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Israel 2014 IFL 055The Bible makes a detailed notation about the stone that was positioned to seal Jesus’ tomb.  No one knows where that stone is today.  Yet, it is described as one of specifics in the language of the New Testament that should encourage the hearts of all who follow Jesus.

When Jesus was crucified there is undisputed evidence that He died on Good Friday.  His suffering and beating was excruciating.  The ignominy of His death was torturous.

The Roman soldiers declared Jesus dead and therefore saw no reason to break His legs to expedite what they concluded had already been accomplished.  Just to be sure, a spear was thrust into his side and confirmed that He was deceased.  Jesus did not pass out, He did not fake His death, His body was not stolen by His disciples.

Those who loved Jesus mourned over His death.  Like a loving family they laid His body to rest in a tomb hewn out of rock.  Once His body was there a large stone was rolled in front of the opening, sealing it.

As an added measure to insure that no one would tamper with the body a professional pair of guards were posted in front of the tomb.  The seal of Rome was added to the stone so that no one would tamper with the stone upon sentence of death.  Rumors of a resurrection in three days had the unbelieving authorities guarding against any foul-play.

Then the Scriptures declare that on Sunday, the first Easter the stone was rolled away.  Grammatically, the Bible could have said that the stone was rolled away in one single definitive act.  That could have shown the power of God to counter the human measures to resist the Resurrection.  But, the Bible does not say that.

The Bible could have said that the stone was rolling away capturing the continuous action of the stone moving without any resistance against human endeavor.  But, it does not say that either.

Instead, the Bible uses language to say that the stone was rolled away and stayed that way.  Once the opening to the tomb was reopened, the Resurrection could not be stopped and the grave would never hold the Savior again.  He died and now is alive forever!

That emphatic piece of grammatical detail is a thrilling notation to the glory of Easter.  He is Risen.  He is Risen Indeed!

photo credit: brucefong photography

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Israel 2008 445It was an ancient city with people living ancient cultures.  The problems were enormous.  Political figures were greedy, power-hungry, egotistical and full of self-centered pride.

Entertainment at the expense of the people was rampant.  Hostility was waiting for any excuse to erupt.  Military incursions were a daily affair.

Good people were losing hope.  Power was in the hands of officials who bent the law to satisfy their personal agenda.  Anger and intimidation overpowered reason, righteousness and love.

The world had sunk to a level where authorities would murder children to cover their own infractions and advance their influence.  Might was the premier.  Yet, the immoral posture of those in power had massive doubt.

To ameliorate the uncertainty and unrest among the population, appeasement was common place.  Bargaining to keep the general population below their boiling point was a part of the “passing the buck” and shifting blame and destroying the truth with bribery and false testimony.  Was any hope to be found for the human race so long ago?

Hope sprang eternal with a single sacrifice.  One died on behalf of the many.  It was not just a volunteer who stepped forward.

Rather it was the only one who could be a substitute for all.  Even the very wicked were represented by the perfect sacrifice of love.  Jesus, the Christ, willingly gave Himself as a substitutionary death for all.

That is Good Friday.  An ignominious death so long ago has impacted the eternity of all forever and ever.  His one submissive act to have His blood shed gave all mankind hope through the amazing grace of God’s redemption.

Yes, that is a mouthful.  However, it was that magnificent.  It was such a phenomenal act of mercy that even the world’s worst had a chance to turn, repent and believe.

That is why Good Friday is good.  It was a horrible day because of the death of the only perfect One.  Yet, it was the best event for mankind in anticipation of the new life to come.

photo credit: brucefong photography

The grounds of the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley were warmly welcoming.  All of our now adult children joined us for this first-time experience.  Our first grandchild added a lot of joy to this visit.

It was breathtaking to take in the expanse of the 100 acre mountainous Southern California setting.  The land for this special memorial center was a private donation.  We paused several times to enjoy the vistas before we ever entered the library.

Our family gathered around the elevated bronze sculpture of President Reagan that greeted all guests.  His cheerful smile made me smile with all of the confidence that he poured into his leadership of our great land.  I remember the confidence that I hoped my children would someday sense as young Americans.

Inside of the museum we sat down to view a welcome video with words spoken by Ronald Reagan himself.  He told us of his intentions when he first stepped into the office of the President of the United States.  They were historic inspiring words.

His hope was to restore the American spirit.  He knew that the problems facing the USA were grave.  Our national economy was in trouble.

American morale was dangerously low.  Hope in the American dream was waning. Our national election gave Ronald Reagan our trust to change things back to the exceptionalism that was woven into the very fabric of this great country.

At the inauguration ceremony Reagan’s swearing in was done using his mother’s Bible.  Today that Bible is encased in the library opened up to 2 Chronicles 7.14  ”If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal the land.”

His mother inscribed in her Bible a thought for the day: ”You can be too big for God to use, but you cannot be too small.”  Did she have some inclination that this would help chart the course for her son?  It is a valuable piece of wisdom for any who would enter a position of notoriety and influence.

With every display and around every corner there were insights into what made this man into a remarkable leader.   Reagan would realign America with the great blessings in its founding.  He would also influence the world to find a better course toward peace.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Joshua 23
Part 6 of 6

When someone has marked our lives, their last words to us are forever fixed in our minds. We remember vividly what a special person has said to us in their retirement, their death or their departure. It means a lot to us when those final words are a charge to us and our choices and behavior.

Joshua was an amazing leader for Israel. This historic moment of this faithful general to his leaders has a piercing impact on his hearers. Everyone receives, understands and initially embraces this direction from their leader.

Loyalty to their leader, however, is not the primary basis of their life of obedience. Instead, Joshua points out what they themselves had experienced. They were eyewitnesses of God’s great favor and blessing in their lives. Each of the leaders saw God’s provision and miraculous intervention for the nation with their own eyes.

Do you remember God intervening in your life? How did that make you feel at the time? Has that attitude faltered over time? Is your life a life marked by obedience or by compromise?

Immerse yourself into God’s Word. Then, as you see Him active in your life, resolve to live a life of immediate and complete obedience to Him. Do not just remember His Words, live His words.

Thanks for joining me on this journey of living the Scripture

Joshua 23
Part 5 of 6

Joshua makes a bold but perfectly acceptable promise. With the LORD on Israel’s side, no one will be able to stand against her. This is kind of faith and trust that should lead the nation to step out boldly in precise obedience to God’s Word.

It is, however, not just God’s promise of His powerful presence that should move Israel to immediate obedience. Their love for the LORD their God must be their driving motivation. It is not a matter of a military pact. Rather it is a relationship of love that is at the core of this arrangement.

Any compromise on Israel’s part will exclusively be her responsibility. God will not shrink back on His love for the nation or His devotion for her. The only way that God will not provide for Israel is her own choice to turn away from God.

It is true for modern days as well. If we walk with God He will be faithful and provide for us. When we love Him and obey Him, He keeps on guiding our steps and leading us in the way in which we should go.

Joshua gives Israel a baseline for her confidence. God has fulfilled every promise that He has made to Israel in bringing them to the Land. This is without exception and should give the people confidence to respond in love and obedience as well.

More later…

Joshua 23
Part 4 of 6

Since the leaders of Israel had been eyewitnesses of God fighting very clearly for them, they are now obligated to hear and obey Joshua’s charge to them. He commands them to “be very strong”. They must make this choice of their own volition. Each one of them must be determined with this step.

Too often we are fearful of the circumstances that we face or the doubt in our spirit to achieve or overcome. When God leads us in a certain direction, we can resolve to courageously be obedient

Furthermore, Joshua charges them to “obey all . . . the Book”. This makes it clear they must know the Word of God. The more time we spend in His Word the better we will know what He wants us to do.

Then, once knowing the Book is accomplished, it must also be obeyed. The charge to “obey” assumes that knowledge exists of what we are to do. This pattern is a constant in God’s Word. First, know what God has said, then obey what His Word has said.

Precision in obedience is essential to obedience. The response to God’s Word must not only be immediate but it must also be accurate as well as thorough. Humanly we wallow too often in partial, compromised or half-hearted efforts as our excuse for following the Lord.

More later…

Joshua 23
Part 3 of 6

It was as rescue workers combed the devastated town of Castilian Springs, Tennessee, that firefighter David Harmon came across what looked “like a baby doll”.
“He was laying face down with his arms above his head… He was just laying there motionless, wasn’t moving,” Mr. Harmon said.
The baby was lying 100m or more from the ruins of his house. His mother, 23-year-old Kerri Stowell, was found dead in the same field.
He was taken to the children’s hospital at Vanderbilt University, but had only light cuts and bruises.
Dr. Tom Morgan said: “Maybe he landed on something that lessened his blow, maybe he, you know, came down against a bush or something. I think it was probably…God’s grace.”

When we are eyewitnesses of God’s grace, our lives are changed forever. It is not a story we read or something we heard someone else say. Rather, when we are a part of a story then our very lives are changed.

Joshua had led Israel from the crossing of the Jordan River to the completion of three major military campaigns. Now, God assesses Joshua’s age: he is old, very old. Perhaps Joshua had been in the land up to 20 years. His time is over so he summons the leaders to give them a charge from God. He emphasizes their experience as eyewitnesses of God’s amazing acts.

They know without anyone else prodding them, they were eyewitnesses of God fighting for them. The phrase “you yourselves have seen” highlights this first person reality that is undeniable.

More later…

Joshua 23
Part 2 of 6

The nation of Israel is coming into her inheritance of the Land. It has not been easy. Many rigorous military campaigns have been waged to get to this point.

However, war wears on a people. There is a longing for peace and an end to conflict. Unfortunately, people in this mood can become careless.

Joshua is concerned for the complacency that he senses is creeping into the mindset and attitude of the people. They are looking for a shortcut, an easy conclusion to war. A compromise and a feeling of finding a settlement are pressing on their minds.

Israel too easily accepts the idea of joint occupancy. God has clearly directed through Joshua for the nation to clean out the Land of those who are not followers of YHWH. Yet, Israel falters, fails and justifies a compromise.

Israel fails to discern that living with people who do not share the same faith will lead them to accept a diluted faith. Partial obedience never provides satisfaction. Instead, a bondage and corruption of their own faith will be inevitable.

More later…

Joshua 23
Part 1 of 6

There are humorous words spoken by people trying to make a career in business. Mistakenly, they were not prophets and guessed wrong on the future of their field. Those in the world of science, technology and music all let words fly. Later, they would likely have preferred not to be remembered by those attempts at prophecy.

The chairman of a major technology company estimated, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
The President of a major digital equipment company in 1977 declared, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
A memo in a major communications company in 1876 concluded, “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”
An Ivy League professor in management responded to a paper by Fred Smith, eventual founder of FedEx, on a reliable overnight delivery service, “The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.”
A major recording studio rejected a contract with the Beatles in 1962 concluding, “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”

More remarkable are the words of important leaders who speak memorable words. Joshua’s words are memorable and are captured in the last two chapters of the book bearing his name. Chapter 23 records the words Joshua speaks to Israel’s leaders. Chapter 24 records the similar words Joshua speaks to the people in general.
More later…

IMG_3574When history is the topic at hand and mouths yawn, I perfectly understand.  After all, I am a teacher and have been exposed to many circumstances that make slumber a viable option for exhausted students.  Some topics like history have a tendency to seem boring.

However, there are certain history stories that have so greatly impacted our lives and in my case my faith that they are exhilarating!  The Bible is a case in point.  This treasured book is the product of historical finds of ancient manuscripts.

Once a shepherd boy or perhaps a goats herder was wondering in the desert region of Qumran.  He was trying to round-up any stray animals.  That is when he spied a cave.

Naturally, an animal trying to escape the heat and sun may have sought shelter in such a place of refuge.  The boy tossed a rock inside to scare any of his animals out.  Instead, he heard the crashing sound of broken pottery.

Now, his curiosity got the better of him.  He climbed into the cave and saw that his stone had broken a clay vase.  Parchment with writing on them were strewn about.

He brought some of these back to his father.  They kept them for later use.  When they went to a market place they attempted to trade these, barter for items they needed.

The price of these ancient manuscripts of the Bible were ridiculously low.  In actuality they were priceless. Someone in the marketplace recognized the intrinsic value of them and got the herdsmen to agree to show them where they were discovered.

This launched one of the largest most productive archeological expeditions in modern times.  From this came many other caves.  Ultimately, over 900 fragments and manuscripts of the Bible and other historic notations as well we retrieved from these caves.

It was a great find because of the historic significance.  Yet, there was more than that.  These documents validated the precision of the current Bible translations that were being used in modern times.

The Bible is not only an amazing anthology written over decades by scores of different authors.  It is a well-preserved book with an uncanny accuracy that has spanned the ages of civilizations and catastrophic human events.  These caves in this desolate part of the world are a major player in this profound validation of the Holy Bible.  Not a bad story that all began with a shepherd boy tossing rocks into a cave.

photo credit: brucefong photography

 

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