Advent Peace

advent candlesFor to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
-Isaiah 9:6-7

One of the many titles the Son is known by is Prince of Peace, peace being the focus of the fourth Sunday of Advent. Isaiah 9:7 specifically says Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end and it goes to describe him sitting on the throne of David. Part of the Isaiah prophesy has been fulfilled in the first Advent of Jesus Christ; the child was born, the son was given. He was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) to a virgin mother (Isaiah 7:14). But he has not yet sat on the throne of David, and during his earthly ministry he even said “I have not come to bring peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) There is prophecy yet to be fulfilled in the second appearing (advent) of Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of Lords. Continue reading

Before Abraham Was, I AM

jesus_teachingIt’s quite a few verses but to get the full context we need read John 8:31-59. 

In an oft quoted verse of scripture Jesus tells his followers “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Many of us are familiar with these words even those who have not read the Gospels. But the audience that day asks how they can be set free, claiming they have never been enslaved to anyone. Let’s think about that claim. The defining moment of Jewish history is the Exodus from Egypt and the way they encountered God at Mount Sinai. They had served as slaves for hundreds of years in Egypt. The nation of Israel was taken into Babylonian captivity and later by the Assyrians. In Jesus’ day their land was a province of the Roman Empire. To claim they had never been enslaved to anyone was an exaggeration at best, but what Jesus really meant was that anyone who sins is a slave to sin. He really riles them up by telling them their father is not Abraham but the devil, and they do what their father does which is try to kill him. They will then claim they have only one father and that is God! Jesus says if that were so they would love him for he came from God, but instead they are the offspring of murdering Satan who is a liar and the father of lies. They accuse him of being a Samaritan and possessed by a demon, and it all comes to a head when Jesus tells them Abraham rejoiced to see them in his day. Continue reading

The Temptation of Jesus

Jesus tempted by SatanI have written on this subject before but certainly not recently. This post from 2009 focuses on the nature of sin as the easy way out. Stealing is easier than hard work, one night stands are easier than putting time and effort into a relationship, etc. Just about every example of sin that can be listed involves an easier or quicker way of getting something that would take time, effort, patience or involve suffering to obtain otherwise. Is also involves settling for less than what God has in mind for us were we to to do it his way instead.

I want to focus here on Jesus’ responses to each of Satan’s suggestions. Read the story in Matthew 4:1-11 and notice some things with me. Continue reading

A Defense of The Apostle Paul

PaulSaul of Tarsus developed quite a reputation in the world of the early Christian church, zealously hunting down those who taught and preached in the name of Christ. He was on his way to Damascus, with arrest letters from the Jerusalem Sanhedrin in hand, when he had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul he became one of the most prolific church planters and writers of the first century; 14 of the 26 New Testament books are his letters (epistles) to various individuals and churches.

But here’s the rub: Do we today make too much of Paul? Does our attention become Paul-centered rather than Christ centered? Just because he wrote many epistles that become a major component of the New Testament, is everything Paul wrote the Word of God? Which is why I propose a defense of Paul to consider and respond to these criticisms. Continue reading

Discussion: The Altar

altar prayerDoes you church have an altar (or more than one altar) in the sanctuary? Does each service end with an altar call style invitation? What are we being invited to do at the altar if/when we get there? I would like to put aside personal feelings, experiences and what any particular local church does or doesn’t do and look into the Bible as we analyze the purpose of the altar. Ultimately I would like us to answer this question: what is the place of the altar in the New Testament church? Continue reading

Book Review: God is Near

No, I do not presume to write a review of my own book. Below is the review and recommendation of Steve May, a pastor friend in eastern Kentucky. I also look forward to Denise Spencer’s review next week on Internet Monk. 

God is NearClark Bunch is a Baptist preacher with a passion for writing and teaching. This is his first book but he writes daily for his blog The Masters Table (themasterstable.wordpress.com).

Clark is a graduate of Shorter University holding a Bachelors of Science degree in both history and political science. He has been the lead pastor to one church and was on the teaching faculty of the Oneida Baptist Institute (a private Baptist Boarding School with over a 100 year history in southeastern Kentucky). Presently Clark is the Director of Men’s Ministry and works with the youth ministries of the Trinity Baptist Church in Calhoun, GA. Continue reading

Is Jesus Radical?

radicalLet’s begin by defining our terms. Most people have a concept of radical that may be hard to put into words. You could be a radical thinker in a good way that doesn’t involve overthrowing the government (but that’s one possibility). Miriam-Webster’s online dictionary gives 3 definitions, these are the two that apply to our discussion:

1) very new and different from what is traditional or ordinary
2) having extreme political or social views that are not shared by most people

Radical describes something new, different, or views that are not shared by most people. I contend that Jesus was radical from man’s point of view, but not from God’s.  Continue reading