Thursday, November 7, 2013

Was Jesus Crucified?

Most I meet would, without hesitation, answer an emphatic “yes.” Back in 2010, a graduate of the Swedish university Goteburgs wrote his thesis on his research analyzing what “writings in antiquity” revealed about the subject. It was a 400-page thesis and is no longer available in whole.

In essence, his research concluded that there is no specific evidence that a cross-beam was used in Roman punishment around the period that Jesus lived on earth. He further concludes that the closest, most accurate English rendering of the Greek term “stauros” is a device used to suspend something or someone. This conclusion is interesting because it has been a long-held belief of Jehovah’s Witnesses that Jesus died, not on a cross (cross-beam), but on a pole.

Here are some links regarding the original articles:

(The above links were emailed to me in November 2013, hence the delay in sharing this.)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Faith: More Than Mere Confidence

I used to say that a synonym for faith is confidence. Although correct, that comparison falls far short of the way the Bible uses the term “faith.” Taking a look at Hebrews chapter 11, it is evident that faith is more than strong conviction or confidence in God. It is confidence demonstrated through determined and loyal action. Especially in the face of adversity we can demonstrate such an outstanding quality. Like tempered glass or tempering metal (which makes them stronger), the Bible refers to endurance and the “tested quality” of our faith as producing a mature, morally strong Christian who is “sound in all respects, not lacking in anything.” –James 1:2-4

See also: Consider It All Joy

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Convenient Time

Luke 4:13, “So the Devil, having finished all the temptation, departed from him until another convenient time.” (Also translated "opportune time")

What was “convenient” about that particular time to tempt Jesus? Verse 2 of the same chapter indicates that Jesus was (understandably) hungry. Satan, knowing this, made the very first temptation that of selfishly using the powers Jesus had in order to miraculously make instant food for himself. Although he was hungry, Jesus demonstrated mental alertness and moral resolve.

Scripture does not mention that Satan found any other convenient time to make a direct challenge to Jesus. But that one episode helps me to see that Satan looks for “convenient” times in all of our lives as well. That made me ponder the question, “What convenient times come up in people’s lives that the opportunist Satan would try to take advantage of to weaken our resolve, discourage us, or make us act contrary to the direction given us in God’s Word, the Bible?”

Here are some I thought of, perhaps you can think of others: In the three tests Satan put Jesus through, Satan saw an opportunity in …

1) Perceived physical weakness (the need for food and to maintain our health). With our imperfections, sometimes our health issues can extend into emotional and mental stresses. We can begin to doubt that anyone cares for us (including God), that we are worth anything, that there is anything worth living for. All of those are our imperfect "heart" talking, but Satan can take note of the "opportunity" by making things appear more gloomy than they really are.

2) Self-worth (our desire for prominence or even to be valued more than scripture indicates we should expect).  Satan tried to draw this out of Jesus in all three tests.  In suggesting he turn stones into food, he suggested Jesus has the right to use his powers to feed himself. In suggesting he accept all the kingdoms of the world, Satan fed on the human desire for greatness. In suggesting Jesus fool-heartedly throw himself off a high place, Satan wanted Jesus to misuse his relationship with his Father to protect against stupid actions.

3) Moral. (When people think of morals, they usually think of truth verse lies, sexual misconduct, murder and such things. Yet all of the temptations Satan gave Jesus were also moral. Arrogantly trusting in our own ability, the desire to be “someone” important, the desire for wealth, the desire for the adrenalin rush that excitement and sporting activities that could result in physical harm are all moral issues.)

4) Personal understanding of scripture and life. When Satan quoted from Psalm 91:11,12, he misapplied it as an excuse to engage in life-threatening action. (Luke 4:9-11). He does the same thing to us. For example, when we read at 2 Thessalonians 3:10 "If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat." and further we read 1 Timothy 1:8 "Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith," we might wrongly conclude that employment is more important that our relationship with Jehovah and hence become irregular in our Bible reading, our meeting attendance and our ministry. When we think that way, we are forgetting Jesus’ response to the first temptation Satan threw his way. Jesus said “Man must not live on bread alone.” That was a quote from Deuteronomy 8:3 which continues to say we must live not only on food but more importantly on God’s Word. In other words, our obedience to God’s direction is more important than what we perceive to be a necessity. In short, if a personal understanding of something we read in scripture results in taking us away from service to our God, jeopardizes our loyalty to God or anything that can put us at odds with God, the opportunist Satan has made good use of the situation and conveniently hurt us spiritually.