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The Centrality of the Resurrection

    Christ's Resurrection was vitally important to the early church.  Vital means means "full of life and vigor."  Without the resurrection, the church would be a collection of dreamers.  But because of the resurrection, the church is full of life and vigor.  We have a purpose.  Yet another definition is "fundamentally concerned with or affecting life or living beings: as (1) : tending to renew or refresh the living: invigorating."  And one more definition:  "of the utmost importance."  Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:3-4 "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures."
    While Christ's Resurrection was of vital importance for the ancient church, it remains vitally important for today's church.  Without Christ's Resurrection, we are lost.

Celebrate Death?

     I suspect that very few of you use the word "celebrate" with "death."  It seems to be an oxymoron.  Many of our holidays are for the birth of the leader, not the death.  For example, we have holidays for Lee-Jackson, Martin Luther King, Jr., President's Day, and Christmas.  All these days are for the birth, not the death.  But last night at our Good Friday service, Rev. Roest used the word celebrate several times with the word death.
      According to Webster's dictionary, celebrate means:
1.  : to perform (a sacrament or solemn ceremony) publicly and with appropriate rites
2   a : to honor (as a holiday) especially by solemn ceremonies or by refraining from ordinary business
b : to mark (as an anniversary) by festivities or other deviation from routine
    We indeed did perform the sacrament of communion to celebrate Christ's death.  This is the only holiday (holy day) for a death. 
      Praise God that He sent His Son to die for us.

Rahab the harlot and the TV mini-series the Bible

In the TV mini-series they portray they do an exceptional poor job depicting Rahab.  In the mini-series, it shows the spies climbing over the wall of Jericho, getting into a sword fight, killing a couple of Amorites, then dashing about the city trying to find a way out.  They stumble upon Rahab, seize her son, threatening to kill him.  She confesses that the people are afraid of the Israelites, and then they dash up to the roof and escape the same way.  There is an exchange of the thread, which she then hangs in the street outside of her dwelling.
      There are numerous problems with the way the mini-series portrays Rahab.  First, there is no correlation that she is going to be an ancestor of Jesus Christ.  The fact that Christ has a prostitute for an ancestor shows that He definitely humbled Himself and became human. 
     Second, there is no description of Rahab acting out of faith, not terror.  For example, in the book of Hebrews we read of the great heroes of faith:  Adam, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Rahab.  What a prostitute as a heroine of faith?  The author of Hebrews describes her as just that type of person.  He writes "By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient."  In the film she responds to the spies in terror.  In fact, she played a much bigger role.  She acted out of faith.  First, she hides the spies.  That is a treasonous act, and if she had been caught, she probably would have died for that act.  In fact she hides them under stalks of flax on the roof. 
Second, "she let them down by a rope."  She has the rope, and she is letting them down.  In the movie it shows the men bringing the rope - no action on her part.  But she has the rope and she is actively involved. 
Third, she tells them where to hide.  She sends them west so they can hide for several days.  In the film they dash directly back to Joshua.
Fourth, she ties the scarlet cord in the window on the wall, where it can be seen by all - friend and foe.
Fifth, all who were with her are saved.  With the walls tumbling down, it would have been impressive to see that one section standing.  But it is not portrayed that way.
      Bottom line is that the mini-series Bible would have made a much more impressive story if they had stayed with the Biblical narrative.  Imagine the guards searching the house and then she sending them a different way while the guards search the fords, etc.  Imagine a prostitute acting out of faith, not terror.  And imagine that this same woman, a prostitute or whore or harlot, is an ancestor of Jesus Christ. 

Special Church Days

     Paul writes the book of Galatians to a church that was bound by the law.  Instead of celebrating the freedom we have in Christ, they were trying to work their way into heaven by observing old regulations (circumcision) and by obeying old statues and laws.  In chapter 4 verse 9-11 he writes "Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?  You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!  I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.  And in Colossians 2:16 he writes "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day."
     My concern with a lot of these church calendar days is that we are not living our lives to the fullest.  For example, there is the celebration of "Christ the King."  Excuse me, but we better be celebrating Christ is our King everyday.  And why do we celebrate Valentines Day?  I tell my wife everyday that I love her.  Why limit that to one day?  Or Mother's Day?  We should be talking frequently to our mothers, not just on one Sunday in May.  Or why Lent?  We should always be examining ourselves and what Christ did for us every day. 
     The church calendar limits the full worship of God.  By reading from the Old Testament, and the New Testament, and the Gospels, the full counsel of God (all the scriptures) cannot be preached because we are limited to just those same texts year after year.  If a text is not included, then it is never preached on.  I am reading a commentary on Daniel by James Montgomery Boice and he said that Daniel is the only book in the Bible that preached on twice.  The Bible is so full of wonderful things, that we can listen to sermon after sermon on a whole variety of passages, and we don't have to limit ourselves just to those outlined on a church calendar.
     So I am against all these made-up holidays.  There is no Biblical or even Apostolic requirement for them, and they tend to concentrate just on certain aspects of Christianity, vice all.  For example, Lent commemorates the past and focuses on Christ's suffering, but where is the Christian holy days that look forward to Christ's return?  Where are the holy days that we celebrate Christ saving us in a covenant way?  Or that Christ is over all the earth and sovereign?  We need to celebrate God the Father who loved us that He sent Christ the Commander of the Lord's hosts to be our Savior.  We need to celebrate the Resurrected and Ascended Lord and the Holy Spirit who has come.  We need to celebrate our marriages - tell your wives every day that you love them.  We need to honor our fathers and mothers every day.

Questions

The following is taken from John Stonestreet from Breakpoint.
      Asking tough questions, in fact, is a sign that God made us in His image and likeness.  He has built us this way.  We’re expected not only to know truth but to discover it, and to be independent thinkers in the best sense.  As Proverbs 25:2 says, “It’s the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.”
      So the next time a kid asks one of those tough questions, don’t duck!  Encourage the question. It’s always better for young people to ask questions where they can find accurate, biblically-informed answers.  If we don’t allow for good questions today, they’ll get the answers from Google or a secular humanist professor tomorrow.

I wholeheartedly concur with the above.  I remember growing up with my father taking an article from the NY Times and asking us what we thought about it.  Did we agree or disagree?   So sit down with the family and go over the issues of the world.  Spark a discussion.  Get the family together and think.

Obesity and Abortion

   Today the New York State Supreme Court disagreed with New York City's Mayor Bloomberg and 16 oz Cokes are still legal.  Mayor Bloomberg's concern is that five thousand New Yorkers have died from obesity last year.  He believes that 16 oz fountain drinks are to blame, and thus he wanted to ban them in movie theaters and restaurants.
     Laws are generally to prevent someone else from doing bad things to you.  Thus, you can't murder, steal, or run red lights.  Your actions directly affect other people.  But now the mayor wants to ban fountain drinks.  In 2010 there were 214,454 pregnancies and at 41% abortion rate that would mean there were over 87,000 abortions (http://www.cbsnews.com/2100- 201_162-7222625.html). 
    The irony is that Mayor Bloomberg is concerned about the 5,000 New Yorkers who died of obesity, but not the 238 abortions that on an average occur every day in New York City.  Laws need to protect the smallest of us, not the largest of us.

Usuary and Rent-to-Own

     According to Webster's Dictionary usury is defined as "the lending of money with an interest charge for its use; especially : the lending of money at exorbitant interest rates" and "an unconscionable or exorbitant rate or amount of interest; specifically : interest in excess of a legal rate charged to a borrower for the use of money."
     I was reviewing some paper work from a rent-to-own furniture store.  I asked the clerk if there was any interest rate, and they said it was zero percent financing!  But the paperwork showed the purchase price of $1,700 for two overpriced items.  In three years however, the purchaser was going to pay over $5,000.  So while there was no official interest rate, there was a de facto interest rate is over 100%!  (They couch the terms as a "rent," not interest.  So technically they are not violating any law.  But it is really highway robbery.)
      With inflation of 1%, a reasonable interest rate would be 5%, may be 10%.  Ten to twenty times that is "unconscionable or exorbitant."
       Exodus 22:25 states "If you lend money to one of my people, among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest." 
And Leviticus 25:35-37 states “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you.  You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit."
      These rules were written so that no lending would occur between the Israelites, but the Israelites could charge interest for foreigners.  But no where does it say that you can charge excessive interest.  How is charging a person 100% interest loving your neighbor as yourself?  I could not look myself in the mirror knowing I was charging 100% interest, but I have a conscience.  Apparently these rent-to-own highway robbers have no conscience.  Shame on them.  And shame on us for feeling we need the item right away that we will pay three times the value so we can get it now.