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The Reprobate Mind

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“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Hebrews 9:27, KJV.

Absolute truth is under attack in Western culture. Truth has now become subjective, as the phrase “my truth” has entered the cultural vernacular. Also, there are many people who refuse to let the facts get in the way of their narrative or ideology. Our society has become so immorally accommodating, that many people, Christians included, are afraid to speak God’s truth for fear of offending someone. I believe the Bible is the Holy Word of God and what God declared still stands as absolute truth, the standard by which all morality must be judged.

However, we are all sinners and have fallen short of God’s standard of perfection (Romans 3:23). Yet, God in His mercy gives us all the opportunity to receive salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ, who redeemed us from our sins by dying for us. Yet, there are many who like Pharoah in the story of Exodus, will harden their hearts and refuse the Gospel, God’s free gift of salvation. When people reject the Gospel, there are certain phrases you will hear:

“God would never send anybody to hell.”

“I’m a good person; I’m not Hitler or anything.”

“Judge not lest you be judged.”

Well, first, God does not send anyone to hell, but our sins separate us from God. Rejection of the Gospel leads to eternal damnation. Secondly, comparing yourself to the worst person in history or even your next door neighbor does not make you any less of a sinner. Third, I’m not judging you, I’m telling you the truth in love. There are numerous other excuses people give for not following Christ, but time doesn’t permit me to get into them.

Is it possible for a person to become so hardened in their hearts, so entrenched in their sins,that God will reject them? The answer is yes. The theological term is reprobation.

Reprobation “is derived from the Latin reprobatus, past participle of the verb reprobare, “to reprove,” and refers to the fact that God has condemned the nonelect to eternal punishment for their sins.”1

To unpack that statement, reprobation is God’s rejection of those who refuse to hear or accept the Gospel. God will give people over to their sins and eternal punishment is the penalty for our sins. The concept of people being reprobates is found in both the Old and New Testaments.

We must understand that God is patient and wants all to come to Christ, but there will be those who reject God. In the Old Testament, God would send prophets to Israel and later Judah to repent of their sins, or judgment would be coming. The judgment often came in the form of an invading nation, a plague, a famine, or a drought. When Israel and Judah repented of their sins, God’s judgment was lifted.

Jeremiah pronounced God’s judgment on Judah:

“O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes: make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation: for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us. I have set thee for a tower and a fortress among my people, that thou mayest know and try their way. They are all grievous revolters, walking with slanders: they are brass and iron; they are all corrupters. The bellows are burned, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in vain: for the wicked are not plucked away. Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them.” (Jeremiah 6:26-30, KJV).

God is using a metal refining metaphor to describe Judah’s sin. When a metal such as gold or silver are refined, they are melted in a fire to remove the impurities in the metals. If the metal is not pure, it’s rejected and thrown back into the fire. The Hebrew word for reprobate is Ma’ac (Strong’s #3988), which means to reject, refuse, or despise. So, God is rejecting Judah because of their impurities (sin), which they refuse to remove from themselves. Even with the harshest of God’s punishments on Israel and Judah, God gave them time to repent of their sins. God is patient with us when He allows us to live to see a new day.

Characteristics of a Reprobate Mind

The New Testament, Paul’s Epistles in particular, discuss the issue and characteristics of a reprobate mind.

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy,murder, debate, deceit,malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud boasters, inventors of evil things,disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death,not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Romans 1:28-32, KJV).

Paul writes a similar list in 2 Timothy, verses 1-9. Scripture makes it clear that someone with a reprobate mind is not someone who commits one sin, one time, but someone who is living in open rebellion to God. These people may know the seriousness of what they’re doing and the consequences, but they still go ahead and do the wicked things they do. Once someone begins to indulge a reprobate mind, their conscience can become hardened toward God’s Holy Spirt (1 Timothy 4:2).

The Greek word for reprobate, Adokimos (Strong’s 3988), means not standing the test, rejected.

Reprobates and False Teachers

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus and the apostles dedicate a lot of teaching to warning believers about false teachers. 1 John 2 discusses false teachers within the church and Paul discussed false teachers among the Jews, who tried to place stumbling blocks along the path a Jews who came to Christ.

“Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him,being abominable, and disobedient, and unto everygoodwork reprobate.”(Titus 1:15-16, KJV).

We must examine ourselves

Once we are made aware of our sins, we have the choice to receive God’s mercy or reject His mercy. If we ask for God’s forgiveness and turn away from our sins, our consciences can be clear in Christ. However, if we make the choice to reject mercy, we will be out of fellowship with God, which could lead to rejection. We must make a concious effort to examine our spirits everyday. We must choose the right path and reject the wrong path, which leads only to destruction. We must do as Paul instructed the Church at Corinth:

“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates.” (2 Corinthians 13:5, KJV).

As we go forward in our walk with God, may we examine our thoughts and our ways, to make sure we are in proper standing with Christ. If we have veered off track, Christ can place back onto the path. You are not so far away that God cannot save you. While we have today, let us reach out for the free gift of grace. God bless.

1Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Ed. Edited by Walter A. Ewell. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 2001: 1012 “Reprobation.”

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The Missing NIV Verses-Mark

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This post is the second in a series comparing the King James Version (KJV) and the missing or altered verses in the New International Version (NIV). I will place the verses side-by-side and describe what has been left out and why it is so important.

Mark 6:11 (KJV) “11 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.

Mark 6:11 (NIV) “11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”

The context of Mark 6:11 details Jesus sending out His disciples to preach the Gospel. Jesus is warning His disciples that not everyone will receive or accept the message of Christ. Jesus is reminding the disciples that God’s judgment will fall on anyone who has rejected the Gospel. Jesus is using Sodom and Gomorrah to illustrate the severity of God’s judgment for those who reject Him. The only way we can escape God’s judgment is by placing our faith in Christ.

Mark 7:15-16 (KJV) “15 There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. 16 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.

Mark 7:15 (NIV) “15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”

Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, there are many words God and the inspired writers use to emphasize their points. In Mark 7:16, Jesus says “If any man have ears to hear; let him hear,” as a way to get the audience to focus in on His words. In context, Jesus is speaking against outward, religious shows of piety- dressing a certain way, eating or not eating specific foods, saying all of the right things, following rituals and not working on the inner person. We can do and say all of the right things on the outside, but it will never change us from within our spirits. If we focus inwardly- on our hearts, our thoughts, our behaviors, then we will make the necessary changes. Jesus doesn’t want rituals, He wants us to have a dynamic spiritual life.

Mark 9:43-46 (KJV) “43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 45 And if thy footoffend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched. 46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”

Verses 44 and 46 are quotations from Isaiah 66:24, which discusses the punishment of the wicked. The full quote in context is: “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die; neither shall their fire be quenched ;and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” (Isaiah 66:24, KJV).

Mark 9:43, 45 (NIV) “43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell,where the fire never goes out. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.”

Once again, the NIV is downplaying the reality and severity of hell and God’s judgment.

Mark 11:24-26 (KJV) “24 Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. 25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.”

Mark 11:24-25 (NIV) “24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believed that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Jesus in verse 26 of the King James text is describing the end consequence of unforgiveness- that God will not forgive our trespasses if we don’t forgive others. If we live our lives with continual hate and unforgiveness, our Christian walk, our prayer life, and our effectiveness for the kingdom will be hampered. The NIV explains that we need to forgive others, but by eliminating verse 26, the why, i.e. the end consequence is omitted, which could deeply affect someone’s relationship with God.

Mark 15:27-28 (KJV) “27 And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left. 28 And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.”

Mark 15:27 (NIV) “27 They crucified two rebels with him, one on his right and one on his left.”

Once again, the NIV text has eliminated a prophecy from Isaiah, this time it’s Isaiah 53:12: “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (KJV).

These Last Days present challenges for all believers and we must remain strong in our faith. We must stand for truth and be discerning for false teachings and doctrines which creep into our Bibles and pulpits. Please remain alert and vigilant. God bless.

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The Missing NIV Verses- Matthew

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Throughout my twenty-two years of being a Christian, I have read through numerous translations of the Bible. From the King James Version, the New King James Version, the New International Version, and most recently, the New American Standard Bible. I would often go through the different versions to get a better understanding of what God’s Word was saying. I have quoted from various Bible versions on this blog, as I believed that particular translation clarified my points.

As 2020 progressed, I felt a drawing to return to my more fundamentalist roots and the King James Version. I know that there are differences between Bible translations because different translators have used different manuscripts. I’ve done some minor research and learned that the NIV has omitted sixteen verses and made alterations to more verses. If one examines the NIV text, the missing verses are either presented with the verse number in a bracket or as a footnote. The reason for this, according to what I’ve read is based on the newly discovered manuscripts. The NIV was first introduced in 1973, with revisions in 1978, 1984, and 2011, while the King James Version has remained intact since 1611.

Some may claim that the omitted NIV verses do not affect any important biblical doctrines, but why delete these verses in the first place? For the sake of time and space, I will focus on the omitted and altered verses in The Gospel of Matthew, with other posts of other books to follow. I present this information with the context of the verse, a side by side comparison of the KJV and NIV, and make a notation as to what the NIV has omitted or altered.

Matthew 17:19-21 (The Disciples were unable to cast out a demon and came to Jesus).

KJV- 19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? 20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

NIV- 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked,”Why couldn’t we drive it out?”20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

The NIV omits Jesus’ mention of prayer and fasting, which are two crucial componets of the Christian life.

Matthew 18:11 (Jesus speaks of His mission).

KJV- 11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

The NIV omits this verse entirely, which deals with salvation.

Matthew 20:16 (Jesus concludes the Workers in the vineyard teaching).

KJV- 16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

NIV- 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

This is a partial omission, but it eliminates the Lord’s call for kingdom service.

Matthew 23:13-14 (Jesus is denouncing the Scribes and Pharisees).

KJV- 13 But woe unto you,scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. 14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows’houses, and for a pretense make long prayer; therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

NIV-13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, not will you let those enter who are trying to.”

The NIV omits Jesus’ warning of damnation and judgment if the scribes and Pharisees do not repent of their ways.

Prayer, fasting, salvation, service, and the danger of hypocrisy and falling into damnation are all crucial aspects of the Christian life and the Gospel of Christ himself. Christ came to save sinners, who will receive eternal punishment if they reject Christ. We are to pray and fast as we seek God’s direction for our lives. We are to serve God’s kingdom.

As you continue to read your Bible, I encourage you to study it in great detail, practice spiritual discernment, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you. May the Lord bless you and keep you.

Review- American Gospel: Christ Alone

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I was scrolling through the “Recently Added” section of Netflix when I came across the 2018 documentary American Gospel: Christ Alone. Directed and written by Brandon Kimber, American Gospel provides an in-depth look at the heretical teaching known as the Prosperity Gospel.

I have to say that Kimber’s research and passion for the project comes across in the documentary. The first thirty or so minutes of American Gospel relies on interviews with theologians, pastors, authors, apologists, and church historians to lay a firm foundation for the presentation of the true Gospel. The case presented is solid doctrine and a great reminder for all Christians to study the Word of God for themselves.

Once the foundation is set, American Gospel presents an examination the false doctrine of the prosperity message and its prominent teachers such as Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Todd White, Bill Johnson, and Joel Osteen to name a few. The documentary traces the roots of the prosperity message back to Kenneth Hagin, who in fact plagiarized from the works of E.W. Kenyon. As a lawyer would systematically breakdown an argument in court, strong biblical teaching and the experts refute the doctrine and merits of the prosperity message until it is revealed to be the heresy and deception that it is.

American Gospel is not simply an academic or theological debate, but also provides personal stories from people whose lives were affected negatively by the prosperity teachers. One of these people is Costi Hinn, the nephew of Benny Hinn who has renounced the false teachings and is now warning believers about the prosperity message. I related with the heartbreaking stories of the everyday people who fell in with this dangerous message. As a young believer, I lacked discernment and was part of a word-faith type of church for a number of years, which taught that God always heals, God wants to bless, and placed the onus on our works and not the finished work of Christ.

No matter if you are a new believer or one who has been in church for decades, I highly encourage you to watch American Gospel: Christ Alone. I rate it five stars out of five stars. The documentary is available on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

The Lawless Times

“Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.”

Matthew 24:12, NASB

It is so easy to turn a deaf ear and form a cynical heart towards community decay. Newscasts are filled with stories of people being shot, crime, rape, child abuse, political bickering, and an overall disregard for established law and order. If the incidents take place blocks or miles from our comfortable existence, we can become insulated and isolated in our thinking about our community’s pain.

Jesus in His Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25) discusses what the times will be like before His return- wars, natural disasters, persecution of believers, false prophets, and rebellion to name a few signs. (Jesus also speaks of these events  in Mark 13 and Luke 21).

God knows our limitations as people and He knows how overwhelming bad news and events can weigh on our minds. Just the major events in our own lives- the death of a loved one, addiction, divorce, job loss, and financial problems can trigger anxiety and depression, causing us misery upon misery.

As overwhelming these events seem in Matthew 24:12, that people’s love for each other and God will grow cold, Jesus us offers us hope.

“But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13, NASB).

Verse thirteen is not dealing with eternal salvation, it is dealing with a sense of protection or deliverance in the midst of suffering.

Now that we have a reason to hope, Jesus gives us an assignment.

“The gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then, the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14, NASB).

We live in lawless times, but there is a way not to become overwhelmed and unloving regarding people and their suffering. We must reconnect with the love of God by repentance, prayer, study, and being community with other believers. As we grow in our love for God, our love for people will be a natural offspring and a platform for sharing the gospel with them. God bless you.

Abiding in Christ

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I was reading 1 John recently when the word “abide” caught my attention. Abide is a word we don’t use much anymore. The word abide started me down a biblical concordance rabbit hole.

The Greek word for abide is Meno (Strong’s 3306), which means “to stay in a given place, state, relation, or expectancy.” Meno is also used for the word dwell. Upon further study, I came upon some interesting tidbits about the word abide:

Abide is used 31 times throughout The Gospel of John, 1 John, and 2 John and only 18 times throughout the rest of the New Testament.

The same word for dwell is used 11 times throughout John’s writings, but only once in the rest of the New Testament.

Bonus fact: For you King James readers, Meno is also translated as “continue” 5 times in John’s writings and 6 times in the New Testament.

Now that we have established the meaning and usage of the word abide, what is its context? John’s writings use abide to indicate a continuous relationship with Christ. Thus, we are staying in a given place with Christ, similar to staying in a marriage or friendship. For the believer and the non-believer alike, what does abiding in Christ entail? This is not a comprehensive list, but I would encourage you to study this on your own as well.

The Holy Spirit comes to abide in us when we receive Christ

“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever-the Spirit of truth…”                  (John 14:15-17a, NKJV).

*See also 1 John 2:27.

We will have joy and we will perfect our love for others

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you , that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:9-12, NKJV).

We will be fruitful in our walk with God

“Abide in Me,and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine,neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”(John 15:4-5, NKJV).

We will not live in spiritual darkness

“I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:46, NKJV).

“He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.”              (1 John 2:9-10, NKJV).

We will be able to separate truth from error

“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free…Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:31-32, 36, NKJV).

As with any relationship, whether it’s spiritual, romantic, or friendship, the more time you spent with someone, the better you get to know them. The more you get to know them, the more you will be able to separate the real person from an impostor. This same principle applies to our relationship with Christ. The more time we spent with Jesus, whether its through prayer, fasting, or personal study, the more we come to know the authentic Jesus. In this day and time, we need more discernment than ever. God bless.

Book Review-The Jefferson Bible

jefferson bibleWhile at my local library earlier this week, I came across a copy of The Jefferson Bible, or as Thomas Jefferson referred to it, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, which Jefferson created using Greek, Latin, and French manuscripts of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Going through The Jefferson Bible adds another layer of complexity to the character of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson is best known as the third President of the United States, author of the Declaration of Independence, and the founder of the University of Virginia. However, Jefferson, like all of us had his moral failures as he was a slave owner who fathered children with one of his slaves. Jefferson also struggled with depression and was nearly bankrupt when he died-due to his overspending.

Thomas Jefferson’s faith was controversial in his lifetime and today. However, Forrest Church, who writes the introduction to this particular edition states that Jefferson has been associated with being a Deist and a Unitarian. Jefferson’s intention was to get to the true words and teachings of Jesus, as he believed Jesus’ teachings had become corrupted over time.

In a letter to John Adams, dated October 13, 1813, Jefferson wrote, “We must reduce our volume to the simple evangelists, select, even from them, the very words only of Jesus. There will be remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.”

Jefferson began the process in earnest in 1804, but started and stopped along the way, finally completing  The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth in 1819. However, the book was not published until 1895, sixty-nine years after Jefferson’s death. What follows is a heavily redacted blend of the gospels. Perhaps more extraordinary than what Jefferson compiled was what he left out in his manuscript:

-No mention of the Virgin Birth.

-None of Jesus’ 37 recorded miracles are listed.

-No mention of His temptation versus Satan.

-Jesus makes no claims to His divinity.

-No references to fulfilled prophecy concerning Jesus.

-No triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

-No resurrection- Jesus is crucified, dies and is buried that is where Jefferson’s Bible ends.

-No mention of Jesus’ ascension into heaven.

What Jefferson included was also edited. Jesus’ baptism story is included, but there is no mention of God speaking His approval of Jesus nor any mention of the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus. Luke’s story of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the temple with the teachers ends with Mary expressing her worry, but Jesus does not reply about “Being about his Father’s business,” (Luke 2:49-50). Another prime example would be Matthew 24, such an important chapter for those who stress end times teachings, all verses concerning the last days and Jesus’ return are omitted.

In today’s world, it can be a daunting task finding the right Bible for you. Which translation? Do you want a study Bible, a prophecy, Bible, an apologetics Bible, or a Bible geared toward another topic? These Bibles say different things because of the manuscripts the translators use. We have disagreements among believers and churches concerning which translation to use and which parts of the Bible to emphasize. Add to this 2,000 years of Church teaching and multiple layers of interpretation, one can easily see why there is so much confusion concerning God’s word.

Back in my earlier, more fundamental Christian days, I would have found Jefferson’s Bible to be appalling, but I think Jefferson had the noble intention of trying to get at the truth for himself. However, as Christians, we take the Bible as an “all or nothing proposition.” We believe that either every word is true as it happened or the whole book is wrong. For Christianity as a whole, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important redemptive event in all of human history. If there is no resurrection, then what hope do we have? Conversely, if Jesus was simply a great teacher whom man turned into God, where are we placing our hope? I believe a faith worth having is a faith worth challenging.

I would recommend reading The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth with a Bible by your side for reference. I also recommend reading The Jefferson Bible for intellectual curiosity and to gain insight into the mind of one of history’s most celebrated and enigmatic people.

Source: Thomas Jefferson, The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. Introduction by Forrest Church. Afterword by Jaroslav Pelikan. Boston: Beacon Press, 1989.

When did the Magi visit Jesus?

In the United States, people who celebrate Christmas typically start decorating after Thanksgiving. These decorations include trees, strings of lights, and various other yard or home decorations, which may include a Nativity display.

If you have never seen a Nativity display, it typically consists of a barn-like setting, with a baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, a shepherd, the Magi, and some farm animals. Though these Nativity displays are a long-held tradition and a great reminder that “Jesus is the reason for the season,” the question is “are they biblically accurate?”Let us go back to the sources of these events, the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

“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.” (Matthew 2:1-2, NIV).

The Magi, traditionally called “the Three Wise Men,” possibly came from Persia or Babylon (modern day Iran and Iraq, respectively).

The idea of a king being born troubled King Herod, for he saw this newly born king as a threat to his power. Herod then asked his priests and scribes where would the Christ be born and they informed him Bethlehem. Herod sent the Magi to Bethlehem.

“After they [the Magi] had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” (Matthew 2:9-10, NIV).

From the text, there is an indication that time had elapsed between Jesus’ birth and the Magi’s visit to Herod, because it would take quite a bit of time to travel from Persia or Babylon to Israel. Herod, unbeknownst to the Magi, had murderous intentions, and asked when did they see this star? Thus, another indication time had passed. Matthew 2:16-18 describes Herod issuing an order to have all of the children in Bethlehem aged two and under to be killed, but Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fled into Egypt.

The Bible describes the Magi’s visit: “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. They opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream, not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” (Matthew 2:11-12, NIV, italics mine).

By the time the Magi came to pay their respects to Jesus, his family had settled into a home in Bethlehem, which would not put the Magi at the manger where Jesus was born. Luke’s Gospel makes no mention of the Magi, but does mention the angel appearing to the shepherds who were watching their flocks that night (Luke 2:8-20). According to Luke, the shepherds were the only people besides Mary and Joseph, present at the manager when Jesus was born. As to when all of this happened exactly, there is one historical fact: King Herod died in 4 BC. Given Herod’s order to kill all of the children two years old and under, could possibly place Jesus’ birth around 6 or 7 BC, which gives us a two to three year window for all of these events.

I write this not to step on anyone’s tradition or take away from anyone’s celebration, I just feel it is important for Christians to know what the Bible says about the events upon which our faith is based. Let us go back to the word ourselves and not succumb to artistic license or the traditions of man. God bless you all.

Pontius Pilate’s Question

After he claimed to be God, Jesus was taken from the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council unto Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Judea. According to Jewish law, Jesus’ crime of blasphemy was punishable by death. However, under Roman law, only the Romans could carry out capital punishment. Thus, Jesus had to face a second trial by Rome.

At this time in history, Jerusalem and all of Judea were political powder kegs, which could explode at any time. There were groups such as the Zealots, who led insurrections against Rome and there were others who expected the Messiah to be a military/political figure, who was going to overthrow Rome and re-establish the Kingdom of Israel. Though in John’s gospel, Pilate perceives the issue between Jesus and the Sanhedrin to be nothing more than a religious dispute, he still had to tread lightly. Pilate’s main concern was whether or not Jesus and his followers were going to rebel against the Roman occupation.

Pilate asked Jesus if He as king of the Jews (John 18:33), to which Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” (John 18:36, KJV).

Pilate asked Jesus again, “Art thou a king then?”(John 18:37), to  which Jesus replied, “Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice.” (John 18:37, KJV, emphasis mine).

Before the story transitions to Jesus and Barabbas and Jesus’ ultimate crucifixion, Pilate asked Jesus a thought provoking question, for which unfortunately, John doesn’t record a response.

“Pilate saith unto him, ‘What is truth?‘” (John 18:38a, KJV, emphasis mine).

What is truth? Isn’t that the seemingly the most unanswerable question in the history of humanity? The search for truth is a riddle wrapped inside of a mystery, which is wrapped inside of an enigma. All of us, no matter who we are, our background, our nation of birth, gender, religion, and so forth, spend our lives searching for truth and meaning. Who am I? Why am I here? Does God exists? Is there life after death? Have I done enough good deeds? Have I wasted my life on the wrong pursuits? Questions like these can induce crises on many levels and can keep us up late at night.

What did Pilate mean by truth? The Greek word used throughout the New Testament and this passage is the word Aletheia (Strong’s #225), which when used objectively as a noun means “signifying the reality lying at the basis of an appearance; the manifested, veritable essence of a matter.” Thus, objective truth is something that can be verified. For example, we know our universe rotates around the sun. We know gravity is the invisible force holding our feet on the ground. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

There is also a subjective nature to truth, which according to Strong’s, “not merely verbal, but sincerity and integrity of character.” So, how sincere are we in our beliefs? Do we embody the character and essence of what we believe? When we view truth in a subjective manner, that is where the disagreements and trouble starts. History attests to all of the atrocities committed by groups of people upon others simply because they believed in a different God, political philosophy, or someone simply wanted their land, the list of reasons goes on and on.

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” The irony of the story of Jesus, the Sanhedrin, and Pilate is that Jesus was the Messiah these Jewish leaders and others were praying for for decades, if not centuries, however, because they had a different vision of the Messiah, they rejected Jesus. For those in leadership, Jesus represented a shakeup and perceived threat to the established order. The people were following after this carpenter from Nazareth, who taught people to love their enemies, pray for your opposition, turn the other cheek if they struck you, and pay your taxes to Rome, etc. Jesus also did this without the help of the religious elite, for his disciples were fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, and other everyday people, which certainly upset the establishment.

If you are reading this, you may be Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Agnostic, Atheist, or you are looking for something to believe. I believe that we should openly examine our beliefs and discover what is truth. No matter what you believe, are there fearful questions in the back of your mind? What if I’m wrong? How can I be sure? One thing I have learned recently is don’t fear the opposition. There is a world of information out there, seek it out. Examine what you believe and why you believe it. Read books and articles that run contrary to your beliefs, so you can be informed. Search your heart, search your soul, use logic and reason along with your faith. God bless you all.

 

What Seek Ye?

John the Baptist was speaking with two of his disciples when he saw Jesus.

“And looking upon Jesus as He walked, he [John the Baptist] saith, ‘Behold the Lamb of God!'” (John 1:36, KJV).

At this point in time, John the Baptist had developed quite a following, as he had disciples, people coming to be baptized in the Jordan River, and he had to  answer questions from the religious leaders as to whether or not he was the Messiah. John the Baptist made it very clear that he was not the Messiah, but the one who would proceed the Messiah (John 1:23; Matthew 3:3).

The two disciples (Andrew and presumably John, the writer of the gospel) left John the Baptist and followed after Jesus.

“Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, ‘What seek ye?’ They said unto Him, ‘Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?” (John 1:38, KJV, emphasis mine).

Contrast Jesus’ministry at this point with John the Baptist’s: Jesus had no disciples nor had He performed any miracles, yet, Andrew and John were seeking Him to learn more about Him. Jesus invited the disciples back to His place and they spent the day together.

Although we as finite and fallible humans can misinterpret someone’s true motives, Jesus, being God in the flesh, could quickly see a person’s true motivations. Another way Jesus could have asked the question “What seek ye?” could be “What do you want from me?” Jesus did not rebuke John and Andrew, thus their motives were true.

John and Andrew sought to be taught by Jesus and they wanted to see how and where He lived. In essence, John and Andrew wanted to see if Jesus’ lifestyle lined up with His words. If John and Andrew were going to leave the familiar teaching of John the Baptist for Jesus, they wanted to make sure Jesus “practiced what He preached.”

The question, “What seek ye?” should give us pause and allow ourselves to do some deep soul searching. I believe it is vital for our spiritual, mental, and physical health to check ourselves and ask, “Why am I doing this?” “Is this what I really want?” “Why did I make this choice at the exclusion of other options?” “Is this worth the price I am paying in time and energy?”

One of the Greek words for seek is Zeteo (Strong’s #2212), can be used to indicate searching for knowledge or meaning, or plotting against someone. However, Zeteo can indicate an ideal for which we “seek or strive after, endeavor, to desire.” I believe that John and Andrew were seeking after that endeavor greater than themselves. It is an inherit human need to be part of something greater than ourselves, and Jesus offers us the greatest endeavor: to strive to be more like Him and to live each day for Him.

“Therefore take no thought, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33-34, KJV).

“Ask, and it shall be given you; see, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matthew 7:7, KJV).

“But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24, KJV).

God bless you all.