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First, congratulations again to Mark and Michelle on their baby.

Between several jobs (two to three) and not having internet at home, blogging has not been the most accessible tool or relevant use of my time.  That, and I’ve had to take a step back from the books and theology I love to read and step into other’s lives. 

Some questions for you to chew on:

What is “the gospel”?

What would be the one or two overarching takeaways you would want to instill into a disciplee?

Is the difference between men and women only physiological?

What, if anything, are the differences in roles of men and women in the ministry?

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How do you deflect criticism and harsh words?  What do you do with the comments you receive, some about yourself some about your beliefs, that come across very bluntly? 

Each of us needs a model to process and deal with criticism.  We need to be able to process that which is true on the one hand while filtering out that which is bad and does not define us.  The Bible’s words to “be slow to speak and slow to anger,” are good to remember in moments of criticism.  There may be a grain of truth or a heap of truth in what we are being told. 

In the end, here are a few things to process comments.  First, we should remember that Satan means Accuser and he continually stands by to accuse Christians, BUT his power is gone.  The blood of Jesus, being washed in and refreshing your mind in what it means to be washed in the blood of Jesus means more than just we’re not condemned, but that we have a right standing with God (Rev 11:12, II Cor 5:21, Rom 8:1).  So if the comment is paralyzing you, plead the power of and refresh your mind on what is the power of Christ’s blood, repent of unrepented sin, and trust in God to justify you.  Study the Armor of God (Eph 6).  Are you saved from Hell and for Heaven (helmet)?  Are your words and actions girded with truth and integrity (belt)?  Study the rest of the armor!

So that is first.  But keep a few other practical notes in mind when being criticized.  How important is the comment?  Is dismantling something central to your beliefs, or is it rebuking a word of sarcasm, stylistic preference, or something else?  One of the above may have to be reconsidered, one may have to be repented of, and one can be shrugged aside and personal preference.  Next, consider the source- who is providing the criticism?  A close friend will require a much more thorough answer than a stranger off the street. 

With these as a few notes, may we be able to press on in heavenly journey and receive, process and throw off those criticisms which prod, pain, and paralyze and follow Christ as ones who have been set free!

The Virgin Birth

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.-Jude 3 One popular Christian author and pastor summarizes the idea of viewing doctrine (teaching) and specifically the virgin birth, the following way:What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births? But what if, as you study the origin of the word “virgin” you discover that the word “virgin” in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word “virgin” could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being “born of a virgin” also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse? What if that spring [doctrine] were seriously questioned? Could a person keep on jumping? Could a person still love God? Could you still be a Christian? Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live? Or does the whole thing fall apart?  This sounds different than what the Bible says:Luke writes a letter to his friend and begins it telling him how time and detail he took to make sure he had his facts right

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account… that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught”  (Luke 1:1-4).

Halfway through the chapter, an angel appears to Mary and tells her she will have a child.  Her response?  She says, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34).  The angel of GOD responds “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy- the Son of God  (Luke 1:35).Son of God above indicates that Jesus is God’s Son, or God is one of Jesus’s parents (ie: Father).   Jesus’ disciple Matthew also found the virgin birth of Jesus miraculous and important enough to tell us (see Matthew 1:18-25). Isaiah prophesies how Jesus will come into the world hundreds of years before: “behold, the virgin shall conceive…” (Isaiah 7:14). From the fourth century, the church had a unified statement of truths about God the Christian faith called the Nicene Creed.  This has been endorsed by all different denominations of Christians since.  It has defined who God has revealed himself as- the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.   The virgin birth is both taught clearly in the Bible and upheld historically.  Doing away with it obscures the way God came into this world and lived as a man.  It is not open to negotiation.

I thought it would be fruitful to post some notes from this summer’s Bible study.  My theme has been Jude 3 and hammering home some of the definitive beliefs of the Christian in this postmodern milieu we find ourselves in.  The old saying goes that wherever the boundaries are established, there will the battle take place.  I’m ready to contend for these:

The Resurrection

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.-Jude 3 In popular Christianity, statements come up like the following:I have friends who I am quite sure are Christians who do not believe in the bodily resurrection…Marcus Borg really does not believe Jesus Christ was bodily raised from the dead. But I know Marcus well: he loves Jesus and believes in him passionately. The philosophical and cultural world he has lived in has made it very, very difficult for him to believe in the bodily resurrection.Borg, mentioned above, has spent decades denying the virgin birth, miracles of Jesus (turning water to wine, walking on water, feeding multitudes, and more), and even that Jesus was God.  These exclude him from orthodox Christianity, but what if we limit the above statement to just the resurrection?  What does the Bible say about it? Although this comes from a popular writer, is it Christian??The Bible tells us:If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God rasied him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. -Romans 10:9-10Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you- unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures            I Corinthians 15:1-4 Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all affirm the empty tomb, Jesus’ physical resurrection, and his interactions with the disciples after his death.  In his life he proved his power of nature (calming of storm), over the spiritual realm (casting out of demons), over the physical realm (turning water to wine), over knowledge (knowing all that was done by the Samaritan woman); in his resurrection he proves his power over death itself, the last enemy.  Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting –I Corinthians 15:54-55 The take away-

See to it that you are rooted and grounded in Christ.  See to it that no one, ‘takes you captive by human ideas (Colossians 2:6-8). 

“When I first began reading through the Bible I looked for some unifying themes. I concluded that there are many and that if we make just one theme the theme (such as ‘covenant’ or ‘kingdom’) we run the danger of reductionism. However, one of the main ways to read the Bible is as the ages-long struggle between true faith and idolatry. In the beginning, human beings were made to worship and serve God, and to rule over all created things in God’s name (Gen 1:26­–28). Paul understands humanity’s original sin as an act of idolatry: “They exchanged the glory of the immortal God…and worshipped and served created things rather than the creator”(Rom 1:21–25). Instead of living for God, we began to live for ourselves, or our work, or for material goods. We reversed the original intended order. And when we began to worship and serve created things, paradoxically, the created things came to rule over us. Instead of being God’s vice-regents, ruling over creation, now creation masters us. We are now subject to decay and disease and disaster. The final proof of this is death itself. We live for our own glory by toiling in the dust, but eventually we return to the dust—the dust “wins” (Gen 3:17–19). We live to make a name for ourselves but our names are forgotten. Here in the beginning of the Bible we learn that idolatry means slavery and death.”

read on here.

Listen to brother James’ sobering words. 

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.  For we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.”

James 3:-1-2

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If you’ve never been there you should check it out!

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