Sunday, July 27, 2008

Living Leviticus

Most people who have studied the Bible would agree, I think, that Leviticus is one of the most difficult books for our era and culture to grasp. Many people simply dismiss it as not for our time. Yet, if we believe the Bible is God's inspired Word, we can't pick and choose which parts to pay attention to and which parts to ignore. Certainly Leviticus was written to the Jews living under the Law, but as Jesus said, He came to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it.

So where does that leave us 21st-century believers?

That is a question which Pastor Daniel Harrell of Park Street Church in Boston attempted to answer with a group of people from his congregation. After all, Leviticus was written to a community and the Law was meant to be lived in community.

Their journey is covered in this Christianity Today online article. It's a fascinating article, discussing how different people chose to interpret Levitical laws today. But what I found most interesting was the conclusion many of the participants came to:

"Everyone was surprised on one level or another at how the practice of simply "doing what the Bible says" led to insights as to why some of the more obscure laws made it onto the books to begin with."

It probably shouldn't be surprising at all, but in our culture in particular, we almost flippantly use grace as our get-out-of-jail-free card to avoid doing hard things for God, to avoid practicing holiness.

"Leviticus isn't in the Bible merely to show you your need for grace. It's in the Bible to show you what grace is for."

I've been thinking a lot about grace lately, giving and receiving it. But even more, I've been thinking about doing hard things for God, living out holiness when it costs us. As the participants in the Leviticus project found out, obedience, despite its cost, has an unmeasurable reward in growing closer to God.

And that is worth any cost.


God gives us encouragement in the strangest ways. Yet He is always faithful to give it.

I've been reading Milton Dyke's journal of Kristy's illness and home-going. His post Saturday was truly an encouragement to me. Over and over he said, "God met me there, and I was not alone."

The last month has been painful for me in several ways. Yet God has met me in each one of those circumstances, and I did not go it alone. I love Milton's wording, and I'm keeping it close to me because of the essential truth of it.

In the following post Milton talked about not letting the pain become despair and bitterness, but finding the cause of celebration in the midst of it. That was powerful for me too. I told one of my close friends that despite the pain, I felt victorious, because I had been faithful to God and He was ever faithful to me.

Certainly what I've gone through is nothing like what Milton is having to deal with. Yet loss and pain is so much a part of this life that it's good to have words of comfort to hang on to. Maybe words don't do it for everyone. Some people need company, or a hug. But I'm a word person and they speak powerfully to me.

I've faced pain, and God met me there with words so I didn't have to go it alone.

He is enough.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Food for Less

I found this MSN article on Money Saving Mom. Like her, I got a chuckle out of the story, though I don't think it was supposed to be funny. The premise was, could a family of four eat on $100 a week, all three meals. I had to laugh. Even though there's only 3 of us, I only spend $40-60 a week at the store, don't go every week, and we eat pretty much every meal at home or brown-bag it to work and day care.

Granted, when I shop, I shop for bargains and I stock up. Then I plan my menus based on my pantry, not on shopping each week at the store. This, I think, is the biggest reason we're able to save money. It's much better to buy stuff on sale than to pay full price.

It made me wonder what she normally ate for meals, since the meals she described seemed pretty typical to me. Also it made me wonder, who is more typical: her or us "frugal" types? Anyone want to weigh in on either side? And if there's interest (or maybe even if there isn't!) I'm thinking of relating my weekly or semi-weekly shopping excursions.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Home Going

Fellow ACFWer Kristy Dykes went home to be with Jesus yesterday after battling brain cancer.

Her dear husband Milton had been keeping up a blog on her progress and sharing about their life together. It is one of my daily reads and is truly an inspiration. That sounds so trite but I can't think of a better word. Milton is vulnerable and honest about his feelings and about his relationship with Kristy. When most people put up a front and try to make you see them the way they want you to, his honesty is refreshing.

Please keep their family in your prayers. Even though we know Kristy is healed and in an amazing place that we can't even imagine, the loss for those left behind is so hard. I know they will miss her terribly.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What's the Big Deal about Other Religions?

Okay, it's really the 16th and I haven't gotten to this month's book yet but it looks intriguing. And anything that helps Christ-followers know why we believe what we believe, and why Jesus is the only way to God is a good thing.
It's July 15th, time for the Non~FIRST blog tour!(Join our alliance! Click the button!) Every 15th, we will featuring an author and his/her latest non~fiction book's FIRST chapter!

The feature authors are:

and their book:

Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2008)


Dr. John F. Ankerberg is the President and founder of The Ankerberg Theological Research Institute. He is also the producer and host of the nationally televised John Ankerberg Show, a half-hour program seen in all 50 states via independent stations, the DAYSTAR Network, the DISH Network, DirecTV and on the SKY ANGEL Satellite, numerous cable outlets, as well as on the internet. The program can be seen each week by a potential viewing audience in excess of 99 million people. John presents contemporary spiritual issues and defends biblical/Christian answers.

Writer and communicator Dillon Burroughs is author of fourteen books and serves as a staff writer and research associate for the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute. In the past two years, his books have sold over 113,000 copies while his edited works have sold more than two million copies. On subjects related to spirituality and culture, Dillonís written projects have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Salem Radio Network news, Moody Radio Network, James Dobsonís Focus on the Family, iLife Television Network, Prime Time America, Leadership Journal, NBC affiliates, The John Ankerberg Show, Discipleship Journal, Group Magazine, and many other media outlets.

Dillon Burroughs is a ThM graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary in addition to graduating with a B.S. degree in Communications from Indiana State University. As time allows, he also serves as an adjunct professor at Tennessee Temple University. Dillon lives in Tennessee with his wife, Deborah, and two children, Ben and Natalie.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (March 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736921222
ISBN-13: 978-0736921220



Whatís the Big Deal About Jesus?

ìChristianity is good for you, but itís not right for me. I think you ought to believe whatever makes you happy and gives you peace.î

ìChristianity is the ërightí religionóisnít that being naive?î

The label Christianity covers a broad range of people today. While over 2.1 billion people are statistically considered followers of Jesus Christ, polls by religious researcher George Barna have observed that only four percent of American Christians hold to a biblical worldview (that is, beliefs consistent with the Bibleís teachings), and just 51 percent of Christian clergy hold to such a view. As a result, even many who call themselves Christians have agreed with the quotes that appear above, asking if it is perhaps naÔve to claim Christianity is the only way to God.

However, the above quotes are inconsistent with Christianityís origins and founder. In this chapter weíll briefly review how Christianity began, consider its early beliefs, introduce its founder, and investigate the reliability of the New Testament, which is part of the Bible.

A Firm Foundation

All of Christianity is built around one basic belief: the resurrection of its founder, Jesus of Nazareth. On Passover Friday around A.D. 30, Jesus was executed on a Roman cross on the accusation of conspiracy against the government. The Sanhedrin (Jewish leaders) had insisted that the Roman leader Pilate condemn Jesus, though Pilate had not found him guilty of any crimes worthy of death. After the crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus in a tomb, the body disappeared three days later. Immediately this was followed by many ìJesus sightingsî reported over the next 40 days. A social revolution began ten days later in Jerusalem, Israel, as over 3000 people joined the movement after a street message given by the apostle Peter (Acts 2). Christianity was off and running, and has been growing ever since.

Oxford University theologian Dr. Alister McGrath has noted,

The identity of Christianity is inextricably linked with the uniqueness of Christ, which is in turn grounded in the Resurrection and Incarnation.

How do we know Jesus came back to life? First, the 27 books of the New Testament are based upon this one eventóthe resurrection of Jesus. Despite the attacks of many, the writings of Christianity have been shown to have emerged during the first century with the courageous message that Jesus, a man executed by the government, was alive. This carried many implications about his life and death and beyond. What other motive did these writers have except that they truly believed all this had occurred?

In addition, many individuals of that day claimed to have encountered Jesus after his death. According to the Gospel writers and the missionary Paul, Jesus appeared a total of at least 12 times after his return from death:

The Post-Resurrection Appearances of Jesus Christ

# Sighting Source

1. Mary Magdalene--Mark 16:9; John 20:11-18

2. Women returning from the tomb--Matthew 28:9-10

3. Two men walking to Emmaus--Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-32

4. Peter--Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5

5. 10 disciples; two men from Emmaus--Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-23

6. 11 disciples (including Thomas)--John 20:24-29

7. 7 disciples--John 21:1-24

8. 500 people at one time--1 Corinthians 15:6

9. James, the half-brother of Jesus--1 Corinthians 15:7

10. 11 disciples Matthew 28:16-20

11. 11 disciples before Jesus returned to heaven--Luke 24:50-53

12. Paul-- Acts 9:3-6; 1 Corinthians 15:8

In just one of these sightings, over 500 people claimed to see Jesus alive after his death. Did you know that if each of those 500 people were to testify in court for only six minutes, including time for cross-examination, we would have an amazing 50 hours of firsthand testimony? Few other events from over 2000 years ago find this level of support. None offer the number of witnesses the resurrection does for a supernatural event.

Further, the changed lives of the early followers of Jesus supported their report that Jesus was alive. All but one of Jesusí 11 followers died for his belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Hundredsóif not thousandsóof other Christians suffered or died within the first century of Christianity for their beliefs as well. The killing of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, led to the persecution of the Jerusalem church, which eventually forced many Christians to flee the area for safety.

ìCould you convince thousands of people in our own day that President Kennedy had resurrected from the dead? Thereís no wayÖunless it really happened.î

The amazing phenomenon of Christianityís growth also stands as a powerful testimony that this faith is based on a supernatural resurrection. How could a crucified Jew (Jesus), former tax collector (Matthew), Jesus-hater (Paul), and small town fishermen (including Peter) establish a movement that has resulted in the largest religion on Earth? How could this happen?

When Christianity began, the Roman Empire was the greatest government of the time. Yet 300 years later, the Roman Empire had crumbled, and Christianity was continuing to grow. This, in spite of its humble beginning as a grassroots network of individuals who witnessed that Jesus had come back to life. Even though the proclamation of Jesusí teachings produced persecution of the greatest kind, Christianity continued to spread across the Roman Empireóall the way to the palace of Caesar in Rome, the worldís political and social capital.

Christianity 101

So Christianity originated from a group of Jesus-followers who spread the message that they had personally witnessed his three years of teaching and miracles, watched him die on a cross, and then personally met, saw, talked to, ate with, and received instructions from him after his resurrection from the dead. But what are the core beliefs of Christianity? There are six central elements of
traditional Christianity.

First, there is the common understanding of Jews and Christians that there is only one true Godówho is infi nite, holy, loving, just, and true. In addition, Christians believe that in the nature (presence) of the one true God there exists three personsóFather, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christianity does not believe in three gods, but one. As Dr. Norman Geisler, bestselling author and cofounder of Southern Evangelical Seminary, has written,

The Trinity is not the belief that God is three personas and only one person at the same time and in the same sense. That would be a contradiction. Rather, it is the belief that there are three persons in one nature. This may be a mystery, but it is not a contradiction. That is, it may go beyond reasonís ability to comprehend completely, but it does not go against reasonís ability to apprehend consistently.
Further, the Trinity is not the belief that there are three natures in one nature or three essences in one essence. That would be a contradiction. Rather, Christians affirm that there are three persons in one essenceÖHe is one in the sense of his essence but many in the sense of his persons. So there is no violation of the law of noncontradiction in the doctrine of the Trinity.

Traditional Christianity also accepts the 66 books of the Holy Bible as revelation from God, perfect and authoritative for all spiritual matters. While Roman Catholicism accepts the additional authority of the pope and church tradition, and Eastern Orthodoxy accepts church tradition as equal in authority to the Bible, the earliest traditional Christianity and later Protestant Christianity have been based solely on Godís written revelation through his apostles and prophets.

Third, Christians believe every person who has ever lived (with the exception of Jesus Christ) has been born a sinner separated from God. It is our sin nature that keeps us from knowing and experiencing God and creates a need for reconciliation through a means only God can provide.

Fourth, in his infinite love, God has provided the solution to the barrier between himself and humanity through Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that the death of Jesus provides payment for our sins, and on the basis of our believing, he is our sinbearer and he will forgive us the moment we believe. All this is confirmed by Jesusí resurrection from the deadóhe has paid the penalty for sin and conquered death. In this way God offers a basis for a person to place his or her faith in Christ and to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, in which he enters your life and you walk through life with his power and guidance.

Fifth, this rescue or salvation God offers through Jesus is based solely on what God has done rather than on what people do. In other words, salvation is a free gift based on Godís grace to us (unearned favor) rather than good works or deeds we can accomplish, though these will accompany a person once he or she becomes a Christian. One of the major points of contention during the Protestant Reformation resulted from the Roman Catholic Churchís unbiblical teaching
that Godís grace consists of humans cooperating with Godís grace to merit salvation, rather than receiving salvation in full as a gift on the basis of faith alone the moment a person believes.

Sixth, Christians believe in an eternal afterlife. God allows individuals the ability to choose or reject him, and after death, that decision is final. Those who have chosen to believe in Jesus will enjoy eternity with him in heaven, while those who decline will spend eternity in hell, separated from God. God will accept every personís decision and not force him or her to change their mind. While all this may sound politically incorrect in our culture, it has stood as an essential component of Christian teaching from the earliest times. The choice we make here on earth will have eternal consequences.

Jesus: Founder and CEO of Christianity

Christian philosopher Dr. C. Stephen Evans points out that ìit is an essential part of Christian faith that Jesus is God in a unique and exclusive way. It follows from this that all religions [that disagree] cannot be equally true.î7 Again, if different religions teach contradictory things about who God is, salvation, the afterlife, and
even Jesus, then one or another could be true, but they canít all be true at the same time. What are the big super-signs that help us decide which religion is true? According to biblical Christianity, if Jesus claimed to be God and proved his claim by his resurrection, then he is God and Christianity is true. No other religious leader in history has claimed to be God and risen from the dead.

Further, there are at least seven concepts Jesus taught about himself that stand unique to Christianity. First, Jesus communicated that he fulfi lled biblical prophecy, given hundreds of years in advance, that he was the promised Messiah. He repeatedly claimed to be the person that Godís Messiah was predicted to be, and many scholars have created extensive lists of these prophetic connections. Here are some examples of prophecies Jesus fulfilled:

Prophecy--Old Testament Prophecy--New Testament Fulfillment

Born of a virgin-- Isaiah 7:14-- Matthew 1:18,25

Born in Bethlehem-- Micah 5:2-- Matthew 2:1

Preceded by a messenger-- Isaiah 40:3-- Matthew 3:1-2

Rejected by his own people-- Isaiah 53:3-- John 7:5; 7:48

Betrayed by a close friend-- Isaiah 41:9-- John 13:26-30

His side pierced-- Zechariah 12:10-- John 19:34

His death by crucifixion-- Psalm 22:1,11-18-- Luke 23:33; John 19:23-24

His resurrection-- Psalm 16:10-- Acts 13:34-37

Second, Jesus stands as a unique, unparalleled individual among the leaders of various world religions. He made predictions about the future that could only be made by someone who claimed to be God. Further, he noted in advance several of the things that would occur at the time of his death and resurrection. Unlike anyone else, he also promised to one day return to earth to set up his future kingdom.

The Seven ìI Amsî of Jesus in Johnís Gospel

? ìI am the bread of lifeî (John 6:35,48; see also verse 51).

? ìI am the light of the worldî (John 8:12).

? ìI am the gate for the sheepî (John 10:7; see also verse 9).

? ìI am the good shepherdî (John 10:11,14).

? ìI am the resurrection and the lifeî (John 11:25).

? ìI am the way and the truth and the lifeî (John 14:6).

? ìI am the true vineî (John 15:1; see also verse 5).

Further, Jesus is unique in his nature, being fully divine and fully human nature in one person. Jesus was born as a man without sin through a miraculous virgin birth. He challenged his own family, disciples, and even his enemies to prove him guilty of sin, but none could do so. Think of the reaction you would receive if you asked your parents, brothers, sisters, and friends, ìCan any of you point to one sin I have committed?î Those closest to us know our faults. We all have them. Yet Jesus lived a perfect life free of sin.

As Godís divine son, Jesus performed miracles, healings, and exorcisms; fulfi lled Jewish prophecies; and accomplished his own resurrection. In these ways he affi rmed his divine nature, displaying power far beyond that of any person who has ever lived. Today people downplay the miracles, but they are documented in careful detail in the Bible, and even Jesusí enemies did not deny his miracles. They werenít able to. So they just claimed that he performed them with
the help of evil powers (Matthew 12:24).

The Exorcisms of Jesus

Exorcism-- Source
1. Healed a demon-possessed man at Capernaum ---Mark 1:21-28; Luke 4:31-37

2. Drove out demons and evil spirits Matthew 8:16-17; Mark 1:32-39; Luke 4:33-41
3. Healed the man possessed by demons at the Gadarenes-- Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39

4. Drove a demon out of a mute man, who then spoke-- Matthew 9:32-34;
Mark 3:20-22

Christianity is also the only major religion whose founder sacrificed his life for the sins of those who would choose to believe in him. Jesusí horrifi c death on the cross stood as proof of his statement that ìthe Son of Man [Jesus] did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.î

The Nature Miracles of Jesus

The MiracleóSource

1. Calming the wind and waves-- Matthew 8:26; Mark 4:39; Luke 8:24

2. Walking on water-- Matthew 14:25; Mark 6:48; John 6:19

3. Money in the fishís mouth-- Matthew 17:27

4. Withering of the fig tree-- Matthew 21:19; Mark 11:14

5. Miraculous catch of fish-- Luke 5:4-7

6. Turning water into wine-- John 2:7-8

7. Second miraculous catch of fish-- John 21:6

8. Feeding the 4000-- Matthew 15:32-38; Mark 8:1-9

9. Feeding the 5000-- Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:34-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:5-12

Sixth, as mentioned earlier, Jesus also rose from the dead. Those in his time could never account for his empty tomb and the disappearance of his body. Jesusí followers spanned the known world testifying of his resurrection (his actual bodily appearing to them), teaching his words, and dying for their belief in him.

Finally, Jesus promises, at the end of time, to personally judge every person who ever lived. It would be eternally disappointing to have Jesus look at us, fairly judge us, and conclude, ìI never knew youî (Matthew 7:23).

Christianity by the Book

Those who want to investigate the truthfulness of the original Christian message can look to a wealth of manuscript evidence regarding the transmission of the 27 books of the New Testament through the years. The New Testament manuscripts offer more supporting evidence than any other ancient book. Christians also accept the Jewish scriptures (the Old Testament) as part of their holy book, the Bible. Traditional Christianity believes in the inerrancy of Scripture, meaning the original words of the Bibleís books are without error and perfect in every way.

As a result, Bible translation, distribution, and teaching stand as important responsibilities within Christianity. The Bible is the most translated book in history, has been used as the script for the most-watched fi lm in history (the Jesus fi lm), and has enjoyed greater distribution than any book in the world. Over 100 million copies of the New Testament or Bible are sold every year worldwide.

Interesting Statistics About the Bible

The Bible was written over a period of 1600 years,

? by more than 40 authors of every sortókings, peasants, fi shermen, poets, shepherds, government offi cials, teachers, and prophetsó

? in three languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek),

? on three continentsóAsia, Africa, and Europe.11

What Makes Christianity Unique?

ìChristianity isnít about people in search of God, but rather God in search of
people.îóSTEVE RUSSO

Many have suggested that Christianity is about having a personal relationship with Jesus, and not performing good works and following rituals. Religious movements throughout history ultimately hold to a signifi cantly different common threadóthat certain actions or works are required to obtain a blissful afterlife. In Christianity, however, the key to reaching God here and now and dwelling with him for eternity is to receive and trust in a gift already provided by its founder, Jesus Christ. As the apostle Paul made clear to Christians at Ephesus, ìGod saved you by his grace when you believed. And you canít take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.î

Godís gift of salvation also brings assurance. If Jesusí righteous life and atoning death on the cross is the sole basis for Godís gift, then a Christian doesnít have to worry about earning or losing that gift. Once the gift is received, it belongs to the Christian forever because it rests on what Jesus didónot what the Christian did or does in the past, present, or future.

Christianity in Summary

As we compare and contrast the beliefs of various religions throughout this book, we hope to make the distinctives of each one as clear as possible. Here, we summarize the key teachings of Christianity:

Belief-- Basic Description

God-- One God in three personsóFather, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Holy Book-- The 66 books of the Holy Bible are the authoritative
works of Christianity.

Sin-- All people have sinned (except Jesus).

Jesus Christ-- Godís perfect son, holy, resurrected, divine (second person of the Trinity) yet also fully human.

Salvation-- Obtained only by Godís grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by human effort.

Afterlife-- All people will enter heaven or hell upon death based on whether they have salvation in Jesus Christ. The Bible does not teach reincarnation, annihilation (ending of the soul), or the existence of purgatory.

Some people assume that biblical Christianity and Roman Catholicism are essentially similar. But is that the case? What differences exist? Are these differences really a big deal, or only minor details? Our next chapter will address these questions head-on.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tackle it Tuesday

Don't ask me why I started back blogging again with the topic of housework. Ugh! Anyhow, today is Tackle it Tuesday. I think the only reason I got so much done was because I was actually off work today.

So I tackled grocery shopping, banking, cleaning the bathroom, doing all the floors, and tackling that big mountain of laundry that has taken over the laundry room. "Calvin" was out of shorts yesterday so I knew I had to get something done.

Also, I took Charlie, the black beast, for a walk. We walked Sissy to the Boys and Girls club, about a mile away. And it's 81 degrees and pretty humid. He hasn't stopped panting yet. We both needed the exercise, and it ain't nearly as hot here as in Arizona. Still...I think I might reserve our walks for later in the evening. I have to admit, however, I was pretty proud of the dog. Considering I haven't been very consistent about taking him for walks and teaching him to heel, he did very well and didn't chase down any neighborhood dogs or neighbors. Yippee for us! It's not that he's an aggressive dog, he's just super friendly. But he weighs almost 90 pounds. So friendly or not, 90 pounds of Black Lab coming at you tends to put off most people a bit.