You are probably familiar the story of Christmas, at least as presented in countless school plays about the birth of Jesus all across the world: the virgin Mary has a baby, angels tell shepherds to go see Him and sing of His glory, wise men arrive from far off with gifts to offer in worship to the King of the Jews. Today I’d like to take a closer look at a few details of this account from Matthew chapters 1 and 2.
The Genealogy of Jesus
The account opens with a genealogical listing of the ancestry of Jesus, from Abraham to Joseph. This listing is meaningless to us in the sense that, in our understanding of genetics, none of the people listed are genetic contributors to the baby Jesus because Joseph was not His father: the Holy Spirit was. The only person listed who may have contributed anything genetic is Mary, and that is uncertain. Continue reading Examining the Birth of Jesus→
About two weeks ago I engaged in a discussion about evidence that Jesus lived with a fellow through social media. Because it was on social media I was able to record our back and forth verbatim. It was a good discussion: he made some good points and it never degraded into mean-spirited argument (as so many do).
This topic branched off from a discussion with others about how silly religion in general is with all its rules and clouded, conflicting information. Here is our discussion: he is Bruce, I am Doug.
In Hebrews 7, Paul discusses a fellow from ancient Hebrew history: Melchizedek. Melchizedek was the king of Salem (later to be called Jerusalem) and the first priest of the Most High God. Paul opens the discussion with:
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” 3 without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.
The “slaughter of the kings” was the time Abram (later called Abraham) and 318 of his trained servants went out to rescue Abram’s nephew, Lot, from the combined armies of 5 kings who had invaded their neighbors and carried off the people and possessions of many cities including Sodom, Lot’s home (Genesis 14). Continue reading What of This Melchizedek→
There is a school of thought (or church doctrine) which claims that if a Christian messes up they have to go back and get saved again, starting over from square one. And if you drift away from the faith your salvation is revoked and you’re toast.
This thought is based upon Hebrews 6:4-6. Let’s take a look at that.
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away,[a] to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
When we look at this passage alone, it would seem to support the doctrine of revocable salvation. Churches that hold this idea as a cornerstone of their denominational doctrine point to Hebrews 3:12-14 and 2 Peter 2:20-22 as support for this thought. But it is always dangerous to pull a passage out of Scripture and wave it around to make a point. In fact, there are four doctrinal teachings on this passage. In addition to the one above, we have: Continue reading Revocable Salvation→
There are a great many people in the world that lay claim to the title, “Christian”, yet know little or nothing about The Bible. They know what they know about Jesus, about God, about His promises and requirements from listening to someone else. Some of those teaching preach solid, biblical lessons – some preach lessons designed to comfort their audience. They pick and choose passages from The Holy Word, taking them out of context and making them mean what they want them to mean to promote their own views of life, Jesus, and God.
This is not new. It was going on in the first century church. Paul cautioned several of the first churches not to be mislead by those preaching a bastardized theology mixing The Way with The Law. Those acknowledged that Jesus was the son of God, and that salvation came through Him: but they also wanted to adhere to parts of the Mosaic law. They wanted an integrated theology that clung to the sacrifices and festivals of the old law yet claimed Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice. To many of the day: Jews by birth, raised in the Jewish traditions, this version of the gospel of Jesus felt familiar, comfortable, acceptable. But it was wrong. Continue reading Bastardized Theology→
The one Bible passage that is most remembered and quoted by Christians and non-Christians alike is John 3:16
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
A powerful statement of hope that seems to allow anyone to claim eternal life if they acknowledge a rational acceptance that Jesus was the son of God. But if we pick at that passage just a little, we get it to bleed truth not seen with a casual reading of modern words. Continue reading A Most Beloved (And Misunderstood) Bible Passage→
Preface: If you are not a follower of Jesus, this short lesson has nothing for you: live your life as you choose. God the Father allows each of us to choose our own path. Where that path leads is predetermined, but you have the freedom to choose for yourself.
The most devout followers of some religious sects sequester themselves from the world in remote monasteries (men, monks) or convents (women, nuns) to study their religion and learn its disciplines. In doing so they shut out the corruption and sin of the world to devote themselves entirely to their study. Some, after training, will go out to serve in the world. Others live their lives shut away from the world.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could just close our eyes to sin and corruption? But followers of Jesus do not live in fortified sanctuaries, separated from the world. Jesus told us to go into the world and take His gospel of good news with us everywhere we go. To do that we must function in the world, but we were also told not to function as the world does. Continue reading What Manner of Person?→
Publishing via blogging is a very popular option for two reasons; it costs little or nothing and it offers you the most flexibility in what you publish and how.
Writers can start out using a free blogging platform like Google’s Blogger or WordPress. Using the free platforms are the easiest way for beginners to learn self publication as they require practically no set-up, just choose a template and enter your blog title and contact info, but they are also less flexible than a self-hosted blog in many ways and more difficult to publicize.
Using WordPress on a hosted account requires some technical knowledge; how much depends on your host. A good hosting service will offer an installation script, such as Fantastico, that will create your blog folders, MySQL database and install all the base files needed. From there you can use stock theme templates and plug-ins to customize the blog with little or no techie expertise. If you have the knowledge, you can customize almost all of the blog through modifications to the CSS and template files. Continue reading Blogging as On-Line Publishing→
Those who follow Jesus are known by two terms: disciples of Jesus and apostles of Jesus.
In Greek the word for disciple is “mathetes” meaning a “learner” or “follower” and refers to the accepting and following the views and practices of a teacher.
In Greek the word for apostle is “apostolos” meaning “one who is sent out with a special commission as a fully authorized representative of the sender”, like an agent or ambassador.
Early in His ministry Jesus chose twelve men as He encountered them in their lives. The list of His inner circle is mentioned in Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:13-16 and Acts 1:13. These twelve men were hand picked for special training to carry on His ministry and spread the Gospel after He ascended back into Heaven.
Do you know that Jesus was not born on December 25th? Or in December at all? Americans tend to think of the birth of Christ as being in winter, envisioning Joseph trudging through snow with Mary on a donkey. But all accounts of the announcement of Jesus’ birth state that there were shepherds abiding in the fields with their flocks. Winter in Israel tends to be cold and rainy. Sometimes it snows. Shepherds would live in the fields with their flocks during the fair-weather months of late spring, summer and early fall, but in winter Jewish shepherds sought shelter for themselves and their flocks. They would not have been abiding in the fields during the time we call December.
Why December 25th?
The choice of December 25, made around 273 AD, reflects a convergence of pagan gods and the church’s identification of God’s son with the celestial sun. December 25 already hosted two other similar festivals: natalis solis invicti (the Roman “birth of the unconquered sun”), and the birthday of Mithras, the Iranian “Sun of Righteousness” worshiped by many Roman soldiers. Seeing that pagans were already exalting deities with some parallels to Jesus, church leaders decided to commandeer the date and introduce a new festival.Continue reading Why Christmas is on December 25th→