Monday, August 27, 2012

Is Jesus Really God? Witnessing to Jews and Mormons


One of the fundamental tenants of Christianity is the belief that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. This central issue is one that separates Christian theology from that of the Jews and the Mormons. This is not intended to pick on these other groups, but to lovingly show them what the Bible has to say on the matter (and to help Christians do the same).

The Jews believe in the Old Testament, and they rightly understand that God promised to send a Deliverer to His people. Unfortunately, they have rejected Jesus as that Messiah, and therefore, they have also rejected the New Testament. (Messianic Jews do believe that Jesus is the Messiah)

The Mormons believe that Jesus was the Son of God. When they come to your door they will be sure to tell you as much, but they are not as forthcoming with what else they believe. They believe Jesus was just one son of one god. They believe that Lucifer is the brother of Jesus, and that God is one of many gods (and that they will one day be a god over a planet just as Yahweh is). Mormons believe in the entire Bible, but they also believe that the writings of Joseph Smith are inspired.

That both groups believe in at least part of the Bible is very helpful. That means that we can use the Bible to show them truth (this is not a luxury we have when witnessing to an atheist or Muslim, for example). So here are some basic biblical points that affirm that Jesus is the Messiah, the only begotten Son of God.

The Old Testament teaches a Triune God

The opening sentence of the Bible tells us that “In the beginning the Gods created the heavens and the earth.” The use of the Hebrew Elohim is plural, which means that God refers to Himself as being plural, and Genesis 1 shows three members of that Godhead. The second verse says “the Spirit of God (Holy Spirit) moved upon the face of the waters,” and in verse 26, “Let us make man in our image.” As Adam was created with body, soul, and spirit, we see man as also being triune in the image of God.

Deuteronomy 6:4 further makes the same point: “Hear Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

The Old Testament prophesied of Jesus’ incarnation

Micah 5:1-2 predicted that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem.

Isaiah 11:2 said that the Spirit would descend on Him.

Jeremiah 23:5 prophesied that He would come from the line of David.

Psalm 110:4 said that He would be a priest “after the order of Melchizedek.”

Genesis 3:15 said He would come from a woman (all others in Scripture come from a man—thus hinting at a virgin birth).

Isaiah 7:14 further points to the virgin birth.

Psalm 72:10-11 predicted that kings would come and bow down to Him.

Hosea 11:1 said He would be called out of Egypt.

Isaiah 9:1-2 said He would also live in Galilee.

Isaiah 53:4 foretold that He would be beaten for our sins.

Isaiah 35:5-6 mentioned that He would heal and give sight to the blind.

Psalm 78:2 predicted that He would teach in parables.

Isaiah 53:9 said He would be buried in a rich man’s tomb.

Zechariah 9:9 prophesied that He would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey.

Psalm 69:4 and 8 say that He will be hated for no reason and be rejected by the Jews.

Psalm 41:9 said He would be betrayed by a friend with whom He shared bread.

Zechariah 11:12-13 further said that He would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, which would later be used to buy a potter’s field.

Isaiah 50:6 said He would be beaten, have His beard pulled out, be mocked, and spit on.

Psalm 22:16 informs that His hands would be pierced (hundreds of years before crucifixion was invented).

Psalm 69:21 foretold that He would be given vinegar for His thirst.

Psalm 34:20 said none of His bones would be broken.

Isaiah 53:5-7, 12 show many things that happened in His death.

Psalm 22:18 says that people will cast lots for His clothes.

Every one of these prophecies and more were fulfilled in the New Testament. If you were to ask a Jew, “Who am I describing?” and then you list any one of these prophecies, they would know you are talking about Jesus. But these are all Old Testament verses that they know, so why do they reject Jesus?

The struggle for the Jews is the same one their 1st Century ancestors struggled with; they confuse the prophecies about the Messiah’s first coming with the ones about His second coming. The people on earth at the time of Jesus, including His own disciples, thought Jesus was coming to set up an earthly throne and establish heaven on earth, but that will not happen until His second coming.

The suffering Savior idea didn’t make sense to the Jews then, and that is why so many miss it still today. But the prophecies, especially of Isaiah, rightly predicted that the Messiah would be bruised, crushed, pierced, beaten, and finally killed.  

(Read Part 2)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tough Guys and Drama Queens


     
     I was excited to read Tough Guys and Drama Queens by Mark Gregston because, as a pastor of students, I always like to have a good book to recommend to parents. Gregston has spent decades working with teens and he even runs a live-in program where 60 troubled teenagers live for a year while he mentors them.

     This book is divided into 3 parts, and Part 1, if it were it’s own book, would be one of the best parenting books I have ever read. Part 1, “What’s so different about today’s culture?” accurately identifies the root causes for many of today’s problems. What many parents think is simply rebellion is the symptom; Gregston identifies what lies beneath the surface, which includes a false sense of reality from the 80 billion videos on YouTube, the 250 million pictures uploaded to Facebook each day, and the lack of leadership evidenced by the 69% of heads of household who play video or computer games regularly.

     Teens, Gregston points out, are told that they are all winners when each person on the soccer team gets a trophy, and we wonder why they are so depressed when they face their first rejection in “the real world.” Young men are experts at video games but don’t know how to do laundry because their mothers do it for them.

     But as much as I enjoyed Part 1, I was equally disappointed with Part 2, “Practices to avoid.” In chapter 8 he makes the case that “authority cannot be forced,” and while I agree that parents need to constantly evaluate their methods, at the end of the day, parents are the God-given authority in their child’s lives, whether the children like it or not.

     When illustrating how to give children more freedom to make their own choices and not being an authoritarian, he says, “When they’re seventeen years old and come downstairs on Sunday morning and say, ‘I don’t want to go to church today,’ don’t shame them and make them feel second-class. Instead, let them know, ‘Sure…why don’t you meet us for lunch so we can spend some time together (p.142)?’” So instead of using their natural authority and making them go to church, Gregston suggests that we should ask our children’s permission to at least have lunch with them.

     This lack of authority confused me when I turned the page and found his example of how to lay out a vision for giving more privileges to your teen: “When you’re fourteen you can text no more than sixty texts a day, and we’ll still be watching. And if you ever send an inappropriate picture, we’ll limit your texting. Just texting, no sexting.”

     Where do parents suddenly regain their authority to be able to “limit your texting?” And if my daughter ever sends an inappropriate picture to a boy, limiting her texting would be the least of her punishment.

     The book ended back on a positive note for me, though, as on page 197 the author encourages parents to drop the many things that pull them away from their families. Even good things, like volunteering in Boy Scouts (if your son is not a Boy Scout), leading small groups, and teaching classes can become harmful if they rob parents of the precious few years they have with their kids. Gregston worded it beautifully when he said, “Tell [the ones you won’t be volunteering for] that you are taking a break to spend time with someone in your family who won’t be with you much longer. The teenage years go quickly, and before you know it, your child will be moving out.”

     Overall I really enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it based on the many good points. The author even includes appendices to help with conversation starters and dealing with conflict that can probably be very helpful. I would personally caution the reader to evaluate the author’s methodology, and to be careful about how much of their authority they cede to their children. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Esther or Delilah? Tales of Beauty and Seduction


     
Every now and then I pick up a book to give it a quick look through, and before I realize it I have read most or all of it. That happened to me last week when I picked up Esther or Delilah. My intention was to read the book’s introduction, which was so captivating that I ended up reading 5 additional chapters. I had to force myself to put the book down and get back to the tasks I had at hand.

     I was introduced to the book’s author, Angela De Souza, through an online writing community hosted by Harper Collins. She is primarily a women’s writer and conference speaker, but this book also contains good stuff for guys too. Throughout the book the reader will see the M2M box, which means “Message to Men,” with advice just for the guys. Among the advice, when talking about Samson, is, “You are not designed to be a wimp, you are not designed to be weak, and you are not designed to be passive. You are a warrior, so start acting like one (p.34).”

     The main focus of the book is comparing how women use their beauty, whether to save their family (and a nation) like Esther, or to destroy her man like Delilah. As she states on pages 110-111, “Beauty can be unveiled strategically or beauty can be unveiled manipulatively.” 

     Every woman possesses charm, and throughout the course of her life she will learn how to use it’s power over men. Girls need to learn from a young age that the fruit of the Spirit can shape them into being the young lady that she needs to be. That is why the author includes chapters on Influence, Respect, Submission, Favor, Timing, Patience, Gentleness, Courage, Faithfulness, and Proverbs 31.

     Even though Esther and Delilah get most of the attention, the book also looks at Ruth, Jezebel, and Abigail, and how each of those ladies influenced the men in their lives. Abigail and Ruth helped bring the Messiah into the world through their descendants, while Jezebel’s entire family was destroyed because of her actions.

     Esther or Delilah (http://www.kingsdaughters21.co.uk/) is a great book for any lady to read, regardless of age. Because of the Message to Men feature, I would recommend it to any guys as well, and even if that part were not there, I would still recommend it because guys should know what a biblical woman looks like, and set their standards high. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Learning from the Old Testament Part 3



     In light of all we have seen here, to what extent are we to obey the Old Testament? Do we have to obey its commands about not eating anything with a cloven hoof? What about the command not to wear a garment with mixed fabric? What about the Ten Commandments?

     What we need to realize is that “the law” (as it is called) contains ceremonial law and moral law. The law served different purposes. One major part was that God wanted Israel to be a witness among the pagan nations around them, and much of the dietary laws and dress code were tied up in that. The moral law had to do with conduct, or how they lived their lives. And much of the ceremonial law governed their religious duties, which was a way of appeasing God’s wrath (propitiation) because no sin could be forgiven until Jesus’ shed His innocent blood.

     (Since no sin could be forgiven, people could not go to heaven. They went to Paradise, or Abraham’s Bosom, as a sort of waiting room. After Jesus died He went to Paradise to set those people free to enter heaven. My next book, Where Did Jesus Go?, will look at this further.)

     That is why people will say things like, “We are not under the Old Testament law.” This is true; laws about the sacrificial system, for example, no longer apply to us. And as far as dietary laws, God gave Peter a vision in the book of Acts and told him that he could pretty much eat whatever he wanted, although the vision certainly had a deeper meaning about salvation being for Gentiles as well as Jews. Believers no longer needed certain robes or ribs to be set apart from the world because they now had Christ’s righteousness. 

     But what about the moral law? Did God no longer care about “you shall not murder” since Jesus died on the cross? Hardly. In fact, the moral law is all repeated, and even expounded upon in the New Testament. Consider these teachings from Jesus:

     “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not kill’…But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” (Jesus in Matthew 5:21-22, expounding on Exodus 20:13)

     “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’ but I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her in his heart already.” (Jesus in Matthew 5:27-28, expounding on Exodus 20:17)

     “Keep the commandments. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not lie. Honor your father and mother.” (Jesus in Matthew 19:17-19, referencing the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20)

     “The first commandment is, ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength…the second is like it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’” (Jesus in Mark 12:29-31 quoting the Shemah from Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

     Is Jesus saying that we do not have to live by the Old Testament moral laws? No, He said that they contained the greatest two commands (as my first book All the Law is about). And Jesus is not the only one to do this. Paul drew from the Old Testament in his writings.

     One of the hot button issues is homosexuality and gay marriage. Whenever a Christian quotes Leviticus 18:22 about a man not “laying with a man as he lays with a woman,” the sarcasm becomes unleashed.

     So you don’t eat pork, right?
     I hope you don’t read your fortune cookie!
     That shirt better be 100% cotton or you are a hypocrite!


     Let’s not forget that laws regarding homosexuality are repeated in the New Testament, thus giving them validity here in the church age. Consider Paul’s teaching in Romans 1:18-32, I Corinthians 6:9-10, and I Timothy 1:8-10. Jude 7 is also convincing, reminding New Testament readers about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their homosexual sin.

     So to my fellow New Testament brothers and sisters, let us embrace the Testament of our forefathers as we cling to that Old Testament passage cited by Jesus:

 “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Jesus to Satan in Matthew 4:4
Referencing Deuteronomy 8:3

(Read Part 1 here
Read Part 2 here)

  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Chick-fil-A's Hate Groups




During this recent Chick-fil-A mania I keep hearing about the supposed “hate groups” that Chick-fil-A donates to. Who exactly are these groups of hate that benefit from CFA?

Well, I guess I am one of them. CFA on several occasions had donated food for our youth ministry and even college Christmas parties. The teenagers hear a message about how the two most important commands of Jesus are to love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself, and then they eat chicken. CFA has been contributing to other such hateful events all over the country.

CFA also sponsors the hateful bigots at Victory Junction Gang Camp, (http://www.victoryjunction.org/) which is a charity that puts on camps for terminally ill children.

The media is leading the public to believe that the Cathys are the first business owners to donate to anyone. Remarks about how corporations should not be giving away money from their customers are filling up social media. So just to see the other side of the coin, here are a list of companies that give money towards gay rights:

Allstate, Amazon, American Airlines, Apple, Applebee's, Best Buy, Clorox, Coca-Cola, Costco, Delta Airlines, Ford, Gap, General Motors, Gerber Baby Products, Hilton Hotels, Home Depot, IMB, Levi's, Marriot International, McDonald's, Microsoft, Nationwide, Nike, Olive Garden, Pepsico, Proctor and Gamble, Red Lobster, Rite Aid, Sears, Southwest Airlines, Starbucks, State Farm, Target, United Airlines, UPS, Walgreens, Walt Disney Company.[1]

We also need to realize how incomplete this list appears to be, as several of these companies are actually mother companies. Pepsico, for example, is more than just Pepsi products; Pepsi owns Gatorade, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, Grandma’s Cookies, Oberto, FritoLay, and Quaker; there is also Disney, which practically owns the world. Spending money at any of these places will eventually put money into the hands of gay marriage supporters.

There are also companies that will match their employees’ personal donations to the Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD). Some of the more popular companies on this list are:

AARP, Allstate, American Express, Bank of America, Ford, General Electric, Gillette, Hewlett Packard, IBM, JP Morgan Chase, John Hancock, Merrill Lynch, Microsoft, Pfizer, Polaroid, Prudential, Starbucks, and Verizon.[2]  

Please don’t misunderstand the point of this blog. I am NOT calling for a boycott of all or any of these companies. If you choose to do that, that is up to you. My point is very simple: if each and every one of these companies have the legal right to donate to/support causes that they believe in (which they do), then Chick-fil-A and companies like it should be afforded the same right and respect to use their proceeds in like manner.

Now here is my Chick-fil-A finale and I will be finished with this topic. Christians, stop criticizing other Christians for going to CFA. I understand the need to be cool and relevant by being the few who didn’t go there, but all the posts about judgmental, intolerant Christians are actually both judgmental and intolerant. Judgmental in that you are judging someone’s motives, which you can’t know, and intolerant in that you are not tolerating their right to eat at CFA.

In other words, you are doing exactly what you are bashing others for doing. And while opining about how CFA consumers are not showing love to homosexuals, please realize that you are not showing love to CFA customers.

There. I’m done posting about Chick-fil-A. But I will continue to eat more chicken there.

(Related Post: Why I Ate at Chick-fil-A)






[1] http://voices.yahoo.com/companies-support-gay-rights-10968324.html
[2] http://www.glad.org/help/workplace-giving/

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Learning from the Old Testament Part 2


     
In Part 1 we saw that David and Solomon led the nation to build a temple. Although some comparisons are fair, it is not really accurate to say that the temple was like “church.” This temple existed as a way for mankind to appease God’s wrath.

     The temple, which was built according to God’s specifications, had an outer courtyard where each person was allowed to come for a sacrifice. But inside the temple, in the Holy Place, only the priests were allowed to go. At the back of that room was a large veil—a 60 foot high, 4 inch thick veil—that led into the Most Holy Place (or Holy of Holies). Only the high priest could enter that room, and only once a year on the Day of Atonement.

     On the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the high priest would offer a sacrifice on behalf of the entire nation. This did not forgive sins (“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” Hebrews 10:4), but simply appeased God’s wrath (an idea known as “propitiation”).

     The word atonement was invented by William Tyndale when he was translating the Bible into English. He simply combined the words “at one” into atone, meaning that we can become at one with God. The word literally means “to cover.”

     The first time we see this covering is in Genesis 3:21, “And for the man and his wife the Lord made tunics of skin and clothed them.” This is the first picture of salvation. Most believe that God used the skin of a lamb for this covering, and it is impossible to skin a lamb without killing it and shedding its blood.

     So years later, when God called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, the Egyptian pharaoh said no. So God sent 9 successive plagues, each to convince pharaoh that He meant business, but each time the pharaoh said no. This led to the 10th and final plague, the death of the first-born. God announced that He would go through all Egypt during the night and kill the firstborn of every creature, man or cattle. But there was one exception.

     God said that if a family would kill a spotless lamb (symbolizing purity) and put its blood on the lintels of their door (forming a cross—centuries before crucifixion was invented), then their first-born would be saved. God said, “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” (Exodus 12:13). This event became known as the Passover, and it is celebrated by Jews each year to this day.

     What the Old Testament shows us is that from the first time man sinned, God required death, both physical and spiritual. Adam did not keel over, but his immortality kicked in. But God also instituted the idea of a sacrifice, that something else could die in one’s place. In the Garden of Eden it was a lamb; in Egypt it was another lamb; at every Passover it was a lamb; and on each Day of Atonement, it was a lamb. To pay for sin God requires death, and the shedding of innocent blood. Anyone can die and shed blood, but none of us has innocent blood.

     That is why when Jesus came on the scene in John 1:29 John the Baptist announced Him as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” When Jesus died on the cross, He shed innocent blood. And for all who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their sacrifice for sins, God will accept it. And we don’t need to worry about making other sacrifices. Read Hebrews 9:6-15 and 10:11-14.

     Just to top things off, do you know what time Jesus died on the cross? The Bible tells us it was the 9th hour, or 3:00 PM. That is not just a random detail: Jesus died on Passover at the exact time that the annual sacrifice was to take place. God made a final sacrifice for us.

     Since it was 3:00, the temple was full of people fulfilling their obligations. They were all witnesses when the temple veil was ripped from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). This was God’s way of saying that the old system was complete, and we now have access directly to God through Jesus Christ.

     But does that mean that everything in in the Old Testament is purely history? Are we still under its laws? Read Part 3.

(Read Part 1 here)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Why I Ate at Chick-fil-A



As the whole world knows by now, yesterday was Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. We don’t have a CFA here in Union, SC, so my wife and I drove 45 miles to the Westgate Mall in Spartanburg for a chicken filled lunch. And yes, like millions of others, we posted pictures of our meal on Facebook and Twitter.

But why? Why all the hysteria around this restaurant chain? I’m not going to get into the comments made by Mr. Cathy, because they have nothing to do with this story, and because everyone is familiar with them. What happened at these fast food stores all over the country yesterday was a grassroots effort to simply say that we respect and support this business.

The Cathy family was potentially going to have their business boycotted, and when politicians began to illegally block their admission into cities, Americans (not anti-gay, religious bigots) realized that our precious freedoms were under attack. If the State can block a business purely on ideological terms, who will they target next? Will a Presbyterian mayor try to shut down a Baptist hospital, or will a Baptist governor try to shut down a Catholic school?

When Americans saw what was happening they wanted their voice to be heard. I did not eat chicken yesterday because I oppose gay marriage (which I do, but that was not the point). I ate at CFA yesterday because I support the freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion. The common man, like myself, rarely feels like his voice is heard. Yesterday we all made sure that those who try to restrict our freedom heard us loud and clear.

And just to make sure they really heard me, I splurged and upgraded to pepper jack cheese on my spicy chicken sandwich. That extra $ .60 sent a clear message.

The 1st Amendment to the Constitution says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
This means that the State cannot make Chick-fil-A the official restaurant and require people to eat there, but it also means that the State cannot prevent anyone from eating there. To take it further, Congress shall not disallow them admittance as a business based on their religious beliefs (as 3 mayors have illegally done).

This is what upset people, and this is what led to the appreciation day. And that is why I chose to have my lunch at Chick-fil-A.

Oh, and because they serve delicious chicken.

(Read Chick-fil-A's Hate Groups here
And Chick-fil-A Stands Firm here)