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Archive for December, 2010

Grace and Peace,

Today we are going over Matthew 5

Here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

 

I don’t know about you, but memorization just isn’t my thing.  I was never a fan of history classes because it seemed to be all dates of events that didn’t matter to me.  When one semester started in college, I opened my history book to read and it said something like ‘Great Britain was a power house in WWI due to the vast amount of natural resources it had.’  I think that might have been the only sentence I read in that book.  Learning a new language falls into the same category.  So many words to memorize especially in a class that wants you to learn 20-50 new words every week.  I don’t know if i learned 50 new words this year in English!

As time goes on though, I think I’ve changed somewhat.  I’m interested in the history of things I like and learning the original meaning of words in different languages.  This has come as I study the bible more and more.  Knowing the state of the world in the times of the bible can bring new light to what you are reading.

In chapter 5, Jesus is giving new meaning to old scripture.  He says anger is murder and lust is adultery.

He says that the old practice of ‘eye for an eye’ isn’t the way we should be living.  In v38-41 Jesus says:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’  But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

This is where the history comes in.

Israel is subject to the Roman Empire in Jesus’ day.  To the Romans, the Jews were looked at as servants, people with not much worth.  As a sign that the Jews were not as good, the Romans would hit them with their left hand.  Now the left hand, was the unclean hand.  With your right hand you would eat and with your left hand you would wipe… not your mouth… So if you hit someone, you would hit them with your left unclean hand to say ‘you are below me.’  Jesus here says to show them your other cheek which they wouldn’t be able to back hand with their left hand.  This showing of the other cheek is a way of telling them that we are equals and I am not below you.  If they wanted to hit you, they’d have to do it with their right clean hand which you would use to hit an equal.

That puts a different view on this passage.  I’ve heard someone call this Jesus’ civil disobedience instructions.

The next part about being sued for your tunic is also interesting.  Poor people typically only had 2 items of clothing.  A tunic and a cloak, kind of like a inner layer and an outer layer of clothing.  If someone is suing you for your tunic, chances are you are poor and don’t have anything else of worth.  Jesus says to give them also your cloak which would then leave you naked.  Being naked at that time wasn’t shameful for the naked person, but instead shameful for the people who saw them naked.  So in giving your cloak, you are pointing out to the people in the trial that this man is taking the only thing you have and shaming him.  You might owe him money, but he has become the bad guy.

Finally, Jesus says to go an extra mile with someone if they force you to go one.  The Roman soldiers could force the Jews to carry their packs for 1 mile only and beyond that it was considered cruel.  Jesus here is telling them to go that mile, but then keep carrying it and they will start to ask for it back.  The soldier will become concerned that it will be perceived that he is being cruel and could get punished.

From things like this, I have grown to enjoy the history of the bible and times that they were living in.  It gives new perspective and possibly a more correct idea of what is going on.

 

-Zack

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Yule Log Awesomeness

Grace and Peace,

Today we are going over Matthew 4.

Here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

Last night was the 3rd Christmas party for us to attend this year.  It was our big family party with Grandma and Frank (my grandmothers husband after my grandfather passed away), who drove up from their winter home in Virginia.  My cousins fiance, Kirk, did all the cooking.  He is a chef at a restaurant.  There was a big table filled with everything from a fruit bouquet to duck.  There was also 4 pies with an Adirondack yule log.  I don’t think I’ve seen a yule log before but this looked great.  It was almost all whipped cream and it had a slight layer of cake curled in it, kind of like a swiss cake roll except reversed with the filling on the outside.  Out of the desserts there, since I am not a fan of nuts, I wasn’t interested in the pecan pie, but this whipped cream awesomeness, that made me want to skip the meal and go straight to dessert.

Chapter 4 opens with an interesting v 1:

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

In preparation to be tested, Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness.  At the end of not eating for so long, Matthew says “He was hungry“.

The devil, seizing his moment, came to Jesus and spoke to Jesus about what would probably tempt him the most.

Something to eat.

Jesus replies in v4 with a quote from Deuteronomy 8:3:

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

Deuteronomy 8 is talking about not forgetting the Lord.  God is reminding Israel that He took care of them in the desert with manna and water.  Jesus here shows that He too is relying on God for sustenance.

This first of the three temptations of Jesus can shed light on the nature of our own temptations.

I don’t know about you, but I am not interested in things I don’t like.  For example, I don’t have a desire to watch soap operas but millions of people do.  With that knowledge, I doubt you’ll ever see me being tempted to skip a meeting because “As the World Turns” is coming on, but I’m sure plenty of other people might be tempted.

Jesus here is being tempted with something that He desires, with something that may have crept into His mind 3 times a day for the past 40 days.  But Jesus doesn’t give in, instead, Jesus makes it clear that He is depending on the Father.

When temptation comes into my life, do I turn to God?

Do you?

The examples of the yule log and soap operas are jokes but daily temptation is not.  There is temptation to not talk about Jesus to a friend even though they have a Christmas tree up.  There is temptation to just go with the crowd of Christians because compared with this person or that person I’m living a good life.

Temptation takes the form of many things that we desire.

I see this chapter teaching me that it’s my job to shift my desires and focus on living in God’s will.

-Zack

(Updated 12/30/10: I forgot to put the words of Jesus in red! But no worries, I fixed it)

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Today we are going over Matthew 3.

Here is a link to it on Biblegateway.com

 

It’s been a great extended weekend.  We had a family party on Thursday night to start off, Melanie had the day off on Friday, Saturday was Christmas and we joined my Mom for dinner and presents afterwards.  Sunday we went to church and had a good sermon about Christmas being about Easter.  Then on Monday, due to the big snow storm, work was canceled for Melanie so we got to spend a 4th day together.  It was really good.  It’s funny how even a day like Christmas, when we are supposed to be celebrating Jesus’ birthday, becomes all about us.

Matthew records the appearance and diet of John the Baptist in v4:

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.

When I have read this in the past, it has always just made John seem weird.  Like he is a crazy person who lives in the desert eating bugs and wearing camel hair or maybe like a modern day preacher standing on a street corner calling out to people.  But this isn’t the case at all.  If you look at the history of Israel, they are used to having prophets speaking messages from God to them.  There had been a period of 400 years since there was a prophet who did this, then here comes John.

His clothes would remind the people of Israel about the prophet Elijah.  In 2 Kings 1:8 it the bible says

They replied, “He was a man with a garment of hair and with a leather belt around his waist.”

The king said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite.”

In studying this chapter, John’s diet of locusts and honey didn’t make him seem crazy to the people in the surrounding lands but instead gave them the opinion that he was a holy man set apart for the work of God.  He didn’t spend his time growing and preparing food but instead he ate what was readily available.

John lived in the desert which also would remind the people of Israel about Elijah, who also lived in the desert.

These things that would make him weird in our culture, made people flock to him in his.

After reading this chapter, I want to learn more about John the Baptist.  His life, as described in this chapter, is great.  It isn’t full of luxuries and fine living, but a life dedicated to God.  Dedicated so much, that every aspect points to God, from what he wears and eats, to where he lives and what he says and does.

Does my life point to God like that? I like think in some aspects it does, but if I were honest, it would be more like some aspect of some aspects.

Does yours?

Would someone walk by you and say ‘that’s a man dedicated to God’ just by your appearance or what you ate or where you lived?

 

This chapter encourages me to live set apart from what culture says a Christian should be and strive to live a life holy to God.

 

-Zack

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We Three Kings

Grace and Peace,

Today we are going over Matthew 2.

Here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

With Christmas just a couple days away and today being Christmas Eve Eve Day, it is great to see how our world changes to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  The music on the radio has changed, but this probably took place back in early November shortly after Halloween.  Many stores play Christmas music and decorate with red and green.  Some stores lower prices in a possible effort to spread Christmas cheer.  Our homes change.  We cut down trees and bring them inside and cover them in ornaments that often are significant to our past.  We think of others above our selves and get gifts for friends and family and wrap the gifts and send them across the country.  We hang lights outside and drive stakes into the ground in preparation to display a manger scene.  You have the stake for the donkey, the sheep, 3 wise men, a shepherd, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, who of course isn’t put out until Christmas.

Today we are reading chapter 2 of Matthew where part of this famous manger scene comes into play.  Matthew records this in v1-2:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

The Magi were astrologers from the east who would read and interpret the stars hence when a new star appears, they would notice.

These pagans were the first people to seek out Jesus.  They went first to the current king of the land, Herod, assuming that the new king would come from the house of Herod.  When Herod looked into it, the Jewish leaders said that that King of the Jews is supposed to come from Bethlehem in Judea.

This is an interesting point that in their knowledge of the Messiah, the Jews didn’t bother looking into the birth of Jesus when people from a distant land are here looking for him saying the King of the Jews is born.

Matthew says how they went and found Jesus and worshiped Him and gave Him gifts, then went home.  Herod, not wanting to lose his throne sent out a declaration in v16

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.”

All of this to say something simple.  The Magi were most likely not there for the birth of Jesus since Herod was looking for a boy 2 years old.  Not to mention it doesn’t say there were 3 of them, only that they brought 3 gifts.

When I see a manger scene up in a yard or at a church here in 2010, I like to think that the Magi that are there, are the one’s who have come seeking the scene from 2008.

To close, I’ll share with you what a local church has put up for their Christmas sign:

“Wise men still seek Him”

Merry Christmas

-Zack

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A New Hope

Whoa, is there copy right infringement in this title?

Today we are going over a new book in the bible.  With Christmas only 3 days away, it seems right to look into a Gospel.

Today we will be going over Matthew 1.

Here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

Some of my favorite ideas come out of things I don’t understand.  One of the things that I find hard to read through in the bible are genealogies.  Not only do I not know how to say most of the names, so I spend so much time trying to pronounce them two letters at a time, but I haven’t seen anything to learn from them.  If what I am supposed to learn is Jesus comes from the line of Abraham, why not just say it in one line?

One thing in the past that I heard someone talk about was that the genealogies stress how much God cares for families.

More recently, at church our pastor spoke about the people in this lineage and said to imagine them all at a christmas party.  You have Jacob who lied for the blessing from Isaac, Rahab the prostitute, King David who had an affair with a woman then had her husband killed so she could be his wife, and the list goes on and this is the family that Jesus comes from.

I also heard this year Jeff talk about that the only place some of these people are mentioned are in these genealogies.  Maybe they didn’t do something huge in their life time but their lives were part of the plan for the redemption of all people.

Just today I have read something new to me.  Genealogies were used to trace back your family, obviously.  Normally it is only necessary to use the names of males to trace back lineage.  Matthew adds in more than that.  He puts in the names of 4 women who share a common bond.  They are all gentiles, i.e. not jewish.  By highlighting these women, it shows how God has also used the gentiles through the history of Israel.

These people from different cultures play an big part in the history of Israel.  By including people from other cultures, Matthew shows that God doesn’t only care about the people of our faith or culture but for all people.  It is our job to look out for them and share the truths about Jesus with them and join with them to evangelize to the world.

What I am learning today has continued from the end of the last book.  We are to care for the people of the world not just the ones around us.

-Zack

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Caring for the Body

Grace and peace,

Today we are covering 1 Corinthians 16,

Here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

Have you ever been to church and sat through maybe a 10 min sermon or 45 minute sermon and at the end, not know what to take from it? It might have made sense but you didn’t hear anything convicting and don’t really know how to apply a sermon to your life if there isn’t an applicable lesson.

Me either… (does sarcasm come across in typing?)

This chapter has probably been the toughest chapter for me in that I don’t really see a lesson.  Maybe for you, when you read this, you are convicted about giving.  Maybe you see Paul telling you to be nicer to other Christians.

A bonus about reading scripture as compared to listen to a sermon in church (not a podcast) is that you can study scripture and reread it and think about it and read what others think as well.  In doing all of this, nothing struck me about this chapter.

So I prayed to God that He would open His Word to me and a new thought permeated this chapter.

Paul starts out this chapter advising the Corinthians to put aside money for the Christians in Jerusalem who were struggling.  He then talks about wanting to make a meaningful visit to them and not just pass through.  He instructs them to take care of his fellow workers, Timothy and Apollos, who will be going to them soon.  He sends them thanks for people who went to him in his time of need in v17-18.

In v19-20 Paul wraps up the dictation with this

The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house.  All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

Paul starts off instructing them how to care for a distant region of Christians.  He then says how he wants to help them.  He tells them to help other Christian workers that go to them and gives gratitude for help he has received and he sends encouragement from the people with him to the Corinthians.

The lesson I see is caring about the body of Christ more.

Maybe you can relate.  Something I struggle with is seeing beyond here and now.  Do you know the saying “out of sight, out of mind”? Normally I hear that associated with fresh cookies, which is why people put them in the oven for storage, but it has more application than just that.

Have you heard of the group “Voice of the Martyrs”?  (Their website is www.persecution.com)  They track and share the news of persecution of Christians all around the world.  They help the families of pastors that have been jailed or killed simply because they preach the Gospel.  They also give you an opportunity to help financially and send encouragement to our brothers and sisters in need.  It’s an amazing group and it has opened my eyes to the persecution of Christians that is hard to fathom here in the United States.  Persecution to us has taken the form of billboards that disagree with us, or court houses that don’t have a manger scene.

Another group is Love146.  (Their website is www.love146.org)  They are moved by their faith in God to work towards the abolishment of human trafficking and child sex slavery no matter what religion or belief system the people follow.  On our SUNY campus, the love for other children of God has manifested itself into a new student group called “Heart of Justice” (here is a link to their facebook page).  One activity I did with them this semester was making Christmas cards for children who have been rescued from brothels.  It’s a great group.

That’s just 2 groups out of many that serve the body around us.

What am I taking from this?  I am taking the instruction from Paul to love and care about people beyond my city, beyond what I can see, as well as where I live.

-Zack

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Grace and Peace,

Today we are going over 1 Corinthians 15

Here is a link to it on biblegateway.com

Back in high school we used to alway play Golden Eye for the Nintendo 64.  It was great.  Four of us would play for hours on weekends.  We knew all the secret doors and the hiding places and where certain weapons would be as we traveled around the boards.  One time we had an alliance (before Survivor)  that the 3 of us would gang up on the guy doing the best (similar to Survivor) and we would rush in and kill him.  So we are in the basement and we go running into the hall to get him and BOOM! the ceiling was lined with remote mines. +3 kills for him.  One mode that we didn’t play that much because it was tough to kill the guy was “man with the Golden Gun”.  It was this mode where there was one golden gun that would kill anyone with one shot.  Once the person got it, it was so hard to kill him because it only took one shot to stop us.

In chapter 15, Paul is talking about a pillar in Christianity, the resurrection.  In v3-8 Paul writes

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,  and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

Paul reminds them of what he preached to them previously and he also sends them names of people who saw Jesus resurrected.  They don’t have to take his word for it, hundreds of people saw the risen Jesus!  They saw it and you can ask them!

Our faith relies on Christ being resurrected.  Why? Because Jesus said it was going to happen.  Not only that but since He said it was going to happen, and it did happen, than you can believe Him even more when He says that He is God or when He says that the only way to the Father is through Him.

A few verses later in Paul says that if Christ is not resurrected, then their faith is useless and futile.  Paul gives naysayers the best way to go about disproving him.  Paul gives them the opportunity to look into the resurrection for themselves.

The same holds true for us.

When you look into the resurrection, and find it to be an event in history, how will it affect your life?

-Zack

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