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Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Gerladine Brooks

     Geraldine Brooks wrote a fascinating novel, A Year of Wonders:  A Novel of the Plague.   This Wall St. Journal correspondent writes in a gripping manner and you will understand much better 17th century England and the hard life that it was.
     Spoiler alert:  read no further as I tell the ending.  Unfortunately, after a year of the plague, Geraldine Brooks has her two main characters leave the Christian faith.  The vicar, who pretending to be a compassionate man, in fact never treated his wife as he should and his unable to forgive her of her earlier fornication.  In the end he rejects God and dies an atheist.  And Anna Firth, the kind, compassionate woman who becomes a midwife, leaves England and settles in Oran (now a city in Algeria) and becomes part of the harem because the Muslims are so kind and are so much more medically advanced than the Christians.  Only there does she find kindness and respect.  Only in the harem is she truly loved.

Freedom of Religion - Little Sisters - Pray

     Let us pray that the Supreme Court will decide for the freedom of religion for the Little Sisters.  This Roman Catholic order of nuns is being required by the Federal government to have health insurance that funds abortions.  If they fail to comply, the Federal government will impose a fine of $100/person/day.  That means they would be fined $70 million/year.  They contend that funding death is contrary to their Christian beliefs. 

Lord God Almighty, we plead with You that You will make Your will known and that the Supreme Court will judge rightly.

American Bill of Rilghts

   Just over a century after the English Bill of Rights, the Americans had their own Bill of Rights.   Amendment I stated "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."
    First, there is no separation of church and state.  Rather, Congress could not establish a religion, nor could they  prohibit the free exercise of religion.  Note that it is not freedom of worship, but freedom of religion. 
    Second, the I Amendment-the freedom of religion-is the very first amendment.  Once that is compromised, all other rights will be compromised.

    Thank you Lord that we we have the right to worship and exercise our right to assemble and speak out on all matters and have free exercise of religion.

English Bill of Rights - 1689

   In 1689 the English established the first bill of rights.  After the preamble, we read:
"Whereas the late King James the Second, by the assistance of divers evil counsellors, judges and ministers employed by him, did endeavour to subvert and extirpate [to destroy or remove something completely]  the Protestant religion and the laws and liberties of this kingdom."
    The charge against James II was that he tried to destroy the Protestant religion.  Since there was no freedom of religion for the Protestants, the Parliament revolted in the Glorious Revolution, a bloodless revolution where King James II fled to France, and Prince William and Mary of the Netherlands were invited to become King and Queen of England. 

    Thank God for freedom of religion.

Christianity and the Magna Carta

    The Magna Carta was signed by the English bishops and lords and by evil King John of Robin Hood fame.  It is the foundation of English and American civil liberties.  After the opening preamble, it states "In the first place we grant to God and confirm by this our present charter for ourselves and our heirs in perpetuity that the English Church is to be free and to have all its rights fully and its liberties entirely." 
     Why was and is it so important that religious liberties be the first freedom?  Because when the state binds and controls the church, then the church loses its right to speak out against the abuses of the state.  The rulers of the state desires power to themselves and they want to force their will on all.  Who will stand up against the state?  The church.  And that is why the first liberty of the Magna Carta was freedom of the church from the state.

Lord, empower the church to speak prophetically against the state.

God's Timing: Stoning or Crucifixion Part IV - Conclusion

    Thus, the Jews had to lose their judicial authority to execute because stoning would have not fulfilled the Scriptures.  With Romans in charge, the punishment would be by crucifixion, not by stoning.
    There are two theories of when this happened.  According to Josephus, Jewish writer who lived 37-100 A.D., when Judea became a Roman province in 6 A.D, the power to execute was removed.  Josephus wrote: “Now Archelaus’s part of Judea was reduced into a province, and Coponius, one of the equestrian order among the Romans, was sent as a procurator, having the power of death put into his hands by Caesar” (Wars of the Jews,Book II 8:1).
     The second theory is that according to the Jerusalem Talmud this authority was lost in 30 A.D.:  "It is taught that more than forty years before the destruction of the Temple, capital punishment was removed from Israel.”  (Jerusalem Talmud,Sanhedrin 18a, 24b.)  Since the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., then forty years earlier would make it about 30 A.D..
     Paul wrote in Galatians 4:4 "When the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born under the law, to redeem those under the law."  Christ lived on earth at the exact time when He could be crucified and not stoned to death.

Praise God who arranges things according to His exact timing.

Is Sunday a day for worship or playing sports?

     Eric Liddell refused to run the 100 meter race in the 1924 Olympics because the race was scheduled on Sunday.  He believed that the Bible prohibited that type of activity based on the fourth commandment - Keep the Sabbath day holy.  This was depicted well in the movie Chariots of Fire.
    In 2016, Covenant College's (which is a Christian college) women's tennis team was scheduled to play in the Women's Tennis USA South Conference championship match today, Sunday, 17 April.  They forfeited the match because it involved playing on Sunday.  Covenant College thought it was more important to obey God than to disobey God.
      Shame on the USA South Conference for scheduling the match on Sunday. 
      Shame on the USA South Conference for not rescheduling the match.
      Congratulations to Covenant College for maintaining its convictions.

You can read the full statement here:  http://athletics.covenant.edu/sports/wten/2015-16/releases/20160416lk10yh

God's Timing: Stoning or Crucifixion Part III

    If the Jews were in charge of Israel, and Christ was executed by the Jews, then two prophecies could not be fulfilled.  To be cursed, the condemned had to be hung on a tree and not stoned.  (See God's Timing:  Stoning or Crucifixion Part I blog dated 11 Apr 16.)  Second, bones are broken when the guilty is stoned. But "these things happened so that the Scripture would be fulfilled: 'Not one of his bones will be broken.' "  (See Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12, and Psalm 34:20.
      Thus, to fulfill this prophecy it had to be
1.)  in Judea
2.)  before 70 A.D. when the Jewish nation ceased to exist.
3.)  when the Jews were a conquered people under a different judicial system that punished by crucifixion.

God's Timing: Stoning or Crucifixion Part II

     In the New Testament, stoning remained the preferred capital punishment.  Although it is not in the Bible, in John 8:5 we read of the woman caught in adultery and the Pharisees wanted to stone her. 
     In Matthew 21:35 in the parable about the Jews, Jesus said "The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third."
     In Matthew 23:37 Jesus laments with these words:  "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you."
     In Luke 20:6 the Sanhedrin was afraid of the people and said:  "But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”
     In John 8:59 we read "At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds."
     In John 10:31 we read, "Again the Jews picked up stones to stone Him [Jesus].  Note the word again.  Thus, this is the second time the Jews tried to stone Jesus.
     In Acts 5:26 the captain does not want to seize the apostles because the people would stone them.
     In Acts 7:58-59 the Jews stoned Stephen.
     In Acts 14:5 there was a plot to stone Paul, and fourteen verses later Paul was stoned.
     In Hebrews 11:37 believers were put to death by stoning.
     In Hebrews 12:20 even the animals who went up the holy mountain were to be stoned.

Bottom line:  the Jewish preferred method for execution was by stoning.

God's Timing: Stoning or Crucifixion Part I

     In Deuteronomy 21:22-23 states "If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and is body is hung on a tree, you must no leave his body on the tree overnight.  Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God's curse."
     While hanging on a tree is an acceptable means of capital punishment, the preferred means was stoning.  For example, when Achan sinned right after these commandments were given, he was stoned.  "Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest . . . "  The rest was his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys, and sheep."  (Joshua 8:24-25).  This happened about 1406 B.C.  Jezebaal had Naboth stoned in I Kings 21:13-15.

The Glories of Spring

    In Virginia we are having a glorious spring.  I praise the Lord that we don't see in black and white - but we enjoy a riot of color - white flowering pear, yellow daffodils, and purple hyacinths, followed by pinkish-purple red bud trees contrasting with white dogwood trees, brilliant yellow forsythias, and all types of azalea bushes - pink, red and white.  Meanwhile  dark purple (Queen of the Night) and red tulips display their beauty.  And the weeping willows have the most tender green when they first appear.

Thank you Lord.

How is the Resurrection Possible?

    Josh McDowell presentation is short and to the point.  He writes that there are only two explanations for an empty tomb:
1.  Human
     a.  Christ's enemies:  NO reason to remove the body -
     b.  Christ's friends:  NO power.  Go against the guards?  Brave Peter runs away at the accusation of a slave girl.  Of the 12 apostles, Judas Iscariot had killed himself, and only John was at the cross.  The other ten were in hiding.  For the days leading up to the crucifixion we have daily, detailed accounts.  Then from Wednesday night, all day Thursday, all day Friday, and all day Saturday, there is nothing.  These guys are scared.

2.  Divine is the most logical explanation.

As said in my previous blog, Josh McDowell in New Evidence Demands a Verdict presents the Gospel in a refreshing manner.  The above comes from p. 264

Josh McDowell The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict

     Josh McDowell's The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict is perhaps one of the best books to read to strengthen your faith.  If you want to learn to defend your faith, read this book.  In the textbook for my Western Civilization class, it states that "For all its historical importance, Jesus' life is poorly documented." 
     How do I refute the textbook?  I turned to Josh McDowell's The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, read up on it, and then presented to the class how there is more documentation about Jesus Christ than any other ancient person. 

Jesus Christ Calms the Storm

     For those of us that have been brought up in the church, we often read the miracles of Jesus and go "ho hum."  We have heard it so often before, that it fails to impress.  We know what is going to happen.  It is like reading about the invasion of Normandy.  We know how it is going to turn out, so the wonderment of it is lost.  But Eisenhower had prepared a statement in case the invasion had failed.
     Last night and this morning, Norfolk experienced a storm.  Normally we like to sleep with our windows open, but the wind was howling so much, it was creating quite a racket.  Branches were breaking and crashing to the ground.  We had to close the windows.  To have God calm the storm would indeed have been a great miracle.  We must read the Scriptures in a fresh new way. 

Lord God, we ask that the Holy Spirit would open our eyes to what the Scriptures say.  Please let us see Your Word in a new way.

Swoon Theory

     The swoon theory states that Christ did not really die, but just fainted.  He was then taken down from the cross, put into the tomb, and in the coolness of the tomb, somehow revived, unwrapped Himself, even though He would have been bound, pushed the stone away from the tomb despite having been crucified, scared (or overcome?) the soldiers, and then appeared to the apostles.
      It is such a ridiculous theory I won't spend a lot of time on it.  Why was it developed?  The reason is that people go to great lengths to try to prove that Jesus was not God.  Some problems with this theory are: 
1.  Being pierced by a spear.  A soldier would have known the difference between a corpse and a live body.  The body never twitched or Christ never called out in pain?
2.  Blood and water meant that Jesus had in fact died.  Living people just bleed.
3.  The tomb was guarded by Roman soldiers.  According to the swoon theory, Christ would have, after three days of having no water or food, overcome the guards?
4.  Rolling away the stone would have been impossible.