Friday, December 7, 2012
Wednesday, December 5, 2012
This is a talk I gave last Christmas and I thought I'd pass it on.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
This is the story of a man whom perhaps you have never heard about. He was Telemachus, a fourth-century Christian monk.
He lived in a remote village in Italy, tending his garden, sharing his goods, giving his produce to others, and spending much time in prayer. One day he thought that he had heard the voice of God, or at least a strong impression that he should go to the city of Rome. He immediately obeyed, made his preparations and set out on foot. Some weary weeks later he arrived in the city at the time of one of the great festivals. Telemachus, not knowing what to do, followed the ever-increasing crowd surging down the streets and converging at the Colosseum. He watched as the gladiators stood before the Emperor saying, "We who are about to die salute you." THEN he realized these men were about to fight to the death for the entertainment of the raucous crowd that day. Telemachus shouted, "In the name of Christ, STOP!"
Nobody heard, nor did the ones near him respond. The games began, the gladiators were locked in battle. The monk pushed his way through the shouting crowd, climbed over the wall, and dropped to the dusty floor of the arena. The crowd watched in fascination as this tiny figure ran toward the gladiators, shouting, "In the name of Christ, STOP!" The crowd thought it was part of the entertainment.
The little monk continued until he was right in the middle of the gladiators who had stopped to watch this interruption. Suddenly the crowd realized it wasn't part of the show and their laughter turned to anger and shouting. As Telemachus was pleading with the gladiators to stop, he turned to the emperor to plead for this carnage to end. One of the gladiators plunged a sword into his body. He dropped to the sand. As he lay bleeding and dying, his last words were: "In the name of Christ, STOP!" The crowd was hushed, they all heard his dying plea.
Then a strange thing happened. As the gladiators looked down at the tiny, bleeding figure in the sand, the crowd was gripped by the drama. Way up in one of the upper rows, one man stood and slowly began to make his way toward the exit. Others followed his lead. And soon, in hushed, deathly silence, everyone left the Colosseum.
That year was 391 B.C. and that was the last battle to the death ever fought in the Roman Colosseum. It changed the thinking of society.
It happened because of one small voice . . . barely heard above the clamour and shouting. Only one voice . . . one unknown, a nobody. . . one life who was willing to speak the truth in the name of God!
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
The fourth Greek word we need to understand is storge, which is the love and affection that naturally occurs between parents and children, can exist between siblings, and exists between husbands and wives in a good marriage. It occurs in Romans 12:10 in the word, philostorgos, which is a compound word made up of philos (the noun form of phileo) and storge. Romans 12:10 is a very important verse, directing us to be very loving and kind to each other.
Romans 12:10 (expanded translation)
As to your brotherly love, let there be deep friendship and family-affection toward one another.
If one is going to have a meaningful spiritual life, obedient to the voice of God and have rich fellowship with others who love the Lord, he or she will need to exercise all three kinds of love. We need agape love because some of the things that God requires of us are not fun or easy, but need to be done. We need to have phileo love because we need true friends to stand with us, people who are emotionally connected to us and with whom we can share our deepest thoughts and feelings. Lastly, we Christians need to have storge love between us, a deep family affection that comforts us and helps us feel connected to all our spiritual family.
http://www.truthortradition.com/modules.php?name=News&file=print&sid=743 slightly edited
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
The third word for “love” we need to examine is phileo, which means “to have a special interest in someone or something, frequently with focus on close association; have affection for, like, consider someone a friend.” It would probably be helpful if phileo were never translated “love” in the New Testament, because it refers to a strong liking or a strong friendship. Of course, we see how phileo gets translated “love,” because in modern culture we say we “love” things that we strongly like: “I love ice cream,” “I love my car,” “I love the way your hair looks,” etc. The word phileo implies a strong emotional connection, and thus is used of the “love,” or deep friendship, between friends. You can agape your enemies, but you cannot phileo them.
The difference between agape and phileo becomes very clear in John 21:15ff, but unfortunately it is obscured in almost all English translations. After being raised from the dead, Jesus met Peter. Here is the short version of what they said to each other.
Jesus: Simon…do you love (agape) me more than these [fish?].
Peter: Yes, Lord; you know that I love (phileo) you.
Jesus: Simon…do you…love (agape) me?
Peter: Yes, Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you.
Jesus: Simon…do you love (phileo) me?
Peter: [Grieved] “Lord…you know that I love (phileo) you.”
Why the difference in words for “love” in this conversation? Why did Jesus use agape and Peter use phileo? Jesus was asking Peter if he loved him with the love of God, a love that may require sacrifice. After all, Jesus had just gone through horrendous torture for Peter’s sake (and ours), something he did not want to do but did anyway because of his agape love. In contrast, Peter avoided possible torture by denying that he knew Jesus.
Jesus twice asked Peter, “Do you agape me? [That is, are you willing to do things for my sake that you do not want to do?]” Peter, on the other hand, still felt the sting of having denied Jesus, and was hopeful that their friendship was intact. Did Jesus hold Peter’s denial against him? Would he still treat Peter as a close associate and companion? Peter was not sure where he stood with Jesus, so he was trying to let Jesus know that he was still a true friend, and had phileo love for Jesus.
The third time Jesus spoke to Peter, he came to Peter’s level and asked if Peter were indeed a true friend (phileo), which grieved Peter. Nevertheless, it was important, because Jesus knew what Peter did not know—that Jesus would ascend into heaven, and Peter and the others would be left to carry out his work on earth, which would require that they all be his good friends and do his will even when it meant hardship.
Monday, October 8, 2012
I found this article on different words in the Bible that are translated as "love." I thought the author made some very good points.
There are four Greek words for love that are important for us to understand. They are agape, phileo, storge, and eros. Three of them appear in the Bible. If we are going to understand the Bible and the biblical world, it is important that we understand what these words mean and how they differ.
The Greek word for sexual love or passionate love is eros, and we get English words such as “erotic.” When eros was used as a proper noun, it referred to the Greek god of love. The Greek word eros does not appear in the biblical text, but it has had such an impact on English and our view of sexual love that it is important to mention.
The Greek word that refers to the love of God, one of the kinds of love we are to have for people, is agape. Agape (ah-gah-pay) is the very nature of God, for God is love (1 John 4:7-12, 16b). The big key to understanding agape is to realize that it can be known from the action it prompts. In fact, we sometimes speak of the “action model” of agape love. People today are accustomed to thinking of love as a feeling, but that is not necessarily the case with agape love. Agape is love because of what it does, not because of how it feels.
God so “loved” (agape) that He gave His Son. It did not feel good to God to do that, but it was the loving thing to do. Christ so loved (agape) that he gave his life. He did not want to die, but he loved, so he did what God required. A mother who loves a sick baby will stay up all night long caring for it, which is not something she wants to do, but is a true act of agape love.
The point is that agape love is not simply an impulse generated from feelings. Rather, agape love is an exercise of the will, a deliberate choice. This is why God can command us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44; Exod. 23:1-5). He is not commanding us to “have a good feeling” for our enemies, but to act in a loving way toward them. Agape love is related to obedience and commitment, and not necessarily feeling and emotion. “Loving” someone is to obey God on another’s behalf, seeking his or her long-term blessing and benefit.
The way to know that we love (agape) God is that we keep His commandments. Jesus said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me…” (John 14:21a). There are Christians who say they love God, but their lifestyle is contrary to the will of God. These people mistake their feeling of affection for God for true agape love. Jesus made this clear: “He who does not love me will not obey my teaching…” (John 14:24a).
Love is the distinctive character of the Christian life in relation to other Christians and to all humanity. The “loving” thing to do may not always be easy, and true love is not “mushy sentimentalism.” There is often a cost to genuine love. For example, punishing criminals to keep society safe is loving but not easy or pleasant, and asking someone to leave your Christian fellowship because he persists in flagrant sin is loving, but never easy (1 Cor. 5:1-5). That is not to say the agape love cannot have feelings attached to it, and the ideal situation occurs when the loving thing to do also is what we want to do. Christians are to be known for their love to one another (John 13:35).
Friday, August 31, 2012
The strengthening and energizing value of hope shows up in many ways in everyday life. When a mother tells her hungry family that dinner will be ready in ten minutes, she gets a totally different response than if she says she does not know when it will be ready. The hope of eating soon gives the family the energy to hold on a little longer. Having hope is vital in the medical field. Modern medicine acknowledges the healing value of hope because hopeful people have more strength and endurance. A mother will tell a sick child that the medicine will make him feel better "soon" because that helps the child stay positive and endure the pain.
Having a hope in the form of a visible goal is also important in athletic performance. Every coach knows the value of yelling "Last lap!" to the runner or swimmer whose muscles are already screaming from fatigue. Hearing "One more lap!" causes the athlete to reach deep and find the energy to push through to the end. Runners, skiers, skaters, rowers, and other athletes know that muscles that seem to be just holding on somehow come to life and have extra strength when the finish line comes into sight. The Hope that the race will soon be over infuses the body with energy that seems to come from nowhere. There is no question that having hope anchors a person to his goal and gives him energy and strength to go on.
Just as hope energizes and strengthens, it is also true that being without hope drains one’s strength. The feeling of being "hopeless" is devastating. A person with no hope, with no expectation of good, often sinks into depression and despair and may even commit suicide. The effects of being hopeless are well documented. People who have no hope of everlasting life grieve over death in ways that Christians who are confident of everlasting life do not. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and told them that the dead Christians would be raised to life when Christ comes "down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet call of God" (1 Thess. 4:16). Paul knew that when they really had hope in the raising of the dead, they would not "grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope" (1 Thess. 4:13).
Thursday, August 30, 2012
It is unfortunate that the word "hope" has come to be used in common English as a synonym for "wish." In the sentence, "I hope it will rain this week," the word "hope," if properly used, implies a certainty or confidence that it will, in fact, rain. If there is no such confidence, then it would be more proper to say, "I wish it would rain this week.
As noted above, when the Bible uses the word "hope" in reference to events in the future, there is no doubt at all that the events will occur. The book of Titus contains a usage of "hope" referring to the believer’s expectation of eternal life:
This is a good example of the word "hope" referring to our expectation of everlasting life. In this case, it implies more than just a desire or a wish. It is an expectation of the future that will absolutely come to pass. God, who does not lie, made many promises about the future everlasting life of the believer. Although we may not know when He will fulfill those promises, we can be absolutely certain that He will fulfill them.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
God’s use of the anchor to represent the believer’s Hope is appropriate and poignant. An anchor keeps a boat from drifting away with the currents or being blown away in a storm. Thus, using an anchor to describe the purpose of the Christian hope makes perfect sense. When a Christian has a clear picture of what he is hoping for in the future, especially the rewards that the Lord will give to those who have earned them, it helps to keep him from "drifting away" from his commitment and becoming involved with the sinful pleasures and abundant temptations offered by the world. It also helps to prevent him from being "blown away" from God during the storms of life.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Iron is one of the metals which rusts. And it was looked upon as a symbol of pollution. Gold, on the other hand, was the symbol of glory and purity.
The altar was to be built of unhewn whole stones, in Aramaic called shalmatha, "whole" or "perfect." Shalam means "peace." Iron instruments might cause injuries to the workers and pollute the altar with human blood. The stones were to be natural, symbolizing the purity, naturalness, and simplicity of the religion of Israel, as compared with man-made pagan religions.
The altars of the God of Israel were to be different from lavish pagan altars. That is to say, they were to be simple. Many of the ancient altars in the countryside were built of unhewn stones
Lamsa, George M. 1964. Old Testament Light. San Francisco: Harper Collins., pg 142
Monday, April 16, 2012
THE “BEAUTIFUL GATE”
These eight side gates, as we may call them, were all two-leaved, wide, high, with superstructures and chambers supported by two pillars, and covered with gold and silver plating. But far more magnificent than any of them was the ninth or eastern gate, which formed the principal entrance into the Temple. The ascent to it was from the terrace by twelve easy steps. The gate itself was made of dazzling Corinthian brass, most richly ornamented; and so massive were its double doors that it needed the united strength of twenty men to open and close them.
This was the ‘Beautiful Gate;’ and on its steps had they been wont these many years to lay the lame man, just as privileged beggars now lie at the entrance to Continental cathedrals. No wonder that all Jerusalem knew him; and when on that sunny afternoon Peter and John joined the worshippers in the Court of the Women, not alone, but in company of the well-known cripple, who, after his healing, was ‘walking and leaping and praising God,’ universal ‘wonder and amazement’ must have been aroused.
Then, when the lame man, still ‘holding by’ the apostles, again descended these steps, we can readily understand how all the people would crowd around in Solomon’s Porch, close by, till the sermon of Peter–so fruitful in its spiritual results–was interrupted by the Temple police, and the sudden imprisonment of the apostles.
(Edersheim, Alfred. 1994. The Temple: Its Ministry and Services. Updated edition. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers., pg 124
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
The quote below gives us a word picture that the Savior used when He called himself the "true vine." Josephus also shares the Jewish interpretation of the embroidered veil symbolism.
"As to the holy house itself, which was placed in the midst [of the inmost court] that most sacred part of the temple, it was ascended to by twelve steps; and in front its height and its breadth were equal, and each a hundred cubits, though it was behind thirty cubits narrower; for on its front it had what may be styled shoulders on each side, that passed twenty cubits farther.
Its first gate was seventy cubits high, and twenty-five cubits broad; but this gate had no doors; for it represented the universal visibility of heaven, and that it cannot be excluded from any place. Its front was covered with gold all over, and through it the first part of the house, that was more inward did all of it appear; which, as it was very large, so did all the parts about the more inward gate appear to shine to those who saw them; but then, as the entire house was divided into two parts within, it was only the first part of it that was open to our view.
Its height extended all along to ninety cubits in height, and its length was fifty cubits, and its breadth twenty; but that gate which was at this end of the first part of the house was, as we have already observed, all over covered with gold, as was its whole wall about it: it had also golden vines above it, from which clusters of grapes hung as tall as a man’s height; but then this house, as it was divided into two parts, the inner part was lower than the appearance of the outer, and had golden doors of twenty-five cubits altitude, and sixteen in breadth; but before these doors there was a veil of equal largeness with the doors.
It was a Babylonian curtain , embroidered with blue and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple, and of a contexture that was truly wonderful. Nor was this mixture of colors without its mystical interpretation, but was a kind of image of the universe; for by the scarlet, there seemed to be enigmatically signified fire, by the fine flax of the earth, by the blue of the air, and by the purple of the sea; two of them having their colors this foundation of this resemblance; but the fine flax and the purple have their own origin for that foundation, the earth producing the one, and the sea the other. This curtain had also embroidered upon it all that was mystical in the heavens, excepting that of the [twelve] signs, representing living creatures."
(Josephus, Jewish War 5.5.4 §§207-14 #118)
Monday, April 9, 2012
The Temple in Jerusalem at the time of Christ was an imposing sight. Josephus gives an impressive description:
Now the outward face of the temple in its front wanted nothing that was likely to surprise either men’s minds or their eyes: for it was covered all over with plates of gold of great weight, and, at the rising of the sun, reflected back a very fiery splendor, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn their eyes away, just as they would have done at the sun’s own rays. But this temple appeared to strangers, when they were at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow; for, as to those parts of it that were not gilt, they were exceedingly white.
(Josephus, Jewish wars 5.5.6 §§222-23 #117)
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Ancient Jewish sages believed that the future Messiah of Israel should display certain Moses-like characteristics—powerful spiritual leadership and astute Torah teaching. It is no secret that Moses and Jesus have much in common, sharing similar life experiences. In particular, both led a mission of deliverance from bondage. Therefore, it should not surprise us to find parallels of language and themes from the Exodus within the Gospels. For example, in Luke 11:20, Jesus says that if he drives out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon the people. This unique phrase, “finger of God” is a direct reference to Ex 8:19 and the plague of the lice/gnats, where the Egyptian magicians proclaim that “this is the finger of God.”
The Gospel writers, with the possible exception of Luke, were biblically oriented Jews writing to other Jews and “God-fearing” Gentiles. When describing the life and teachings of Jesus, these writers would naturally want to communicate through shared biblical motifs understood in their Jewish framework. It is logical to suggest that their target audiences would be holding to certain expectations about their long-awaited Messiah.
Without understanding the life and work of Moses, the messianic reports about Jesus could potentially fall on deaf ears. Of the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke), Mark is perhaps the heaviest-laden with thematic parallels and inter-textual connections to the Exodus. To fashion a message with such links would have fit well into the more respected styles of teaching and storytelling known in the ancient Jewish world, specifically midrash. Within the ancient Jewish teaching there was often a sub-world of midrash, a sophisticated system of biblical interpretation that connected different parts of Scripture by word plays or subtle allusion. It has been widely taught in Christian circles that Mark’s work was customized to fit the interests of a Gentile Roman audience. However, with a careful investigation of his style, it seems doubtful that Mark cast his pearls of midrashic teachings on those with no synagogue background or biblical literacy.
Keeping this in mind, several parallels to the Exodus come to light in Mark’s depiction of Jesus. Jesus under pressure from the crowds (Mk 3:9-10), calming the storm (Mk 4:35), and delivering the demoniac from a host of demons (Mk 5:1-30) has allusions to the Israelites flight from Egypt (Ex 12:34), Moses calming the children of Israel at the Reed Sea (Ex 14:13-14), and the subsequent destruction of Pharaoh’s army (Ex 14:27-28).
Under Pressure on the Shore
Both Mark and Luke relate that crowds pressed upon Jesus for healing and teaching while he was on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (Mk. 3:9, 10; Lk. 5:1). At one point Jesus instructs his disciples to prepare a small boat so the crowds would not “press hard” upon him (Mk 3:9). Moments later, Mark tells us that Jesus is so rushed, he does not have time to eat a meal of bread (Mk 3:20). This seemingly insignificant detail about being “pressed” strikes a biblical chord and may be a clue to a larger story build-up connected to the Exodus account. With this phrase, “pressed hard”, Mark’s audience would be reminded that the children of Israel were under intense pressure and had little time to eat a meal with proper bread before their escape from Egypt (Ex 12:34).
In Exodus 14 we find Moses on the shore of the Reed Sea as the Israelite crowds press upon him for answers. The jubilation over their recent deliverance from slavery in Egypt has suddenly turned into the highest level of anxiety. As darkness falls, the Israelites are acutely aware that Pharaoh and his army are closing in behind them, while in front of them is the impassable Reed Sea. The Israelites cry out to Moses saying “did you bring us here to die in the wilderness?” (Ex 14:11).
Calming Words—“Peace, Be Still!”
Paralleling Mark 4:35-41, with darkness looming on the horizon Jesus and his disciples set sail. Later that night, they encounter a furious storm on the Sea of Galilee. At this critical moment Jesus is found sleeping on a cushion and his disciples are in a state of terror as the waves begin to break over their boats. They awaken Jesus and cry out, “Teacher, don’t you care if we perish?” (Mk 4:36). There is harmony here in all the Synoptic narratives, but the next detail sets Mark apart from the others when he tells us specifically what Jesus said to the wind and waves, “Peace! Be still!” (Mk 4:39).
Returning to Exodus 14, Moses is pressed for answers as the tension mounts and the future of the children of Israel hangs in the balance. With the crowds pressing him, he exclaims, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Ex 14:13-14).
With both Jesus calming the storm and Moses calming the Israelites, we have two nearly identical moments involving imminent doom that is tranquilized by the words “Quiet, be still” or “Peace be still.” For reasons we may never know Matthew, Luke and John chose to leave out this fascinating link.
Pharoah’s Legions and Pigs Drown
In Mark 5, Jesus and his disciples finally reach the other side of the Sea of Galilee in the early morning (conjectured time of day). They arrive in the Gerasene region of the Decapolis (possibly near modern day Kursi). There Jesus is confronted by a man who has been tortured for years by an unclean spirit. There is a dialogue between Jesus where the demons identify themselves by the military term “legion” and beg not to be sent out of the country (Mk 5:1-10). Jesus promptly exorcises these spirits out of the man and they enter a herd of pigs located on a nearby hillside, whereby the pigs rush into the sea and drown (5:13).
In Greek religious culture which was pervasive on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, pigs were often selected for sacrificial purposes. After Jesus casts the demons into the herd of swine that soon after drown, witnesses inform the local residents. Instead of expressing joy or gratitude for the miracle that had set the demoniac free, the residents request that Jesus “leave their region” (apelthein apo ton orion Mk 5:17). This angry reaction of the locals may provide a crucial hint at the religious offense of the pig drowning. Their Greek religious infrastructure had just taken a blow. After the Egyptians suffer from ten devastating plagues or divine strikes, we can hear a similar urgency in their words as they demand the Israelites be sent out of their region (ekbalein outous ek tais gais, Septuagint Ex. 12:33).
At the Reed Sea, Pharoah’s army is thrown into utter confusion (Ex. 14:24), and like the possessed pigs charging into the Sea of Galilee, Pharoah’s soldiers give chase to Israel. Yet, both hordes of legions meet a watery grave. Several commentators have suggested that Mark’s narrative about the drowning pigs was originally intended to be a satire about the Roman occupation of the Jews. The wild boar was the symbol of the Roman 10th Legion, and the drowning of swine would have been welcome news to a Jewish audience. Likewise, after years of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites would have celebrated after the drowning of their oppressors.
The Gospel of Mark skillfully draws our eyes and ears back to one of the greatest rescue accounts of all time from one of the most popular Torah books, Exodus. Just as Moses represents God’s redemption from the bondage of Egyptian slavery, so too, Jesus is the redeemer of those trapped in spiritual bondage or suffering from demonic oppression. Deliverance is a driving force in Jesus’ life and ministry. Jesus not only sets them free, restoring them to their right mind, but the enemy takes a “hit” from the “hand of God” (Deut. 28:59).
Mark’s linguistic links and thematic hints to the Exodus resonate with and solidify one of the central messianic expectations—that he should be like Moses. If Mark’s intended audience were indeed Roman, I would suggest that they were most likely Jewish Romans or ‘God-fearing’ Gentiles who attended synagogues and would have been familiar with the rich Exodus themes. Mark’s portrayal of Jesus as a liberator and redeemer like Moses would have convincingly communicated to these synagogue members Jesus’ messianic purpose and message.
 David Flusser, Judaism and the Origins of the Christianity (Magnes Press, Jerusalem 1988) p. 550 – the expression could also be understood as an eschatological sign.
 Known as sea or lake Kinneret (כנרת ים) in biblical Hebrew (Num 34:11 and Jos. 13:27)
 Luke never uses the term ‘sea’ instead he consistently calls it a ‘lake’ (lymnain) a description more authentic to the size and reality of the Kinneret which is indeed a fresh water source. Mark on the other hand, never uses any term but ‘sea’ (thalassa) when speaking about the Kinneret. Matthew uses both terms but ‘sea’ is less frequent. By definition a sea is typically a larger body of salt water.
 תחרישון Taharishun = hold your peace, be quiet or be still
By Jon “Yoni” Gerrish http://www.jerusalemcornerstone.org/news/april-2012