Saturday, September 26, 2015

Papal visit to St. Patrick's Church and Homeless Shelter

It is commonly believed that Jesus was homeless during his earthly ministry. Some of the most famous sayings, books, movies, and paintings picture him that way. The most common reason for that is likely Matthew 8:20. Jesus said, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” People assume Jesus must have been homeless because he had no place to lay his head. Wouldn’t that describe a homeless person after all?

Pope Francis visited St. Patrick’s Church and Homeless Shelter in Washington D.C. during his first trip to the United States as Pope. He made several references to the homeless during his speech there. “Joseph had to face some difficult situations in his life. One of them was the time when Mary was about to give birth, to have Jesus. The Bible tells us that, ‘while they were [in Bethlehem], the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.’ The Bible is very clear about this: there was no room for them. I can imagine Joseph, with his wife about to have a child, with no shelter, no home, no place to stay. The Son of God came into this world as a homeless person. The Son of God knew what it was to start life without a roof over his head. We can imagine what Joseph must have been thinking. How is it that the Son of God has no home? Why are we homeless, why don’t we have housing? These are questions which many of you may ask daily. Like Saint Joseph, you may ask: Why are we homeless, without a place to live? These are questions which all of us might well ask. Why do these, our brothers and sisters, have no place to live? Why are these brothers and sisters of ours homeless? Joseph’s questions are timely even today; they accompany all those who throughout history have been, and are, homeless.”

Jesus does have a heart for the poor. Much of his ministry was to the poor. “So whenever you give to the poor and do acts of kindness, do not blow a trumpet before you [to advertise it], as the hypocrites do [like actors acting out a role] in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored and recognized and praised by men. I assure you and most solemnly say to you, they [already] have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor and do acts of kindness, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing [give in complete secrecy] so that your charitable acts will be done in secret; and your Father who sees [what is done]in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:2-4). “The blind receive [their] sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed [by healing] and the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them” (Matthew 11:5). “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me (the Messiah), because He has anointed me to preach the Good News to the poor” (Luke 4:18a). “But when you give a banquet or a reception, invite the poor, the disabled, the lame, and the blind, and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous (the just, the upright)” (Luke 14:13-14). “Go out quickly into the streets and the lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and the disabled and the blind and the lame” (Luke 14:21b). Jesus spent a lot of time talking about and focusing His ministry on helping the spiritually, materially, and physically poor. Certainly, none fit the description of materially poor any better than the homeless. Was Jesus homeless though?

One of the essential basics of studying the Bible is to compare Scripture with Scripture. Many people say things like, “Well everyone has their own interpretation of the Bible.” That’s the problem. We should allow the Bible to interpret itself rather than coming up with our own interpretation of the Bible. We can do that by comparing Scripture with Scripture and allow the Bible to be its own commentary. We see that Jesus was not homeless when we use this principle with Matthew 8:20. He did have an earthly home. “Jesus returned to Capernaum, and a few days later the news went out that He was at home” (Mark 2:1). “And leaving Nazareth, He went and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the country of Zebulun and Naphtali” (Matthew 4:13).

So what does Matthew 8:20 mean Jesus said he had no place to lay his head. Pastor Dave Barnhart of Saint Junia United Methodist Church in Birmingham, Alabama wrote on May 30, 2013, “In the Hebrew Bible, referring to “laying one’s head down” usually means being able to do so in peace, as in Psalm 23, Psalm 4:8, and the different animals lying down together in Isaiah 11:6-7 and Hosea 2:18. Sleeping an untroubled sleep is a gift from God. Foxes and birds to not live in their respective shelters—it’s where they go to be safe. The would-be disciple is warned that following Jesus means perpetual danger, sleeping with one eye open, always on the run. This warning is spoken by a marked man who has a price on his head.” Jesus was speaking about always being in danger everywhere he went. Anyone who dared to be seen with him and who dared declared themselves to be his follower would be in that same danger. It did not mean that Jesus was homeless.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Faith Toward God: Part 1

As regular readers know, sometimes I like to post my class notes in my blog and add some of my own thoughts when necessary. I decided to do that again here with these set of notes titled: “Faith Towards God.” All verses come from the Amplified Bible. “But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). The second of the foundation doctrines is faith toward God Faith toward God refers to your attitude toward God. Some people hate God and rebel against Him. Others are afraid of Him. Your attitude should be one of faith toward God. Faith and repentance are both necessary for genuine conversion. To turn to God without forsaking sin is not true repentance. To try to forsake sin without turning to God in faith ends in failure. The ministry of Paul to the unsaved was “solemnly [and wholeheartedly] testifying to both Jews and Greeks, urging them to turn in repentance to God and [to have] faith in our Lord Jesus Christ [for salvation]” (Acts 20:21). Both repentance and faith toward God are necessary for salvation.

Faith means to believe and have assurance of something. To believe means to have trust. The words "faith, believe, and trust" all mean the same thing when we use them in relation to God. The Bible defines faith as “the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses]” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith gives assurance that the things promised in the future are true and that unseen things are real. Faith differs from hope. Hope is a desire or attitude of expectancy concerning things in the future. Faith is belief in something you cannot see but have assurance you already possess. Hope is in the mind. Faith is in the heart. “But since we [believers] belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope and confident assurance of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). In this verse faith is associated with the region of the heart as a breastplate. Hope is a helmet associated with the head. Hope is a mental attitude of expectancy about the future. Faith is a condition of the heart producing belief in God. “For with the heart a person believes [in Christ as Savior] resulting in his justification [that is, being made righteous—being freed of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God]; and with the mouth he acknowledges and confesses [his faith openly], resulting in and confirming [his] salvation” (Romans 10:10). It is not enough to accept the Gospel with the mind. This is not true Scriptural faith and does not produce change in your life. True Scriptural faith, believing with the heart, always produces change in your life. The result is something experienced in the present, not something hoped for in the future. Faith is not the same as "mind over matter" which is taught by some religions. "Mind over matter" teaches that man can overcome all problems in the real world [the world of matter] by using his mind, reason, or willpower. These teachings are man-centered. They rely on self and not on God. "Mind over matter" is not based on the Word of God. Faith is God-centered, not man-centered. There are different types of faith. Natural faith is a natural trust in things that have proven stable. For example, faith that the chair on which you are sitting will support you. This faith is not "faith toward God". It is a natural faith in certain things around you that you have learned by experience are usually dependable.

The following types of faith are what we mean when we speak of faith toward God. “I have been crucified with Christ [that is, in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith [by adhering to, relying on, and completely trusting] in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). Sanctifying faith enables the believer to live a holy life after conversion. Faith toward God includes sanctifying faith which is believing you can live a holy life. You do not do this by your own strength but through the power of God which dwells within you.

Faith is one of the weapons for defense against your spiritual enemy, Satan. “Above all, lift up the [protective] shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16). The Amplified Bible footnote on “shield of faith in this verse says, “Here the Greek word refers to the large Roman soldiers’ shield designed to protect the entire body. It had an iron frame and was covered in several layers of leather. When soaked in water before a battle the shield could put out the fiery missiles thrown at them by the enemy.” Satan will try to attack your faith by sending flaming arrows of unbelief into your mind. Having faith toward God provides a spiritual defense to these attacks.

“Therefore, since we have been justified [that is, acquitted of sin, declared blameless before God] by faith, [let us grasp the fact that] we have peace with God [and the joy of reconciliation with Him] through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed)” (Romans 5:1). Faith toward God, combined with true repentance, is saving faith. Salvation is knowing, believing, and personally accepting the Gospel message. Saving faith requires a personal response toward God. No person can respond on behalf of another. Each person is saved by his own response to the Gospel. Faith is a fact. “For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation]” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Faith toward God is not just faith in general, but it is directed faith. You can have misdirected faith. Misdirected faith can be in natural weapons, great people, self, idols, false prophets, natural power, wealth, friends, etc.... The following are examples of misdirected faith. “For I will not trust in my bow, nor will my sword save me” (Psalm 44:6). “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation (help)” (Psalm 146:3). “He who trusts confidently in his own heart is a [dull, thick-headed] fool, but he who walks in [skillful and godly] wisdom will be rescued” (Proverbs 28:26). “Those who trust in carved idols will be turned back and utterly put to shame, who say to cast images, ‘You are our gods’” (Isaiah 42:17). “Do not trust in the deceptive and lying words...behold, you are trusting in deceptive and useless words that bring no benefit” (Jeremiah 7:4, 8). “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will remember and trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7). “Look, [this is] the man who would not make God his strength [his stronghold and fortress], but trusted in the abundance of his riches, taking refuge in his wealth” (Psalm 52:7). “Even my own close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread has lifted up his heel against me [betraying me]” (Psalm 41:9). Having faith is not enough. Your faith can be misplaced. True faith is directed faith. It is faith toward God.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Tooth extraction tomorrow

Well almost 12 hours to go until my first ever tooth extraction. My wisdom tooth in the upper right corner broke off partially and needs to be taken out. I have been talking to some friends about this a great deal and decided to just blog about it as the time approaches in hopes that it will relieve some of my thoughts and allow me to get a good night’s sleep. I knew when I went to the dentist last week that some of the news would not be good. It turns out I was right. I was experiencing tremendous pain which turned out not to be what I thought was the problem tooth at all. Pretty much all of my pain has gone since I went for the cleaning last week. I thought about cancelling the extraction and going on with the other two appointments that need to be done, but I am going to stick it out and see it through.

I have been fighting an uneasy, queasy feeling since about midnight, but I am trying to block it out with some Steven Curtis Chapman music and a conversation with a good friend. This would have started a lot sooner if my wife had not spent all the time she did with me today and pretty much let me have the TV. She has been very patient with me since my discomfort started and the subsequent uneasiness about the dentist appointment. One cannot ask for more than that.

The way I understand it, I am going to be awake for the entire procedure and I am just going to be numbed (hopefully really well). On one hand, I am glad for that just because I don’t know what I would say or do after coming out of anesthesia and I don’t like the idea of that lack of control of myself. On the other hand, being awake means I am going to hear every little thing that is going on. I am going to really need the Lord with me during that part as well as when the numbing wears off. I am comforted by the fact that I should not feel pain immediately, but I also know that means that the clock will be ticking until I do so I just need to be prepared as best as possible. I have already read up last week on the some of the potential difficulties like dry socket and how to avoid that.

I hope it won’t be long until I can get back to normal and do my usual activities after this is over. One of the most annoying things about learning all I can about this is that everyone’s experience is different. So I have been taking all suggestions to heart and have been comforted by the people who have told me that the mental preparation was worse than the actual experience. So I guess what it all boils down to is focusing on the positive and remembering that no matter what happens, God has got my back if I will just trust in Him and heed His word on not worrying from one of my favorite passages. So I am going to go pray and try to get some sleep. I would appreciate all prayers tomorrow and will hopefully be able to give an update when it is over. Thank you very much and God bless.