The Humanity of Christ [Lesson 3.1]

20 Jun

In our lesson this week, we are studying Christ, His humanity and His deity. We will study the biblical accounts of Jesus but did you ever wonder if there is non-biblical, historical evidence that Jesus actually walked on this earth?

The Historical Jesus

Probably one of the best places to start would be to find writings from “hostile” sources – writers who mentioned Jesus in a negative light or derogatory fashion. These authors certainly were not predisposed to further the cause of Christ or otherwise to add credence to His existence. In fact, the opposite is true. They rejected His teachings and often reviled Him as well.

Tacitus (c. A.D. 56-117) was a member of the Roman provincial upper class with a formal education who held several high positions under different emperors such as Nerva and Trajan. His famous work, Annals, was a history of Rome written in approximately A.D. 115. In the Annals he told of the Great Fire of Rome, which occurred in A.D. 64. Nero, the Roman emperor in office at the time, was suspected by many of having ordered the city set on fire. Tacitus wrote:

“Nero fabricated scapegoatsand punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called). Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilatus. But in spite of this temporary setback the deadly superstition had broken out afresh, not only in Judea (where the mischief had started) but even in Rome.”

Tacitus hated both Christians and their namesake, Christ. He therefore had nothing positive to say about what he referred to as a “deadly superstition.” He did, however, have something to say about it. His testimony establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that the Christian religion not only was relevant historically, but that Christ, as its originator, was a verifiable historical figure of such prominence that He even attracted the attention of the Roman emperor himself!

(the above is an edited version of “The Historical ChristFact or Fiction?” at Apologetics Press http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/157)

Fathers Day [Bonus]

19 Jun

 One summer evening during a violent thunderstorm a mother was tucking her small boy into bed. She was about to turn off the light when he asked with a tremor in his voice, “Mommy, will you sleep with me tonight?”

The mother smiled and gave him a reassuring hug. “I can’t, dear,” she said. “I have to sleep with Daddy.”

A long silence was broken at last by his shaky little voice: “The big sissy.”

——————————–

Charles Francis Adams, 19th century political figure and diplomat, kept a diary. One day he entered: “Went fishing with my son today–a day wasted.” His son, Brook Adams, also kept a diary, which is still in existence. On that same day, Brook Adams made this entry: “Went fishing with my father–the most wonderful day of my life!” The father thought he was wasting his time while fishing with his son, but his son saw it as an investment of time. The only way to tell the difference between wasting and investing is to know one’s ultimate purpose in life and to judge accordingly.

Thank you to all the fathers (like mine) who invested the time to take their children fishing, camping, to the park, to the baseball games and all the other places where Dads spend time with their kids.

That reminds me… Where’s my fishing pole? I think I’m going to teach some girls how to fish!

—————————

I was thinking…did you ever wonder about the trust Isaac must have had in his father Abraham?

God’s Concurrence [Lession 2.7]

19 Jun

con·cur·rence (noun)

1. Agreement in opinion.
2. Cooperation, as of agents, circumstances, or events.
3. Simultaneous occurrence; coincidence.

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=concurrence

————————————————————

Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now–life for many people.
Genesis 50:20 (The Message)

————————————————————-

In our lesson, we learn the one of the elements of God’s Providence is concurrence. Concurrence means “agreement, cooperation, or consent”. It gives the idea that no activity of matter or the mind can take place without God’s consent, and that His power cooperates with the powers that are under Him. Essentially, God’s power has a strong influence on man’s power without destroying it or robbing man of his freedom.

Recently in the news, we heard that a man named Brian Nichols went on a killing spree in a courthouse and in the process of trying to get away. He happened upon a woman named Ashley Smith. She had been struggling with her own problems and had recently started reading “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren.

While we don’t know how the story will ultimately end, we can see signs that God’s hand was in the story.

  • First, Nichols came upon Ashley Smith. Here was a woman who was just starting to learn something about her own relationship to God and she wanted to share what she learned.
  • Second, she told Nicols that possibly, God’s hand was in this. That because of what he had done, Nichols would have to go to prison but that he could be a witness behind bars. Like I said, we don’t know ultimately how this will end. I’m praying that Nichols will have a conversion experience and be a great witness to God’s awesome power of forgiveness and redemption.
  • Third, the news media covered the story and because the book was such a prominent part of the story, they couldn’t ignore it. It renewed interest in the book. How many lives were changed as a result of people seeing news stories that mentioned Ashley reading the book to Nichols.

Shortly after this happened, Larry King interviewed Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life”. Here are some quotes from the interview:

KING: Rick, why do bad things happen to good people?

WARREN: Well, Larry, it’s because we live in a broken world. This is not (a) perfect world. This is not heaven and that’s why we’re depraved. ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is heaven.’ Why? Because in heaven, everything’s done perfectly. Things are not done perfectly on this earth.

“God gave us a freedom to choose. As a result of choices, we make mistakes, we blow it — and whenever I make mistakes, whenever I sin, it always causes damage and causes hurt.

“The Bible teaches that since sin entered the world, way back with the very first human beings, we have lived in an imperfect, broken planet, and that causes hurricanes and tornadoes, and all kinds of things. This is not a perfect planet. So, we should not be surprised that it’s not paradise. And also, life is not fair. In fact, the Bible says life is not fair. It’s just not fair.”

## and then later ##

…I’m creating ways to simply share the message, that God loves you, he has a plan and purpose for your life, Jesus Christ died for you, there is a reason for the things that happen in your life. And even the bad things, God can bring good out of bad.

“That’s what Easter’s all about, and — the message isn’t really anything new, Larry. It’s been taught for 2,000 years in churches. If somebody wants to hear it, they don’t have to read my book, just go to church on Easter and hear it.”

(Read the whole interview here: http://edition.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0503/22/lkl.01.html

)

God’s Providence to Abraham [Lesson 2.6]

18 Jun

Ever wonder where God is when you are experiencing problems in life? In the Psalms, one of the common themes is the Psalmist, crying out to God – asking Him where He is!

I’ll paraphrase…

Lord, we have been knocked down! I don’t know where we will ever get the energy to get up and continue with the fight. You don’t even seem to care. God, do you have it in for us? Our problems seem to scream at us and ask us – where is your God? Is He out to lunch? Is He taking a nap? Where are You when we need You most?

The truth is, as the Psalmist concludes, most of our pain is the result of our own actions, choices, and attitudes. So he prays! Please forgive us for neglecting your plan for our life. Please, pull us out of this mess. Do what You’re best at doing. That is saving! That’s what God’s specialty is. (Psalm 79)

Now think about Abraham. God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son. Did you hear Abraham saying – Where are you God? Why would you have me do this? You can’t be serious!

No. Abraham obeyed. When Isaac asked where the lamb was, Abraham said, “God Himself will provide one”. What faith. Abraham knew what Isaac didn’t – God had asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. But, Abraham’s faith in God’s Providence was so great that he knew that God would provide a lamb.

So, what is our answer to God when we experience trouble? I trust you God to know what is right for me and that through your Providence, you can make all my stupid actions work out for good. And when you do, I will praise you over and over and over. Actually, maybe I should start now!

The Providence of God [Lesson 2.5]

17 Jun

prov·i·dence (noun)

1. Care or preparation in advance; foresight.

2. Prudent management; economy.

3. The care, guardianship, and control exercised by a deity; divine direction

4. Providence God.

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=providence

——————————

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor. -from the Declaration of Independence

The Founders were characterized, as a group, by remarkable intellectual ability, foresight and public-spiritedness. When they signed the Declaration of Independence, they knew they were risking everything. Most would sign this pledge knowing that they would become instant wanted men. They also knew that in order for this country to survive, the American people would have to depend on God’s Divine Providence. The Declaration contains five references to God – God as supreme Lawmaker, God as Creator of all men, God as the Source of all rights, God as the world’s supreme Judge, and God as our Protector on whom we can rely.

They were dependent on God’s care, foresight, prudent management, guardianship and divine direction. They knew that man alone could not accomplish this by themselves. Whew — I am still in awe at the brilliance of these men.

——

Consider this quote by Robert E. Lee

“We failed, but in the good providence of God apparent failure often proves a blessing.”

——

God is always watching out for us – even when we think He isn’t.

God the Creator [Lesson 2.4]

16 Jun

cre·a·tor (noun)

1. One that creates
2. Creator God. Used with “The”

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=creator

————————————————-

In the beginning God…

These first four words of the Bible form the foundation for faith. Believe these words, and you can believe all that follows in the Bible. I love to read the Genesis account of creation. We know from our previous lesson that God is omnipresent. Time and space isn’t a concept in His world. He is the ultimate time traveler!

I still marvel at Gods creative power. Six years ago, Patti and I were surprised to find out we were about to have triplet daughters. For a number of reasons, we knew there was a possibility of multiples. We used in-vitro fertilization, so automatically, it was a possibility. Multiples run in my family and lucky us, it was my generation’s time! My brother Shawn already had a set of twins and my cousin has twins. Two of our triplets are identical. Our doctor said, “As good as I am, I can’t do that!” An egg splitting is totally a God thing.

As I reflect on the uniqueness of my girls, I started thinking about how God continues to create today. God gave man the knowledge to perform the procedure that ultimately produced our daughters. We like to think that God wanted to remind us that He was the author of creation by splitting that egg. In fact, He used his creative power to create each one of us, unique as we are!

I’m glad we are all unique…I don’t think the world could handle another me.

———————————

Creation – Another view

———————————

After creating heaven and earth, God created Adam and Eve. And the first thing he said was “DON’T!”

“Don’t what?” Adam replied.

“Don’t eat the forbidden fruit.” God said.

“Forbidden fruit? We have forbidden fruit? Hey Eve… we have forbidden fruit!!!!!”

“No Way!”

“Yes way!”

“Do NOT eat the fruit!” said God.

“Why”

“Because I am your Father and I said so!” God replied, wondering why He hadn’t stopped creation after making the elephants.

A few minutes later, God saw His children having an apple break and He was ticked!

“Didn’t I tell you not to eat the fruit?” God asked.

“Uh huh,” Adam replied.

“Then why did you?” said the Father.

“I don’t know,” said Eve.

“She started it!” Adam said.

“Did not!”

“Did too!”

“DID NOT!”

Having had it with the two of them, God’s punishment was that Adam and Eve should have children of their own.

Thus the pattern was set and it has never changed.

God is Love [Lesson 2.3]

15 Jun

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Romans 5:8 (New Living Translation)

———————————————————————

Because God is Holy, He separates Himself from people because of human sinfulness. How then can we communicate with God if we are sinners.

In the Old Testament, only one person was allowed in the holiest part of the tabernacle. A sanctified priest was permitted to enter once each year to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat. He did this to make atonement for the sins of the people in the presence of a holy God. In this way, God’s people were made to see how much God hated their sin.

In present times, God has provided us a way to come into His holy presence through atonement provide by His son, Jesus Christ who was the sacrificial lamb, paying for our sin with His life. It is the ultimate act of love.

How could He love us so much?

God is Love, and His love is very different from human love. God’s love is unconditional, and it’s not based on feelings or emotions. He doesn’t love us because we’re lovable or because we make Him feel good; He loves us because He is love. He created us to have a loving relationship with Him, and He sacrificed His own Son (who also willingly died for us) to restore that relationship.

God is the Creator of all things, and by His very nature, He is love. God says love is unconditional and sacrificial, and it’s not based on feelings; therefore, love is not an “intense affection… based on familial or personal ties”. To understand what true love is and to be able to truly love others, we must know God, and we can do this through a close personal relationship with Him. We can have that close relationship with God by putting our faith in Jesus Christ, who was God’s sacrifice of love for us.

God is Just [Lesson 2.2]

14 Jun

just (adjective)

1. Honorable and fair in one’s dealings and actions

2. Consistent with what is morally right; righteous

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=just

—————————————————————–

God has given me and my wife the wonderful task of raising four daughters. One of the most challenging things I experience as a parent is watching my children disobey and then having to play parent. It saddens me when I have to discipline one of my girls. Nothing melts a fathers heart quicker than big sad eyes that say – “Daddy, I love you… I’ll obey next time”. I know that as a God fearing father, it is my role as a parent to provide good sound biblical discipline when our children disobey. I don’t like it, they don’t like it, but it’s for their own good.

Wow – I sound like my parents!

The bible says it best:

In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through–all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?

My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,
but don’t be crushed by it either.
It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;
the child he embraces, he also corrects.

God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.

Hebrews 12:4-11
The Message

God is Holy [Lesson 2.1]

13 Jun

ho·ly (adjective)
  1. Belonging to, derived from, or associated with a divine power;
  2. Regarded with or worthy of worship or veneration;

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=holy

——————————————————-

Men are notorious for wearing underwear way past their usefulness.  I have a pair that I only wear on Sundays…They are holy! (rim-shot please!)

Seriously…

God is holy in His absolute uniqueness. Everything else belongs to a class. We are human. Rover is a dog, the oak is a tree. Earth is a planet, the Milky Way is one of a million galaxies, Gabriel is an angel, Satan is a demon. But only God is God. And therefore He is holy, utterly different, distinct, unique.

All else is creation. He alone creates. All else begins. He alone always was. All else depends. He alone is self-sufficient.

And therefore the holiness of God is synonymous with His infinite value. Diamonds are valuable because they are rare and hard to make. God is infinitely valuable because He is the rarest of all beings and cannot be made at all, nor was He ever made. If I were a collector of rare treasures and could somehow have God, the Holy One, in my treasury, I would be wealthier than all the collectors of all the rarest treasures that have ever lived.

The holiness of God is the absolutely unique infinite value of His majestic glory. To say that our God is holy means that He is beautiful beyond degree in the magnificence of His glory and that His value is infinitely greater than the sum of the value of all created beings.

———————-
Reflect on these words:

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty
God in three persons, blessed Trinity

Holy, holy, holy, all the saints adore Thee
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea
Cherubim and seraphim, falling down before Thee
Which, wert and art and ever more shall be

Holy, holy, holy, though the darkness hide Thee
Though the eye of sinful men Thy Glory may not see
Only Thou art holy, there is none beside Thee
Perfect in power, in love and purity

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name in earth and sky and sea
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty
God in three persons, blessed Trinity

God Is Awesome! [Bonus 1.6]

11 Jun

 

awe (noun ) A mixed emotion of reverence, respect, dread, and wonder inspired by authority, genius, great beauty, sublimity, or might

awe·some (adjective) Inspiring awe

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=awesome

———————————

As I struggled to get my email server working correctly so I could send these emails and have y’all (remember our conversation on Sunday) actually receive them, I was struck at how similar this is to our own process in trying to live a christian life. My email server is equipped with many filters and firewalls. Predelivery and post-delivery processing rules. All in an effort to prevent all of the unwanted garbage the internet can expose us to. On average, even with all of the rules and procedures and walls in place, I still get 150-200 junk emails per day which I still have to sort through just in case my rules snagged a good email. (Ever wish there were a Culligan Man for computers?! )

On my journey in christian living, I have also established rules, procedures, walls etc.all in an effort to live a life pleasing and accountable to God. As much as I try, garbage still enters into my life and I have to deal with it. I like knowing that there is a God, who desires a personal relationship with me. He already knows the consequenses of whatever choices I might make. I take comfort in the fact that I can call upon His knowledge and wisdom to guide me into making the right decisions.

Now – if God would only do email!

—————————-

From the Groaner Department

—————————-

What did the horse say when he fell?

“I’ve fallen and I can’t giddy up!”