What we worshiped, we kill when we come to Christ!

copentecost

The word sacrifice is used constantly in our efforts to show how committed we are to a cause. Some people left better paying jobs to stay in their current place of work. Others took a low paying job or moderate means of livelihood to be with someone they love. The list of what we perceive as sacrifice goes on. However, in the Bible sacrifice takes a deeper meaning. It will interest you to know that there is no just one purpose for sacrifice except for propitiation. Propitiation means to turn aside the wrath of God. Some sacrifices are meant to end the wrath of God. The Book of Leviticus is replete with types of sacrifices in the Old Testament. Here are few examples of sacrifices:

 Communion/Eucharist: Although some of us receive communion weekly, we may not know that it is a type of sacrifice: Communion depicts how we are…

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Biblically informed and Christ centered worldview is infectious!

   A tribute to my sons: Blessing and Levi Jacobs

I am 8th of nine siblings and my father’s pride. My father was not the type that exerted physical disciplinary measures when disciplining his children, but my mom was, as I was told (mom died when I was about 7yo). The truth is that I was never this virtuous Christian kid.

My way of life as teenager was not quite attractive for someone who would one day become a priest. But my father deeply loved me, and somehow, I got away with lots of stuff. I lived a very innocuous but pretty heavy lifestyle that was in no way reflective of Christian values, but that was the “in thing” for youths my age at that time, and I loved every bit of it. After high school, I moved into the city to pursue a business career and visited home occasionally.

My dad took ill and that made my visits more frequent. I remember during one of my visits, we were having this discussion about my career, and my father said to me, ‘in anything you do, do not take what does not belong to you” In other words, do not steal. I still remember that fatherly admonition as if it was yesterday. And I never disappointed my father.

When I had my own children, I passed on this value. I was very nervous one day at a grocery store when my son Levi was searching under confectionery stands and inside the grocery store. I asked him what he was doing, he said he was looking for money that shoppers inadvertently dropped because he was told by an adult, who has frequent access to him, that it is okay to take monies that shoppers inadvertently dropped.

According to him, the same person that instructed him to do this, said he made over a thousand dollars the previous year from “taking” monies that shoppers inadvertently dropped. That presented a teaching moment for us when we got home. I had a stern talk with him and his brother, and helped them to see that it is not right to take other people’s stuff. I told them that “taking” what belongs to someone else is stealing. I then gave them the same admonition that my father gave me over two decades ago:” In all you do, do not take what doesn’t belong to you.” In other words, do not steal.

Just last week we were at the swimming pool, (I was not swimming that day), and there was this gentleman that had finished swimming, and was enjoying the sun in one of the pool chairs. This man left before us. However, he forgot his wallet containing money and other personal items.  Levi was the one who saw it. He brought it my attention and I told him to take the wallet to the leasing office.

He ran quickly to the office and handed over the wallet to the office staff. On our way back to the house, this man was racing back to the pool to retrieve his wallet, and my son Levi recognized him and directed him to go the office and retrieve his wallet.  I was so elated that he did not discard my admonition to not take what does not belong to him. I commended him and his brother for such virtuous deed, and felt it was worth sharing with you. This man retrieved his wallet from the office and gave Levi and his brother Blessing couple of dollars each.

Isn’t God good?

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The God who defies our cultural prejudices!

This post comes to you from a very good friend of mine Joseph Bonham, whom I consider one of the greatest theological minds I have studied with. What makes him very remarkable is his humility his gentleness. He has graciously accepted to be our guest blogger. Joe grew up in a small inner city Assemblies of God church in New Jersey. After finishing an undergraduate degree in Bible from Zion Bible Institute (now College) he spent two years as an intern at an AG church outside of Hartford, CT. Hungering for deeper study, he went to Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary where he met and married his wife, Carissa. After finishing his graduate degrees, they packed up and relocated to Oregon to be near her family. There they bought a house and had their son, Kaypha. Currently they’re a part of the Groves Church in Downtown Portland. Joe substitutes at some local Christian high schools and occasionally teaches Biblical Hebrew for adults. Joe has Master’s degree in Biblical Languages, and Master’s degree in Old Testament. You will be blessed reading this blog.

Theologians commonly pit ‘election’ by God against human ‘free will’. This is not an ivory tower debate, as it influences the answer to big questions. Can someone lose their salvation? Is God’s choice just? I want to leave this debate behind for a moment. It’s the only way we can hear how the apostle Paul pits God’s ‘calling’ against someone’s ‘fate’.

God’s people, then and now, have always been full of prejudices against those who are not God’s people. It was hard for Jonah to go to Nineveh. It was hard for the early Jewish Church to open its door to foreigners. It still is hard for some to think God might forgive Nazis of Germany, or love terrorists among the Taliban, or that a Palestinian might stand as God’s chosen.

Paul found himself in a similar situation. He was ‘called’ by God to preach to Gentiles (Acts 9:15, 22:21). This was not just hard. In Paul’s day it was not allowed (Acts 10:28). To justify himself in the eyes of fellow believing Jews Paul had to show that his missionary activity was legal when everyone thought it was unbiblical. The clearest explanation of how Paul did this is in Romans 9-11.

In these passages, Paul agrees with his Jewish audience that the Jews are God’s people because they were ‘called’, and not because of their fidelity. Paul’s point is that God gets to ‘call’ anyone God wants to call, even if they are not Jews (9:24). This is radical. This provocative.

Try to appreciate how Paul’s audience must have heard his statements. It might be similar to us hearing, “God is accepting homosexuals,” or “Muslims can go to heaven.” Our gut reaction is, “sure, if they become Christian, if they leave their homosexuality, and leave Islam.” But Paul was saying that they don’t have to become Jewish!!! They can stay Gentile. No circumcision required! This would border on heresy.

Before Paul’s audience either stones him or burns his letter, Paul pushes back. Isn’t God sovereign? Doesn’t God get to call anyone God wants? Look at our own history. Obviously it isn’t based on how Jewish or even how clean a person might be. Don’t we all agree that it is predicted that God’s message will go to Gentile nations? Is God’s word not going to have an effect on them? Does it say that only Jews will bow before God? Doesn’t it say that Gentiles will bow before God? Let’s not keep God in a box here.

In Peter’s vision, the argument seems to be that at least some Gentiles might not be damned after all (Acts 10:15). But for Paul, the argument goes even further. God’s calling cleanses Gentiles prior to conversion, at least enough for Jews to evangelize them without becoming dirty. In fact, this cleansing renders conversion irrelevant. This is an evangelistic campaign without the pay off, because there is no altar call, i.e. there is no plea to convert to Judaism via circumcision.

Today we have a lot of assumptions about who is called and who is not. We see someone with a tattoo come into a church service and we make a judgement that God’s word doesn’t. We watch as a family stops attending a church, and we make a judgement that God’s word doesn’t. Someone walks into a Planned Parenthood clinic and we form mobs with posters promising condemnation, as if we know God’s mind about their final destination. Someone with AIDS calls us to come pray for them on their deathbed, and we wonder if we should. Assumptions. Assumptions. What’s funny is that a lot of our judgement calls about who is ‘chosen’ by God is painfully close to our cultural prejudices.

God’s election defies our cultural prejudices. God’s election reaches beyond those we’ve written off as unelect. Because at the end of the day, we just don’t know. We have to stop presuming on God’s choice. Even IF God has made his choice about an individual ‘before the foundation of the world’, we do not have privileged access to it. Even IF God’s choice is unchangeable, does God confide in us with such matters?

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Did Pharaoh drown with his army in the Red Sea in pursuit of the Israelites?

A conversation with a good friend of mine, one of the greatest theological minds I have come to know, evoked this curiosity in me about Pharaoh’s status during the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt. The way we respond to this question could open a new vista in the way we articulate certain cherished beliefs of the church. It will also help us to have a better understanding of doctrines that have defined received orthodoxy but specifically systematic theology. I know that this may not be every body’s interest, but there are some among us with questions about doctrines such as election, predestination, and salvation.

We may also have members of our churches with questions about these doctrines, who may feel that the pastor or the preacher is not interacting with these issues. So for the sake of love for the brethren, I am compelled to at least try to start a conversation that might shed more light on these topics and hopefully cause you to rethink these doctrines. I am well aware that these doctrinal issue will not debar any of us from going to heaven, as long as we are members incorporate of the mystical body of Christ, and live a life that reflects Him at his coming again in glory. However, there is a sense of satisfaction in knowing what we believe.

There is overwhelming consensus among conservative scholars that Pharaoh of the Exodus that occurred around 1446 BC was Amenhotep II (1450-1424 BC). There is also a considerable, if not overwhelming biblical and historical evidence that he was spared while his army perished during their pursuit of Israel. The text itself did not say that he died with his army. In Exodus 14:28, we learn that the waters cover “all the army of Pharaoh,” but Pharaoh himself is not mentioned. Exodus 15: 19 also substantiates this: “For the horses of Pharaoh went with his chariots and his horsemen into the sea, and the LORD brought back the waters of the sea upon them.” The only place outside of the Book of Exodus that suggests that Pharaoh died with his army is in Psalm 136:15. It reads “God overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea.” The problem with this text is that the Hebrew word that is translated overthrow does not always mean drown. This same word is used in Nehemiah (which happens to be my second son’s middle name) 5:13; and Exodus 14:27 and in both cases it does not mean drown. So my question to you is this: Do you think that Pharaoh Amenhotep, the Pharaoh of Exodus did drown with the rest of his army in pursuit of the Israelites?

Many blessings as you read and respond.

Blessing+

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HOW OLD REALLY, IS THE PLANET EARTH?

 

I woke up very early this morning with thoughts of the Creationist and the Atheist debate that I watched last year and felt I should digress from the sequel to my recent post to reflect on this age long debate about the age of the earth. How old really, is our Planet earth? The Creationist made a passionate and a very compelling argument that God created the earth and argued for a young earth. I was never a huge fan of Apologetics both in College and Graduate schools, because of its emphasis on winning arguments or trying to defend God, even when the arguments are laughable.

The Atheist appealed to scientific findings in a counter argument, stating that the Biblical account of creation and the age of the planet earth proposed by the Church is suspect and cannot be trusted; and argued that the earth is Billions of years old. As I sat and watched the Creationist passionately argue for a young planet earth, I said to myself, you have made a superb argument, almost silencing the Atheist, what difference does it make if the earth is Millions or Billions of years old as the Atheist argues? But this is one of the problems of Christianity, we always hold on to our position, even if those positions cannot be proven by the Bible (especially in the form that those arguments are presented).

What difference does it make really, if the earth is a Trillion years or Ten Thousand years old? My God could have created the earth in a day and populated it with humans with the intellect and function as we have it today. He could have also created the earth Trillions of years ago. We have this fantasy that agreeing with those who don’t subscribe to our beliefs is lack of faith, even though that the Bible has proven over and over that this is not the case. How did the Church come up with the young earth chronology?

In the 17th century, Bishop James Ussher, a seventeenth-century Irish bishop came up with this interesting young earth chronology citing the genealogy account found in Genesis 5 through Rome’s destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The Lord Bishop even went ahead to add precision to the exact date of Creation. In the 1925, the American Fundamentalist discovered and accepted this chronology. Don’t get me wrong, the Lord Bishop was a genius and a scholar per excellence.

He was not deterred by the challenging nature of being a Protestant Bishop in a Roman Catholic turf. History has it that the Lord Bishop lived through momentous times, having been born during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.  He was a talented high-speed scholar who entered Trinity College in Dublin at the early age of thirteen, became an ordained Presbyter by the age of twenty, and a professor at Trinity by twenty-seven.  In 1625, he became the head of the Anglo-Irish Church in Ireland. But how reliable is his chronology? How old do you think the earth is? Let’s talk about it.

Very Respectfully,

Blessing Jacobs.

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Was Jesus’ death an end to the Jewish sacrificial system or was it a means by which fallen humankind could return to God?

 Our response to this question is crucial to how we view the being we call God, and the place of organized religion in our world.

When humankind in Adam fell short of God’s glory through disobedience by eating from the fruit of the prohibited tree in the garden of Eden, God’s relationship with her was severed. Adam (a corporate identity of the whole human race) could no longer be in the presence of God. To the modern reader, this idea of Adam eating a piece of fruit and God expelling him from the garden is very pithy, and almost a bizarre way of ending a relationship. It’s like someone divorcing their spouse for burning their toast, or squeezing a tooth paste from the middle. It’s like God was setting Adam up, knowing that he/she would disregard this injunction not to eat from the fruit of the prohibited tree. But is it what God intended? Was it God’s intention to perpetually keep Adam from eating of the fruit of this tree? I would save this for another time, but suffice to say that Adam’s expulsion from the garden was so that not only Adam, but also the entire human race could get back in. One of my favorite professor’s in Seminary Dr. Hugenberbger in his teaching on this subject of the Fall once said, “you have to get out to get in.”

To return to the question at issue, “Why did Jesus die,” let’s look at the Old Testament sacrificial system. Leviticus is one of the least read books of the Bible because of its content. Interestingly enough, it is one of my favorites because it helps us understand and appreciate the atoning death of Christ. But the sacrificial system of the Old Testament was put in place by Yahweh for His chosen people. The sacrificial system was to temporarily mitigate (cover) the inadvertent sins committed by God’s chosen people Israel. But how about other nations in far distance shores, who did not embrace Israel’s sacrificial system? How about other nations that indeed worshipped Israel’s sacrificial elements?

Moses in response to Pharaoh’s counter offer to his request to free the Israelites: “Go sacrifice to your god within the land” (Exodus 8:25) says, “It is not right to do so, for we will sacrifice to the Lord our God what is an abominations to the Egyptians.” How then were these other nations reconciled to God if the sacrificial system was not an option? This brings us to the Hebrew word “shv” to turn, “to return” “to be returned,” “to bring back” This word is misleadingly rendered in Psalm 23:6, in the Psalmist’s pledge to return to Yahweh’s presence: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” The word translated “dwell” is the Hebrew word “shv.” I don’t want you to be discouraged by my use of the Hebrew language as is the custom of some. I utilize Hebrew to help the reader understand what the Holy Spirit inspired the author’s to say to God’s people. It could be argued in Hebrew that one did not really comprehend a word until one has total grasp of its roots, and explored its relationship to other words with the same root. This is what biblical theology is all about: discerning the authorial intent. How were other nations reconciled to God? Please stay tuned!

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Many Blessings to you in the New Year!

Happy New Year to all my friends around the globe. I am deeply grateful for the time you have taken out of your busy schedule to view my blog. I am amazed that different readers from over 40 countries log on to read my posts! For the new year, I would like to do something different. I have ben thinking of what I can do differently this year to be able to serve my audience better. So I decided to ask everyone of you to help me by providing guidance on what subjects you that you would best benefit from. So write to me either via my personal email or leave a comment on the blog page on what topics you want me to explore. And for those of you that have not joined, please do, so that you will receive notification each time I publish a new post.

Thank you all

Yours for the sake of the Risen King!

Blessing Jacobs+

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