Thursday, May 31, 2018
Monday, April 30, 2018
MAY EDITION (2018) WONDERFUL WORDS OF LIFE...
Dr. Keith J. Wise
MAY...THE MONTH OF LIFE...HONORING SACRIFICE...
The month of May as I noted last year is the month of two important holidays; Mother's Day and Memorial Day. There have been other celebrations added over the years in May, but these are the two most importance of note. If you think about it, these two holidays are days in which we as a people honor sacrifice. On the one, Mother's Day, we note the sacrifices of our mothers. How many of us could give testimony of "going the second mile" with us and for us as our mothers. I reflect often on the special person that sacrificed to give me and my brother and two sisters a good life in Steubenville, Ohio. The other special day we recognize is Memorial Day. This day is set aside to recognize the true sacrifice of our military men and women who gave their all for our nation and its freedoms. Let us rejoice and remember these special days and people that enrich us for their sacrifices.
I. INTRODUCTION: We have over the last several months been dealing with the history of denominations or religious movements. Specifically, we have been examining the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and their early origins. We have talked about Thomas and Alexander Campbell and more noted the debates that were documented in American Ecclesiastical history. We have looked at the Walker and McCullah Debates and now we turn to a fateful and somewhat interesting debate in a new arena of social politics and economics.
In the early decades of the 19th century, the American continent was becoming a laboratory of social and religious experimentation from Europe. With the rise of the Industrial Revolution, new ideas of worker production were noted. One concept known as the "Factory System," comprised new innovations of workers and capital and expansion of wealth had become a hot topic of interest. Long before Karl Marx, there were utopian theories of how production could be carried out in new environments of human existence and broader populations. Early on, pioneers of this focus in Europe like Charles Fourier (1772-1837) who disliked the factory system, and was noted as a "utopian socialist." Numbers of Fourier Societies existed in early 19th century America. One of the disciples of Fourier was Robert Owen. He was a skeptic(Atheist or Agnostic) and socialist who owned and operated a number of successful textile mills in New Lanark, Scotland.
Owen came to the United States in 1824 to use the American Industrial environment as a laboratory for his utopian ideas. He is noted for establishing a community in New Harmony, Indiana. He traveled and became a popular voice of his philosophy establishing at least sixteen Owenite communities throughout America. He tended to see himself as a purveyor of superior European elite attitudes to this newly birth nation. Through a series of contacts he had planned to debate, as was the platform of education and entertainment of the day, with a Dr. Underhill on the subject of socialism and Christianity in 1828. However, through a series of events too detailed to recount here, he and Alexander Campbell were eventually connected for a public debate. Owen stopped by Bethany, Virginia(now West Virginia) to meet Alexander Campbell on his way back to England. Ironically, the two men seemed to hit it off immediately. Eventually, the two men arranged to meet in Cincinnati in April 13-21 1829 for an eight day debate which was much touted in the press. The debate was to be held at a large Methodist church which seated 1,200 members and could accommodate such a large crowd . Owen stood and simply listed "twelve" supposed truths of atheism and socialism and restated them over and over throughout the debate. Finally, he yielded the floor to Campbell who spent twelve hours explaining the rationale of Christianity. This debate may well be on of the best illustrations of Christian evidences available for its day. During the debate, the two men often ate dinner together between debate sessions. They treated each other as gentlemen and again, brought Alexander Campbell into national prominence. The evaluation by the press was interesting as Owen simply introduced his own social and anthropological views, while Campbell used evidence and history to substantiate his position concerning Christianity. One writer, J.J. Haley overstate Campbell's effect as he (Campbell) "saved the Mississippi Valley" from communism. Papers of the day regarded Alexander Campbell as "the defender of the faith..." As time went on, many of the experimental socialist communities in America established by Owen went into disrepair and are now tourist attractions.
II. DIGGING DEEPER...A LOOK AT KING HEZEKIAH-KING OF JUDAH
As we look at the history of Israel in the pages of the Old Testament, the kingdom of Saul, David and Solomon who each ruled for forty years divided after the death of Solomon. Here we observe two distinct kingdoms and recognizable states. First we see the Kingdom of Israel; the collection of ten of the northern tribes that rejected the family of David in Jerusalem. The second kingdom will be the Kingdom of Judah. This kingdom will comprise the two tribes of Benjamin and Judah and most importantly for the Jewish people, the city of Jerusalem with the temple. Each of these kingdom will have its own dynasty and line of kings that will rule their respective areas.
By the time we get to King Hezekiah, it has been 300 years since King David. In the sixth year of Hezekiah's rule, the norther Kingdom of Israel is taken into captivity by the Assyrians. In integrated a policy of the "transmigration of populations" (moving one conquered population into the territory of another conquered population). In Israel's case, they moved other people from the Middle East into the space of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Please note, not all the Jews were taken out of this geographic area, for we have record of a remnant that still was drawn to the temple worship of Jehovah in Jerusalem. By New Testament times, these other semitic peoples and the remnants of the Jewish diasporic experience will produce what is noted as the Samaritans.
As we look at King Hezekiah's life it is recorded in the books of II Kings, II Chronicles, and Isaiah. A number of Bible chronologies see Hezekiah ruling either from 715-687B.C. or 725-697B.C. Just for context, and interesting fact is that Ahaz, King of Judah and father of Hezekiah, paid tribute to the Assyrians at different times as did Hezekiah. You can see a carved picture of Hezekiah paying tribute to the King of Assyria at the British Museum in London.
Hezekiah is considered one of the best and Godly kings of the southern Kingdom of Judah. He is associated in his rule as a good king like David (II Kings 18:3). He removed the pillars and poles that were symbols of fertility idolatry. He went as far as breaking into pieces, the bronze snake that Moses had made in the desert for the Children of Israel to find respite from the bite of the invading serpents (Numbers 21:4-9). By the time of Hezekiah and the rampant idolatry, the Jews of the southern kingdom were "worshipping" this bronze object as a talisman (II Kings 18:4). To breaking this mystical connection with Moses, King Hezekiah now called it just Nehustan, meaning "just a piece of bronze."
Some other remarkable actions taken by Hezekiah in this national revival of the spiritual life of the Kingdom of Judah we see:
1. He reopened and cleansed the temple.
2. He celebrated a national Passover Feast.
3. He countered and through submission to Jehovah, sent away the Assyrian invasion under Sennacherib's Assyrian forces.
4. His life was extended 15 years.
5. He, however entertained visitors from Babylon that will cause Isaiah to chasten him for such bravado.
Hezekiah was so successful in his spiritual relationship with God that it says, "...in everything he (Hezekiah) undertook in the service of God's temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered." (II Chronicles 31:21) Also consider II Chronicles 32:25 and II Kings 20:1-11).
III. DID YOU KNOW?... THE FAMILY IS WONDERFUL AND NEEDED
The idea of a family was in the mind of God from the beginning. He wanted mankind to realize how important this category of human relationships were to build and feed our souls and lives. So if it is so important, what is it all about?
1. Family is about Relationships- In the beginning God concluded, "It is not good for the man to be alone"(Gen. 2:18) The man and women were commanded to "leave your mother and father, cleave unto you wife or husband, and they will become one flesh." You see it is about relationships. The measure of a family is not in the cost of the home in which they live or the neighborhood in which they reside or the things with which they decorate their house. The measure of a family is in the strength and warmth of their relationships. We learn this lesson from Isaac and Rebekah and Esau and Jacob.
2. Making those Relationships Work is Often Difficult- Only in fairy tales do we read, "...and they lived happily ever after." In reality, when we marry we spend a lifetime working out our relationships with two naturally selfish people to begin to become one. Peter Drucker in one of his books on management, suggested four basic requirements for effective human relationships: Communication, Teamwork, Self Development and the Development of Others. In reality, what Druker said about the workplace is also true in the family. We can look at these principles in the family for maximum results. Communication- We must communicate with each other. This means listening as well as talking. Sometimes we believe we have said one thing and others have heard another. This also means catching the non-verbal communication as well as the verbal communication. Without communication relationships will flounder. One item imperative in families is forgiveness. By the way, communication is developmental and difficult. Teamwork- In reality the family is a team that must work together. This means focusing on what others need as well as on what we need, and being willing to do our part. Without teamwork, a family cannot survive. Ask any coach, they will tell you building a team is difficult as well. Self-Development- We must develop ourselves so we will have something significant to contribute to the relationships in the family. This can mean such aspects as being a life long learner. This means establishing spiritual disciplines so we may grow spiritually. This is a challenging but rewarding experience. Development of Others- A team must commit themselves to the developing of each another. A mature family member will not be insecure about the successes of others in the family but will rejoice as accolades are given to others. Their success is our success.
3. Relationships Sometimes Fail- Pausing in the Biblical examples of Jacob and Esau or Joseph and his brothers selfish ambition ends in tragedy. Sometimes marriages made in heaven become hell on earth. Sometimes the blessings of parenthood turn into our worst nightmare. Sometimes relationship fail. We as a fallen race rush into the God ordained relationship of marriage and family and forget the sacrifices and depth of commitment that it requires to love unselflessly.
4. Broken Relationships Can Be Redeemed- When God is involved, broken relationship can be healed, revived and recommissioned. The Old Testament stories of Jacob and Esau and Joseph and his bothers are heartwarming reminders of how reconciliation and hope abounds in God's economy. These stories point to the great reconciliation of God through Jesus Christ for us. Each of us has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. The shadows and types of Old Testament heroes and heroines awakens us to the ultimate love story of God becoming like us in Christ so that we could become like Him. I have seen broken marriages reunited and blessed. I have seen the prodigal son or daughter return to the weeping and rejoicing parent or parents. Our relationships here are temporary but are a laboratory for eternity.
Byline: By looking up every day and seeking to know the Lord Jesus Christ you will rebuilt yourself and all your relationships in forgiveness, love and support.
IV. NUGGETS OF NOURISHMENT: A Sermon for Graduation and Graduates
Title: Guidelines from Scripture for Being A Successful Graduate
Text: II Timothy 1:6-7
Introduction: Spring is here and the month of May is often filled with events of graduations and weddings. As Christians there are many instructions of great advise for the young man and women as they leave an institution of learning to enter the classroom of the real world classroom. However, if we listen to the eternal word of God we can come out in the end, much better than when we entered. Besides, in our text, such passages as Phil. 3:13-14 (forgetting the past) and Hebrews 12:1-3(throwing off weights of sin) are additional samples of instruction that will save your life and improve your heart. I suggest some simple guidelines for graduates from high school or college that life has taught me.
I. Face Your Fears: (2 Tim. 1:7) The Bible is full of a simple direction entitled "fear not." I like our text on this because it is given to the young Evangelist Timothy who was with Paul and served at the Church in Ephesus. Paul addressed his personal inadequacies and those of Timothy. Timothy apparently lacked self-confidence. Now this isn't the confidence that aspires to haughty self reliance, but this is a confidence in God above yourself. Paul reminds Timothy that God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Max Lucado says, "Fear doesn't want you to make the journey to the mountain. If it can rattle you enough, fear will persuade you to take your eyes off the peaks and settle for a dull existence in the flatlands."
I once did a sermon series while holding a local congregation called: Quitters, Campers and Climbers. This simply distilled the three categories of people in the world, and for the Christian walk that has to be lived out in training.
II. Forget You Failures- (Phil. 3:12-14) If fear doesn't hold you back, your past may with its failures and frustrations through guilt. Timothy sought out and Paul accommodated himself as a mentor for sound advice to this young Evangelist. Many times we fail because we do not listen either to God or sound advice from Christian sources. Remember, someone has been here before; you can learn from the experience of others. But, get sound advice from the experienced! In our Philippians text Paul had enrolled in the "Christ Likeness University." He (Paul) had pursued a course of molding himself after the Master. Two strategies were employed by Paul and later Timothy to deal with failure.
1. He refused to allow failures to become destructive in his life. His past did not control his present or future. His eyes were fixed on Christ so he could "move forward." Failure is not fatal!! He who does not "learn" from failure will not pursue spiritual excellence.
2. He refused to allow failures to beset his journey to his goal. None of us are perfect and the only ones who never do anything wrong are the ones who never do anything. It is not a matter of "if" we will fail, but "when." How do we process failure. When we fail we must learn from it and then put it behind us. WE must never allow failure to make us quit trying. Get God's perspective!!
III. Follow Your Faith- (Hebrews 12:1-3) Read this text a few times and think about it. If facing our fears and forgetting our failures are defensive approaches, then this is a positive pro-active solution.
The book of Hebrews was written to Hebrew Christians who were in despair and were thinking of going back to the strict rules of first century Judaism. They had been facing persecution. The author kept pointing to the superiority of Jesus Christ as a positive reference point for their faith and reminding them of His Messiahship.
This form of focus is much like a runner who needs a "reference point" to keep him going forward. NASA illustrates this need for a reference point in its history by the possible ill-fated mission of Apollo 13. The astronauts needed to make a critical course correction while in space. If they failed, they might never return to earth. Yet the astronauts needed to conduct a thirty-nine-second burn of the main engines. How would they steer? Astronaut Jim Lovell determined that if they could keep a fixed point in space in view through their tiny window, they could steer the craft manually. That focal point in space could be their destination. Lovell decided to make EARTH his focal point, and for thirty-nine agonizing seconds, Lovell focused on keeping the Earth in view. This is captured in the 1995 hit movie Apollo 13.
Scripture reminds us that to finish your mission successfully "...Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." (Heb. 12:2)
Conclusion: To recap.. Face Your Fears, Forget Your Failures, and Follow Your Faith by Focusing on Jesus Christ. Your life will be a challenge but also a rewarding adventure.
QUOTES THAT RESONATE:
"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt." Shakespeare
"More persons, on the whole, are humbugged by believing in nothing, than by believing too much." P. T. Barnum
"When a man is no longer anxious to do better, then well, he is done for." Haydon
Friday, March 30, 2018
APRIL "EASTER" EDITION- (2018) by Dr. Keith J. Wise
I. Introduction: Easter or "Resurrection Sunday" as many in the Christian world like to reference this date on the Christian calendar, is found in early April this year. To facilitate this important occasion I will, in most part, be dedicating this month's blog to many of the events around the resurrection.
For the Christian, the resurrection is the core of the Christian message and hope. It is so implicative that the Apostle Paul writing about A.D.56 will declare to the Corinthians that "...if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."(I Cor. 15:14) It is by no accident that the Lord entered the city of Jerusalem by fulfilled prophecy in his triumphal entry, later dedicating in the Passover His New Covenant known to us as Communion or the Lord's Supper. This was followed by being arrested and tried by fulfilled prophecy, crucified by the hands of Romans and Jews and the will of God the Father Himself. (Ish.53:10) Consequently, he was buried and resurrected in a glorified body in the city of Jerusalem. This location is as important to the account as would be any other factor in the whole drama of the passion of Christ. God the Father knew the scepticism of the human heart. Consequently, he knew the propaganda that would issue forth from the propositions offered later in Apostolic preaching. The Apostle Peter's first sermon in Acts 2 dramatised the power of the Holy Spirit to preach concise facts with amazing evidence. Exhibit A was an empty tomb as the population of Jerusalem with its skeptics, could examine for themselves, these marvelous events. Concurrently, one has to understand the power of this preaching and the response of 3,000 on the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, fifty days after Passover. A new wrinkle prophetically revealed in Judaism would change the world.
It is providential that Jerusalem was the center of the passion week. Jesus reminded the Apostles in Luke 24:44-49 that he fulfilled "everything" about himself in three libraries of Jewish tradition; "...in the law of Moses,(Torah or Tanakh), the Prophets,(Nevi'im), and the Psalms,(Ketuvim or Writings)..." If one approaches the Prophets without their eschatological prejudice, one can see for instance the Gospel according to Zechariah in the first coming of Christ and the Church. (see Zechariah 9:9-11; 11:7-14; 10:4; 12:10-13:6) The paramount point, already noted, was for the average Jew of the time physical proof. (note the Emmaus road experience. (Luke 24:13-35) The testimony of those that experienced the darkness and later the earthquake in Jerusalem must have had some effect. More officially, the seal of Rome over the tomb with the sacerdotal aristocracy of the Jews feeling secure that the body would not be stolen, and the Romans officials present must have seemed settled and complete. The pieces of information would have a been conclusively interesting to a somewhat literate population. and that would have been: First, the empty tomb. Peter in Acts 2 gives every evidence of this as proof of the risen Lord. (Remember, Peter was the first Apostle to enter the tomb) Second, and not a minor item, was the change of attitude of the disciples. These squirming, hiding disciples during the crucifixion, now become the bold proclaimers of the risen Christ in the book of Acts. They were so convinced by the evidence and the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus they were willing to die for the message, and they did, in most part, as martyrs of the faith, except for John.
We could go on and on with the accounts and tremendous evidences of the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus the Christ. (See any number of apologetic and scholarly works for the last hundred years). However, you as a believer must not let the doubters with shabby criticism deter your faith. Do not let such arguments as the differing timelines of the gospel writers or the different people at various events of the passion week distract you. Secular distortions as the darkness at the crucifixion site being interpreted as some high-altitude, dust-laden windstorm that darkened the sun are preposterous. None of the sirocco winds, common in the desert, would not have lasted three hours as noted by the darkness chronicle. See my sermon below adding to this evidence of a Roman Centurion expressing faith. Also, see sources below.
II. DIGGING DEEPER... Evidence and Sources for Believing
Introduction: There are any number of reasons to believe the sources and evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Often we see and read the accounts and places in our modern context of sequencing of events and don't understand what we perceive as contradictions. When one examines these sources and events through the eyes of a first century oriental mind then they make sense. Just as the Apostle Paul and the other Apostles had to translate and explain to the Greek mind the teachings, the Judaistic doctrines and comparisons, we must compare the sources for the origins of Jesus as Messiah, Lord and Savior. Matthew in his gospel will present Him as King and this, a conclusive measure of our Faith. If we can categorize by topic, the items of interest in the resurrection story, we come away with some new insights and corroboration of the event. Let us consider the following sequence of events:
1. The Roman Guards and Seal of the Tomb: The account of the Romans guards sealing the tomb was simply to establish "authority" over the burial site. Archaeologist have found numerous seals of various kinds throughout the Middle East of Roman occupation. Once formally set, strong legal or even the penalty of death could be exercised. This makes sense with the religious leaders raising the speculation that someone might steal the body. These guards were both Roman and part of the Jewish Temple guard who will return to the chief priest to report what had happened at the tomb rather than to Pilate. Matthew 27:65,66 also verses 62-66(Source: FF Bruce) Remember, if a Roman guard member fell asleep, he was beaten and burned with his own clothes. But not only was this one guard executed in time, but the entire twelve or sixteen man guard unit was executed if only one of the members fell asleep while on duty.
2. The Large Stone of the Tomb: Who moved the stone? Polybius the Roman historian noted that a "guard" or "watch" consisted of 12 or 16 soldiers, four or more per three hour period. There are records of there being as many as 120 guards after a seal of Rome was placed. The Roman guard would not have been interested in violating such a place or doing anything other than obeying the orders of his superiors. Note that "some of the guards" report to the chief priests.(Matt. 28:11) Whatever the size of this party of guards they could not have moved such a large stone by the accounts of all the sources. The tomb was a new one, hewn out of solid rock. (Matthew 27:60, Mark 15:46) We know in addition to the tomb's description that it was owned by a wealthy member of the Council (Joseph of Arimathea) a leader "...waiting for the kingdom of God."(Luke 23:50-56) This also fulfilled another prophecy in Isaiah 53:9 both in terms of Barabbas('the wicked") and the owner of the tomb Joseph, "the rich").
3. The Environment of Secure Religious Leaders and Frightened Disciples: This is not often mentioned, but the efforts of the Roman authorities and the temple guard gave the religious leaders a sense of satisfaction that the tomb would not be molested. That attitude of human hubris and prideful conclusions of ridding themselves of Jesus before all the events had unfolded was evident. The story was not over when the tomb was sealed by men and secured by human government. When the women came early in the morning to complete the final preparation of the body, the stone was moved and the seal broken as the startled women were as the NIV records "wondering;" Two Angels at the tomb according to Luke asked: "..."Why are looking among the dead for someone who is alive?" (NLT) These women went back and reported what they had seen to the disciples, but as verse 11 tells us, "...their words to them (the disciples) seemed like nonsense..." Peter now ran to the tomb and found the strips of linen lying by themselves, giving again mute testimony that the tomb had not been raided or broken into by man. Quit the contrary, God had broken out with a new message of victory and hope for the world.
1. Apostolic Preaching of the resurrection in Jerusalem: Bible:Acts 2-8.
2. Justin: Justin Martyr: Dialogue with Trypho, 108.
3. Juda the Gardener: This account from the Toledoth Jeshu appears in the Wagenseil text, the Strassburg Ms., and especially the Vindobona Ms.
4. Pilate's Acta: Justin Martyr, Apology, I, XXXV, xlviii.
5. Roman Edit On Grave Robbery: F. Cumont, "Un Rescrit Imperial sur la Violation de Sépulture," Revue historique, clxiii (1930), 241-266; and F. de Zulueta, "Violation of Sepulture in Palestine at the Beginning of the Christian Era," Journal of Roman Studies, xxii (1932), 184-197.
IV. NUGGETS OF NOURISHMENT: A Sermon: When the Roman Centurion Expressed Faith.
Text: Matthew 27:45-54
Introduction: The crucifixion of Jesus Christ has stirred the heart and mind of millions over the years. This is why it is called "good news." It is a contrast of reality in that at one point it is overwhelming and at another underwhelming. The only Apostle to witnessed the crucifixion was John. Luke the Physician-Historian simple says in one phrase verse, "...there they crucified him." (Luke 23:33b) When we think of how Jesus found himself on the cross were are amazed. It was an orchestrated process of treachery. His fellow countrymen traded Jesus' life for a known murderer and anarchist, Barabbas. A trusted Apostle, Judas, betrayed him. One of his inner circle, Peter, denied him and all but John deserted him. An illegal court sentenced Him. Roman soldiers then beat Him along with crucifying Him with the authority of Rome.
There is a counting going on as well. We have one sinless Lord, two thieves, three crosses, four garments, five wounds as medical experts attest, six hours, and seven statements from Jesus himself. Remarkably, the manner in which he died impressed those who saw it and evoked a response from non other than an expert in crucifixion, the Centurion. We know nothing about this man other than his station in life as a Centurion and his statement: "...Surely He was the son of God." Christian tradition knows him as Longinus, (Marcellus Gallio) in the historical fiction written by Lloyd C. Douglas entitled "The Robe."
The Centurion then Exhibits:
I. A Level of Faith- He took notice of the death, the seven word of Christ. This Centurion along with his comrades helped by:
A. Nailing nails into Jesus' hands and feet. (Crucifixion was cruel and we have archaeological evidence of how this was done.) They watched him die and new by examination that he was dead. (spear in his side and did not break his legs)
B. Heard more distinctly the words coming from the mouth of Jesus.
Considered thought: Did this faith save him like that of the thief on the cross? We are not told. Besides, as long as Jesus was alive he could set the terms for salvation to fit the circumstances of the heart. See examples in the Gospels. We know that after his death, burial and resurrection, the preaching of the Apostles set the plan of salvation into place from the Lord to show us how to become Christians. (See the book of Acts for conversions of Jews and Gentiles) This amazing event in the life of the Centurion provides us with...
II. The World's Greatest Need- It is my human observation, two factors impressed the Centurion: 1.) The reaction to how Jesus died. He had seen many deaths as a Centurion executing the death decree of the state. By his reaction, Jesus died differently than the two thieves beside him, and others he would have experienced in the execution of his job. 2.) Being superstitious by nature, the climactic action of nature must have impressed him. The events we note are: the darkness for three hours in the afternoon, the earthquake, the tearing of the temple curtain between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies that would have made an indelible impression. Matthew tells us that after Jesus' resurrection the tombs were opened and many righteous people when into the Holy City.(Matt. 27:52-53)
CONCLUSION: The impressive proclamation of the Centurion to a world of lost people, seeking help and a savior is profound. As we bind the whole series of events around the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, the Church had a world changing message we call the "Good News." We must faithfully proclaim this message in every hamlet, village and urban environment. People need the Lord today, a risen triumphant Lord and Savior and one who loves every person in every place on this planet. Finally, the spiritual dimension of this is profound. The writer of Hebrews connect it in this way: "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death- that is, the devil- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." (Hebrews 2:14-15)
V. QUOTABLE QUOTES:
By Charles Colson: "I know the resurrection is a fact and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Everyone was beaten, tortured, stoned, and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it were not true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world- and they couldn't keep a lie for three weeks. You're telling me me 12 Apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible"!
Monday, February 26, 2018
MARCH 2018 EDITION... by Dr. Keith J. Wise
INTRODUCTION: March is an interesting month as it appears the third month of the year according to our calendar. Here are some interesting facts about the month of March. Great Britain and her colonies continued to use March as their beginning until 1752. Its birth flower is the Daffodil (Narcissus). The Anglo-Saxons called the month "Hlyd monath" which means Stormy month, or "Hraed monath" which is translated "Rugged month." In the United States March is the National Nutrition Month, National Peanut Month, National Women's History Month, and American Red Cross Month. Four U.S. Presidents were born in the month of March: Andrew Jackson, James Madison, Grover Cleveland and John Tyler.
DIGGING DEEPER... A Debate of Alexander Campbell
One of the most interesting features of the 19th century was the filling of vacuums concerning educational information. One of the vehicles employed in this venture was the widespread use of public debates. It is now widely accepted that Alexander Campbell was one of the most skilled debaters on the American continent at the time of this phenomena. We will be looking in our March blog at the Walker-Campbell debate and others in the future. There are three generally acclaimed outcomes of Campbell's debates.
1. They commanded the attention of the leaders of their day both religiously and politically, especially the intelligentsia of the period. Consequently, later the Robert Owen debate.
2. These communication devices strengthened the concept of "truth" and reached both spiritually and nationally as America was seeking her identity in the early years the 19th century.
3. They invariably hastened rather than retarded the concept of Christian Union. The innovative concept of being "Christian's Only" was ingrained into the American lexicon. They kindled a new zeal for spiritual discussion and cogent thought concerning Christ and the Church in a Biblical framework.
Without a strong focus on details, let me suggest a summary of the Five Public Debates of Alexander Campbell. The first will be the Campbell-Walker Debate.
I. The Campbell-Walker Debate- Through a series of letters to Campbell from John Birch, a Baptist preacher in Flat Run, Ohio, there drew a public interest. Birch, who was familiar with Campbell and his Baptist ties, obliged Campbell because of a confrontation which had been brewing between John Birch and John Walker, a Seceder Presbyterian. Considering Campbell's Presbyterian roots, Birch felt it would be accepted by Campbell. Eventually, Alexander Campbell accepted the debate with Birch's insisting and urging. Campbell selected Jacob Matin as his moderator and the rules were set. It was held in Mt. Pleasant, Ohio in June of 1820. The basic topic for the debate was the "subjects of baptism and the mode of baptism." Walker held to a typically Presbyterian Calvinistic argument. He argued that baptism replaced circumcision so infants were fit subjects for baptism. Campbell responded that the only fit subjects for baptism under the New Testament covenant were repentant adults. Campbell argued that children were innocent and original sin was inadequate to explain any New Testament conversions. Attacking the circumcision issue, Campbell noted several points:
a) Baptism was done to both men and women; circumcision just to men.
b) Baptism has no age specification unless one can hear and believe--circumcision was always done on the eighth day and thus age specific age and purpose.
c) Circumcision required only one of Jewish descent-baptism required only faith in obedience to the scripture through repentance.
d) Circumcision could be done by parents, relative or civil officials...baptism at this time was seen only to be done by Presbyterian ministers.
e) The emblems differed as well...baptism signified a death, burial and resurrection into Christ while circumcision signified the separation of a Jew from all the rest of the human family into the national identity of Israel.
f) Pedobaptist, such as the Presbyterians, applied water to the face---Jews didn't circumcise the face... Baptism properly applied would cover the whole person not a specific part of the body.
g) Circumcision in and of itself conveys no spiritual blessings but was for Abraham and his descendents; baptism conveys spiritual blessings... in comparison, circumcision did convey temporal blessings and baptism spiritual blessing with eternal consequences.
In conclusion, Walker upheld the identity of both covenants and that the old covenant was still binding to the Christian rather than informing the Christian. Campbell challenged that concept maintaining the existence of two distinct covenants. Walker then turned to the "household conversion" argument in Acts of the Philippian jailer. Campbell in detail examined the context of the verses and explained how infants were excluded in such cases. When the debate turned to the mode of baptism, Campbell cited early church fathers and the etymology of the Greek words and this argument ended quickly.
Thomas Campbell pronounced the benediction and the debate was over. Campbell initially printed 1,000 copies of the debate which quickly sold out. By 1822, he printed another 3,000 copies and these too, sold quickly. Many commentators since believe this experience taught Campbell the value of putting biblical teaching into print and thus his future editing and printing career.
III. DID YOU KNOW? Some quotes of interest and information...
1. Sidney Smith a former President of the University of Toronto would often address the graduates with some wise words of wisdom for life. One of his sagely quotes was as follows: "If you choose to work, you will succeed; if you don't, you will undoubtedly fail. If you neglect your work, you will dislike it; but if you do it well, you will enjoy it. If you join little cliques, you will be self-satisfied; if you make friends widely, you will be interesting to others. If you gossip, you will be slandered; if you mind your own business, you will be liked. If you act like a boor, you will be despised; if you act like a human being, you will be respected. If you spurn wisdom, wise people will spurn you; if you seek wisdom, people purpose and meaning will seek you. If you adopt a pose of boredom, you will be a bore; if you show vitality, you will be alive. If you spend your free time playing bridge, you will be a good bridge player; if you spend it in reading, discussing, and thinking of things that matter, you will be an educated person."
2. "Of all the deadly sins, the vilest is ingratitude, because the ingrate is both morally blind and spiritually sick. People who constantly take everything they can grab by hook or by crook, are never happy individuals." Dr. Sweet Nicely
3. Francis Bacon, the English philosopher of the sixteenth century said: "It is not what men eat, but what they digest, that makes them strong; not what we gain, but what we save, that makes us rich; not what we read, but what we absorb, that makes us learned; not what we preach, but what we practice, that makes us lovable and genuine."
IV. NUGGETS OF NOURISHMENT... A Sermon for Good Friday (March 30)
Title: When God is Finished He is Finished Once for All
Text: John 19:28-29; also Hebrews 9:26-28 and I Peter 3:18
Introduction: There are some tremendous passages that speak to the passion of Christ and the securing of our salvation in payment for sin from the cross. However, none is so powerful than this passage from John 19:28-30. It fits so beautifully with other passages in the Bible that bring us to a heighten understanding that what God finishes, He finishes as a masterpiece of theological and historical truth. The center of this John 9 passage is the Greek word, "Tetelestai." It is so pregnant with power that it requires three English words to express it; "it is finished" or "finished" as some manuscripts translate it. For the students who read this it is found as (Perfect Passive Indicative). Unique to John in its articulation from the other Gospel accounts, they only note that Jesus "gave a great shout." Only John records the word that was shouted, or "Tetelestai." Most study Bibles and Commentaries will tell you, and very correctly, that this was a common word in the Koine culture of the time. It contains a dualism of "inquiry" and "truth" that is not only relevant for this moment in time but is also applicable to the Christian Church's historical faith "once and for all delivered to the saints."
"Tetelestai" can be noted in the common language of the day in the following displays of societal interaction.
1. To the servant or slave having accomplished his task he often who report to the master, "tetelestai" or finished.
2. To the judge in a court of law when justice was served the word to dismissed the proceedings was "tetelestai" or finished.
3. To the accountant when the last payment is made on the note, it was stamped "tetelestai" or finished. (Ostraca found in the digs in Athens at the Agora or marketplace, give testimony of this usage.)
4. To the artist who completes his artwork with the last brushstroke will say "tetelestai" or finished.
5. The priest in the temple who accomplishes all that he could with the worshipper's sacrifice will say "tetelestai" or finished.
Conclusion: When Jesus accomplishes the work of the promises made in the Garden of Eden at the fall, combined with his foreknowledge of the "Lamb of God, "slain from the foundation of the world" and shouts "Tetelestai," it is finished. God masterfully accomplished for us in perfect completion this work of universal opportunity for the world.
Thursday, February 1, 2018
FEBRUARY EDITION (2018) .... by Dr. Keith J. Wise
INTRODUCTION: February is typically in the grips of winter as we write this edition. In fact, the winter of 2018 in the midwest has been quit below normal. However, at this writing we are in a bit of a thaw but this will change in usual fashion. On the contrary, winter still has a way to go before the early crocuses bloom. This is the month of presidents and I would like to consider some interesting aspects of Abraham Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was known to have written, with his own hand, five copies of the address and they are still in existence today. The two drafts which he wrote before delivering the speech are enshrined in the Library of Congress. At the request of Edward Everett, the accomplished orator who preceded Lincoln with a two-hour oration at Gettysburg, Lincoln wrote a third copy, to be sold at auction for the benefit of wounded soldiers. Many years later it brought the highest price ever obtained for an autographed Lincoln manuscript- $150,000. In 1944 it was sold again, the schoolchildren of Illinois raised $50,000 to procure it for the Illinois State Historical Library. Lincoln wrote the fourth and fifth copies at the request of George Bancroft, the historian, again to be sold for the benefit of war veterans. On of these copies is now at Cornell University, the other belongs to Oscar B. Cintas, former Cuban ambassador to the United States. (note: This information is up to date as of 1961, and before the Castro Regime. Some of these copies may now lay in other hands and libraries).
DIGGING DEEPER... A Look at the Restoration Movement in America
As we have looked at a number of major denominations over the year of 2017, it is now time to talk about movements, especially in America that were unique in their own experience to this phenomena. In reality, most of the Churches that came to America were in a metamorphosis of and from the Protestant Reformation. One singular attribute of the Reformation was the centerpiece of the Bible and its truths. Myriads of groups in Europe had emerged with similar but different views of scripture and its emphasis. As noted before, the American Revolution set a new reality of a new country, in a new hemisphere changing power perspectives over the next century. Everything was questioned, especially religious interpretations and understandings. But to this questioning it was the broad understanding that logical, meaningful and faith based answer could be given and understood. As Dr. Jack Cottrell noted scholar and writer at the recent Florida Bible Conference remarked in part, "...The Bible is God's personal communication to his human creatures. (I Cor. 10:11; 2 Tim.3:16-17) Second, when God communicates with us in the Bible in human language, he intends for everything he says to have one specific true and right meaning." (Ish.55:11; I Cor.14:9-10) The Restoration fathers saw the Bible as a clean spring to speak to the human heart from the heart of God. In fact, they often knew from their pioneer experience that the newest the purest water came from the head of the fresh spring. What did the spring of scripture by itself say in its bedrock meaning?
From the British Isles, the tradition of congregational autonomy, as exampled in scripture, emerged from Scotland under such figures as the Haldane Brothers. This principle spread conceptually to the American frontier. The infused concept of independence that permeated America after the American Revolution, likewise sparked the passion for the Church. But what would the Church in America look like? It would be based on the scripture, especially the new covenant of the New Testament. Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterians would be reflective and rewarded for a fresh look at every doctrine, concept and reevaluation of historic Christianity. What did the Church look like in the first century? What was its emphasis and its doctrinal complexion?
Leading pioneer figures were such men as Elias Smith and Abner Jones in New England, James O'Kelley in North Carolina and Virginia, Barton W. Stone in Kentucky, Thomas and Alexander Campbell in Western Virginia(now West Virginia) and Pennsylvania, and Walter Scott in Northeastern Ohio came to similar conclusions concerning faith and practice. What is remarkable is that there is little or no contact among most of these individuals, but they all reached a near similar consummation to such vital areas as salvation, the church, church leadership, missions and the primary emphasis of Apostolic preaching. With a frontier hungry for information and transformation, a mildly literate or preliterate pioneer population saw a repeat of conversion scenarios similar to pagan Europe being converted to Christian Europe; a renaissance if you will.
To communicate a salient message in the culture of the day, slogans became very important in all areas of frontier American in the first half of the 19th century. Religiously speaking, this movement made dramatic strides with a number of these slogans that struck a chord on the frontier and in the country across denominational lines. These slogans took many forms: "We speak where the Scriptures speak, and are silent where the Scriptures are silent; "In essentials unity, and non-essentials liberty, but in all things love;" "Call Bible things by Bible names;" "No book but the Bible, no creed but Christ;" "The New Testament is our only rule of faith and practice;" "We are Christians only, but we are not the only Christians." A powerful dual dynamic emerged in which a desire to follow sincerely the Bible and to call all Christian communities to unity were broadcast. Many of the later state universities and colleges found their roots in the education of whole populations to Christian ideals. Thomas and Alexander Campbell gave a model to this growing scholasticism in birthing Bethany College in Bethany, Virginia(now West Virginia).
Another avenue of information and communication of the day were debates. Alexander Campbell debated any number of denominational representatives on the sanctity of scripture and knowing what the scripture exclusively proclaimed about itself without the filters of denominationalism. One of his most celebrated debates was against the atheist Robert Owen who confronted Alexander Campbell. It was published and circulated and when read and considered gave Campbell the noted title of "defender of the faith." To over summarize, the movement of this type has been distilled in many ways, but here are a few still relevant positions that are held today within the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ.
- Recognition of Christ as supreme authority in all aspects of faith, and the New Testament as the only rule of faith and practice. This would automatically do away with creeds and human authority.
- A proper distinction between the Old and New Testaments. An often quoted truism was "...the old is the new concealed and the new is the old revealed."
- The recognition of the New Testament as the ideal pattern of the Church. The book of Ephesians penned by the Apostle Paul gives this perspective.
- The autonomy of the local church.
- The unity of all Christians under Christ as the ultimate authority of submission.
DID YOU KNOW? A Continued Look at the Reliability of the Bible...
In the course of the monthly editions of my blog over the 2017-18 I felt compelled to write about interesting aspects of scripture and how they are reliable for faith, truth and hope. Consider Psalm 119:5 "...Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." As our culture has become more secular the voices of critics have become louder and have intimidated the faithful in the church at large. However, this is not the first or the last time the banging bells of unbelief will be sounded, but we must peal the enlightened word of truth even louder.
When we consider the Bible's authenticity we might pause and consider the following:
I. Its Resistance: As far back as the 4th century A.D. the emperor Diocletian with the power of Rome behind him attempted to eradicate and eliminate the Bible and the Church. Archaeologist have found in several parts of the old empire a public monument which read, "The name of the Christians has been extinguished." But within twenty years of this attempted confident proclamation, Constantine the next emperor with adopt the Christian faith as the faith of the Empire.
In the eighteenth century, Voltaire (1694-1778) declared that the Age of Reason would soon eclipse the age of revelation and the Bible. He often noted that the Bible would soon be discarded. However, the Bible today is still the best seller and is in demand worldwide. In Colonial America Thomas Paine (1737-1809) made discouraging prophecies concerning the Bible. He declared presumptuously that he had cut down the myths of the Bible. Yet, two hundred years after Paine died the Bible lives on. Every instrument of potential destruction that human wisdom, human destruction and wickedness could devise has failed. Its precious promises and declarations that have been damned by atheists, exaggerated by fanatics, misconstrued by preachers, ignored by carnal christians, discounted by scientist have and will come to naught. By the way, the Louvre in Paris has a wing of old science textbooks that are full of declarations of so called "science" that are no longer considered "scientific."
II. Its Reliability: Because Christianity is rooted in historic Judaism and reliable records of history, commentaries concerning old kingdoms and individuals once thought mythological, have been found to be true. In the book of Genesis Abraham (Abram) was called out of the land of Chaldees. The city noted was Ur of the Chaldees. Sceptics derided this information for decades saying these were fictitious places. However, C. Leonard Woolley in the 1930 excavated Ur that was even older than the time of Abraham. You see, "dead men do tell tales..." We could go on and talk about the veracity of the Hittites in modern day Turkey or the comments of John 5 of the pool of Bethesda with its five porticoes that have been verified by excavations in Jerusalem. God has sought to preserve this divinely authored tome with exceptional precision.
III. Its Relevance: It is a light as our scripture text does indicate in all the dimensions of life. To those in grief, the Bible gives comfort. As a retired minister in the local church, I have had as many as five funerals in a week. I have seen the devastation of loss from drugs, suicide, terminal illness and age. But I have seen the remarkable hope offered in passages of scripture for families when a loved one is tragically gone. God's Word the Bible can permeate the sorrowful heart with comfort. To those who are lonely, the Bible gives the promise of God's presence. One of the greatest verses in the Bible is Matthew 28:20 where Jesus promises to His disciples of every generation, "...I am with you always, even to the end of the age." This book of antiquity, even in our modern world, speaks a word of relevance to our every need. When I see how it reclaims and reforms lives it is no ordinary book of "religion" but a profound book of "Relationship."
Conclusion: There is sufficient evidence to convince anyone that the Bible is no ordinary book. No explanation is sufficient except the clear "proclamation" of the truth to the human heart. Faith comes by hearing... and as we hear we believe and continue to believe His transforming power through His Word transcends our circumstances.
IV. Quotes by Topic to Remember:
A. Prayer: "Men are looking for better methods, God is looking for better men." (E.M Bounds)
B. America: "One of the problems we have in this country is that too many adults believe in Santa Clause, and too many children don't." (Lee Lauer)
C. Influence: "Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means." As quoted by Albert Einstein.
Saturday, December 30, 2017
JANUARY (2018) EDITION... By Dr. Keith J. Wise... A New Year...
I. Digging Deeper... Facts Concerning the Bible...
It has been said by many as a famous quote; "The Bible will keep one from sin, and sin will keep one from the Bible!" This is a great truth to help us understand how we can grow and avoid the tactics of the enemy. The Bible is indeed the "offensive" weapon in our spiritual arsenel.
Consider, the Bible is written and spoken to be the "Sword of the Spirit" (Eph. 6:17). Therefore, if one desires to be a disciple of the Lord, they should spend time in its study. It will dramatically help to prepare them to grow in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and discern and correct false teaching. (II Tim. 2:15; 3:16; II Pet. 3:15).
The historical translation of the (KJV) contains 3,566,480 letters, 773,746 words, 31,102 verses, 1,189 chapters and 66 books. There are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New. The Bible is composed of writings from about 40 men, writing over a period of some 1600 years, from 1500 B.C. until A.D. 100. It is primarily written in Hebrew, Koine Greek and Aramaic.
The Bible holds the distinction of being the first book printed with movable type, in A.D. 1450. The first Bible printed in America was in the Indian language, by John Eliot. The King James Version was published in 1611. The revised Version was published in 1885. The American Standard Version was published in 1901. Since then several excellent versions have appeared on the market. The Bible was divided into chapters by Cardinal Hugo in 1250. The New Testament was divided into verses by Sir Robert Stephens in 1551. The entire Bible was divided into chapters and verses in the "Geneva Bible" which was translated in 1560. This was also known as the "Breeches Bible" because it read, "They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves breeches." (Gen. 3:7)
The Red Letter Edition Bible was a product of Louis Klopsch. He was the first editor of the "Christian Herald" magazine. He printed the Red Letter Edition in 1901. He based this format from Luke 22:20, "This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you." He reasoned that all blood is red, thus Christ's words should be in red, as a constant reminded to the reader of redemption.
The Bible has been translated into almost every language and dialect in the world. It is the only book that gives a definitive answer to the question of man's origin, mission and destiny. Above all else, the Bible is a textbook on salvation, and should be seriously examined and studied, then carefully accepted and obeyed. Lastly, it should be religiously taught to all men. It is to that end that we write this material for your interest and edification.
After looking over the above facts, I would like to encourage our readers to accept the challenge to read the Bible on a regular basis. If you do, you will be blessed and those within your reach will be positively changed. Above all, your readers and listeners will be the recipients of the greatest gift to mankind, the living Christ.
II. NUGGETS OF NOURISHMENT... A Sermon for the New Year.. "The Jesus Creed...What Can It Mean in the New Year?"
Text: Mark 12:28-31
Introduction: Jesus in his early ministry, said and did many memorable works. His words and example have had implications both then, now and in eternity. To God in Christ the idea of love is overwhelming and demonstrated by His coming into the world. David Gill writes of two kinds of love: table love, which is the love of fellowship and communion, and cross-love, which is the love seen in sacrifice and devotion. As we enter the New Year of 2018 we need to consider the great response of Jesus (text above) to the inquire of one of the teachers of the law and our response to "The Jesus Creed."
A. Give God Your Heart- The heart is the center of one's affections. Think of what you love and what motivates you. It may be your spouse, your children, your best friend, job etc. Give what comes to mind right now and give it to God, by gently offering those affections and persons and ambitions to God through Christ today. He will multiply all types of categories connect to your heart.
B. Give God Your Soul- The soul is the center of your spirituality. Think of your relationship with God. It is what you deem most significant in your spiritual life and the core of your life's motivation. Just begin to consider the God of the Bible. It might begin with prayer or a personal time with God through mediating and Bible reading. If we partake of the "bread of life" (Jesus) daily it can cleanse us, wash us and prepare us to receive those truths that feed our souls. Remember what Jesus said to Satan in his wilderness temptation. "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God..."
C. Give God Your Mind- The mind is the center of your "rationality." Consider what you think about every day. Think of what you believe, and how you think. Consider your logic and does it make sense. As you read the Bible you thinking will become clearer and Christ will confirm this through what you read in His word. "...as a man thinks in his heart, so is he..."
D. Give God Your Strength- The word "strength" refers to our whole being. It can encompass our physical, mental, spiritual and emotional resources. The point here is that we are to love God through Christ with all we've got!! Without delineating too much, think of your body, your ambition, your dreams, and your bank account. Consider your insurance policies and your talents. Let God work through all of these to produce a much needed satisfying result.
Conclusion: To love is to give of ourselves; to love God is to give God all we are and all we have for He is the creator and manufacturer of all of us. Please remember this; God can do more with what your give Him, than what your can do with what you have by yourself. Consider Moses and his staff, the loaves and fishes of the young man who feed the five thousand. Surrender to God in Christ is the key to life.
III. QUOTABLE QUOTES...
1. But there are burdens heavier than a soldier's pack, declared President Eisenhower in his first inaugural address: "Americans, indeed, all free men, remember that in the final choice a soldier's pack is not so heavy a burden as a prisoner's chains."
2. I am the New Year. I am here... but once past, I can never be recalled. Make me your best. (selections from the Memorial Salesman.)
3. Emerson wrote: "Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not."
4. Flight of Worry- a quotable poem: "Things are seldom quite as bad as our expectations. Most of the facts that worry us are gross exaggerations. Sage philosophers remind us, if we would but heed, all fears would fly away like birds we cease to feed." (Poem by Mary O'Connor.)
IV. A Bridge To The Future... Some Thoughts for 2018...
Every generation of free people have had to face the daunting task of looking to the future. We know from the study of history that it will span victories and defeats, crowns and crosses, gains and losses. But as our forefathers did for us, so we must do for the generations that come after us. Building a bridge to the future takes time as we think of others who will come behind us. We must be unselfish in our task and focus.
If you look at a well made bridges, you will see a combination of wires that once put together, form an almost impregnable bond. As we think about our bridge to the future we can use the wires of firmness of purpose, courage, creative ideas, hard conscientious work, patience, team work, loyalty, love of liberty, faith in God and our future- "...righteousness exalts a nation, sin is a reproach to any people." (Prov. 14:34)
Each of us can help build this bridge by casting off defective wires of thinking in the areas of personal prejudice, discord and bitterness. Our lives will be made better or bitter by what we think and process every day in daily living. Consider building into your souls the very best qualities of our minds, heats and spirits. Thus, with a sense of community and togetherness we can be assured of success. We can build a bridge as a nation and people that build a positive result. This bridge to the future will stand in supreme strength against the destructive forces of our time.
A Word Of Thanks: This new year, 2018 begins our second year of publishing. I could not have taken on this course without the help of Mr. Troy Graham. Troy is young adult man who serves in the St. Louis congregation. Also, all the readers from America and on mission fields around the world who have read this material. We pray it has blessed you and helped you to excel in the Christian life.
Because of Him... Dr. Keith J. Wise- Happy New Year!
Thursday, November 30, 2017
DECEMBER EDITION... 2017 (Dr. Keith J. Wise)
I. Introduction: The month of December is an active month as we end the year. Some of us look back on the year with anxiety, some joy, some victory and some defeat. However, as Christians we know that Jesus Christ has led us and brought us to a new vista. With Him "...all things are possible." This is the month of Christmas, New Years and for our Jewish friends Hanukkah. The greatest gift of God the Father came in the most humblest and retiring form. He would come by way of a borrowed "womb" and leave us by way of a borrowed "tomb." So with lights, and music and great truth we proclaim Jesus the Christ the Son of the Living God.
II. DIGGING DEEPER: For the sake of the Christmas season we will bypass our study of denominations and focus on the Gospel of Luke's account of the coming of Jesus. Luke as you know, was a gifted follower of Christ. He was not an Apostle but collected his material from the Apostle Paul and sourced much of his material from Mark. It is thought he wrote from Antioch (Syria) or Asia Minor (modern Turkey). His chronology and writing was sometime in the A.D. 80's. He was known as a Physician while traveling with Paul and comforted him as a young disciple; apparently offering his medical advise. He is often referred to as "the beloved Physician." The writings of Luke will encompass the story of salvation from the fulfillment of God's redemption in Christ. Cornerstone to this was through its perfect achievement in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Luke's second edition, The Acts of the Apostles will chronicle the rise and development of the church. His research in both of these works is impeccable. It will be noted that the major decisions and turning points given by the Apostolic leaders were guided by God to the Gentiles and the world at large. In truth, it was in obedience to Jesus' command in the Great Commission, and shown as Peter will preach the first Gospel message on Pentecost. (Acts 2:38) Before the ultimate salvational message could begin however, God created a foundation He prepared in history "in the fulness of time." It was prepared Politically, Linguistically, and Religiously for that coming of Christ. Let us see how Luke, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and the record of other inspired writers helps us in our faith when we study the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Every proclaimer of the gospel message of good news delivered the information of salvation. Each of the Gospel Evangelist projected this task through a personal relationship they had with Jesus according to their particular individual talents. We have noted Luke's gifts of being a physician, but as countless honest historians have noted, he was a detailed researcher of historical information about Jesus and his times in the Gospel of Luke, and later in the Book of Acts. There are several prominent themes in his gospel that emerge for a sound consideration to prepare us for God's "unspeakable gift."
A. Salvation for all: The realization that God wants to save all people is hinted and noted from the very earliest Biblical references. (Gen. 3:15) He chose a people (the Hebrews) and the record of that preservation is found throughout the scriptures of Israel that the Christians call the Old Testament. In short, the whole purpose of Israel was to prepared for a deliverer like Joseph, like Moses, like Daniel and others. This was a profound issue for the Jews, that Luke will deal with in his second volume of Acts. I think it is also instructive that the early leaders were in most part Jewish. Because of universal salvation offered in Jesus who is the Christ, there is no more "Jew or Gentile, slave or free..." Luke is interested in echoing the message of Joy "that shall be for all people."
B. A Message of Joy: We will say more about his below, but Luke's Gospel radiates from a confidence in God's love and mercy as demonstrated in the teachings and actions of Jesus himself. The births of John the Baptist and Jesus are announced as causes of great joy.(Luke 1:14; 2:10) The repentance of a sinner is a source of great joy in heaven (Luke 15:7-10). The end of the Gospel of Luke pictures the disciples returning to Jerusalem filled with joy after Jesus' ascension. (Luke 24:52)
C. The Journey: All three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) begin the account of Jesus' public ministry with John the Baptist preaching from Isaiah: "Make ready the way of the Lord..." (Isa.40:3). The mission of Jesus is presented as the continuation and culmination of the "way of the Lord" when Abraham left his homeland, and continued by faith to a land God had prepared. The Exodus of Egypt led by Moses and, later, the return from Babylonian captivity shows a God in history guiding and preserving His people for the coming of the Christ. Luke capitalizes on the journey theme to organize the central section of his Gospel(Lk. 19:51 &19:44). Also, look at Luke 24:44 when Jesus has a shore lunch of fish with his Apostles in a post resurrection appearance and special message of fulfillment.
D. Corollary to Christian Living: Luke is as much a transitional gospel in presenting Jesus as applicable to people, not only in the rural agricultural lands of Israel, but the cosmopolitan society of the first century and today. He indicates that good citizenship is compatible and expected with Christianity. Luke will deal with the sub-themes of persecution, and possessions. (6:20,24) In quoting Jesus about possessions one must not be enslaved by attachments to our possessions. Our focus as Christians is to use our possessions as a means of helping others.
E. Fulfillment of Prophecy: Jesus' mission of salvation had been prepared from ages past. Luke incorporates a surprising amount of Old Testament teaching for his Greek readers, though not as much as Matthew will do. One of Luke's favorite usages is "it must happen" or "it had to happen" (Luke 2:49;4:43; 9:22). Ironically, the cross, the way of suffering, was a puzzle to his Greek readers- how revolting that the Savior, Son of God and King, should be treated so shamefully. Luke repeats again and again that the suffering had to be: it is the way of glory.(18:31-33; 24:26)
F. Ascension: One of the goals Luke pictures is Jesus' mission "to be taken up from this world." (9:51; 24:51). The ascension comes after the resurrection; it is the act of glorification whereby Jesus takes his place at the right hand of the Father. The Ascension is crucial to Jesus' saving work, because it is through this "glorification" that the Spirit is released on the Church to empower His kingdom. This in turn continued to advance the universal message of salvation to the world as he now"intercedes for us" as the victorious savior and Lord.
III. A LITTLE CHRISTMAS INFORMATION...
God's perspective on great words of the Bible is amazing and wonderful. One of the words so often associated with Christmas is "joy." It is surprising to discover that scriptural references to "joy" are mostly found either at the very beginning, or a the very end of the early ministry of Jesus and His coming.
The angel proclaimed "Good tidings of great joy...to all people" (Luke 2:10). Mary "rejoiced" (Luke 1:47). Elisabeth's kinfolks came to rejoice with her in the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:58). Simeon and Anna were almost beside themselves with joy when Jesus was presented at the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:25ff.). Matthew gets into the referencing here when he notes the Magi "rejoiced with exceeding great joy" when they saw the Star (Matthew 2:10)
A further look at the passion of Christ at the end of His life will add to this joyous triumph and for the ultimate reason for His coming. The Apostles and early Church will increase the volume of this great word increasing this eternal truth. Study the comments of Paul, which we don't have time to note, concerning the joy of suffering and knowing and completing the task of spreading the "Good News."
So what of the advent meaning of joy? It is more than Shepherds, Rome and Wise Men. It is, without sounding too profound, the coming of God into the world. It is His coming into history and in a form that we can grasp and understand that is so epic. Charles Wesley in one of his hymns simply says, "...he laid His glory by, He wrapped Him in our clay." This should be sufficient grounds for rejoicing that inspires our hearts and minds.
Apart from the message of Bethlehem, our Christmas festivities just barley touch the hem of His garment, as one writer has said "as a pressed flower" to the living one. As you cannot have light and warmth without the sun, so you cannot have meaningful joy unless your life is rooted in God- as the Father revealed it in Jesus. He is the LIFE!! This is the theology of the angelic declaration. The message is one of joy because it declares God's act. "God has visited and redeemed his people" (Luke 1:68).
In Luke's second treatise of Acts of the Apostles, he continues the story. Luke expands this message of "good tidings of great joy" would be carried from Jerusalem to "Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth" (Acts 1:8) Yes, my readers, "to all people." We can following the story as it is received by Jews, Scythians, Romans, Greeks, Ethiopians, Egyptians, barbarians, magistrates, centurions, soldiers, scholars, eunuchs, prisoners, freemen, women, children, slaves, fugitives, and the most honor and the depraved of every culture in time and space. The message of this and every Christmas is, "There is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:11) "Hallelujah! The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth."
IV. Nuggets of Nourishment: A Christmas Sermon Outline- "It was a Dark Day when the Son of God Came..."
Text: Luke 2:1-20
I. Introduction: Most of the people of the world that have heard the message, love the Christmas story. We in America and the West love to decorate our homes with pastoral scenes and mangers with happy shepherds looking over the baby Jesus with the smiling faces of Mary and Joseph. But as one thinks about this and compares it with the Biblical passages, one is struck with a very different atmosphere in the world at the time Jesus was born. Let us consider some reality!
It is in this climate that God decides it is time to send His son into the world and begins "in the fullness of time" to make a major announcement.
- Big government in Rome was assessing its taxes.
- Abortion was available at the time, while not easily obtainable for a poor couple, it could have been done to preserve the couple's integrity considering the surface circumstances.
- The crime rate was high from Roman sources of the period, and the prisons were full. These were violent days, and human flesh was cheap!!
- Tensions in the Middle East kept the whole world on edge.
- Religion had become formal and impersonal, worship had become mechanical and without purpose or meaning.
I. A Dark Time Requires a Bright Light- (Luke 2:1-8)
A. A Grand Mess! (Luke 2:1-7)
B. A Great Mistake? In the eyes of the world, the King was announced to the very lowest in their society of the first century. (Luke 2:8) In Matthew 2, the "highest" are introduced to the King a year or so later. "God's inclusion, obliterates man's exclusion."
II. A Dark Time Experiences the Brightest Light- (Luke 2:9-20)
A. God's Grand Message- (Luke 2:9-16)- His message is always needed!!
B. God's Grand Mission- (Luke 2:17-20) Beyond the norm.
Conclusion: Both the Wise Men and the Shepherds came and bowed down and worshiped Him at different times. I ask you today as I ask myself, are you as wise as the wise men or as humble as the shepherds to obey this great message? Christ has come to save the world. We must point to and encourage, in a dark hour of our lives, the greatest light to be shed and honored to our world. Beloved, "Let the Light Shine In..."
- Big government in Rome was assessing its taxes.
- Abortion was available at the time, while not easily obtainable for a poor couple, it could have been done to preserve the couple's integrity considering the surface circumstances.
- The crime rate was high from Roman sources of the period, and the prisons were full. These were violent days, and human flesh was cheap!!
- Tensions in the Middle East kept the whole world on edge.
- Religion had become formal and impersonal, worship had become mechanical and without purpose or meaning.
It is in this climate that God decides it is time to send His son into the world and begins "in the fullness of time" to make a major announcement.