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from Got Questions:

Science is defined as “the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.” Science is a method that mankind can use to gain a greater understanding of the natural universe. It is a search for knowledge through observation. Advances in science demonstrate the reach of human logic and imagination. However, a Christian’s belief in science should never be like our belief in God. A Christian can have faith in God and respect for science, as long as we remember which is perfect and which is not.

Our belief in God is a belief of faith. We have faith in His Son for salvation, faith in His Word for instruction, and faith in His Holy Spirit for guidance. Our faith in God should be absolute, since when we put our faith in God, we depend on a perfect, omnipotent, omniscient Creator. Our belief in science should be intellectual and nothing more. We can count on science to do many great things, but we can also count on science to make mistakes. If we put faith in science, we depend on imperfect, sinful, limited, mortal men. Science throughout history has been wrong about many things, such as the shape of the earth, powered flight, vaccines, blood transfusions, and even reproduction. God is never wrong.

Truth is nothing to fear, so there is no reason for a Christian to fear good science. Learning more about the way God constructed our universe helps all of mankind appreciate the wonder of creation. Expanding our knowledge helps us to combat disease, ignorance, and misunderstanding. However, there is danger when scientists hold their faith in human logic above faith in our Creator. These persons are no different from anyone devoted to a religion; they have chosen faith in man and will find facts to defend that faith.

Still, the most rational scientists, even those who refuse to believe in God, admit to a lack of completeness in our understanding of the universe. They will admit that neither God nor the Bible can be proved or disproved by science, just as many of their favorite theories ultimately cannot be proved or disproved. Science is meant to be a truly neutral discipline, seeking only the truth, not furtherance of an agenda.

Much of science supports the existence and work of God. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” As modern science discovers more about the universe, we find more evidence of creation. The amazing complexity and replication of DNA, the intricate and interlocking laws of physics, and the absolute harmony of conditions and chemistry here on earth all serve to support the message of the Bible. A Christian should embrace science that seeks the truth, but reject the “priests of science” who put human knowledge above God.

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from Got Questions:

The resurrection of Jesus is important for several reasons. First, the resurrection witnesses to the immense power of God Himself. To believe in the resurrection is to believe in God. If God exists, and if He created the universe and has power over it, then He has power to raise the dead. If He does not have such power, He is not worthy of our faith and worship. Only He who created life can resurrect it after death, only He can reverse the hideousness that is death itself, and only He can remove the sting and gain the victory over the grave (1 Corinthians 15:54–55). In resurrecting Jesus from the grave, God reminds us of His absolute sovereignty over life and death.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is also important because it validates who Jesus claimed to be, namely, the Son of God and Messiah. According to Jesus, His resurrection was the “sign from heaven” that authenticated His ministry (Matthew 16:1–4) and the proof that He had authority over even the temple in Jerusalem (John 2:18–22). The resurrection of Jesus Christ, attested to by hundreds of eyewitnesses (1 Corinthians 15:3–8), provides irrefutable proof that He is the Savior of the world.

Another reason the resurrection of Jesus Christ is important is that it proves His sinless character and divine nature. The Scriptures said God’s “Holy One” would never see corruption (Psalm 16:10), and Jesus never saw corruption, even after He died (see Acts 13:32–37). It was on the basis of the resurrection of Christ that Paul preached, “Through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin” (Acts 13:38–39).

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not only the supreme validation of His deity; it also validates the Old Testament prophecies that foretold of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection (see Acts 17:2–3). Christ’s resurrection also authenticated His own claims that He would be raised on the third day (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34). If Jesus Christ is not resurrected, then we have no hope that we will be, either. In fact, apart from Christ’s resurrection, we have no Savior, no salvation, and no hope of eternal life. As Paul said, our faith would be “useless,” the gospel would be altogether powerless, and our sins would remain unforgiven (1 Corinthians 15:14–19).

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), and in that statement claimed to be the source of both. There is no resurrection apart from Christ, no eternal life. Jesus does more than give life; He is life, and that’s why death has no power over Him. Jesus confers His life on those who trust in Him, so that we can share His triumph over death (1 John 5:11–12). We who believe in Jesus Christ will personally experience resurrection because, having the life Jesus gives, we have overcome death. It is impossible for death to win (1 Corinthians 15:53–57).

Jesus is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). In other words, Jesus led the way in life after death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is important as a testimony to the resurrection of human beings, which is a basic tenet of the Christian faith. Unlike other religions, Christianity possesses a Founder who transcends death and promises that His followers will do the same. Every other religion was founded by men or prophets whose end was the grave. As Christians, we know that God became man, died for our sins, and was resurrected the third day. The grave could not hold Him. He lives, and He sits today at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Hebrews 10:12).

The Word of God guarantees the believer’s resurrection at the coming of Jesus Christ for His church at the rapture. Such assurance results in a great song of triumph as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (cf. Hosea 13:14).

The importance of the resurrection of Christ has an impact on our service to the Lord now. Paul ends his discourse on resurrection with these words: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Because we know we will be resurrected to new life, we can endure persecution and danger for Christ’s sake (verses 30–32), just as our Lord did. Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, thousands of Christian martyrs through history have willingly traded their earthly lives for everlasting life and the promise of resurrection.

The resurrection is the triumphant and glorious victory for every believer. Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). And He is coming again! The dead in Christ will be raised up, and those who are alive at His coming will be changed and receive new, glorified bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18). Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ important? It proves who Jesus is. It demonstrates that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. It shows that God has the power to raise us from the dead. It guarantees that the bodies of those who believe in Christ will not remain dead but will be resurrected unto eternal life.

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From Got Questions:

Palm Sunday is the day we celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, one week before His resurrection (Matthew 21:1–11). As Jesus entered the holy city, He neared the culmination of a long journey toward Golgotha. He had come to save the lost (Luke 19:10), and now was the time—this was the place—to secure that salvation. Palm Sunday marked the start of what is often called “Passion Week,” the final seven days of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Palm Sunday was the “beginning of the end” of Jesus’ work on earth.

Palm Sunday began with Jesus and His disciples traveling over the Mount of Olives. The Lord sent two disciples ahead into the village of Bethphage to find an animal to ride. They found the unbroken colt of a donkey, just as Jesus had said they would (Luke 19:29–30). When they untied the colt, the owners began to question them. The disciples responded with the answer Jesus had provided: “The Lord needs it” (Luke 19:31–34). Amazingly, the owners were satisfied with that answer and let the disciples go. “They brought [the donkey] to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it” (Luke 19:35).

As Jesus ascended toward Jerusalem, a large multitude gathered around Him. This crowd understood that Jesus was the Messiah; what they did not understand was that it wasn’t time to set up the kingdom yet—although Jesus had tried to tell them so (Luke 19:11–12). The crowd’s actions along the road give rise to the name “Palm Sunday”: “A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road” (Matthew 21:8). In strewing their cloaks on the road, the people were giving Jesus the royal treatment—King Jehu was given similar honor at his coronation (2 Kings 9:13). John records the detail that the branches they cut were from palm trees (John 12:13).

On that first Palm Sunday, the people also honored Jesus verbally: “The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ / ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ / ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’” (Matthew 21:9). In their praise of Jesus, the Jewish crowds were quoting Psalm 118:25–26, an acknowledged prophecy of the Christ. The allusion to a Messianic psalm drew resentment from the religious leaders present: “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’” (Luke 19:39). However, Jesus saw no need to rebuke those who told the truth. He replied, “I tell you . . . if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40).

Some 450 to 500 years prior to Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, the prophet Zechariah had prophesied the event we now call Palm Sunday: “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! / Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! / See, your king comes to you, / righteous and victorious, / lowly and riding on a donkey, / on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). The prophecy was fulfilled in every particular, and it was indeed a time of rejoicing, as Jerusalem welcomed their King. Unfortunately, the celebration was not to last. The crowds looked for a Messiah who would rescue them politically and free them nationally, but Jesus had come to save them spiritually. First things first, and mankind’s primary need is spiritual, not political, cultural, or national salvation.

Even as the coatless multitudes waved the palm branches and shouted for joy, they missed the true reason for Jesus’ presence. They could neither see nor understand the cross. That’s why, “as [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies . . . will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Luke 19:41–47). It is a tragic thing to see the Savior but not recognize Him for who He is. The crowds who were crying out “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday were crying out “Crucify Him!” later that week (Matthew 27:22–23).

There is coming a day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10–11). The worship will be real then. Also, John records a scene in heaven that features the eternal celebration of the risen Lord: “There before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9, emphasis added). These palm-bearing saints will shout, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (verse 10), and who can measure sum of their joy?

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from Melanie Phillips:

Isaiah-seal-impression-or-bulla-

The Hebrew University archeologist Dr Eilat Mazar has made what may be one of the most extraordinary finds ever made. In her excavations of the remains of the first Temple in Jerusalem, she has uncovered a bulla, or seal impression, which may have belonged to the prophet Isaiah.

Her team discovered the bulla during renewed excavations at the Ophel, located at the foot of the southern wall of Temple Mount. In an article published last week in Biblical Archaeology Review, entitled “Is This the Prophet Isaiah’s Signature?”, she describes the impression as inscribed with letters and what appears to be a grazing doe, “a motif of blessing and protection found in Judah, particularly in Jerusalem”.

The legible letters in first Temple Hebrew spell out “Yesha’yah” and, on the line below, the partial word “nvy’. Yesha’yah(u) is Hebrew for Isaiah; with an additional letter aleph, “nvy” would correspond to the Hebrew word for prophet.

In the absence of other letters, however, the question is whether the seal belonged to the prophet Isaiah or a different Isaiah altogether. Fascinating details of the relevant factors for consideration are laid out in this article in The Trumpet, the news magazine of the Philadelphia Church of God whose Herbert W Armstrong college in Oklahoma sends volunteers to help with the Temple excavations.

Mazar says: “Without an aleph at the end, the word nvy is most likely just a personal name. Although it does not appear in the Bible, it does appear on seals and a seal impression on a jar handle, all from unprovenanced, private collections. The name of Isaiah, however, is clear.”

The bulla was found only 10 feet away from where in 2009 Mazar’s team unearthed 34 bullae one of which, they discovered in 2015, bore the inscription “Belonging to Hezekiah, [son of] Ahaz, King of Judah.” Mazar, who has also uncovered King David’s palace, Solomon’s royal complex, Nehemiah’s wall and a golden medallion featuring a menorah from the seventh century CE, has described the Hezekiah bulla as the most important individual discovery of her career. From references in the Bible, it seems the prophet Isaiah was a close spiritual adviser to King Hezekiah.

Some other scholars have questioned whether the Isaiah named on the bulla was the Isaiah.

Dr Mazar herself is being scrupulously cautious, merely presenting the evidence and her own opinion of what it is most likely to signify. She asks, however, how likely it is that this bulla could belong to an Isaiah other than the Isaiah.  The “chances of it belonging to any other but the known Prophet Isaiah”, Mazar told The Trumpet, “are extremely slim”.

The editor of the Biblical Archaeology Review, Dr. Robert Cargill, has praised Mazar for being cautious about the identity of the Isaiah whose name is on the bulla. “But if you’re asking me, I think she’s got it. You’re looking at the first archaeological reference of the prophet Isaiah outside of the Bible. It’s amazing.”

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from The Guardian:

The Rev Billy Graham, who transformed American religious life through his preaching and activism, becoming a counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, died on Wednesday. He was 99.

Graham, who long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments, died at his home in North Carolina, according spokesman Mark DeMoss.

More than anyone else, Graham built evangelicalism into a force that rivaled liberal Protestantism and Roman Catholicism in the United States. His leadership summits and crusades in more than 185 countries and territories forged powerful global links among conservative Christians, and he was a strong critic of communism on his visits to eastern Europe. Dubbed “America’s pastor,” he was a confidant to US presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to George W Bush.

In a tweet, Donald Trump said: “The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man.”

In 1983, President Reagan gave Graham the presidential medal of freedom, America’s highest civilian honor. When the Billy Graham Museum and Library was dedicated in 2007 in Charlotte, George HW Bush, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton attended.

“When he prays with you in the Oval Office or upstairs in the White House, you feel he’s praying for you, not the president,” Clinton said at the ceremony.

Beyond Graham’s public appearances, he reached millions through his use of primetime telecasts, network radio, daily newspaper columns, evangelistic feature films and globe-girdling satellite TV hookups. Graham’s message was not complex or unique, yet he preached with a conviction that won over many audiences.

His catchphrase was “the Bible says”. His unquestioning belief in Scripture turned the Gospel into a “rapier” in his hands, he said.

A tall, striking man with thick hair, stark blue eyes and a firm jaw, Graham was a commanding presence at his crusades. He would make the altar call in his powerful voice, asking the multitudes to stand, come down the aisles and publicly make “decisions for Christ,” as a choir sang the hymn Just As I Am.

By his final crusade in 2005 in New York City, he had preached in person to more than 210 million people worldwide. No evangelist is expected to have his level of influence again.

William Martin, author of the Graham biography A Prophet With Honor, said: “William Franklin Graham Jr can safely be regarded as the best who ever lived at what he did.”

Graham will be buried by his wife, Ruth, at the eponymous museum and library.

Graham had said of his preaching: “I have been asked, ‘What is the secret?’ Is it showmanship, organization or what? The secret of my work is God. I would be nothing without him.”

 

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“The Bible clearly warns us that we are to be cautious about following the ideas of men when the men who are promoting their own ideas are ignoring what God has said in His Word. There is even a danger to paying attention to what men are saying, if what they say does not line up with what God has already communicated in His Word.”

From Understand the Times:

Man’s way or God’s way? That is a very important question. When it comes to growing God’s church, is there a right answer? Some believe there are ways to promote church growth by applying certain principles that are based on human insight and growth methods. What does God say?

Every Christian wants to see the church grow. Jesus made it clear before He ascended to the Father that His followers are to be His witnesses. Believers are called to share the good news of the gospel until He returns. We want to see our churches filled to overflowing. But what happens when the Christian Church, in its zeal to reach the unconverted, begins to embrace ideas and methods that are far from biblical to attract the lost?

We must always remember that a zealous Christian leader who has the ability to communicate can also be a subtle deceiver if he or she mixes truth with error. Further, there are those who are so convinced they are standing on the truth that when they are confronted with biblical truth, they simply cannot see their error. No matter who one is or what position is held, everyone needs to be open to correction from God’s Word.

In the book of Proverbs, we are told why this happens. Solomon wrote: All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits. [1] Then to make the point even more evident a few verses later, we are admonished: There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. [2]

The Bible clearly warns us that we are to be cautious about following the ideas of men when the men who are promoting their own ideas are ignoring what God has said in His Word. There is even a danger to paying attention to what men are saying, if what they say does not line up with what God has already communicated in His Word.

At the present time, there is a trend underway that seems very exciting to many Christians. They perceive that this present generation is attracted to experience and not impressed by biblical exegesis. If a church can provide “Christian experiences” which attract attention, Christianity can be expanded, they reason. Sensory, experiential, liturgical, and sacramental encounters, they say, can be effective attractions.

However, based on church history, these methods have actually been around for centuries. And while they may attract those who are looking for a spiritual experience, experience without a biblical basis can be very deceptive and not Christianity at all.

The Scriptures shed light on what happens when human means and methods are promoted without God’s endorsement. Jesus said:

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand.[3]

To sum it up, methods based on man’s views can be right in the eyes of men but in opposition to Jesus Christ and His Word. That is why we must be like the Bereans who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”[4]

Remember, the last days will be a time when deception will grow stronger and stronger. Deception means that truth can be compromised. Thank God, we have His Word to keep us on the right track: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”[

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from Got Questions:

Much misunderstanding about the Christian life occurs because we either assign commands and exhortations we should be following as “era-specific” commands that only applied to the original audience, or we take commands and exhortations that are specific to a particular audience and make them timeless truths. How do we go about discerning the difference? The first thing to note is that the canon of Scripture was closed by the end of the 1st century A.D. This means that, while all of the Bible is truth we can apply to our lives, most, if not all, of the Bible was not originally written to us. The authors had in mind the hearers of that day. That should cause us to be very careful when interpreting the Bible for today’s Christians. It seems that much of contemporary evangelical preaching is so concerned with the practical application of Scripture that we treat the Bible as a lake from which to fish application for today’s Christians. All of this is done at the expense of proper exegesis and interpretation.

The top three rules of hermeneutics (the art and science of biblical interpretation) are 1) context; 2) context; 3) context. Before we can tell 21st-century Christians how the Bible applies to them, we must first come to the best possible understanding of what the Bible meant to its original audience. If we come up with an application that would have been foreign to the original audience, there is a very strong possibility that we did not interpret the passage correctly. Once we are confident that we understand what the text meant to its original hearers, we then need to determine the width of the chasm between us and them. In other words, what are the differences in language, time, culture, geography, setting and situation? All of these must be taken into account before application can be made. Once the width of the chasm has been measured, we can then attempt to build the bridge over the chasm by finding the commonalities between the original audience and ourselves. Finally, we can then find application for ourselves in our time and situation.

Another important thing to note is that each passage has only one correct interpretation. It can have a range of application, but only one interpretation. What this means is that some applications of biblical passages are better than others. If one application is closer to the correct interpretation than another, then it is a better application of that text. For example, many sermons have been preached on 1 Samuel 17 (the David and Goliath story) that center on “defeating the giants in your life.” They lightly skim over the details of the narrative and go straight to application, and that application usually involves allegorizing Goliath into tough, difficult and intimidating situations in one’s life that must be overcome by faith. There is also an attempt to allegorize the five smooth stones David picked up to defeat his giant. These sermons usually conclude by exhorting us to be faithful like David.

While these interpretations make engaging sermons, it is doubtful the original audience would have gotten that message from this story. Before we can apply the truth in 1 Samuel 17, we must know how the original audience understood it, and that means determining the overall purpose of 1 Samuel as a book. Without going into a detailed exegesis of 1 Samuel 17, let’s just say it’s not about defeating the giants in your life with faith. That may be a distant application, but as an interpretation of the passage, it’s alien to the text. God is the hero of the story, and David was His chosen vehicle to bring salvation to His people. The story contrasts the people’s king (Saul) with God’s king (David), and it also foreshadows what Christ (the Son of David) would do for us in providing our salvation.

Another common example of interpreting with disregard of the context is John 14:13-14. Reading this verse out of context would seem to indicate that if we ask God anything (unqualified), we will receive it as long as we use the formula “in Jesus’ name.” Applying the rules of proper hermeneutics to this passage, we see Jesus speaking to His disciples in the upper room on the night of His eventual betrayal. The immediate audience is the disciples. This is essentially a promise to His disciples that God will provide the necessary resources for them to complete their task. It is a passage of comfort because Jesus would soon be leaving them. Is there an application for 21st-century Christians? Of course! If we pray in Jesus’ name, we pray according to God’s will and God will give us what we need to accomplish His will in and through us. Furthermore, the response we get will always glorify God. Far from a “carte blanche” way of getting what we want, this passage teaches us that we must always submit to God’s will in prayer, and that God will always provide what we need to accomplish His will.

Proper biblical interpretation is built on the following principles:
1. Context. To understand fully, start small and extend outward: verse, passage, chapter, book, author and testament/covenant.
2. Try to come to grips with how the original audience would have understood the text.
3. Consider the width of the chasm between us and the original audience.
4. It’s a safe bet that any moral command from the Old Testament that is repeated in the New Testament is an example of a “timeless truth.”
5. Remember that each passage has one and only one correct interpretation, but can have many applications (some better than others).
6. Always be humble and don’t forget the role of the Holy Spirit in interpretation. He has promised to lead us into all truth (John 16:13).

Biblical interpretation is as much an art as it is science. There are rules and principles, but some of the more difficult or controversial passages require more effort than others. We should always be open to changing an interpretation if the Spirit convicts and the evidence supports.

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