Thursday, April 24, 2008

Necessity of Faith

Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 21

Q. What is true faith?

A. True faith is a sure knowledge whereby I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in His Word. At the same time it is a firm confidence that not only to others, but also to me, God has granted forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation, out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ's merits. This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel.

References -- John 17:3, 17; Heb. 11:1-3; James 2:19. Rom. 4:18-21; 5:1; 10:10; Heb. 4:16. Gal. 2:20. Rom. 1:17; Heb. 10:10. Rom.3:20-26; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-10. Acts 16:14; Rom. 1:16; 10:17; I Cor. 1:21.

Matthew 9:18 - 38: While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, "My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live." And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, "If I only touch his garment, I will be made well." Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, "Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well." And instantly the woman was made well. And when Jesus came to the ruler's house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, "Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went through all that district. And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, "Have mercy on us, Son of David." When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to him, "Yes, Lord." Then he touched their eyes, saying, "According to your faith be it done to you." And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, "See that no one knows about it." But they went away and spread his fame through all that district. As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, "Never was anything like this seen in Israel." But the Pharisees said, "He casts out demons by the prince of demons." And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."

I recently posted about the woman grasping the hem of Jesus' garment, but I wanted to take a look at the rest of this passage and make some observations. But before I post about of saving faith, may I just return your attention to the Heidelberg Catechism I posted above? You see faith is not something that has no object, i.e. faith in faith. Faith has an object – that object is Jesus Christ – we cannot simply have enough faith’ and ‘be saved’, but we must, in fact, have faith IN someone to be saved.

This may seem to be obvious to my readers here, but all too often the tendency within some circles is to have faith in faith – in other words, if one simply musters up enough ‘faith’, they will reap all sorts of benefits – but faith in the Biblical texts is never without an object, and that object is Jesus Christ!

So, as we look to Scripture, I am hoping that I will be able to do several things in the next several posts – first, I am hoping to show the necessity of faith, secondly, the object of faith, and finally the source of faith.

THE NECESSITY OF OUR FAITH -- We see in the Scripture, the outworking of several people’s faith; Jesus says to the woman who was healed – “Take heart daughter, your faith has made you well”. The leader,(aka known as Jairus), in coming to Jesus was exhibiting great faith as he went against his peers, asking Jesus humbly to heal his daughter – and of course, we find the blind men crying out in faith to Jesus as ‘Son of David’.

Is faith necessary? Well, it says in Ephesians 2:8 it says that we are saved by grace through faith. In John 3, as Jesus speaks with Nicodemus, He tells him that, just as the serpent was lifted up in the desert by Moses, so too will the Son of Man be lifted up and all who believe on Him will be saved. Romans 3:21 – 26 -- But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it — the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

So faith is required – one cannot be saved without faith. And we see it in today’s passage – the woman reaching out to grasp the promises of God in Jesus Christ did so in faith. She had tried all the doctors, and Luke says she was incurable – she had no hope, only in reaching out to Jesus Christ in faith was she healed. What of Jairus? His daughter was dead! How much hope did he possess? Yet, in faith her father reached out to Jesus, and she was returned to him. And the blind men – crying out to Jesus as Messiah, they showed their faith in their very words! Yes, we must reach out in faith to Jesus Christ – it is by grace THROUGH faith, by which we are saved!

Next post - "The Object of our Faith"

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Words fail me!

This defies words...

Even brute animals have more sense! And here is my favorite line... "Shvarts will be honored at a reception April 25."

HONORED?! For what? Terminating several lives? Why don't we also honor Jeffery Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy? They were just practicing their 'art'.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Hem of His Garment

Matthew 9:18 - 22 -- While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live. And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, If I only touch his garment, I will be made well. Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well. And instantly the woman was made well.

I wanted to look at this encounter, and try to set the context, maybe providing a bit of insight into this event.

Jesus has been walking amongst the people of Capernaum teaching and performing miracles, and has gathered a large following of people. During this time, Jesus is approached by Jairus, a leader, in order have him come and heal his daughter.

So, Jesus gets up to follow Jairus to his home, and amongst the throng was a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years. She determines to simply touch this amazing rabbi’s cloak at the fringe, and what happens is an amazing event!

Jesus would have been wearing a Tallit (prayer shawl). However, His tallit would not have been like the modern tallit, which has been reduced in size to simply a shawl. Rather, Jesus would have been wearing a full-length cloak that would have had tzit-tzit (tassels) attached to the four corners.

These tzit-tzit were commanded to be worn by God in Numbers 15:38 -- “Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner…” and Deuteronomy 22:12 -- “You shall make yourself tassels on the four corners of the garment with which you cover yourself.”

The reasoning for these tassels in explained in Numbers 15:39 -- “And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after.”

So Jesus, being an observant Jew, would have had a garment with tassels on the corners. It is one of these tassels that the woman grasped – in the Greek, the word used is kraspedon, which is the same word that was used in the LXX to translate the Hebrew tzit-tzit.

These fringes are attached to the corner of the tallit; the corners are known, in Hebrew, as kanaph, or wings. When a Jewish man dons his tallit, he will often reflect on Psalm 36:7 -- How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

Now what does it have to do with the story? Well, the factof the matter is that the woman did not simply reach out and touch Jesus, thinking the touch itself would heal her, but rather she was reaching out in faith – as she reached for the fringe of His garment, she would have been reflecting on a well-known Messianic passage in the Old Testament, found in Malachi 4:2 – “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. The word wings here is the word kanaph!

The people of that day were looking for the Messiah, and as this woman heard more and more about this rabbi, her thoughts would have turned to the passage that states that there will be found healing in the wings of the Sun of Righteousness. And Jesus responded! MANY were touching Him in the crowd, but only one touched Him in faith – faith in who He was!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Christian Nation?

I was having a conversation with a friend recently when we went down the path of politics and religion. Now, my friend is a wonderful Christian person, and I love him as a brother, but we have sharply different views of this subject.

He began the conversation by saying that he was disgusted with all of the politicos and their pandering of the Muslim community. I asked him to expand on this thought, and basically, he believes that if a politician even gives a nod of acceptance towards the Muslim community, then he/she cannot be Christian! I found that to be a bit over the top.

Now, mind you, I am not going on record to say that I believe that ‘all people pray to the same god’. I am simply saying that a person who is going to be the leader of the USA needs to be the leader of the USA, NOT simply the ‘Christian’ leader, or the ‘black’ leader, or the ‘white’ leader, or the ‘left-handed’ leader. This is [one] of the problems I have with the current round of election nonsense, there is no one standing up and saying “What is good for America?”, rather it seems that everyone is saying “What is best for me?”

But I digress from my original intent.

Our conversation really revolved around his statement that the USA is a ’Christian’ nation, and was founded, and should be ruled as such. Here is where we began to strongly disagree. Mind you, I am not saying that the USA was founded by wiccans, but rather by a diverse group of people coming from several different perspectives.

I tried to explain to my friend that the US Constitution, a brilliant document by all accounts, expressly had no ‘God language’ by intent. As a matter of fact, I believe that the US Constitution was one of the first nation-founding documents without reference to divine fiat.

Here is the preamble -- ”We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence [sic], promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The First Amendment is clear that the government is not to establish, nor prohibit religious practice. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Many folks on both sides of the argument have either not read this amendment, or decided to interpret it in their own way.

My friend then went on to say that it was the Pilgrims who were the true ‘founders’ – well, no, actually the indigenous people were the true ‘founders’ in that sense. It is true that the Pilgrims were fleeing from religious persecution, but they were not the ‘founders’; they were the first to arrive from Europe. The founders were represented by a much more diverse group, including many deists, i.e. Jefferson, Franklin, and (the most infamous of the deists), Paine.

To further illustrate -- let’s look at another document, the Declaration of Independence, where we find in the first line, these words -- ”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Compare that line with this quote from Plato -- ”All men are by nature equal, made all of the same earth by one Workman; and however we deceive ourselves, as dear unto God is the poor peasant as the mighty prince.

It would seem that our founding fathers dipped into many fountains to pen the founding documents! Now, I am not denying that the USA was founded on Judeo-Christian ethics, but that primarily means that we took the framework for our legal structure from the Decalogue. But utilizing Judeo-Christian ethics does not constitute a ‘Christian’ founding!

So, I write all of this to say that when a presidential candidate recognizes the pluralism of the country by mentioning Islam, or another religion, this does not, in and of itself, constitute an unchristian act, nor does it mean that the person will ‘surrender’ our country over to the radical Jihadists, any more than giving a nod to the Christian community means that they are endorsing Fred Phelps! I would hope that any presidential candidate worth their salt would recognize that the USA is a diverse melting pot…

Let us, as a Christian community, think critically and cogently about whom we vote for, and not knee-jerk react to every statement that we are fed!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

New Baby

Finally got a picture of my new bird -- Josiah... He is a white-cap Pionus...