Speak the Truth with Your Spouse

GossipLet’s talk spousal abuse.

No, don’t picture hitting or shouting.

Picture this: your spouse is not even in the room. You’re with some friends, chatting about life, and suddenly the conversation turns to spouses. One lady says her husband never considers her feelings any more–he just does whatever he wants. You commiserate because your husband has been getting on your last nerve, and several recent episodes tumble from your mouth as you vent your frustration. There! It’s been said. You feel better. You can go on with life.

Wrong!

You have just engaged in a bit of character assassination. Against the one person who should be closest and dearest to you!

God embedded this into the ten commandments: you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

“But what I said wasn’t false!” you protest.

Wasn’t it? Think back on the language used. Did you grumble, complain, and resignedly huff, “That’s just how he is!” Did you say “he never…” or “he always…“? Did you allow your frustration to color your language a little? Did you remember all the good he has done to you and for you, or were you only thinking of the recent trouble? When we use words like never and always, we lie, because it’s almost never true! Test it out…

frustrated woman“He never considers my feelings first.” That’s an animal and not a man you’ve just described.

“He always throws his dirty socks on the floor.” That’s quite a track record. Has he never once hit the laundry basket even by mistake?

“She never wants to do what I want to do.” Was that what attracted you to her in the first place?

“She always says just the thing to get on my nerves.” You must be just on the verge of exploding! And I’m sure you always respond with a gentle answer in order to turn away her wrath.

Husbands and wives, will you agree with me that we sometimes do bear false witness against our spouses? We really need to quit. It’s not healthy, it’s lying, and it’s sinful.

We ought to remember that our moods change. Murder is committed when people act in the throws of anger. Paul commanded,

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4.25-27)

All these commandments work together. Anger often prompts us to falsehood as we modify and reshape the truth to serve our own purposes. The best thing to do in our anger is usually BE STILL! Don’t act! Wait. Take a breath and count to 10. Or 100. Or 1000. Whatever it takes to cool off. If we speak in our anger and frustration we are apt to sin.

UpsetNext time you feel frustrated with your spouse try this:

  1. Don’t talk to him / her about it immediately. And certainly don’t talk about him / her to others.
  2. Pray about it and ask yourself why you feel so bad about it. Was she intentionally trying to hurt you? Does he even know how what he did or said affects you? Be honest.
  3. Maybe even wait a day or two before you address the problem, and in the meantime do something nice for him / her — just because.

I’ll be curious to know how it turns out 🙂 I have found most “issues” all but vanish given a little time and breathing room. I’d love to know how this technique works in your relationship.

Always speak the truth about your spouse!

Remember: Anger and lies give the devil a foothold in your life.

Why Did God Choose You, Dear Christian?

Picking CherriesWhy did God choose Israel? Was it because they were smarter than other nations? Were they better looking? Were they a nation of mighty warriors, stronger than others? Did they exhibit a stronger faith in the One True God? Was it something inside them, a strength of character or virtue?

God obviously chose the nation of Israel above other nations of the world to be in a special relationship with Him. Does that sound unfair? I would agree. Notice what God says in Isaiah:

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine! (Isaiah 43.1)

“Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
And gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring My sons from afar
And My daughters from the ends of the earth,
Everyone who is called by My name,
         And whom I have created for My glory,
Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” (Isaiah 43.5-7)

“You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD,
“And My servant whom I have chosen,
So that you may know and believe Me
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
And there will be none after Me.” (Isaiah 43.10)

“The beasts of the field will glorify Me,
The jackals and the ostriches,
Because I have given waters in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert,
To give drink to My chosen people.
The people whom I formed for Myself
Will declare My praise.” (Isaiah 43.20-21)

“But now listen, O Jacob, My servant,
And Israel, whom I have chosen:
Thus says the LORD who made you
And formed you from the womb, who will help you,
‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant;
And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen. (Isaiah 44.1-2)

“Remember these things, O Jacob,
And Israel, for you are My servant;
   I have formed you, you are My servant,
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.
I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud
And your sins like a heavy mist.
Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 44.21-22)

“I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden wealth of secret places,
So that you may know that it is I,
The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.
For the sake of Jacob My servant,
And Israel My chosen one,
I have also called you by your name;
I have given you a title of honor
Though you have not known Me.” (Isaiah 45.3-4)

I ask again, based on the above Scriptures, “Why did God choose Israel?” What a swelling of pride the Israelites must have had when they heard Isaiah preach those words. Or would they have? The wild thing is, Israel had departed from following God as their only God; Yahweh was no longer “the Holy One of Israel” as Isaiah reiterates. In most of these last chapters of Isaiah, God declares “I am Yahweh; there is no one like Me.” He defends Himself this way because His chosen people had departed from Him to serve idols–or at least include idols alongside Him. But God will share the stage with no one, for the greatest of all commandments is this: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind. No room remains for other gods, other loves, or other desires.

Notice the last verse listed above (Isaiah 45.4) ends with “though you have not known Me.” What a slap in Israel’s face! God had lavished grace upon them, but they still didn’t know Him.

Why did God choose them? He chose them NOT because of who they were but in order to show His grace, His love, His redemptive power in them! He chose them despite who they were. He chose them, as Isaiah 43.10 says, “that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He.”

God stated similar sentiments concerning Abraham in Genesis 18.19:

“For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of Yahweh by doing righteousness and justice, so that Yahweh may bring Abraham what he has promised him.”

He didn’t choose Abraham because he commanded his children in righteousness but that he would command his children in righteousness. Do you see the difference? God chooses NOT because of who the we are but in order to change and bless us despite who we are. He hammers this point home in Deuteronomy:

“For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7.6-8)

Do not say in your heart when the LORD your God has driven them out before you, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is dispossessing them before you. It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people.” (Deuteronomy 9.4-6)

Why, then, dear Christian, did God choose you? What can we say about God’s chosen today (“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION” — 2 Peter 2.9)? Have you been chosen because you are good or despite the fact that you are a sinner? Have you been chosen because you somehow deserve it or because God wishes to show His glory in and through you? We often define grace as “unmerited favor,” but do we really believe that definition? Nothing in me deserves God’s blessing–nothing at all! Yet He has seen fit to save me through the blood of His Son Jesus the Christ. He showed me the gospel and drew me to Himself, despite who I am.

All I can do is praise and glory in the wonderful work of God!

Deductive vs. Inductive Bible Study

Scientist“Method” comes from joining two Greek words: meta (with) + odos (road or way). This gives the rough meaning of “going with the way” or “a way of going.” A couple of methods of studying are deductive and inductive. You already do both of these.

Deductive Study

Deductive study is a “top-down” approach which begins with a stated “truth” or proposition and then moves down to examine the proofs. A deductive student starts with a proposition (“truth”), and examines all evidence to see if it really proves true. She starts with a view of the whole puzzle and then examines the parts.

For example, you might study birds. You read the definition for bird: “any warm-blooded vertebrate of the class Aves, having a body covered with feathers, forelimbs modified into wings, scaly legs, a beak, and no teeth, and bearing young in a hard-shelled egg.” (dictionary.com). Then you show how this definition is true as you examine storks, eagles, kingfishers, parrots, finches, etc. Each individual bird representative should fit the definition. If we find one bird which does not fit, we either must change the definition to include the difference we discovered or reclassify the “bird” we’re studying as something else. In this way we deductively study birds, but in order to do it someone had to supply a working definition before we started.

Be aware that too much deduction can land us in trouble. The Pharisees argued deductively that their fellow Jews should follow the traditions of the elders. Why? Because they believed those traditions were truth, just as Scripture was truth. Deductively, they assumed the traditions to be true, and they taught and preached to defend those traditions. We can fall into the same trap, if we’re not careful.

Inductive Study

Inductive study is a “bottom-up” approach which begins by examining individual facts or pieces and moves up to formulate more general propositions and conclusions. Scientific discovery is based on observation, interpretation, and application—the examination of how the parts relate to the whole. This form of study begins with the puzzle pieces and attempts to put the puzzle together.

EmuIn keeping with the above example, you might study animals and write down things you notice. Soon you discover that many animals bear live young and many others lay eggs, so you divide your animal list into those two categories. Among the egg-layers you discover that some eggs hatch in water and others on land, so you divide the animals that way. Among the eggs laid on land, you find some animals grow up to have feathers and others to have scales or some other skin, so you group all the feathered into one class. Eventually, in this way you end up working your way towards a definition which fits all feathered, egg-laying animals. You might say, at first, that all egg-layers with beaks or bills are birds…but then you run across the platypus and must readjust. You then say all egg-layers which have feathers and fly are birds…but then you run across penguins and ostriches, and adjust your definition again. Inductively, you are working from the details and forming a general definition for “bird.”

While usually more rewarding, inductive study is often more demanding than deductive because the inductive student must constantly compare, evaluate, and associate things together and think in order to formulate conclusions. When you study Scripture inductively, you have to think! The intensive cognitive component to inductive study discourages many would-be students from mastering this method. But be encouraged! After you practice a while, you’ll find it much easier.

The solution to destroying some of our own Pharisaical traditions is in the inductive study of Scripture. Instead of coming to the Bible to prove a truth we think we know, we come to Scripture to examine it carefully and see what it teaches us to do. Do you see the difference?

Inductive study asks lots of questions, following in the steps of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, who often led His learners through careful, intentional interrogation (i.e., Matthew 6.25-34; 7.3-4, 9-10, 16). Often when the Jewish leaders challenged Him, He would ask a simple question which confounded them and exposed their ill-intentions (i.e., Matthew 21.23-27, 28-32; 22.23-33, 41-45). We must learn to ask many questions of God’s word in order to draw out the meaning.

Any questions?

Have You Praised God Today?

Sunflowers SunsetPraise God for a beautiful day.
Praise God for creating family.
Praise God for my health and ability.
Praise God for His awesome creation.
Praise God for protection and sustenance.
Praise God for my gifts and talents.
Praise God for opportunities to serve.

And MORE THAN THAT…

Praise God for turning away His anger from me!
Praise God for forgiving my sins.
Praise God for comforting me.
Praise God for His mercy through Jesus’ blood.
Praise God for His guidance through His word.
Praise God for the joy set before me.
Praise God for the peace which passes understanding.
Praise God for the love and unity among my brethren.
Praise God for the hope of eternal life.

Gorgeous LandscapeYou will say in that day:

“I will give thanks to You, O LORD,
for though You were angry with me,
Your anger turned away,
that You might comfort me.
Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song,
and He has become my salvation.”

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

And you will say in that day:

“Give thanks to the LORD,
call upon His name,
make known His deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that His name is exalted.
Sing praises to the LORD, for He has done gloriously;
let this be made known in all the earth.
Shout, and sing for joy,
O inhabitant of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

(Isaiah 12)

How Dead Were You?

Walking Dead

How dead were you?

When “you were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2.1), just how dead was that? Dear Christian, do you recall being dead? Oh, you functioned well enough, as you “walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2.2). Remember when we “formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (Eph. 2.3)? We were just like the rest of the world, which walks in the darkness even until now. Just how dead were we?

We were dead to God, dead in spirit. We were not sensitive to spiritual matters and couldn’t tell right from wrong. We may have understood there was a right and a wrong, but we couldn’t explain what it was, and we surely weren’t walking in truth. We directed our own path, guided our own steps, called our own shots–totally and completely divorced from the one relationship which matters most.

TombsDead people are incapable of living. That may strike you as funny, but isn’t it true? Paul used this language of spiritual death on purpose because he wanted us to realize the absolute powerlessness and tragedy of stumbling around dead in our sins–spiritual zombies. We couldn’t make ourselves alive. Dead people can’t reverse the process.

We didn’t even know we were dead–that is, not until God told us through the gospel. I can preach the gospel to my dead neighbors, but it might not wake them up. Many (most?) simply laugh because it seems so ludicrous to them. “You think I’m dead? But look at the life I’ve made for myself!” But God can wake the dead, and He does! Every Christian can attest to this fact–God does, indeed raise the dead. Praise God!

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” (Eph. 2.4-6)

In some mysterious, deep, and supernatural way, God breathed into our immortal souls and granted us…LIFE! It’s a life alongside Christ Jesus our Lord, as we sit with Him in the heavenly realms.

How dead were we? We were totally, completely, irreversibly dead, without hope in this world. But for the grace of God, we’d still be dead.

No King in Israel

TransgenderOur kids now entering college and university must endure a barrage of relentless propaganda designed to demotivate and demoralize anyone with a Christian worldview. After a generation or two of this pressure building, the country has stewed and cooked until it’s about to explode. The riots on college campuses in the face of authority, women marching in the streets uttering all manner of disgusting filth, constant whining and complaining from both right and left extremists–all result from an adherence to a post-modern, post-reason, post-logic worldview.

That’s right–our generation has sacrificed logic and reason. No longer is it right to say something is right or wrong. No longer is it good to say something is good or evil.

And there is a key to all this.

It All Comes Down to Authority

GenderWho has final say in my life? For this generation, the final say is “me;” I decide what is right or wrong for myself; I decide good and evil. I decide what my gender and sexuality is going to be. I refuse for anyone (even God) to tell me who I am supposed to be.

The following from the Huffington Post (3/15/2017) is an example of this kind of thinking, and an ever-growing subset of humanity is buying into this worldview:

My name is Kyle Graden. I use they/them/theirs pronouns and in general prefer neutral language (my brothers call me “sibling”). I don’t like labels, but “gender non-conforming” sounds the best if I am forced to choose. I am attracted to other people regardless of their DNA or gender identity (but to be perfectly honest, I am drawn to masculine expressions). That is my identity. It is mine to own, not for you to police. Please respect my identity and the language I claim for myself, because I will do the same for you.

Another Huffington article reminds us “Caitlyn” Jenner is still around and continues to confuse us by referring to him with the pronouns “she” and “her,” which Jenner has demanded everyone do.

Why am I not willing to be okay with calling a boy a girl if he wants me to? Why am I not okay with calling a woman a man if she demands it? It’s because of my understanding of authority. No one has the right (what?!) to change their gender. I may hug them and mourn with them because of their life troubles, just as I would any sinner caught up in sin, but I cannot call their evil “good.”

In the beginning “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1.27). Adam was created a man; Eve a woman. They didn’t have a choice because God didn’t ask which gender they felt like being. Neither do you or I have a choice about the sex or “gender” which God created us to be.

Why can I not think of myself as a dog or a moose? Why can I not consider myself a mighty god and demand that you bow before me? Our generation has opened the door to this right, hasn’t it? Why can I not consider myself physically, emotionally, and intellectually superior to everyone around me and just do whatever I well-please?

No King on ThroneActually, that’s exactly what folks are doing! They are doing whatever they please, and their authority for doing it is…themselves. It’s like during the days of the Israelite judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21.25). No king in Israel. No authority on the throne…except self.

The LAW OF THE LAND means nothing to people these days–because they don’t recognize authority. Refusing to obey the President is okay just because we don’t like his decisions. This filters down to the family as children refuse to obey parents because “they are too overbearing,” “they are unreasonable,” or “I don’t like their decision.” When authority breaks down, society commits suicide.

The Solution

Stop “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1.18).

The truth: you are not God, and you should not direct your own steps apart from God. When you do, you make a royal mess of your life and you flaunt His authority.

The truth: God created you and demands that you humble yourself before Him, listen to Him, obey Him.

The truth: God create you either male or female. Thank God for your strengths and your weaknesses, and just accept who and what God created you to be. You will know peace by accepting your Father’s gifts and learning contentment. “But by the grace of God I am what I am…” (1 Corinthians 15.10).

Let it not be said “there is no King” in your life. Christ is on the throne!

A 200-Year Prophecy

Atheist Carl Sagan posed the question:

“…has there ever been a religion with the prophetic accuracy and reliability of science?” [1]

Gates of All Nations in PersepolisYesterday, I introduced two of my favorite Bible prophecies. Today, I share a third concerning Cyrus the Great, King of Persia.

Cyrus Called by Name

The prophet Isaiah records this startling prophecy:

24       Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer,
who formed you from the womb:
“I am the LORD, who made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself,
25       who frustrates the signs of liars
and makes fools of diviners,
who turns wise men back
and makes their knowledge foolish,
26       who confirms the word of his servant
and fulfills the counsel of his messengers,
who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’
and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built,
and I will raise up their ruins’;
27       who says to the deep, ‘Be dry;
I will dry up your rivers’;
28       who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,
and he shall fulfill all my purpose’;
           saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’
      and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’ ” (Isaiah 44.24-28)

Cyrus cylinder in the British MuseumIn the greater context surrounding these verses, God is proving a point: “I am the LORD and there is no other” (Isaiah 45.5-7). In order to prove that He is the only God, He calls Cyrus specifically by name almost 200 years before Cyrus came on the scene! In fact, when Isaiah penned this prophecy, Assyria was the superpower. Babylon would come next, pushing out the Assyrians and capturing Jerusalem. But after Babylon reigned in power for about 100 years, the Persian empire would rise and overcome them. Cyrus the Great is the Persian King who brought Persia to the height of power.

Jeremiah also had prophesied concerning the fall of Babylon and concerning the length of time the Jews would remain in bondage:

‘Then it will be when seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,’ declares the LORD, ‘for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans; and I will make it an everlasting desolation.’ (Jer. 25.12)

For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.’ (Jer. 29.10)

The fulfillment of these prophecies are recorded in Ezra 1.1-2:

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah…”

How did Isaiah know Cyrus’ name so many years in advance? How did he know Assyria would fall to Babylon and Babylon would fall to Persia? He didn’t! God spoke those words through the prophet, and the events transpired exactly as God had foreseen.


[1] Carl Sagan. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. Random House, Inc., New York: 1996, p. 30.

A Religion with Prophetic Accuracy

Carl SaganAs one of the latest foremost proponents of atheism, Carl Sagan writes:

“…to entertain the notion that we are a particularly complex arrangement of atoms, and not some breath of divinity, at the very least enhances our respect for atoms…”[1]

He continues:

“…to find that our ancestors were also the ancestors of apes ties us to the rest of life and makes possible important–if occasionally rueful–reflections on human nature.

Like it or not, we are stuck with science. We had better make the best of it.

But superstition and pseudoscience keep getting in the way, distracting…providing easy answers, dodging skeptical scrutiny, casually pressing our awe buttons and cheapening the experience.”[1]

In a footnote, Sagan insists, “We are, as I like to say, starstuff.”[2]

While comparing religion and science, Sagan poses a poignant question:

“…has there ever been a religion with the prophetic accuracy and reliability of science?”[3]

Now that’s a good question! One of the absolute greatest evidences for the Bible is its incredible track record of prophecies and prophetic fulfillment. Over the next few days I’d like to share some of my favorite Bible prophecies.

Today, let’s think on the promise to Abraham in Genesis 22 and Jacob’s prophetic blessing on his son Judah in Genesis 49.

Promise to Abraham

To Abraham, God promised, “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall posses the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22.17-18).

CrossThe rest of the entire Bible contains the account of how God fulfilled this momentous promise! Abraham’s family did, indeed, become a great nation, one which has endured to this day. The Old Testament traces the seed of Abraham all the way through Egyptian bondage, their exodus from Egypt, their settling in Palestine, their series of judges and kings, their captivity in Babylon, their return to Palestine, and finally their rebuilding of Jerusalem and their house of worship. The New Testament picks up 400 years after the Old Testament leaves off, but it continues the same story–the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham!

The final fulfillment of that promise is through Jesus Christ, as Paul points out in Galatians 3.14, “so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith,” and Galatians 3.16, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.”

Judah Is the Royal Tribe

Again back in Genesis 49.8-10, we find a prophecy Jacob spoke concerning his son Judah:

8       “Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons shall bow down before you.
9          Judah is a lion’s cub;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
10       The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
      nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
            until tribute comes to him;
      and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.

Lion of JudahThis prophecy was not fulfilled until King David came to the throne some 900 years later! David was from the tribe of Judah, and after him throughout Israel’s history someone from David’s family was always on the throne. What tribe do you think Jesus was from? He is called “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (Rev. 5.5).

In a second, much later prophecy, an angel informed Mary: “The Lord God will give to [Jesus] the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1.32-33).

How did Jacob know kings would come through Judah’s lineage? How did Jacob know Jesus, the great and final King, would also be from Judah? He didn’t! He prophesied by the power of the Spirit of God.

Those are pretty specific prophecies, aren’t they? Carl Sagan wondered if there was a religion which had this kind of precision in its prophecies–I’d say yes!

The Bible itself tells us that if someone gives a prophecy and it does not come to pass, we don’t have to listen to another thing that person says (Deut. 18.21-22). So if the Bible claims to be Scripture, every prophecy had better come to pass; otherwise it invalidates itself. That is a tall order, but in my studies it always measures up to it’s perfect standard.


[1] Carl Sagan. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. Random House, Inc., New York: 1996, p. 13.

[2] ibid., p. 14.

[3] ibid., p. 30.

Sermon: Not Ashamed of the Gospel

“Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” said Jesus.

Is it prideful to believe and insist that there is only one true, living God?

How should a Christian approach an unbeliever? What sort of presuppositions should a Christian be aware of in himself and in the one he attempts to teach?

The Historical Jesus – Part 2

Yesterday we discussed Josephus and Tacitus, two men who were not Christians but who wrote about Jesus. Today, I’ll introduce the testimonies of Pliny the Younger and Lucian of Samosata.

Pliny the Younger

Pliny the YoungerPliny is called “the younger” because he is Pliny Junior, son of Pliny the Elder. He wrote many letters which have been preserved for posterity, among which is one addressed to Emperor Trajan circa A.D. 112 concerning his dealings with Christians in his area. Following is his letter and the emperor’s reply.

This does not assert that Christ really lived, but it does show the early existence of the Christians and their incredible faith until death.

Pliny the Younger to the Emperor Trajan

It is my practice, my lord, to refer to you all matters concerning which I am in doubt. For who can better give guidance to my hesitation or inform my ignorance? I have never participated in trials of Christians. I therefore do not know what offenses it is the practice to punish or investigate, and to what extent. And I have been not a little hesitant as to whether there should be any distinction on account of age or no difference between the very young and the more mature; whether pardon is to be granted for repentance, or, if a man has once been a Christian, it does him no good to have ceased to be one; whether the name itself, even without offenses, or only the offenses associated with the name are to be punished.

Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.

Soon accusations spread, as usually happens, because of the proceedings going on, and several incidents occurred. An anonymous document was published containing the names of many persons. Those who denied that they were or had been Christians, when they invoked the gods in words dictated by me, offered prayer with incense and wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought for this purpose together with statues of the gods, and moreover cursed Christ–none of which those who are really Christians, it is said, can be forced to do–these I thought should be discharged. Others named by the informer declared that they were Christians, but then denied it, asserting that they had been but had ceased to be, some three years before, others many years, some as much as twenty-five years. They all worshiped your image and the statues of the gods, and cursed Christ.

They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food–but ordinary and innocent food. Even this, they affirmed, they had ceased to do after my edict by which, in accordance with your instructions, I had forbidden political associations. Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition.

I therefore postponed the investigation and hastened to consult you. For the matter seemed to me to warrant consulting you, especially because of the number involved. For many persons of every age, every rank, and also of both sexes are and will be endangered. For the contagion of this superstition has spread not only to the cities but also to the villages and farms. But it seems possible to check and cure it. It is certainly quite clear that the temples, which had been almost deserted, have begun to be frequented, that the established religious rites, long neglected, are being resumed, and that from everywhere sacrificial animals are coming, for which until now very few purchasers could be found. Hence it is easy to imagine what a multitude of people can be reformed if an opportunity for repentance is afforded.

Trajan to Pliny the Younger

You observed proper procedure, my dear Pliny, in sifting the cases of those who had been denounced to you as Christians. For it is not possible to lay down any general rule to serve as a kind of fixed standard. They are not to be sought out; if they are denounced and proved guilty, they are to be punished, with this reservation, that whoever denies that he is a Christian and really proves it–that is, by worshiping our gods–even though he was under suspicion in the past, shall obtain pardon through repentance. But anonymously posted accusations ought to have no place in any prosecution. For this is both a dangerous kind of precedent and out of keeping with the spirit of our age.

While these letters do not directly deal with the historicity of Jesus, they do show a large number a men and women who were so convinced of His reality they were willing to die for Him. And this was a mere 80 years after Jesus’ death.

 

Lucian of SamosataLucian of Samosata

Lucian was a satirist around A.D. 170. He showed himself hostile against Christians, which makes his testimony in Passing of Peregrinus concerning them quite believable. Lucian’s protagonist Perigrinus was a philosopher who decided to take advantage of some gullible Christians (in his satirical story):
 

11.    “It was then that he learned the wondrous lore of the Christians, by associating with their priests and scribes in Palestine.   And—how else could it be?—in a trice he made them all look like children, for he was prophet, cult-leader, head of the synagogue, and everything, all by himself. He interpreted and explained some of their books and even composed many, and they revered him as a god, made use of him as a lawgiver, and set him down as a protector, next after that other, to be sure, whom they still worship, the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world.

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13.   “Indeed, people came even from the cities in Asia, sent by the Christians at their common expense, to succour and defend and encourage the hero. They show incredible speed whenever any such public action is taken; for in no time they lavish their all.  So it was then in the case of Peregrinus; much money came to him from them by reason of his imprisonment, and he procured not a little revenue from it. The poor wretches have convinced themselves, first and foremost, that they are going to be immortal and live for all time, in consequence of which they despise death and even willingly give themselves into custody; most of them. Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they are all brothers of one another after they have transgressed once, for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshiping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws. Therefore they despise all things indiscriminately and consider them common property, receiving such doctrines traditionally without any definite evidence. So if any charlatan and trickster, able to profit by occasions, comes among them, he quickly acquires sudden wealth by imposing upon simple folk.

Lucian’s testimony is over 100 years after Christ’s death, but he exposes the believes of the Christians, at least, of his time, which was that the man Christ actually lived. He calls Jesus “the man who was crucified in Palestine” and “their first lawgiver” and “that crucified sophist himself.”