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!