April 29, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 1:29-34


Mark 1:29-34 ESV
(29) And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.
(30) Now Simon's mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her.
(31) And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
(32) That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.
(33) And the whole city was gathered together at the door.
(34) And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Mark starts detailing Jesus' ministry in Galilee with the account of Christ healing Peter's mother-in-law. Partially because Mark is telling Peter's story of Christ, partly because it shows Christ's ministry starting close to home, the story is fascinating to me. As soon as Jesus heals her, she starts ministering to the disciples. She sees the work that God has for her, and does it gladly.

Our position is a lot like Peter's mother-in-law's position. We need healing -- healing that can only be provided by Christ. He comes to us, and heals us. What do we do then? Are we like the ten lepers, nine of whom never bothered giving thanks to the one who healed them? Or are we like Peter's mother-in-law, knowing what we are called to do, and doing it gladly? Or do we sit somewhere in between -- knowing what God wants us to do, and yet not quite ready to do it. Wanting to do something else. Like the ear saying "I want to be an eye. If I can't see, I'm not doing anything". God has something for each of us to do for His kingdom -- but we are responsible for doing it.

Christ has more trouble with demons in this passage. He casts them out, commanding them to be silent. He doesn't want people to hear about Him from demons -- that is the job He has for His followers. He also doesn't want there to be any question about the source of His power -- if demons are testifying to His true identity, there may be some confusion about who He realy is. And, as we will see later, there was.

As Christians, we need to make sure that we are the ones who are telling the world about Christ. Otherwise, we end up with the John Dominick Crossans and John Shelby Spongs telling people about a Christ that they aren't sure even existed, based on a Bible that is completely flawed and unreliable. We have Peter Jennings assembling a group of scholars who don't believe in the topic of their search. We have The Last Temptation of Christ and other Hollywood blasphemies. The Church needs to speak out, and not worry that we will be mocked (as we have been for the reaction to The DaVinci Code).

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April 28, 2004

The Fundamentals and the Fundamentalists

OK, I'm going to dive into this one head first. There are a LOT of people who have no idea what it means to be an historic fundamentalist -- including a lot of fundamentalists. What passes for fundamentalism these days often has more in common with Pharisaical legalism than it does with orthodox Christianity. And the things that many conservative evangelicals believe are, in fact, the fundamentals of the faith.

So what ARE the fundamentals, anyway? Glad you asked. According to the people who wrote the book The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, which was written to combat the rise of liberal theology in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the fundamentals are:

1. The inerrancy of the Scriptures
2. The Deity of Christ
3. The second coming of Jesus Christ
4. The virgin birth
5. The physical resurrection of the body
6. The substitutionary atonement
7. The total depravity of man - original sin

Belief in all of these is all it takes to consider yourself an historic fundamentalist. There are other beliefs, to be sure -- the list doesn't touch on the Calvinism/Arminian controversy, the pre/mid/post trib/mil controversy, and many others. In fact, the authors of The Fundamentals held differing opinions on these issues. They recognized something that modern fundamentalists often do not -- that there is room for disagreement on some issues. That we don't have all the answers.

I believe all seven of these fundamentals. But because of other things I believe or don't believe, many people don't consider me a fundamentalist. I am Southern Baptist -- for many people, that disqualifies me right there. I read versions of the Bible other than the King James -- again, that would disqualify me in many circles. I am, however, an historic fundamentalist, by the very definition that the people who coined the term used.

Fundamentalist has become a term that describes a person who is so set in their opinions that they don't want to be confused by the facts. Anti-intellectualism is the stereotype of the typical fundamentalist. The stereotypical sermon is long on ranting and short on exegesis or exposition. This is the stereotype, not the reality.

The reallity is that there are historic fundamentalists all across the country who are intelligent and articulate. They are making a difference in our nation and our culture. But many of them don't call themselves fundamentalists, because of the perception. In fact, over on the Fundamentalist Forums, we've come up with a new term that describes the more legalistic variety of fundamentalist -- IFBx. Independent Fundamental Baptist Extreme. It seems to fit rather well. Head over there if you'd like to learn a little more.

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TOOOOO Funny

I'll post something serious later on tonight, after church, but I just read this and HAD to share. I needed a good laugh today, and Bill over at Walloworld certainly delivered.

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April 27, 2004

Today in Church History

April 27, 1667 -- Milton sells Paradise Lost. The book sold for next to nothing (5 pounds up front, 5 more at publication, and 5 more for each new printing), and it took a four months to be published. When it was published, the press run was 1300 books.

I think about things like this when I dispair of ever getting published myself. Sheer determination often does well for an author. For a Christian writer, you can also keep in mind that God has a purpose for your work, and the important thing is to get the message out. Milton could have held out for more money -- he was a well-known writer. The message was important enough that he sold the work, and it has touched hearts for centuries since.

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The Official Band of View from the Pew


Casting Crowns. If you have never heard this band, you HAVE to go to their website and listen. This isn't just another CCM band playing watered-down lyrics to get noticed. This is a band who sings in-your-face, get off that pew and DO something lyrics. If you can listen to them and not be touched, maybe you're just "touched". . . in the head.

My new favorite song:

What If His People Prayed

What if the armies of the Lord
Picked up and dusted off their swords
Vowed to set the captives free
And not let Satan have one more

What if the church, for heaven's sake
Finally stepped up to the plate
Took a stand upon God's promise
And stormed hell's rusty gates

Chorus:
What if His people prayed
And all who bare His name
Would humbly seek His face
And Turn from their own way

And what would happen if we prayed
For those raised up to lead the way
Then maybe kids in school could pray
And unborn children see light of day

What if the life that we pursue
Came from a hunger for the truth
What if the family turned to Jesus
Stopped asking Oprah what to do

He said that they would hear
His promise has been made
He'll answer loud and clear
If only we would pray

If My people called by My name
If they'll humble themselves and pray
If My people called by My name
If they'll humble themselves and pray

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April 26, 2004

Jesus Christ, Superstar?

The topic of merchandising Jesus has been making the rounds lately. The latest entry into the fray is this article. The Evangelical Outpost has discussed it (read the comments on this one especially, for some links to other discussions). I just saw my first "Jesus is my Homeboy" T-shirt today.

I think the most telling quote comes from the Journal News article:


Jesus Christ has become too big for church. He's stepping out as a pop culture superstar, a leading man on page and screen.

But he's being portrayed as a character actor, a parable-telling chameleon who has radically different messages in each starring role.

America seems to love them all, contradictions be darned.

In the film "The Passion of the Christ," which has grossed more than $360 million, he is the Jesus of traditionalist Roman Catholic Passion plays, beaten and bloodied as he endures the Stations of the Cross.

In "Glorious Appearing," the final book of the "Left Behind" series, which made its debut last month as the nation's best-selling novel, he is the Jesus of the fundamentalist rapture, riding from heaven on a white horse to vanquish the armies of the Antichrist.

In "The Da Vinci Code," a literary phenomenon that has sold some 7 million copies, Jesus doesn't appear at all. But readers learn that he was mortal, married, a dad and a feminist, and that the Catholic Church concocted his divinity.

Add to this the mixed messages from Peter Jennings' latest ABC special, the findings of the Jesus Seminar, and the proliferation of "Historic Jesus" books on the market, and we really do each have our own personal Jesus. And some of them bear little resemblance to the Christ of Christianity.

When we mass-market Jesus, we need to be careful that the real Jesus Christ is what is being sold, not a watered-down pop idol who wants everyone to get along. As Jesus Himself said, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34 ESV). There was no misunderstanding in His mind -- He knew that the things He came to do were going to cause problems. People don't want to know that they are responsible to a powerful God for their actions. They don't want to know that God holds them accountable for what they do. And in denying that, they miss the fact that God has given us an out -- grace. He knows we can't do it by ourselves. That's why He gave us His Son -- so that His righteousness could be imputed to us, so that He could make the sacrifice for us. Christ isn't a great example of how to live -- we can't live up to his example.

You want to see people trying? Check out the legalists. Look at what many fundamentalist churches have become (more on fundamentalism later on -- maybe tomorrow). People all over the world are living with a list of rules to try and make themselves good enough. We can't do it. The Pharisees in Christ's time tried to do it. They had 365 extra rules to live by, to make sure that they didn't break the Law. Jesus called them "whitened sepulchres" -- beautiful on the outside, great to look at externally, but full of death and corruption inside. What can make the difference? "But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit," (Titus 3:4-5 ESV).

The grace of God is the answer. Christians need to proclaim it. The world needs to hear it. And it cannot be merchandised. It doesn't work very well on T-shirts or bumper-stickers. Wearing a WWJD bracelet doesn't get us grace. Going to the right church, or attending the right conferences, or reading the right books -- none of those will get us grace. Grace is a gift, given by God, to all who put their faith in Christ as Saviour.

Jesus isn't the newest pop idol. He's not my homie. He's my Saviour. Yes, he's my friend, but He's also my Lord. He went through one of the most brutal deaths imaginable, and yet He lives. Let's stop selling Him like he's a new fabric softener.

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April 25, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 1:21-28


Mark 1:21-28 ESV
(21) And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.
(22) And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.
(23) And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out,
(24) "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are -- the Holy One of God."
(25) But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!"
(26) And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.
(27) And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."
(2 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

Mark starts right in on the teaching and preaching ministry of Christ. Note that Mark does not follow any chronological order -- he records events more in a thematic order. The ministry in Galilee is recorded first.

The first thing I noticed is that the people were all astounded by his authority. They were used to being taught by the scribes, whose teachings were largely based on the teachings of others. Their authority resided in their education. Jesus' authority was different. He relied on nobody (see verse 27 -- 'A new teaching with authority!').

The people weren't the only ones who noticed. Verses 23 and 24 tell us of a man who had an unclean spirit -- a demon. The demon knows exactly who Christ is. It knows why Christ is there, and it knows it's in trouble. Hoping to buy a pardon, it bears public witness to Christ's identity. Jesus doesn't want that kind of witness.

The demons of Hell know Jesus is the Christ. They oppose Him for that reason. This attempt by a demon to escape judgement shows that Christ knows the motivations behind everything that we do -- he knew the demon was being self-serving, hoping to avoid punishment. He rebuked the demon, and cast it out of the man.

This brought about more amazement and speculation about Christ's authority. The people in the synagogue knew of only two entities who had that kind of power over demons -- God and Satan. Christ had to be one of the two. Unfortunately, as we will see later, many people chose the wrong option, and attributed Chrits's miracles to the power of Satan, rather than God. People are always trying to find other sources for God's blessings on us, rather than giving praise to God. We need to be careful that we are not giving Satan credit for more than he is capable of accomplishing, and that we give God proper honor and glory.

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April 24, 2004

Intolerant Tolerance

OK, the title to this entry has been used over and over again. But it fits. This article in the NY Times is one of the first I've read to express the sentement from the other side of the aisle, so to speak. Someone admits that if liberals expect Christians to be more tolerant, then they need to be more tolerant of us.

Tolerance has been notoriously one-sided. Every day is open season on conservative Christians, but we cannot open our mouths to protest anyone else. Understand, I don't believe that Christians are undergoing undue persecution, at least not in the US. We have far more rights than believers in, say, China, for example. However, we are often singled out and ridiculed for our beliefs -- and that isn't what my dictionary calls tolerance.

I don't even care if everyone likes what we're saying -- in fact, if they start liking it, I may have to change my opinions on some things. All I want is the same thing everyone wants -- I want to be able to state my opinions without being marginalized because of my religious background. I want to be able to vote for the candidate of my choice without hearing "You shouldn't take your religion into account when you vote -- that's imposing your morality on us all." I want everyone to stop imposing their morality (or lack thereof)on me. If you want me to acknowledge that not everyone agrees with me, then you had better show me how to do it.

Because as things stand now, if this thing I'm being shown is tolerance, we're doing it just as well as you are, sometimes better.

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Christendom vs. Christianity

WARNING: This is REALLY long. I'm trying to figure out how to shorten my posts, with a link to click that gives you the full text, but I'm not that good yet. If I figure it out, I'm hoping that it will make the page look neater.

I wanted to address this issue because of some things that are usually said about Christianity. People bring up things like the Crusades, the Inquisitions, etc. as evidence that Christianity is a bad thing, or corrupt, and should be abandoned. It has always been my contention that Christianity is not responsible for these things -- Christendom, or the attempt to establish Christendom, is the cause. Christians are capable of doing bad things -- NOT because they are Christian, but because they are human.

What is Christendom? If we are going to contrast Christianity and Christendom, that is the first thing we need to clear up. The Catholic Encyclopedia defines it this way:


In its wider sense this term is used to describe the part of the world which is inhabited by Christians, as Germany in the Middle Ages was the country inhabited by Germans. The word will be taken in this quantitative sense in the article RELIGIONS in comparing the extent of Christendom with that of Paganism or of Islam. But there is a narrower sense in which Christendom stands for a polity as well as a religion, for a nation as well as for a people. Christendom in this sense was an ideal which inspired and dignified many centuries of history and which has not yet altogether lost its power over the minds of men.

I think that, historically, the narrower definition is more correct. Christendom was an idea; the idea that government and religion should be the same thing, and that those to whom God has entrusted spiritual power should also be the final authority on matters of state. In other words, the very idea of Christendom is contrary to everything that Americans have been taught. And it hasn’t lost its power over the minds of men. Clearly, if you talk to many members of the Religious Right, they are striving for Christendom to take root right here in the United States.

To me, Christendom is characterized by forced conversions, inter-denominational fighting, political power-plays by church leaders, and heads of state trying to usurp the authority of the Church to cement their own positions. All you have to do is study the history of the Middle Ages to see this drama play out. If Rome didn’t like what your King was doing, they had the power of interdiction – they could deny you sacraments, effectively denying you access to the grace of God. The Pope supported insurgents in countries whose ruler opposed Rome and the Church, starting war in the process. The conflict between England and Spain was fueled in this way – Catholic Spain trying to put a Catholic ruler back on the throne in England, while Protestant England fought for its spiritual life. Of course, had Henry VIII not wanted a divorce, the Reformation might have taken a LOT longer to get to England. A big reason that Wycliffe’s attempt at reform in England didn’t work was that the political situation wasn’t right. The Spanish Inquisition was caused by this concept of Christendom. So were the Crusades (ALL of them, not just the ones against the Muslims). International disputes, fought in the name of Christianity, were the result of rulers striving for this ideal government. They failed to realize that man cannot bring the kingdom of God into existence – only God can do that.

A lot of people think that we in America can usher in the Kingdom of God by voting in good politicians (what an oxymoron THAT is). We forget that when Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, the first attempt at creating Christendom, one of the first things he did was force all his troops to convert. This isn’t an option now. The world is vastly different now than it was in the fourth century, or the seventeenth. And the United States, for all our posturing, was not created to be a Christian nation. It was founded on basic Christian ideas, but it was founded to give comfort, refuge, and representation to all. Our government is not designed to create a Church-State. We should not want it to.

Now that we have established a definition of Christendom, we can compare that to Christianity. Christianity is a faith system. It is the system of belief of those people who follow the commandments of Jesus Christ as found in the New Testament, and who read and believe the things written by Christ’s apostles.

In the first chapter of Acts, we read a description of what Christ’s disciples asked Him, almost immediately after His resurrection. They wanted to know if NOW was the time to overthrow the Romans. After everything they had seen, and all He had taught them, they still had no clue. They didn’t grasp the fact that political power is secondary to spiritual victory. They only saw the immediate need. They wanted to establish Christendom.

Christ told them that that was in His Father’s hands. Then He told them what their job was – what our job is. “You will be my witnesses, to Jerusalem, and to Judea, and to Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the world.” In the Gospels, the commission is more detailed. They were commanded to go, preach, teach, disciple, baptize – nowhere does it say govern. The power that was given at Pentecost is the power to bear witness to Jesus Christ, the risen Saviour. That is the power that we have to change the world. If we do our job, God will take care of the Kingdom.

The problem is, we’re trying to do God’s job, and expect Him to do our job. That’s not the way it works.

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April 23, 2004

Happy Birthday, Bill Shakespeare!!

Born this day (we think) in 1564. One of the seminal playwrites in English history. Go read a play this weekend -- think I'll read Julius Caesar again.

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Study of Mark: Mark 1:12-20

Mark 1:12-20 ESV
(12) The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
(13) And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.
(14) Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God,
(15) and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
(16) Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.
(17) And Jesus said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men."
(1 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
(19) And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets.
(20) And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.

Verses 12 and 13 contain all that Mark has to say about Christ's temptation in the wilderness. I'm not sure why Mark doesn't go into the detail Matthew does in Matt. 4 -- I'd speculate that it was because he had read Matthew and didn't want to repeat information, but that theory really doesn't hold water -- there are other things that Matthew and Mark treat almost identically. Mark mentions this early stage of Christ's ministry simply to set the stage -- he spends a lot more time talking about Jesus' actual ministry.

Verse 14 kicks off the opening stage of Jesus' ministry in Galilee with the calling of the disciples. Simon, Andrew, James, and John are the first four. Andrew (according to John 1:35-40) was a follower of John the Baptist, and was prepared for the coming of the Messiah.

Andrew is one of the more underrated disciples. We don't read much about him in the Bible, he wasn't one of the "big three" (Peter, James, and John). But we read in John 1 that after he met Christ, he ran to tell Simon (Peter) about Him. The very first evangelist -- and his convert became one of the leaders of the early Church.

James and John are interesting case. They are aparantly wealthy, because their father has servants to help on the boat. Not just fishermen -- these two owned their own business, and so were probably highly educated. That will come back to haunt them later on, when they start competing for the position of Christ's "right-hand man" when His kingdom is established.

The thing to notice is that all four of these men had important jobs that they were doing. They were responsible for feeding not only their families, but the families living around them. They provided food each day for the community. And when Christ called them, they dropped what they were doing to follow Him. How often do we put off doing what Christ wants us to do because we can't afford it, or we're too busy, or something like that. I've used those excuses before -- God has a way of making us unbusy when He needs us.

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A Lite Post for now ...

I've been taking care of my daughter the past two days while my wife has been offf at a teaching conference. That's why the Mark study wasn't done last night, and may not be tonight (depends on when she gets home, it may be close to midnight Eastern time).

But just so you don't wonder where I went, I decided to hop on the bandwagon and have my blog gender analyzed.

I've done this before, and I came out decidedly male (which my wife was happy about). This time:

Words: 532

Female Score: 410
Male Score: 1293

The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

I used the last Mark study that I did, and left out the Bible passages and the Albert Barnes quote.

In other news -- I'm working on a discussion of the differences between Christianity and Christendom. I'm finding out that people don't share my idea of what Christendom exactly is (or, rather, was). Might have that one up on Saturday, depending on the weather (sunny=lawnmower).

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April 22, 2004

This is what happens ....

.... when Christians put political power ahead of the commandments of God. Christian political parties may look like a great idea, but we forget one important thing -- not all Christians have the same political philosophies.

This is kind of a pet issue for me, and I've posted about this in the past. I like what I read here -- I am a conservative, but first I am a Christian. When these views diverge -- which they will, and sooner than we would all like to admit -- I will still be a Christian. My Christianity defines my world view -- it is part of what makes me conservative.

Notice that I said part. There is a lot more that is involved in my political philosophy -- including the fact that I was raised in a conservative home, I went to Liberty University during the end of the Reagan administration, my Dad worked for the Department of Defense, etc. What I see from the GOP anymore is a grudging acceptance of the Religious Right -- not a commitment. Christian conservatives are the biggest block the Republicans have, and they'll pander to us to get elected, but are quite willing to toss us by the side of the road until the next election.

What are our options? Vote conscience, not party. Don't expect the government to do the job that God has given the Church. Get out of the pew and put some action to those words. Live your faith. Read the book of James, and study it. Be salt. Make a difference, darnit!!!

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April 21, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 1:6-11

Mark 1:6-11 ESV
(6) Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.
(7) And he preached, saying, "After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
( I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
(9) In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
(10) And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
(11) And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."

Today, we're reading about the baptism of Christ. We first see a continuation of John's description -- more emphasis on how poorly he was clothed, and how poorly he ate. The emphasis is on how God sustained John -- and how He will sustain us all, as well.

John is very popular at this time -- he is attracting crowds that the megachurches in the US can only dream of -- and NONE of these people are following John because its a status symbol. They follow him because he is authentic. Sometimes, we try too hard to get people to listen to us. We want them to hear the Gospel so badly that we'll do just about anything to get them there -- gimmick Sundays (how often did I sit through 'Wild West Sunday,' 'Pack a Pew Sunday,' etc. when I was growing up?), "seeker-friendly" services, contemporary worship, you name it. I am not saying these things are bad things. I am saying that if we really want people to pay attention to us, we need to show that we are real. Our faith needs to be a faith that is authentic. As I read
this response to my post (and others' posts as well) about truth claims and Christianity, one of the things I noticed was the characterization of Christians. Our faith says that we should be a people of love, compassion. Our practice often contradicts this.

I don't believe for even a half-second that Christians should be tolerant toward sin. All you have to do is read the accounts of Jesus cleansing the temple to realize that He wasn't all that tolerant. He did, however, love people. He went to Zaccheus in the tree. He went to the Samaritan woman at the well at a time when Jews wouldn't have anything to do with Samaritans. He went to people, and showed He cared, without sacrificing His message. He never watered down His message, and doesn't expect us to, either. When we live our faith, and show that it's real, people are attracted. That is what John the Baptist did.

Even at the height of his popularity, John was pointing people to Jesus. Later on, many people thought that Jesus was competition for John -- that they were preaching a different message. John makes it clear that this isn't true. John makes it clear that Jesus' ministry is far superior to his and, as I mentioned yesterday, that Christ would increase, while John would have to decrease.

Why did Jesus go to John to be baptized?

Matthew 3:13-15 ESV
(13) Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.
(14) John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"
(15) But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented.

Albert Barnes has this to say about the phrase "fulfill all righteousness":


"There was no particular precept in the Old Testament requiring this, but he chose to give the sanction of his example to the baptism of John, as to a divine ordinance. The phrase “all righteousness,” here, is the same as a righteous institution or appointment. Jesus had no sin. But he was about to enter on his great work. It was proper that he should be set apart by his forerunner, and show his connection with him, and give his approbation to what John had done. He submitted to the ordinance of baptism, also, in order that occasion might be taken, at the commencement of his work, for God publicly to declare his approbation of him, and his solemn appointment to the office of the Messiah."

This is NOT Jesus becoming God's Son, or becoming the Messiah. He was born both of those. This is God declaring to the world who Jesus was, and what role He came to fill.

Then the Heavens opened up -- literally. As Hyppolytus would later say, creation was reconciled with its Creator through the Redeemer. Christ made it possible for us to get into Heaven. The entire Trinity were there at this baptism -- the Father bearing witness, the Son receiving witness, and the Holy Spirit giving confirmation. This is the mark of the beginning of Christ's work on Earth, which ties directly to verse 1 -- the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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April 20, 2004

Truth Claims and Christianity -- Are We Too Exclusive?

The opening salvo was fired on April 16, on Al Mohler's blog. I try to read this one every so often, since I'm hoping to go to Southern for Seminary this year. The actual fuss started because of a book -- When Religion Becomes Evil: Five Warning Signs by Charles Kimball. Dr. Mohler took exception to a few of the things that Kimball asserted in his book, which indicated that Christianity was far too dogmatic in it's claims to absolute Truth, especially our claim that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour, the only way to get to God and have any hope of Heaven.

Jollyblogger was the first place I read about this, since I had missed Mohler's blog that day. He's got a good number of quotes from that blog, so I won't quote them again here. He also makes the point that the claim that Christ is the Messiah, the olny way to Heaven, is the very foundation of Christianity. Without that, what point is there? There are certainly other faiths that require less devotion, whose rules are less stringent, whose pathway is broader and smoother. If pluralism is true, if there are a multitude of pathways to God, then Christianity is the toughest road to get there.

Today, Walloworld took up the discussion. I love the candy bar analogy that he uses, and he brings up a great point -- the people who are saying "Be more inclusive, don't be so dogmatic" are in reality saying "Hey, you're wrong, we're right. Be more like us! Be more tolerant, and less inclusive -- just like us!". They are ignoring their own claims to absolute truth -- what they believe is the Truth, and we should all follow them!

Everyone has blinders to their own beliefs. None of us recognize our shortcomings automatically; that is why debate is a good thing. Christianity's truth claims, our exclusive "ownership" of the one Way to Heaven, isn't a shortcoming -- it's our strength. As Paul says, without the ressurection of Christ, our preaching and our hope is in vain. Without the Truth that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Light (not just A way, A truth, or A light), we are nothing more than a bunch of clanging cymbals. When we give up our Truth, when we back down, we lose. And when we stop proclaiming that Truth, unashamedly, everyone loses. Without the Truth of the Gospel, we are just another philosophy that is full of "sound and fury, signifying nothing" (one of my favorite Shakespearian quotes).

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NOT sure I should be happy about this ......


Vizzini

Which Princess Bride Character are You?
this quiz was made by mysti

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Study of Mark -- Mark 1:1-5

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,' " John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.
(Mark 1:1-6 ESV)

The first two verses point directly to the Old Testament. Mark illustrates the relationship between the Old and New Testament, which the church fathers were VERY interested in. Irenaeus especially used these verses to show that the OT God and the NT God were the same -- the prophets, after all, didn't foretell the coming of a new and improved deity. This conflicted with Marcion's teaching that the God of the Old Testament was a vengeful, angry God, but the God of the New Testament was a loving and merciful God of grace.

It is interesting that Mark attributes the prophecy to Isaiah, when it's actually two prophecies in two books.
Malachi 3:1 is the prophecy of the messenger, while Isaiah 40:3 mentions the voice crying in the wilderness. I've heard a lot of different things about this -- that Malachi and Isaiah were on the same scroll, but the scrolls were referred to by the name of the major prophet, that many writers conflate (merge together) prophecies and only credit the major prophet. Of course, some manuscripts attribut the prophecy to "the Prophets", rather than to any specific one. There's a great treatment of this issue here.

The thing I got the most out of this passage comes from the description of John. I wondered why he had to look this way, why he had to be a "voice crying in the wilderness". When the Jews saw someone looking like him, who ate very little, had poor clothing, and no "hometown" (he had lived in the wilderness for most of his life). He had no reputation, nobody knew who had taught him. Yet he spoke with the authority of someone who had been with God. They knew there was only one way that John could have survived living the way he did -- God was with him, supplying him with everything he needed. THAT is what gave John his credibility with the people.

I was fascinated at the way the church fathers dealt with John. They saw him as a type of the Law -- clad in filthy rags, just as our righteousness is as filthy rags, sustained by God, meant to point us all toward the Saviour. They pointed especially to John's statement that "He must increase, and I must decrease" to show not only Johns feeling about his ministry after Christ's appearing, but that the Law must diminish while Grace abounded. I think this view, more than any other, shows the true relationship between Grace and Law. The Law shows us how good we really need to be to merit heaven, and shows us that we cannot do it ourselves. That's when Grace comes in, and gives us a Way.

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Study of Mark -- Introduction

The best way to introduce Mark is to take a look at an outline. This shows the dating, the authorship, etc. I've found bible.org to be a great reference source, btw, so it would make a great bookmark.

I'm doing this study following closely the Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scriptures. I especially like the way the text is broken into pericopes, so I'm going to blog each day based on the pericope, or section of Scripture, that is next. The first section is Mark 1:1-5, so that will be in the next entry.

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April 18, 2004

Just a quickie .....

Go here. Read this.

I couldn't have said it better myself. Probably the reason I'm not as political as other "Godbloggers" I read -- there's a higher call, and a more efficient way of changing society. I've said it before, and I'll say it again (and again, and again ... ).

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Buy My Record

First of all, a bonus point to anyone who can identify the band who recorded the song Buy My Record.

I'm not sure what to think about this. For those who don't want to register with the Dallas News, here's a synopsis: Christian kids are downloading Christian music illegally -- and some claim it's for witnessing purposes.

Let's not even mention the whole "Thou shalt not steal" issue, which should be obvious to all. If we want to encourage quality Christian music, these people have got to be paid. The system is flawed, I agree. Until we have a better system, though, we need to make sure that Christian artists are encouraged to keep on doing Christian music. The temptation is too big for the better artists to head over to a mainstream label, get bigger distribution and better sales, and make more money. Justify it by "reaching a new audience with our message". Then, the message gets lost.

We support local churches with our offerings. We support Christian (and non-sectarian) charities with our donations. Why can't we support Christian artists with our money? Or better -- why don't we?

I hear criticism of the CCM/Christian rock industry all the time -- "they aren't as good, as professional, as secular artists". Know why? Because the artists can't afford to stay in the Christian industry. Even Carman, who has done his thing for years on love offerings and prayer, is having a hard time right now. We have to give these folks whatever support we can.

Of course, Christian labels need to stop following their mainstream counterparts and actually pay their artists a decent royalty on album sales. When I buy a $16 CD, I expect the artist to get more than $1-2 from it -- especially since we all know how much (little) CDs cost!

I have a suggestion for right now: IF you burn a Christian song (and this can work for mainstream music, too), find out the mailing address for the band. Send them a fan letter, and tell them you burned the song. Then put a dollar in the envelope for each song you burned. Still cheaper than a whole CD. And the artist is getting some support from the fans. Maybe they can even afford to stay in the "ministry".

Christian arts as a ministry? That's a whole different rant. Maybe next week.

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