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An essay on the similarity of the taking of the Promised Land by the Old Testament Hebrews and the Great Commission of Jesus.

 

Illustration of Old Testament leader Joshua commanding the sun to stand still during battle of Jericho, by J. ShillipenteemsI was struck last night with a particular thought. The divine command to the Israelite tribes was to take the land that was before them and God would go before them and fight for them. Similarly, Jesus tells his disciples to go into all the nations, making disciples, and he will be with them even unto the end of the age. I find it striking that these are very similar. In the OT, Israel is to physically conquer a people, utterly destroying them. In the NT, the new Israel—believers under Jesus—is to spiritually conquer the world, pulling down strongholds of falsehood and training people in truth, that is, making disciples.

In both situations, God goes before them. Physically, the LORD will go before Israel into the land and put fear into the hearts of men for the sake of his people and slay them even before his people can. In a very real sense, there is nothing to fear given the showing up of the LORD on the battlefield, but Israel is very much afraid. They fear that the LORD is leading them to their deaths, they doubt that they matter at all to him or that he is truthful.

Similarly, the Holy Spirit goes before the church into the spiritual wilderness, conquering the hearts of men and rendering them unto Jesus. His people are merely to, metaphorically speaking, go in and take the land, or as Jesus puts it, bring in the harvest. We have no arguing to do, no persuading to do, no convincing, no fighting. The gospel is merely sweet to those who are being saved and bitter wormwood to the perishing. And yet the people of Jesus are also afraid. Afraid of rejection, afraid of mocking, afraid of destitution or torment. Those who live under this fear are proud. Too proud to be rejected, so they hide, too proud to be mocked, too proud to share in the sufferings of Jesus.

There were consequences for Israel; they didn’t get to see the promised land, they died outside it’s boundaries, never tasting the goodness of that place and the protection of God under the covenant. Will there be consequences for the new Israel? Will the fear of the people of Jesus lead to similar wilderness? Will keeping silent, refusing to bring in the harvest, yield a wilderness for us? Will we die outside of the walls of the promised land, embarrassed of the LORD? How does Israel’s experience teach us in the new covenant of grace?

I still haven’t answered these questions, but it’s food for thought.

Dear Representative Baldwin,
I am shocked to learn of the involvement of Mr. Kevin Jennings, the current Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, with the organization GLSN. In fact, he is the Chief Executive of this organization which has promoted Pedophilia, an illegal behavior in the United States of America, as well has promoted the education of children in the ways of homosexual activity–NOT homosexuality, but ACTIVITY, as in HOW TO PERFORM VARIOUS SEXUAL ACTS, as in PORNOGRAPHY GIVEN TO MINORS–under the pleasant guise of health education. This is simply unacceptable behavior of one charged with the safety of our children!
I urge you to voice your opposition to the national and public endorsement of Pedophilia and crimes against our youth, subjecting them to pornographic material underage and educating them in things of which they are unfit to grasp in a safe manner. NOT voicing support to H.R. 966 (http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-hr966) shows that you support such leadership and an embracing of such activity, which I am sure, good Madam, that you, having deep values and moral conviction, do not, indeed, support.
Thank you,
Mr. Michael Caron
Sun Prairie, WI

All Abord the Fail BoatA friend of mine recently posted a comment on a Huffington Post article by Rachel Simmons. The article describes a heinous act at a homecoming dance where a 15 year old girl was gang raped by 10 or so guys while more than 20 others stood around watching, taping, texting and tweeting the event live. She writes,

Salon’s Broadsheet logged 276 hand-wringing words on Tuesday, wondering, “When did high school students become so unafraid, so violent?”

I commented on this statement, saying,

I’d say that high school students became so violent when adults started telling them that they were that way. Look at all the movies that glorify teenage sexuality. Hollywood and TV Land are basically telling students that if they’re not out partying it up and screwing all the girls in class, then they’re nerds and losers. Just look at shows like Beverly Hills 90210 for crying out loud. You can look farther back at shows like the original 90210 or Dawson’s Creek, or keep going back. We keep shouting at teens that they are sexual creatures and to revel in it while they are young!

What is wrong with us? The God of the ancient Hebrews used to continually warn his people to stay away from the worship of other gods, mentioning how these other gods demanded their children and how YHVH does not. We sacrifice our children to Mammon daily as we produce consumable media for them that glorifies their budding sexuality. The money trucks just keep on backing up to the doors of producers who lay aside their moral responsibility and produce whatever sells, maximizing profit on the most vulnerable prey. Parents continue to abandon their children for their jobs, hobbies and adventures and lay their children in the wake of such destructive media instead of engaging it, talking about it, TEACHING and FORMING their children.

Since when have we decided that raising our children is the job of educators? Child care providers? After school programs? Sunday school? Who are these people talking to our kids? Parents, WE HAVE TO STEP UP TO THE PLATE! WE are the loud speaker of morality in our children. WE are the primary influencer! WE show our children how life is to be lived and WE grab moments of life to impact them with skills to avoid such destruction as Simmons describes. Stop pawning our children off to third parties for the primary role. Don’t assume that teachers will truly teach our kids anything about real life. Question what they are learning. Get into their space. Show them you care and show them how to live not by lecture, but by example. Let’s lead our children for once, instead of letting NBC, CBS, ABC, HBO and Showtime lead our children. Let’s take the reigns out of the hands of our schools, out of the hands of Hollywood.

Let’s not forget that these are not adults, they are CHILDREN! TEEN != ADULT. They do not have the capacity to make decisions as we expect adults to do, LOOK AT THE EXAMPLES! We are still parents. We train them how to make decisions by lovingly speaking into life with them, by being involved with them, by training them.

If we stop telling our children that they are the pinnacle of sexual creation, they will stop acting like it. Be careful what you let your children take in. Be a parent, know your children. Pray to God that his grace keeps them within your influence.

pain

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” -James, brother of Jesus

I’m leaving for work today as usual, but there’s a mental cloud over me. The cloud is thick, like a late fall fog when the frost from the evening is evaporating into a warming sky and you can’t see beyond your headlights. It’s mental claustrophobia. I’m not even thinking about what I’m doing, this route to work is so second nature. Get in, drive, get out. Same route, day after day. My thoughts stumbling around, reaching for the wall for some orientation.

I have this hiding place I’ve been running to when things get difficult for me. I’ve been running to it in various ways for years. It’s a very lonely place because Jesus doesn’t like to go there with me. He offers to go somewhere else each time, but I tell him that’s fine for him, but I want my spot. I feel good there. He knows that when I come back, I’ll need to talk with him and I’ll feel worse than when I left, so he pleads with me, but I usually ignore him.

For several weeks now, I’ve been ignoring my hiding place and following Jesus to his spot. It’s taken incredible strength and unrelenting faith to follow him. I feel worn out, stretched thin, “like… butter scraped over too much bread.” With each step, my hiding place looks more undesirable and yet more seductive. If it was a person with a phone, my minutes would be eaten up just with the voice mails and text messages sent to me. “Just one last time! Please?! I miss you! We used to have so much fun!! Remember how I used to make all your problems fade away when you were in my arms?! You can have that again!” I’ve turned off the phone and thrown it in a river in another state in another country that I never visit. Occasionally, I pass a phone shop… but I’m walking with friends who remind me how destructive my hiding place really is.

Either I never noticed how often I went there, or that hiding place is calling ever more strongly in so many other ways. I’ve gone through some things recently that have daily tested my decision, day after day, week after week, but the barrage this week has been stronger than ever. Daily I remind myself that Jesus is better. The way of Abba is more desirable and I claw my way forward through a tube too small for my body, littered with broken glass. Opposed on all sides.

Jesus seems very determined to not let me slip. Disciplining me each time I go somewhere he is not. Letting me experience the full pain of being where he is not, revealing the truth of being in darkness. He relentlessly brings me to places and situations where I have gone to my hiding place and He asks me to stay with him. It’s the most difficult fire I have experienced and it takes every wisp of faith to believe Jesus will not abandon me. Seems that this week, he turned the knob of pain to 11.

I will choose to remain in the fire, that I might become like gold. God help me. I walk in the shelter of your strength. Stay your hand, Abba. Keep my enemies occupied and prevent my darkness from overwhelming me. Let me see your faithfulness this week with my eyes. Refresh me, Abba!

Today’s favorite… Code magic

more about "Code Steroids", posted with vodpod

Huzzah! Good stuff here.

more about "Treasure Fingers", posted with vodpod

I’ve been realizing that my life in Europe was a one-time gig. Never again will things be that simplistic, that easy and that free. With the time constraints on my life being a husband and a father, living in Europe again seems like a pipe dream. I’ve been pondering things that I regret not doing while I lived there:

  1. See the Berlin Philharmonic
  2. See an opera in a really old opera house, like Paris, Frakfurt or London
  3. Travel more eastward, visiting the Holy Land, Asia, India
  4. Travel southward, visiting Africa

That’s what I’ve been bumming about today. Hope I get the chance to live once again over seas in a more interesting place.

(work in progress…)

Sitting around the lunch table with my coworkers yeilds some of the most interesting conversation that I get to have. Everything from libritarian plans of taking over the USA and new revolutions to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This particular day, the day after Easter Sunday, when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, we were talking about none other than him. One claimed that many people believe that Jesus wasn’t even crucified, rather he died in another fashion and the part about the cross was just post-mortem elaboration by his followers. Another asked the question of whether it is important that he died on a cross, or if he just died and was risen from the dead? What if he were to have died in some other way, like “eating bad fish.” I was silent for a while, just taking it in, but I couldn’t sit further when images of Peter denying his friendship with Jesus filled my head. So I spoke up.

To assert that Jesus of nazareth was not, in fact, crucified is a wild claim, for several reasons.

First of all, the New Testament itself is firm in it’s teaching that Jesus was crucified, on a cross on a hill called Golgotha after intense suffering at the hands of Roman soldiers in the capitol city of Jerusalem in the Roman province of Judea. You can find this teaching through out the entire New Testament. Secondly, 1 Corintians, which can be dated between 55 and 57AD, roughly 25 years after Jesus’ death, give or take, claims that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to more than 500 people at one time, most of whom were alive at the time of authorship. While his resurrection is not what is being questioned here, the eye witnesses Paul mentions leads us to believe that if Jesus was, in fact, not crucified, Paul wouldn’t have been able to get away with preaching that he was. He would have been a laughing stock! Who would believe his wacky religion!?

Secondly, secular history confirms the crucifixion of Jesus the nazarene.

Tacitus, the historian who was a heathen, wrote in the year A.D. 55, detailing  passages about the crucifixion of Christ and his sufferings.  Furthermore, the Roman historians Pliny the Younger and Seutonius, along with non-Roman historians Thallus, Phlegon, and the satirist Lucian of Samsota, refer to the crucifixion of Jesus in their writings.  (Martin Hengel’s book, Crucifixion in the Ancient World, gives more details.)
The Greek historian, Lucien, who lived around A.D. 100, was an outstanding writer.  he told of the death of Christ and the growing group of Christians.  He was an Epicurean who could not understand the faith of Christians and their readiness to die for Christ.  In his writings he ridiculed the Christians’ belief in the immortality of the soul and their longing for heaven.  He looked on them as a deceived people clinging to uncertainties after death rather than living for the present.  One of the most significant allusions to the subject of Christ in his writings is this:  “The Christians continue to worship that great man who was crucified in Palestine because he brought a new religion to the world.”

Flavius Josephus, a secular historian, says about Jesus:

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named for him, are not extinct at this day.

[references to follow shortly!]

Thirdly, it would also seem that if Jesus did not in fact die by Crucifixion that this would be a major stumbling block for academics in other world religions. However, much to the contrary, they don’t make any argument at all about the crucifixion of Jesus, rather try and explain it in different ways. For instance, the second century Marcenites believed that Jesus’ crucifixion was an illusion. Note that they did not deny the manifest crucifixion itself, rather said that what you have seen was an illusion. The Talmud (Talmud, b. Sanhedrin 43a) even acknowledges that Jesus was crucified. It would seem the only world religion to deny the Crucifixion of Jesus is Islam.

According to Dr. William Lane Craig’s paper, “Who is the real Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible or the Jesus of the Qur’An”,

According to L. T. Johnson, a New Testament historian at Emory University, “The support for the mode of his death, its agents, and perhaps its co-agents, is overwhelming:  Jesus faced a trial before his death, was condemned and executed by crucifixion.”3

And,

Perhaps the single most egregious historical error found in the Qur’an is its claim that Jesus was not in fact crucified.  Not only is there not a single shred of evidence in favor of this remarkable hypothesis, but the evidence supporting Jesus’ crucifixion is, as Johnson says, “overwhelming.”  Those of you who are Muslims need to appreciate that no one who is not already a Muslim believes that the historical Jesus was not crucified.  The crucifixion of Jesus is recognized even by the sceptical critics in the Jesus Seminar as–to quote Robert Funk–”one indisputable fact.”4 Indeed, Paula Frederickson, whose book From Jesus to Christ inspired the PBS special by the same name, declares roundly, “The crucifixion is the strongest single fact we have about Jesus.”5

[3 Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus (San Francisco:  Harper San Francisco, 1996), p. 125.

4 Jesus Seminar videotape.

5 Paula Frederickson, remark during discussion at the meeting of “The Historical Jesus” section at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, November 22, 1999.]

As to the question of whether it is critically relevant that Jesus died in the manner of crucifixtion, I’ll have to address this another time.

… this is currently an article in progress and I’m pulling references together for it.

Taken by Michael Mistretta (courtesy of Flickr)

Taken by Michael Mistretta (courtesy of Flickr)

I read the mission statement of the UNFPA today after reading about President Obama’s decision to rescind the Mexico City Policy (a previous policy that said any NGOs receiving U.S. Federal dollars could not perform abortions in other countries) and restore United States financial support to the UNFPA [bold-italics added by me]:

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data for policies and programmes to reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.

UNFPA because everyone counts.

What sticks out to me is the claim to encure that every pregnancy is wanted. How can that be done honorably and with integrity? I’m going to play the devil’s advocate and argue that this is virtually impossible.

Wanted by whom? It could be argued that there is someone who wants the newborn that will be disregarded by the natural mother. Parents unable to naturally give birth to babys wait for newborns to adopt them. Taking the anti-abortion side, I’d also argue that the baby wants the pregnancy. Would you have wanted to be disregarded?

With all the talk about social justice these days, shouldn’t we be investing in the justice of the unborn, rather than merely preventing births? If the government is going to spend money to “care” for women by providing them abortions if they merely don’t want their baby, or for the inevitable rape victim, I’m going to stand up and say that we should invest it instead for helping women through pregnancy and into adoptive families! Why not brainstorm about how we can support women through a difficult pregnancy and support a transition of the baby into families that want a baby that is not their own? Spend money in a caring way, Obama, please! These women have no idea how abortion will affect their lives! Let’s also spend money in family education, in ads through popular media that inform children what a loving family looks like so that they know if their family is hurting and where they can get help. Come on, people, let’s do some good, not harm.

Finally, what about women that get pregnant for a myriad of reasons except to have a baby? I know some women personally who have gotten pregnant to hang on to their man, to feel validated, to feel loved, to feel secure, to feel wanted. What about addressing the needs of women so that they don’t sleep with scavengers? These problems start at home for these girls and need to be addressed at the family level. Fathers need to be attentive to their wives lovingly so children feel secure. Fathers need to be attentive to their children so that they feel secure in love. Orphans need to be adopted and cherished.

Writing this furthers my heart toward adoption with my wife, even though we are fully capable to have a child. I ask myself as I write this that given God’s heart toward orphans and unwanted children (a smattering of the Bible below), shouldn’t I as a married, follower of Jesus take at least one orphan into my home and make them welcome as one of my own? That is the echo of the Father’s adoption of me into his own. How can I not?

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.  He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. (Deuteronomy 10:17,18)

At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, 29 so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. (Deuteronomy 14:28,29)

Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice (Deuteronomy 24:17)

But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. (Psalm 10:14)

You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more. (Psalm 10:17)

Granted, this is not a complete expository article on Justice in the Bible, nor of orphan treatment of Old and New Testament Jews and Christians. There are many more examples to cite. I’m just looking into a few really poignant examples. It should be noted on a tangent that the Deuteronomy examples also make statements about giving justice to foreign peoples.

24-7 Prayer's Pete Greig

24-7 Prayer's Pete Greig

Prayer in America = Real Change. Read about it.

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