritual often bring about a change where instead of being a servant of the mission they become the mission itself. The administrative work of running an organization becomes all consuming. Organizations lose sight of serving people.

Another example concerns a life saving station established on the rocky ocean coast in New England. Its clear vision and purpose initially was to rescue persons suffering shipwreck in the turbulent waters in the area. After some years the life saving station became a club. Money was raised to buy more boats, the station center was enlarged and furnished more exquisitely. Every year, fewer and fewer people were actually rescued. However, more and more people were members of the life saving station club!

Canada once had two airlines competing with each other. One was the "institutional" airline. The other was private. Eventually the former bought out the latter. It could simply not compete because the playing field was not level. The "institutional" airline received more government favors and tax advantages. After the two merged I once asked an employee who had worked years for the now defunct airline about the differences between the two. "The answer is easy," he said. "One airline had in its mission statement the concept of serving people. The other saw itself as simply a mover of products!"

Jesus fought this trend during his earthly ministry. His chief antagonists – religious leaders, were much more concerned about rules and regulations than about the real needs of people. When the disciples of Jesus were hungry and ate some grain on a Sabbath, religious leaders were alarmed that a Sabbath regulation had been violated. Jesus pointed out that hunger was a higher priority than proper Sabbath observance. An adulterous woman dragged before Jesus so He could pronounce judgment on her, was given new hope while her accusers disappeared with embarrassment. Lepers, blind people, military leaders, Samaritans, tax collectors – all were friends of Jesus. He found time for them.

I have spent most of my adult life working with or in a bureaucracy or "institution". I was a pastor and a denominational executive. When I look back today I sometimes wonder how much I did that was of real value. How many lives did I truly impact for the better?  Today I honestly believe God has given me the opportunity to directly touch the lives of many more people. People who are hurting for a variety of reasons can approach me because I am a "safe" person to talk to. Often they approach me because they have no confidence in the "institutions" to help them deal with their pain. Some of this hurt has come from self-inflicted wounds or bad judgment. Some of this hurt has come from institutional bureaucracy and indifference. But it does not really matter. Hurt is hurt and pain is pain!  I am extremely thankful that by the grace of God I have been able to come alongside people like this. I wish I could do much more because the needs are enormous.

What are your thoughts here?  Are you spending your time truly touching the lives of people?  Are you mired in organization and details to the point where you simply do not have much time for people?  At the end of your life will you be able to say confidently that your life meaningfully intersected with the lives of others?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Follow-up to "Man's Part in Salvation"

I recently had a comment on my previous post, "Man's Part in Salvation."  I wrote a response, but the comments section would not accept it. Perhaps it was too long. Therefore, I have revised my response and am making it into a new post. If you read the original post and the comments, it will help put the following in context.

It is clear that many examples in Scripture are used because they help us understand difficult truth through illustrations we humans can understand. When Jesus talked about the new birth, Nicodemus came to the concept of being born again or born from above because he understood physical birth. When the Scripture says we are “dead in trespasses and sins,” we see a picture of the lost condition of the unbeliever. No example should be carried past its intent. If carried too far, it would seem to teach false doctrine, such as extrapolating to imply that the resurrection of Lazarus means lost people who die in their sins will get a second chance or that universalism is true.

As I pointed out in another post, “Scripture complements itself; it does not contradict itself. Whether we understand it or not and whether we like it or not, when someone comes to Christ for salvation, God gets all the glory, and when someone is condemned, he gets all the credit for his own condemnation.”

We can never use one Scripture to disprove another. Instead, we need to interpret Scripture in light of Scripture. When one passage seems to conflict with another, then we need to look at the massive weight of the overall teaching of the Bible and interpret the seemingly contradictory passage in light of that teaching.

2 Peter 3:9 is a prime example of this. It may well be the most misused verse in the entire Bible. So often we hear that this verse teaches that it is God’s will that all people be saved. Of course, the Scriptures make it clear that God’s will is going to be done, so if this meaning of the verse is true, then universalism must also be true. We know that not to be the case from many passages, such as Matthew 7:14. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (NASB).

In it’s proper context, we must conclude that Peter was not writing to the whole world when he said, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” He was writing to believers, as is stated in 2 Peter 1:1, “To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (NASB). In other words, 2 Peter 3:9 is simply teaching that it is not God’s will that any of His own should perish, and that He is patiently waiting for all of His elect to come to Him. He is patient “toward YOU” and is not willing that any of YOU should perish. This “you” or “us” (KJV) refers to His own people – the elect.

Jesus said this very thing several times, such as in John 6:37-40. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (NASB). He also said, …other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16, NASB). He had not forgotten his other sheep who would yet believe on Him.

A major point of difference relative to this discussion is the issue of “free will.” I find it interesting that so often the word “free” is put before the word “will,” and yet the Scriptures make it very clear that the will of man is anything but free, unless we rightly conclude that we are "free" to choose within the confines of our nature, which means the natural man will always choose the wrong thing. The will of man is in bondage, as Martin Luther pointed out so well in even the title of his book, The Bondage of the Will. Adam, before he became a sinner, had a free will in a way that no human has since – he was able to choose to be a sinner or not. Believers also have a type of free will – we are free to choose to submit to the Holy Spirit or submit to the old nature (Romans 7:14-21). However, unbelievers have no free will at all in these matters, and their will, by nature, surrenders to sin. They can do nothing about their lost condition. That is the massive weight of the teaching of Scripture relative to the matter of man's will.

John 3:16 is a great truth. Obviously, it is the most well-known verse in the Bible, and it is true. It does not contradict any other Scripture. It merely says that whoever believes in Christ will be saved. It does not say that all will believe, and it does not say why some believe and others do not. That is where Ephesians 2:8-9 comes in. In that passage we have reinforced for us that even the faith to believe is a gift from God. Without His grace, we would all be lost with no hope of salvation.

I once had someone tell me that “whosoever” means “everybody.” In reality, it simply means “anyone who.” Anyone who believes in Christ will have eternal life. The Bible teaches that. I certainly believe it. The problem is that no one will believe if left to their own devices. Drawing someone to Christ is God’s business, as the Bible teaches and as men like Charles Spurgeon illustrated by preaching the Gospel to all and leaving the results where they rightly belong – with the Lord.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

“Man’s Part” in Salvation

“I know that salvation is all of God, but man has to do his part.” I have heard that statement many times over the years, and it sounds less credible each time I hear it.

When we consider that man is “dead in trespasses and sins,” and that he is totally helpless to do anything about his lost condition until the Lord makes him alive (Ephesians 2:1), then the “man has to do his part” idea makes about as much sense as saying, “I know it was Christ alone who raised Lazarus from the dead, but Lazarus had to do his part.”

What? So Jesus went out to the graves and gave an invitation, pleading with the dead and saying something like, “Whoever wants to, please raise your hand and come forward, and I will bring you to life.” Such would have resulted in Lazarus remaining in the grave, because he was dead, totally incapable of responding in any way.

On the other hand, if by some unique set of circumstances the dead could respond, how would Christ have made sure Lazarus, and only Lazarus, would come out of the grave? Perhaps Lazarus would have decided he didn’t want to come back and a number of others would have responded instead. That would have taken the Lord out of the position of control and authority and placed humans in charge of the situation.

It is clear that the Lord fully intended to raise Lazarus, and only Lazarus, on that day, and that He did so by His power according to His will. Lazarus had nothing to say about it. It was not necessary for Lazarus to believe that Jesus could raise him from the dead before He would do so. He could not do that – he was dead. Instead, Lazarus had no idea that Jesus could raise him until after He had done so. Only after he was alive did he have any ability to believe.

Many have adopted a backwards view of the Gospel and salvation, making the work of God contingent on the work of man. This is simply not so. Salvation is all of grace. Dead men cannot think, reason, respond, or make decisions. Only after He has made us alive do we have any ability to believe. Belief is evidence that we have been born again and have new life.

Salvation always has been and always will be all of God. “Man’s part” in salvation is a cruel falsehood and is foreign to the teaching of Scripture. Thank the Lord I had no part in my own salvation, because if I were in any way responsible for saving myself, I would most certainly be lost.

Note:  A follow-up to this article is found here.

King Rehoboam

King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying, "How do you counsel me to answer this people?"

Then they spoke to him, saying, "If you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them and grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever."

But he forsook the counsel of the elders which they had given him, and consulted with the young men who grew up with him and served him. So he said to them, "What counsel do you give that we may answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, 'Lighten the yoke which your father put on us'?"

The young men who grew up with him spoke to him, saying, "Thus you shall say to this people who spoke to you, saying, 'Your father made our yoke heavy, now you make it lighter for us!' But you shall speak to them, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's loins! Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.'"

…The king answered the people harshly, for he forsook the advice of the elders which they had given him, and he spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, "My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions."

So the king did not listen to the people…Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the forced labor, and all Israel stoned him to death. And King Rehoboam made haste to mount his chariot to flee to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day…

Judah did evil in the sight of the LORD, and they provoked Him to jealousy more than all that their fathers had done, with the sins which they committed…He did evil because he did not set his heart to seek the LORD.

(From 1 Kings 12, 1 Kings 14, and 2 Chronicles 12, NASB)

Wise leaders listen to biblical principles as well as the voice of experience.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thoughts on Samson

By My Anonymous Friend

I am planning to do some character studies on various biblical women and men. Let me share with you today a bit about what I have been thinking regarding Samson.

If you grew up in the church you will remember that Samson was a man of great strength who killed a lion, tied the tails of hundreds of foxes together and attached torches to them to burn down enemy crops, and who lost his life by tearing down pillars of a pagan building taking with him to their death several thousand Philistine revelers. You may also have learned that Samson fared poorly in the romance department but that part is often not discussed as much.

Samson was a study in contradictions! Amazingly, more information and detail is given about his life in the Scriptures than is given any other of the judges who ruled Israel.  It should make any Bible student curious. As with so many Bible characters, there is something to admire about Samson's life and there is also much to abhor. God set him apart to begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines.  It is curious why the word "begin" is used in this context.  I will let that tantalizing thought slide by and allow you to pursue it for yourself if you wish.

So on the one hand, Samson was set apart by God for an important purpose. At numerous times in his life, the Spirit of God began to stir in him and God came upon him in power. Yet also during his life, Samson was impetuous, hot tempered, stubborn and rebellious. He violated his Nazarite vow on more than one occasion. He was obsessed with pagan women.  When he saw one, he was determined to get her for a wife. Although his parents earnestly pleaded with him to find a nice Jewish girl, Samson refused to listen.

In today's language we could say that Samson did not handle women well.  He also seemed not to learn from his mistakes and repeated his bad choices. He teased and sported with his wives but in the end always succumbed to their persistent "nagging." I find it somewhat amusing that Scripture says Samson felt Delilah's nagging was so severe that he was tired to death of it (Judges 16:16). One translation renders it "annoyed to death."

A few of the contradictions that struck me as interesting about Samson are:

1.  He accused the Philistines of "plowing with his heifer" to obtain the answer to the riddle he posed to them. For one thing this is a strange and not so flattering way to describe his bride.  For another could it not be said that Samson was the one who really made the mistake to plow with someone's heifer in that he refused to stay with his own people and chose instead a girl from the pagan Philistines to marry?

2.  The greatest contradiction or irony is that at the end of Samson's life when he was blinded, he finally was able to see things clearly and fulfill the purpose of his life to "begin the deliverance of Israel from Philistine domination.”

While there are many speculations and applications we might make about the entirety of Samson's life, to me his story is a story of the grace, mercy and sovereignty of God. I do not know exactly how to reconcile all the contradictions in Samson's life. To be truthful I am not always able to reconcile the contradictions in my own life either. Somehow woven through the trials and failures of the human race, God works out His sovereign plans. I cannot understand it always. But it is how God works.  In the end Samson is listed among the other faith heroes in Hebrews 11. Amazing grace indeed!!!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fuel for Mockers

Here we are – a day past the predicted Rapture, Second Coming, end of the world, Judgment Day, depending on who you talk to. The one thing about all this nonsense that I knew for sure was that none of this would happen on May 21 at 6:00 P.M.  I had great confidence in that fact, because the Scriptures make it quite clear that no one knows the day or the hour. Without starting a debate on the difference between the Rapture and the Second Coming, and there is a distinct difference between those two events, I believe it will be helpful to examine a few Scriptures to see just what they say about the return of the Lord.

Jesus said in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (NASB). Jesus continues in verse 44, “For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will” (NASB). Too many people over the years have attempted to reduce the Scriptures to some kind of mathematical formula, and mixing that with some kind of “hocus pocus,” they have come up with a certain date and time for the return of the Lord. Such can only be done in ignorance of or in outright denial of the Scriptures.

The worst thing about these people who think they can predict what God has not chosen to allow man to know is that they provide fuel for the skeptics and mockers. No amount of nonsense any human can say can change the truth. Jesus is coming back. He made that very clear. “I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3, NASB).

The Rapture of the Church is imminent, just as it has been since they days of the apostles. Nothing has to be fulfilled before the Rapture. There are no signs of the Rapture, but there are certainly signs of the Second Coming of Christ, an event which will occur seven years later, and many of those signs are becoming more and more visible today. It is safe to say that there are many reasons to believe the Lord will return soon, but it is never safe to get into date-setting.

Of course, the media and others are using this non-event as a reason to scoff at the idea of the Lord coming back as a hoax or a fairy tale for gullible people. There are those who will take any opportunity to deny the fundamental truths of Christianity and to group all Christians in with the types of people who make things up to grab headlines or in some cases to enrich themselves. The reality is that this is all just another of Satan’s tools to get people’s eyes off the truth.

Peter addressed this situation. “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.’ For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:3-7, NASB).

There have always been and there will continue to be those who mock at the truth. They ask, “Where is the promise of His coming?” Many are certainly asking that today. The fact that God has already judged the world with a flood “escapes their notice.” They are “willingly ignorant” or as one speaker said, they are “dumb on purpose.” Regardless of all the evidence of a global flood, they deny it, because they don’t want to admit that God already has and will again judge the world because of sin. They desperately hope that denying the obvious will make it go away, but God is not going to go back on His promise to bring “the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

It is imperative that we not do or say things to add “fuel to the fire” for mockers. They desperately need the Gospel of Christ, and they need to know that judgment is coming, no matter what people may say about it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Resurrection and the Growth of Christianity

By My Anonymous Friend

Why are dogs named Caesar or Nero?   And why do we name our children Peter, Thomas, James, John, and Mary?

Today is Resurrection Sunday. I have tried to give special thought to the significance of this entire week, sometimes known as Holy Week or Passion Week. Last Sunday we reminded ourselves of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem Jesus experienced. Throughout the week I thought of what happened to Jesus after that great and ironic entry. There was a trial and the humiliation of it. There was the agony in Gethsemane where what was about to come to Jesus was so overwhelming to Him. On Friday we attended a very meaningful service here which really brought home to me the horror of crucifixion, the darkness and the despair that characterized that day. All this served to prepare my spirit for today. What an incredible contrast to Friday!!  Scripture says when the disciples first heard that the tomb was empty they considered it nonsense. Who can blame them?  Peter however, the ever impetuous man that he was, ran to the tomb to see for himself. And yes, indeed it was empty!  I would love to know what that day was like for eyewitnesses.

Let’s get back to the dogs we name Caesar and Nero now. Historians estimate that by roughly AD 40 there might have been around 5,000 followers of Jesus in the Roman Empire. However, by AD 350 it is estimated there were about 33,000,000. What accounts for such fantastic growth?  I would suggest the resurrection had everything to do with the growth of Christianity. The Roman Empire declined over the years while Christianity flourished. That is why I suppose we name our dogs Caesar or Nero! (This idea is not unique with me. I heard it in a sermon this morning). The explosive growth of Christianity is one reason why Scripture speaks of the power of the resurrection. It transforms. It is the basis and foundation of our faith. It provides hope!  It is the basis for preaching. I have long believed that if a pastor cannot preach at Easter time, he cannot preach at all. The resurrection is the single most significant event in the entire history of the world.

So I wish you a very meaningful celebration of Resurrection Sunday. May you experience a renewed sense of hope and life itself today.