Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Icy finger of death caught on camera

HT to Charlie for sending this to me.

I am in awe of the natural world that God created. It is endlessly interesting and vibrant. What a Creator we have who should make these things by the sound of His voice! And He made the animals in one day! In thinking of how all the eco-systems interact and flow together to support one unified world, on which we float, I'm often rendered speechless. Wow.

Remember to thank the Creator for making such a habitable and pleasant place for us to live. Thank Him for His intellect and creativity that is on display for us to praise. He is surely a Most High God of infinite and boundless delight.

Below is a clip from the upcoming episide of Discovery's Frozen Planet. I've seen some of the previous episodes and they are great. Here is a Fox News article about what you will see on the video:

"Filmed for the first time, the icy “finger of death” is an unprecedented look at nature’s beauty -- seen at it's devastating worst. Called a brinicle (or brine icicle), cameramen Hugh Miller and Doug Anderson used a time-lapse camera to capture this awe-inspiring event beneath the Antarctic ice shelf for the upcoming Discovery Channel special series, Frozen Planet. “We were just blown away by how beautiful they were,” producer Kathryn Jeffs told FoxNews.com. Jeffs was in Antarctica with Miller and Anderson to capture the unique event. “We were exceptionally excited and we knew we had something that had never been filmed before, never been seen before. No one has really seen the formation of a brinicle.”

"It was pretty emotional when we saw that we got it. This magnificent yet terrifying phenomenon is caused by brine, or naturally occurring salt water, which tends to be denser than the surrounding seawater and has a lower freezing point. When super cold brine trickles down, the warmer seawater surrounds the cyclone with a brittle layer of ice. But capturing the event on tape was no easy feat, as the crew battled brutal conditions, technical challenges, and even seal attacks. “Because there have been so few studies on the brinicles, it’s really, really difficult to tell when and exactly how they are going to form,” Jeffs explained to FoxNews.com. “They do have a tendency to form when the ice is being disrupted, or in extremely cold conditions -- which disrupt the inner channels and sets in motion the flow of brine.”

"Following this hunch, Jeffs and her crew ventured out to the foothills of Mount Erebus, a remote volcano in Antarctica, where the team dealt with subzero temperatures and incredibly harsh conditions."

"The area also happened to be a seal habitat, notoriously territorial creatures. “We finished the first dive only to find the next morning that a seal had knocked over the camera,” Jeffs said. In the end, the team found success, to stunning effect, capturing not only the brinicle formation but also, what Jeffs refers to as the “river of death” flowing in front of it. “It was pretty emotional when we saw that we got it,” Jeffs told FoxNews.com, adding that some of the crew were close to tears. “We’re really proud of the achievement.”

Frozen Planet premiers on the Discovery Channel on March 18


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pssst, have you heard the latest about her?

We are studying 2 Corinthians 12 this week at church. I was reading along and got to the last couple of verses and the Spirit made some of it leap off the page. You Christians know what I am talking about.

"For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced." (2 Corinthians 12: 20-21).

I stopped at "whisperings." It strikes me that whisperings is listed in a list of sins along with the more vocal and physical sins of contentions, outbursts and tumults. Compared to those, whisperings seems hardly noticeable, and certainly one of the lesser sins. Or is it?

Looking up the Greek for that part of the verse we see that whisperings is "psithurismos". This is an onomatopoetic word that is supposed to imitate the sound it describes. This word in the Greek is a sibilant, sounding like sss-sss. The word means a secret slandering, a whispering. Strong's Concordance says, "Psithyrismós (from psithos, "whisper") – properly, a whispering to "quietly" spread malicious gossip; "whispering" that launches "secret attacks on a person's character" (Souter). Psithyrismós is "an onomatopoetic word for the sibilant murmur of a snake charmer."

Snake charmer, eh?

Going further, I remembered the verses from Ezekiel 28. One day last year I was asking myself, "How DID satan get a third of the angels to side with him? They live with God in perfect holiness. How did satan convince them?" The verse says-

"Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones" (Ez 28:16).

My bible study involves reading the bible a lot, and asking myself questions. The next question I'd asked myself was, 'what widespread trade? It's not like there was a mall in heaven..." I looked up the Hebrew word for trade, and it is rechullatecha, meaning traffic, merchandise, from root word rakal. Rakal means to go about, selling. So satan was selling a bill of goods. The ultimate root is rakil, slander. Aha! So, satan was actively perpetrating a slanderous whisper campaign among the angels by going about, here and there, spreading lies and slander and gossip against God's character.

If you ever wondered why the sins of gossip and murder are near each other in a list of grievous sins in Romans 1:28-32, it is because murder kills the body and gossip kills the character. If you ever wondered how efficient it is to kill someone's character by talebearing, just look at how successful satan was with slandering and gossiping about God. He was able to convince a third of the multitude to side with him. He was able to convince Eve to taste the fruit. We saw from satan's interaction with Eve that he sidles up and whispers just enough slander to get you to start looking at things in another way (Hath God really said...? Genesis 3:1)

Of the six things God hates, even seven, three are the speaking sins akin to slander and gossip: a lying tongue, a false witness who bears lies and a brother who spreads dissension (Proverbs 6:16-19).

We know that satan is the accuser of the brethren, (Rev 12:10). We know that the word devil means slanderer.

The bible is replete in the OT and the NT about talebearers, gossips, whisperers, loose tongues, and slander. Paul talks about whisperers several times. The next time you want to say something about someone that is a tale, and you lower your voice so no one else but the gossipee hears, just remember psythyrismos, means snake charmer. Do you really want to whisper like a snake and charm the devil?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Re-post: Roll call in heaven

Some encouragement for a Monday morning, a re-post from last May of some thoughts about heaven after the rapture:

There's a song by the Gaithers called "When the roll is called up yonder" and the next line is "I'll be there."



Speaking of New Jerusalem:

"Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life."

The roll call from Jesus reminded me of several scriptures I love very dearly. The illustrate the moment when certain of God's prophets were called. They heard God, and they responded "Here I am!" They report for the highest duty possible, a life of total dedication and obedience to Jesus. This is the only proper response to His call. It moves me to think of them saying "Here I am!" to God. These are the men whom God called:

Abraham, when God tested his faith: - Genesis 22:1, 11,
Jacob, in a dream, hears the LORD say that He sees Jacob's ill treatment by Laban - Genesis 31:11
Moses, seeing the burning bush and hearing the Angel of the Lord call Moses to perform the Exodus - Exodus 3:4

Samuel, as a boy, receiving his first call from the LORD. - 1 Samuel 3:4
Isaiah, in a vision from Isaiah 6:8, receiving his call to Prophet after seeing the LORD on His throne and exclaiming he is a man of unclean lips, being cleaned with the live coal, then eagerly answering God, "Here I am, send me!"

"Here I am!" they all said.

Now get this. Picture in your mind the great multitudes that appear before Jesus in heaven after the rapture. You are wearing a white robe and are enjoying a glorified body. You are seeing things unparalleled and experiencing indescribable joy. You see Jesus' face, and you can't get enough. In the midst of this, imagine Him opening the Lamb's Book of Life, in which your name is written. And 'books were opened' and the roll is called...and then then He calls your name.

Because of His sacrifice, because of His love, because of the blood, because you repented, you will say:

HERE I AM!


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Response to CNN Belief Blog essay "Stop sugarcoating the bible"

There is an essay on CNN Belief Blog today. Steven James's essay titled, My Take: Stop sugarcoating the Bible got my ire up.

Now, I liked the title. As I read the first few paragraphs I agreed with Mr James that we often like to overlook the uncomfortable facts of the bible's harsher realities being glaringly depicted.

As his essay continued I silently sang hallelujah to each paragraph's main point. Until I got to this one:

"I find it encouraging that Jesus never came across as pietistic. In fact, he was never accused of being too religious; instead he partied so much that he was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton (Matthew 11:19).'

Jesus was hated by the legalistic religious leaders of the day. He lived, so they killed Him. He preached, so they blasphemed. He performed miracles, so they said He was from satan. He ate, so they called him a glutton. It doesn't mean that Jesus was any of those things. Here, Mr James makes an interpretation of the partying Jesus that escapes me. "Partying" evokes images of boys in the frat house living riotously without regard to the noise, the property owner, or themselves. Jesus was never riotous and He was never out of control. He didn't "party." I became even more dismayed when I read the following:

"Jesus never said, “The Kingdom of God is like a church service that goes on and on forever and never ends.” He said the kingdom was like a homecoming celebration, a wedding, a party, a feast to which all are invited. This idea was too radical for the religious leaders of his day. They were more concerned about etiquette, manners, traditions and religious rituals than about partying with Jesus. And that’s why they missed out."

The Pharisees missed the party because they were too tightly wound to party? He continued:

"That’s why we miss out."

We miss the salvation offer of Jesus because we are too afraid to party with Him? And there's more:

"According to Jesus, the truly spiritual life is one marked by freedom rather than compulsion (John 8:36), love rather than ritual (Mark 12:30-33) and peace rather than guilt (John 14:27). Jesus saves us from the dry, dusty duties of religion and frees us to cut loose and celebrate."

I object to several points, but I'd like to focus on his thread of hipster dude-ism the author promotes and which currently perverts the faith. The young pastors coming up with their ripped jeans and cool glasses and casual attitude and the throwing away of dry, dusty doctrine that really gets in the way of what Jesus came to do, which is urge us to social justice. These pastors and others like them are re-making God in their image. Jesus is now a hipster dude, partying down with his buds by the Sea of Galilee. All they need is a bonfire and a guitar.

Jesus came to us manifested as a Man so that He could live a life of a man on earth, being tempted in every way (Hebrews 4:15). Because He lived a life as a Man, He attended weddings (John 2:1), accepted dinner invitations (Luke 10:38, Mark 2:15), cried (Luke 19:41), walked and got tired (John 4:6), ate (John 13:26), preached (Luke 4:14), worshiped (Luke 6:12). But partying? Cutting loose? No. Jesus didn't come to free us from constraining etiquette, He came to seek and save the lost who were bound to satan in their sins.

Jesus is God. This is our God: " Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently," (Exodus 19:18)

This is our God: "Men will flee to caves in the rocks and to holes in the ground from dread of the LORD and the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to shake the earth." (Isaiah 2:19)

This is our God: "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple." (Isaiah 6:1)

Does any of that sound like He came to release us to cut loose from rules and etiquette and propriety? (Above, "Buddy Christ" from movie Dogma, source)

The issue I have with essays like Mr James's is that they take some truth and wrap it in a lie. In the essay's beginning are some wonderful thoughts. At the end is a strong conclusion. In the middle of the essay is blasphemy. Or at the very least, a deeply flawed understanding of who Jesus is and why He came. Do you notice that for all the author's entreaties not to sugarcoat the bible, he fails to mention the one recurring theme from Genesis to Revelation, and the exact reason Jesus came? The word "sin" is not stated once. He mentions the bible's heroes "being screwed up" and talks of people "being where they're at" but the word sin is not uttered. I put it to you that despite the author's entreaties not to sugarcoat the bible's message, by failing to mention the reason we need Jesus is because we're sinners, he has done just that.


Wyoming advances doomsday bill

This news excerpt is from the Wyoming Star-Tribune. It is not a spoof.

Wyoming House advances doomsday bill
"CHEYENNE — State representatives on Friday advanced legislation to launch a study into what Wyoming should do in the event of a complete economic or political collapse in the United States. House Bill 85 passed on first reading by a voice vote. It would create a state-run government continuity task force, which would study and prepare Wyoming for potential catastrophes, from disruptions in food and energy supplies to a complete meltdown of the federal government. The task force would look at the feasibility of Wyoming issuing its own alternative currency, if needed. And House members approved an amendment Friday by state Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, to have the task force also examine conditions under which Wyoming would need to implement its own military draft, raise a standing army, and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier. The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. David Miller, R-Riverton, has said he doesn’t anticipate any major crises hitting America anytime soon. But with the national debt exceeding $15 trillion and protest movements growing around the country, Miller said Wyoming — which has a comparatively good economy and sound state finances — needs to make sure it’s protected should any unexpected emergency hit the U.S. Several House members spoke in favor of the legislation, saying there was no harm in preparing for the worst."

More at link

This reminds me of Daniel 5:1-5. Here is a portion:

"Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank wine in the presence of the thousand. While he tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave the command to bring the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple which had been in Jerusalem, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple of the house of God which had been in Jerusalem; and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone. In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his hips were loosened and his knees knocked against each other."

I like John MacArthur's sermon title for this scripture, "Divine Graffiti: The End of an Empire'

If you look at the verses immediately prior to when the King's "loins were loosed" (KJV) you will see the several egregious sins that the King was engaged in. He desecrated the Temple artifacts. He was having a drunken orgy. He was worshiping idols, and not just worshiping idols but worshiping them with the Temple artifacts. It is a mini-abomination of desolation. God intervened. The Babylonian Empire fell.

The chapter of Daniel 5 is a good look at what causes the end of an empire. When does God's patience and longsuffering run out? As Pastor MacArthur describes the cycle, "civilization follows the very same pattern. It rises to its heights. At its height, it is filled with pride. In the midst of its pride, and self-indulgence, and materialism it begins to descend into degeneration, and debauchery, and evil. And as it descends, it comes closer and closer to its destruction."

America is following that cycle. It is obvious that America is sliding fast downhill to the dung heap of former empires, former great kingdoms. In Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells his listeners, "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden." As the Puritans came to America and founded our nation, John Winthrop said on board the Arbella in 1630--

"For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world." Winthrop closes with this:

"But if our hearts shall turn away, so that we will not obey, but shall be seduced, and worship other Gods, our pleasure and profits, and serve them; it is propounded unto us this day, we shall surely perish out of the good land whither we pass over this vast sea to possess it. Therefore let us choose life, that we and our seed may live, by obeying His voice and cleaving to Him, for He is our life and our prosperity."

These words are so true! They are mirrored in Belshazzar's actions, his squandering of the gifts and opportunities God had offered. King Belshazzar's heart had turned away from God, was seduced, sought pleasure and profits, and he perished out of the good land. It is the same with America, and with any nation that follows this trajectory.

Back to Wyoming. By now in 2012, who doesn't see the writing on the wall? Hollywood certainly does. Every other movie that emerges from the movie city is an ode to evil and doomsday. The hearts of Christians all around the world certainly see the writing on the wall, knowing God's heart and His justice. Even the lost are also seeing the writing on the wall, as the legislators in Wyoming demonstrate. Though the article quotes "University of Wyoming political science professor Jim King said the potential for a complete unraveling of the U.S. government and economy is “astronomically remote” in the foreseeable future" we know different. Even the lost do. Belshazzar didn't know what the writing said at first, but he certainly understood its general meaning! His bowels loosed, his face went pale and his mind went blank. Initially he didn't have to know what the writing said to spiritually understand that it meant something very, very bad was about to happen.

When does God end His patience and then turn to justice? "In Psalm 19:7, it says, "The wicked shall be turned to hell and all the nations that forget God." The doom of a nation is spelled when it forgets God," preached MacArthur.

When a nation not only forgets God, but mocks God, tests God, and desecrates God, they have sealed their own doom. Will a "Doomsday Bill" stave off the effects of what is coming? Babylon thought itself impregnable. It was a huge city, 15 miles square. Its walls were 87 feet thick. It had trained soldiers upon the towers to look out. The city had the Euphrates running through it so there was a fresh water supply. They thought they had made all the preparations necessary. If they had a legislature they would have passed a 'doomsday bill.' They were "prepped."

But Cyrus and the Medes/Persians were encamped outside. The King was having this drunken orgiastic God-mocking festival in the midst of armies surrounding the city, but all Cyrus had to do was dam the river and as the water levels fell, the scouts advanced into the city, killed the guards, and threw the gates open. Done.

Remember, the best preparation, the ONLY preparation, for the future is to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior. If you confess your sins to Him in repentance, acknowledging Him as the risen and living God whose substitutionary death on the cross and accepting God's wrath for sin, made it possible for us to know Him as friend and not an enemy, you are prepared! Relying on a Doomsday Bill isn't going to cut it.

When the nation falls it falls fast. Though Babylon's slide was long and slow the end came quickly. The empire fell that very night. America's slide has been long and slow. Those who know God and even those who do not know God understand the writing on the wall has appeared. We don't know what will be the precipitating event to cause God to say His cup of wrath is full, but we do know one thing. No amount of preparing, no amount of doomsday bills, no amount of blue-ribbon task forces will withstand God's anger at a nation whose light has gone out.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

How do you go through trials?

At my church, we are studying 2 Corinthians on Wednesday nights. We looked at chapter 11 this week. We got to the end where Paul was reluctantly boasting in his sufferings for Christ (verses 22-39). Our teacher asked us something like, (if I remember correctly), "How do you handle sufferings? What do you do?"

I thought about that for a few days. I like when our teachers and pastors ask us questions, because I really think about the answers. I like having something biblical to chew over. Here is my answer:

1. I tell myself that this present trial is not permanent. Even if I were to receive a fatal diagnosis or were to suffer in an accident where I was totally disabled, the trial is not permanent. It is temporary. This life is short, being but a vapor (James 4:14). A 20 or even a 40 year trial is nothing, compared to eternity. And thus far, thanks to God's grace, I have NOT received a trial that has lasted all my life. At most, one has lasted 5 years, and most of the rest only a few weeks or months. So whatever I am going through will end. I tell myself that often, because it is true.

2. My trial is not as bad as someone else's. There is always a Christian out there who is suffering more, and usually with more grace than I am, too. Am I in jail for my faith? No. Have I lost employment for my faith? No. Have I lost a child because of Jesus's name? No. And in reading Paul's resume of sufferings, being the epitome of how His grace is sufficient, I have nothing to complain about, even when I am at my darkest or my lowest.

3. I tell myself that He is Good. He IS Good therefore everything He does is good. "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28). Therefore everything He does is Good. Even Job, who lost all, suffered much, went through one of the bible's most difficult trials, it was Good. How so, you say? Job's trial, his righteousness in looking to God in all things, his victory over the devil as a result, and his restoration was set into the bible, to be read by countless millions of Christians going through trials and needing encouragement. Job's trial was bad, but it helped millions, over thousands of years. Now that's good! So as dark as my trial is, I know something good will emerge out of it.

4. I stay positive. I do not dwell on the bad part I am going through, but pray, read the bible, and tell myself repeatedly that it is for the good. I apply 2 Corinthians 10:5 here, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." I refuse to dwell on how low I may be feeling, because feelings are ephemeral. I concentrate on God's sovereignty, because I know I can rest under His control, even in the seemingly "bad" things. I take the negative thoughts captive while I allow the positive thoughts in. I focus on the promises, not the trials. Romans 5:3-5 helps here, "And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." James 1:12 too.

5. Every time I have gone through a trial, I have gotten closer to God. Jesus is my Savior and Lord, and though I can never know all His ways nor ever plumb the depths of His grace, each time I emerge from something bad, I feel closer to Him. This is a good thing! I have that to look forward to on the other side. I have been the recipient of His grace, His comfort, His faithfulness. So even in the bottom of the valley I tell myself that the reward will be a closer relationship with Him. It keeps me going.

6. I read the bible a lot. When I am going through a dark time, I wash myself in the Word even more than usual. I cling to it. I read it and chew on it and it fills me up instead of the darkness and negativity that would be there instead. His gift of spiritual armor is in place for a reason. It can withstand the fiery darts of the evil one. The bible is truth, and it sustains us. I turn to it and appeal to the Spirit for encouragement. The Spirit assures us, "Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”" (Galatians 4:6). The Spirit empowers us, "“And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”" (Luke 24:49). He helps our weakness! "In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;" (Romans 8:26). If I do not read the bible I would not be reading these truths about His work in our lives and His power to help us overcome.

These are a few of the things that I do when I come upon a trial, and I do have them. I am relentlessly joyful despite them, because the Most High is in my heart, helping me. I surely cannot do it on my own. But He is there, in so many ways. Never forget that, even as dark as it may get in your own life, dear brethren.

What do you do when you go through a trial?

Sleeping hummingbird snores in Peru

Adorable!


a female Amethyst-throated Sunangel (Heliangelus amethysticollis) sleeps in Peru

How to Become a Legalist

From Pastor Voddie Baucham's sermon "Zeal Without Knowledge." (Part of a series on Romans 6-11, this sermon covers Romans 10).



Friday, February 24, 2012

Riots in Jerusalem, whirlwind tour of Jerusalem past and future

Two stories for you, well, same story, from two different points of view. The first is from the Jordan Times. The second is from the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Jordan warns Israel over Al Aqsa mosque as Jerusalem reaches "boiling point"
"Jordan warned Israel on Sunday over attempts by right-wing activists to storm Al Aqsa Mosque as fresh clashes broke out in Jerusalem in the latest sign that simmering tensions are threatening to transform the third holiest site in Islam into a flashpoint for conflict. Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh denounced the use of force by Israeli authorities against worshippers during clashes that erupted yesterday morning after Israeli police accompanied a group of non-Muslim visitors into Al Aqsa Mosque through the Bab Al Magharbeh gate."

"Yesterday's clashes came on the backdrop of calls by extremist Israeli groups and politicians to storm Al Aqsa Mosque and establish the so-called Third Temple, with eyewitnesses claiming that a number of right-wing activists had accompanied the group of foreign visitors and successfully entered the mosque."

"According to the Jerusalem awqaf authorities, clashes broke out after worshippers singled out right-wing activists amidst the tour group and attempted to apprehend the "intruders", prompting 40 anti-riot police to storm Al Aqsa Mosque plaza and use force to dispel Muslim prayer-goers. According to Israeli police, occupation forces arrested 18 Palestinians for their participation in the incident, accusing the men of "throwing stones" at the tour group and injuring several policemen. In a press statement issued yesterday, Judeh stressed Amman's rejection of the "dangerous and systematic" attempts by Israeli extremist groups to occupy Al Aqsa Mosque, holding Tel Aviv accountable for the series of provocative measures custodians warn may ignite fresh violence in Jerusalem."

"Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Abdul Salam Abbadi also condemned Israeli security forces for storming Al Aqsa and clashing with worshippers on Sunday, the latest in a series of acts that the minister said amount to a "declaration of war" on the third holiest site in Islam."

"[This has] pushed tensions in the Old City to their highest levels since the second Intifada, which broke out in 2000. "Today we have seen the dangerous consequences of the atmosphere of distrust and extremism," said Zaki Tawfiq, head of the Israel-based Al Aqsa Foundation for Awqaf and Heritage. "We are one misstep away from violence."

Haaretz:
Muslim worshippers, Israeli police clash at Jerusalem's Temple Mount
Protesters hurl rocks at Mughrabi Bridge; in rare move, Israeli security forces enter Temple "Mount plaza to scatter the riot; 11 policemen, 15 Palestinians wounded.
Hundreds of Muslim worshippers clashed with police on Friday at Jerusalem's Temple Mount. Following Friday prayers, hundreds of worshippers began hurling rocks at the Mughrabi Bridge at the entrance to the Temple Mount, which prompted Israeli police forces to enter the plaza and attempt to scatter the protest. Israeli police said that dozens of protesters gathered inside the Al-Aqsa mosque after hurling rocks at security forces, who, in a rare move, came to the entrance of the mosque and used stun grenades to scatter the protesters. Eleven policemen and 15 Palestinians were wounded as a result of the clashes. Four Palestinians were arrested. In light of several violent incidents that occurred at the Temple Mount this week, police heightened their presence at the site on Friday morning."

O, Jerusalem! Let's take a whirlwind tour of the history of Jerusalem.

According to Wikipedia, "During its long history, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. The oldest part of the city was settled in the 4th millennium BC, making Jerusalem one of the oldest cities in the world."

The city is first mentioned in Genesis 14:18 when Melchizedek was King of the city. Abraham made a tithe offering to the King. Melchizedek is a Hebrew word for righteous, and the city was called Salem, meaning peace.

It was the center of Christ's new Kingdom (Isaiah 33:5). It was depicted on maps as the center of the world.

David was King of Jerusalem, and there were many others, some good, some bad. The ark was housed at the temple in Jerusalem. God graciously gave us His presence there. Nehemiah cared so much for the city..."The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, 2Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven." (Neh 1:2-4).

Jesus entered the city in a (false) coronation. He was tried there. He died there and was resurrected in it. Jesus Himself wept over the city. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." (Matthew 23:37)

Persecution forced believers out from the city. It was destroyed in 70AD.

Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:24. It will be the location of the abomination that causes desolation (Mark 13:14).

It will be split into three parts during a great earthquake (Revelation 16:19). But when the Lord returns, "And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south. And in that day it shall be That living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, Half of them toward the eastern sea And half of them toward the western sea; In both summer and winter it shall occur. And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be— “ The LORD is one,” And His name one." (Zechariah 14:4, 8-9)

The miraculous, living water will flow right out from the temple, "Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar." (Ezekiel 47:1)

Ezekiel's final words in his last book of the City are "and the name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE.” Jehovah Shammah! (Ezekiel 48:35b)

People think that because there will be a New Jerusalem coming down from heaven, intended as the dwelling place for the Church (Revelation 21:2) that there will not be an actual Jerusalem in which the LORD will dwell. Not so. Read Revelation 21:9-27. The Church will dwell in New Jerusalem and there will be an actual earthly city of Jerusalem in which David will be king under Jesus. (Hosea 3:5, Ezekiel 37:24-25).

Jerusalem has had a long and turbulent history, and it is not over yet by a long shot. But soon will come the peace for Jerusalem we all pray for. The Lord wants to gather the chicks to Himself as a hen and to reign rightfully from His Holy City. And He will.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

This N That

Reprove, Rebuke, Exhort
The Pyromaniacs explain 2 Timothy 4:2's "reprove, rebuke, exhort" verse.

What is a Pastor anymore?
Pastor Chris Gordon discusses "An office that should be held in high esteem by those who are privileged to serve in this capacity is being thrown to the dogs" and offers "a brief write-up on the warning signs of a pastor who has not been truly called by God to the office."

Russia Today report, "Firestorm Forecast: 'Syria can set region ablaze'"
Video discusses the current situation in Syria and whether intervention on humanitarian reasons should be entertained. But Syria and Russia say that intervention by the west would turn the region into a firestorm.

The Fireballs of February
NASA notes that though the number of observed fireballs is not any higher than usual, it is the appearance and trajectory that has them puzzled...

The sky actually IS falling, scientists find
Really. Scientists finished a decade long study, and clouds are lower.

Temporary RV occupancy
In a devastating indictment on how bad the economy has gotten, Board of Commissioners in my county took up the issue of how to deal with the explosive growth of people parking their RV's and living in them. As more people lose their homes, planting an RV on a cousin's pasture land and moving the family in seems to be the last option ahead of homelessness. Commissioners dealt with the issue first here, and then codified some ordinance and zoning rules about it here.

Metal theft getting ridiculous
In another local-to-me story, metal theft is hitting farmers hard. One farmer said, "Madison County’s Bill Sartain came back from church one day and found firemen at his house. A neighbor smelled gas and called 9-1-1. “We just thought it was a gas leak to start with and then we got to looking and someone had also been in the chicken house and stole a bunch of wire,” said Sartain. The crooks weren’t done. “They’ve been back since and stole more, and been back again and stole more,” said Sartain. “I put out game cameras to try to catch them and they stole them, too.”

Need a daily dose of Spurgeon? Devotionals here

World's oldest abstract art may be contained on a newly found Stone Age pebble. Sounds like a tempest in a  teapot to me.

Is your brain tired? Just want some cuteness? Innocuousness? Pleasant few minutes with no demands? Cute Overload!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

More about the Belt of Truth

We put on the full armor of God. If you read the whole passage in Ephesians 6, you will notice that all the weapons are defensive. It is all protective gear, not to be used in offense. I want to focus on the first thing Paul says to put on, the belt.

"Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place," (Ephesians 6:13-14).

The Roman soldier's belt was important. I can imagine with all the time Paul spent in prison that he had plenty of time to watch soldiers gear up. The belt was so important to a Roman soldier that it often had two buckles, or at least two places to be tied on. It was called a cingulum or a balteus. It performed several duties. First, it held the other pieces of armor in place. Cinched up tightly, the belt would hold fast the breastplate etc. Secondly, everything hung from the belt. Foremost, a soldier's sword hung from it. He usually hung a length of rope, an empty bag to put loot in, his lunch. There were loops on the belt because everything hung from it. Everything.

Now, when Paul says, 'put on the belt of truth,' we tend to take for granted the most important question. What is the truth? What truth does he mean? Do you know?

Clarke's Commentary gives the answer:

"The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the truth of God; unless this be known and conscientiously believed no man can enter the spiritual warfare with any advantage or prospect of success. By this alone we discover who our enemies are, and how they come on to attack us; and by this we know where our strength lies."

Do you know what the Gospel is? Do you know? We toss around the term, but do we know the basics of what Paul said was the Gospel message? (Gospel means "Good News").

1 Corinthians 15:1-5 has it:

"15:1 Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.  For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve."

So we must know what we believe and why we believe it. We must be ready to make a stand and give a reply as to why we have this Good News, this eternal hope. 1 Peter 3:15 says "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,"

Now, we have the basics down, the belt of truth and why we must cinch it tightly, what the truth is, why we believe it and why we must be ready to articulate it.

Now for the consequences of having a loose belt.

Too many people today study the bible a little and then coast. Or they think that is enough. Or they think that theology doesn't matter. All wrong. It is dangerous to know but a little.

In Revelation 3:15-16 Jesus decries lukewarm Christians. "“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth."

Barnes Notes explains: ""That thou art neither cold nor hot - The word "cold" here would seem to denote the state where there was no pretension to religion; where everything was utterly lifeless and dead. The language is obviously figurative, but it is such as is often employed, when we speak of one as being cold toward another, as having a cold or icy heart, etc. The word "hot" would denote, of course, the opposite - warm and zealous in their love and service. The very words that we are constrained to use when speaking on this subject - such words as ardent (that is, hot or burning); fervid (that is, very hot, burning, boiling) - show how necessary it is to use such words, and how common it is. The state indicated here, therefore, would be that in which there was a profession of religion, but no warm-hearted piety; in which there was not, on the one hand, open and honest opposition to him, and, on the other, such warm-hearted and honest love as he had a right to look for among his professed friends; in which there was a profession of that religion which ought to warm the heart with love, and fill the soul with zeal in the cause of the Redeemer; but where the only result, in fact, was deadness and indifference to him and his cause. Among those who made no profession he had reason to expect nothing but coldness; among those who made a profession he had a right to expect the glow of a warm affection; but he found nothing but indifference."

It is the Word that makes us hot. The more tightly you cling to it, the hotter you get. Constant study brings us truth which is constant revelation of Jesus which brings more constant love and zeal for Him. Lackadaisical study brings lukewarm Christians and lukewarm deeds and that is an indignation to Jesus.

When the serpent questioned Eve, she had an answer. And it was mostly right, too. But her belt of truth was a little too loose, some crud had gotten in under it. She added a little to the doctrine, and the serpent saw his opening. He went in for the kill. (Genesis 3:1-5).

The fall of man came after that. Now, if we mess up the ONE DOCTRINE that God had given at that time, what do you think satan can do with a people who play fast and loose with many of the doctrines that we have now?

You say, 'well, I know enough. Satan won't bother me.' That is wrong too. Look how bold satan is. He tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4). In the second temptation, satan tempted Jesus by twisting the WORD OF GOD. He tempted the WORD with twisting the Word! What do you think he will do to you? Especially if he sees that you know just enough to be dangerous, complacent (Revelation 3:15), or studiously ignorant of the truth? (2 Timothy 3:7).

Of course, Jesus made an appropriate reply, and it should be a goal for all of us to be able to refute scripture twisting. Satan takes a little truth and wraps it in a big lie. Or he takes a little lie and wraps it in big truth. For example, back to the conversation satan had with Eve. "And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”" (Genesis 3:2-5)

Satan was telling the truth, they would not surely die...physically. Satan was lying, they would surely die...spiritually. Satan was telling the truth, they would know good and evil. Satan was lying by omission...in not telling them what would happen after they knew good and evil (and he should know, shouldn't he?). And all because her belt of truth was too loose. She knew just enough to be dangerous.

We must wrap the truth around us so tightly it is like a second skin.

We have to know our bibles well enough to detect lies and to sort out what is the truth. We can do that with the belt cinched tightly. If it is loose, then satan will come and insinuate himself between the truth and your body and you will lose.

Now, I am not saying we can know the bible as well as Jesus like when He replied to satan in the wilderness, of course! But we must be diligent to always study. If we know the truth well, when we hear something a little off, we will know it is a little off. We must have an active prayer life and be close enough to the Lord so that when we hear something that doesn't sound quite right, we can appeal to the Spirit to lead us in the bible to where we can find the answer.

Cinch up, soldier! Put on the belt of truth and let us do what Paul urges even in himself:

"Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." (Eph 6:19-20)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Iran's Khamenei hints that the Presidency may be dismantled

The News first then the prophetic implication.

In April of 2011 I had posted several articles noting the growing and obvious rift between the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, and his handpicked and supposedly elected President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There was a spate of articles and a heightened speculation, then...nothing. War tensions took over and news chat of Ahmadinejad's position took back burner. Now this incredible news today. First, look at the three peices of news from last April/May-

Apr 28, 2011: There's a rift between Iran's President Ahmadinejad ...
"A rift is emerging between Iran's president and its supreme leader, prompting several members of the parliament to call for the impeachment of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has not been seen in public for days."

Apr 29, 2011: Ahmadinejad may resign
"In an interesting story yesterday, it seems that Iran's President Ahmadinejad has displeased the clerics (who really rule the nation) and especially has displeased Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei..."

May 6, 2011: "Are Ahmadinejad's days numbered?"
"An Examiner article states that Arab TV has reported that the Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei has asked President hmadinejad of Iran to step down. If true, it indicates a tightening of the strife that has burst onto the surface."

Iran's Parliamentary elections are coming up. This parliamentary election will be held in Iran on 2 March 2012 to elect new members of Islamic Consultative Assembly, Majlis. The Presidential election is not until next year. "The [parliamentary] election is expected to be a contest between "supporters and opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad within the conservative camp," says the AP. So there was already a rift, but the election is the mechanism that will expose it to the light. And any tensions that have been successfully hidden from the world since last April, will be all the harder to suppress as the elections near.

Then this today.

"Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has hinted the office of the presidency may be dismantled".

In this Al Jazeera opinion piece analyzing the current internal factionism in advance of the elections, it is stated,

"Soon after the presidential election of June 2009 - when Khamenei had to side with Ahmadinejad - the widely contested president was under the illusion that he enjoyed grassroots support. As a result of that deadly miscalculation, he and his faction now face two problems: not having his allies qualified for the next parliamentary election, and being impeached by the newly formed parliament for a barrage of corruption charges against him, his aides, and his cabinet. Ahmadinejad was always dispensable for Khamenei - but he seems to have had misread the Supreme Leader's intentions, who has even recently suggested that the office of presidency might very well be altogether dismantled to guarantee his absolutist Sultanism without even a hint of democratic menace."

Sultanism is "another name for Despotism, is a form of authoritarian government characterized by the extreme personal presence of the ruler in all elements of governance. ... The term Sultanism is derived from the word Sultan, which is a title used in Muslim societies for a sovereign or absolute monarch." (source)

This isn't the first time the Ayatollah has said that he may get rid of the office of President. He said it 4 months ago in this article in the Washington Post- "An unusual proposal by Iran’s supreme leader to eliminate the position of president has highlighted an increasingly bitter struggle within the country’s political elite, as the leader and his allies continue to try to undercut the powers of Iran’s ambitious president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said “changing Iran into a parliamentary system” in which voters no longer elected a president would not be a problem." Read more here.

Now the prophetic implication. The Tribulation is a time for Kings. It is all about kings. There will not be freedom, there will not be liberty, there will not be democracy. Geo-political changes occur so rapidly that individual national sovereignty is quickly done away with. the world forms into ten kingships. Daniel 7:24- "The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings."

Revelation 17:12 - "Revelation 17:12 "The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast."

Daniel 11:40 "At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood."

Revelation 16:12, "The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East."

The final days of the Church Age will see, and we are seeing now, a shifting of power. Not just in one president here or there but grand, sweeping changes, and changes not just of who governs, but how they govern, too. And not for the better. Changes where kings and presidents and ayatollahs and prime ministers and dictators are swept from power at a heartbeat. How many top leaders have been killed or have resigned int he last year? Power coalesces, and even nominal democracy is done away with. Think of all the dictators and leaders swept away in the Arab Spring, to be replaced with an Army or a Muslim Brotherhood, or a Terrorist faction. None of the new leaders have been better than the last, that is for sure.

It has to be so, because by Revelation 13 the Antichrist has gained enough power to force all people, great and small, to receive a mark on their hand or their forehead in order to worship the beast, or they may not buy nor sell. That is the word in Revelation 13:16- "forced" "everyone." Only dictators can do that. As we near the Tribulation the world gets ready to form into ten kingships, then seven, then one.

That's why it is prophetically significant that the Ayatollah has hinted he may get rid of the office of the President. By the time of the end, there will only be dictators. aAd then the final dictator, antichrist. It is all narrowing down.

Monday, February 20, 2012

World hatred against Israel is rising to a frenzied pace

This is Israel National News's actual headline:

Harvard to host Conference of Hate
Harvard University to host conference based on a "one state solution," calling for dismantling the Jewish state of Israel.
"Harvard University is going to be hosting a conference entitled “One State Conference: Israel/Palestine and the One State Solution,” scheduled to take place March 3-4. ... The conference was organized by a number of student groups including, Students for Justice in Palestine, the Palestine Caucus, the Arab Caucus, the Progressive Caucus, and the Association for Justice in the Middle East, all of which perpetrate an ideology based on the belief that Israel is an “apartheid state,” responsible for the “ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population."

Christ at the Checkpoint 2012
"The conference is organized by Bethlehem Bible College and will take place in Bethlehem, March 5-9, 2012. It aims is to provide an opportunity for Evangelical Christians to prayerfully seek a proper awareness of issues of peace, justice, and reconciliation in the context of the realities on the ground in the Palestinian Territories. The overall theme of the conference will be Hope in the Midst of Conflict. The conference will focus on the ministry of the Palestinian Church in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The sessions and activities will have varied formats including lectures, interviews, field visits, workshops, and small group discussions. There will also be praise and worship, gospel choirs, and a series of short videos created specifically for the conference. The conference will cover different topics including: Biblical Hope, Biblical Justice, Christian Zionism, Theology of the Land, Non-Violence, Peacemaking and the Church, and Reconciliation."

Sounds all nicey nicey, doesn't it? Israel Today Magazine explains the reality of this Christ at the Checkpoint Conference:

"A new brand of Replacement Theology built atop Jesus’ teachings of compassion and attacking those who would support the State of Israel on biblical grounds is permeating the Church. Known locally as Palestinian Liberation Theology, the movement got a major boost in 2010 with the release of the documentary film “With God on Our Side,” which presented a critical view of Christian Zionism, and the first Christ at the Checkpoint conference, during which some speakers attempted to equate Jesus’ suffering with Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinian Arabs. The second Christ at the Checkpoint conference at the Bethlehem Bible College in March 2012 promises to further advance the cause. And this time, Israelis are paying attention, many of them confused over how portions of an Evangelical Church that had so vigorously supported their nation’s prophetic restoration could now be championing its delegitimization."

There is some push-back, here is "Russ Resnik, Executive Director of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC), who reads a statement of concern about "Christ at the Checkpoint," which was issued by the UMJC, Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues, and International Messianic Jewish Alliance."


Championing Israel's de-legitimization is coming from many quarters, fast and furious!! This is prophetic.

 "and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations ; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." (Luke 21:24).

O Jerusalem! O, Israel! Hated until the end. But the Sovereign Lord is faithful. He protects her through the end. (Ezekiel 38:18). He loves her until the end, and beyond. (Ezekiel 48:35). Hang on, Israel! Better days are coming!

And now for something completely different: some stuff about me

Remember that segue phrase from Monty Python's Flying Circus? No? Man, I'm old.

Here are a few personal things. It occurred to me that I never, ever post anything about myself. While I think that is a good thing, generally, because this blog is not about me (It's about JESUS!) sometimes getting to know the writer could help someone make a connection.

I have two cats. Bert and Luke.

Here is my cat Bert, otherwise known as 'football' or the 'ungainly meat loaf'.

He loves his string though. Not just any string, but a plaid gift bow. He drags it in his mouth, jumps on the table and drops it on the keyboard. Subtle he ain't. I'm supposed to wave it around and he grabs for it.

Lemme position this just right...

Aha! I've got you right where I want you, string!

Whazzat? Something else going on? What? Where?

Just to mess with him, I said really loud, "BERT!" He's so easy...

This is Luke. He likes to get into things too.

Here is my couch, from which I occasionally post things:

But mostly I work at the table. The bookcase adjacent to the table contains the scanner, the printer, office supplies, and some reference materials. The rest of my theological books are in the 6 foot bookcase in the living room. (not shown)

I have curtains now that there is a neighbor. She is a quiet neighbor.

So that is a bit about me. I like Monty Python, I have two cats, a small but tidy and pretty apartment, a lot of books, and, well, that's all about me, your tireless and diligent blogger!

Reclining at Jesus's bosom

Growing up, I used to watch the PBS Masterpiece Theatre classic "I, Claudius". It was about one of the least known Emperors of the Roman Empire, Claudius. Who wouldn't overlook him, being sandwiched between Caligula and Nero, lol. I was fascinated with the Roman banquets, of which the show "I, Claudius" had many, and I used to wonder why they ate while reclining. It seemed cumbersome to me.

However, Amos mentioned reclining while eating in Amos 6:7- "Therefore they shall now go captive as the first of the captives, And those who recline at banquets shall be removed." Amos lived in around 760 BC. As a matter of fact, the first known artistic depiction of someone reclining while eating is captured in this 'Garden Party' relief from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal, Nineveh, Iraq, about 645 BC, well before the Roman Empire. The relief is currently housed at the British Museum. King Ashurbanipal reigned from 669-631 BC. Here he is shown eating while reclining on his left side, with a pillow propped under his armpit and his wife upright in front of him. This custom was later shown in Greek, Etruscan, and Roman art and writings. It was picked up in Jewish traditions.

source
I was then and I am still bemused by the Roman custom of eating while reclining. The Romans said it aided digestion. It also was a cultural boast, that the upper class Romans were so wealthy they could afford to not only sit to eat, but to recline. Leisure was a mark of class and wealth.

The photo below from Wikimedia Commons shows a re-enactment of a Roman banquet. The Romans would lie on their left side with a pillow under their armpit. They would use their right hand to eat. Their feet would extend out and away from the specially designed couches upon which they would recline for many hours. Dinners took a while, interspersed as they were with conversation and entertainment. Women were allowed to participate at dinners at later stages of the Empire, and usually sat in upright chairs in front of their husbands.
This reenactment of a Roman banquet shows members of the upper class reclining on couches. The women wear their chiton and palla, while the men wear purple-bordered togas, denoting their position of senator. As women are present, this is most likely a dinner party, as opposed to a symposium, where women would only be permitted if they were entertainers.
As the custom caught on, the middle class then the lower classes copied the posture of reclining while eating.

The typical dinner would include nine guests. There were three reclining couches arranged in a semicircle, with three diners to a couch. The inside of the horseshoe was left open so slaves could pour wine and serve food. Anything not eaten, like bones or shells, were cast to the floor to be swept up by the slaves later.

The host would assume the place in the middle of the central couch and to be placed next to him was the place of honor. It is like "the head table" at a wedding. The place of honor was given to the one on his left. Jesus spoke to this when he said in Matthew 23:6, "They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues,"

As Barnes' Notes describes, "On these the guests reclined, leaning on their left side, with their feet extended from the table, and so lying that the head of one naturally reclined on the bosom of another. To recline near to one in this manner denoted intimacy, and was what was meant by lying "in the bosom" of another, John 13:23; Luke 16:22-23.

"John 13:23-- "There was reclining on Jesus' bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved."

Embroidered altar dossal, 1633. source
Barnes continues, "As the feet were extended "from" the table, and as they reclined instead of sitting, it was easy to approach the feet behind, and even unperceived. Thus, in Luke 7:37-38, while Jesus reclined in this manner, a woman that had been a sinner came to his feet "behind him," and washed them with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head. She stood on the outside of the couches. So our Saviour washed the feet of his disciples as they reclined on a couch in this manner, John 13:4-12. Whenever we read in the New Testament of "sitting" at meals, it always means reclining in this manner, and never sitting as we do. The chief seat, or the "uppermost" one, was the middle couch at the upper end of the table. This the Pharisees loved, as a post of honor or distinction."

All one had to do if wanting to ask a private question or make a one-on-one comment was to lean back against the person next to you, and with your head at their bosom, ask it in a low voice. The Beloved Disciple, assumed to to be John, asked this of Jesus when prompted by Peter, who was going to be His betrayer?

"He, leaning back thus on Jesus' bosom, said to Him, "Lord, who is it?" (John 13:25).

Jesus replied to the Beloved Disciple who had just asked Jesus who His betrayer was going to be by saying it is the one to whom I will dip this bread (Verse 26). Because Jesus was able to hand Judas the bread it it assumed that Judas had been reclining at the second place of honor, to the Host's left.

Though Jesus certainly had upside down ideas about the places of honor, so the ritual usually associated with Roman & Jewish dining places can't be dogmatically assumed, except for Jesus being at the center. "When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable:  “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”" (Luke 14:7-11).

The handing of bread that had been dipped was a custom of friendship, or reconciliation. By Jesus handing Judas the bread He was giving an offer of friendship at that late stage, and still giving Judas grace to change his mind.

Judas was close to Jesus because Judas was handed the bread and he took it.

"After the morsel, Satan then entered into him." (John 13:27).

So Judas accepted the gesture but still resolved to betray Jesus! Then Jesus said, "What you do, do quickly."

Here are a couple of other verses referring to intimacy and closeness in proximity by being at the bosom-

Luke 16:22-- "Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried."

Isaiah 40:11-- "Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes."

The picture of the different people at the bosom of Abraham or Jesus shows us rest, intimacy, care. Are you reclining at Jesus' bosom today? It is an amazing thing to know that He is holy, holy, holy; that His thunder can rend the earth into pieces, but that love of His forgiven is as gentle and accessible as being able to lay your head on His bosom. He will even gather you into His arms and carry you. He is not just the Judge of all sins, He is not only the Subduer of foes, but He is the gentle Shepherd, able to tenderly carry the feeble and the weak. Come to Him today, your Shepherd, your Companion.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Overcomers: Noah, Daniel, and Job

God speaking to Ezekiel about inescapable judgment:

"Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD." (Ezekiel 14:14).

Why are Noah, Daniel, and Job mentioned as standout, righteous men, in this verse and in Ez 14:20?

"The principal fight of the Christian is with the world, the flesh, and the devil. These are his never-dying foes. These are the three chief enemies against whom he must wage war. Unless he gets the victory over these three, all other victories are useless and vain. If he had a nature like an angel, and were not a fallen creature, the warfare would not be so essential. But with a corrupt heart, a busy devil, and an ensnaring world, he must either “fight” or be lost." (JC Ryle, "Holiness")

Noah overcame the world. Daniel overcame the flesh. Job overcame the devil.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Of bird die-offs, dolphin strandings, and animals in the bible

I think of how He caused all the animals to come to Noah in preparation for the flood. (Genesis 7:1-16). I think of the birds He sent to feed Elijah (1 Kings 17:1-6), and of the quail that He sent to the Jews during the wandering in the desert. (Exodus16:13). I think of Balaam and his donkey speaking out loud (Numbers 2). He caused the large fish to cough up Jonah on cue, and on the beach no less. (Jonah 2:10). I think of the Gadarene pigs, how after Jesus ordered the legion of demons in the Gadarene demoniac, they begged to go into the herd of pigs instead of back to the abyss, and Jesus put them into the pigs and the pigs went mad and hurtled down the hill and into the lake to drown themselves. (Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:25-39 and Matthew 8:28-34). He is sovereign, and He controls the entire creation, including the animals. Not one jot or tittle escapes His notice, not even one sparrow falling to the ground.

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father." (Matthew 10:29).

Sparrows were inconsequential birds. As David Padfield writes, "In the days of our Lord sparrows were sold for a very low price -- two of them for a copper coin (Matt. 10:29). A copper coin, an asarion, was a very small Roman coin, was worth about 1/16 of a silver denarius, and was therefore worth less than a quarter in U.S. currency today. Those who were poor and could not afford to sacrifice a sheep or a goat might bring a sparrow to the Temple (cf. Lev. 14:1-7). So insignificant were these little birds that if you bought four sparrows the seller would throw in one more for free (Luke 12:4-7). It was this extra sparrow of which Jesus said, "and not one of them is forgotten before God." His care for His creation is so great that even this extra sparrow is noted and observed by God!"

A person commented to me on the blog about the latest incident of birds hurling themselves to the pavement, in one incident a witness spoke of, to a parking lot. In the bigger incident caught on the news, birds hurled themselves to the ground over Interstate 95 in Maryland. This got me thinking.

You might remember the worldwide bird deaths in January 2011 and again in January 2012. It has happened again:

Hundreds of dead birds fall in I-95 in MD
"Hundreds of dead birds rain down on I-95, blindsiding drivers in Howard County. Now Natural Resources officials are trying to figure out what caused the mass deaths. State animal experts have an idea of what happened to the birds, but there is still some mystery here and they hope to unravel it. A strange sight on the I-95 northbound in Laurel. Hundreds of dead birds were scattered on the road. “I travel this all the time. I never seen anything like this before,” said one driver. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources says the birds are starlings. It appears they ran into traffic. While that act is unusual, authorities say starlings themselves are common in this area."

The article, and others reporting on it, state that the birds probably flew into a truck and then fell. However, witnesses stated the birds fell over a long area and from above, presumably drivers would notice a flock of birds pelting them from windshield height...

In other weird animal news,

Unexplained dolphin strandings continue in US
"There's no good spot on Cape Cod for dolphins to continue this winter's massive and unexplained beachings, but a group of 11 has chosen one of the worst. The remote inlet is a place where the tides recede fast and far, and that's left the animals mired in a grayish-brown mud. A year ago, Tuesday's 11 stranded dolphins would have seemed remarkable. But in the last month, 177 short-beaked common dolphins have stranded on Cape Cod, and 124 have died. So far, there's no explanation."

A dolphin stranding happened in Chiclayo Peru this week as well. Hundreds. The article is from the BBC and has a video along with the article, with an advisory warning that the video contains disturbing images.

Over 200 dead dolphins washed ashore in Peru
"Residents of Chiclayo, on the northern coast of Peru, have found 200 hundred dead dolphins over an area 66 miles long in the last week."

The video went on to state that Chiclayo fishermen say that they only see dolphins if they go deeper in the ocean, it is extremely rare to see them near the beach. The article also states that masses of anchovies were found floating, as well.

I'm going to get weird for a minute. But not un-biblically weird, unless you are reading this and you don't fully believe everything in the bible is true, as I do.

--First: we know that a spiritual war is going on in the realms invisible to us. (2 Kings 6:17, Ephesians 6:12).
--Second, God is sovereign over all of creation, using animals as He wills (examples listed above).
--Third, we know that the Gadarene demoniac hosted a legion of demons inside him. Though the number varied over the course of the Roman Empire's history, at about Jesus's time a Legion contained between 5000-6000 men. It is horrible to think of this one Gadarene man being tormented by thousands of demons. (Luke 8:26-39)

From this set of verses and others where Jesus cast out demons, we know that demons can enter people. We see from the Luke verses that animals would rather inhabit an animal than no body at all. And from the result of them going into the pigs we see the violence and madness their indwelling creates. In the Gadarene demoniac's case, we know that He can cause them to go into animals, too. He did it in Gadara and He has promised to do cause confusion and madness again again, during the tribulation: (though it isn't certain that it is due to demons)

"In that day,” says the Lord, “I will strike every horse with confusion, and its rider with madness; I will open My eyes on the house of Judah, and will strike every horse of the peoples with blindness." (Zechariah 12:4 NKJV)

We know that the animal kingdom is under God's dominion, because He is the creator. Animals have variously been used by demons, used by God, or have simply suffered because of the sinful, demonic decay of the world.

Here is what one commenter on the blog said of the birds that fell on Route 95 this week:

"The way this bird catastrophe is described reminds me of the pigs in Gadera."

It does, doesn't it? Food for thought. I'm just pondering, I can't make a doctrine out of it, but the comment did get me thinking in a new direction regarding these animal behavior anomalies.

There is more going on in the invisibles than we can see or even know. Why would animals with strong instincts for flying like birds or with strong intellect like dolphins suddenly go mad and hurl themselves to a sure death? The falling birds and the stranding dolphins may indeed have a "logical" or a "scientific" cause. Even at that, His eye is on the sparrow, and nothing happens without His Hand at the cause. All of creation groans ... (Romans 8:22)

The Bride awaits her Groom

What a lovely and spotless bride Jesus is creating! We often look around and see the mud and grime of the world and despair. For those of us who are older, we remember innocent days when children played outside unsupervised, roamed the streets with sticks and balls and bats, safe and happy. We remember when crime was lower and people were nicer. Today is it pretty ugly out there, and that of course is because of sin. But...the Bride of Jesus is shining, spotless, and beautiful! Do not forget that! Wearing garments white as snow, standing by the crystal sea, singing praises to Jesus! His acceptance of all the wrath of God on our behalf made possible our entrance into heaven. Our ugly and putrid sins were forgiven through His sacrificial act.

This is the long betrothal period, when the bride is separated from her groom. The bride are all those people past, present and future in the Age of Grace who have believed on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and His resurrection. We are anxious, waiting. We are making preparations such as remaining faithful. We are looking forward to the wedding day when everything will be perfect and we will be ready! (Revelation 19:7)

All brides on her wedding day are beautiful. She is radiant, and glowing and smiling and happy. Her white garment is spotless and adorns and wraps her gracefully. All the believers are installed in New Jerusalem, the holy city, which takes on the characteristics of the bride herself, because we who are His bride are in it. (Revelation 21:2).

"I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God."

We are finally united with our Groom!

The world is ugly and putrid and dripping with evil and poison and sin. But that is not us, thanks to Jesus our Christ. We are not of the world. Believers are spotless and beautiful in Christ's eyes. "...Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." (Ephesians 25b-27)

Stand up, you believers, and make ready for the Groom. You are so pure and lovely in His eyes. We who eagerly await Him are also eagerly awaited BY Him!