Category Archives: Faith

Who’s Your Daddy? – Thoughts on Matthew 1

A Strange Way To Begin

Matthew 1 is an interesting way to start a book. A long list of “begats,”  the genealogy of Jesus, isn’t the most captivating opening paragraph, unless you’re Jewish. For if Jesus is really who Matthew claims he is a few things must be cleared up. The question of his heritage is of utmost importance. You see, the long awaited Messiah can’t be just anyone’s son.

And so Matthew begins by tracing Jesus ancestry back through history. There are some pretty big names in that list. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David all get shout outs. And there are a few surprises. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba four gentile women show up, and of course Mary is there, but that is for another post. You see the Messiah was promised to come through the line of Abraham (Gen 12:1-3) and the line of David (Acts 13:22-23). So without establishing  the family tree for his Jewish audience, it would do no good for Matthew to try to convince them who Jesus was. Continue reading

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Filed under Faith, Scripture

By faith . . .

On Saturday I put up a post about Martin Luther and the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Today I want to look at some of the practical implications that this split has had on Protestant church.  One of the major areas of disagreement between those Reformers and the Catholic church was the understanding of grace versus works in the role of salvation.  Protestants believed that Catholic doctrine taught that salvation was achieved by faith and works, thus you had to earn your salvation.  In response, the doctrine of Sola Fide, “by faith alone”, became  one of the cornerstones of Protestant theology.

Unfortunately, over time the practical result has been a separation of “faith” and “works” and the idea that obedience is not a necessary part of salvation.  After all, Ephesians 2:8-9 says:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

But in Chapter 2, James says: Continue reading

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, Questions

Shema

The Shema has been called the central prayer of Judaism.  You may not know it as the Shema, but if you are a follower of Christ you are probably very familiar with his teachings regarding it.  Just as it is for Jews today, the Shema would have been the centerpiece of Jesus’ daily prayers.  The Shema consists of three passages of Scripture in the Torah that are prayed every morning and every evening.  It was also common to pray the Shema throughout the day. The Shema was so core to the Jewish faith that one would hope to pray the Shema as their last words when dying. 

The Shema begins in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 with the words:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Here we find the declaration that there is one God, the LORD, and the command to love him with everything in us.  This, Jesus says, is the greatest command (Matthew 22:34-40).  It also talks about the importance of remembering God’s commands, of passing them on to the next generation.  Here we also see the command for the mezuzah and the tefillin.

The second portion of Shema comes from Deuteronomy 11:13-21.

So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul- then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the LORD’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you. Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

In this portion we read about God’s promise of provision to those who love Him and a warning for those who would turn away and forget His commands.  Also we once again see the command to teach the next generation and for tefillin and mezuzah. 

The final passage of the Shema comes from Numbers 15:37-41. Continue reading

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Filed under Christianity, Discipleship, Faith, History, Jesus, Scripture

Feet for the Path

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My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not slipped.  Psalm 17:5

 

 

 

 

“God is good, His ways are not our ways, His paths are better than ours.”   These are all things I know to be true.  They are phrases that  I have said to others before.  And despite how “Christian”, how hollow or cheesy they sound, I believe them with everything in me.

Lately I have been given the chance to put these to the test in multiple levels.  We have had numerous friends who have lost their jobs over the past few months.  This has been a difficult time seeing people you work with and care about have a life change of this nature forced upon them.  But, I believe that God is good, His ways are not our ways, His paths are better than ours. 

A few weeks ago, my 38 year old brother-in-law went in for a Dr. appointment and came out with news that there may be something wrong with his heart.  Days later he was in the hospital due to ventricular tachycardia and a few days later he received an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator.  This is not the path that he, my sister and their six young children would have chosen, but I believe that God is good, His ways are not our ways, His paths are better than ours.

My mother-in-law is battling cancer.  She has been for a little over a year now.  She has a few good days, but most are not.  She also has COPD so not only is she dealing with the pain of the cancer, but also struggles to get her breath after walking across a room.  The COPD is a result of years of smoking cigarettes and the path she has chosen to walk, but His path would have been better.  But despite her health condition, I know that He is good and His ways are not our ways.

Yesterday we received a call to let us know that the company my wife is working for is re-structuring and that as of next Friday they will no longer be needing her services.  Needless to say it wasn’t our best day, but it was far from our worst.  We don’t know what God has in store for us next, but we trust in His provision.  I’m sure that we will experience many emotional roller coasters and times of doubting what we say we believe, but I know that God is good, His ways are not our ways, and His paths are better than ours.

picture-1One day when I was hiking in Israel I saw several ibex (think as the deer pants for the water)  on the steep cliffs of the Judean wilderness.  These ibex were able to move quickly on steep, narrow paths where other animals dared not set foot.  These ibex were made for this, their feet designed for the rocky, slippery, terrain of the cliffs.  They were given the feet necessary to walk the path God had created for them.

This is my prayer for our family, our friends, for you if you are reading this.  I pray not for a smooth, easy path.  Not for the path that I would choose. You see, I believe that He is good, that His ways are not our ways, and the His paths are not our paths.  May He grant us the feet to walk the path He has for us, no matter how steep and difficult that path may seem, and may we be faithful to simply put one foot in front of the other.

 

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Filed under Faith, Provision