Monday, April 29, 2013

Advice On Marriage From A 100 Year Old Woman - My Mom!

This past March, 2013, we celebrated my Mom's 100th birthday! She lives in the southern tier of New York State. She's quite amazing - her mind is as sharp as ever, and she has a lot of energy still. She's always trying to cook us dinner and do the dishes for us. She lives with her younger sister, who is a mere 98 years old. They are quite a pair, living fairly independently still, with the help of relatives. 

As a matter of fact, they exhibit a great example of true brotherly, or should I say, sisterly love. If you visited them, it would become obvious right away, how much they care for and love each other. My aunt's a widow also, and my Mom and her have lived together for about 27 years now. Many times their visitors are trying to find out what they are eating or drinking, or what type of vitamins they take. My Mom's answer to longevity...."it's all in the genes." 

She eats bacon and sausage and eggs and butter and beef and pork and cheese and coffee and sugar and chocolate and ice cream, and is on no special diet, except to try to reduce her salt intake. She said she got her quota of salt when she worked as a young girl in a salt mining and packaging plant in Watkins Glen, N.Y. "I loved the iodine in the salt, and I used to lick salt all the time."

She has an incredible sense of humor. She said when she was much younger, on her 80th birthday, someone asked her, "As you look back on 80 years of life, which period in your life was the most difficult?" She responded, "The first 80 years." Another time she was asked, "What is the earliest thing you can remember?" She jokingly said, "When they dug out Seneca Lake." (Seneca Lake is the longest and deepest of the Finger Lakes of central New York State.)

When we were visiting my Mom for her birthday celebration, I got several chances to capture on video many conversations that we had. She talked about memories of childhood and of her teenage years, about her philosophies on today's world, about her view on faith and prayer, and we talked about many other topics as well.

In one of the videos, I asked her, "What is your advice on marriage?" Now, I've heard many pieces of advice on marriage over the years. Some serious and some humorous. Even just this morning, sitting in my office (the local Paneras), after doing a Bible study with a couple of friends, I asked one of them, a 78 year old man, his advice on marriage. He responded, "Well, I have two pieces of advice for men.....number one: 'Do what you're told', and number two: 'Shut up!!'" Needless to say, we had a good laugh.

Seriously though, when I asked for my Mom's advice on marriage, I was really interested in what she had to say. And I thought that her answer would be a good one to hear since she was such a devoted wife to my Dad for about 40 years. After he died, she would never entertain even just the thought of being with another husband. She was definitely a one-man woman, and that was final. 

When I asked for her advice on marriage, I didn't give her any advance warning, or any time to prepare. Perhaps that was a bit unfair, not giving her a chance to get her thoughts together, but it was interesting to hear her candid, off-the-cuff response. She talked slowly, like she was carefully trying to craft the words to use in her answer. 

So here is her advice on marriage, word for word, taken directly from the video.....

She said, "Let me think...that's a hard one! First, to be true to each other...not to keep secrets or things from each other. Communication is very important. And to pull for one another, and think about the other more than yourself. If you think about the other more than yourself, you'll be happy, because that way, the other partner, in turn, will do it for you. He will return that love, faithfulness and sharing. And most of all, if you have God in your life - if you live without some sort of religion in your life, it's hard to make it. You've got to have God! If you turn God away, you don't find peace. If you see a lot of divorced people, or unhappy people, quarreling, you'll notice....they've shut God out of their life. They don't go to church. They don't have anything to keep them together."

I really liked her advice - how not to keep secrets from each other, and the fact that communication is so important. That's so true! And how about the Biblical principal she used....to put the other first. It reminds me of Philippians 2:3-4, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."

I liked her statement that we should "pull for one another". In other words, we are never to criticize or put down the other person, either to their face or behind their back. Instead, we need to be our spouse's greatest encourager. That, in itself, is priceless advice when you really think about it!  

"...encourage one another and build each other up..." (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

She used a three word phrase that really describes a good marriage, "love, faithfulness, and sharing". Well said, Mom! When you see a marriage with those three attributes, you can be sure it's a healthy marriage. When love, faithfulness, and sharing are consistently happening on both sides, the relationship is strong. 

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails..." 
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Finally, she states her most important foundational principle that has guided her whole life.....that God is foremost. She sees this as the key in holding marriages together - that both spouses must have a faithful, trusting relationship with God. She is a devoted, faithful, life-long Christian herself - a believer in Jesus - a Christ follower. When she said, "You've got to have God!", she said it ever so emphatically, with a very concerned look on her face, like she was questioning how it would even be possible not to have the Lord in your life and still have a marriage filled with joy and peace. 

I, myself, have found it true, not only in my marriage of almost 40 years, but in so many people's lives around me - that without the Lord in your life, everything will tend to fall apart. As the scripture says, "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:17) 

I'm so proud of my Mom. I respect everything she says, all of her wisdom, as well as her ongoing example to all of us. Sometimes my Mom will say, "I don't know why the Lord let's me live so long."  I know the answer!.....It's because she still continues to be a blessing to so many people. Especially to me.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Jesus, the Bible, and Basketball

The NBA playoffs began this weekend. The top professional basketball teams start to compete for the ultimate crown - the championship. We watch a lot of basketball. The sport is intertwined in our family. My son-in-law is currently the woman's basketball coach at a Christian college in Missouri, and he was an accomplished player himself in college. One of my daughters also played college basketball.

I was thinking........just for fun, can basketball be related to Jesus, or at least the Bible? I know what you're thinking....NO!  But as I'm sitting in my office (the local Panera's), I'm wondering....could there be some parallels there? And my first conclusion....NO!  I mean, I can't visualize Jesus and the disciples playing basketball. Although I guess there's no reason why they couldn't have some occasional fun together - after all they did go fishing together.

After a couple of coffees, and pondering on such a ridiculous scheme, yes, I concluded that there actually could be some similarities (with a little stretching). After all, in basketball, there are players, there are spectators, there are coaches, there are referees, and there's the rulebook. Ahhh...now your getting the picture.

So where does Jesus come in? Here's where....every NBA team has a head coach. He is the overseer, the chief shepherd of the team. He has authority over the team and has the final say. In this parallel of Jesus, the Bible, and Basketball.....Jesus is the Head Coach. He is our "Righteous Judge" (2 Timothy 4:8), our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14), and our Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). He has all authority (Matthew 28:28), holds the highest place (Philippians 2:9), and in Him, all things hold together (Ephesians 4:16).

A really good NBA coach not only makes good decisions for the team, but loves the game, and loves his players. Jesus loves His church and those that are His. In the same way that any good coach would want to relate to his players, Jesus desires to have a great personal relationship with us.

OK, so everything falls under Jesus. Now what about the Bible? That's easy....the rulebook! In the NBA, there are very specific rules, and they are laid out in great detail, in writing. Without the rulebook, how would the players play? How would the referees officiate? There would be chaos. The NBA rules must be obeyed by the players or there will be turnovers, personal fouls, and even possible ejection from the game. Without the Bible, we would have no guidelines for living, no understanding of how to live the right way, and no way of knowing how to please God and Jesus. (By the way, God the Father is sort of the NBA Commissioner)

We, as Christians, are the players. We need to not only please the coach (Jesus), and be obedient to Him, we need to play this game of life to the best of our ability. We may mess up, even have some personal fouls along the way, but let's keep trying to improve by practicing, by better understanding the rule book, and by listening to the coach. We need to work on our offense (evangelism) and our defense (resisting the opposition).

The NBA referees keep the players in check. When a player does something wrong, the ref points it out. In a similar way, the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. When we mess up and sin as a Christian, we know it. And as the refs guide the players and are active and present on the court, the Holy Spirit is present and dwells in us, and convicts us.

There are a lot of great plays in basketball. There is the assist, where a player sets up another player to score. Likewise, let's be an encourager to our Christian brothers and sisters, and be a fellow servant. Another play is the pick and roll, where two players work together blocking and passing, just as we should work together in the Kingdom with the common goal of spreading the Good News and ministering to others. And let's not forget the most dramatic and powerful play in basketball, the slam dunk. (Our baptism).

I can't help but think of the crowd - those cheering for their team. A serious fan of a particular team will wear the team's colors, or the team's name on their clothes. They love their team, they root for their team, they cheer for their team, and they support their team. Likewise with Jesus and His Church, we should be worshipers, and we should boast about our team and our coach. We should be enthusiastic. We should cheer for our team. We should support our team, the local church. We should love our team and try to persuade others to do the same. We should become ambassadors for our team (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Wow - I guess there actually are a lot of parallels after all! And I'm sure you can come up with even more on your own. Yes, Jesus, the Bible, and Basketball - they really do have a lot in common!

One more thought. As you play on the team, try to play as hard as you can, and work on developing your skill to the best of your ability. Study the rulebook. Play your heart out for the team and for the coach, and remember that your main goal is to win the game, and not play for your own glory. During the game, you may stumble and foul (sin). But when you do, get up, try not to repeat your mistakes (repent), and go for the win (Heaven). But by all means, be on guard, and make sure you never, ever, get ejected from the game!!!!


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

One Christian's Reaction To The Boston Bombing

I was watching the Fox News Channel just as it was interrupted for a special bulletin. Live reports were just coming in describing two bombs that went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Just then a live, unedited camera feed came on the screen. People were running, screaming, bleeding. Many were on the ground, injured, maybe dead. It was chaos. 

My first reaction was horror and disbelief. As the scene unfolded, it was obvious that the explosions weren't from an accident, like a gas explosion, but these blasts were caused by purposely-set bombs! That was even more shocking. Like everyone else, nine eleven came to mind, along with all the other terrorist attacks. How could someone do this? Why would someone do this?

Seeing innocent people hurt and even killed for no reason, tears at your heart. The only good thing about those scenes on TV were the videos of people who were helping others. Some bystanders were taking off their jackets and shirts to give to the injured, some jumping in to pull debris away, and some running to call for help, not to mention the professional first-responders. It makes you appreciate the good in people in the midst of such tragedy. 

Being hundreds of miles away doesn't lessen the feel of compassion for those who are hurt, and who especially have lost loved ones in this bombing. As Christians, we should always have a compassionate heart. After all, Jesus demonstrated compassion often, and we should imitate that quality. When someone is mourning, we should mourn with them.

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." (Romans 12:15)

Our compassion should motivate us to minister to others in such situations. By minister, I mean serve, give, help. We may not be able to minister to those in Boston, but rest assured, there will be situations and opportunities to help others - just be poised to do so. 

There is one thing you can do to help those in Boston no matter how far away you are......pray. Pray for comfort for those who are mourning. Pray for healing for those who are injured. Pray for wisdom for doctors and nurses. Pray for law enforcement, that they find the person or persons responsible.

I don't see evil ever leaving this earth until the Lord comes back. After all, even Jesus experienced evil. He was falsely accused, scorned, and mocked. Jesus experienced mourning. He cried when Lazarus died. Jesus experienced violence. He was Himself beaten and crucified!

It's comforting to know that we have a Savior who knows our feelings, our emotions, our pains, and our sorrows. But He has overcome them. He has been raised from the dead and is alive! And because of that fact, He is at our side through all our trials. He will never leave us or forsake us.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)


Monday, April 15, 2013

How God Made Everything Out Of Nothing.

One of the age old questions is this: "How did the universe begin?" It's another one of those mind-boggling topics. When man tries to explain how the universe began in a way that leaves out God, it's laughable. One such man-made God-less explanation is the Big Bang theory, which, if you ask me, is utterly stupid, unless God is in the picture.

So if God created the universe, a better question is this: "How did God create all things out of nothing?" I mean if nothing existed except the spiritual realm, how could a physical realm be created?

Consider this incredible verse that deals with creation: “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:3). Wow! What a verse! There's the answer to how the universe began.   It was formed by God's command, and it was formed out of nothing! Take it or leave it. As the verse above says, it takes faith that the universe was formed “at God’s command”. Faith is believing without even seeing, and without totally understanding, but simply trusting.

“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:3).

The phrase in the above verse, “at God’s command”, implies that God has such creative force that all he had to do was speak the words, and the entire universe and everything in it was formed. If you look at all the creation verses in Genesis chapter one, they are commands. For example, God said, “Let there be light, and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). Now that is power! Do we need to figure out how God did it? No. The above scripture states that “by faith we understand it”. Settled. We just need to believe it. If the Bible says so, then it's truth.

Think about the last part of the above verse for a moment......"what is seen was not made out of what was visible."  That is an incredibly powerful statement. What it says is that everything in our physical existence was made out of nothing. And before the physical realm, only the invisible or spiritual realm existed. In other words, matter was not re-formed out of some previous existing materials but new matter was created, in a sense, out of thin air! “What is seen was not made out of what was visible.”  Settled. Either take that verse, the Bible for that matter, and believe it, or throw it out the window and go with the Big Bang theory. Your choice (you know where I stand).

And I know, we could, and maybe should (ha) stop here, but just for fun.....let's keep going. Because of the curiosity of our human minds which God gave us, we always try to comprehend these Bible truths. I’m no different. I just wonder – can the concept of God making something out of nothing be explained? How could this be done? It may be a crazy idea, and I may be wrong, but I've got a theory. (O boy here we go)

Here's my theory (from a non-scientist)........ If we break down everything that exists into its smallest components, there is a common building block. Whether we look at a piece of steel, a plant, an animal, a brick, a coffee mug, air or water – they all are made up of a combination of the same very basic elements. That, in itself, is incredible.

There are just over one hundred different elements that combine in various arrangements to make up everything in the physical dimension we exist in. For example, water is made up of 2 of the elements that are bonded together in a special combination: two Hydrogen atoms and one Oxygen atom, H2O, form a water molecule.

Scientists have discovered that all atoms have the same three particles: electrons, protons and neutrons. The determining factor in identifying a specific element is the number of protons within the nucleus of an atom. These tiny particles (electrons, protons, and neutrons) are the foundation of all matter, and guess what? The electrons and protons are charged! In other words, they are energized! Each atom is like a miniature solar system held together by opposing electrical energy charges, with electrons orbiting the atom. Everything we see then, material or living, has as its fundamental building block - Energy!

One way to look at it is that energy is light, or light is energy. And in a sense, God is light, or at least created light. Could it be that everything that is in our physical realm is really some form of God-given invisible energy force, formatted and organized in such an orderly way as to create physical matter? God surely has the resources and ability to have done such a thing. God could have created matter out of thin air by arranging invisible energy in such a manner as to form everything from the smallest cell to the farthest star we can see in the universe! Awesome!

Nobel Prize winner Max Planck is quoted as saying this about the structure of matter – “As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear-headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as the result of my research about the atoms this much: There is no matter as such! All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter. "

Regardless of how God created everything, one thing is for sure – “the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible”.

OK, so maybe it’s better not to try to figure things out like I have tried to do, and you can disregard my theory, that's fine. But don't disregard Hebrews 11:3.

“By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:3).

And perhaps the best thing to do is to simply take His word by faith, and praise Him with an attitude of wonder and amazement. Yes....that's a better way! As King Solomon once said, “Much dreaming and many words are meaningless.Therefore, stand in awe of God” (Eccl 5:7).

When thinking of such things as creation, that's what we all should ultimately do..............

Stand in awe of God!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Will A Doomsday Meteor Trigger The End Of The World?

Recently in the news, a meteor was observed streaking across the sky in several states on the east coast, including where I live in Delaware. I was so disappointed that I missed seeing it :/   A friend of mine sent me a text after witnessing it.  He knew I loved that sort of stuff, and wondered if I had seen it too. He said it was amazing.

I saw a huge meteor fall only twice in my life. Once, years ago, around sunset, a huge fireball appeared to fall vertically, straight down to the horizon. Another time when I was on my deck, in broad daylight, I saw something bright, trailing straight across the sky. It looked like a jet at first, but as it got closer, I could clearly see it was a ball of flame with a smokey tail. I could even hear it! A loud swishing, burning sound clearly could be heard as it moved by. It never appeared to fall, but continued horizontally until it went out of sight, from one end of the sky to the other. I had never seen anything like it before or since.

I've heard that a lot of these burning objects may be space debris or small meteors that burn up. And occasionally on the news, there are reports of meteors actually hitting the ground, like the recent large one in Russia that struck the ground earlier this year. It sent a shock wave that broke hundreds of windows nearby! Fortunately, no one was killed.

If you search the internet, you'll find several claims of people recovering a small meteorite, or even some who claim to be hit by one. Who knows how many of these stories are true. I know one thing, if you are ever hit and killed by a meteor, your appointed time on this earth is definitely up! I mean, what are the odds of that!

So, the question is, will a huge doomsday meteor someday cause the total destruction of the world? There are books about it. There are movies about it. There are TV shows about it. Scientists are scheming how to destroy such an object, or knock it off course, with lasers or rockets or weapons of some sort.

When you think about it, a meteor would have to be enormous to actually break up the earth and destroy it. Actually, a meteor is relatively small, where an asteroid is a much larger object. Could an asteroid demolish the earth? Probably not. It would take something like the size of another planet to do it. But there isn't anything that big randomly hurling through space. (I think)

Even if the earth itself isn't destroyed in some huge collision, could a large meteor, or an asteroid, at least wipe out all life on earth? Maybe so (as I look over my shoulder). Seriously though, it's amazing to think how God, in His magnificent design of the universe, has created such a life-sustaining planet as earth. 

Just the idea that we live on a sphere is amazing. How can we walk upright, on top of the globe as well as on the bottom? Yes I know, gravity. But gravity is still to this day unexplainable! Even Einstein couldn't completely figure it out. And scientists of today still cannot fully explain what causes gravity. We know what it is and what it does, but the question remains....what causes gravity to work? What is its source? No one can completely explain it. That's why I believe gravity is a God thing.

Gravity is one of those mysterious areas that we'll never have an answer for. It's like trying to figure out where the universe ends, and if there is an end to the universe, what's on the other side? All these mysteries just point to a Creator God.

One reason why a killer meteor or asteroid has not yet wiped out life is because God has designed protective measures and put them in place. One such example is the earth's atmosphere. It burns up meteors before they hit the ground (usually, hmmm).

Some scientists claim that Jupiter is a protective planet, and that its huge size and gravitational force is able to draw meteors away from the earth. If you believe in a Creator God, this is just another demonstration of His amazing foresight in protecting our planet.

But if God created the earth, and has protected it, He could surely wipe out life if He desired to do so. He almost did it once - by the great flood. Because of man's unrighteousness, He had enough of man's sin and rebellion, and destroyed almost everybody with a flood. Only Noah and his family, eight in all, were found to be righteous, and survived. At least we know that God won't use a flood again to wipe us all out. He promised that.  "I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” (Genesis 9:11)

So, what does the Bible say about the end times then? How does the Bible say the world will end? Well, it looks like a fiery ending! (Yikes!). Listen to 2 Peter 3:10-12, "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat."

If God is in control and is planning a Final Day, a Judgment Day, then obviously the earth, or at least all life on earth, will someday be obliterated, but only when God decides the timing is right. In other words, if God wanted to (maybe when He's had enough of sinful man), He could hurl a flaming giant asteroid, or something like it, right at us! If so, there's nothing we can do to stop it. After all, He's used fire before - on the sin-ridden cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

"Then the Lord rained down fire and burning sulfur from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah. He utterly destroyed them, along with the other cities and villages of the plain, wiping out all the people and every bit of vegetation." (Genesis 19:24-25)

So.....will a doomsday meteor trigger the end of the world? Maybe!! And if so, what shall we do to prepare ourselves for a doomsday meteor, asteroid, or whatever else might wipe us out? Simple....the best way you can prepare for the end of the world is to make sure you are right with God! Then you can stop worrying about it.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

3 Ways Jesus Could Have Avoided The Cross!

If you wanted to torture someone to death in the cruelest, most horrifying way - in a way that would not only be a long, drawn out, painful death, but also a completely humiliating one - it would be by crucifixion - no one survives it. It’s a death penalty.

Yes, Jesus was tortured to death. But here is what’s of utmost importance....Jesus could have escaped the cross if He wanted to! One of the fundamental truths of Christianity is this: Jesus was crucified only because He allowed it to happen!  

Although Jesus died on the cross, taking on the role of a sinner, He was totally innocent. He never sinned. He never broke the laws. He never deserved to be put to death. The truth is, His death on the cross was His intention! It was His mission, and nothing was going to stop Him. He went to the cross willingly.

"The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18)

What He was saying is that no one is capable of taking His life by force. There is no power, no authority, no force that is strong enough. Instead, Jesus as the Lamb of God, gave His life - offered His life as the sacrifice for our sins. He is the only sacrificial offering that satisfies the wrath of God for our sins. Jesus made clear His ultimate intention when He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)

Jesus could have escaped the cross if He had wanted to, at any time, at any place. But let's just look at His arrest scene alone. There we find no less than three chances where Jesus could have avoided being captured, but He chose not to.

Avoiding Arrest - Option #1 (Fight): The first instance involves Peter. If you remember, Judas had arranged to turn Jesus in for thirty pieces of silver. Judas came to the garden where Jesus had been praying, guiding a detachment of soldiers. When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” They were armed, ready to fight and defend Jesus. At that moment, Peter drew his sword and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear.

However, Jesus said, “No more of this!”  Jesus even reacted to Peter’s attack by touching the man’s ear and healing him, perfectly restoring the man’s ear. Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11)

Later on, Jesus explains to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36) So you see, Jesus could have had His disciples fight to defend Him from arrest, but He chose not to. Instead of escaping arrest, He avoided confrontation, having His followers put their swords away.

Avoiding Arrest - Option #2 (Supernatural Power): The second instance where Jesus could have easily avoided being captured and arrested occurred right after He identified Himself to the mob. This time, in my view, it involved a miracle - an amazing demonstration of supernatural power. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to Him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am He,” Jesus said. When Jesus said, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground!" (John 18:4-6)  It seems that when Jesus identified Himself using the Holy Name of God, “I Am”,  there was power in those words.

Some people say that the soldiers were simply startled and stumbled backward. On the other hand, I visualize what happened as some sort of invisible, supernatural shock wave. When He says, ‘I Am He’, not only revealing Himself as the one they are looking for but as God in the flesh, they are knocked down. He could have not just knocked them down, but wiped them out!

I’m reminded of the verse that says, "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:10-11).

Avoiding Arrest- Option #3 (Angels): There's a third way Jesus could have easily avoided being captured and arrested. In the midst of the arrest scene, right after Peter cuts off the servant’s ear, Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Then Jesus made an amazing statement - a revealing statement. He said, “Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly?” (Matthew 26:53 NLT)

At any instant, at any time, Jesus could have invoked the powers of Heaven to intervene for Him, immediately - on the spot! Instead, He doesn’t call on those resources which are right at His fingertips, but allows the arrest to happen.

So, just in the context of the arrest scene alone, we find no less than three instances where Jesus could have easily resisted arrest. First, He could have ordered His followers to draw their weapons and fight off the mob. Second, He could have used supernatural power to wipe out the mob. Third, He could have called thousands of angels to rescue Him and His followers from the mob.

Instead, He chooses not to interfere, or have his followers interfere, with the arrest. That’s because He knows the timing is right and His arrest will surely lead to the unfolding of the plan of the cross - the unfolding of the plan that was conceived before the creation of the world. He knows the time is at hand for this to happen - the arrest which will lead to His crucifixion, and ultimately, to Him offering Himself as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Why?

So, the question is why? If Jesus could be crucified only if He allowed it to happen, why was He so compelled to carry it out? Why would Jesus willfully die on the cross for our sins? You see, because of our sins, each one of us is given a death penalty. “The wages of sin is death...” (Romans 6:23) If our sin earns us the death penalty, why would Jesus pay the penalty of death for us? What is the motivation? The answer?.... Love!

Jesus understood this when He said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) God Himself was motivated by love: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

You see, “...because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

Yes, Jesus was tortured to death on a cross. But only because He allowed it to happen!  And all because He loves you, and wants you to become one of His. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) 

Monday, April 1, 2013

What's Wrong With The History Channel's "The Bible" Series Part 5

I'm so glad this TV series is over! I'm tired of watching it, and writing about it - I've got more important things to write about. Everybody's been asking me, "Are you ready for the last episode?" In more ways than one - yes! So here I am, late Sunday night, writing a review on the last episode. Another fine mess I've got myself into - ha!

Well, if you've read my previous posts on each of the first four episodes of "The Bible" on the History Channel, you've got the gist of where I'm coming from. So far this series has been full of misconceptions, out of context quotes, and over dramatized scenes, and worst of all, inaccuracies. I don't know about you, but I believe knowing and declaring the truth of scripture is important.

Yes, I know, a show about the Bible is good in a sense that everyone is talking about it. But I wonder how much of the talk is "Wait a minute, that's not how it is in the Bible!" One of the producers was interviewed recently, boasting that Twitter was lit up over the show. What he didn't say was how much of it was lit up, talking about all the  things that were wrong with the show.

The key to understanding what this series is about can be easily overlooked. It comes at the very beginning when a text comes on the screen that says, "This program is an adaptation of Bible stories. It endeavors to stay true to the spirit of the book." Therein lies the problem.......it's an "adaptation". An adaptation by definition is "a composition rewritten into a new form." And that statement has been true to form in each episode. But why rewrite the Bible? Like I said in my last post, this series is like a movie that is "based on a true story" but is not the true story.

I was really hoping that this last episode got it right. It actually started out fairly well! Either that, or I've been desensitized watching the five episodes. I tried to overlook many details that were questionable, and have even left many out of this post. But there are some very important things I wish they hadn't left out, and some things that were added unnecessarily. 

In this final episode, the portrayal of the chief priests was done well. The flogging and crucifixion of Jesus was powerful, maybe a little too much emphasis on close up, dramatic blood scenes for a TV show. A lot of it reminded me of the movie "The Passion of Christ", which is so much better than this show. 

Not emphasized correctly:
1. The show didn't portray Pilate very well as one who really wanted Jesus released. In the Bible, Pilate even says,"I'm innocent of this man's blood." He doesn't say that in the show, even though he washes his hands. OK, I could let that slide I guess.

2. In the show, when Jesus dies, the curtain in the Temple just falls. In the Bible, it's torn in two, which is very significant.

3. In the show, only Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb to find Jesus gone, not the 3 women that the Bible talks about. This whole scene is botched. The show leaves out the angel at the tomb, and while Mary is inside, Jesus shows up! This is another one of the typical hodge podge scenes. I feel like the editors cut out all the important scenes for sake of time.

4. When Jesus is saying His last words to the disciples before ascending into heaven, in the TV show, He leaves out most of the important words of the 'great commission', and He doesn't say one of the most incredible statement's in the Bible, "I'll be with you always, even to the end of the age." Then, instead of ascending into the clouds, He just disappears. The ascension is one of the foundational truths of scripture. Again, it's like the producers are saying, "Let's cut this part out, we don't have time for it, it's not really that important, and no one will know the difference anyway."

5. The TV show pretty much does a massacre of Acts chapter 2. It leaves, perhaps in the cutting room floor, one of the most significant events, the Holy Spirit ascending on the disciples like tongues of fire. Then leaves out Peter's sermon that's the big part of Acts 2. And leaves out how 3000 were baptized as the church begins.

6. Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus is misrepresented. In the show, Paul is portrayed to be belligerent and resistant when He encounters Jesus. In the Bible, he is opposite - submissive and humbled.

My conclusion about this TV series is this....Bible believers long to see the Bible promoted, and would love to see the Bible ACCURATELY represented in film. I believe a large portion of the millions of viewers for this series are such people. Unfortunately, as in the case of this series, it usually doesn't happen. I believe one of the best attempts is the movie "The Passion Of The Christ". There are other not so well known movies, such as "The Gospel of John", starring Christopher Plummer. You can find it on Amazon. The dialogue is entirely scripture, word for word! It's a great one - much better than the History Channel's version, or should I say adaptation.

So next Sunday night, I suppose we can all watch ESPN, or some movie, or better yet....how about reading the Bible!!!!!! Time much better spent. Two hours reading the Bible is much better than two hours watching TV. Start with the New Testament and read a little each day. If you have a smart phone, get the Bible app "YouVersion". If you have a laptop or computer, go to Biblegateway.com. They both have the entire Bible, as well as reading plans. Or simply pick up your Bible in book form, and read it!!!