Friday, December 04, 2009

by Bonnie Calhoun

I though today that I'd like to take a tiny peek at the historical evidence about Jesus.

My concentration will be on Flavius Josephus.

"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, them that loved him at the first did not forsake him: for he appeared to them alive again the third day: as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day" (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, bk. XVIII, chap.III, Section 3).

Flavius Josephus was a Pharisee and priest living in Jerusalem. Born in A.D. 37, following the death of Christ, he witnessed first-hand the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. He fought as a general of the Jewish rebel forces in Galilee in the war against Rome. Josephus was captured by the Romans at the fall of the city of Jotapata and became friends with the Roman general Vespasian.

As a historian, with access to both Roman and Jewish governmental records, he described the events in Israel during the turbulent decades of the first century. One of the most fascinating passages in his important history concerned the events in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Numerous liberal scholars have declared that this reference to Jesus Christ and other references to James and John the Baptist must be interpolations or forgeries by later Christian editors. Yet none of these so-called scholars can produce a single copy of Josephus' Antiquities that does not contain these passages on Jesus.

In another passage in Josephus' book Antiquities (bk.XX, chap.IX, sect. 1) he described the death of James, the brother of Jesus...

"As therefore Ananus (the High Priest)) was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus (the Roman Procurator) was now dead, and Albinus (the new Procurator) was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, togehter with some others, and having accused them as law-breakers, he delivered them over to be stoned."

Josephus also described the death of John the Baptist as follows: "Now, some of the Jews thought that the destruction of Herod's army came from God, and that very justly, as a punishment of what he did against John, that was called the Baptist; for Herod slew him, who was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards on another, and piety towards hearing his words, Herod, who feared lest the great influence John had over the people....thought it put him to death. (Antiquities of the Jews, bk.XVIII, chap. V, sect. 2)

These historical descriptions by Josephus, together with other sources, provide ample evidence that Jesus of Nazareth lived in the first century of this era!

Sorry...I had pictures but Blogger is being difficult!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Let's do a short study on Angels.

The word angel comes from the Greek word aggelos (pronounced angelos) and means "messenger." In the Bible this is the form used in almost every mention of angels except one─in Luke 20:36 (KJV) where the phrase reads "equal unto the angels," or the Greek word isaggelos, which means "like an angel" or "angelic."

Angels are beings that are created as "intermediate" beings between God and man. They are created beings by God, making them lower, but Psalm 8:5 states that man was made a little lower than the angels.

There are more than three hundred references to angels in the Bible. They play an important role and are seen in some of the most famous Bible stories, including the Christmas story.

An angel is neither a god nor a human. Angels are spirits, as Hebrews 1:14 says:"[they are] ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation." As such they come to our aid and offer help where they can to make our lives better. They are spiritual beings that remain invisible.

The first mention of angels in the Bible is where Adam and Eve left the Garden after the fall. They are banished from Eden, and Eden is protected by cherubim, angels that are depicted elsewhere as winged bulls or lions with human heads.

Cherubim are symbolic attendants to places of the Lord's "enthronement" on earth in the Old Testament. They guard the Garden of Eden and the ark of the covenant.

Angels have three important responsibilities: to attend God's holy throne, to protect people, and to serve as messengers carrying special news or tidings. They are worshipful beings that serve God by carrying out His wishes through these three main roles.

Guardian angels are spoken of throughout the Bible. Abraham spoke of God sending His angel before His servant Elias as the steward went to seek out a wife for Abraham's son Isaac. Psalm 91:11-12 also speaks of watchful angels:

For he will command his angels concerning you
To guard you in all your ways;
They will lift you up in their hands,
So that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

As messengers the angels communicate God's will to us. They serve as rescuers (such as when Lot was saved from Sodom); as bearers of great tidings (to Mary concerning the birth of Jesus); to instruct prophets (Daniel was given detailed directions from "the man Gabriel"). Angels are mediators who pass along messages God has for his people.

Jacob's vision depicts the angels as being lined up on an immense ladder that stretches between the earth and the heavens (Gen 28:12-15). God looks down and sees us and watches as the angels bring their messages from Him.

The apostle Paul tells us four of the orders of angels in his letter to the Ephesians: "above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion"(KJV). He also writes to the Colossians concerning angels: "whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers.

Only two personal names for angels are given in the Bible: Michael and Gabriel. Other angels with personal names are given in the Apocrypha, such as Uriel and Jeremiel.

Gabriel makes appearances in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. He interprets Daniel's visions in the Book of Daniel and also announces the births of John and Jesus to their respective parents.

Michael is an archangel and a warrior in the angelic realm. He is the protector of Israel, according to several references in the Book of Daniel and one in the Book of Revelation. The Book of Jude also says that he disputed satan for the body of Moses.

Fallen angels are angels who have rebelled against God and lost their standing in heaven (also in the Book of Jude) They have not been cast into hell, and they are under God's power, but they take orders from satan (Rev. 12:7)

Satan is perhaps the most famous angel of all time. He is a fallen angel, one who was cast out of heaven after rebelling against God. Paul speaks of how satan "masquerades as an agel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14). In reality satan is "the prince of darkness."

A final battle between the good angels and the fallen angels is prophesied in Revelation 12:7-9.

Christians will see angels on the last day. Matthew 24:31 states that God will "send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other." Angels will escort believers into heaven and the holy throne!

by Bonnie Calhoun

Thursday, August 20, 2009

by Bonnie Calhoun

Today I want to look at how the Bible actually reads. By the time we are done with these lessons, I will hope to have answered every question someone could make to you about the Bible. There have been some good observations so far! If there are any that I've missed, please let me know and I will try to cover it!

More than three thousand versions of the entire Bible, or portions of it, exist in English.

Chapter and verse divisions in the Bible were not determined by those who wrote the words that we read. These divisions were added to the text hundreds of years after the authors died. The original writers neither planned nor anticipated these divisions.

Chapter and verse numbers in the apostles' letters, for example, would appear as strange to them as the following does to us:

Dear Aunt Sue,

Chapter One

Last week we went to town and learned that....

"Divided on horseback" was the criticism of Robert Estienne, a French publisher and convert to Protestantism who decided to number the verses in the New Testament in order to make it easier to study and memorize. While Stephen Langton had divided the text into chapters, Estienne then broke each chapter into numbered verses. According to his son, he did much of the work while on horseback—leading some critics ever since to suggest the reason some verses' divisions are short and others are long was because of the bumpy ride between his office in Paris and his home in southern France.

The Bible was designed more for the ear that the eye. In antiquity people passed history and genealogy from generation to generation by oral tradition—through storytelling or by reading aloud. Those who wrote the Bible did so knowing that their words would be read aloud. So puns, acrostics, and cryptograms are all used widely throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.

Mgn rdng ths bk wtht vwls. Myb ftr whl y cld fll n sm f th blnks nd fgr t mst f t. Ftr ll, t's smpl sglsh. Bt nw, mgn t s prt f n ncnt lngg tht hs flln nt dss vr svrl cntrs. Tht s hw th Bbl nc pprd. Imagine reading a book without vowels. Maybe after a while you could fill in some of the blanks and figure out most of it. After all, it's simple English. But now. Imagine it as part of an ancient language that has fallen into disuse over several centuries. That is how the Bible once appeared!

Hieroglyphics—derived from two Greek words that mean "sacred carvings," since the signs were at first chiseled on stone—were the basci writing system in Egypt at the time of Moses. Since young Moses was educated in the Egyptian sciences and arts, he no doubt learned to read and write Egyptian hieroglyphics. About 750 pictures were used at first in hieroglyphics. At least twenty-two signs existed for various birds, such as the curved neck of the Egyptian vulture, the flat face of an owl, and the tail feathers of the pintail duck.

We will finish up this lesson next week!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

by Bonnie Calhoun

Our lesson this Saturday is looking at more of the inscriptions found in the Sinai attesting to the passing by of Moses and the Israelites. Also adding to the validity of the applicable Bible passages. These references come from A.P. Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, London: John Murray, 1905.

Explorers found two inscriptions in Wadi Sidri that refer to the murmuring of the Jewish people against Moses about their great thirst, hunger and terror they experienced during their flight from the Egyptians as they entered the great desert of the Sinai Peninsula.

The inscriptions:

Pilgrims fugitive through the sea find a place of refuge at Sidri.
Lighting upon plain ground they proceed on their pilgrimage full of terror [77]

The Hebrews pass over the sea into the wide waterless desert, famished with hunger and thirst. [17]

Moses recorded the experience in the wilderness when the Israelites complained bitterly against God and their leaders, in Exodus 17:1-3.

Another Sinai inscription describes God's miraculous provision of water to the Children of Israel through god commanding Moses to cause water to flow from a rock.

The people clamor vociferously. The people anger Moses.
Swerving from the right way, they thirst for water insatiably.
The water flows, gently gushing out of the stony rock.
Out of the rock a murmur of abundant waters.
Out of the hard stone a springing well.
Like the wild asses braying,
the Hebrews swallow down enormously and greedily.
Greedy of food like infants,
they plunge into sin against Jehovah (YHWH) [46]

The people drink, winding on their way,
drinking with prone mouth,
Jehovah (YHWH) gives them drink again and again. [39]

The people sore thirst, drink vehemently.
They quaff the water-spring without pause, ever drinking.
Reprobate beside the gushing well-spring. [58]

The Book of Exodus also record this in Exodus 17:6.

Despite God's ample and miraculous provisions for them, the Israelites remained reprobate in their attitude, refusing either to thank God or trust in His continuing provision for their daily needs!

Another inscription in the Sinai records that the Israelites' succumbed to gluttony in eating the quails which God miraculously provided at a place called Kibroth-hattaavah.

Despite God's daily provision of manna, the Israelites rebelled against the Lord and Moses by complaining about the sameness of food. This rebellion unleashed the wrath of God on their sinfulness. He sent a massive flock of quail to provide meat.

Rather than gratefully accept this as a gift from God, the Israelites greedily stuffed their mouths with the quail. Many died there in the plague of gluttony.

The inscription:

The people have drink to satiety. In crowds the swillFlesh they strip from the bone, mangling it.
Replete with food, they are obstreperous.
Surfeited, they cram themselves; clamoring, they vomit.
They people are drinking water to repletion.
They tribes, weeping for the dead, cry aloud with downcast eyes.
The dove mourns, devoured by grief.
The hungry ass kicketh: the tempted men, brought to destruction, perish.
Apostasy from the faith leads them to the tomb. [28]

Devouring flesh ravenously, drinking wine greedily
Dancing, shouting, they play.
Congregating on all sides to ensnare them,
The people voraciously devour the quails.
Binding the bow against them, bringing them down.
Eagerly and enormously eating the half raw flesh,
The pilgrims become plague-stricken. [34]

Moses gives us this account in Numbers 11:31-33. The next statement by Moses recorded in Numbers 11:34 gives the location where this event occurred: the very same place where the inscription was discovered over fifteen centuries later.

In 1761, the German explorer Barthold Niebuhr (Voyage en Arabie, tom. I, p. 191) discovered an extensive ruined cemetery with carved inscriptions and engravings of quail, standing, flying and apparently, even trussed and cooked, on the tombs and within a sepulcher on top of an inaccessible mountain in Sinai called Sarbut-el-Khadem. The

Byzantine monk Cosmas Indicopleustes had previously recorded his discovery of these graves in A.D. 535

Friday, July 24, 2009

Today in our quest to demonstrate the scientific accuracy of the Bible, we're going to explore Bible verses.

Critics of the Bible falsely suggested that the Bible stated the earth was flat because of the biblical expression, "the four corners of the earth" (Isaiah 11:12; Rev. 7:1), like writers actually believed in a flat earth. However, this phrase was simply a colloquial expression. It is still used by educated individuals to indicate either the whole earth or the four extremities of the globe from a central position.

God inspired the prophet Isaiah to reveal that our planet was a globe, knowledge that was far in advance of what the men in that day knew. "It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in" (Isaiah 40:22) This expression "the circle of the earth" clearly describes the earth as a sphere or globe!

The ancient pagans, who were contemporary with Job, believed that the earth was balanced on the back of an elephant that rested on the back of a turtle. Other Pagans believed that the mythological hero Atlas carried the earth on his shoulder.

While as recently as a century ago scientist believed that the earth and stars were supported by some kind of ether. However, four thousand years ago, Job was inspired by God to correctly declare that God "He hangs the earth on nothing"(Job 26:7).

Another astonishing discovery by astronomers recently revealed that the area to the north of the axis of our earth toward the polar star is almost empty of stars in contrast to the other directions. There are far more distant stars in every other direction from our earth than in the area to the far north of our planet. As Job reported, "He stretches out the north over empty space" (Job 26:7).

Mitchell Waldrop wrote: "The recently announced 'hole in space', a 300 million-light-year gap in the distribution of galaxies, has taken cosmologists by surprise...But three very deep core samples in the Northern Hemisphere, lying in the general direction of the constellation Bootes, showed striking gaps in the red shift distribution. [Mitchell Waldrop, "Delving the Hole in Space," Science magazine, Nov. 27, 1981].

The gospel writer Luke described the coming of Christ in the daytime as follows: "Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed." However, several verses later, Luke described the same event by declaring that Christ will come in the night: "I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left" (Luke 17:34).

In that era it must have seemed contradictory. However, now we understand that, on whatever day Christ returns, it will be a daytime event for those on one side of the globe while the event will occur during the night for those living on the other side of the planet!

In the Book of Amos we read about the seven stars in the constellation known as Pleiades. The King James Version says: "Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion" (Amos 5:8 [KJV]). The King James Version translators confirmed that Amos' original Hebrew statement about "the seven stars" referred to the constellation Pleiades. However, modern translators render this verse as, "He made the Pleiades and Orion" (Amos 5:8 [NKJV]) Early translators were puzzled by this verse because there were only six stars that could be seen by the naked eye in the constellation Pleiades. Now, modern telescopes have revealed the existence of a seventh star in Pleiades; it is so dim only a telescope can detect it! Amos knew it 2500 years ago!

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). This statement revealed that God created our earth and the universe in a single moment of time. However, Genesis also reveals God's purpose: "Then God blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth'" (Genesis 1:28)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Today we are going to continue our quest to explore the scientific evidence that the Bible is accurate, by looking at the creation of the universe,

The Book of Genesis begins with the words, "God created the heaven and the earth." Until 1950, most scientists believed in some variation of the "steady state theory," which suggested that the universe had always existed as we observe it today.

Today, virtually all scientists accept some variation of the "Big Bang Theory" which suggests the whole universe came into existence at a particular point of time, when an incredibly dense mass of matter exploded, forming all of the stars, galaxies and planets we witness today.

Dr. P. Dirac, a Nobel Prize winner from Cambridge University, wrote: "It seems certain that there was a definite time of creation." Until quite recently, the word creation was never written or spoken by scientists with approval. Then, a scientific article in the 1982 issue of Physics Letters, an international journal of physics, contained an article by Dr. A. Vilenkin which was titled "Creation of the Universe from Nothing."

The Lord challenged Abraham to count the stars to demonstrate the awesome number that He had created by his supernatural power. "Look toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them" (Genesis 15:5). The unaided eye can see and count about 1029 stars. With a pair of binoculars or inexpensive telescope you can see over 3,300 stars. Modern telescopes allow us to view over 200 million stars in our own galaxy called the Milky Way. (As late as 1915 astronomers believed that our galaxy composed the entire universe).

The in 1925, the great astronomer Edwin Hubble created a new telescope that proved the universe contained as many galaxies outside our galaxy as there were stars inside our home galaxy!

During the last century very powerful telescopes revealed the known universe contains over ten billion...with a B...galaxies like our Milky Way. However, in the last ten years scientists using the Hubble Telescope, have focused on a tiny point in space so small that it is equal to focusing your eye on an area the size of a grain of sand held at arms length.

After intense study astronomers determined that this spot contained an additional 1,500 galaxies, each the size of our Milky Way. They were astonished to find that the universe is more than five times larger than they thought.

They now know that the known universe contains more than fifty billion...again with a B...galaxies containing more 200 million stars each...millions of trillions of miles in every direction!

In 1980, the astronomer Professor Herman Bondi declared the total failure of modern science to account for the universe. (Herman Bondi, New Scientist, Nov. 21, 1980).

Another great astronomer, Sir Harold Jeffreys, wrote, "To sum up, I think that all suggested accounts of the origin of the solar system are subject to serious objection. The conclusion in the present state of the subject would be that the system cannot exist" (Harold Jeffreys, The Earth: Its Origin, History, and Physical Constitution [Cambridge: England: University Press, 1970], p.359.

In other words, Professor Jeffreys admitted that none of the atheistic theories can account for the universe as it exists.

The Bible declares that God separated the waters below from the waters that were above (in the heavens): "And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so" (Genesis 1:6-7)

This statement declares that God created a large amount of water which He placed in the heavens or outer space. The existence of water in space seemed improbable to scientists until quite recently. Further studies have proven that massive amounts of water do exist in space. Because of extreme temperatures, the waters in space are frozen into permanent ice. We now know that the huge comets traveling through our solar system, are composed of massive amounts of ice.

The latest scientific research has revealed that massive amounts of ice also exist at the outer edge of our solar system. The Ort Cloud at the edge of our solar system is a vast region of space that is estimated to hold as many as a trillion large comets composed of ice and rock. The oceans on earth pale in comparison to the amount of water in space!

A passage in Job also refers to the ice and frost in the heavens: "Hath the rain a father? Or who hath begotten the drops of dew? Out of whose womb came the ice? And the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gathered it? The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen. Canst thou bind the sweet influence of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?" (Job 38:28-31)

by Bonnie Calhoun

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Today we shall continue studying the complexity of weather patterns stated in the bible.

King Solomon described the complex climatic circular wind patterns that determine the weather throughout the globe. "The wind whirls about continually, and comes again on its circuit" (Ecclesiastes 1:6) How could Solomon have known three thousand years ago that the planetary winds followed a circular pattern from south to north and south again?

Job speaks of God controlling the weather: "For He looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven; To establish a weight for the wind, and apportion the waters by measure." (Job 28:24-25)

In this intriguing statement the Bible reveals that the winds are governed by their weight, a fact that scientists have only determined in the last century. How could Job have known that the air and the wind patterns are governed by their actual weight? Meteorologists have found that the relative weights of the wind and water greatly determine the weather patterns.

This passage also reveals a profound appreciation of the fact that there is a scientific connection between lightening, thunder, and the triggering of rainfall. Apparently, a slight change in the electrical charge within a cloud is one of the key factors that causes microscopic water droplets in the clouds to join with other droplets until they are heavy enough to fall to earth.

In addition (the technical explanation will curl your hair...LOL) but we know that an electrical charge in a cloud sends a leader stroke to the ground. A millisecond later a more powerful stroke returns to the cloud on the same path. The air in this channel is superheated, and expanding outward, it creates thunder!

Job's description, "He made a law for the rain and a path for the thunderbolt" (Job 28:26) is startling in its accuracy. No human could have known this in ancient times without divine revelation by God.

King David, the writer of Psalms, refers mysteriously to "the paths of the seas." He wrote, "The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas" (Psalm 8:8). It wasn't until 1786 that Benjamin Franklin published the information he gleaned from conversations with ocean-going captains that huge currents such as the Gulf Stream ran like deep rivers far beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

The massive Gulf Stream carries more that five thousand times as much water as the great Mississippi River. Scientists have discovered that the Gulf Stream is only a small part of an enormous "gyre," a huge thirteen-thousand-mile current of water circling the Atlantic Ocean. They have recently discovered that the Pacific Ocean has its own "Black Current" gyre as well!

In another passage Job referred to deep springs of water at the bottom of the ocean. "Have you entered the springs of the sea? Or have you walked in search of the depths?" (Job 38:16) In this verse the Bible refers to the existence of springs of water flowing beneath the depths of the sea.

It is only in the last thirty years that underwater exploration of the ocean depths has revealed a phenomenon of numerous huge springs of fresh water pouring out of the ocean floor. The Book of Job also contains questions that suggest a level of knowledge that would be impossible for a human writer living in the Middle Eat during ancient times.

For example, Job refers to deep oceans whose surface waters are frozen hard like a stone: "From whose womb comes the ice? And the frost of heaven, who gives it birth? The waters harden like a stone, And the surface of the deep is frozen" (Job 38: 29-30).

A question to ponder until we meet again next week....How could someone like Job, living in the area of Saudi Arabia in ancient times, have known about the Artic ice caps?

It's time to delve into more mysteries of the Bible that display its scientific accuracy.

Today we're going to look at weather.

People living in past centuries didn't have a clear understanding about the weather and climatic patterns that controlled our planet's environment. However, the book of Job, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah and Jeremiah all describe details about the complexity of the weather system far beyond the knowledge of the inhabitants living at that time.

The complete hydrological cycle governing evaporation, cloud formation, thunder, lightening and rain is explained in surprising detail in the words of the Old Testament. For example, Ecclesiastes 11:3 states, "If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth".

Throughout history most people assumed evaporation of water from lakes and rivers was responsible for the clouds. However, Ecclesiastes 1:7 confirms that most clouds are formed by evaporation from the oceans: "All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place from which the rivers come, there they return again".

Incredibly, a recent study by the United States Department of Agriculture proved that most of the water that forms into the clouds worldwide comes from the evaporation of the waters found in the oceans that cover over seventy percent of the planet's surface!

In Job 37:16, it asked the question, "Do you know how the clouds are balanced, Thou wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge?".

When you consider the weight of water compared to air it is astonishing that enormous quantities of water are raised from the oceans and lakes every hour by evaporation and lifted thousands of feet in the air where they remain suspended for long periods.

Air rises upwards as it cools supporting the water vapor in the clouds until the drops become large and heavy enough to fall to earth as rain. The answer is also found in Job 36:27-29..."For, He draws up drops of water, which distil as rain from the mist, Which the clouds drop down and pour abundantly on man. Indeed, can anyone understand the spreading of clouds, the thunders from His canopy?".

This incredible biblical passage reveals the complete hydrological cycle of evaporation, cloud formation, and precipitation!

Monday, July 13, 2009

by Bonnie Calhoun

Today, we're going to study names. This placque is the name of Yeshua (Jesus) in ancient Hebrew script.

In our modern culture, very little attention is given to the names we choose for our children. But in ancient Israel names were chosen as an expression of the character traits hoped for the child.

There is power in the authority of a name, especially God's. To give an example of that power, God actually swore by His own name in Jeremiah 44:26, to make a point.

However, it is possible to use His name incorrectly. Exodus 20:7 and Deuteronomy 5:11 warn us not to use God's name in vain. Leviticus 19:12 tells us not to swear falsely by His name.

We who are called by the name of the Lord need to be very careful how we are representing Him. Don't wear a T-shirt saying "In God We Trust" if you are not walking in a way that honors Him.

Besides conferring authority, the Hebraic use of a name often depicts the character of a person or place. Jacob (surplanter, replacer), Israel (wrestled with God), and Jabez (to grieve) to name a few. Look up you favorite Bible characters in a book like Strong's Exhaustive Concordance to discover their character meaning.

There are 16 names for God in the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament):

--Elohim, meaning "God," refering to God's power and might (Gen. 1:1; Ps. 19:1)

--Adonai, meaning "Lord," refering to the Lordship of God (Mal. 1:6)

--Yahweh,(sometimes called Jehovah), refering to God's divine salvation (Isa. 12:2)

--Yahweh-Meccaddeshchem, meaning "The Lord thy sanctifier" (Exod. 31:13)

--Yahweh-Rohi, meaning "The Lord my shepherd" (Ps. 23:1)

--Yahweh-Shammah, meaning "The Lord who is present" (Ezek. 48:35)

--Yahweh-Rapha, meaning "The Lord our healer" )Exod. 15:26

--Yahweh-Tsidkenu, meaning "The Lord our righteousness" (Jer. 23:6)

--Yahweh-Jireh, meaning "The Lord will provide" (Gen. 22:13-14)

--Yahweh-Nissi, meaning "The Lord our banner" (Exod. 17:15)

--Yahweh-Shalom, meaning "The Lord is peace" (Judg. 6:24)

--Yahweh-Tsevaot, meaning "The Lord of Hosts" (Isa. 6:1-3)

--El-Elyon, meaning "The most high God" (Gen. 14:17-20; Isa. 14:13-14)

--El-Roi, meaning "The strong one who sees" (Gen. 16:13)

--El-Shaddai, meaning "The God of the mountains" or "God almighty" (Gen. 17:1; Ps 91:1)

--El-Olam, meaning "The everlasting God" (Isa. 40:28-31)

Jehovah, which we hear in many scripture songs, is not the correct pronunciation of the name of God gave to Himself. In fact this tetragrammation is unpronounceable, even in Hebrew, because it is sacred, and therefore unmentionable.

For centuries, it was pronounced among the Israelites by inserting certain vowel sounds between the four consonants. The pronouciation was lost 2,000 years ago. The closest scholars have come is: YaHWeH. In the Bible it is generally written as LORD.

Jehovah as a name came down to us from non-Jewish European bible scholars who tried to sound it out. Most erroneous is the sounding out of the first letter as "J". that sound does not exist in Hebrew. The yad (letter) is sounded as "ya" not "ja". Consequently, in our English Bibles, we pronounce Joel, Jonah, Jesse etc, incorrectly.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

by Bonnie Calhoun

In Matthew 9:20-22, we see a sick woman becoming well by touching Jesus' clothes:

"Just then a woman, who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the hem of His garment; for she said to herself, 'If I only touch His cloak, I will be healed.' Jesus turned and saw her. 'Take heart, daughter,' He said, "your faith has healed you." And the woman was healed from that moment."

What is it about the hem of Jesus' garment? At first it seems like an odd practice. But when we understand the significance of the hem of one's garment, these passages have more meaning.

The word translated, hem, is actually referring to the fringes, or tassels (called tzitziyot, in Hebrew) required to be on the four corners of all clothing of Jewish men, in accordance with God's instruction:

"The Lord said to Moses, 'Speak to the Israelites and say to them: Throughout the generations to come, you are to make tassels on the corners of one's garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all My commands, and will be consecrated to your God. I am the Lord your God.'" (Num. 15:37-41a)

The tassels are to remind man each Jewish of his responsibility to fulfill God's commandments. Wearing these tassels would be comparable to us wearing a large Bible on a rope around our necks. How would we behave in public, how would we speak to others, where would we go? God intended them to be a constant reminder of His Word when He told the Israelites to wear these fringes.

In ancient Israel, this outer garment became known as a tallit, and eventually evolved into the more formal prayer shawl. These shawls are white, representing the heavens, or the dwelling place of the Lord. The blue stripes represents the Ruach HaKodesh, or the Holy Spirit of God.

Therefore praying under the tallit, or prayer shawl, is covering yourself with the presence of God. The word tallit is derived from tallith... tal meaning tent, and ith meaning little. Therefore you get 'little tent'. From biblical times, this custom was a prayer closet, and it is likely this is what Jesus was referring to in Matthew 6:6 when He told us to get into our closet, apart from the people around, and pray in secret to the Lord.

The tallit was worn by Samuel (1Sam. 15:27) and it was Elijah's mantle that was conferred upon Elisha (1Kgs. 19:19). It was also worn by Jesus, and the 'hem of the garment' that the woman touched was actually the tzitziyot or tassels of His tallit.

Each tassel was to have a blue thread. With the color blue everywhere today, it is hard to imagine that during the entire biblical period, blue (or purple)was the most expensive color to produce. That's why it was reserved for royalty. The only source was a small gland in the Murex Snail. It took 12,000 snails to fill up a thimble of blue dye.

In 200 BC, one pound of cloth, dyed blue, cost the equivalent of $36,000. By AD 300, this same pound of blue cloth cost $96,000. This indicates that Lydia, the seller of purple and an early convert of Christianity, was one of the wealthiest women in the Empire (Acts 16:14).

It doesn't mean much to us, but to early readers, it said, "Hey one of the wealthiest and most influential people in the Roman Empire has gotten saved!" Imagine the impact this had on the message of the Gospel.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Tower Of Babel

by Bonnie Calhoun

Good afternoon. Let us continue with our study of the archeological evidence in support of the Bible.

It is fascinating to note that numerous biblical personalities (including Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius), who were totally repudiated by higher critics in past decades, have now been reliably verified by recent historical and archeological discoveries.

In the past, critics of the Bible's accuracy rejected the story of the defeat of the confederation of five kings from the east by the small army of Abraham as found in Genesis 14. However, continuing research by Dr. Nelson Glueck, a leading Palestinian archeologist, and president of the Hebrew Union College brought forth this report:

"Centuries earlier, another civilization of high achievement had flourished between the 21st and 19th centuries B. C., till it was savagely liquidated by the Kings of the East. They gutted every city and village at the end of that period from Ashtaroth Karnaim, in southern Syria through all of Trans-Jordan and the Negev to Kadesh-Barnea in Sinai (Genesis 14:1-7)" (Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, [New York:Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1959], p. 11).

King Nebuchadnezzar's Inscription About the Tower of Babel
From the time of Adam and Eve, "The whole earth had one language and one speech" (Genesis 11:1), before the dispersion of the population following God's supernatural act causing the confusion of their language at the Tower of Babel. God purposely confounded the language of all the people on the earth (Genesis 11:9) so they could not understand the speech of their neighbors to force them to disperse throughout the earth.

The people had gathered in sinful pride against God in their attempt to build a tower that would reach to the heavens. Moses recorded God's subsequent judgment and destruction of the Tower of Babel and the city of Babylon. The remains of the Tower are vitrified (melted to form a kind of rough glass) which indicates that God used a huge amount of heat to destroy this tower.

Scientists who study the origin of languages, known as philologist, have concluded that it is probable that the thousands of dialects and languages throughout the planet can be traced back to an original language in man's ancient history. (Joseph Free, Archeology and Bible History, Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, 1969])
The French government sent a professor to report on the cuneiform inscriptions discovered in the ruins of Babylon. One of the translations where King Nebuchadnezzar referred to the tower in the Chaldean language as Barzippa, which means Tongue-tower, clearly identified the original tower of Borsippa with the Tower of Babel described by Moses in Genesis.

Nebuchadnezzar rebuilt the base of the ancient Tower, built over sixteen centuries earlier by Nimrod, the first King of Babylon. He also called it the Temple of the Spheres. During the millennium since God destroyed it, the tower was reduced from its original height and magnificence until only the huge base (four hundred and sixty feet by six hundred and ninety feet) standing some two hundred and seventy-five feet high remained within the outskirts of the city of Babylon.

Today, the ruins have been reduced to about one hundred and fifty feet above the plain with a circumference of 2,300 feet. In this inscription found on the base of the ruins of the Tower of Babel, King Nebuchadnezzar speaks in his own words from thousands of yeas ago confirming one of the most interesting events of the ancient past.

It is interesting to note that today, because of Sadaam Hussian multi-billion dollar investment, the city of Babylon is partially restored to its original elegance.

Monday, June 08, 2009

by Bonnie Calhoun

Good Monday to you all! Tonight I would like a few more places in the Biblical Lands. Several of these are an extremely interesting study, because recently I was told that the Bible couldn't be real because it doesn't talk about the Pyramids of Egypt. To that I say,"Hrump!" Let's start with another rumor that needs to be dispelled!

The ancient cities of the Near East were usually walled, and at night the gates were closed for protection against invaders. In case any of the citizens were unable to return before nightfall, one small opening was left in the gate, an opening known as "the needles' eye." It was so low and so narrow that a camel laden with riches could never fit through. Only when the owner unloaded the camel and left the load outside the gate could the camel, with its head bent low, squeeze through.

Now this has added significance because of the Matthew 19:24 reference to "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." The myriad of stories that you can read discount the needle gate, saying that Jerusalem never had a "needle gate" therefore the reference is erroneous.

It is true that Jerusalem never had a needle gate, but other cities did! Thus the reference stands! Jesus teaching in Matthew 19 seized on the analogy of the camel making its way through "the needle's eye" and compared it to a rich man trying to leave the earth with riches to get into heaven. A rich man can enter the kingdom of heaven─but only if he first casts off his worldly goods and. Like the camel squeezing through the needles' eye, bows his head in humilty.

The civilization of the Egyptians was already an ancient one by the time Joseph arrived there some 3,650 years ago. The first pyramid was built about five thousand years ago. It is known as the Step Pyramid because it rises in a series of steps or terraces to a height of 250 feet, much like the ziggurats of Babylon.

The Great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza, built only a few hundred years after the Step Pyramid, was the tallest structure ever erected until the nineteenth century. It rises to a height of 481 feet, and its base is 756 blocks of stone, many blocks weighing as much as five thousand pounds. This pyramid was built with no other mechanical equipment that the lever and the roller, because at that time the Egyptians has not yet learned the use of the wheel.

More than thirty major pyramids were built during the thousand years before Joseph. Each one guarded the body of a pharaoh entombed in a chamber deep inside the pile of stone blocks. However, no pyramids are mentioned in the Bible. Despite the fact that these structures would have certainly been the talk of the ancient world, the authors of the Bible didn't consider them worthy of note. They did not play a part in the unfolding of the biblical narrative.

There are many other incidents of "facts of life" that are not included in the Bible. Their exclusion does not make the bible erroneous....It just makes these, so called "facts" irrelevant to biblical history!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

by Bonnie Calhoun

Today we are going to study tomorrow.

Tomorrow is Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost is the fiftieth day of the Jewish Passover. I say 'of Passover' and not 'after Passover' because the counting begins with day one, rather than zero.

Though various Christian denominations commemorate Pentecost, many forget that it was a Jewish holiday before the Church was established. The name Pentecost comes from the Greek word for fifty, but the Jewish name is Shavuot (meaning weeks or sevens).

The Torah - the five books of Moses - details seven feasts during the Hebrew calendar. The first three feasts are in the spring, in the month of Nisan: Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of First Fruits.

The first Passover was defined in Exodus, chapter 12, when the Jews covered their doorways with blood so that the Angel of Death would pass over them.

The first Feast of Unleavened Bread and Feast of First Fruits occurred in Exodus, chapter 13 as a seven day feast after leaving Egypt and before crossing the Red Sea. The Lord commanded that they east unleavened bread and consecrate their first-borns to the Lord

These feasts are predictive of the First Coming of Jesus.

Christ is our Passover. It is His shed blood that saves us. He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He is the Lamb of God which taketh the sin away.

He became this on Palm Sunday when He entered Jerusalem riding on an ass, demonstrating the lion-like quality of the Lamb. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was kept four days later at the Passover Supper, after which He and His disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane.

There He could say in His prayer to the Father, “I have finished the work Thou gavest Me to do.”
Then followed His three days and nights’ after which He burst the bonds of death. On Resurrection morning, He became ‘The Resurrection and the Life and the First Fruits of them that slept’.

In between the spring and fall feasts, fifty days after the Feast of First Fruits, there is the Feast of Pentecost (or Feast of Weeks).

This feast, celebrated this week, is associated with the Church.

The Birth of the Church appears to be a fulfillment of the Feast of Pentecost. See Acts 2:1. (It is interesting to note that this is the only feast in which leavened bread is ordained.) With this difference — the first was unleavened bread, the second was two loaves baked with leaven. Our Lord was sinless - the church is not.

The last three feasts are in the fall, in the month of Tishri: the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Tabernacles.

These are associated with Jesus Second Coming.

These seven holidays were later refined by the Lord in Leviticus chapter 23.

The confusion over Pentecost comes from the word 'Easter'. The holiday 'Easter', is called Passover in other languages─this is fitting, because Easter is the Christian Passover.

There are three methods for calculating the day. Within each system Pentecost is the fiftieth day of Passover. That is, Pentecost is the fiftieth day of the Jewish Passover, the Orthodox Pentecost is the fiftieth day of the Orthodox Passover, the western Christian Pentecost is the fiftieth day of the Christian Passover, which we confusingly call 'Easter' in English.

Some wrongly think that the chief purpose of the Church is to provide a place for people to worship and enjoy God. This view of only one function of the Body as its prime purpose generates an "upper room" mentality that has us huddled together, waiting for God to act.

Surely there are times when we ought to wait on the Lord for His empowerment, but He wants an active, dynamic Church to bring His message of salvation to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). He doesn't want us to remain in seclusion waiting for miracles. He wants us to go out among those who do not know Christ to tell them, in the power of the Holy Spirit, of God's salvation.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

by Bonnie Calhoun

Today, lets study the etymology of a phrase used by Jesus..."born again".

Although some people regard the phrase as modern lingo denoting enthusiastic Christians, Jesus Himself used the expression to describe those who have experienced genuine salvation. However, the idiom didn't originate at His John 3 encounter with Nicodemus.

To the first century Jew, "born again" was a commonly understood term for certain rites of passage in a man's life—six different events were so labeled in Rabbinic Judaism.

First was the bar mitzvah (literally, "son of the commandment"), a confirmation ritual whereby 13-year-old boys entered manhood and shared the moral and religious responsibilities of the adult community. A man was said to be "born again" a second time when he married, and the expression was also used if he was ordained as a rabbi. Becoming the head of a rabbinic academy—a position open only to rabbis who were married—was a fourth time the term applied. The final two usages of "born again" were a Gentile's conversion to Judaism and a man being crowned king.

In light of this, the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3:1-21 becomes more understandable. As a member of the Jewish ruling council known as the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus is identified as a "ruler of the Jews" and "the teacher of Israel." (vv. 1, 10) As such, he was obviously considered "born again" in the first four ways; namely, he was bar mitzvahed, married, ordained, and a rabbi in leadership.

So when Jesus said to him, "Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" (v. 3), Nicodemus was naturally confused—he had already been "born again" in all of the four ways available to him. Notice his response: "How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he? (v. 4) He was thinking that the only way to go through any of those rites of passage would be to start physical life over as a baby.

The Lord met Nicodemus where he was and then broadened his understanding to include the spiritual: ",,,Unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (vv. 5-6).

Though his comprehension was incomplete that night, Nicodemus later showed evidence that he understood another way to be born again (John 7:50; 19:39)

Monday, May 11, 2009

by Bonnie Calhoun

This evening let's take a look at some of the miracles of the New Testament.

The virgin birth. No doubt the first miraculous event recorded in the New Testament is the birth of Jesus Christ. Mary, a virgin, was "found to be with child through the Holy Spirit," according to Matthew 1:18. Several other miracles surrounded that birth, including the striking dumb of Zechariah in Luke 1, the angels' appearance to the shepherds in Luke 2, and the star which led the magi to visit in Matthew 2.

Water into wine. The first recorded miracle of Jesus occurs in John 2, when Christ was attending a wedding in the city of Cana and the hosts ran out of wine. Jesus requested six large jars to be filled with water, and they then miraculously turned into fine wine. As John records, "He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

Healing. One of the things Christ was most known for was his ability to heal the sick. Matthew 4:23-24 records that "Jesus went throughout Galilee...healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them." The sick included lepers, paralytics, and those with internal bleeding.

A man born blind. Certainly one of the most amazing miracles of Jesus was the healing of man born blind in John 9. Christ made some mud with his saliva, rubbed it on the man's eyes, and instructed him to wash in a nearby pool. Upon doing so the man received his sight. Jewish leaders denounced him as a fraud, but when questioned, the man responded, "One thing I do know. I was blind and now I see!

The centurion's servant. Since Roman conquerors were hated by most Jewish citizens, it was generally forbidden for a Jew to enter a Roman's house. Thus when a God-fearing Roman centurion told Jesus that his servant was ill, he informed the Lord that Jesus didn't have to enter his home to perform the healing. Instead Christ could do it from a distance. Marveling at the man's faith, Jesus replied, "I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith" (Matthew 8:10). Before the centurion could get home, the servant was healed.

Jesus calms the storm. Matthew 8 relates the story of Jesus asleep in a boat when a violent storm arose. When the disciples, fearing they would drown, awakened the Lord, he simply rebuked the winds and the waves, making them calm.

Raising the dead. In Matthew 9, Jesus tells a crowd of mourners that a ruler's young daughter is not dead but asleep. Though the mourners laughed at him, Jesus proceeds to raise her from the dead. Like 7 also tells of Jesus raising the dead, this time a widow's son. And John 11 records the raising of Lazarus, which was witnesses by a crowd of people.

Feeding the multitudes. After preaching to a large crowd, the disciples encouraged Christ to send the people away so that they could find something to eat. Instead the Lord had them gather their food─five loaves of bread and two fishes─and proceeded to feed five thousand people.

Walking on water. After his disciples has sailed off in a boat to the other side of a lake, the disciples watched Jesus walk out to them on the waves. Peter asked to join him, and also walked on water for a short time. But Matthew notes that as soon as Peter took his eyes off the Lord and began to look at the waves, he began to sink. Christ helped Peter back into the boat─prompting the disciples to say, "Truly you are the Son of God."

The transfiguration. A few days before his death, Jesus took Peter, James, and John up to a high mountain. There he was "transfigured" before them. His face "shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light." Moses and Elijah, two of the handful of miracle workers in Scripture, then appeared with Jesus, and the voice of God announced, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Matt. 17:5).

The tearing of the veil. Matthew 27:51 records an important miracle that took place during Christ's death on the cross: "At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom." The tearing of that curtain, which created a barrier between the worship area and the holy of holies where God dwelt, meant that man was no longer to be separated from God.

The resurrection. The greatest of all miracles in the Christian faith is the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, conquering death and sin. The evidence fro the resurrection as a historical fact (the empty tomb, the Roman guard, the eyewitness reports of those who were there, the lack of any other explanation) is overwhelming.

Apostles heal a cripple. In the apostolic age some of the followers of Christ had the power to do miracles. Acts 3 records Peter and John healing a beggar who had been crippled since birth, and Acts 5:12 notes that "the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people."

Peter's escape from prison. When Peter was arrested fro preaching the gospel, he was held in prison, bound to a soldier on either side. But Acts 12 related that late one night Peter was awakened by an angel, his chains simply fell off, and the gates before him miraculously opened by themselves. He walked to freedom...while the guards who were supposed to be keeping watch over him were later executed.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

by Bonnie Calhoun

Good Saturday! Today we are going to start studying the scientific accuracy of the Bible.

One of the greatest proofs that the Scriptures are inspired by God is that they reveal a staggering amount of advanced scientific knowledge. The bible is not a scientific book, however when it does make scientific statements, they are stunningly accurate.

These bible statements are literally thousands of years in advance of the knowledge present in that day. The psalmist David wrote, "That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works" (Psalm 26:7).

As you consider God's "wondrous works" and the astonishing level of scientific knowledge presented in this study, ask yourself a question: How could the writers of the Scriptures possibly know these facts unless they were supernaturally inspired by God?

Throughout the Word of God are statements which can now be tested as to their accuracy due to the incredible advances in scientific knowledge in the last few decades.

Genesis describes the supernatural creation of man in these words, "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

For many years, scientists laughed at the apparent simplicity of the scriptural account that God used "dust of the ground" to construct the complex elements and molecules that make up a human being.

However, after a century of scientific examination of the elements within the body, scientists have discovered that clay and earth contain every single element found in the human body.

A Readers Digest article in November 1982, described a fascinating discovery by the researchers at NASA's Ames Research Center which confirmed the Bibles' account that every single element found in the human body exists within the soil.

It also might surprise you to know that many of the greatest scientific minds of the last several centuries were Bible-believing Christians who totally accepted the scientific accuracy of the Word of God.

For example, Isaac Newton firmly accepted the Word of God and creation. Other strong believers in God who changed the face of scientific knowledge included: Lord Kelvin, creator of the science of thermodynamics; Louis Pasteur, the discoverer of pasteurization; Johann Kepler, who created modern astronomy; and Robert Boyle, the greatest chemist of his age.

With every new scientific discovery we find additional proof of the complexity of the great design that God used to create our universe. In the coming weeks we will delve into many of these discoveries. Next week we're going to look at the Creation of the Universe!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

by Bonnie Calhoun

Today is a study of the Advanced Medical Knowledge in the Bible.

Keep in mind that man's medical knowledge was virtually nada until the beginning of the twentieth century. Even the existence of germs was unknown until around A.D. 1890. Yet the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah, or the Law, recorded by Moses approximately 1491-1451 B.C., reveals surprising advanced scientific principles. God inspired Moses to record these medical commandments to protect the health of His chosen people.

Moses, in Leviticus 17:11, declared, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood." This statement revealed advanced scientific knowledge at a time when the level of pagan medical knowledge was abysmal. Moses' statement was incredibly astute because doctors have discovered that our blood is essential to many of our body's life processes.

The blood carries nutrients and material that produce growth, healing, store energy as fat and support every organ in our body. When the blood supply is restricted to any part of the body, that part begins to die. Blood is essential to fighting disease, clotting wounds and growing new skin and cells.

For centuries ignorant doctors used to "bleed" their patients by draining large amounts of blood from their bodies in a vain attempt to defeat disease. They did not realize that our blood is the key to our flesh. Truly, as the Bible declares, "the life of the flesh is in the blood."

Moses was adopted and grew up as son of "Pharaoh's daughter", which gave him access to the knowledge of the royal and priestly colleges of Egypt, where, I might add, the main ingredient in almost any medical cure, was dung...animal or human! Yet the Torah contains detailed medical laws regarding the careful kosher inspection of meat and exacting sanitation regulations regarding the burial of bodies.

Next week we will get into the Laws written to prevent infectious diseases.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Last Supper

by Bonnie Calhoun

As we wait with anticipation of the commemorative anniversary of our Lord and Savior's rise from the grave...Hallelujah!...let's look at what transpired before that glorious day...particularly the Last Supper.

You would not necessarily think it important to consider the table setting of the Last Supper or where the disciples sat. however, just the opposite is true. If we understand this, it explains why certain things we read about in the Last Supper narratives were said and done.

First, we need to consider the table setting itself. The Passover meal was a celebration of the Exodus and it was required to eat this meal in a manner usually reserves for the wealthy.

That is to recline around the table, enjoying one's freedom in the Land. It would be impossible to recline around a table such as we eat at today. However, we do know that they are around a U-shaped table, called a triclinium.

The table is placed low on the floor to allow for the people around it to recline on their left side while eating with their right hand. Everyone is facing the same direction around the table, often making it hard to speak to those behind you.

When looking at a triclinium, the left arm is the place of the most important guests, the cross arm is the place of the fairly important guests, and on the right arm we find the less important people, with the last seat on the end being called the Servant's Seat. If there is no servant present to serve the meal, then the person in the Servant's Seat had the job of waiting on those who had need of more food or drink.

Certain other seats had special functions. On the most important left arm, the second seat was that of the host. It was the custom that the first seat on the end was that of a trusted friend of the host. Why? This person helped protect the host, who might be a king or an important official. This person was also the food taster.

Seat #3 is the traditional seat of the most honored guest at the banquet. Therefore the left and right hand of the host were considered important places. This is why John's mother made a request of Jesus, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at Your right and the other at Your left in Your kingdom" (Mt. 20:21).

It is obvious that Jesus was seated in seat #2, as He was the host. We also know that John was in seat #1, because John 13:23 tells us that John, "the disciple whom Jesus loved," was reclined next to Him. We know it was the right side because Peter motioned to John to ask Jesus which one would betray him. The Bible says, "Leaning back against Jesus, he asked Him, 'Lord who is it?'" (Jn. 13:25).

Around a triclinium, the only way to talk to the person behind you, is to lean back. Since the custom was toalways lean on your left side, that places John on Jesus' right.

Since Jesus responded to John's question as to who would betray him, Jesus said, "He who had dipped his hand in the dish with Me, will betray me" (Mt 26:23). There was only that seat close enough to Jesus for the person to dip in the common bowl.

There is also another indication that Peter was in this last seat, because it would have been this persons job to carry around the basin and water to wash the hands of the guests. Whether this occurred or not is not recorded. However, Jesus did something very unusual, with regard to washing, to make a point.

Always the Teacher, Jesus used this opportunity to teach His disciples about being a servant, by His example. He got up and took the basin and water and started to wash their feet. Peter then realized his error in not washing everyone's hands in the beginning, and was grieved when he saw the Lord's selflessness when he had acted so selfishly.

The conversation in John 13:6-9 records their exchange"

Peter: "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"

Jesus replies: "You do not yet realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand

Peter then declare: "No, You shall never wash my feet!"

Jesus: "Unless I wash you, you have no part of Me."

Peter responded: "Then Lord, not just my feet, but my hands and my head, as well."

Jesus later told them" "I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than the one who sent him. (Jn. 13:12-17)

Only later do we see that God's way is the best way and that our way is often selfish and self-serving.

Maybe we all need to spend a little time in the "Servant Seat" to learn that "whosoever will be great among you, let him be your servant: (Mt, 20:26b).

In the Book of Acts, we see that Peter did become one of the greatest leaders of the early Church, full of the Lord and carrying His Gospel forth to the world.

Have a happy and blessed Easter!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Blessings From God

by Bonnie Calhoun

Today, instead of a lesson from the land of the Bible, I'm going to give you a lesson about the people of the land of the Bible. This will start in a seemingly odd place, but I'll tie it together at the end.

In many of his diaries, Christopher Columbus wrote that he was compelled to sail west by the "inspiration from the Holy Spirit." He continued, "It was the Lord who put into my mind the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies."

You might ask what this has to do with the people of Israel? Well, although Christopher Columbus (Christoferens Colombo in Italian) was born in Geneo, Italy, there is evidence to suggest that his lineage was of Spanish-Jewish origin. Columbus' paternal grandfather was a converso who had changed his name from Colon to Columbo.

Conversos were Jews who had, by choice or necessity, converted to Christianity. Apparently, in the midst of the Spanish Inquisition, Columbus was raised a Christian, perhaps to survive Jewish annihilation. His use of Spanish forms of his name in his diaries and letters and certain oddities associated with his voyage to the New World, lend credence to the idea that he was Jewish.

In his letters to his son Diego, Columbus put a mark in the upper left corner of the paper that resembles the Hebrew letters bet and hei. These letters denote the Hebrew blessing b'ezrat haShem, meaning with the help of God. The use of bet hei is a blessing that Jews used in letters to loved ones.

This symbol appears only in letters to his son, and during the last years of his life, unusual symbols, as in the picture to the left, began to appear in his writings that suggest he was familiar with Jewish mysticism. He began to sign his name in this triangular fashion, asking that his descendants continue to use this signature. This is a cryptic substitute for the Kaddish, the mourner's prayer. Thus, Columbus supplied his sons with a signature that would allow his sons to say Kaddish for their father when he died.

On March 30, 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella signed a decree to expel the jews from Spain. Until this time, Spain had been one of the few safe havens for Jews. On April 30, 1492, one month after the edit was signed, it was read publicly. That same day Columbus received the order to prepare for his expedition. On August 2, 1492, thousands of Jews departed from Spain. One of their ports of departure was Palos, the same port and the same day, from which Columbus had intended to depart. Faced with throngs of despairing, heartbroken people that day, Columbus delayed his voyage by one day.

I said all that to get to this:

Jews gathered at the ports, clutching whatever possessions they had been allowed to keep along with dirt from the earth. That day, the 9th of Av., in the Jewish calendar, also commemorated the destruction of both Temples. For centuries, this day had been observed as a day of mourning. On August 2, 1492, the 9th of Av took on a whole new meaning. According to Jewish tradition, to undertake any enterprise on the 9th of Av is considered bad.

Consider some of the following events that transpired in Hebrew history on the 9th of Av. (since the Hebrew calendar has more days than our modern one, this day never falls on the same date each year)"

-The twelve scouts sent out by Moses returned with a bad report.
-The Exodus generation was condemned to die.
-Nebuchadnezzar set fire to the first Temple.
-Romans destroyed the second Temple.
-Romans plowed up the Temple Mount to convert it to a Roman colony.
-The last independent outpost of the Bar Kokhba rebellion fell to the Romans (Mesada).
-King Edward of England expelled all Jews in 1290A.D.
-The last group of Jews left Vienna in 1670 after expulsion from Austria.
-The Turkish government banned the immigration of Russian and Romanian Jews into Palestine in 1882.
-World War I began, precipitated by the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand.
-A decree to expel Jews from parts of Hungary was issued in 1941.

In the very beginning of the Bible, in Genesis 12:3, God tells Abram about his future generations, the people of God. He says, "I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you: And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

It is notable to reveal that all of these places that expelled the Jews, at the time of expulsions, were prominent powers. They all fell from grace with God.

The only place left today is America.

Friday, March 13, 2009

by Bonnie Calhoun

Jewish Year 5769 : sunset March 9, 2009 - nightfall March 10, 2009

In the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on its thirteenth day ... on the day that the enemies of the Jews were expected to prevail over them, it was turned about: the Jews prevailed over their adversaries. - Esther 9:1

And they gained relief on the fourteenth, making it a day of feasting and gladness. - Esther 9:17

[Mordecai instructed them] to observe them as days of feasting and gladness, and sending delicacies to one another, and gifts to the poor. - Esther 9:22

Purim is one of the most joyous and fun holidays on the Jewish calendar. It commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination.

The story of Purim is told in the biblical book of Esther. The heroes of the story are Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman living in Persia, and her cousin Mordecai, who raised her as if she were his daughter. Esther was taken to the house of Ahasuerus, King of Persia, to become part of his harem. King Ahasuerus loved Esther more than his other women and made Esther queen, but the king did not know that Esther was a Jew, because Mordecai told her not to reveal her identity.

The villain of the story is Haman, an arrogant, egotistical advisor to the king. Haman hated Mordecai because Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman, so Haman plotted to destroy the Jewish people. In a speech that is all too familiar to Jews, Haman told the king, "There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your realm. Their laws are different from those of every other people's, and they do not observe the king's laws; therefore it is not befitting the king to tolerate them." Esther 3:8.

The king gave the fate of the Jewish people to Haman, to do as he pleased to them. Haman planned to exterminate all of the Jews.

Mordecai persuaded Esther to speak to the king on behalf of the Jewish people. This was a dangerous thing for Esther to do, because anyone who came into the king's presence without being summoned could be put to death, and she had not been summoned. Esther fasted for three days to prepare herself, then went into the king. He welcomed her. Later, she told him of Haman's plot against her people. The Jewish people were saved, and Haman was hanged on the gallows that had been prepared for Mordecai.

The book of Esther is unusual in that it is the only book of the Bible that does not contain the name of God. In fact, it includes virtually no reference to God.

Mordecai makes a vague reference to the fact that the Jews will be saved by someone else, if not by Esther, but that is the closest the book comes to mentioning G-d. Thus, one important message that can be gained from the story is that G-d often works in ways that are not apparent, in ways that appear to be chance, coincidence or ordinary good luck.

Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of Adar, which is usually in March. The 13th of Adar is the day that Haman chose for the extermination of the Jews, and the day that the Jews battled their enemies for their lives. On the day afterwards, the 14th, they celebrated their survival. In cities that were walled in the time of Joshua, Purim is celebrated on the 15th of the month, because the book of Esther says that in Shushan (a walled city), deliverance from the massacre was not complete until the next day. The 15th is referred to as Shushan Purim.

In leap years, when there are two months of Adar, Purim is celebrated in the second month of Adar, so it is always one month before Passover. The 14th day of the first Adar in a leap year is celebrated as a minor holiday called Purim Katan, which means "little Purim." There are no specific observances for Purim Katan; however, a person should celebrate the holiday and should not mourn or fast. Some communities also observe a "Purim Katan" on the anniversary of any day when their community was saved from a catastrophe, destruction, evil or oppression.

The word "Purim" means "lots" and refers to the lottery that Haman used to choose the date for the massacre. The Purim holiday is preceded by a minor fast, the Fast of Esther, which commemorates Esther's three days of fasting in preparation for her meeting with the king.

The primary commandment related to Purim is to hear the reading of the book of Esther. The book of Esther is commonly known as the Megillah, which means scroll. Although there are five books of Jewish scripture that are properly referred to as megillahs (Esther, Ruth, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Lamentations), this is the one people usually mean when the speak of The Megillah. It is customary to boo, hiss, stamp feet and rattle gragers (noisemakers) whenever the name of Haman is mentioned in the service. The purpose of this custom is to "blot out the name of Haman."

Jews are also commanded to eat, drink and be merry. According to the Talmud, a person is required to drink until he cannot tell the difference between "cursed be Haman" and "blessed be Mordecai," though opinions differ as to exactly how drunk that is. A person certainly should not become so drunk that he might violate other commandments or get seriously ill. In addition, recovering alcoholics or others who might suffer serious harm from alcohol are exempt from this obligation.

In addition, Jews are commanded to send out gifts of food or drink, and to make gifts to charity. The sending of gifts of food and drink is referred to as shalach manos (lit. sending out portions). Among Ashkenazic Jews, a common treat at this time of year is hamentaschen (lit. Haman's pockets). These triangular fruit-filled cookies are supposed to represent Haman's three-cornered hat. I can supply the recipe for any who wish to make the cookies!

It is customary to hold carnival-like celebrations on Purim, to perform plays and parodies, and to hold beauty contests. I have heard that the usual prohibitions against cross-dressing are lifted during this holiday, but I am not certain about that. Americans sometimes refer to Purim as the Jewish Mardi Gras.

Purim is not subject to the sabbath-like restrictions on work that some other holidays are; however, some sources indicate that we should not go about our ordinary business on Purim out of respect for the holiday.

PRAYER FOCUS for Christians
This is a wonderful opportunity to pray for the nation of Israel as Jews around the world remember God’s deliverance. God is calling out a generation of Esthers who will stand in the gap for Israel “for such a time as this.” Pray that God will continue to show Himself as Israel’s great Defender and that Israel will recognize that He is their only defense.

“But I will sing of Your power; yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning: for You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble. To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises; for God is my defense, my God of mercy” (Psalm 59:16–17)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

by Bonnie Calhoun

Monday, January 19, 2009

by Bonnie Calhoun

I just wanted to hit you with one profound thing that I was sent today! Read On!

The University professor challenged his students with this question."Did God create everything that exists?"

A student bravely replied, "Yes he did!"

"God created everything?" The professor asked.

"Yes sir", the student replied.

The professor answered, "If God created everything, then God created evil, since evil exists, and according to the principal that our works define who we are, then God is evil."

The student became quiet before such an answer. The professor, quite pleased with himself, boasted to the students that he had proven once more that the Christian faith was a myth.

Another student raised his hand and said, "Can I ask you a question professor?"

"Of course", replied the professor.

The student stood up and asked, "Professor does cold exist?"

"What kind of question is this? Of course it exists. Have you never been cold?" replied the professor.

The students snickered at the young man's question.

The young man replied, "In fact sir, cold does not exist. According to the laws of physics, what we consider cold is in reality the absence of heat. Every body or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-460? F) is the total absence of heat; all matter becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist. We have created this word to describe how we feel if we have no heat."

The student continued, "Professor, does darkness exist?"

The professor responded, "Of course it does."

The student replied, "Once again you are wrong sir, darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in reality the absence of light. Light we can study, but not darkness. In fact we can use Newton's prism to break white light into many colors and study the various wavelengths of each color. You cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You measure the amount of light present. Isn't this correct? Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light present."

Finally the young man asked the professor, "Sir, does evil exist?"

Now uncertain, the professor responded, "Of course as I have already said. We see it everyday. It is in the daily example of man's inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil."

To this the student replied, "Evil dies not exist sir, or at least is does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like the cold that comes when there is no heat or the darkness that comes when there is no light."

The professor sat down.

The young man's name -- Albert Einstein

Happy Sunday to you all.