Wow! The post about the Pharisees has been a bit more controversial than I anticipated and after reading some of the comments, I have decided to go in a different direction with the next few posts that what I had intended. I will take that as an interruption from God and as His way of keeping me on this topic. So for the next few days I’m going to explore exactly who the Pharisees were from a historical perspective in a way that will hopefully allow us to learn how to better follow Christ.
In order to do this, we are going to have to explore some texts outside of Scripture. While I fully believe that Scripture is the living word of God and our final authority, it does not answer every question. It also does not give us a full picture of what culture was like in the time it was written. I believe an important part of interpreting Scripture is having an understanding the culture of the people who wrote it, and to whom it was written. Continue reading
So when I write the word Pharisee, what is the first word that comes to your mind? Probably hypocrite, maybe legalistic, but I doubt that any of you thought about the word faithful. I have had several conversations over the last few days, some in person, some online, that prompted this post. I think the Pharisees have got a bad reputation and I want to do my part to paint them in a more positive light. Yeah, maybe I’m crazy for coming to their defense, but I don’t think they have been portrayed very accurately.
So who are these Pharisees anyway? Well they are one of several religious groups that existed during the time of Jesus. They believed in the authority of scripture. They believed in obedience to that scripture. They believed in miracles, angels, and they believed in the resurrection of the dead. In fact, if we were to compare what they believed to the teachings of Jesus, on most things they would line up. So why do we view them so negatively? Continue reading
The few days right after Christmas are always a little weird for me. I usually have spent weeks thinking about and getting ready for the big day. Christmas comes and we celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ with gifts, feasts, singing and rejoicing. Then we wake up the next day and all the packages are gone, the meals have been eaten, the naps have been taken, and I find myself wishing we could do it all again. But we can’t and life moves on.
It makes me wonder about Mary and Joseph and what they were thinking the next day. What did Mary do when she had finished pondering? What did she do after the shepherds left and things quieted down and they found themselves alone with this new baby far from their home? Did they wish to re-live the day of Jesus birth? I’m sure Mary had mixed feelings.
Why is it that we want to dwell on Christmas –- to prolong it? Is it just that we don’t want to go back to work? Is it that we are trying to comprehend the idea of God becoming man? Is it that maybe we like this baby Jesus more than the Jesus of the cross? Continue reading
I woke up this morning and lo and behold it is Christmas Eve. Not that I didn’t know it was coming, there have been ads and promos up at Wal-Mart since July 5th. But somehow I still just don’t feel ready. It’s not that the shopping isn’t done, at least most of it is. It’s not that we haven’t done our part to try to help out those with less material blessings than we have. We watched the Advent Conspiracy video and decided we need to rethink how we do Christmas, and for the most part we did.
I think part of it is some of the magic of Christmas has worn off. Our kids are getting older and know who the real Santa is, and I miss that a bit. Part of it is the commercialization. Part of it is me. I want God to show up with a bang. I want to be wowed. I want God to make things right. I want Christmas to be something special this year. Continue reading
In May 2005 I was fortunate enough to be a part of a trip to Israel with a group of my former students. This trip was not your normal go to Israel, stand where Jesus stood, and take your picture with a camel in downtown Jerusalem trip.
We did see some of the tourist sites, but we also hiked 10-12 miles a day for 15 days and got to experience parts of country that most visitors don’t. During our time there we spent several days in the wilderness, the Galilee and in and around Jerusalem. It was during this journey, the climbing mountains and hiking through valleys, getting covered with dust in 110+ degree weather, that I began to see my life in the context of the events and places we were studying.
One of my favorite places in Israel is the wilderness. Yeah, I’m a little weird that way. It is not the most beautiful place and it is not the place where Jesus spent most of His time. The wilderness isn’t even a place you can stay. But for the ancient Israelites, and for me, it was a place to meet God and to learn to walk with Him. Continue reading