My new digital reader

First off, let me say that my wife bought a new Kindle 3G wireless for me just before Christmas & I am absolutely thrilled with it. For some time now, I have been attempting to reduce my “hard” volume library by obtaining digital volumes or pdf versions. This is especially helpful with storage space, however, being an old school reader, I have always enjoyed the feel of holding a book in my hand & have never quite transitioned to computer pleasure reading. That is, until now. The Kindle allows me the flexibility & benefits of digital documents, including word search capacity, with the feel of holding a book.

This purchase was prompted by me geeking out over the Kindle as a gift option for our son. We had discussed this as an option, and my son had even hinted toward this, but when I came home with the results of my research on the reader, well, let’s just say I was pretty hyper and she decided to get one for me as well. The downside was that I had mine a few weeks before Christmas, but had to hide it when my son came home for Christmas break from JBC. Since he works with me on a part time basis during the school year, he was in and out of the office during his break and I couldn’t risk getting my Kindle out to read for fear that he would figure out his gift. So… no Kindle for about 2 weeks… it was a long time to go having been bitten by the Kindle bug.

Anyway, following the gift exchange & my son ~finally~ opening his Kindle, I could get mine out & settle in for some serious pleasure reading. Shortly after getting my Kindle I purchased a couple historic novels by Newt Gingrich on the life of George Washington. The 1st was entitled “To Try Men’s Souls” and the 2nd was “Valley Forge”. I was dreading having to break my reading up, but managed to get by rather well and definitely enjoyed getting back into the books post Christmas. I would easily recommend these books to anyone interested in this era of American History, or in the character of George Washington. I’ve always admired the American soldier, but, these novels have interwoven history so well that I have a renewed respect of the sacrifices made in battle.

Now, let me share a few observations about the Kindle, its uses and some helpful software to enhance your digital reader experience.

First, Kindle plays well with pdf documents, which worked well for me since, as I stated earlier, I’ve been working on enlarging my digital library in an attempt to relieve the space necessary to accommodate my ever increasing library. The downside is that the pdf documents to not retain their links functionality because they are imported in as an image format. (There is a simple solution to this that I’ll address in a moment.)

Second, the form, function & flexibility of the Kindle makes reading so very pleasant. It keeps you posted with a percentage of the document read which I find compels me to read more/longer than I would typically. The page turning function is well thought out & reflects excellent research and design. Not being backlit is a great feature for those of us who live in front of a PC for a huge number of days and the “page” design is very pleasant and easy on the eyes. The ability to create categories within your library is very intuitive and simple. I’m not entirely sure that I understand the technology employed with the “ink” text display, but I like it & find myself thinking that it could be employed with PC use as well since the display is very crisp. Overall… the only feature that feels awkward to me is the navigation while in web browsing mode, however, I was not attracted to Kindle by its web browsing prowess, so internet browsing is a bonus to me.

Thirdly, the ability to easily add or remove volumes makes the Kindle a very flexible tool to me. Let me explain a little of my thinking here and why it’s a bonus feature to add & remove so easily. I put a lot of time in study & research. Often, since by nature of my career, my days are filled with interaction with people and less productive office study time, my evening and nights are packed with reading and research. This means that I stay in my office until late in the night (or early morning) or, pack large volumes of books and a laptop to come home with me. Now, I can create documents in my preferred software (Adobe inDesign CS4) and with a little help from a conversion software add them to my Kindle in a fully functional mobi format. This allows me to be in my sweats, on the couch at home with my wife, rather than sitting in my office alone. 🙂 I can keep documents in pdf if necessary, or I can also convert them into mobi format for Kindle.

Now, here is another little bonus that my son discovered & shared with me. I’ll share it with you now because that’s the kind of guy I am. Calibre is a wonderful, free software service which will allow you to convert any document into your preferred digital reader format. I have friends who have chosen other reader types, and Calibre can handle their format as well. Basically, Calibre feels a lot like iTunes in that it has a great GUI interface which allows drag & drop function to create a library of any document type, then convert it to the format of choice. After conversion, it also helps you to upload your library (or remove books as necessary) to your reader. The interface is very intuitive and this is a great find for me… thank you Calibre.

In Christ #2, Identified in His Burial

Logo banner for the "In Christ" sermon series.For forgiveness of sin to be granted, one must be identified by and linked to the blood of Jesus. However, since we cannot go back in time to the Cross of Golgotha to physically come into contact with Jesus’ blood, there are two possibilities: 1) God is unreasonable & unjust by placing an expectation upon all mankind which only one generation could fulfill; or 2) There is another way to come into contact with the blood of Jesus. Since the first option is entirely out of the Character of God, we can only surmise that option #2 is the only logical answer to our problem.

As stated earlier, we are removed from the crucifixion of Jesus, so, although we have solved one issue in our knowledge of God’s character, we must discover the Biblical means of coming into contact with the blood of Jesus in our time. Certainly, based upon what we have seen in Scripture concerning God’s character, we know that He would select a means which would not limit redemption to a small portion of people. The good news is that He has selected a method and agent which is readily accessible to all people groups in all parts of the globe… and it always will be. Additionally, compliance to this method is very simple and fair.

So, what could possibly fall into all of these categories? Accessible to all people, readily available and simple, economically inexpensive or at no cost. Baptism by immersion in water.

Now, I know all of the arguments that so many people from denominational groups use against baptism. And, I can say without hesitation, that they are not valid. An honest reading through the New Testament, without viewing through any lens of religious tradition, lands on the same conclusion. Baptism is the only event which links us to or identifies us with the death, burial & resurrection of Jesus. Why is this such a big deal? Well, if God has established conditions for us to enter His family & receive the benefits of salvation (and He has) then we should be urgently concerned with knowing what these conditions are, and just as urgent about complying with these same conditions.

Chart comparing current forms of baptism with New Testament baptism

Baptism was a widely known & accepted practice in the Jewish community long before Jesus implemented it as a part of His plan for our forgiveness. Because it was widely accepted as a significant act of devotion, it was reasonable for Jesus to use as a practice for identifying His followers. There is another reason for Jesus using baptism. Romans 6:3-7 states that baptism is the point at which we are identified with the death of Christ, and “raised up” with Him in His resurrection.

This text provides a wonderful word picture of what actually happens at our baptism. We are “buried with Christ” and “raised up with Him”. This use of phrasing helps enforce the baptism by immersion model, as found in the New Testament. Think about it: do we sprinkle dirt onto a casket & refer to it as burial? No! We cover the casket completely, just as immersion resembles burial by our complete covering over with water. Sprinkling & pouring do not accomplish this.

Additionally, if we are sprinkled or poured we cannot “rise up from the grave” as is clearly done in immersion. We come up out of the covering of water, just as Jesus came up from within the covering of the grave. As a result, New Testament baptism acts as a proclamation of the Gospel by symbolically referencing Christ’s death, burial & resurrection.

I have created an article on this topic, which addresses each of the passages in the New Testament dealing with baptism. The article can be found in our resources section of our website, at the following URL: Baptism by Comparison All articles are in Adobe pdf format, and require Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can get the reader at the Adobe site by clicking here.

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In Christ, identified in His death

Logo banner for the "In Christ" sermon series. The Apostle Paul uses the phrase “In Christ” a total of 87 times in his writings, as provided by the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition. Obviously, Paul in his use of this phrase, is speaking to the Christian and is referencing a number of truths.

When someone becomes a Christian, we refer to their placing faith “in Christ”, we mention them being “in the Church” and encourage them to walk “in faith”. Unfortunately, some seem to believe that this simply refers to participation in Church related events, ministries or programs, or in terms of attendance in services. Paul is speaking to something far greater than simple attendance… being counted in attendance is not going to do anything for us in regard to our legal problem with sin. Paul is providing an understanding of a change in our legal standing with God in relation to Christ, from being on our own to actually being identified by the righteousness of Christ.

The question at hand is how are we identified with Christ? Is there a specific point in time, or an event which can identify us to the person of Christ?

Paul’s writings provide for us clear identification with Christ in death, burial & resurrection. Apart from this unique identification, we are outside Christ, and thus, unable to receive the benefit of identification with Christ. It should be noted before entering into this study, that the Holy Spirit does not provide an exemption to this identification… everyone must comply in order to be identified as “in Christ”.

Perhaps the clearest text on this topic, from Paul’s writings, is Colossians 2:9-14. For the purposes of this study, we will use the New American Standard Bible.

9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,
10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;
11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;
12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,
14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Colossians 2:9-14, NASB’95

Paul is speaking of the fullness of Christ (vs. 9) and is very explicit in our need to be connected or identified with Him. His teachings are clear:

  • We are complete in Christ, inversely… we are incomplete apart from Him.
  • Christ is the source of Authority, and so He alone is uniquely and singularly authorized to establish qualifications for those identified as His.
  • We have been circumcised or marked by His hand & not by an action of our own.
  • We are buried with Christ in baptism… thus, we are identified with the death of Jesus.
  • Through our faith in the working of God, we share in His resurrection.
  • All of our transgressions are forgiven.

To be “in Christ” we must be identified with His death, burial & resurrection.

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CSI Jerusalem: “Resurrection Evidences”

CSI Jerusalem Logo of a Shoulder X-rayThe Crucifixion of Jesus is one of the best historically documents events in human history.

Try as they might, skeptics are unable to find evidence to discredit the historicity of Jesus’ death. Common line of thought in the criticism of the crucifixion is that if the cross could be removed, or placed into doubt, the resurrection would be a moot point. However, evidence from both Biblical & extra-Biblical sources, including many non-believers, is simply far too overwhelming to allow a removal of the cross. So, critics have shifted their attention from the cross, which many will now concede as a true historic event, and onto those who provide the accounts of Scripture. By discrediting the authorship of Biblical writings (so goes their thinking) they can cast a shadow of doubt upon the events they record.

As with the crucifixion of Jesus, this ploy has proven to be a failure, due, in part, to the science of archaeology. Archaeological discoveries have consistently corroborated the people, places, events and timeline of Scripture. Archaeology cannot lie… and cannot be denied. Such is the plight of those who would deny truth. The ever constant of truth is it’s unchanging nature itself becoming the bane of the shifting sands of those who would argue against it. So, since truth cannot be denied, and archaeology corroborates truth, as do the numerous historians who have witnessed & recorded the events of Scripture, focus must yet again be shifted.

A call of new attention has been given to the account of Jesus’ resurrection. There have been numerous charges made against the resurrection over the years… some of which include:

  • Conspiracy by the Romans to humiliate the Jewish leadership.
  • Conspiracy by the Christian Disciples of Jesus to remove & hide His body.
  • Jesus never really died, was rescued and able to live out a full, natural life in another country.
  • The “Feign Theory”, which suggests that Jesus’ revived when placed in the cool tomb, having passed out upon the cross & mistaken as having died.

Charges go on & on, yet, it must be noted that with each “new” charge, the account of Jesus’ life, ministry, miracles, public death, burial & resurrection cannot be discredited. Consider the following:

  • Cornelius Tacitus in his annals, AD 115:
    “…Nero fabricated scapegoats-and punished…Christians (as they were popularly called). Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilatus.”
  • Lucian of Samosata: Greek Satirist of the 2nd Century, AD “Christ was the man who was crucified in Palestine.”
  • Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18, Chap 3:
    ”Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”
  • Eusebius, Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History (AD 260-340):
    Compiled & chronicled the early accounts of history for the early Church. Known for his documentation of Josephus & validated his above mentioned testimony of Christ.
  • Talmud, b. Sanhedrin 43a: (Also Sanh. 7:4 & Sanh. 6:4 refer to His crucifixion)
    ”On the eve of the Passover Yeshu [Jesus] was hanged [or crucified]. … Since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover.”

Please note that men who contributed to the Jewish history writings known as the Talmud were non-Christian Jewish men who took their job very seriously, and even these writers document the crucifixion of Jesus as a historic event.

  • Amoa “Ulla” (A disciple of Youchanan of Palestine at the end of the 3rd century) writes:
    “Do you suppose that for Yeshu of Nazareth (Jesus) there was any right of appeal? He was a beguiler, and the Merciful One hath said: ‘Thou shalt not spare neither shalt thou conceal him.’ It is otherwise with Yeshu, for He was near to the civil authority.”
  • Thallus, a Samaritan-born historian, c. AD 52, quoted by Julius Africanus, c. AD 221:
    “Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness [at the time of the crucifixion] as an eclipse of the sun- unreasonable, of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was the time of the pascal full moon when Christ died.”
  • Mara Bar-Serapion, after AD 73 (this letter resides in the British Museum):
    “What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished….But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.”
  • Justin Martyr, Early Christian apologist, made clear reference to a document called the Acts of Pontius Pilate in a letter addressed to the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius in AD 150. He describes in detail the passion of Jesus:
    “And the expression “They pierced my hands and feet,” was used in reference to the nails of the cross which were fixed in His hands and feet. And after He was crucified, they cast lots upon His vesture, and they that crucified Him parted it among them. And that these things did happen, you can ascertain from the ‘Acts of Pontius Pilate’ “
  • Tertullian (160-220AD), wrote to Roman officials about the unusual events surrounding the trial, death and resurrection of Jesus. Discussing a time when the Roman Senate
    considered classifying Jesus as a Roman deity due to the miraculous nature of his life:
    “To go back to the origin of such laws there was an old decree that no one should be consecrated a god by an emperor till he had been approved by the senate. Marcus Aemilus followed this procedure in the case of a false god, Alburnus. This reinforces my argument that among you, godhead is conferred by human approval, if a god does not satisfy man he does not become a god, so according to this it is for man to show favor to God. Tiberius then in whose time the name of Christian came into the world, when a report of this doctrine reached him from Palestine where it originated, communicated to the senate making it clear to them that he favored the doctrine. The senate however, because they had not examined the doctrine for themselves, rejected it. But Tiberius stuck to his own view threatening to execute any who accused the Christians.”

So, if Jesus really died a sacrificial death… even one of the Roman Centurian stationed at His cross freely & openly stated that Jesus was the “Son of God” & “innocent”… then His claims of authority & commission to all must be legitimate as well. Thus, every human is accountable to the only authority over the Church… Jesus. But, can we accept His resurrection, based upon the historical accuracy of His death & burial? Consider the following points, examine the Scripture for yourself, then you decide.

  • Roman guards were placed at the tomb, armed & charged with death upon failure to faithfully execute their duties.
  • Jewish officials conspired with the guards, paying them money, to remain silent about the resurrection.
  • Jesus’ tomb was sealed by the Romans, making it secure & putting grave robbers on notice that it was under Roman protection.
  • Romans & Jewish guards testified about the resurrection.
  • Every guard ‘became as dead men’ at the time of the resurrection.
  • No less than 5 roman soldiers, the Jewish leaders, the Disciples, Pilate & the crowd verified the death & burial.
  • Jesus was witnessed by hundreds of people at a time following His resurrection, according to the Gospel accounts.

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CSI Jerusalem: “Evidences of Death”

CSI Jerusalem Logo of a Shoulder X-rayMany have questioned the historical accuracy of the Biblical account of Jesus’ crucifixion throughout the ages of history since that event at Calvary. Since the power of Christian faith lies in the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, the Cross & the tomb have been assaulted by numerous claims, in the hope that Christian Faith would fall if doubt is successfully impressed upon believers. And yet, such attempts fall short of their intended goal.

One claim is that Jesus survived the cross and revived when placed in a cold, stone tomb. Can this really be true? Is it possible for anyone to survive crucifixion? Is there any evidence in history to support this claim?

Suffering from severe dehydration, trauma & blood loss, having endured mockery & beatings, nailed to the cross He was forced to carry… no man could deny the serious physical suffering of Jesus.

Claims about Jesus surviving the cross, and reviving in the tomb, show an extreme ignorance of Roman Crucifixion. The Romans were exceptionally gifted at torture, humiliation & death. A Roman soldier… even a “grunt” was trained to inflict death & to endure suffering in their service. The very culture of Rome at the time of Jesus fully celebrated human suffering & death by exploiting it in their coliseums & arenas on a regular basis. If there ever was a culture which understood & recognized death, Rome was that culture.

Consider these facts:

  • There is no record of Jesus sleeping prior to the cross; Jesus prays all night long and the only drink he has had was at the Passover.
  • Jesus suffers from Hematidrosis (bloody sweat) a sign of severe dehydration & stress.
  • Jesus is brutally abused by the Jewish leadership having his beard & hair pulled out.
  • Enduring abuse at the hands of the Jewish leaders, Jesus is forced to stand upon the stone of Saturnalia, beaten & mocked in the home of Caiaphas the High Priest.
  • Pilate used the Flagrum on Jesus during his interrogation of Him.
  • Following a beating with rods and having a crown of thorns beat into His brow, Jesus is forced to bear the patibulum through the streets of Jerusalem to Golgotha.
  • Arriving at the place of crucifixion, Jesus is stripped, offered a drugged mixture of wine, myrrh and gall (which He refused) & then He is systematically nailed to the cross.

All within 3 hours of 1 day.

Roman history records standard protocol for crucifixion: 1 Commanding officer, in charge over 4 elite Roman soldiers who were commissioned to guard the cross. Since Jesus was crucified with two others, this would ensure that no less than 15 Roman soldiers were present as His crucifixion… a fact easy to accept given the Roman Cohort (600-1,000 soldiers) came to the garden to arrest Him only 3 hours previous to His crucifixion. These 4 soldiers each had to confirm death with each one required to “sign off” the official death declaration to their commanding officer, who, in turn, corroborated the evidence of death. One should note that these soldiers were commissioned under threat of death for failure to perform their charged duties.

Suffering from severe dehydration, trauma & blood loss, having endured mockery & beatings, nailed to the cross He was forced to carry… no man could deny the serious physical suffering of Jesus.

Further sign of death is offered in the refusal to break Jesus’ legs (as they did to hasten the death of the other victims) and the use of a spear thrust into His side as evidence. Scripture, eyewitness testimony and early historians agree in their documentation of the sign of blood & water. This sign is clear evidence of a clotting of blood, separating the blood from the clear pericardial fluid (water) surrounding the heart. In addition, one should note that a significant audience of Jewish leaders were present at Jesus’ crucifixion. They certainly would not have allowed Jesus to be removed from the cross without sufficient, clear evidence of death.

There can be no doubt… Jesus was truly dead when they removed His body from the cross.

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CSI Jerusalem: “Crucifixion”

Implements of Crucifixion Jesus was not the first, nor was He the last to have ever been crucified.

Crucifixion was a common form of execution, used between the 6th century BC until the 4th century AD. The exact origin of the torture is unknown, though it is commonly accepted as having come from the Persians. Egyptians are also historically known to have practiced this style of execution, though it is believed that the Roman empire learned of the torture from the Carthaginians (Greeks) and adopted it as their own, perfecting the skill with great precision.

Modern occurrences of crucifixion have been documented during WWI, and as late as WWII where eyewitnesses testify of victims suffering a form of crucifixion while prisoners at the Nazi Concentration camp at Dachau. A French physician named Dr. Pierre Barbet published an extensive document on the crucifixion of Christ in the late 1930s that included information about these WWII accounts, from which he surmised that victims of crucifixion commonly died of asphyxiation. However, his results would not have applied to the crucifixion of Jesus, since Jesus was crucified with outstretched arms, and the Dachau victims were crucified with arms over their heads, and their feet free hanging with no support.

There are many different forms of crucifixion. Essentially, the form of crucifixion varied based upon the cruelty of the executioner, as well as the location, number of victims & other factors. A typical Roman execution at the time of Jesus included a permanent location in a prominent place outside the city. Stationed at the place of execution would be a series of upright poles already placed in the ground. These poles are called the stipes and would have a tenon cut into the top, upon which the cross-member (called the patibulum) could be secured. The patibulum had a mortise cut in the center of it, so that it would easily slide down onto the tenon of the stipes. Often, a rope or a wooden pin was used to secure the two pieces together, thus preventing them from moving.

Crucifixion was reserved for the lowest class of citizen, and the vilest offender of Roman law. It became known as the “slaves execution”, and a Roman citizen was protected from such a humiliating death.

The victim of crucifixion was presented to the citizens of the city before the death sentence was pronounced by the Roman official. Upon receiving the official pronouncement of death, the victim was beaten, commonly with rods, and forced to carry the patibulum through the streets to the place of execution. The victim was always stripped for their beating, and many accounts record that they would remain naked from this point through the crucifixion, though Jesus had robes placed upon Him following His beating. Since the punishment was designed to be a deterrent the victim was further humiliated by a placard or crude sign bearing the official charges being placed on a cord around the neck of the victim so that everyone would know the reason for death. Jesus was stripped as He was prepared for crucifixion.

Crucifixion was reserved for the lowest class of citizen, and the vilest offender of Roman law. It became known as the “slaves execution”, and a Roman citizen was protected from such a humiliating death.

Upon arrival at the place of execution, the victim was stripped (if they were not completely stripped previous to the beating) & given a mixture of wine vinegar mixed with gall and myrrh as a mild numbing agent. Jesus refused this drink, though He did accept a little sour wine “vinegar” later. This was a common “cheap drink” used by the Roman soldiers of this era. There are three times that He is offered a drink: 1) Roman drink before execution, 2) The mocking offer by soldiers, 3) The sour wine just before He died. (Mentioned by Luke)

The historic accuracy of the Scriptural account of Jesus’ death is flawless.

Biblical skeptics have argued for many centuries that the crucifixion of Jesus is not historically accurate, or perhaps didn’t happen at all. By proving the crucifixion a falsehood, skeptics would be able to disprove the resurrection… the foundation of Christian faith. Therefore, over the years people have made numerous false statements about Christ’s death & resurrection. No claim against the crucifixion has been able to stand up under the test of history. Among these false and ridiculous claims are my favorites:

  • Jesus wasn’t really dead when His body was taken from the cross.
  • No historically reliable source outside the Bible verifies the account of Scripture.
  • Jesus didn’t resurrect, He simply “revived” when placed in the cool tomb.
  • The disciples stole Jesus’ body from the tomb… He didn’t raise from the dead.

The historic accuracy of the Scriptural account of Jesus’ death is flawless. Additional sources that verify the account of Jesus’ death include (but are not restricted to) the following:

Cornelius Tacitus in his annals, AD 115:
“…Nero fabricated scapegoats-and punished…Christians (as they were popularly called). Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilatus.”
 
Lucian of Samosata: Greek Satirist of the 2nd Century, AD
“Christ was the man who was crucified in Palestine.”
 
Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18, Chap 3:
”Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”

Eusebius, Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History (AD 260-340):
Compiled & chronicled the early accounts of history for the early Church. Known for his documentation of Josephus & validated his above mentioned testimony of Christ.

Talmud, b. Sanhedrin 43a: (Also Sanh. 7:4 & Sanh. 6:4 refer to His crucifixion)
”On the eve of the Passover Yeshu [Jesus] was hanged [or crucified]. … Since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the eve of the Passover.”

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CSI Jerusalem: “Jesus’ Final Days”

CSI Jerusalem Logo of a Shoulder X-rayThe crime scene has been laid before us, and the victim has been identified. A murder has occurred, involving numerous witnesses to the crime and a large number of suspects. Modern crime terms would refer to this event as a ‘Hate Crime’, since it was an ethnically charged crime. It also smacks of horrible political corruption, extortion, bribery and deceit.

With an abundance of evidence presented, we have the task of examining and interpreting all of the evidence in order to come to a correct conclusion regarding the crime which has occurred.

The task before us involves a somewhat ‘Cold’ crime scene, in that the death occurred nearly 2,000 years ago. However, careful investigation of Scripture, archaeological evidences, eyewitness accounts and reconstruction by medical forensic experts provide a vivid look into the event. A number of false ideas have been presented (and innocently accepted as true) by the Church over the centuries. This is largely due to a lack of investigative effort as well as some flawed research and assertions based upon that research. Such misinformation has tainted the truth of the final hours of Jesus’ life, some of which bear a false doctrinal influence, and must be corrected.

Although it would seem the task is too great, being removed by time, we are actually at somewhat of an advantage. New research and advanced forensic technology has allowed medical experts to create a very reliable window into the event.

We know this much:

  • A man in his early 30s has been murdered.
  • He is known to be a resident of Nazareth, from the region of Galilee.
  • The man was called “Jesus”; a common name for men in that region.
  • Many followers referred to Him as a prophet and a teacher.
  • He was thought to be the Messiah by some of His followers.
  • Only days before His death, followers rejoiced at His arrival at Jerusalem.
  • He was betrayed by a friend, one of His disciples named Judas Iscariot.
  • Religious charges and numerous witnesses were leveled against Him.
  • Claims of stirring insurgency against Rome by proclaiming Himself as “King of the Jews” gain the attention of Pilate.
  • He had been savagely beaten by both the Romans and the Jews.
  • Hundreds witnessed his death.
  • Crucifixion was the method of public assassination.
  • It is believed that He resurrected after being buried, though many doubt this.

Here is our challenge:

  • Examine the Biblical evidence surrounding the final hours of Jesus’ life.
  • Test the forensic evidence based upon the Biblical record.
  • Determine the physical cause of death.

In preparation for this first sermon in the series, read the following passages:

  • Psalm 22
  • Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12
  • Matt 26:17-30 – 27:31

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Sons & Daughters #3: “Sexual Connection”

There seems to be much confusion in the world about sex… on one hand, from a secular point of view, sex seems to be only animalistic or mechanical, while from the perspective of the Church there is almost complete silence on the topic. The approach of nearly every secular sex therapist or secular marriage counselor is to use lust based advice. Day time talk shows which have addressed the topic of sex encourage all sorts of lust based advice. The notorious “Dr. Ruth” encourages all sorts of people to “explore their sexuality”, which means “go out & do whatever to whomever so longs as it feels good.”

The modern Church still deals with the impact created by many misguided individuals from early Church history. In a moral knee jerk response to the prevalence of immorality in early cultures, false teachings about sex developed. Seneca, a philosopher from 4BC to AD 65 made the following observation about the culture: “I see silk clothes, if these qualify as ‘clothes,’ which do nothing to hide the body, not even the genitals … Our women have nothing left to show their lovers in the bedroom that they haven’t already revealed on the street.” Upon the introduction of Christian faith the necessity for purity & sexual integrity caused Christians to allow the pendulum to swing a little too far, shown by the teaching of Peter Lombard (AD 1100-1164) when he stated “The Holy Spirit leaves the room when a married couple has sex, even if they do it without passion to make new virgins for the kingdom of heaven.” His opinion was widely embraced by the Church which specified intercourse as a means of procreation only, not intended for pleasure. This is one of the influences upon Catholic restriction of the use of birth control. Others chimed in, ringing similar tones on this issue.

By 1894 a publication entitled “Instruction and Advice for the Young Bride” by Ruth Smythers contained this advice: “At this point, dear reader, let me concede one shocking truth. Some young women actually anticipate the wedding night ordeal with curiosity and pleasure! Beware such an attitude! One cardinal rule of marriage should never be forgotten: give little, give seldom, and above all give grudgingly.”

So, for centuries the Church allowed the false presentation of prudish behavior equating to holiness, while the secular world ran rampant with its involvment in the fun of sexual expression coupled with the danger of no moral boundaries or guidance from the Church. No wonder the world has developed such a false impression of the Church, and believes that the Church is out of touch. Unfortunately, the Church has still remained relatively silent on the issue and has allowed powerhouses of immorality, like Planned Parenthood, to infect the minds of generations of young people. The Church needs to take a stand against such destructive, false teachings, and begin to pull our people out of the Hollywood, HBO & VH1 mentality of human sexual behavior. We can no longer sit idle by while those who advocate & participate in deviant sexual behavior influence the minds of people.

It has been said that the working definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing while expecting different results.

The Church holds the truth about sexuality and it is time that we break the silence. Our world uses people and reduces them to objects until they are no longer appealing or useful, then discards them with no regard. There are two responses from the Church which are vital to reaching people:

  • Compassionately reach out to those who are hurting & isolated because of their sexual decisions. The only hope for complete healing is the Gospel and the redemption offered by Jesus.
  • Intervene between people and sources of false teaching, like Planned Parenthood. The Church must no longer allow only one side (the destructive side) of sexuality to be taught.

It has been said that the working definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing while expecting different results. Church, we must be bold enough to abandon the passive, silent posture of the Church over the centuries and begin to reach out to the hurting, speak out to those who are listening, and live out the message of Jesus in living color.

The Church holds the truth about sexuality and it is time that we break the silence.

Since we have already covered the intimacy factor of the ‘one flesh’ relationship, as well as the need for creating & maintaining sexual integrity in the relationship, this week i will address how to strengthen the sexual connection of the relationship. We will be addressing the bold Scriptural teachings of sexual fulfillment in the one flesh relationship, and equipping singles to maintain their integrity.

Reading in preparation for the message includes:

  • Genesis 2
  • Song of Solomon 4
  • 1 Corinthians 7

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Sexual Integrity answers & resources

“What does the word verdant mean?”

This question stemmed from our Scripture reading on Sunday morning… Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) 1:15-16 (NIV)

15 How beautiful you are, my darling!
Oh, how beautiful!
Your eyes are doves.
Beloved
16 How handsome you are, my lover!
Oh, how charming!
And our bed is verdant.

The English translation of the word used here describes a “green” bed, which, when taken literally seems less than romantic in it’s selection. However, the idea is that of a “lush” or “luxuriant” bed… a bed of comfort. The common understanding of this text is that each of the lovers finds comfort, are familiar, and at ease with one another. Although most of us do not use such poetic language when speaking with our beloved, the message is very impressive and challenges us to hold one another in such esteem. A passage from the sermon Sunday cooperates with this thought in a more contemporary language:

“Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Hebrews 13:4, NASB’95

The issue of sexual integrity hits close to home with most who live in today’s culture. The lure of ‘anonymous’ accessibility to inappropriate material, and the prevalence of such material, causes many to fall into a pattern of very destructive life behaviors. As mentioned in this sermon, such behavior leads to a destructive change of thinking, which, in turn, bear terrible results in relationships. Research has proven that the exposure to explicit sexual material leads to an involvement & participation in inappropriate sexual behavior. In fact, it has even been shown to affect the physical response & the brain patterns of those who indulge in such material. The affect of such explicit material on the brain is compared to the affect of crack cocaine… and it is equally addictive, actually changing the surface of the brain by literally embedding it’s images & sounds into the memory.

Developing a relationship which enjoys sexual integrity demands that each partner obey the boundaries that God has established. Anything less is sinful.

God has established a standard of respect & monogamy for human sexual activity. The term ‘fornication’ literally means ‘sexual immorality’ and encompasses any sexual behavior outside of marriage. Sexual expression within marriage has it’s boundaries as well, in order to maintain a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. For married folks, sexual activity which goes beyond the marriage is referred to as adultery, and is equally condemned by God. The truth of the matter is that God establishes such boundaries in order to equip us with healthy, fulfilling relationships, not to remove us from sexual fulfillment.

Developing a relationship which enjoys sexual integrity demands that each partner obey the boundaries that God has established. Anything less is sinful.

Responsible adults must learn to develop the rapport & skills necessary to address such topics with openness & honesty.

Our modern culture creates a difficulty for parents, grandparents & guardians of young people. Studies have shown that young people are exposed to sexual activities at a far younger age than previous generations, a fact which is no secret since our culture is so sex saturated. The dangers are numerous, and anyone in a position of influence or oversight with children should understand the cultural enticement of children. Songs, videos, games, explicit materials like pornography, Hollywood movies & so many other areas flaunt irresponsible, godless sexuality in a way that appeals to many people.

Responsible adults must learn to develop the rapport & skills necessary to address such topics with openness & honesty.

To assist in providing the accountability & oversight necessary, I’ve compiled the following resources. Since this is an area which also affects teens & preteens, these resources reflect their specific needs. It should be noted that the best protection is education & accountability. Filters & monitoring software will only enhance such accountability and are not intended to replace it. Here are a few helpful tips, followed by resources to assist you.

  • Computers with internet accessibility should never be in enclosed, private areas, apart from adult supervision. Place computers in an open, public area where constant supervision can be given.
  • Devices like phones, computer games and some hand held games with internet accessibility should be monitored in an ongoing fashion.
  • There is no such thing as privacy for minors in this area. You are the adult, your child is going to demand priviledges that should be reserved for an adult only. You would not allow your child to wander the streets unsupervised in an area of town with a ‘erdlight’ reputation… the internet is such a place. Be the adult, make the hard decisions & stick to them.
  • There is no such thing as privacy in the world of text messages, IM, Facebook, MySpace or other social networks. Again… you are the adult. Text services should not include allowing the receipt or dispatching of images. Any child with such networking subscriptions must be supervised, so demand accessibility or shut them down.
  • Develop & train young people to respond appropriately when inappropriate material or advances are made. They should not engage, they should shut down the browser or application & immediately tell an adult.
  • Now, let’s cover some of the filters available for monitoring, protecting & filtering from inappropriate material.

    Safe eyes internet filtering software
    This is a filtering & monitoring software used to protect from inappropriate material.

    X3Watch internet accountability & filtering software
    X3watch is an integrity accountability software. This is offered in a free version, and a more elaborate & powerful paid subscription. This software allows you to have your internet browsing history sent to an accountability partner who can monitor & hold you accountable for inappropriate browsing.

    Bsecure
    Bsecure is an internet monitoring & filtering software recommended by Focus on the Family.

    YOUdiligence
    YOUdiligence offers software monitoring tools for social network sites like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

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Sons & Daughters #2: “Sexual Integrity”

In my first message, I shared the three essential components to the “One Flesh” relationship from Genesis 2. Both partners in the relationship must openly & honestly assess where they are in light of these three components, which are the Intimacy component, the Sexual component and the Spiritual component. It must be noted that each of these components are necessary for a healthy, God honoring marriage, and when any component is weak or missing the marriage will suffer.

21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place.
22 The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
Genesis 2:21-25, NASB’95

Paul addresses the issue of sexual immorality, which was prevalent throughout the Roman Empire, in a number of places in Scripture. The Pagan, polytheistic religions of the Romans was quite removed from the Christian monotheistic faith. One of the areas which was difficult for new converts to Christianity was the issue of morality as defined by Christ. Adding to this change in lifestyle was the ongoing influence of a sexually saturated culture which considered sex to be simply a recreational activity. The only element of religious influence on sexuality was the temple Aphrodite and the religious ‘services’ offered by the temple prostitutes (male & female) who solicited ‘offerings’ in exchange for their sexual services. One may compare the cultural environment to a live walk-through of the Internet, without the sense of anonymity created on the net. Suffice it to say, there was nothing left to the imagination in this culture.

As one can imagine, it was difficult for any Christian man to maintain sexual integrity in such an ‘in your face’ environment. Further, it would be very difficult for families to counter the influences of such a culture upon their children and young men. Demosthenes, a prominent Greek statesman and Orator, stated of this era: “Men have three women. 1 for bearing children, 1 for sexual pleasure and 1 for pursuit.” The idea of monogamy was almost completely foreign in the Roman culture, yet, Paul remained consistent in the expectation that a man was to be exclusive to one woman in terms of a marriage relationship. One cannot read the New Testament Scripture without coming to this conclusion.

Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
Hebrews 13:4, NASB’95

Our culture is similar to that of the early Christians living in the Roman Empire. There are numerous avenues of temptation, some of which provide a false sense of anonymity in their participation, (like pornographic materials or online Pornography) while others are public (like prostitution or adultery). Single men are encourage to be the “stud” by engaging in numerous sexual encounters under the false understanding that their virility & masculinity is only enhanced by numerous sexual encounters. What is not often discussed is the huge emotional, and often physical, impact impressed upon the lives of those who engage in such activity. (Not to mention the terrible scars which often impede spiritual growth.) Men & women who engage in such sexual activity are opening themselves to terrible influences which can forever impact their relationship and prevent them from experiencing true sexual fulfillment.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’;
28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 5:27-28, NASB’95

Sexual Integrity must be achieved & maintained in every Christian marriage. How is this possible in today’s society?

  • First, by guarding the heart. Proverbs 4:23 says to guard or watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. Jesus has identified that the things we say are an expression from our heart. Reserve your emotion & attention for your spouse. Emotional infidelity and infatuation can lead to destruction of your relationship.
  • Second, by guarding the eyes. Everything that a person takes in, whether it be images or sounds, influences our thoughts and actions. Jesus placed high priority on the actions of our mind, and even stated openly that a man can commit adultery in his mind. Jesus did not say that this was like adultery, He said a man commits adultery. Participation in anything which visually or mentally stimulates lustful actions or thoughts is not acceptable for Christians.
  • Third, understand that God is not a prude. So many people are under the false impression that the world is the one who understands & creates sexual fulfillment, and that the Church (God) is a prude. Nothing can be further from the truth. every ‘restriction’ created by God is for our benefit, to prevent us from enduring sufferings and lack of fulfillment. Sexual integrity is the only means of protecting & strengthening your marriage relationship. It is not possible, even by accident, to prevent your eyes from seeing such tempting images, however, we must learn not to allow our eyes to linger upon such imagery, under risk of producing lustful thoughts, which lead to lustful actions and behaviors.
  • Finally, marriage partners must learn to be open & accountable to one another. Open, honest communication is absolutely necessary to achieve harmony, security and sexual fulfillment in a marriage. Do not operate under the false assumption that your partner knows (or should know) what you need without you expressing your needs to them. Also, do not be defensive when your spouse poses questions to you regarding your sexual integrity. This is not an assault upon you, rather, it is an opportunity for you to strengthen your integrity with them. Allow questions to be asked so that you can establish a higher degree of accountability, thus building confidence in your spouse.
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