Smart magazine…but what is “relevant”, really?

I really like this magazine and was a subscriber for awhile:

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/

I appreciate all of the issues touched on in this mag: society, politics, music, culture, sex, relationships. They are vital to the twenty- and thirty-something Christian conversation.

But I am challenged by the question of “relevant” Christianity. To me, Christianity is relevant simply because of what it is…The Lord will never not be relevant to this world that is crying out desperately for Him. The Lord defines what is relevant. We do not.

Jesus: so much more than a well-studied observant Jew

My husband had some very difficult conversations with an old friend recently. The friend is a fairly recent convert from the Mormon faith to the Jewish faith. It has been very hard for my husband to accept that a close, dear friend and someone who he used to pray and go to church with would now vehemently deny the deity of Jesus Christ. And not only does she vehemently deny the deity of Christ, she sadly has also adopted the view that Jesus was simply a “well-studied, observant Jew” who “made waves” and “reminded Jewish people of their own laws” but was nothing more than “a mortal man who lived and was crucified by the Roman Empire in manner that was not uncommon at the time.” She says that Jesus would ever have called himself God because that would have been blasphemy. Even further, she asserts that the mythological pagan “twists” of human sacrifice, drinking human blood, and mortal impregnation by the divine to give birth to a dual divine/mortal being have been incorporated by Christians into the story of a “wonderful Jewish man.”

These shocking statements from our friend brought to my mind what I consider to be a particularly moving passage from one of the books in the Left Behind series written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins (I don’t necessarily endorse this series of books as a reference for eschatological scripture, but they are a good read). This passage provides an interpretative summary of Old Testament scripture regarding the coming of Messiah and, in particular, how Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled these scriptures. I quote portions of this passage here as an encouragement to anyone who finds themselves in a conversation with either a nonbeliever or a former believer who has been led astray by the teaching of the false prophets that Christ himself warned us about (Matthew 7:15; Matthew 24:11). Please note that text in italics are mine and simply an effort to provide more specific scriptural references. 

“The very first qualification of Messiah, accepted by our scholars from the beginning, is that he should be born the seed of a woman, not the seed of a man like all other human beings. We know now that women do not possess ‘seed.’ The man provides the seed for the woman’s egg. And so this must be a supernatural birth, as foretold in Isaiah 7:14, ‘Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.’ Our Messiah must be born of a woman and not of a man because he must be righteous. All other humans are born of the seed of their father, and thus the sinful seed of Adam has been passed on to them. Not so with the Messiah, born of a virgin.

Our Messiah must be born of an extremely rare bloodline. While he must be born of a woman, that woman must be of a bloodline that includes many of the fathers of Israel. God himself eliminated billions of people from this select bloodline so Messiah’s identity would be unmistakable. First, God eliminated two-thirds of the world’s population by choosing Abraham, who was from the line of Shem, one of Noah’s three sons. Of Abraham’s two sons, God chose only Isaac, eliminating half of Abraham’s progeny. One of the two sons of Isaac, Jacob, received the blessing but passed it on to only one of his twelve sons, Judah. That eliminated millions of other sons in Israel. The prophet Isaiah years later singled out King David as another through whom Messiah would come, predicting that he would be a ‘root out of Jesse.’ (Isaiah 11:10)  David’s father, Jesse, was a son of Judah.

Messiah, according to the prophet Micah, must be born in Bethlehem…‘But you, Bethelehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.’ (Micah 5:2)  As a child, Messiah will go to Egypt, because the prophet Hosea says that out of Egypt God will call him. (Hosea 11:1)  Isaiah 9:1-2 indicates that Messiah will minister mostly in Galilee.

Messiah will be rejected by his own people. Isaiah prophesied, ‘He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.’ (Isaiah 53:3)

Isaiah and Malachi predict that Messiah will be preceded by a forerunner. The Psalmist said Messiah would be betrayed by a friend. Zechariah said that he would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. He adds that people will look on the one whom they have pierced.

The Psalmist prophesied that people would ‘look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.’ (Psalm 22:18)  And later it is prophesied that ‘He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken.’ (Psalm 34:20)  Isaiah says ‘they made His grave with the wicked; but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth.’ (Isaiah 53:9)  The Psalms say he was to be resurrected.

Was there one born in Bethlehem of a virgin, a descendant of King David, traced back to our father Abraham, who was taken to Egypt, called back to minister in Galilee, preceded by a forerunner, rejected by God’s own people, betrayed for thirty pieces of silver, pierced without breaking a bone, buried with the rich, and resurrected?

According to one of the greatest of all Hebrew prophets, Daniel, there would be exactly 483 years between the decree to rebuild the wall and the city of Jerusalem ‘in troublesome times’ before the Messiah would be cut off for the sins of the people.

Exactly 483 years after the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its walls, Jesus Christ of Nazareth offered himself to the nation of Israel. He rode into the city on a donkey to the rejoicing of the people, just as the prophet Zechariah had predicted: ‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ (Zechariah 9:9)”

 

(The quoted material above can be found on pp. 391-396 of “Tribulation Force” by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins.)

In the press: “Harshest Words Saved for Britney’s Body”

Ugh. I am so incredibly disturbed by this. How many headlines in the national press can be devoted each day to the undeserved, irrational, misdirected criticism of Britney Spears’ body?

This is a young woman who has given birth to two children in a short span of time. She is one female entertainer out of many who performed at the MTv Video Music Awards. Yes, she is a public figure and apparently that makes her life open to the unrelenting criticism of the media and the general public. Does Britney deserve this? Does any woman who chooses a life in the public eye deserve this? Does any woman in any walk of life deserve this?

I have no trust in the entertainment media. I am just acutely aware of the millions of girls, young women, and yes even adult women who are out there reading these criticisms of Britney’s body and comparing her body to their own. These are women and girls who many times are not aware of the bias they are secretly building against themselves in their own minds day after day as they view the millions of images of “perfect” women’s bodies provided so generously by the American media.

I rest in knowing that we are women created in God’s image and this image has nothing to do with the shape, fitness, or firmness of our human bodies. In fact, the Hebrew word for “image” used in Genesis 1:26-27 comes from an unused root word meaning phantom, illusion, resemblance, or a representative figure.

Sisters, we are in essence phantoms and illusions of Yahweh on earth. Praise God.

Notes from the Patriarchs: Who the heck is Melchizedek?

Ah…this is the kind of day in Nebraska I love. Brilliant blue skies with puffy white clouds, a cool 66 degrees, slightly breezy. Blogging while sitting on my porch in one of the two new cedar Adirondack chairs my husband put together yesterday. Nice. I want to blog more often, but I swear that time just gets away from me during the week. Unfortunately, the nature of my current job involves spending every day in front of a computer screen. By the time my day is over I have little energy to blog. But I want to, I really want to.

Beth Moore’s Patriarchs study has the ability to make me see Bible passages I have read literally hundreds of times with completely new eyes. The latest example is Genesis 14:17-24, where we find the first mention of Melchizedek, the “priest of God Most High.” This passage is fascinating for so many reasons, some of which I thought I would share so that others can delight with me in the wonders of God’s amazing words.

At this point in Genesis 14, we are fresh from Abram’s dramatic rescue of Lot from the hands of the enemy kings. Lot, you may recall, had split from Abram’s camp and initially chose to move his tent “as far as Sodom” (Genesis 13:12). By the time Abram was informed of Lot’s capture, however, Lot had was found dwelling “in Sodom” (Genesis 14:12) with all of his possessions. Using only 318 men against the forces of 4 kingdoms, Abram is able to rescue Lot, his family, and his possessions.

Then, ever so briefly, we are introduced to Melchizedek. We are told that he is the king of Salem, priest of God Most High, he provided them with a very symbolic meal consisting of bread and wine (think about that!!), and that Abram gave him a tenth of everything (ie, a tithe). How many times have I read this and it had never occurred to me that 1) we are in the very early chapters of Genesis and very early in the story of Israel as God’s people — at this point in the Biblical narrative Abram is the primary man with whom God has a covenant relationship, 2) God has not yet ordained the familial line of Aaron and his sons to officially serve as His temple priests (Exodus 29:44), and 3) God has not yet provided the commandment in the law regarding tithing to those in the priestly office.

I am also fascinated by the words of Melchizedek in Genesis 14:19 “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” Moore explains that Melchizedek calls God by a name that has not been used yet in Scripture: El Elyon, translated from the Hebrew as God Most High. From Melchizedek’s words we can see that he not only knows the God of Israel, but he understands His nature and power as evidenced by the acknowledgment that God is possessor (in other translations “creator”) of heaven and earth. God may have only entered into covenant with Abram, but He has clearly already introduced Himself to Melchizedek.

So who the heck is Melchizedek?

For the rest of the story we need to listen in on the canonical conversation between Genesis 14 and Hebrews 7. Here we are told many fascinating things about Melchizedek: his name is translated “king of righteousness,” he is the king of Salem (which means peace) so he can also be called “king of peace,” he has no geneology (no earthly father or mother), he experienced neither birth nor death, he resembles Christ, and continues a priest forever (Hebrews 7:3). Moore points out that while Melchizedek wasn’t a preincarnate appearance of Christ, the priesthood of Melchizedek was in fact a foreshadowing of Christ because we are told that Christ became a high priest forever “after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 6:20). The resemblances between the two men are thrilling. Neither were descendants of Levi, yet God chose to mysteriously ordain one man into a priesthood not yet officially established among the people of Israel (Melchizedek) and bring this priesthood and the salvation of the people of Israel to completion in another (Christ).

May you be blessed as I have by the mystery of Melchizedek!

Bless the Lord, O My Soul Part II

Thinking more about my last post…

I think for most Christians it is much easier to praise the Lord, and generally to feel more worshipful, when we feel like God is actively forgiving, healing, redeeming, crowning, and satisfying his creation as the psalmist describes in Psalm 103.

But what about the other times? What about the days when I feel anything but healed? when the world around me feels anything but redeemed? when it feels like there are weights around my ankles dragging me down into the pit instead of a crown on my head of steadfast love and mercy?

I want to better understand what praise looks, sounds, and feels like on days like that. On those days, I tend to sink into my familiar world of sadness and depression. Instead, I want my mind to be renewed so that I can recognize that those are the days when praise is most essential. Those are the days when I need to simply praise Him because He is God and I am not.

Bless the Lord, O My Soul

I love how God uses His word to tell us about Himself. Sometimes when I am reading the Psalms in particular I am struck with the words God uses to reveal His nature. While at a coffee shop today I was led to read Psalm 103, and I especially love the verbs in verses 1-5.

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is with me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (ESV)

How can anyone say that God is unknowable? Yes, surely He is a mystery. But these verses are but one example of God telling us what He does because of who He is. Notice that the verbs are in active, present tense. We don’t have to wait on Him to do these things. They are not being withheld from us. They are being done within us now…as we speak. My God forgives, heals, redeems, crowns, and satisfies. Why does He do this? He is in the process of reconciling His creation to Himself. He is preparing His creation to once again be in His presence.

I also value how David, the author of this particular Psalm, is demonstrating the appropriate response to this revelation of who God is. Praise! I can think of no better response to the realization that everything around me, of which I am only a small part, is being forgiven, healed, redeemed, crowned, and satisfied. “Bless the LORD, bless His holy name, Bless the LORD…” The repetition only serves to emphasize the importance of the response.