Gospel Meditation: Galatians 4:8–10

 Sons and Heirs

  1. In the churches of Galatia were both Jews and Gentiles. The Jews, though having believed in Jesus as their Messiah, still were tempted to observe the legal requirements of the Law of Moses, the days, weeks, years, the feasts, and so on. The Gentiles however, coming from a pagan background, worshipped all sorts of deities and spiritual powers.
  2. Now however, that they know and more importantly, are known by God, that is, have a personal relationship with God, they must not turn back to their old practices.
  3. Among these old practices are the “elementary principles” and Paul is referring to astrology, magic, and other occult oriented practices. And this is so relevant to our own day when we are in the midst of a revival of the occult arts including, mediums, channelers, astrologers, tarot card readers, the Akashic Records, Reiki, meditative yoga, and other psychic phenomenon.
  4. Paul would later write to the churches of Corinth, “what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons” (1 Cor. 10:20).
  5. Adherence to such practices makes one a slave, and in the Greek the word for slave is doulos, since this would bring a person under the control of demonic spirits.
  6. Paul then asks, do you really want this for yourselves?
  7. He is referring to deep repentance. Turning away from all the worldly philosophies and religions would be very difficult to do as it would mean losing so much, family included.
  8. We see the pastoral heart of Paul when he laments, “I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.” The plain rendering of the Greek here is, “I fear you lest in vain I have labored among you.” There is no “may” in the verse.
  9. Paul does not mean that by returning to the old pagan ways one would lose their salvation necessarily, but that it would present a dreadful situation. Paul knew from experience what he was talking about.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

(The server has been down all week and I was not able to send out a piece I wrote for MLK Day. But the server is back.

Hello Everyone, Today, Monday, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And I woke up this morning thinking I wanted to honor him and his work.

> I grew up in a black and white neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. Many of my friends were black, all my baby sitters were black ladies, and right behind us lived a black family with a son my age and we were good friends, we played sports together, we boxed each other regularly in the ring my dad built in the back yard, and I knew nothing of racial prejudice.

> But this I encountered in Los Angeles when we moved there when I was 13 years old. We had gang wars then, whites versus the black and brown gangs, even Asian, I remember the Buddha Heads in Hollywood. I was in a number of these battles. And I do recall developing racial prejudice.

> While in the military, well sadly, it was very evident. The black airmen I worked with were resistant to this prejudice and I recall right now that I had some discussions along this line with one of the car pool drivers, an ambulance driver, while we would be sitting on the tarmac at Travis AFB waiting the arrival of an airplane filled with injured soldiers. We spoke at length about this and he did his best to help me understand things from his point of view.

> One thing I had to admit about myself is that I had developed racial prejudice, and I was mostly not aware of it. I think this is so for most of us. Over the years, in discussions with Christian friends who are black and or brown, is that they too developed racial prejudice. It simply goes with the territory and we have to come to admit it before we can begin to shed it.

> Dr. King, a Christian man, braved all this and stood up for what is right. He helped us come to grips with the sinfulness lodged deep within us and also to learn how to counter it. His message incorporated the second great commandment, love one another, even those who are our enemies. Wow, Jesus took it as far as it can go.

> Let us all take a hard look at ourselves and be ready to admit the racial, political, even religious prejudices we have lurking down in our hearts and minds. And then seeing this, come to our Lord in prayer and ask for forgiveness. And then ask for Holy Spirit strength to be loving and caring for our neighbor, and neighbor is anyone in our world. (By the way, religious prejudice will distort our evangelical outreach to these.)

> So let us honor MLK on his day and seek to love one another.

> Kent

The Genealogy of Jesus

Luke 3:23–38

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.         The genealogy of Luke chapter 3 differs from that of the one found in Matthew chapter 1. Some have thought Matthew has Joseph’s genealogy while Luke has Mary’s. A better understanding of the differences may be that Matthew traces the royal dissent (kings or leaders at the time), while Luke gives an actual familial 8account. Still the differences in the two lists exist and without an explanation that satisfies everyone.

2.         Jesus was born about 5 BC and began His ministry at about age 28. It is not definite how long Jesus’ public ministry lasted. Some say 3 years, others 4, and some even longer.

3.         His crucifixion then would have been about 30 to 32 AD. We notice that in verse 23, Joseph is the son of Heli while Matthew has Jacob and not Heli. Reconciling the two genealogies will give one a big headache in no time.

4.         Jesus is not a mythological, magical entity like so many in the world’s religions. Jesus lived at a certain time, in a real place. He was born of a woman, died due to crucifixion, was buried then rose from the dead. And He did ascend into heaven and will return one day to judge the living and the dead.

5.         Jesus is the Son of God, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. And yes, no one of us, at least while on the planet, will have a clear understanding of it all. This is a part of what faith is all about. “We see,” as Paul said, “in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

The Boy Jesus in the Temple

Luke 2:41–52

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.         Faithful Jewish people were to be at the Temple in Jerusalem for Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles according to the Law of Moses, but in Jesus’ day, this attendance had slackened.

2.         Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were faithful in their attendance, and not a simple trip in those days. Likely a number of folks from Nazareth made the journey together.

3.         Jesus, age 12, and at age 13 He would be known as a “son of the commandment,” was not with His parents on the return home. This was not immediately discovered.

4.         Mary and Joseph rush back to Jerusalem in search of their child and find Him discussing large issues with some of the rabbis and other religious experts.

5.         After a mild rebuke from Mother Mary, Jesus let it be known that He had a growing understanding of who He was and what His mission was. And this, not unlike most pre-teen youngsters.

6.         The words of Jesus in reply to Mary are very revealing, “I must be in my Father’s House.” Though Joseph was His legal father, He knew His real parentage was far different. And how large was His view of the Temple there in Jerusalem, He refers to it as, “My Father’s House.”

7.         Mary, Joseph, and Jesus set out for the return home, and it is reported, likely by Mary directly to Luke, that He was “submissive” to them; Jesus was not a rebellious young man.

8.         Mary “treasured up” all that she had witnessed, all the while Jesus increased in “wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man.”

9.         Eighteen years would pass before the beginning of His public ministry.

Jesus Presented at the Temple & The Return to Nazareth

Luke 2:22–40

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture.

1.         Joseph and Mary follow the directions given in the Law of Moses for the child Jesus and mother Mary.

2.         While at the Temple the family meets Simeon who was waiting for the fulfillment of the promises regarding the Messiah found in the Hebrew Bible.

3.         By direction of the Holy Spirit, he locates the little family, takes baby Jesus in his arms, and issues the last of the “songs” in Luke, the Nunc Dimittus, meaning ‘mission now completed.’

4.         In the first part of the song, he knows his mission is complete as he has seen the Lord’s salvation, which is Jesus.

5.         This salvation will be for not only the Jews but for Gentiles as well. Then Simeon describes the ministry of Jesus, it will be for the “fall and rising of many,” and for a “sign that is opposed.”  This see this being fulfilled now.

6.         Then he speaks about a “sword” that will pierce through Mary as well, an indication of what will happen to baby Jesus, thus the crucifixion and death of Mary’s son.

7.         Then as a second testimony there is Anna, a devout woman 84 years old, who provides another witness to Joseph and Mary, and all who witnessed the event, that the child Jesus was the “redemption of Jerusalem,” another way of referring to the coming Messiah and His ministry.

8.         Now then the little family heads back home to Nazareth where baby Jesus will grow and become strong.

The Shepherds and the Angels

GOSPEL MEDITATION

Luke 2:8–21

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Carefully read the passages of Scripture.

1.        Shepherds were not thought highly of in that era. It  was a rough life, dirty, even dangerous. Interestingly, the term “pastor” corresponds to or is the same as “shepherd.”

2.        It is not known when in the year this event took place. Could have been almost any time of the year. Early Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus on December 25 as it was a pagan holiday when even slaves and other despised ones were given freedom for a day.

3.        It is not known why God the Father chose to reveal the birth of His Son to these people who would become the first evangelists, but He did. Very encouraging to us now.

4.        The angel sent by God announces good news of great joy to the shepherds (this phrase is equivalent to Gospel), which will be for all people, not only the Jewish people. And it will all take place in the city of David, or Bethlehem.

5.        Suddenly there was a large number of angels present and speaking, likely singing, to the shepherds an incredible message.

6.        The shepherds set of to Bethlehem and are guided by some means to the place where Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus were. They become instant evangelists, spreading the word, while Mary, Luke tells us, was deep in thought and contemplation.

7.        The shepherds return to their work protecting the sheep all the while glorifying and praising God.

8.        After eight days, Mary and Joseph take baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem for the customary circumcision.

The Christmas Story

Genesis 3:14–16; Psalm 22:14–18; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6–7; Gal. 4:1-6

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still and at peace. Say the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passages of Scripture.

God addressing the Serpent, who had deceived Adam and Eve, states, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heal.”

  1. The woman’s offspring, as the historic drama in Scripture makes plain is Mary’s son Jesus, who defeats the serpent while the serpent is only able to do minor or temporary damage.
  2. In Psalm 22 then is a portrayal of the damage the serpent does, all under the authority of the Creator. The Psalmist, David depicts a man dying on a cross hundreds of years before the invention of this horrible instrument of execution is invented.
  3. Isaiah the prophet speaks of a virgin giving birth to “Immanuel” which means “God with us.” Then this virgin born son is “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (If you look carefully you will see the Trinity.)
  4. Further along in Isaiah we find this Immanuel as the suffering servant of Israel. The prophet speaks of a person despised and rejected, but who is “wounded for our iniquities” and upon whom is laid all of our sin.
  5. Isaiah goes on to say that this despised one’s dying is an “offering for sin” yet his days will be prolonged, even that “the will of the LORD prosper in his hand.” This is clearly about Jesus’ resurrection. (see Isaiah 53)

In the first century CE a former Jewish Rabbi, the Apostle Paul, in writing to a Gentile audience, sums up the ultimate intention of God in this manner: When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were born under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5

Mary

Mark 3:31–35; Luke 1:26–55; 2:1–7;

John 2:1–11; 19:16b-27; Acts 1:12—14

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Recite the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself. Slowly and carefully read the passages of Scripture. Her name appears 51 times in the New Testament. It is thought the name means “bitterness” or “sorrow,” and indeed she had much sorrow as well as joy. “Dolores” a name often associated with Mary means “sorrow” in Latin.

  1. Why was Mary chosen to give birth to the Messiah? She was of no account, was poor, and lived in a small village with no reputation. Indeed, Nathaniel asked, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46)
  2. What a wonderful mother she was. Besides giving birth to Jesus she gave birth to four boys, two of which became authors of New Testament books, James and Jude. And she bore at least two girls as well, maybe more, and who are unnamed in Scripture.
  3. At one point her family questioned Jesus’ activities, thought He might be mad, yet she supported her son despite the opposition He faced. She was present at the crucifixion, and at one-point Jesus her son, while dying commended her to the care of Apostle John, the only disciple present at the cross. Legend has he cared for her until her death. At some point, they lived in Ephesus.
  4. Mary became a widow as Joseph disappears fairly early on in the life of Jesus. Mary then raised a rather large family and with good result.
  5. It is probable that you have at least one family member in your remembrance who has the name Mary or a derivative thereof.
  6. She will always be honored as the woman who gave birth to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Muslim Honor Brigades

Essay Fourteen

Local Honor Brigades

In a nearby town is a tight knit community of Muslims, mostly from Thailand, Pakistan, India, among others. Some years back a person who lived there asked me for help in moving her out of that area. In the process, I asked her why she was moving. She said to get away from the young toughs who were accosting women who were caught outside and not wearing a head covering. She described pushing and shoving, loud name calling, and more. These bands of young Muslim men and boys did this on a regular basis and she was scared to death they would attack her even though she was not a Muslim. A neighbor told her that she could be picked on as they did not want non-Muslims in their community.

What is this all about?

This sort of grouping of mostly young males is not officially sanctioned but are very real none-the-less. They will be found in every community where Muslims are the majority. Those who so engage either are real believers in that they are convinced it is their duty to enforce Sharia law, or they follow along out of fear of being the object of the brigades themselves; they must show loyalty.

Based on my personal experience, I have found that some percentage of those born and raised Muslim do not believe in Allah at all. They are virtual atheists. They perform religious duties and rituals in order to be accepted by their Muslim families, friends, and communities. They would escape Islam if they could. But, so very often, they cannot.

How do I know this is so? By speaking with them in places away from the mosque. It is a sad thing, and I am surprised when they are interested in hearing about Jesus. Yet, to let this be known would certainly bring unwanted attention and concern from members of the brigade. It is not an easy thing to be a Muslim.

Being a Muslim is a full-time job. If one were to faithfully follow all the proscriptions of that faith, there would be little time for anything else. The early Muslims did not live a life most of those on the planet have to live to survive in this world today. What with having to earn a living, with families to look after, dwellings to keep up, and so on, there is not enough time and space to do all that is required. This is why so many Muslims look to local, state, and national assistance.

Attending the local Sunni Mosque over the years, I observed, and week after week, a good half of the congregation rushes in to be part of the service even if for a minute, or less. And this just to be seen by either fellow Muslims, the imam, or even Allah. And those who are to be impressed are the local honor brigade plus the good angel who is sitting on the right shoulder, and who is taking notes, and the devil sitting on the left shoulder, who is also taking notes.

National Honor Brigades

Local honor brigades are hardly known to most people outside Muslim dominated communities. This is not so in some countries, like England, where ninety plus communities are openly only for Muslims, and in these Sharia law dominates.

Operating largely under the radar in America are the large national organizations that function as honor brigades. These are collections of academics, activists, bloggers, and others, whose mission it is to protect and defend the honor of “true Islam.” One of the familiar themes of such organizations is that Muslim violent extremists do not represent Islam. And any one person or organization that so declares is guilty of being “Islamophobic,” which is the fear of Muslims.

 Today the face of the honor brigade is seen in American academic institutions, non-profit organizations, and the media in general, who present a kind of soft propaganda aimed at silencing any criticism of Islam. Part of the mission of these groups is to discredit anyone who speaks or writes about Muslim extremism, intimating these groups or individuals have an irrational fear of Islam. Some of these groups are: The Council on American-Islamic Relations, known as CAIR, Muslim Advocates, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and the Islamic Council of North America. These organizations use the words “racists,”  “bigots,” “Islamaphobes,” and other derogatory terms to describe those, like myself, who will present extremist Islam as it really is. And there is no question, despite the misrepresentations, that for these their sole objective is to bring the entire world under subjection to Islamic Sharia law. And for all non-Muslims, one must either convert to Islam, be subservient to Muslims, or be killed.

These organizations are often funded by large and wealthy Muslin countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Iran. Yes, here Sunni and Shia branches of Islam will cooperate.

There is a Muslim Reform Movement whose mission it is to not make excuses for Muslim terrorist activities, but to uphold an “Islam of grace.” And there are such, who want to have Islam seen as a religious faith along with others like Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism. However, this approach will not pacify or appease many Muslims as they realize that at the core of Islam is that it must dominate and control, and purge the world of opposing religions. This is seen in the sayings of the Muhammad of Medina, not the Muhammad of Mecca, who changed from being cooperative to being otherwise. And thus the world downgraded even further.

The Birth of John the Baptist & Zechariah’s Prophecy

Luke 1:57–80

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Slowly and carefully read the passage of Scripture. Memorize the memory verse.

1.         In the Hebrew Bible are indications that there would be a “forerunner” to the Messiah, an Elijah like prophet. This was the ministry of John and known as the “Baptist.”

2.         John was born into a priestly family, that of Zechariah and Elizabeth, and Elizabeth was related to Mary, who would be Jesus’ mother. The name John means “Jehovah has been gracious.”

3.         The neighbors of Zechariah and Elizabeth were astonished about the name as it was not a usual name, and a certain kind of ‘fear’ fell upon them, and this news was widely spread in that region.

4.         Zechariah then, filled with the Holy Spirit, uttered a single, but long sentence, and become known as the Benedictus. It is a proclaiming or prophesy having to do with what would be John’s ministry.

5.         The prophesy covers the entire and complete work of the Christ whom John would announce. Zechariah said “he has visited and redeemed his people” and provided a means of “salvation for us.”

6.         Zechariah says of his soon to be baby son John that he “will be called the prophet of the Most High,” which captures the work of John, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”

7.         And all of this Zechariah says is to “give knowledge of salvation” and the “forgiveness of theirs sins” and all due to the “tender mercy of our God.”

8.         Our passage concludes with the fact that the child “grew and became strong in spirit” while living in the wilderness, being readied for his public appearance.