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Friday, March 9, 2012

Dates tell stories donít they?
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Looking at historical evidence of Christians and Jews in the ancient near East, I discovered an interesting fact.
 

The Jews of Zoar and the Christians of Zoar dated their lifespans differently, over the same years.

Zoar is mentioned in the bible in Genesis 14:8.



It says, “Then the king of Sodom and the king of Gomorrah marched out. The kings of Admah, Zeboiim and Bela went with them. Bela was also called Zoar.   They lined up their armies for battle in the Valley of Siddim.”

 Zoar is on the southeastern shore of the Dead Sea. It’s name in the fourth to sixth centuries A.D. was Zoora and tombstones from this period have been discovered in quantities.

The interesting thing is that Jews date themselves from the destruction of the Jewish temple 70 AD (which is not surprising since that demolished the Jewish religious practice of the day), but Christian’s date themselves from  “years since Trajan’s establishment of the province of Arabia (106 C.E.)”[1].

Emporer Trajan died in 117AD and was a very successful ruler. The province Arabia Petraea was official considered roman after the roman road “Via Traiana Nova” was built and coins minted in 115AD.

The difference in dating is interesting since these societies were intertwined.

 Why did the Christians choose this event is a question that flights across our minds as we look at these facts, isn’t it?

While knowing is difficult, we can look at the times and see what was happening!

Before Trajan was Nerva who served under Nero and we know Nero was known for burning Christians in Rome to light the roads. A horrible man! Nerva’s predecessor was Domitian another nasty piece of work.[2] Domitian hated Christians and Jews.

So until Trajan took the province of Arabia Petraea the Christians were never safe.

Dates tell stories don’t they?

Our modern life is interesting as well! We in the western world date our lives according to the Julian calendar or the Gregorian calendar and the date of 0 B.C. / 0 A.D. is used to mean timing from the estimated year of Jesus Christ’s birth.

The really interesting thing is the change from B.C. to B.C.E that is used in modern dating systems.

B.C. stood for "Before Christ” and A.D. stood for the Latin phrase anno Domini, which means "in the year of our Lord". Our dating system revolved around God! A.D. still does, but the modern world is trying to set itself up as better than God and not needing God so they have recently introduced a date system “before the Common Era” (B.C.E.) and the “Common Era” (C.E.), which are exactly the same as B.C. and A.D. but apparently are supposed to have nothing to do with Christianity.

I chuckle since this is a ludicrous attempt!

What is the origin of this Common Era? The birth of Jesus (by the way the date doesn’t reflect the actual estimated date Jesus was born since that is about 4 B.C)

People try so hard to remove God from their lives don't they?

Why?


Sometimes they claim it is to respect others, but that is ludicrous. When people respect each other, they treat each other right and respect each others beliefs, even when they don’t agree with them.

No! Perhaps this is an attempt to make us as humans into gods ourselves. “We know” seems to be the modern war cry. Many of us have no time for the thought that the universe has a greater being, than us as humans!

How silly is that?

We cannot even say what causes life to originate, or how the big bang occurred? We know all this wonderful complexity around us came from expanding energy(they say) and cannot say how!

Do we have the answers? No! So why make out we do?

Maybe we could entertain a thought of God!

Maybe God spoke? Maybe God orchestrated all life and even keeps it flowing in the correct paths? Maybe?

For me it’s not maybe since I have a relationship with that God! For you, you need to determine that for yourself. I will respect that!

I only know this. . .I will have my death dated in A.D. terms because as a Christian I have to point to the God of the universe in my life and death.

What will you put on your tombstone?With that rather weird thought, I will leave you to have a great day! Be blessed!


[1] http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-artifacts/inscriptions/ancient-gravestone-epitaphs-give-insight-into-early-jews-and-christians/
[2] 4th century writings by Eusebius of Caesarea maintains that Jews and Christians were heavily persecuted toward the end of Domitian's reign.
Fri, March 9, 2012 | link          Comments

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Inviting the devil in!
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“Let’s party!”

We all enjoy getting together with friends and taking time off to enjoy ourselves don’t we.


 

Nothing wrong with that!


In fact, we need to have depressuring times and provided we do not do selfish, ignorant, nasty things and stick within God’s guidelines there is nothing wrong with that.

Unfortunately, there is always that cold realization that we need to get on with the tasks of life and at some point we need to move on.

Some people don’t! Some people let selfishness reign in their lives and true to the evil inherent in it, it starts by intruding a little, a foot in the door if you like.

Maybe it starts with abusing alchohol! This is a selfish activity in that by lowering our inhibitions, we start to mistreat others or ourselves. If it’s ourselves, others laugh and enjoy our stupidity, if it’s others . . .

Sometime this is not enough and we chase other highs like drugs, street and pharmaceutical.

Today there is a news headline “Tori’s mom bought drugs at home of child’s killer”[1]

A mom literally spent time buying drugs from the person who they believe killed her daughter.

What a sorry state!

How far we fall as people when we let the devil, that evil influencer of our lives start to entice us into selfishness. How many kids have difficulties because mom couldn’t lay off alchohol or drugs when pregnant? How many pregnancies occur because of selfish desires rather that true loving and long term relationships?

The number of divorces and unmarried people is increasing. Why? Selfishness is at least part of the reason.

Psalm 119:36 says “Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.”

We as Christians need to look to God’s guidelines and learn to love ourselves and others!

God does!

He also promises to forgive us the selfish, nasty and ignorant things we have done that cause pain and he promises to make our lives clean. We can be victorius over these intrusions in our life.

Not always will the physical urges end together with the repentance, but, with the help of loving Christian friends, we can overcome these and link into a caring and loving community that is directed by God himself. This is not a community where we ignore others, but one where we extend ourselves past our comfort zones to help and assist. Then, out of God’s heart, power erupts into our lives and those selfless acts give us joy, energy and self satisfaction. It does this in a way that is in excess of any selfish activities attempts to satisfy.

True satisfaction comes in selfless actions.

Let's close the door to the devil and open it to God?

How about trying it today and perhaps you will see this for yourself as God connects with and empowers you!


[1] http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/toris-mom-bought-drugs-at-home-of-childs-killer-141876593.html
Thu, March 8, 2012 | link          Comments

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Selfishness, a global disaster
coffe_pot_spill.jpg
 
  I was reading a news headline today that says;

 Daily Mail  

Man who infected 4 women says Wilkinson Road jail unfair to inmates with HIV


It starts off with the statement “A former Victoria resident who was convicted in 2009 for knowingly exposing women to HIV says HIV-positive criminals are victims of systemic discrimination in BC prisons.”

This guy was so selfish, that he considered his own pleasure before other’s lives.

Selfishness abounds around our lives doesn’t it?

All around us people are too busy to stop and help. Whether it be a motorist alongside the road, or cleaning up a mess due to the coffee machine overflow in a public area.

“Not me!” is the thought.

“I am too busy, have too much to do, or it doesn’t involve me!

Guess why we have national debt?

Individuals not willing to live within their means have voted into power the people who lead the country who are also not willing to live within our countries means!

Hence the debt crisis! Selfishness!

In our families, teens don’t want to do family activities, because they want to have time all to themselves to do what they want. They talk of “mroom” when it is provided for by the parents.

“Mine” is a war cry that starts with babies simplistic shrieks, and many people seem to never grow up!

Yet, in the midst of this, Christian values are radicle!

We are asked by God to love God, then others as ourselves!

That’s simple, but radicle!

Loving God means pushing back on our selfish desires, making sure we take others and our planet into consideration.

Yesterday, I walked past the kitchen in the company where I work and a guy walks out the kitchen door to tell me there is something wrong. Coffee is spilling out over a pot onto the floor. Instead of dealing with it, he simply accosted the next passer-by to point out the fact. (At least he did that!)

That was me that he encountered on my way to a work meeting.

My only thought was pity for the man as I went in got some paper towels, cleaned up, packed them around the pot and then rushed off to the meeting.

He was missing out on a service opportunity!

I have learned the joy of the service, care and love that is part of a Christian life attitude.

It is enabling, assisting and enriching.

It steps up to help and build more friends that we can imagine. It helps the world improve and enables a little light into people’s lives each day. It is an opportunity and gift, that, when given freely, gives back!

How about trying it out today?

I’m sure at some time you will find an opportunity, after all, there are so many selfish people around that they ensure we get the best opportunities by rejecting them themselves!

Have a great day!
Wed, March 7, 2012 | link          Comments

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Beginning and starts, what makes them?
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Ever considered where beginnings come from?

It seems a trite question doesn’t it?

But, is it?

Let’s start with our lives?

We define them as starting at the moment of birth, but that is not true and we know it.

They start far earlier! Even earlier than that sperm swimming up to that ovary. We even talk about “when I was a twinkle in my father’s eye” in jest, that is part truth.

When our Dad saw our lovely Mom and decided she was the one he wanted to mate with, was that the beginning?


Or, was it perhaps with their own birth?

If we look at that as the start, we drive our origins back to origin of man don't we? 

Then the bible points out we are made from dust of the earth, so we go back to the origin of the materials that make us and our world up.

Then, if we are to believe science, that beginning then goes back into energy emitted from a point in space time.
 
So we have to ask where that came from and now we get to a point we cannot answer without religion.

Perhaps that’s the reason we arbitrary take the start of our life to be our birth. It is a neat simple explanation that saves a whole lot of deep thinking, and we like clean simple thoughts, even if they are only part true! Perhaps we should think deeper about cultural boundaries (but that’s another discussion).

What about ends?

If we take our life’s end, we immediately have ambiguity.
 
None of us has died and come back again (except Jesus) so no-one has clarity of that event. We as Christians know there is a judgement and eternity in another form of life, but details here are even a little hazy.

So, we define the end of life as “death”!

It’s an easy definition.
 

For a person in a roadside accident, the definition is less clear and put in terms of lack of things, rather than anything else; Lack of pulse, lack of brainwaves, lack of oxygen.

Even that seems mildly arbitrary because we have had people die in ice cold water conditions, only to be revived after all of these signs are missing.

Starts and ends are hard to track without event markers aren’t they?

That’s why we look for them to provide meaning and context to life.

So how about God the Fathers start and end markers to Jesus ministry.

What were they?

For me it’s all tied up in the voice of God speaking to people around those events.

The words “This is my Son, and I love him. I am very pleased with him." are the start markers!

Let’s see when they occurred. . .

START MARKER 1

Matthew 3:13-17 Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan River. He wanted to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to stop him. He told Jesus, "I need to be baptized by you. So why do you come to me?"

 15 Jesus replied, "Let it be this way for now. It is right for us to do this. It carries out God's holy plan." Then John agreed.

 16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he came up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened. Jesus saw the Spirit of God coming down on him like a dove.

 17 A voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, and I love him. I am very pleased with him.”

Here God the father speaks audibly to those around Jesus as he submits to a symbolic ceremony that we are all as Christians expected to undergo as we get to know Jesus and accept Father God, Jesus and Holy Spirit.

Notice how all aspects of God are present at this start, at the baptism.

START MARKER 2

Matthew 17:4-6 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John the brother of James with him. He led them up a high mountain. They were all alone. 2 There in front of them his appearance was changed. His face shone like the sun. His clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then Moses and Elijah appeared in front of them. Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus.

 4 Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters. One will be for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."

 5 While Peter was still speaking, a bright cloud surrounded them. A voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, and I love him. I am very pleased with him. Listen to him!"

What is also interesting is that three extra words are added in this repeated statement. God does not add words except for a purpose.

“Listen to him!”

What Jesus then does and says is important!
 
It was so important that people throughout the intervening years up until today have died to make sure that people can “listen to him!”

END MARKER

Jesus ends off his life with a statement that is an end marker. It goes like this. . .

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. So you must go and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And you can be sure that I am always with you, to the very end." – Matthew 28:18-20

These are words of future direction, encouragement and mission!

We are to live our lives so that others will watch us, want to have what we have, and so also learn to live their lives following Jesus.

(That’s discipleship, not just admitting Jesus is God!).

Jesus closes the loop pointing out we need to be baptized as he did, in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

God expects us to follow on and do what he has shown us at the expense of Jesus’ life. That cost should motivate us to obey.

Lastly we need to understand this end is a fuzzy end. . .because Jesus may have left Earth, but Holy Spirit is here with us now and will be to the very end!

Today as we start and finish activities, let’s remember, nothing really starts and ends without God’s intervention in some form.

We are immersed in the flow of life tracking against the lines of life that God has laid out. We are part of the fabric of space time, knitted together by Jesus before the world began and that will continue to exist after the substance of this life of ours stops. It will continue to exist after the universe is no more!

We are eternal beings, living in a temporary home under the loving direction of the eternal Father, who defines the starts and ends while giving us limitless gifts and opportunities. What we do with it, is of our own choosing however!

Now that’s a thought for today isn’t it?
Tue, March 6, 2012 | link          Comments

Monday, March 5, 2012

Overwhelming the odds, and succeeding in failure. . .
  
BurntOfferingAltar.jpg
 
“Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.”

Orison Swett Marden

 
Too many tasks for the day and then they start to go wrong!

Time gets absorbed and the need of others becomes a pressure that threatens to overwhelm.

Ever had that feeling of hopelessness, as if there is no way out?

There are different ways of dealing with this, and of these, they all can be divided into two categories. Ways where we trust the true God to help, and those where we try to do it ourselves and manipulate our circumstances humanly.

It’s the manipulation one that really causes the pain! I can think of many examples that are modern but I want to draw our minds back to an ancient one.

Let me set the scene. . .

The country was in economic decline with no way out. There had been a drought for three years and the people who were to lead the country in determining God’s favour and who were friends of the rulers wife (close friends), were a bunch of priests of their national god, Baal.

The king was in this predicament because a prophet of the true God called Elijah, speaking for God, told them that the country would be in drought until God through Elijah said it would stop.

The King Ahab hated Elijah and had been looking for him for three years. Meanwhile his Baal priests were proving ineffective in fixing the situation. Elijah has a country hunting him down so he couldn’t have felt very secure either.

Then the two meet and Elijah challenges the Baal priests, one man against 450 tp met this challenge. . .

"I'm the only one of the Lord's prophets left. But Baal has 450 prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let Baal's prophets choose one for themselves. Let them cut it into pieces. Then let them put it on the wood. But don't let them set fire to it. I'll prepare the other bull. I'll put it on the wood. But I won't set fire to it. Then you pray to your god. And I'll pray to the Lord. The god who answers by sending fire down is the one and only God." – 1 Kings 18 NIRV.

Think of how the day that was unfolding. These Baal priests were ineffective and now they were having their powers tested. They knew they were in trouble but couldn’t back down.

Then things get worse. . .

Elijah spoke to the prophets of Baal. He said, "Choose one of the bulls. There are many of you. So prepare your bull first. Pray to your god. But don't light the fire."

So they prepared the bull they had been given.

   They prayed to Baal from morning until noon. "Baal! Answer us!" they shouted. But there wasn't any reply. No one answered. Then they danced around the altar they had made.

At noon Elijah began to tease them. "Shout louder!" he said. "I'm sure Baal is a god! Perhaps he has too much to think about. Or maybe he has gone to the toilet. Or perhaps he's away on a trip. Maybe he's sleeping. You might have to wake him up."

So they shouted louder. They cut themselves with swords and spears until their blood flowed. That's what they usually did when things really looked hopeless. It was now past noon. The prophets of Baal continued to prophesy with all their might. They did it until the time came to offer the evening sacrifice. But there wasn't any reply. No one answered. No one paid any attention.

Instead of turning to the true God (the action Christians call “repenting”) they decided to try and manipulate a god who was incapable of assisting them. They tried manipulating their circumstances by even cutting themselves. What did this do?

Nothing! Cutting ourselves is a futile activity and only damages ourselves further.

Then, the taunts came, making the day even worse!

This is what happens when we ignore God as we get into difficulties. Turning to the true God for help and admitting they were out of control, and that they couldn’t make any headway in the day would have been wise, but they were not wise!

Following our desires for self-satisfaction and letting the god’s and desires of this world overwhelm and rule us, is not wise either.

Only the true God can help!

Elijah was under no less pressure. He was one man facing 450! The king was against him, it says at the start of this encounter “So Ahab went to where Elijah was. When he saw Elijah, he said to him, "Is that you? You are always stirring up trouble in Israel."

When an absolute dictator who has the control of life and death finds a person troublesome, they are in trouble.

Here Elijah is facing an angry upset hoard, led by an angry mean dictator and behind it all is an angry woman who wants him dead (the kings wife Jezebel).

In that situation, I think we would consider it a bad day that was getting worse every second.

Yet Elijah does not!

Why?

God is with him!

When we know God is with us we should be able to face overwhelming odds and stand tall and strong. If we have screwed up and are not doing the right things, repenting is the right way to go, because God has said he will always forgive us!

Then, even if seconds ago we were against God, we can now stand tall in God’s protection. Like any of those Baal prophets could have walked over to Elijah and said they acknowledge God and wanted to follow him.

They didn’t!

This is their fate. . .

Then Elijah said to all of the people, "Come here to me." So they went to him. He rebuilt the altar of the Lord. It had been destroyed. Elijah got 12 stones. There was one for each tribe in the family line of Jacob. The Lord's message had come to Jacob. It had said, "Your name will be Israel." Elijah used the stones to build an altar in honor of the Lord. He dug a ditch around it. The ditch was large enough to hold 13 quarts of seeds. He arranged the wood for the fire. He cut the bull into pieces. He placed the pieces on the wood.    Then he said to some of the people, "Fill four large jars with water. Pour it on the offering and the wood." So they did.  "Do it again," he said. So they did it again.    "Do it a third time," he ordered. And they did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar. It even filled the ditch.

This was not what people expected! Then the prophet Elijah stepped forward. He prayed, amazingly.  . .  The fire of the Lord came down. It burned up the sacrifice. It burned up the wood and the stones and the soil. It even licked up the water in the ditch.

All of the people saw it. Then they fell down flat with their faces toward the ground. They cried out, "The Lord is the one and only God! The Lord is the one and only God!"

Then Elijah commanded them, "Grab hold of the prophets of Baal. Don't let a single one of them get away!"

 So they grabbed them. Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley. There he had them put to death.

Those who tried to manipulate their day without the power of God on their side found themselves dead.

Elijah, who should have had no chance of success, found that God produced a way out of the situation that nobody could have predicted.

That’s the God I love! That’s the God who helps me in similar circumstances!

That’s how we should all respond to overcoming our overwhelming difficulties.

I do pray you are not facing these tough times, but if you are, my prayer is that you would turn to the God of this universe for help and trust him even when it seems there is no way out. Talk to true Christian believers for help on how to connect with God and you may be surprised at the results.

Have a wonderful day overcoming obstacles!

God bless you!
Mon, March 5, 2012 | link          Comments


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 RiftInEvil.gifThe town of Zinaville is dropped into a spiral of evil causing a young man and a beautiful but abused woman to launch into an investigation that unveils an evil conspiracy.

A horrific mining accident results in Joshua Robyn's father being killed. Joshua struggles both with himself and his townsfolk as he tries to make sense of an incomprehensible situation. Is it an accident or a murder? Why is there a seeming link to evil? Why is his work environment suddenly threatening? What is the conspiracy about and what are they trying to do? As action moves dramatically from exotic African grasslands to the heart of North America's cities, the plot unfolds and the pace quickens. Will there be time? Why is a beautiful abused young woman in the center of this plot?

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