I’ve let this blog sit for a while now. Should I pick it up again?
Senator James Harlan of Iowa, whose daughter later married President Lincoln’s son Robert, introduced this Resolution in the Senate on March 2, 1863. The Resolution asked President Lincoln to proclaim a national day of prayer and fasting. The Resolution was adopted on March 3, and signed by Lincoln on March 30, one month before the fast day was observed.
By the President of the United States of America.
Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.
And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Either you believe that the Bible is the word of God or not. If you believe it, then by definition the Bible is truth and the above quote by Jesus is too. If you don’t believe it, the Bible is still true; you just don’t have a spiritual anchor.
“I believe that the Bible is true; so I am OK, right?” Not necessarily! Do you know the truth?
You see, the truth of Jesus Christ is under attack. It always has been. You wouldn’t think that the attack would be coming from inside the church but it is. It always has!
In the first century, the attack was from a group of people known as the Gnostics. They believed that they had a special revelation and knowledge about our Savior that no one else had. Several of Paul’s epistles were written because of the Gnostic influence in the early church. The doctrine that was being disseminated sounded good but was totally anti Christ. So it seemed that after Paul had preached Christ and made many converts, the Gnostics attempted to add their own spin to the Gospel. They were somewhat successful at leading some away from the truth.
Are you being led away from the truth? One indication is what you believe about the Bible. Do you believe that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible, inspired word of God? Another indication is whether or not you know, read and study your Bible. Even if you answered “yes” to both of the indicators, you still could be being led away from the truth; although it is not as likely. What does the man in the pulpit of your church think about the Bible? Does he preach the Gospel or does he preach messages with references to Gospel passages? Do the messages that reference Scripture use the meaning of Scripture that you would get by reading that passage in context or is the meaning changed to emphasize the point the preacher is trying to make?
I attend a church where the pastor delivers messages with scriptural references. I am also reading at least one book that the pastor has highly recommended. What I am discovering is that my pastor is teaching from books other than the Bible. That isn’t necessarily wrong. It does however, send up a red flag. I need to be a “good Berean” and search the scriptures to verify what he is teaching. If “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correcting and for training in righteousness so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work”, why then would a pastor need to teach from any other book. Just because it comes from the pulpit at your church, don’t believe blindly what the pastor says, check it out for yourself. Better yet, become so familiar with the truth that a half truth or a lie is repugnant on its face.
As a rabbi, Jesus prepared His disciples for everything. The way used to prepare His disciples was that they followed Him everywhere. They lived with Him, they watched as He met with friends, acquaintances, officials and enemies. It was the disciple’s (singular: talmid; plural: talmidim) responsibility to watch everything that the rabbi did in order to emulate him. The disciples consuming passion was to be like his rabbi.
An example of this can be found in Matthew 14:22 – 33 where Jesus walks across the sea of Galilee. You will recall that when Peter discovered that it was his rabbi walking on the lake, he said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water.” Do you believe that Peter thought he could walk on water? Peter, after all, was a fisherman. He had been in and around the sea all his life and every time he got in the water he sank like a stone. Yet, he wanted to be like his rabbi so much that he was willing to risk drowning to walk on water like his rabbi. So when Jesus said to Peter, “Come”, he had the temerity to get out of the boat. Peter actually succeeded in walking on the surface of the sea. But, seeing the wind and the waves, he became afraid and began to sink. He cried out to Jesus to save him. Jesus reached out His hand, took hole of Peter and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Who did Peter lose faith in? He was walking on the water; he did it! Did he lose faith in Jesus? I submit that is not the faith that Jesus was talking about. After seeing that he could walk on water, Peter’s faith should have increased. I submit that Peter lost faith in himself. He did not trust that he, a lowly fisherman, could have the ability to walk on water. And so he began to sink.
I believe that we are like that. God has promised that His power is perfected in our weakness. So why don’t we see displays of God’s power in our daily lives. It is because we are even too afraid to get out of the boat. We have been called. Jesus has told us “Come”. Still we are too afraid of the embarrassment of failure, or even more of success. What will people think of me if I behave in this manner?
“Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Think about this. The Jews in Galilee generally had access to the Scriptures only in their local synagogue, so they memorized Scripture throughout their lifetimes because they were determined to know and live by the word of God and pass on their faith to their children. They were intensely spiritual people, and even those who did not advance to further study and interpretation of the Torah and the Prophets already had memorized far more Scripture than most Christians know today.
Because of technology, we do not need to memorize Scripture. We can carry printed versions of scripture with us. We can put the Bible on our smart phones so that it is with us all the time. We do need to be familiar enough with Scripture so that we know what it says and where to find it. We have all had that moment where a certain passage applies and we can’t find it. Remember, Satan deceived Eve by questioning the word of God; “Has God said, “You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?” He also tempted Jesus by misapplying Scripture. Keep in mind God’s command to Joshua, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”
Remember also the words of Jesus in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give it to you.” You can say, “I will not be a disciple of Jesus.” But Jesus believes in you and your potential to be His disciple. That is why He chose you!
Have you ever wondered why liberals disguise their actions and motives with altruistic labels? As an example, take the American Civil Liberties Union. This organization’s name engenders visions of a good fight for freedom. The consequences of their activities are quite different. “Silent Night” can’t be sung at school; the Defense Department must stop sponsoring Boy Scout troops; a tiny Christian cross must be removed from the Los Angeles County seal; Nativity scenes on a courthouse lawn are unconstitutional. Americans’ heads are spinning, as they wonder what the next judicial outrage will be: Removing “In God We Trust” from U.S. currency? Firing all military chaplains? Expunging all references to God in America’s founding documents?
Another example is Planned Parenthood. In recent years, they have been the subject of several investigations which have resulted in the involved clinics closing. In some cases, they are violating law to peddle their services.
I want to talk about the so called “Pro Choice” movement. To most conservative thinkers, this is a euphemism for “Pro Abortion“. Let’s examine the choice.
I totally agree that a woman has the right to choose! She has the right to choose whether or not she will engage in sexual activity. As far as I know, no one is trying to take that choice away. There are Christian and other conservative groups that believe a woman should be encouraged to abstain from sex before marriage. But there is no effort afoot to make pre marital sex illegal. Every woman has the right to choose if she will have sex or not.
If the woman chooses to have sex, the logical consequences of which is pregnancy, she has to choose whether or not to become pregnant. If she chooses not to become pregnant, she again has many choices available to effect that choice. The most radical is sterilization. I can certainly understand why that would be a very undesirable choice; it is however very effective and permanent. Too permanent!
Another choice is the rhythm method of birth control. This method is not very reliable and does not allow for spontaneity. I can understand why this would not be a preferred choice as well.
Another choice is the use of condoms. Studies have shown that condom use can be 98% effective in the prevention of pregnancy. In addition, condoms can be made more effective by including the use of a spermicidal agent. They are inexpensive, readily available at drug, department and grocery stores and even some gas stations. Some brands include a spermicide. Many contain a lubricating agent. Some have features that are said to enhance pleasure of both the male and female during the sex act; they even come in colors! There are condoms that are made for women as well as for men. The condom is the only choice, other than abstinence, that will prevent sexually transmitted diseases. This sounds like a pretty good choice if pregnancy is to be avoided.
Another choice is the vaginal diaphragm. This method is slightly less effective than the condom. It relies on a perfect fit to prevent the sperm from entering the cervix. This perfect fit is very hard to achieve given the flexibility of the supporting tissue. As with a condom, its effectiveness can be increased by incorporating a spermicide.
Another choice is the Intra Uterine Device (IUD). This is more effective than most other forms of birth control. It is reported that the IUD is 99.4% effective. However, the following risks have been reported: increased menstrual bleeding, uterine perforation and expulsion. Other disadvantages are the high cost of insertion, it doesn’t prevent disease and it will need to be removed by a doctor.
Finally, there are several methods of hormonal therapies that are effective at preventing pregnancy, the most common is the birth control pill. According to Contraceptive Technology magazine, this form of birth control is 99.7% effective. The disadvantages are that it requires a prescription, can be relatively expensive and may have some side effects associated with the use of steroids.
I forgot. There is one more choice. A woman may choose to ignore the possibility that sex may lead to pregnancy and choose to not take precautions. So far, I count seven choices that a woman must make. Wait! There are more!
The choices some women make may lead to undesirable results! What now? Well, you have choices.
You may choose to carry and keep the baby. I understand that for some women, this is just not possible. They are too young and their parents would never allow it. A baby would be a terrible inconvenience. It may interrupt your career plans or even demolish them. Becoming a mother just isn’t feasible.
You could choose to put the baby up for adoption. Thousands of young couples spend millions of dollars to adopt children from overseas. The reason they choose overseas babies is that there are no babies to adopt in this country. Out of about 130,000 adoptions in the US each year, 13% are foreign adoptions.
Some states provide for the parents of unwanted children to just drop off their children at a designated facility. No questions asked!
What The Pro Choice movement wants, is to encourage the expectant mother to murder her unborn or just born baby. The method used to perform this murder, in some cases, would, if performed on animals, cause some animal right groups extreme consternation. Yet, the outrage about the methods used in this murder and even about the murder itself is conspicuous in its absence.
The justification for all of this? “It’s just a blob of tissue!” Remember a few years ago the scientific community was super excited about the possibility of life on Mars. They thought they had found a meteorite from Mars that, under an electron microscope, revealed a bacteria-like structure. This bacteria-like structure was evidence of life. However, a fully formed child in the womb with lungs, a beating heart, a brain, arms, legs, fingers and toes is not life. It’s just a blob of tissue.
“It’s my body!” is another of the feminist’s mantras. Let’s examine that claim. Take a look at the fetus’ DNA. It is definitely human. It is definitely not the mother’s DNA! Just the fact that DNA is present is evidence of life and the fact that the DNA of the child is not the DNA of the mother shows that the claim of “It’s my body” isn’t a valid argument. It is true that the developing child cannot survive outside of the mother’s body, yet. It is also true that some abortions are performed long after the point where the fetus could survive outside of the mother’s body.
As a society, we have endued women with the ability to chose the fate of our most helpless of citizens, our unborn children. When we try to proclaim that no one person should have the authority to end the life of another, we are accused of waging a war on women.
As a method of birth control, not even abortion is 100% effective. There are many stories of children being born after the mother attempted an abortion. You can read the stories of the children of these failed abortions here. We almost never hear of the psychological effects an abortion has on the mother. The feeling of guild and despondency.
I believe that the reason that the Pro Choice movement even exists is because abortion is big business. The abortion industry’s annual revenue is nearly half a billion dollars. Planned Parenthood alone accounts for about $345 million of that. Today, in the United States, over three thousand babies will be murdered at the hand of their mother and we don’t even raise an eyebrow.
The image of the shepherd and his sheep is frequently used in Scripture as a metaphor for the relationship between God and his people. Not only that, God often chose shepherds to lead His people. Abram, Moses and Davie for example were all experienced shepherds. This image sent a powerful message to the people of Israel because even to this day, a flock of sheep in Israel is dependent on the shepherd for survival. Israel is not a land of knee high grass and abundant water. The shepherd must lead the sheep daily to graze on short tufts of grass an hillsides and to drink from widely scattered sources of water. Without the shepherd’s leading, the flock would die.
The shepherd/sheep image describes the intimacy, dependence, obedience and faithfulness that characterize the rabbi/disciple relationship as well. The rabbi walks ahead and leads his disciples by his voice. Just as sheep follow their shepherd without understanding why the shepherd leads where he leads, disciples follow the rabbi by faith, trusting him to lead them in the right way to the right place. Following the rabbi is just as much a matter of life and death for the disciple as it is for the sheep that follow the shepherd.
In contrast to sheep who follow their shepherd, goats often wander on their own, away from the shepherd’s chosen path, the “path of righteousness.” Goats require extra attention from the shepherd because they think they know a better path.
In light of this, consider what Jesus taught in Matthew 25:31-46, particularly verses 32-34, 41: “He will separate the people from one another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on His right, “Come you who are blessed by my father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” Then He will say to those on His left, “Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire.” The key difference between the sheep and the goats is that the sheep obeyed the shepherd; they did what He would do. The goats on the other hand, had no interest in what concerned the shepherd.
They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one having authority, not as the teachers of the law. – Mark 1:21-22
Originally the synagogue was not a specific building but a place where God‘s people gathered in His presence around His Living Word. It was sometimes called a place of prayer, because in the Jewish mind the verb translated pray means worship as well as prayer. Synagogue began before Solomon’s temple was destroyed, but the practice became essential to the Jewish faithduring the exile.
As exiled Jews returned to the land of Israel, they brought synagogue – the practice of coming together as a community to study and worship in God’s presence – with them. by the first century in Israel, larger community buildings were built to serve as meeting places for synagogue. Soon the name synagogue was applied to the buildings where community study and worship of the Scriptures took place. So, during Jesus’ time, the synagogue was both a place and a group of people engaged in seeking God through the study of Scripture and prayer.
Synagogues played an important role in the lives of religious Jews who lived along the north and northwestern shores of the Sea of Galilee. Although the Jews traveled to the temple in Jerusalem to worship three times a year, they worshipped regularly with family, friends and neighbors in the local synagogue. The Torah scrolls were kept in the synagogue, so people went there to read and study the scriptures and listen to the rabbis proclaim their interpretations of the text. Their children attended synagogue schools where they learned to read, write and memorize the text. Thus the community worship, expressed in a handful of small synagogues in Galilee, contributed greatly to the disciples’ preparation to follow Jesus, their Rabbi and become like Him in every way.
Christians today tend to think that the theology and teaching of the Pharisees was all wrong, but it was not. The Pharisees were faithful Jews who worked hard to obey God in all they did. That’s why they had so many applications of Bible texts: they were trying to obey God! Jesus called some of the Pharisees hypocrites because they didn’t practice their own teaching (and some of their own writings criticize this as well). Some other Pharisees were so set in their interpretations of the Scriptures that they refused to consider the interpretations of others – including the interpretations of Jesus. Despite their imperfections, the Pharisees made knowledge of the Scriptures and obedience to God top priorities in life.
Although many Christians today think that Jesus called His disciples away from the Jewish faith and community, that is not the case. Jesus and His disciples continued to participate in community life, including synagogue worship, throughout His ministry. Even when His disciples went out into the world beyond Israel, they sought out and continues to be a part of the faith community of the synagogue. This is not to suggest that you must join a synagogue to follow Jesus, but active involvement in a faith community is necessary.
Jesus came to people who knew the Scriptures. They expended great effort to study and memorize the text, to debate its meaning, to teach it to other people, and – above else – to obey it. As you take a closer look at Jesus Ministry, consider how essential the text was to all that He did and said.
For the Jews in Galilee, knowing and obeying the Scriptures was as essential to life as food and water. They memorized significant portions of Scripture in synagogue schools. They heard it read aloud during synagogue prayers and when the rabbis read and discussed it. After all, how could one rightly interpret and obey God‘s commands without knowing the text? How could one walk with God without knowing what He said? Not to know the text was unthinkable!
A study of the Gospel of Matthew reveals that in that book alone, Jesus quoted the Hebrew Scriptures at least thirty-eight times. Read the following passages and notice how easily the text flowed from His lips as He spoke: Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43, 9:10-13, 12:1-8. Could Jesus have shared the Scriptures effectively if He had not memorized them?
In Matthew 5:17 Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish then but to fulfill them.” In the statement, Jesus used technical rabbinic terminology. Abolish meant to interpret Scripture so that it would not be obeyed as God desired. Fulfill meant to interpret Scripture so that it would be obeyed as God intended. So when Jesus used these terms, His audience would have heard Him say, “I did not come to misinterpret Scriptureso you would not keep it correctly. I came to interpret it so that you will know how to keep it correctly.”
Jesus came from a community that knew the Scriptures, and He expected His disciples to follow His example and become like Him. He expects no less from His followers today. Yet many of us do not know much about the text He knew and loved, and we have memorized even less of it.
How can we do what Jesus commands if we do not know His word?
Is it time to dedicate yourself to knowing your Bible and using it as the foundation for your life and witness? How will you begin?
How would memorizing Scripture reinforce your desire to live by its truth in your daily life?
If you are serious about being a disciple, ask God to fill you with His Spirit and give you a desire to become more like Jesus who knew and loved the Word of God.
The prophet Jeremiah memorized so much scripture that he literally could not stop mentioning God or speaking His name. How passionately do you want God’s word to burn within you. A good place to startmight be to memorize the following:
But if I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. – Jeremiah 20:9
Pray for the same love for the word as Jeremiah had!
In Jesus day, a rabbi was not the head of a formal religious community or a synagogue as we think of a rabbi today. Instead, rabbi was an honored termof respect given to one who interpreted and taught the Hebrew Bible. Rabbi meant “my superior” or “my master” and came from a Hebrew root meaning “great” or “many”. Disciples and others used this term to refer to great scholars and teachers of the Scriptures who were also known as “sages”. After the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in AD 70, rabbi became a formal title for sage.
Rabbis played an important role in the Jewish spiritual culture because there were no formal seminaries at the time of Jesus. Each rabbi taught his disciples how the Torah should be interpreted and obeyed, and his disciples willingly submitted to that interpretation. A rabbi then was an honored teacher who was well versed in the text of the Hebrew Scriptures. He was highly respected for his knowledge, interpretation, and teaching of Scripture as well as for his personal righteousness. Following a rabbi required a deep commitment on the part of the disciple who would live with and follow the rabbi day in and day out for years in order to learn to be like him and live in obedience to God as the rabbi did.
For the Galileans, walking with God took priority over everything. So a rabbi and his disciples were highly respected by others in the community. A family or extended family group usually provided housing and food for a rabbi and his disciples. Because of the high respect for the study of the Torah, and the fact that the rabbi was leading other people to the kingdom of heaven and the life to come, each disciple was expected to honor his rabbi even more than his own father. It is difficult for Christians today to imagine such love and commitment to a human teacher, but that was the norm in Galilee.
All teaching by the early rabbis attempted to explain, interpret, and apply some portion of the Hebrew Bible. To the audience, the validity of the teaching depended on the rabbis ability to use a variety of passages in new and creative ways to illustrate the teaching with parable or metaphor, and to ground the teaching in text. whether they wanted to or not, people who heard Jesus teach recognized that He taught with authority.
In fact, Jesus best fit the type of rabbi believed to have s’mikhah, the authority to make new interpretations of the Torah. Most of the teachers of the law could only teach accepted interpretations. Teachers with authority, however, could make new interpretations and pass legal judgments.
The Mishnah describes the educational process for a young Jewish boy during Jesus time.
At five years old [one is fit] for the Scripture, at ten years the Mishnah [oral Torah interpretations], at thirteen for [the fulfilling of the commandments], at fifteen the Talmud [making rabbinic interpretations], at eighteen the bride chamber, at twenty pursuing a vocation, at thirty for authority [able to teach others].
This passage clearly describes the education of a n exceptional student, because few students became teachers. It also indicates the centrality of the Hebrew text in the education of Jews in Galilee. A comparison of this description to Jesus’ life shows that He closely followed the customs of his time and place.
After being tempted by Satan for forty days, Jesus returned to civilization and discovered that John the Baptist had been taken into custody. Upon hearing this, He withdrew into Galilee; leaving Nazareth He settle in Capernaum, which is by the sea in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles — The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a Light dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
We know that Jesus came, not to the Gentiles or to the Samaritans but to the Jews. His message included healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, and casting out demons. When the Canaanite woman approached Him near Tyre and Sidon, He admonished her saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
When Jesus’ message was not received, He denounced the cities that he was in and described a horrible fate for them.
Knowing that the people in the land of Galilee were religious people and that Jesus’ message to them was repent, What do you think His message to us would be today?