Blogging With Saint Matthew: Human Yet Divine

Matthew 1

The men and women mentioned in this genealogy trace the human ancestry of Jesus the Messiah through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These men and women mentioned here never saw the promise of God fulfilled, but Hebrews 11 indicates that they looked forward to it and had faith that God would provide a Savior. Here we see that promise fulfilled in Jesus who is a human being descended from Abraham, Judah and David. We note that of the 5 women mentioned in this genealogy, only one, Mary the mother of Jesus, was an Israelite by birth. The others were all pagans even Ruth, a Moabitess, a descendant of Abraham’s nephew Lot. While we know from the Scriptures that she and Rahab exercised faith in the Lord, nothing is said about Tamar and Bathsheba. Nevertheless, their presence in the sacred genealogy indicates that Jesus is the Savior not only of the Jews, but of all mankind.

But the chapter tells us something far greater and much more significant. In the words God spoke through an angel to Joseph, we learn that the child conceived in Mary was no mere man. He is God for He was conceived miraculously, without any human interaction, by the power of the Holy Spirit! Many today would deny this, even some who call themselves Christian, but the fact that Jesus is both God and man is one of the cornerstones of our faith. If Jesus were not really a human being, He could never properly represent us before the Father and take our punishment on Himself. If He were not God, fully divine and without sin, his death would never be acceptable to the Father, for if He would not be sinless. Therefore to deny the virgin birth is to deny Christianity itself. Thank God that His wonderful truth is here for us to grasp. Life in Christ gives blessing, meaning and purpose.

20 Years ago

I was reading Reader’s Digest for January. The questions was asked where were. you 20 years ago. That got me to thinking what I was doing 20 years ago. I had left my old church 6 months earlier because of theological differences. I was seeking grace and mercy and they were teaching charismatic gifts as a mark of spirituality and a type of works righteousness. So it was a dark time for me though I spent about a year attending Redeemer Presbyterian and hearing the wisdom of the scriptures taught by Pastor Tim Keller.
I recall that it was a frigid and snowy winter just like we are having now. Multiple snow and ice storms so frequent that the hardware stores ran short of rock salt and snow melt.
The first week in January I flew down to Lynchburg VA to attend a weeklong modular class in counseling at Liberty University. The flight going was delayed because of snow and I spent 3 hours in the Charlotte airport. The week went well. I met Christians from around the country and learned some new things. Met some great professors and even met Jerry Falwell at the local Burger King as I was with a student who worked security at Liberty. Flight back was not delayed but came in on a icy runway. It had snowed twice in the week I was gone. My friend Ron picked me up at the airport. Things got worse as the cold forced some local birds to nest in my ceiling. Exterminators came and down some traps and bait. The problem finally ended about two weeks later when we found the entrance point and plugged it up.
Things goat better slowly after that. Went to Seminary in the fall and started ministry at 2nd Evangelical Free Church in Brooklyn under Pastor Dan Elifson who was a great help along with Elders Harrison, Henderson and Fredricksen.

What were you doing 20 years ago?

Blogging With King Solomon: Watch those little foxes.

Song of Solomon 2

Here we find the woman praising her beloved for his wonderful provision for all her needs. She also praises him for his acceptance and love. The King responds to her with words of kindness and encouragement. It seems that is springtime and the figs and grapes are beginning to ripen. He invites her to come and work in his vineyards. The little foxes are eating away at the grapes and need to be chased off. He needs her help. She hesitates and does not seem to accept his offer. She prefers to wait until a more opportune time to respond to his request.

These images tell us that the Lord brings each believer into a better place, a banquet, a place of feasting where He displays His banner over us, one of love. This image represents eternal life to be sure, but it also represents the relationship we enjoy with Him in this life. We who are in Christ are in Him because He loves us. He showed that love by dying for our sins. Therefore, the banner over us is the cross. This is a symbol of sin and shame to the world but to we who are covered by the blood of Christ that cross is an image of God’s love for all mankind.

Being covered by the love of God does not mean we rest and enjoy ourselves. The Lord calls us to take action. Perhaps the little foxes can be seen as sins which beset us, which eat away at our joy. We have to chase them away. We have to be on guard against sin especially those which seem small but which can compromise our testimony and deprive us of the blessings of the Kingdom. We should always be alert for our sin and ask the Lord for help to combat it.

Blogging with King Solomon: The love of God.

Song of Solomon 1

This short work ostensibly extols the joys of the sexual relationship within marriage. Yet down through the centuries the Church Fathers, the reformers and many Evangelical scholars have interpreted this book as an allegory of the relationship of the Lord to the believer or the relationship of the Lord to His Kingdom, Israel or the Church. The images of the shepherd remind us of Jesus who called Himself the Good Shepherd. These words are an allegorical portrayal of His love for us. This love is quite intimate, hence the images that expound upon the joys of the sexual relation between a husband and a wife which is the most intimate relationship that humans can share.

The woman in these opening verses speaks of her love for the King, but has some doubts. She describes herself as dark, not fair, a reference to her skin, bronzed from time spent in the sun tending to the vineyards belonging to her brothers. She did not work for herself. She considers herself perhaps a little flawed, a little unworthy because of her looks for she does not look the part if a queen. But the King loves her very much despite this or maybe because of it.

We believers often think ourselves unworthy of the Lord because we are spiritually dark. Yet like the woman, we admit to it. We admit our sinfulness as well as our love for the Lord. We may feel unworthy and seem to be so in the eyes of the world, but this does not matter. The Lord loves us and takes us into His kingdom because we are so unworthy.

Blogging With King Solomon: Our government and our leaders: A gift from God?

Ecclesiastes 8

Solomon wants us to be aware that we should not get too proud and think we are better than everyone else, or that we know all the answers. In addition, we should not think we need not be accountable to anyone. This includes human government and civil authorities. How we live in relation to such authorities actually reveals our attitude toward God. He has set these rulers in place for the purpose of doing good, promoting justice and discouraging oppression and violence. Therefore those who seek to disrupt government through violence and insurrection may well find themselves opposing God. The wicked and the evil who escape the justice of governing authorities in this life will never escape the justice of God.

Yet Solomon reminds us that government is also responsible to God. It must rule with equity and fairness. That would also means that no one, rulers as well as those they rule, is above the law. If a government or a ruler does evil, take bribes, misuses money or power, and promotes injustice either by letting the guilty go free or by inflicting oppression and hardship on the innocent they must answer to God. In addition, as Solomon points out, those denied justice may often take the law into their own hands through wickedness and violence. He does not state that this is a good thing. He mentions it to show that the harsh, immoral or indifferent government or ruler is to blame for such acts of insurrection and for causing others to sin.

Christians who live in a democracy can work to change laws that are oppressive and unjust, but violence is never justified. Civil disobedience is permitted if it is nonviolent and directed toward unjust and immoral laws.

Blogging With King Solomon: A Balanced Life

Ecclesiastes 7

Here Solomon presents us with some sobering comparisons that expose the foolishness of trying to find meaning in life apart from the Lord. He tells us that without God, the priorities of a life lived under the sun are all wrong. Some take life too frivolously and think that everything is a joke or a cause for celebration. Although there is a time for mirth, celebration and happiness, the wise man knows how to balance these times and put them in proper perspective. We think the day of birth is so important for the blessing from God that the child represents. Far greater though is the day of death provided that the deceased lived a life devoted to the Lord. On such occasions no matter how tragic, painful or unexpected the death, we can rejoice in a life that gave glory to God.

Solomon also tells us that we are to look at life realistically. We must live life in a balance, never goingto extremes, neither overly open-minded and tolerant nor judgmental and legalistic. We cannot be too serious about ourselves so that we can never enjoy any of the pleasures God gives us. We cannot be so overburdened by guilt, fear or pain that we miss out on God’s goodness to all mankind as shown in the cross of Christ as well as in all of His creation. Yes we are to strive to live for God, to walk in righteousness and avoid sin. Yet we must not get so upset when we fall. No one is perfect; no one is so good that he never sins. The wise man knows this and admits to it rather than covering it up. He also understands the necessity of showing mercy to others for we are all sinners.

Blogging With King Solomon: The vanity of religious hypocrisy.

Ecclesiastes 5

Here Solomon speaks against the foolishness of dishonesty, primarily towards God, as in religious hypocrisy. The religious hypocrite is one who’s words and piety mask sin, evil and a lack of love towards God and other human beings. He may boast loudly of his love for the Lord and sing His praises with great vigor but his lifestyle is marked by prejudice, selfishness, self-centeredness and a general disregard for the well-being of others. He thinks that it’s all about me, forgetting that life is all about God and that everything comes from Him. Rather than thank God for His gifts, when such a person goes before the Lord it is to demand his needs and wants be met. He has no real desire to admit his need for God or surrender and obey His will unless of course he gets his way first.

In my own life I have tried, not always with success, to be humble, to not make a big show of my religious deeds or exalt my righteousness and good standing before God. I am painfully aware of most of my weaknesses and sins and I know my place before God. When I forget, He reminds me how far I fall short of perfection. Yet I have seen many people get up before God and the Church, testify of how much God has done for them, and they for Him, make vows and promises to do great things for Him as well as to forsake their besetting sins, at least the more obvious ones. Most of them were seeking glory for self, not God and most of them fell away. The wise man goes before the Lord speaking little but listening with great humility so he may hear His voice and follow His guidance.