Bible Study: Psalm 121

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.  My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.  He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.  Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.  The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.  The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.  The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.  The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.”

Where does my help come from?  I look toward the hills.  The places of this earth and there is no one there able to help.  No, I look higher than the earth and the heavens.  I look toward the one that created all things.  God is my helper.

No doubt you have heard sermons and testimonies using this passage with the ideal that the Lord came from the hills.  Sometimes the wording may lead us to that but the idea conveyed is more of a gaze continually moving upward.  It starts at their level in Psalm 120, then moves to the hills, to the heavens, and then to the creator of all things.  You may ask, “why not the hills?  We always talk about the hill called Mt. Calvary.”

Some have pondered that it means, “I look toward the dangerous hills and wonder how I will make it.  God will help me.”  Or it very well could be speaking of Mt. Zion but by verse two the reader quickly realizes that our help does not come from the mountain itself but to the on who is higher than creation.  This is partly why I look at this passage with a different understanding of the hills.  Again, the common thought of the day was that the higher you were in elevation the closer you were to a spiritual realm.  Not only did the Jews practice this thought but so did all the pagans.  So they built their altars on tops of hills and mountains to sacrifice.  Remember Elisha and prophets of Baal sacrificing on top of Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:17-40).  Or remember the command of God to the Israelites to tear down all the altars and high places that they found in the promised land (Exodus 34:13; 2 Chronicles 14:3).  When the psalmist says I look up to the hills, he is probably talking about, “worship of pagan deities, who were no help to anyone” (Cabal, 2007, p. 897).  Can they help him?  No!  Only the Lord, Yahweh, can help.

This is further carried by the psalmist in verses five and six.  We have to note the nearness of the Lord.  He is there be our shade.  That requires Him to be in close proximity.  Thank the Lord for His coming close.  But notice in verse six, “The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.”  Here, “The “shade” protects his own from sunstroke, a metaphor for the dangers of the day. Neither would he allow his own to become moon-struck, a metaphor for the dangers of the night” (Smith, 1996).  In that day, sunstroke and to be moon-struck were associated with the work of evil spirits.  For example, to be moon-struck was to act like “lunatick.”  Luna of course referring to the moon.

So, where does our help come from?  It does not come from those that are in the same condition as us (Psalm 120).  It does not come from those who would worship superstitions, spirits and false gods.  No, our help comes from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

References

Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (p. 897). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Smith, J. E. (1996). The wisdom literature and Psalms (Ps 121:5–6). Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co.

Bible Study: Psalm 120

In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me.  Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue. What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper. Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar! My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.”

We have to start somewhere and in comparison to heaven that starting place will be a humbling memory.  But it is this memory of where we once was at that can propel forward on the journey.  It is that starting point that makes us fully appreciate the transformation that has taken place in our life since we have come to Christ.  Without it we can become ungrateful of our salvation through Jesus.

It was in our distress, our wrestling with sin, that we cry out to the Lord and he hears us.  I remember very well my own experience of meeting Christ.  At the age of eight years old, laying between the seats of a blue Aerostar van, I cried out to Jesus to save my soul.  Also, along the way I have found myself in a similar place of sin, failure, and mistakes where I cry out to God again and find Him ready to answer my plea.

Do you remember where you were before Christ?  The psalmist remembers that his dwelling was in the places of Mesech and Kedar.  These were barbarous tribal communities who traveled the deserts of the middle east.  The two groups were far removed from each and so he could not be referring to literally living with them but uses these terms to describe “his adversaries as the most ruthless and godless of men” (Smith, 1996).  That’s the reality of our sin.  It doesn’t matter where we live.  Our surroundings won’t protect us from our sinful nature.  We are truly living in sin.

We may be “for peace” but our soul in sin is “for war.”  Paul laments that the sinful soul is in a state of turmoil.  He writes in Romans 7:15 “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not, but what I hate, that do I…O wretched man that I am!  Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”  Our sin has a hold on us so that when we try to live right it pulls us down again and again.

Yet, there is one who has heard our cry.  One who brings us deliverance from our bondage to sin.  His name, Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.  He comes to where are and delivers us up and out of sin and leads us toward heaven.  In John 1:14 we see that, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among.”  The word dwelt means to “tabernacle” or “pitch a tent.”  Christ came in the likeness of our flesh and set up camp.  He dwelt among us, lived with us.  He visited our neighborhood and took up residence.  Then through His death and resurrection gave us newness of life.  Deliverance from sin. It is because of what Christ has done we no longer dwell in the land and tents of Mesech and Kedar!  We have been set free!  Do you remember that happening to you?

References

Smith, J. E. (1996). The wisdom literature and Psalms (Ps 120:5). Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co.

The Psalms of Ascent

From Psalm 120 to 134 you may notice a heading that either reads, “A Song of Degrees,” or “A Song of Ascent.”  This IMG_7678particular group of Psalms not only finds a special place in my life but they were also an important part of Jewish life.  What we call the Psalms of Ascent/degrees in the Hebrew were called the shiray hammaloth.  They were the songs to be heard as you were going up.

While they do good to stand alone they were probably used together in sequence as Israelites pilgrimaged toward Jerusalem.  Which is the most likely time these psalms were sung.  These pilgrim psalms were probably sung at different levels throughout a journey to one of Jerusalem’s many religious feasts.  Jerusalem itself was built on a mountain range and according to the Jewish mindset, it was the highest elevation on earth.  To be in Jerusalem was to be as close to God on earth as a person could be.  The idea then was that as you went towards direction you were going up.  To head in any direction away from Jerusalem was to go down.  This may bring to remembrance the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).  In verse 30 of that text it is noted that the man “went down from Jerusalem to Jericho” and then got into all kinds of trouble.  That was the idea here.  Going toward Jerusalem was good and going away from Jerusalem was bad.  Now, whether these fifteen psalms were sung all along the way, or were a final reflection as they stood on the steps heading into the temple, we are not for sure.  But we do know they were a reflection from the a journey of being distant to God to now being near him.

In a great devotional book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson takes the Psalms and uses them to reflect on the lifelong process of discipleship.  He notes, “Everyone is in a hurry.  The Persons whom I lead in worship, among whom I counsel, visit, pray, preach and teach, want shortcuts…They are impatient for results…but a pastor is not a tour guide…The Christian life cannot mature under such conditions and in such ways” (Peterson, 2000, p. 17).  We need to understand that spiritual growth does not take place over night.  We become closer to God with each day we are given and until we pass from this life to the next, we will never arrive at a place where we stop growing.  Even in heaven we will grow because God is infinite and we will never drain Him of glory.

Over the next fifteen days I will go through each of the Psalms of Ascent and together we will reflect on our path towards heaven and our experience in walking with Christ.

References

Peterson, Eugene H. (2000) A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society. Downers Grove, IL. InterVarsity Press.

Question: Where was Jesus when He cleansed the temple?

Question: Where was Jesus at when He cleansed the temple?

I was recently asked this questions and I thought I would share my answer.
 

We will take Matthew 21:12-15 as our key text for study.  We do know that he cleansed the temple twice in his ministry, towards the beginning and the end (here is some quick info on that http://www.gotquestions.org/temple-cleanse.html).  

 
12And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, 13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. 14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them. 15 And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased”  (Matthew 25:12-15, KJV).
First thing we will notice from prior scripture is that they are in Jerusalem for the passover (this is the passion week).
 
Jesus went straight from the triumphal entry to the temple.  The for temple here in the Greek is ἱερός (hieros) meaning sacred.  In terms of the temple it means the entire complex of buildings (including its major temple) consecrated for the the worship of a deity (Thomas, R. L. (1998). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries : updated edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.)
 
The NIV adds something that several versions don’t, that Jesus walked into the “temple courts.”  We’re not arguing over the addition of courts but it does beg us to understand what courts are meant by here.  The temple had courts?  
 
For a more extensive study on the Temple look at Edersheim’s  “The Temple, its ministry and services as they were at the time of Jesus Christ” (2003). For a smaller more condensed look we will notice that especially after Herod’s construction on the Temple that it was a huge complex.  Josephus wrote that Herod increased the size of temple complex from “one Stadium to six stadia” (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14304-temple-of-herod).  If you google a map of Jerusalem in Jesus’ day (or look in the back of some Bibles) you will notice that the temple looks to be almost a quarter of the city.  It was a large complex with many sections.  Many of which were not dictated by the scriptures but by extra-biblical Jewish scriptures.  The courts from outer to inner were, Gentiles, Women, Israel, and Priests.  The idea was that the closer one came inside the more holy the place became.
 
The rules of the temple major reached the entire structure except by the provision that each court made.  In the court of gentiles, any traveler, that was deemed whole, could enter.  In the court of women, only Jewish men, women and children could enter.  In the court of Israel, only Jewish men.  Finally, the court of Priests, the actual prescribed biblical court, was for the priests only.  
 
So for as much as a precise location named, we won’t find that in scripture.  He just somewhere in the temple.  But there are other pieces to this puzzle that gives us a good understanding.
 
Two key things help us from our passage.  Some key actions and people help us find this out.  The key action is that in verse twelve sharing that selling was taken place.  The key people are found in verse fourteen where it notes that the blind and lame were in the temple, and verse fifteen shows that children were present in the temple.  
 
The temple is believed to always had a market for those who may of lacked in their own resources to sacrifice.  We see that “The temple market is supposed to have been established after the captivity, when many came from foreign lands to Jerusalem. Lightfoot says: “There was always a constant market in the temple in that place, which was called ‘the shops’ where, every day, was sold wine, salt, oil, and other requisites to sacrifices; as also oxen and sheep in the spacious Court of the Gentiles” (Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & customs of the Bible (p. 451). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers.)
 
By the way, there was selling in the day of Zechariah the minor prophet, as one of the fulfillments of the Messiahs coming was that there would be no more selling, “Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts: And all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: And in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts” (Zech 14:21).  The word Canaanite כְּנַעֲנִי (Kenaani) means one who travels for trade or profit, hence it is translated as “trader” in many versions.
 
Also, some of the people present support this notion that they at in the Court of the Gentiles.  The lame and the blind were not permitted to be any where on the holy grounds, “And David said on that day, Whosoever getteth up to the gutter, and smiteth the Jebusites, and the lame and the blind, that are hated of David’s soul, he shall be chief and captain. Wherefore they said, The blind and the lame shall not come into the house” (2 Samuel 5:8).  The fact that they were in the temple to be healed still means they could be present anywhere but most likely they were court of Gentiles, in “the shops.” section.
 
So, perhaps the noise of the animals and people selling reducing the atmosphere of a sacred place to another market street was a reason for cleaning.  Maybe the fact that some record that it be a travel route north to south for people to just pass through the court of gentiles was a reason for cleansing.  Or it may be the lack of access for all people to reach God (division by the courts) was all a part of the reason that Jesus cleansed.  Not just that they were selling.

One Testimony

       Several times I have encouraged my congregation to share their “Jesus Story.”  It is simply how they were before they met Christ, how they came to faith, and their life now.  In order to testify of Christ we do not have to have all the theological terms and nuances firmly set in our mind.  We do not have to have a repertoire of scriptures memorized in order to share what Jesus has done in our life.  We just have to be familiar with our own story, our own transformation brought about by the grace of God.  Look at the trust Christ put into one mans testimony to impact one town from Luke 8.  
26And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee. 27And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs. 28When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not. 29(For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.) 30And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many devils were entered into him. 31And they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep.

32And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought him that he would suffer them to enter into them. And he suffered them. 33Then went the devils out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked.
 
 
34When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country. 35Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.36They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed. 37Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again.38Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.
 
      From verses 34 to 39 we are told of a similar condition of our world today.  Jesus has and still changes lives in a drastic way.  The world though still does not see the benefit of Christ, only that the changes impact their businesses and morality, not their good He does in families and communities.  Jesus did a great work in the man’s life but the people of the community wanted Jesus to leave them alone.  They wouldn’t let him do anymore work there.  At least Him.  
 
      The man whom Jesus transformed wanted to stay next to the one that changed his life.  Jesus on the other hand had a mission for him.  To impact his home city by sharing what “great things Jesus had done unto him” (vs. 39).  We are not told of other disciples of Jesus at Gadarenes but that the whole country had a disposition against Christ.  This is the people to whom this man lived along side of and would see the change in him.  All he had was his testimony.  He had no training from Jesus.  All he had was his testimony and the command of Jesus to share it at home and in his city.  
 
        You may think that your ability to impact others for Christ is limited by your education, social status, or financial background.  You may have other reasons why you do not think you can.  Jesus says you can if you have a firm grip on what He has done for you.  Do not ever be afraid to share your Jesus story.

We have the love chapter but who are we supposed to love?

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vauneth not itself, is not puffed up.
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceeth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Charity never faith: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
 
     More than than likely you have read this on a postcard before.  However it probably is in modern english and changes the word charity out for love.  We find it in what is called the Bibles love chapter.  It is a wonderful passage that is hardly ever read in its true context.  Usually it is read on a Valentine card or heard somewhere in a wedding ceremony.  The question then is “What is the real context of this passage?”  In order to answer that in a second go ahead and read all of 1 Corinthian 13.
 
     Perhaps you have already figured out by reading the chapter that this passage was not part of a wedding sermon.  That’s really interesting.  What is the actual context of the passage?  Let’s start with the whole book.  The apostle Paul was writing to a very young assembly of believers in Corinth.  Their group was perhaps around five years old and were already full of troubles.  If we think that the darkness present in many churches today is a new phenomena then we are incredibly wrong.  Corinth had it all.  Gossiping factions, favoritism, sexual immorality, broken families and pride, just to name a few.  All of this adds up into one of the main reasons Paul writes.
 
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.  For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of chlo’e, that there are contentions among you.” 1 Cor. 1:10-12
 
     Paul had to deal with a whole lot of craziness at Corinth.  Look at this outline over the content of this letter.
  • Chapter 1: Greeting and purpose for writing.
  • Chapter 2: The Wisdom of God.
  • Chapter 3: Bodies are the temple of God.
  • Chapter 4: Ministers of God that have not progressed in grace.
  • Chapter 5: Put away sexual immorality in the church.
  • Chapter 6: Legal matters and more on the bodies as the temple of God.
  • Chapter 7: Marriage and being single for God.
  • Chapter 8: Food and Idolatry.
  • Chapter 9: Freedom in grace.
  • Chapter 10: Separate from the world.
  • Chapter 11: Proper worship and participation in communion.
  • Chapter 12:  Different types of gifts that make up the body of Christ.
  • Chapter 13: The love chapter.  
  • Chapter 14:  Tongues vs. Prophecy.
  • Chapter 15: Doctrine of the Resurrection.
  • Chapter 16: Salutations.
    It would seem that if Paul’s chapter on love was really geared towards a couple that was courting or  married then he probably would of put it in chapter eight where he talks plainly about marriage.  Yet he places it between chapters 12 and 14.  There is a purpose for it.  Chapter 12 talks about nine spiritual gifts are found throughout the body of Christ.  Two of those gifts, prophecy and tongues, will be discussed thoroughly in chapter 14.  If those two chapters on gifts are connected then somehow chapter 13 and the discourse on love would also fit there.
 
     In chapter 12 Paul really hits on the fact that even though there is such a diversity in the body of Christ there is is still a deeply tied unity by the Spirit.  Chapter 14 deals with the fact that prophecy is a better gift than tongues and since this is such a lengthy chapter on this subject it implies there must of been much discord between the users of these two gift sets.  Could it be that chapter 13 is the solution to the problems of disunity?  
 
      Now take it deeper and lets read the last verse of chapter 12 and the first verse of chapter 14.  
 
“But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet whew I unto you a more excellent way” 1 Cor. 12:31
 
“Follow charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy” 1 Cor. 14:1
 
      I think we are getting somewhere now.  It is seemingly more likely that this is definitely not a lovers chapter.  Yet, who are we dealing with.  If it’s not caught yet, this is a letter to a church, about how the church behaves in world and around the members of the church.  This thirteenth chapter to the Corinthians is about how Christians ought to love each.  It could even be said that this is how Christians love everybody.  Remember Christ’s command to love our neighbors and enemies?  How would this type of love change the way we view everyone around.  Love means you could be more patient with everyone.  Love means that you don’t use anyone for personal gain.  Love means that you provoke no one and think evil of none.
 
     Let’s take this one more step.  The word that is translated charity or love in our English language is  agapē (ἀγάπη) in the Greek.  It is a “strong, non-sexual affection and regard for a person and their good as understood by God’s moral character; especially characterized by a willing forfeiture of rights or privileges in another person’s behalf.”[1]  It is not the Greek word eros which was the type of love shared between those in marriage.  Neither was this word phileos which dealt with the love that is found in friendship.  This love solely applied to God.  In fact it could be said that the only way to have this love was to receive it from God.  This was also a gift from the Holy Spirit.  The nature of God’s love.  In fact, the only way we can exhibit this type of love towards all mankind is to have received this love first from God.

    So, don’t shy away from this passage of scripture because it sounds mushy.  It is not that type of love.  It is the love that a Christian has for not only their brother and sisters in Christ but for every person in the world.  When God sheds His love in our hearts it overflows into all of our relationships regardless of their status.


[1] Strong, J. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

 
 
 
 
 
    
 
 
 

Life Changes Fast

In an instant Mary’s world changed.  At the words of the angel, “thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son,”(Luke 1:31) her world was forever changed.  The pronouncement of Christ’s first coming is so powerful that it has forever impacted the world.  For a while it was only the immediate persons involved, then communities, countries, and now the world.  Jesus forever changed the course of history.

How quickly has your life changed?  Perhaps it was when someone “popped the question.”  Sadly, it may have been a discouraging phone call.  An accident of some sorts.  A visit to the doctor.  The fact of life is that things change.  Thankfully, God stays the same.  “For I am the Lord, I change not.” (Malachi 3:6).  Who He is and what He does remains constant. Yet, even when He does something over and over, our situation changes.  A phrase I use constantly is “When God speaks, things happen.” We can be sure that because God never changes, whenever He speaks into our life and situations, things change.

Now, how about the biggest change that must take place in your life?  The rerouting of your present life and your eternal destiny.  God can change that.  In an instant.  He can help you turn from your sin and eternal destiny of torment in Hell.  He is drawing you now toward Him.  His grace gives you the strength to turn from those things and turn towards Him.  The decision to follow Him can be made now.  Let Him speak new life into you.  Let Him pronounce you forgiven.  Let Him say, “You have now been adopted into my family.”  Will you let Him make that change in you?

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Last night in service we heard the Charles Wesley song, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.”  If you have not listened to this classic Christmas song then check it out here, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRAFQCOkjgE.   There is a particular line that caught my ear last evening.

“Born a child and yet a king.”
        That is an amazing phrase in the song.  Jesus, who is the Christ, was born into the likeness of our  human flesh.  He became us so that he could bear our sin upon the cross.  He is indeed fully man and yet fully God.  Yes, He was born as a baby but conceived as a King, born a King, lived a King, died King, resurrected a King, still a King.  Not just any King but the king of another country to come.  That is a heavenly.  He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.  He is the Supreme of supremes. He is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.  He is the Author and Finisher of our faith.  He is the King.  In the words of S.M. Lockeridge, “That’s my King, do you know him?”

Church Seasons

If you take the simple request, “What time is it,” and switch the order of the words you can get a deeper question, “Time, what is it?”  It is one of the most precious possession that we have but squander it as if it is an infinite supply.  For some, time is simply a quantifiable measurement using units of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years.  Others mark it by the “moments that take your breath away.”  What is time and more importantly to believers, how has the church observed time? Since it really does seem obvious to me that we go straight from Halloween to Christmas anymore, even though the calendar has two major American holidays in-between the two.

      Scripture actually gives us a pretty good understanding of time.  It uses two Greek words to give us a well-rounded picture of what time is.  The first word is chronos.  This word is part of your everyday terminology, right?  Don’t you look at a chronometer several times a day?  You watch or phone most likely.  A watch measures time and the word chronos is the word meaning the measurement in those afore mentioned units of time.  It looks like this in the Bible…
“Then Her’od, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.” – Matthew 2:7
 
“and the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.” – Luke 1:10
 
“And there they abode long time with the disciples” – Acts 14:28
 
       The second word for time in the Scripture is the Greek word kairos.  This is not chronological measurement of time but the understanding of a time period that bears a common likeness or contains significant events with deep meaning or likeness.  Here are some Biblical examples to make this clearer.
“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” – Galatians 4:4
 
“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:16
 
“Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready” – John 7:6
 
“How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.” – Jude 1
 
       It is probably easier to see these as the seasons of life.  What we may be experiencing now is only a season.  It shall pass and a new season will take its place.  There are good seasons and bad seasons.  Joyful and sad.  Solomon (using Hebrew writing) sums up the words chronos and kairos very beautifully in Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
       Now that we have an understanding of time and that it is more than just a measurement of time, let us look at the seasons of the church.  Christmas and Easter are more than just days on the calendar.    Even more, there are several other seasons that the church celebrates.  By using seasons and time the church uses the year to tell the gospel.  The church has ordered its worship by the use of the calendar and season.  The following seasons follow the order of Gospel,
  • Advent
  • Christmas
  • Epiphany
  • Lent
  • Easter
  • Pentecost
  • Ordinary Time
     Very quickly we sum these seasons into three groups, Advent through Epiphany, Lent through Pentecost, and common time.
      Originally the incarnation (enfleshment) of Christ was celebrated January 6 and was called Epiphany.  Epiphany is a moment of grasping something or becoming enlightened.  The church celebrated first the meaning of Christ being fully man and God around 200 A.D.  Christmas became more distinct to be on December 25th around 354 A.D.  Advent and the rounding out of the Christmas season is first seen around 380 A.D.  So here is a run down of the seasons.
  • Advent: Starts the fourth Sunday before Christmas.  Anticipates Christ’s first advent (coming).
  • Christmas: December 25.  Celebrating the birth of Christ.
  • Epiphany: December 26-January 6.  Reflecting on Christ’s presentation at the Temple, visit of the magi, and His miracle at Cana.
         The second grouping is the Easter Season.  The resurrection to the early church (and us) is the most important event on the calendar (1 Cor. 15:17-19).  It is so important that the resurrection is celebrated not just once a year but every Sunday morning.  In fact every morning belongs to the Christian as a reminder of Christ’s resurrection and our future one.  Every Sunday and morning is a “mini-easter” (Drury, Wonder of Worship, 2005).  Easter itself is a week observing the passion of Christ from the entry into Jerusalem to the resurrection.  It became a season of observance because of discontent in the early church to focus on this for only a week.  Lent (latin for spring) is the 40 days of preparation before Easter some time around 325 A.D. (Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday was added around 1000 A.D.).  Not only was preparation made before hand but celebration after Easter was extended to Pentecost, 50 days after Easter. Pentecost celebrates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church and for a long time was more celebrated than Christmas.  In fact the most important season of celebration is from Easter to Pentecost.  Here is the way it falls.
  • Lent: 40 days before Easter.  Preparation is made by identifying with Christ’s agony to the cross.
  • Easter: First day of the week (Sunday) and by calendar the first Sunday after the Jewish Passover.  Resurrection!!!!!!
  • Pentecost: Sunday after the 50 days from Eater.  The birth of the church.
      The last season the church observes and tells the Gospel story is ordinary time. This is the time between Pentecost and Advent.  During this time focus is made on the harvest, that is, evangelism and discipleship.  Outreach and spreading of the Gospel was and is the focus of the church during this time.
        So this brings my final question.  Why do believers celebrate with greater fervency non-Christian holidays in the church more than we do Christian holidays and seasons?  Do we celebrate them because they are our focus or just nicely placed gimmicks the calendars provides us with? Example of my thought…
  • Valentines days over lent
  • Mother’s day over Easter
  • Memorial day, Father’s day, and Independence day over Pentecost.
  • Halloween (especially) and Thanksgiving over Advent.
       I am not saying there is anything wrong with observing those holidays personally or with the church (at least not all).  What I am saying is do we focus, plan, and celebrate those more than the seasons which the Church has historically observed and used to share the full Gospel story each year?
Love the Word.  Live the Word.
Jeremy
 
 

A great door and many adversaries.

“For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.” -I Corinthians 16:9

     The apostle Paul found an opportunity to preach the Gospel.  It was something that he could not pass up.  Something had happened and he could not let this get away from him.  He knew that the time for action was now and that it may not be there again if he left Ephesus.  Instead he looked to stay and send someone in his stead before him.

The greek really blows this door wide open (pun intended).  “Great” is μεγάλη (megalē)  in the original Greek which we gain the word mega.  “Effectual” is ἐνεργής (energēs) in the original Greek from which we gain the word energy.  This is a “mega” opportunity and it is providing Paul with lots of “energy” for proclaiming the Gospel.

This door that has opened up to him is to good miss.  He was on his way to visit the believers at Corinth and to stay with them for some time (vs. 5-7).  The book of Acts reminds us after a visit to Corinth that Paul went to Ephesus and seemed to have planted a church there during the end of his first missionary journey (Acts 18:19).  On Paul’s second journey, as he was on his way to Corinth, he passed first through Ephesus (19:1).  While there he became engaged heavily with the city in evangelism and discipleship.  He spent what could of been up to 2-3 years there before going on with his missionary journey.

What could be more compelling than the gracious reception of the Gospel to a minister.  Even Jesus would tarry longer with the people because of His compassion on them.  Paul could not hurry up this process but would stay there as long as the Lord was moving.  To many times we hurry God and what He is doing.  We must discern what He is doing now and stick with His plan.

Now while there is an opportunity for ministry presented by the Lord we must always be aware of those against God.  “Adversaries” (I Cor. 16:9) in the Greek is ἀντίκειμαι (antikeimai).  It means those who are against others, lie on the opposite side, and oppose.  Wherever the Lord is working the enemy of men’s souls is also at work trying to stop the Lord’s work.  We are warned again and again to be aware of the enemies presence and ability to come in and destroy our work.  By the help of the Lord we can stop the advances but we must be vigilant.

So what doors are open to you?  Are you excited by the ministry?  Are you being opposed?

Love the Lord and love His Word.