Was St. Nick a Real Person?

March 5, 2020 at 10:46 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Question: Was “Old St. Nick” a real person?

Answer: I’m glad you asked about this, not because I know a lot about it, but because there’s a funny story that goes with it. There was a real person named Nicholas of Myra. He was born in the 2nd Century, and he became bishop of a place called Myra. He is known in the Roman Catholic Church as “St. Nicholas.” Because Roman Catholic tradition is notoriously unreliable concerning the people that they have declared to be “saints,” it is hard to tell for sure how many of the stories about Nicholas are real and how many are legend. I’ll tell you the story about him that I read and that I would like to be true, even though there is a lot of disagreement about whether or not it is.

One of the arch-heretics of the early Christian church was a man named Arius. He denied the doctrine of the Trinity, claiming that God the Son was not equal to God the Father, and some other stuff (later known as Arianism). Arius was wrong, but he was supposedly something of a smooth-talker, and had a way of being charming, especially to the ladies. He became very popular for the wrong reasons, and his false teachings became such a problem that the church convened a special council to deal with them.

Nicholas came to the council, too, but he wasn’t like Arius. He wasn’t eloquent or socially charming, but he was well-respected for being holy and generous, while also being a little hot-tempered when someone denied the Deity of Christ. At some point during the council debate, Arius stood up on a chair or a desk to make a speech and promote his heresy. Nicholas couldn’t bear it, and marched over and smashed him in the face. (Some historians say it was a punch, some say it was a slap.) A big melee broke out and chaos ensued.

Ultimately, another man named Athanasius was instrumental in formulating a correct creed expressing what the Bible teaches about the Trinity, and Arius was declared a heretic. I’m not sure how the idea of “Santa Claus” was derived from “St. Nicholas,” but I did find this hilarious meme:

Who Was Really on Trial?

March 3, 2020 at 1:31 pm | Posted in John | Leave a comment
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Perhaps you’ve seen the following scenario depicted in some form of popular media: People dressed up in fancy party clothes are standing in a long line behind a velvet rope outside a building. Inside the building a swanky party full of rich and famous people is underway. A burly bouncer guards the entrance to the party, holding a clipboard with a list of names on it.

The people in line are hoping that their names are on the list so that they will be allowed entrance, but, even if they aren’t listed, they are hoping to impress the bouncer in some way to the point where he will let them slip inside, and the ones who are turned away because they aren’t deemed important enough or popular enough are mad. This is not exactly what was happening in John 18:15-16, but the idea is similar. In a case of “it’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know,” one of Jesus’s Disciples was connected enough to the High Priest that he was able to gain entrance to his courtyard, whereas Peter had to wait outside until his fellow-Disciple could vouch for him. Of course, in this case, the entrance wasn’t guarded by a beefy security guard, but only by a young female doorkeeper, and the occasion wasn’t a festive soiree, but rather a devious and devilish sham of a prosecution conducted against an innocent Man. Peter’s admission into the High Priest’s courtyard turned out to be the occasion of his worst failure and shame.

And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest.

John 18:15

There is some debate about who this “another disciple” was, but I believe it was the eponymous John (sometimes called the Disciple that Jesus Loved or the Beloved Disciple, but not specifically named out of a sense of humility, most likely). This is the first indication we get that he was personally acquainted with the High Priest. He could get into his home, and even knew the girl or lady who kept the door.

But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter.

John 18:16

She did recognize Peter, though, and, while, her statement probably wasn’t intended as a threat, Peter responded to it as a threat, perhaps out of intimidation and anxiety over being recognized as the one who had chopped off her fellow-servant’s ear.

Then saith the damsel that kept the door unto Peter, Art not thou also one of this man’s disciples? He saith, I am not.

John 18:17

Having denied Jesus once, Peter most likely found it easier to do it again.

And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold: and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself.

John 18:18

This is beautifully written, so that we get “cutaway scenes” of two simultaneous events with similar themes to highlight Jesus’s commitment to truth and sacrifice contrasted with even his most loyal follower’s cowardice and willingness to lie.

The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine. Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said.

John 18:19-21

Jesus did not feel the need to have a theological debate, and it was not the case that He literally never said anything in secret. His point was that anybody – anybody honest – who heard Him preach and teach could NOT be mistaken as to His doctrine.

And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so?

John 18:22

Just as Peter had been ready to lash out in defense of His Master, here was an officer who took umbrage at Jesus’s unwillingness to grovel before the High Priest.

Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?

John 18:23

This was a point of evidence under Jewish law (and Roman law, for that matter). Defendants in a criminal proceeding were not required to speak in their own defense. The accuser was required to make the charge plain, and witnesses were required to make a prima facie case. Jesus was letting them know that He knew they were bringing trumped up charges, and that this trial (being held at night time, no less) was an illegal proceeding.

Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest.

John 18:24

Caiaphas was the “real” High Priest, although Annas, his father-in-law, the former official High Priest, was still looked upon behind the scenes as having authority. Here the scene shifts back to Peter in the courtyard.

And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of his disciples? He denied it, and said, I am not.

John 18:25

This was Peter’s second denial of Jesus. The other Gospels tell us that Peter even took oaths, and began to swear and curse.

One of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with him?

John 18:26

This was the most threatening of the three times Peter was asked about his identification with Jesus.

Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew. Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.

John 18:27-28

Here we see an example of the irony that frequently occurs in the Gospel of John: As Jesus’s accusers and persecutors broke God’s law in the process of murdering His Messiah, they were concerned with ceremonial uncleanness. They didn’t want to miss the observance of the Passover, even as they themselves sinfully prepared to slaughter the True Passover. The “hall of judgment” was probably located inside Pilate’s military encampment at the Fortress of Antonia.

Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man?

John 18:29

Pilate already knew something about this case, but he did not like Jesus’s accusers, and he was reluctant to get involved.

They answered and said unto him, If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee.

John 18:30

The animosity between Pilate and the Jewish religious leaders was reciprocal, but they needed him to act if Jesus was to be “legally” put to death via crucifixion.

Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what death he should die.

John 18:31-32

Jesus would need to be “lifted up” – crucified – rather than stoned to death. They wanted Him to be seen as “accursed.”

Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews?

John 18:33

Pilate was trying to cut straight to the point.

Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?

John 18:34

Jesus did not intend to cast pearls before swine. In reality, He was judging Pilate, not the other way around.

Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?

John 18:35 (emphasis added)

Verse 35 gives some insight to the discussion of who has the greater guilt in Jesus’s arrest, conviction, and sentencing.

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

John 18:36

The Kingdom of Christ IS IN the world, but not OF the world.

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

John 18:37

This statement made by Jesus accomplished a proclamation of His true Kingship and a denunciation of Pilate (and by extension Rome) as being opposed to truth.

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

John 18:38

There are various ways to read Pilate’s tone as he asked, “What is truth?” Was he being flippant, demanding, introspective, or merely resigned to a belief that “truth” was too subjective and relative to ever be accurately defined? Of course, the supreme irony is that he was speaking to THE TRUTH when he said it.

Even the Rich Need to be Saved

February 26, 2020 at 2:09 pm | Posted in Luke | 1 Comment
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And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

Luke 18:18

Matthew’s Gospel tells us that this ruler was also young and rich. Jesus is more than just a “good teacher.” In fact, a “good teacher” who claimed to be God, if He really wasn’t, couldn’t honestly be called a good teacher.

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.

Luke 18:19

Jesus was not denying His own Deity, but was establishing that this man had a low view of “good.”

Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.

Luke 18:20

Jesus listed Commandments 5 – 9 in the Decalogue, ommitting Number 10, against coveting, which turned out to be the real deal-breaker for the rich young man.

And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.

Luke 18:21-27

camel and needle

The answer to the question, “Who can be saved?” is really, “No one can be saved – unless God does a miracle.” Why were the Disciples so surprised that it would be difficult for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God? It was not because they themselves were rich. The word for “saved” in Verse 26 is the Greek word sozo, and it describes more than being rescued; it describes being made whole, “healed” or “delivered” in the fullest medical, spiritual, military, Messianic sense.

Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.

Luke 18:28-30

Blooming and Boiling

February 18, 2020 at 5:00 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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When I taught the Book of Jeremiah in Sunday School, I called the study “A Prophetic Heart Attack,” partly in reference to Jeremiah’s shock and awe when the Word of the Lord came to Him to tell him that he would be a prophet, but mostly in reference to one of Jeremiah’s over-arching themes: He was ordained by God to attack the hearts of the people – not to just try to get them to reform outwardly, but to call them to an inward revival – a true revival of the heart. And he did this by “attacking” or exposing the true evil that lurks in the heart of every man before he finds God, or when he wanders from God.

Jeremiah was initially afraid to speak for God, but God encouraged him by promising to be with him and by promising to give him the words to say. You and I are not prophets in the way the Jeremiah was, but do we have the same duty, in a sense? To boldly speak God’s Words and to warn our neighbors of God’s judgment? We sure do. And if so, do we have the same assurances of God’s help? We have His promise to be with us, and we have the promise that He has given us His Word in the Bible.

God had some huge plans for Jeremiah’s ministry, including a command to “throw down” (Jeremiah 1:10). When I was in school, “throw down” was slang for fighting: “Dude, you broke my Der Kommissar cassette! Meet me in the parking lot at 3:00 – we’re gonna throw down!” Many of us today, although hopefully less inclined toward physical violence, are more than ready to “throw down” when someone offends us, messes with our children, tries to cheat us out of a bargain, or makes a political statement with which we disagree. But how willing are we to “throw down” what Satan has built up in our own lives? How anxious are we to “throw down” the vain thoughts that we have entertained in our minds in opposition to the Kingdom of Christ (II Corinthians 10:5)?

God did not spend much time coddling Jeremiah. There are a number of reasons for this, but one was that God wanted Jeremiah to understand that there was an urgency to his mission.

Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree.

Jeremiah 1:11

almond branch

This may have been in a vision, or it may have been something truly observed by Jeremiah in his surroundings. Jeremiah’s home town, Anathoth, is known for almonds to this day. The Hebrew word for “almond” was similar to the word for “hasten to perform it” (“SEE to it”) or “watch.”

Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.

Jeremiah 1:12

In the original language, this was a play on words similar to our song, “I’m looking over a four leaf clover, that I overlooked before.” God let Jeremiah know that He would be very hands-on in supervising the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecies and Jeremiah’s ministry.

Do you find God’s omniscience – and His immanence – comforting or disturbing? He is watching you. Is He pleased with what He sees? This is a sobering thought, but it can also be a reassuring thought. It is important to remember that His disposition toward Christians is one of both requiring and encouraging us to do right. He is not anxious to see us do wrong so that He can smack us down with glee, so the primary meaning of the almond tree metaphor was that, just as the almond tree was the first plant to bloom after the winter, and is often a prediction of how the rest of the harvest will go, so, too, was God’s judgment against His own people closer than it had ever been.

And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north. Then the LORD said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.

Jeremiah 1:13-14

boiling cauldron

This second prophecy was another image of urgency, although, again, it’s something that anyone of Jeremiah’s day would have recognized as a familiar sight: a kettle boiling over, seething and spilling out its scalding contents. Here it is a reference to judgment coming from the north, as though God had been restraining the enemy army of the Chaldeans from over-running Judah, and now He was about to allow them to tip over or boil over and conquer His people, killing them, or as we know from hindsight, taking them away into captivity.

Is It Mean to Talk about Divorce?

February 12, 2020 at 10:47 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Question: Aren’t you afraid that, when you say that God does not condone divorce, you are insulting, embarrassing, and alienating Christians who have been divorced? It’s easy for you talk, because you haven’t been divorced, but not everyone is so blessed.

Answer: That’s certainly not my intention. Divorce is a touchy subject, and I try to be sensitive, not offensive. Let me be clear. Some of my closest friends are Christians who have been divorced, and I do not think of them as “lesser” Christians, or people who are “worse” than me or anyone else. I am well aware that only by the grace of God am I married to a wonderful, forgiving, faithful wife that I do not deserve.

When someone asks me what the Bible says, then I am bound and obligated, as a Christian, and especially as a Bible teacher, to tell the truth, and I believe that the Bible teaches that divorce and marriage-after-divorce are sins (Genesis 2:21-24; Malachi 2:16; Mark 10:6-9; Ephesians 5:23-33; Hebrews 13:4; Matthew 5:32, 19:7-9; Luke 16:18). That has nothing to do with my marriage, or whether or not I have been divorced.

However, divorce is a sin for which Jesus was punished and for which He paid in full on the Cross for all those who believe on Him. It is a forgivable sin, and not a worse sin than pride, covetousness, spite, idolatry, and the many other sins of which I am guilty. I love and respect Christians who have been divorced and/or remarried, but have also confessed and repented, and I very much want their current marriages to thrive and to glorify God. I hope and pray that does not sound mean, unkind, or unrighteously judgmental.

Persistent Pleas, Powerful Prayers, a Proud Pharisee, and a Penitent Publican

February 10, 2020 at 3:23 pm | Posted in Luke | 2 Comments
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Luke Chapter 18 starts of with the parable that is sometimes called the parable of the unjust judge or the parable of the persistent widow. The primary lesson of this parable is: keep praying; don’t quit.

And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

Luke 18:1-8

There are four characters in the story: the judge, God, the widow, and her adversary. Obviously setting aside any comparisons between ourselves and God, with which of the remaining three characters do you identify? The judge did not fear God, which is a huge problem for any human being. Fear of God is the solution to overcoming fear of man. The fear of man is a snare, but the fear of God is the beginning of both knowledge and wisdom. This was a judge who forgot that he himself would be judged AND he didn’t care about helping others. Don’t care about people so much that you disregard God, but don’t think that God wants you to disregard people.

Widows were particularly vulnerable in the culture where the parable is set. Both because of their gender and the lack of a male protector, they were often the victims of injustice. Somebody had done her an injustice and she had no recourse, except for one thing: persistence. She would not leave the judge alone. Do you identify with the widow? Do you feel powerless because of a lack of money and influence? If so, remember that you can still be pesistent. This lady was waiting for the judge every time he showed his face, and she would plead her case continaully.

Perhaps you are like the adversary in the parable. Have you taken advantage of someone who was easy to take advantage of? I hope not, but, if so, remember that God often takes up the cause of those who seem helpless, and often punishes those who mistreat the poor.

If even an unjust judge will be moved by continual petitions, how MUCH MORE will our loving Heavenly Father be moved by our persistence in prayer?

The second parable in Luke 18 deals with the prayers of two distinct types of people.

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

Luke 18:9

The parable of the praying Pharisee and the praying publican is intended to show the danger of self-righteousness.

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

Luke 18:10

One man appeard outwardly religious and one man was openly sinful, and, while we know something of Jesus’s teachings and ministry and can guess who is going to be commended by Jesus and who is going to be condemned, the lesson would have been very controversial and surprising to Jesus’s audience when He orginally taught it.

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

Luke 18:11

The Pharisee stood to pray, and there is nothing inherently wrong with standing while we pray if we are standing for the right reasons. Posture is not as important as piety when it comes to prayer. The verse says that he “prayed thus with himself,” and this is perhaps intentionally worded to make it seem like he’s somewhat unconsciously praying TO himself and addressing himself as God. The Pharisee’s prayer amounted to arrogance and contempt disguised as gratitude. He even workded in an insult to the person praying next to him.

I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

Luke 18:12

The Pharisee clearly considered himself even more religious than he was requrired to be, and was very impressed with himself.

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

Luke 18:13

Both the Pharisee and the publican were in the vicinity of the Temple, but one of them strode arrogantly right up, and one meekly stood far off.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Luke 18:14

Self-righteousness is just as much a sin as the sins of which the Pharisee accused others. Furthermore, it is an even greater bar to justification. God gives grace to, and justifies, the humble. He resists the proud and self-righteous. If we persist in trying to justify ourselves, then God will not justify us.

Truth, Torture, and Trepidation

February 7, 2020 at 11:26 am | Posted in John | 10 Comments
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Pontius Pilate had been give the appointment as governor of Judea by the Emperor Tiberius. It was not a glamorous or easy post. Pilate was known as a vindictive (sometimes petty) and petulant politician and military commander. To say that he had a troubled relationship with the Jewish people and their religious leaders before they brought Jesus to him would be an understatement.

One of his first decisions after becoming Governor was to place Roman standards with Caesar’s image on them into the the Jewish Temple. The Jewish people, already resentful of Roman occupation and taxation in their holy city, staged a sit-down protest for five days outside of Pilate’s house. In repsonse, he threatened to kill them, but they wouldn’t back down, and he was forced to relent and have the standards removed, but, as you can imagine, he remained acrimonious and held a grudge.

On later occasions he would try to get emblems proclaiming Caesar’s divinity into Herod’s palace, and even the Temple again, including the most sacrosanct inner section known as the Holy of Holies. Herod’s sons responded by peitioning Tiberius, who rebuked and reprimanded Pilate, making him take the emblems out.

Pilate also took money from the Temple treasury to pay for an aqueduct, which caused a mob scene or a riot, in which he didn’t let his soliders use their swords, although some Jewish protesters were clubbed to death and others were run over by chariots.

On still another occasion, in Galilee, he had some Jewish worshipers killed in the middle of their religious sacrifices.

This background helps to explain some of the bickering, bargaining, and badgering that went on between Pilate and the Jewish leaders concerning what was to be done with Jesus after His arrest.

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

John 18:38

Pilate found no fault in Jesus. No one ever really did. However, even as he tried to be politically expedient he found himself becoming fearful.

But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?

John 18:29

Pilate hinted that this was what he wanted the Jewish leaders to do.

Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.

John 18:40

Barabbas, named “the son of the father” (bar = the son; abba = the father) was a terrorist and a real insurgent zealot who sought to overthrow Rome’s rule in his homeland.

Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.

John 19:1

This would be the first of two beatings Jesus received at the hands of the Romans (in addition to the blows and abuse suffered during the accusations made against Him by the Jewish High Priest and council, and their questioning of Him). There were three types of beatings used as punishment by the Romans, and the word translated as “scourged” in John 19:1 was the first type – fustigatio in Latin, from which we get the little-used English word “fustigation” and which was the least-severe of the three types. It was used for lesser offenses, but it was still plenty bad. The second-worst beating was called flagellatio (“flagellation” in English), and may have been the only type not administered to Jesus. The third type was verberatio (incorporated into the Engish word “reverberation”), so called because the blows administered to the victim were so harsh and loud that they could be heard from a distance. This was the beating that was given to convicted criminals after the sentence of crucifixion had been handed down. It involved a whip with multiple strands which had been enhanced with shards of sharp bone, metal, and possibly glass tied to them. It flayed off the skin and exposed the internal organs. Many recipients did not survive it and thus never made it to their crosses. The verberatio was intended to dehumanize the victim and to deter other would-be criminals, while at the same time taking away any sympathy the crowd of spectators might have felt seeing someone less deformed and grotesque being crucified.

And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,

John 19:2

This crown was probably made from the thorns of the date palm tree – thorns that grew up to 12 inches in length.

And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.

John 19:3

This mockery and additional abuse was not part of the official legal sentencing, but was cruelly allowed by Pilate or the Roman officer in charge as sort of a bonus, letting these sadistic soldiers have some of what they considered to be fun.

Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.

John 19:4

Pilate thought the Jews would have sympathy toward Jesus now, and would be satisfied that He had suffered enough. The scene was staged to be dramatic as Jesus was presented as thorougly beaten and non-threatening.

Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!

John 19:5

This was the Son of Man, in Whom no fault was found, as attested by the “world’s” representative, Pilate/Rome, on at least three separate occasions.

When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;

John 19:6-8 (emphasis added)

I stated earlier that, as Pilate tried to dismiss Jesus with a claim that “truth” was relative or unknowable, he had begun to be fearful. As a Roman pagan who at least professed a belief in hundreds of deities, the possibility that he might be torturing a real God (or even THE real God) was starting to make him more and more nervous.

Sinclair Fergsuson on a Difficult S.W.I.M. with Geerhardus Vos

February 3, 2020 at 11:18 am | Posted in Quotes | Leave a comment
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Geerhardus Vos’s original writings are demanding reading for theological students, never mind for those without academic training. That is partly a stylistic matter, but mostly it is matter of the weight and profundity of his thought. He takes most readers into rivers of biblical theology in which they are unaccustomed to swimming. For some, the depth of the water and the speed of the current prove to be too much.

Sinclair Ferguson, Geerhardus Vos Anthologized

Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.

Psalm 42:7

Open Up and Say “Ah”

January 31, 2020 at 3:47 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 3 Comments
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There have been many Jeremiahs, but two Jeremiahs really stand out in the history of the world. One was the famous prophet of the Book of Jeremiah in the Bible. The other one was a bullfrog featured in the 1971 hit song, “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night, which starts starts off with the lyric, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine.” Okay, I will admit I am little biased about the latter Jeremiah due to the fact that I performed that song, to much consternation, in front of my K4 class at the First Baptist Church preschool back in the day, along with dance moves that were more enthusiastic than graceful.

For now, we will stick with discussing the Biblical Jeremiah, whose book is found in the Old Testament section of major prophets between Isaiah and Lamentations. It was written by the Holy Spirit through Jeremiah himself.

The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin: To whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.

Jeremiah 1:1-2

Jeremiah’s father was a priest, so this means that Jeremiah probably thought he was going to be a priest also, but the Lord had other plans for his life. The Lord spoke to him directly in Josiah’s 13th year as king, when Jeremiah was probably about 20 years old. The life of a priest was not necessarily easy, but it could be very mundane: teaching the law, overseeing temple sacrifices, inspecting lepers and other clean and unclean citizens, and a steady income. It was a noble profession, but it dealt much more with external religion than with the hearts of men and women. The job a prophet was way different.

Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Jeremiah 1:4-5

Prophets were often unpopular. They had to say exactly what God told them to say. Their lives were unpredictable. They didn’t get a steady paycheck, or even room and board. Their provision came directly from God, but that requires more palpable trust. Additionally, prophets were needed when the people were disobeying and getting involved in idolatry. Whereas priests were concerned with external religion, prophets spoke directly to the heart. In a time when God’s people had forsaken His law, Jeremiah was supposed to tell them the truth about God’s justice, wrath, faithfulness to His promises, and, yes, His love.

In Jeremiah’s day, God’s people were engaging in fornication as a means of pagan worship, they were doing this in order to promote fertility in their agriculture, and they were sacrificing their own children. You might think, “How barbaric!” but I’m afraid their wickedness would not hold a candle to us today. Our culture promotes fornication (sex outside of marriage), which results in unwanted pregnancies, and, therefore, sadly, sometimes abortion and other complications and and cruelties, and this is now considered okay in order to keep the population down and protect the environment. The devil does not have lot of new tricks. He’s been lying and tempting people with the same sins since the beginning.

God told Jeremiah that He knew him before he was created: before he was “formed in the belly.” God chose Jeremiah way before Jeremiah even had any consciousness, much less an ability to decide whether he would choose God. God set him apart for a special purpose. He was sanctified to serve God with his life (“and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee,”). God chose his career (vocation) for him (“and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”). You and I need to recognize those same truths about ourselves.

God knew you before He made you. He chose you for himself before you were born. He is in charge of your life, so, whatsoever you do, you are called to do it for Him. But what was Jeremiah’s response?

Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.

Jeremiah 1:6

He did not receive this news with pride or even confidence. How would you receive it? Do you like to speak in front of large groups of people? How about when you know they are going to absolutely hate what you have to say? How about speaking before “the nations” – the whole world?

Jeremiah said, “Ah.” How do we read this? Did he sound like a patient having his tonsils examined by a doctor?

tongue depressor

Was he nearly speechless? Was the “ah” a gagging sound, an attempt to prove he wouldn’t be a good spokesman-prophet? Or was he saying “ah” in the tone of Sherlock Holmes finding a clue” “Ah-ha!”? Perhaps he sounded philosophical, like Confucius rubbing his beard thoughtfully and saying “ahhhh.” I don’t think so.

Like many of us, if suddenly God came to us and said, “Forget all your life’s plans, I need to you to get up and give a speech to the whole world telling them exactly what they don’t want to hear, and, by the way, as a prophet of God, if you get anything wrong, you have to die,” we would probably say “Ahhhhh!” in a terrified exclamation like the wide-eyed and open-mouthed passenger on the world’s scariest roller coaster.

roller coaster scream

That is probably closer to what the word means in the original Hebrew. It was used to express a grunt of pain. I hope you and I have not gotten so comfortable with the Word of God that it no longer produces in us a guttural, primal reaction – yes, even an emotional response – a palpable and passionate cry, depending on the condition of our heart when we read or hear it, that God is not pleased… or that God loves us… or that He has called us to the greatest service that we could never deserve… or that He would send His Beloved Son to die for a sinful worthless wicked wretch like me.

Why Not a Hospital?

January 29, 2020 at 11:08 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Question: If you say church is not supposed to be like a hospital, what about all the people who are hurting and come there to find acceptance and love, but instead only find judgment and hypocrisy? And keep it simple. Don’t write some long essay full of fancy words.

Answer: Okay, I’ll try. People who are really suffering SHOULD find kindness and love at their local Christian church. When people are mean to them, or treat them in ways that the Bible says is wrong, they shouldn’t do that. However, when that happens, the solution is not to stop going to church. The solution is to go to church with an attitude of honoring and obeying Christ, not depending on other people. You will always find people who don’t live up to your expectations, but you have never found anything in God Himself to cause you to go far from Him, or to walk away from Him. And, ultimately, anything that you are walking after in this life that is apart from God is vanity (emptiness, unfulfilling selfishness). See Jeremiah 2:5.

God is perfect. None of His people are. Even the best of people are only people at best. And even the worst of people cannot separate you from the love of God in Christ. When we stand before God one day, none of us will be able to blame someone else’s hypocrisy or bad behavior if we have disobeyed His direct commands to faithfully attend, and to serve in, a local assembly of Christians.

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