Devotion for Advent: The Word Became Flesh

word became flesh“. . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1

An excellent devotion for Advent, is Athanasius On The Incarnation.

C. S. Lewis wrote the Preface for this edition, advising us to not read another new book until we have read an old one. And if we have not time for both, to read the old.

Dispensationalism & the rapture

Dr. Ben Witherington is professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary. This is an excellent synopsis of where “Left Behind” came from, and it is NOT the Bible. For the exegesis of the supposed ‘Rapture’ passage in 1 Thessalonians see: https://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2013/05/11/second-coming-rapture-vs-scripture-christian/

Coffee with the King

See this excellent 7-minute video discussing the origins of Dispensationalism and the idea of a secret rapture, from NT Professor Ben Witherington III.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2014/10/08/the-rapture-uncaged/

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I want to be LEFT BEHIND

I want to be Left Behind, by James Michael Jones–reblogged below this text and my comments.

36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven,[e] but My Father only. 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour[f] your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.  Matthew 24

[Text highlighted to show the parallel: …took…taken…]

Yes, some scholars see the “taken” as being “to judgment.”  Robert H. Mounce (New International Biblical Commentary), sees this as parallel with the ‘”taken away” by the flood’ (v. 39). Others think it is ‘left for judgment (e.g. NICNT). But the two differing views do not detract from the key point–“The coming of Jesus marks a complete and permanent division” (Leon Morris) “. . . the decisive moment.” “The sayings emphasize the completely unexpected nature of the Man’s coming” (AB).
THIS is the Parousia, the Second Advent, the final judgment, (vv. 27, 29-31, 44), not some secret “beam me up Scotty!” fiction. This context leaves “Left Behind” out in the cold. [The enigmatic saying about the vultures receives a variety of educated guesses.] And the context of the primary passage which is distorted to fit the modern “Rapture” doctrine also leaves the fiction behind. https://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2013/05/11/second-coming-rapture-vs-scripture-christian/

Forgiveness Factor

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Left Behind will be released in theaters soon. One of the verses used to describe the Rapture is Matthew 24:40. It states: “Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left.” According to supporters of the Left Behind series of books and films, no one wants to be ‘left behind’.

If you read Tim LaHaye’s book “Left behind” and watch the first “Left Behind” film, you do NOT want to be left behind. However, did Jesus believe the ones left behind had it bad? Read Jesus’ remarks in Luke 17:34-37 and you tell me. “‘I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.’ And they said to Him, ‘Where, Lord?’ He said to them, ‘Where the corpse…

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Romans 8:28, Faithful Suffering

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And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (NKJV)

Here is a familiar verse that is often left to stand on its own  in our midst, without context and even that may be shortened to part of the first phrase (“All things work together for good”)! I have even heard Christians use this to support their disobedience to God’s commands, like going ahead to divorce one’s spouse. But, of course, in the larger context of Scripture, “those who love God” also  “… will obey my teaching” (John 14).

Some versions or footnotes read “in all things God works for the good” which relates to issues of text and translation. C. E. B. Cranfield, in his magisterial work (ICC), works through those issues and concludes that the interpretation, as quoted above (in NKJV, AV, RV, Vulgate), “is to be accepted as almost certainly right.” [“Dodd’s objection seems to have no cogency, and we can see no other objection.”]

What is expressed is a truly biblical confidence in the sovereignty of God.”

The obvious limit placed on this, is the knowledge that this confidence is for “those who love God.”

The primary reference of [‘all things‘] is, no doubt, to ‘the sufferings of the present time’ (v. 18), to what Calvin in his comment calls ‘adversities’ or ‘the cross’. That this is so is confirmed by vv. 35-39.”

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:

For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul’s meaning is that all things, even those which seem most adverse and hurtful, such as persecution or death itself, are profitable for those who truly love God.”

“. . . such grievous things as are mentioned in v. 35, must serve to help them on their way to salvation, confirming their faith and drawing them closer to their Master, Jesus Christ.  But the reason why all things thus assist believers is, of course, that God is in control of all things. The faith expressed here is faith not in things but in God.”

C. E. B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans (ICC)

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Good Friday–Dying for the Ungodly

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Romans 5

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, . . . the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

We, as Christians, need to hold onto a keen awareness of the facts to which Paul points us in Romans 5.

Christ died for the ungodly (v. 6).

While we were sinners, Christ died for us (v. 8).

Even while we were enemies, . . . (v. 10)!

Accepting this sharpens our hearing as we listen to the words of our Lord:  “ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”–Matthew 5

Christ tells us to imitate our Father.

 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. . . .  and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”–Luke 6

What resources do we have to obey? The gift given when we were reconciled. Romans 5 tells us that   “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Adolf Schlatter writes, “The ungodly were loved by the one who did the will of God.  The act of love by which he unites the ungodly with himself, at the same time is the act of obedience by which he does the will of God. Hence his love originates from God’s love. He has demonstrated the extent to which God values the person and intently unites him with himself, in that Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans, p. 123f)

Thus, we (who were loved even as enemies) trust and obey and praise God for Good Friday! You might like to read Charles Spurgeon’s reflections on this day. See April 10 in his Morning and Evening book and read some of the days before and after. (You can find this to read on-line.) Spurgeon truly understood the effects and implications of Good Friday, both in what Christ did for us, and what He calls us to do for others.  Spurgeon Quotes Here

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Holy Week, Beware Idle Conjecture

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Amidst the joy that begins Holy Week, someone always dredges up an unfounded conjecture [today’s example here and here] which says, “Apples are oranges.” That is this—that the crowds who shouted, “Hosanna!” were the same crowd that cried, “Crucify him!

Such an idle charge has no foundation in the text, and bears false witness akin to that at Jesus’ trial. It is like saying that Peter not only denied Jesus, but also joined the mob that called for crucifixion.

We are told that Jesus, “six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus raised from the dead” (John 12:1).

Jesus, with the once-dead Lazarus, attracted a large crowd (v. 9). The next day, with pilgrims streaming into Jerusalem from every direction, some throngs on the east side who hear of Jesus’ approach, come and join the procession of Jesus and his disciples (remember, Jesus had more than twelve; he once sent out seventy). “As soon as He was approaching…the whole crowd of the disciples began…shouting:
‘BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD…’” (Luke 19:37f).

(Note: those who had earthly expectations of a King would not have expected fulfillment until after Passover. Israel was freed from bondage following Passover, not before.)

Days later, the chief priests and elders completed their stealthy plot to kill Jesus, but “not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people” (Matt. 26:5).

Remember, the Teachers of the Law all had their own disciples. A very different entourage accompanied the Jewish leaders as they held their night trial and then proceeded to Pilate’s judgment seat. It was the chief priests and elders, encouraging the crowd that they attracted, who together shouted, “Crucify him!” (Matt. 27:22).

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The Publican: Only Half a Surprise

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The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”–Luke 18, ESV

The Publican: Only Half a Surprise

Tax collectors may well be universal objects of man’s resentment.  But we miss the full surprise in this parable if we have little knowledge about the culture of Palestine in Jesus’ day.

To the devout Jew, the Jewish tax collector was a traitor, being hated as one who worked for the occupation force of a pagan power, Rome.  In rabbinic literature “hatred was to be extended even to the family of the tax collector” (ISBE).

[This also gives us insight into the trap the Pharisees laid for Jesus in asking him whether or not to pay tribute (taxes) to Caesar.  Read more about the times and context of taxes a la Romans 13.]

Also, because of their work with Gentiles, they were ritually unclean.

Hence, in the above text, we read what the ISBE calls the “superlative parable of grace.”  And in Luke 19, we meet a chief tax collector, Zacchaeus (whose Jewish name means pure, righteous) in a real-life story of “surprising grace” for those in need of the Physician Jesus.

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