Friday, October 30, 2009
September 11 is an important date in our history. On September 11, a foreign enemy attacked America’s largest seaport. There was smoke and fire that obscured the horrible loss of life from the explosions.
But I’m not talking about September 11, 2001, I’m talking about September 11, 1814. British sea forces started bombarding Ft. McHenry at Baltimore, Maryland, America’s largest seaport at the time. It is called the War of 1812, and most Americans don’t realize how close we came to surrendering our tenuous independence that had been won only thirty years earlier.
Three weeks earlier, British General Robert Ross made a tactical error. Instead of attacking Baltimore immediately, he attacked Washington D.C. which had only 8,000 residents, half of whom were slaves. There was little resistance, and the British captured Washington easily. President James Madison had fled earlier in the day, but Dolly Madison had remained at the White House setting her huge table with forty places for what she hoped would be a victory banquet. She stayed until she saw the British soldiers approaching the White House. As she fled, she quickly took a painting of George Washington down from the wall, cutting it from its frame and an original copy of the Declaration of Independence.
The enemy soldiers entered the White House and found the table set for a banquet with food in the kitchen. General Ross and his officers sat down and enjoyed a sumptuous meal, courtesy of the First Lady. Then they set fire to the White House and other public buildings. Dolly Madison watched from a nearby hillside as our nation’s capital burned.
However, the very next day, an unusual weather phenomenon occurred. Although hurricanes seldom make landfall around Washington, a violent hurricane roared ashore and two hours of torrential rain and winds extinguished the fires, and the White House wasn’t completely destroyed. Tornadoes spawned by the hurricane killed more British soldiers than the battle of Washington itself!
The weather was so bad that General Ross decided to leave Washington rather than occupy it. As he was leaving he asked an American lady: "Great God, Madam! Is this the kind of storm to which you are accustomed in this infernal country?" The lady answered, "No, Sir, this is a special interposition of Almighty God to drive our enemies from our city."
Indeed, you won’t read this in the history books, but that storm probably turned the tide and made the difference between defeat and victory in the War of 1812. Had Washington burned to ground and the British troops not been decimated by the storm, we might be loyal subjects of Queen Elizabeth to this day! But God intervened.
Then General Ross moved what was left of his troops north toward Baltimore. On the fateful date of 9/11, (September 11, 1814) he launched the attack on the final American stronghold of Fort McHenry that guarded the Baltimore harbor. He sent orders for the ships in the harbor to start shelling the Fort. On the next day, September 12, General Ross was fatally wounded by an American teenage sniper as he led his troops. Ross was carried to a ship for medical attention and died there.
Meanwhile, a lawyer from Baltimore who was also a published hymn writer had rowed out under a flag of truce to one of the British ships to discuss a prisoner exchange with the British officers. He successfully negotiated the exchange, but because the bombardment of the Fort had commenced since he had boarded the ship, he wasn’t allowed to sail back toward Baltimore.
It was a fierce attack on Fort McHenry. The British Navy was the strongest in the world and had the most modern weapons of the time. They fired over 1500 shots at Fort McHenry including the new Congreve Rockets that left red trails of sparks as they streaked through the sky. ("the rockets’ red glare") The ship cannons shot bombs with delayed fuses that often exploded in the sky before they reached the target ("the bombs bursting in air").
The commander of Ft. McHenry was Major George Armisted. He realized the importance of this battle for the future of the young nation. So to inspire his troops, he had ordered a huge battle flag to fly over the fort. It was 40 feet long and 32 feet wide - with fifteen stars and fifteen stripes to represent the 15 young states. To give you a feel for the size of the flag, each red and white stripe was 2 feet wide.
The young lawyer and hymn writer was forced to watch the terrible bombardment from the British ship in the harbor. After sunset as night fell, he caught glimpses of the huge flag. Throughout the night it was often obscured by the smoke of the bombing. He watched the rockets red glare and the bombs bursting in air, and he wondered if there would even be a fort, or a flag, or a nation by the next morning. Because of the constant bombing, it was impossible to sleep, so early the next morning the young hymn writer, whose name was Francis Scott Key, rushed to the rail of the ship to see the damage.
The early eastern sun illuminated the fort and as the gentle breeze blew the smoke away, there was silence because the British had expended all their ammunition. Key saw an amazing sight. There, fluttering in the morning breeze, was the huge flag - tattered from shrapnel, but still proud. He was so moved that he wrote down a hymn on the back of a letter he had in his pocket. That hymn later became our national anthem.
Listen to his words again: "O! say can you see by the dawn's early light What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming. Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming. And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh say does that star-spangled banner yet wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?"
That hymn was sung and played for years after the War of 1812, but it wasn’t until 1932 that it became our official national anthem. All of us who love America also love the flag and the national anthem, but notice that the first stanza ends with a question: DOES the star-spangled banner yet wave over our land? It does now, but for how much longer? The Bible says, "The wicked shall be turned into hell; and every nation that forgets God." (Psalm 9:17)
Francis Scott Key’s question is answered in the rest of his hymn. The biggest problem with our national anthem is that we stop singing with the first stanza and most people don’t even know there are four full stanzas. You should read all of them, but the last stanza is the best one. It doesn’t end with a question, it ends with a powerful declaration. And it is a declaration that America needs to wake up and rediscover. Let’s let it speak for itself: "O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand; Between their loved home and the war's desolation! Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land; Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation. Then conquer we must, when our cause is just, And this be our motto: ‘IN GOD IS OUR TRUST.’ And the star-spangled banner in triumph SHALL wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"
Concerned Christians should face this powerful truth: As long as our motto is: IN GOD IS OUR TRUST, then we will remain a great nation. Ronald Reagan hit the nail on the head when he stated, "If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under."
Let's start singing the LAST stanza of our National Anthem!
Comments? write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
This Sunday I resume my teaching series from Matthew entitled, “Parables and Miracles.” If there is one prevailing theme that runs through Matthew’s narrative, it is that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. Matthew used the phrase “to fulfill what was spoken about him by the prophet” fifteen times. He quotes the Old Testament writers several dozen times. As I am preparing this Sunday’s message about how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies, I don’t have time to develop EVERY Old Testament prophecy, so I wanted to provide a list of fulfilled prophecies for those who want access to them.
Sometimes people ask for “proof” that Jesus really was who He claimed to be - the Messiah, the Son of God. Pure faith doesn’t need evidence – but that doesn’t mean it has to be a blind faith. Our faith is based on TRUTH and there is an insurmountable volume of EVIDENCE that Jesus is the Messiah. There were dozens of meticulous prophecies predicting the details of the Messiah’s life made in the Old Testament. These prophecies were written between 500 and 1,500 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. That is a historical literary fact not challenged by any reputable literary scholar. And when you study the life of Jesus of Nazareth, you can’t argue with the fact that He fulfilled all of these Messianic prophecies. Some of these prophecies He could have intentionally fulfilled (like riding on a donkey into Jerusalem). But most of them were beyond His control (I doubt He told the Roman soldiers not to break His legs).
Christian mathmetician, Dr. Peter Stoner, wrote a book several years, Science Speaks, in which he caluclated the odds of one person randomly fulfilling just EIGHT of these prophecies. His results were that a person had one chance in 10 to the 28th power. That's 1 in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 chances!
Here's a commentary from Dr. Stoner's book. Unless you have a college degree in math and statistics, you'll probably get lost, but it's interesting nonetheless.
"What are the odds that any man living from the day of these prophecies down to the present time? To get this answer, we divide our 10 to the 28th power by the total number of people who have lived since the time of these prophecies. At the time this book was published we come up with 88 billion people or 8.8 X 10 to the tenth power.
To simplify it let’s round it off to 10 to the 11th power. The odds of any one man who lived from the the the prophecies were made until the present time and fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 10 to the seventeenth power.
Can we visualize this with an illustration? Suppose we took an atheistic professor, blindfolded him and covered the state of Texas two feet deep with silver dollars. Then we put a check on one of those silver dollars and mixed them up. The odds of one person fulfilling just these eight prophecies would be the same as this atheistic professor selecting the silver dollar upon which we have placed a check, in his first try.
There are some 300 - 350 prophecies which were written in the Old Testament to help us identify which person is the promised Messiah. Suppose we add eight more prophecies to our list? And assume that their chance at being fulfilled by just one man is the same as the eight prophecies just considered. Those odds would be 10 to the 28th power X 10 to the 17th power or 1 in 10 to the 45th power.
How big would a ball of silver dollars be using this number? Its diameter would be thirty times the distance from the center of the earth to the sun. Let’s take that same atheistic professor, put a space suit on him, place a check on one of those silver dollars and shoot him out into space. Do you think he would pick the silver dollar with a check on it the first time? Maybe if we left his blindfold off.
Now let’s keep the same odds and chose 48 prophecies. The odds of one person fulfilling them all would be 1 in 10 to the 157th power. But now the silver dollar pile is too large to make a comparison, so let's change from silver dollars to electrons.
It takes 2.5 X 10 to the 15th power of electrons laid side by side to make a line single file ONE INCH long. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. Suppose we made a solid ball of electrons extending all directions from the earth to the distance of 6 billion light years. Dr. Stoner continues, “Suppose again we had this great amount of electrons, 10 to the 157th power of them, and we were abler to make 500 of these tremendous balls, 6 billion light-years in radius, each minute. If we worked day and night it would take us 10 to the 10th times the 6 billion years back to creation to use up our supply of electrons.” (p. 111) Please put a check on one of these tiny electrons.
Now lets take this same atheistic professor and ask him to find the marked electron on his first try. Remember, these are the odds of one man fulfilling just 48 of the 300-350 Messianic prophecies. Whom among us can deny Christ’s credentials? The universe is not large enough to contain the evidence!
Stoner adds, “Any man who rejects Christ as the Son of God is rejecting a fact proved perhaps more absolutely than any other fact in the world.” (p. 112)
A former agnotic attorney, Lee Strobels, became a Christian after seriously studying Dr. Stoner's book regarding these prophecies and the astronomical improbability of any fulfilling them randomly. Today, Strobels is one of the leading spokesmen for intellectually stimulating faith in Jesus.
So here’s the incontrovertible truth: Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the Messianic prophecies predicted hundreds of years before He was born. How can any honest, intelligent, thinking person ignore this body of evidence? To me, it’s not faith that is blind, it is UNBELIEF THAT IS BLIND.
37 MESSIANIC PROPHECIES FULFILLED BY JESUS:
1. The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem.
Old Testament Prophecy: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village in Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.” Micah 5:2
New Testament Fulfillment: “Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod.” Matthew 2:1
2. The Messiah will be a descendant of Judah.
Old Testament Prophecy: “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will obey.” Genesis 49:10
New Testament Fulfillment: Luke 3:23-38 and Matthew 1:1-17 confirm that Jesus is a descendant of Judah.
3. Foreign kings will present gifts to the Messiah.
Old Testament Prophecy: “The western kings of Tarshish and the islands will bring him tribute. The eastern kings of Sheba and Seba will bring him gifts.” Psalm 72:10-11
New Testament Fulfillment: “About that time, some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We have seen his as it arose, and we have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1-2
“They entered the house where the child and his mother, Mary, were, and they fell down before him and worshiped him.” Matthew 2:11
4. The Messiah will be a descendant of David.
Old Testament Prophecies: “The Lord swore to David a promise he will never take back: ‘I will place one of your descendants on your throne. If your descendants obey the terms of my covenant and follow the decrees that I teach them, then your royal line will never end.” Psalm 132:11
“‘For the time is coming,’ says the Lord, ‘when I will place a righteous Branch on King David’s throne. He will be a King who rules with wisdom. He will do what is just and right through the land.” Jeremiah 23:5-6
“At that time I will bring to the throne of David a righteous descendant, and he will do what is just and right throughout the land.” Jeremiah 33:15
New Testament Fulfillment: “He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Luke 1:32-33
5. The Messiah will be born of a virgin.
Old Testament Prophecy: “All right then, the Lord himself will choose the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel – ‘God is with us.’” Isaiah 7:14
New Testament Fulfillment: “But while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancee, being a just man, decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace her publicly. As he considered this, he fell asleep, and an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. ‘Joseph, son of David,’ the angel said, ‘do not be afraid to go ahead with your marriage to Mary. For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’” Matthew 1:18-21
6. Innocent children will be slain in an effort to kill the Messiah.
Old Testament Prophecy: “This is what the Lord says: ‘A cry of anguish is heard in Ramah – mourning and weeping unrestrained. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted – for her children are dead.” Jeremiah 31:15
New Testament Fulfillment: “Herod was furious when he learned that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill al the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, because the wise men had him the star first appeared to them about two years earlier. Herod’s brutal action fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah.” Matthew 2:16-17
7. The Messiah will be taken to Egypt.
Old Testament Prophecy: “When Israel was a child, I loved him as a son, and I called my son out of Egypt.” Hosea 11:1
New Testament Fulfillment: “That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: ‘I called my Son out of Egypt.’” Matthew 2:14-15
8. The Messiah will be called the Son of God.
Old Testament Prophecy: “The king proclaims the Lord’s decree: ‘The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son. Today, I have become your Father. Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the ends of the earth as your possession.” Psalm 2:7-8
New Testament Fulfillment: “And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with him.’” Matthew 3:17
9. The Messiah will be preceded by the messenger of the Lord.
Old Testament Prophecy: “Listen! I hear the voice of someone shouting, ‘Make a highway for the Lord through the wilderness. Make a straight, smooth road through the desert for our God. Fill the valleys and level the hills. Straighten out the curves and smooth off the rough spots. Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all the people will see it together. The Lord has spoken!” Isaiah 40:3-5
New Testament Fulfillment: “In those days John the Baptist began preaching in the Judean wilderness. His message was, ‘Turn from your sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near.’ Isaiah had spoken of John when he said, ‘He is a voice shouting in the wilderness: ‘Prepare a pathway for the Lord’s coming! Make a straight road for him!’” Matthew 3:1-3
10. The Messiah will be anointed by the Holy Spirit.
Old Testament Prophecy: “And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.” Isaiah 11:2
New Testament Fulfillment: “After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with him.’” Matthew 3:16-17
11. The Messiah will be a light in Galilee.
Old Testament Prophecy: “Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will soon be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light – a light that will shine on all who live in the land where death casts its shadow.” Isaiah 9:1-2
New Testament Fulfillment: “When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he left Judea and returned to Galilee. But instead of going to Nazareth, he went to Capernaum, beside the Sea of Galilee, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.” Matthew 4:12-16
12. The Messiah will preach good news to the poor, comfort the broken hearted, and announce the year of the Lord’s favor.
Old Testament Prophecy: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has appointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to announce that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” Isaiah 61:1-2
New Testament Fulfillment: “When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. The scroll containing the messages of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him, and he unrolled the scroll to the place where it says: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.’ He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. Everyone in the synagogue stared at him intently. Then he said, ‘This Scripture has come true today before your very eyes!’” Luke 4:16-21
13. The Messiah will be hated without cause.
Old Testament Prophecy: “Don’t let my treacherous enemies rejoice over my defeat. Don’t let those who hate me without cause gloat over my sorrow.” Psalm 35:19
New Testament Fulfillment: “Anyone who hates me hates my Father, too. If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be counted guilty. But as it is, they saw all that I did and yet hated both of us – me and my Father.” John 15:23-25
14. The Messiah will heal the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the mute.
Old Testament Prophecy: “And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will shout and sing!” Isaiah 35:5-6
New Testament Fulfillment: “John the Baptist, who was now in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, ‘Are you really the Messiah we’ve been waiting for, or should we keep looking for someone else?’ Jesus told them, ‘Go back to John and tell him about what you have heard and seen – the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him: ‘God blesses those who are not offended by me.’’” Matthew 11:2-6
15. The Messiah will enter Jerusalem riding a donkey.
Old Testament Prophecy: “Rejoice greatly, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey – even on a donkey’s colt.” Zechariah 9:9
New Testament Fulfillment: “Jesus sent two of them on ahead. ‘Go into the village over there,’ he said, ‘and you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them here. If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord need them,’ and he will immediately them.’” Matthew 21:1-4
“The two disciples did as Jesus said. They brought the animals to him and threw their garments over the colt, and he sat on it. Most of the crowd spread their coats on the road ahead of Jesus, and other cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. He was in the center of the procession, and the crowds all around him were shouting, ‘Praise God for the Son of David! Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Praise God in the highest heaven!’ The entire city of Jerusalem was stirred as he entered. ‘Who is this?’ they asked. And the crowds replied, ‘It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’” Matthew 21:6-11
16. The Messiah will arrive in Jerusalem at a specific time.
Old Testament Prophecy: “Now listen and understand! Seven sets of seven plus sixty-two sets of seven will pass from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One comes.” Daniel 9:25
New Testament Fulfillment: “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law.” Galatians 4:4
17. The Messiah will enter the Temple with authority.
Old Testament Prophecy: “‘Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Malachi 3:1
New Testament Fulfillment: “Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the merchants and their customers. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the stalls of those selling doves. He said, ‘The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a place of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!’” Matthew 21:12-13
18. The Messiah will be despised by the people.
Old Testament Prophecy: “He was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we did not care.” Isaiah 53:3
New Testament Fulfillment: “And Pilate said to the people, ‘Here is your king!’ ‘Away with him,’ they yelled. ‘Away with him – crucify him!’ ‘What? Crucify your king?’ Pilate asked. ‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the leading priests shouted back.” John 19:14-15
19. The Messiah will be silent in front of his accusers.
Old Testament Prophecy: “He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.” Isaiah 53:7
New Testament Fulfillment: “Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, ‘Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?’ But Jesus remained silent.” Matthew 26:62-63
20. The Messiah will be rejected by the Jews.
Old Testament Prophecy: “The stone rejected by the builders has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous to see.” Psalm 118:22
New Testament Fulfillment: “Yes, he is very precious to you who believe. But for those who reject him, ‘The stone that was rejected by the builders has now become the cornerstone.’” 1 Peter 2:7
21. The Messiah will be betrayed by a friend.
Old Testament Prophecy: “Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me.” Psalm 41:9
New Testament Fulfillment: “The Scriptures declare, ‘The one who shares my food has turned against me,’ and this will soon come true. I tell you this now, so that when it happens you will believe I am the Messiah.” John 13:18-19
“Jesus said, ‘It is the one to whom I give the bread dipped in the sauce.’ And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. As soon as Judas had eaten the bread, Satan entered into him.” John 13:26-27
22. The Messiah will be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver.
Old Testament Prophecy: “And I said to them, ‘If you like, give me my wages, whatever I am worth; but only if you want to.’ So they counted out for my wages thirty pieces of silver.” Zechariah 11:12
New Testament Fulfillment: “Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the leading priests and asked, ‘How much will you pay me to betray Jesus to you?’ And they gave him thirty pieces of silver.” Matthew 26:14-15
23. The 30 pieces of silver will be thrown in the potter’s field.
Old Testament Prophecy: “And the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potters’ – this magnificent sum at which they valued me! So I took the thirty coins and threw them to the potters in the Temple of the Lord.” Zechariah 11:13
New Testament Fulfillment: “When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and other leaders. ‘I have sinned,’ he declared, ‘for I have betrayed an innocent man.’ ‘What do we care?’ they retorted. ‘That’s your problem.’ Then Judas threw the money onto the floor of the Temple and went out and hanged himself. The leading priests picked up the money. ‘We can’t put it in the Temple treasury,’ they said, ‘since it’s against the law to accept money paid for murder.’ After some discussion they finally decided to buy the potter’s field, and they made it into a cemetery for foreigners. That is why the field is still called the Field of Blood.” Matthew 27:3-8
24. The Messiah will be accused by false witnesses.
Old Testament Prophecy: “Malicious witnesses testify against me. They accuse me of things I don’t even know about.” Psalm 35:11
New Testament Fulfillment: “Many false witnesses spoke against him, but they contradicted each other.” Mark 14:56
25. The Messiah will be beaten, mocked, and spit upon.
Old Testament Prophecy: “I give my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pull out my beard. I do not hide from shame, for they mock me and spit in my face.” Isaiah 50:6
New Testament Fulfillment: “Then they spit in Jesus’ face and hit him with their fists. And some slapped him, saying, ‘Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who hit you that time?’” Matthew 26:67
26. The Messiah will be beaten, bloodied, and disfigured.
Old Testament Prophecy: “See, my servant will prosper; he will be highly exalted. Many were amazed when they saw him – beaten and bloodied, so disfigured one would scarcely know he was a person.” Isaiah 52:13-14
New Testament Fulfillment: “Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. The soldiers made a crown of long, sharp thorns and put it on his head, and they put a royal purple robe on him. ‘Hail! King of the Jews!’ they mocked, and they hit him with their fists.” John 19:1-3
27. The Messiah will be mocked and challenged to save himself.
Old Testament Prophecy: “Everyone who sees me mocks me. They sneer and shake their heads, saying, ‘Is this the one who relies on the Lord? Then let the Lord save him! If the Lord loves him so much, let the Lord rescue him!’” Psalm 22:7-8
New Testament Fulfillment: “The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the other leaders also mocked Jesus. ‘He saved others,’ they scoffed, ‘but he can’t save himself! So he is the king of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross, and we will believe in him! He trusted God – let God show his approval by delivering him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ And the criminals who were crucified with him also shouted the same insults at him.” Matthew 27:41-44
28. The Messiah’s hands and feet will be pierced.
Old Testament Prophecy: “My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and feet.” Psalm 22:16
New Testament Fulfillment: “Carrying the cross by himself, Jesus went to the place called Skull Hill (in Hebrew, Golgotha). There they crucified him.” John 19:17-18
29. The Messiah will be given vinegar to drink.
Old Testament Prophecy: “But instead, they give me poison for food; they offer me sour wine to satisfy my thirst.” Psalm 69:21
New Testament Fulfillment: “They offered him wine drugged with myrrh, but he refused it.” Mark 15:23
30. The Messiah’s enemies will throw dice to divide his clothes.
Old Testament Prophecy: “My enemies stare at me and gloat. They divide my clothes among themselves and throw dice for my garments.” Psalm 22:17-18
New Testament Fulfillment: “When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among the four of them. They also took his robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. So they said, ‘Let’s not tear it but throw dice to see who gets it.’” John 19:23-24
31. The Messiah’s bones will not be broken.
Old Testament Prophecy: “The righteous face many troubles, but the Lord rescues them from each and every one. For the Lord protects them from harm – not one of their bones will be broken!” Psalm 34:19-20
New Testament Fulfillment: “The Jewish leaders didn’t want the victims hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath at that, because it was the Passover), so they asked Pilate to hasten their deaths by ordering that their legs be broken. Then their bodies could be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was dead already, so they didn’t break his legs.” John 19:31-33
32. The Messiah’s heart will be poured out like water.
Old Testament Prophecy: “My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me.” Psalm 22:14
New Testament Fulfillment: “One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and blood and water flowed out.” John 19:34
33. When the Messiah is struck down, His disciples will be scattered.
Old Testament Prophecy: “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, the man who is my partner, says the Lord Almighty. Strike down the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn against the lambs.” Zechariah 13:7
New Testament Fulfillment: “‘Tonight, all of you will desert me,’ Jesus told them.” Matthew 26:31
“At that point, all the disciples deserted him and fled.” Matthew 26:56
34. The Messiah will be buried in a rich man’s grave.
Old Testament Prophecy: “He had done no wrong, and he never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave.” Isaiah 53:9
New Testament Fulfillment: “Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long linen cloth. He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled the great stone across the entrance as he left.” Matthew 27:59-60
35. The Messiah will be raised from the dead.
Old Testament Prophecies: “For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your godly one to rot in the grave.” Psalm 16:10
“But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of death.” Psalm 49:15
New Testament Fulfillment: “Then the angel spoke to the women. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He has been raised from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples he has been raised from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee.’” Matthew 28:5-7
36. The Messiah will bear our sins and intercede for sinners.
Old Testament Prophecies: “Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the guilt and sins of us all.” Isaiah 53:4-6
“From prison and trial they led him away to his death. But who among the people realized that he was dying for their sins – that he was suffering their punishment?” Isaiah 53:8
“But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and fill him with grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have a multitude of children, many heirs. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s plan will prosper in his hands. When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of what he has experienced, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. I will give him the honors of one who is mighty and great, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among those who were sinners. He bore the sins of many and interceded for sinners.” Isaiah 53:10-12
New Testament Fulfillment: “For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty. He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins. For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us. God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times. And he is entirely fair and just in this present time when he declares sinners to be right in his sight because they believe in Jesus.” Romans 3:23-26
37. The Messiah will ascend to heaven.
Old Testament Prophecy: “When you ascended to the heights, you led a crowd of captives.” Psalm 68:18
New Testament Fulfillment: “While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven.” Luke 24:51
COMMENTS? Email me at email@example.com
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Over the next few Sundays in August, I’m teaching a series called, “THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO TV - a biblical teaching series for a generation of screenagers.”
As I prepared for this series, I asked my friends on Facebook to tell me what they think are the BEST and WORST current television shows. (Of course, I would choose Andy Griffith for the best show, and although it’s technically still on TV land, it’s really not what I’d consider a current TV show. So thanks to all of you who said Andy Griffith and I Love Lucy!)
I received almost 100 responses, and I tabulated them below for my unofficial DOD TV SURVEY. See if you agree with the results:
(receiving honorable mentions were The Amazing Race, 24, and the Office)
KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS
(receiving dishonorable mentions were Desperate Housewives, Nip and Tuck and Nancy Grace).
I haven’t seen any of the best, but one friend said that the show “Lost” is a parable of the Christian life, so I might check it out. Some of my personal favorites are Grey’s Anatomy (don't freak out...just hear this Sunday’s message); and The Deadliest Catch (the only show I DVR). Of course, during college football season I’m watching anytime OU or Auburn is playing.
This is a great place to address the question, “Pastor, should a Christian even watch a show like Grey’s Anatomy?” Well, I'm a Christian and I watch it. There are some Christians who sincerely believe that they shouldn’t watch any secular television, movies, or listen to secular music. I don’t have an argument with them because if watching this kind of television show causes them to stumble or sin, then they should definitely cut it off. Over the next few months as I teach through Matthew I'm going to address Jesus' words where He said that if your right hand causes you to sin, then cut it off. He wasn’t speaking literally, but if watching a certain show causes you to sin, I mean it literally - cut it off.
Some people remind me of the man who complained about all the sex and violence on his DVR! In Romans 14 Paul used the example of eating meat sacrificed to idols as an illustration of "disputable matters" that Christians shouldn't argue over. If watching a television show tempts you beyond your ability to resist, by all means, DON'T watch it. But if you can watch a show like Grey's Anatomy and understand that it reflects our corrupt culture, then maybe the misery of these fictional characters can give you some insight into the lives of real people who desperately need the HOPE that can only be found in Jesus.
"The Gospel According to TV" is an example of a "topical message series." This kind of topical series is outside my comfort zone. My typical Sunday morning style is to take a book of the Bible and teach through it verse by verse. I’m currently teaching through the “Parables and Miracles” in Matthew’s gospel. This is my favorite kind of Bible teaching because I believe God’s Word was written to be read and studied, verse by verse, line upon line, precept upon precept. This kind of expository Bible teaching builds strong Christians and strong churches.
Some of the younger pastors who are starting contemporary churches usually avoid long biblical series like the plague. They prefer short, topic-driven series that utilize current themes. I’m not criticizing them, and I say, “go for it if you’re reaching people for Christ!” But some of these young leaders have been told they can’t grow churches these days with expository, verse by verse preaching. Over the past 18 years, I’ve taught through most of the books in the New Testament and quite a few Old Testament books as well. And God has blessed our church with healthy growth!
So even though my favorite style is verse by verse, I enjoy taking a break every now and then during these lengthy series to provide a little variety. Over the past few years, I’ve taken August to present a different kind of series. I’ve done “The Gospel According to Country Music;” “No, that’s NOT in the Bible;” and “The Gospel According to GSPN.” Last August, during the Beijing Olympics, I taught a series called, “Go for the Gold – How to become a Champion for God.” These series are available online here.
So, I’m looking forward to this current series, “The Gospel According to TV.” My message titles are: “Grace Anatomy;” “American Idols;” “And Now a Word from our Sponsor;” “Desperate Households” and “Sunday Morning Live.”
It should be fun. These messages are going to be a little about TV and a lot about Jesus!
Want to still weigh in on what you think are the BEST and WORST shows on television? You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
This week, I’ve been preaching at the Salem Camp Meeting near Covington, Georgia. It is the oldest continually running Camp Meeting in America. It started in 1828 and it has been meeting every summer since then. In fact, this week is the 181st meeting. I’m honored to be the keynote speaker each day at this refreshing experience.
So, back to the question--What's A Camp Meeting? Camp Meetings are a rich part of our southern spiritual heritage. They were both a catalyst and a result of the Second Great Awakening that swept through our young nation in the beginning of the 19th Century. As settlers moved westward and southward from the original 13 colonies, most of the families lived on farms that were isolated from their neighbors. The demands of these pioneer farms required that family members work hard to survive. Many of them lived without the benefit of having a local church, but they were committed Christians. Camp Meetings sprung up as an answer to the spiritual need of these brave pioneers. After the crops were “laid by” in the summer before the time of harvest, families would pack up their wagons and gather together to have a week or two of spiritual refreshing. Hundreds of people would gather and camp out in tents for the duration. There would be plenty of food, fellowship, and activities, but the main focus was on the preaching and music.
Today, at Salem Camp Meeting, they carry on the tradition. Hundreds of people and dozens of families gather at this location year after year for a combination of a family reunion and a revival. The families occupy “tents” which are actually rustic cabins that surround the several-acre property. Some of them were the original hand-hewn cabins built in the 19th century, but most of them have been upgraded to include air conditioning these days. Twenty to fifty extended family members may occupy one tent! When the families aren’t worshipping or eating, they are simply sitting out on the porches in rocking chairs visiting and resting. Remember those days? It’s a stark contrast to the mad rush of the modern world that is spinning just a few hundred yards from the camp property.
Many of these families have been attending Salem Camp Meeting for generations. They come back each summer because their grandparents came, their parents came, and they came every year as kids, and now they bring their children. There is a wonderful combination of sweet, elderly saints, young adults, and plenty of children singing and laughing as they ride their bikes around the open-air tabernacle. It’s almost like going back in time – a better time when family and faith were the two things that mattered the most.
In addition to the families who are staying in the tents, many residents from the area attend the services each day at 11am and 8pm. Choirs from many local churches come and provide special music, too.
The outdoor tabernacle was built in 1828. I’m amazed as I look at the huge hand-hewn timbers that support the massive roof. They were smart engineers back then without the benefit of computers or even blueprints. The only new addition is a shingle roof on the exterior which replaced the “brush arbor” from the earliest years. This tabernacle has stood through storms and heat for 181 years. The tabernacle’s roof begins about seven feet above the ground then soars to about sixty feet – and the principle of heated air rising actually draws a nice breeze into the outdoor pavilion. The air rises up through the exposed interior roof and escapes through an ingenious vent at the peak of the ceiling. I’ve been preaching at 11am and 8pm and I haven’t sweated any more than I do in the Worship Center at Green Acres. Amazing!
The dirt floor is covered with a thick layer of sawdust (wood chips) which also seems to keep the area cool as well. The old wooden benches have had cushions added, but it’s easy to imagine people sitting there in the same spots worshipping and hearing God’s Word 181 years ago!
I’ve been eating every day in the dining hall and the food is pure southern cuisine. They serve fried chicken every meal except breakfast! And there is plenty of fresh vegetables and cornbread, too. I’m becoming a “big preacher” just from being here a few days! I never thought I would tire of fried chicken, but I’m getting close! I feel like the Baptist preacher who was served fried chicken every meal for a week, and he really didn’t like chicken. He arrived at the ninth house in a row serving fried chicken and was asked to pray the blessing. He said:
“Lord, I’ve had it hot, I’ve had it cold;
I’ve had it young, and I’ve had it old;
I’ve had it tender, and I’ve had it tough;
But, thank you, Lord, I’VE HAD ENOUGH!”
In the 19th century, pioneers would pack a year’s worth of worship in just a few days of preaching and singing. God did a mighty work through these Camp Meetings. And I have sensed His presence in a mighty way this week at the Salem Camp Meeting.
Maybe what America needs for the next Great Awakening is a few more camp meetings! I wonder where we would be if we took a lesson from generations past.
If you want more information about the Salem Camp click here
Comments? Email me at email@example.com
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I’ve always had an eclectic appreciation for music and enjoy a wide variety of genres. On my Facebook info page, I say my favorite music group is the Green Acres Celebration Choir and orchestra – I DO love hearing them week after week and listening to their latest CD in my truck.
But still, I've listened to different kinds of music since the time I was a teenager. I grew up listening to the Beatles. I made my first foray into music performance when two of my 6th grade friends and I declared ourselves “The Potato Bugs.” (We thought the Beatles were beetles – bugs, you see). We dressed up in potato sacks (honestly) and even sang at several places, including a talent competition at Florala High School (it was a shock when we didn’t win).
In High School, I was the lead singer and rhythm guitarist in a rock band called “The Inverted Illusion.” This was during the early 70’s when rock bands were named by choosing a random adjective and linking it with a random noun. Bands of the day included Iron Butterfly, Led Zepplin, and the band we modeled ourselves after: Grand Funk Railroad.
Today students have to have a DJ who spins the tunes, but back in the 70’s a live band was required for a good dance. So, the Inverted Illusion actually got PAID to play at quite a few Friday night dances. We weren’t that good, but we were very loud (and as they used to say about songs on American Bandstand, “It has a good beat and you can dance to it.”) The amplifier for my Fender Telecaster was as big as a doorway, and I think I still suffer a little hearing loss from those days. One of our songs was “In-A-Gadda-da-Vida” (by Iron Butterfly). It had a ten-minute drum solo that allowed the other three of us to put our guitars down and go get a coke while our drummer sweated away.
In college, I was in a touring group called “The Hear and Now Singers.” Sadly, some of those pictures have appeared on my Facebook page. We wore California-designed jumpsuits, and our concerts were professionally choreographed. We sang Christian songs as well as songs by Chicago and other popular groups.
I still enjoy most kinds of music (except heavy metal rock music and gangsta rap). Since I’m a huge Beatles fan I’ve downloaded almost all of their songs, as well as hundreds other songs. I was one of the early Napster downloaders (before file sharing was declared illegal). At the time, I had a dial-up modem, so the download times were agonizingly slow. I would start downloading a single song and then go off and watch TV for the next 15 minutes as one song downloaded! Since Napster was declared illegal, I’ve since been downloading songs using iTunes.
Despite the grey in my hair, I’m not just an “oldies” music guy. I have XM radio. I can read Lady Ga Ga's pa-pa-pa-poker face. And I know the Ting Ting's real name. But one of my favorite current groups is Nickelback. They’re a Canadian rock band who chose their name because band member Mike Kroeger used to work at Starbucks (when coffee was $1.95), so he found himself often saying, “here’s your nickel back.”
A couple of their recent songs sound like something you’d hear me say on Sunday mornings. Here are some of the lyrics to “If Today Was Your Last Day.”
My best friend gave me the best advice
He said each day's a gift and not a given right
Leave no stone unturned, leave your fears behind
And try to take the path less traveled by
That first step you take is the longest stride
Against the grain should be a way of life
What's worth the prize is always worth the fight
Every second counts 'cause there's no second try
So live like you'll never live it twice
Don't take the free ride in your own life
If today was your last day
And tomorrow was too late
Could you say goodbye to yesterday?
Would you live each moment like your last?
Leave old pictures in the past
Donate every dime you have?
Would you call old friends you never see?
Reminisce old memories
Would you forgive your enemies?
Would you find that one you're dreamin' of?
Swear up and down to God above
That you finally fall in love
If today was your last day
If today was your last day
Would you make your mark by mending a broken heart?
You know it's never too late to shoot for the stars
Regardless of who you are
So do whatever it takes
'Cause you can't rewind a moment in this life
Let nothin' stand in your way
Cause the hands of time are never on your side.
Another song I like is entitled, “If Everyone Cared.” The chorus says: “If everyone cared and nobody cried; If everyone loved and nobody lied; If everyone shared and swallowed their pride: then we’d see the day when nobody died.” Of course, even if people behaved better, people would still die, but fewer people would die at the hands of evil people.
Nickelback isn’t the first group to moralize with their music – almost all groups get around to trying to make the world a better place. In 1965 Jackie DeShannon sang, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” John Lennon preached his morality in “Imagine.” Pink warns young girls to strive for success in “Stupid Girls.” And, of course, Bono uses U2's music to preach for social justice.
To me, these and hundreds of other pop and rock songs just prove that there is a universal desire to make the world a better place. In other words, these musicians are all looking for THE ANSWER.
As Christians, we’ve found it – actually we’ve found HIM. Andre’ Crouch put it this way:
JESUS IS THE ANSWER;
FOR THE WORLD TODAY;
ABOVE HIM THERE’S NO OTHER;
FOR JESUS IS THE WAY!
So, go ahead and enjoy your Nickelback, but don't settle for anything less than the priceless GIFT of eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord!
comments? email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
After my last blog, I wanted to update my readers on my strategy to deal with my prostate cancer. Over the past three weeks, I’ve visited with a number of doctors including a radiology oncologist, an oncologist, and another urologist. I’ve also discussed my situation with many guys who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer and are living healthy, normal lives.
After much prayer and counsel, I have decided that rather than have surgery or radiation therapy at this time, I’m going to participate in what is called “Expectant Management.” That means doing nothing (which I’m pretty good at doing) for now. I will have my PSA checked regularly and have another biopsy in a year to 18 months.
This expectant management approach is an acceptable treatment option recognized by urologists. The key is that the person with the cancer has to be able to deal with the fact that there are cancer cells present without WORRYING about it. Some people, even those with my low numbers, might opt for surgery simply because they couldn’t cope with the idea that any cancer cells are present. Although I sometimes struggle with other sins, WORRY isn’t one of them!
In addition to waiting and watching, I’m making a specific effort to eat healthier, exercise more, and to take some natural compounds shown to reduce and even eliminate prostate cancer. These include Selenium, Pomegranate Juice, and other antioxidants. I appreciate all the suggestions and sample nutrients that members of Green Acres have shared with me.
Mainly, I’m depending on prayer. I have been humbled and overwhelmed by the expressions of prayer and encouragement that I have received over the past couple of months. Several groups in our church (including our deacons, Sunday Morning Bible Study groups, and other individuals) have laid hands on me and prayed for my healing.
My attitude is that of the Apostle Paul when he wrote:
"For I KNOW that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to LIVE is Christ and to die is GAIN!" (Philippians 1:19-21)
So, even though I’m not going to undergo treatment, please don’t stop praying for me. I’m asking God to remove even the few cancer cells that are present so that when I have the next biopsy in a year or so, we will find that it is GONE!
Friday, April 24, 2009
It may be a little unusual to post such personal health information on my blog, but I believe that this is probably the best way to get the word out to the hundreds of friends who have told me they’re praying for me and are interested in the results of my prostate biopsy. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about let me give you a little background.
As you can tell by reading the blog “Who moved the Stone?” below, I had the wonderful privilege of having a kidney stone in January. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise (Romans 8:28) because it led to (or was the result of, who knows?) a urinary infection which in turn led my doctor to recommend that I undergo a TUR surgery (Trans Urethral Resection of the Prostate). As part of the TUR surgery, a small amount of tissue removed from the prostate is routinely sent to a pathology lab. The pathology report revealed the presence of a low grade/early stage cancer of the prostate (only about 3% of the cells were cancerous).
Any time you hear the “C” word, it’s a little scary. But I never was scared or worried. And since I firmly believe in the power of prayer, I shared this information with our congregation and many other friends. I didn’t want to keep it private because I wanted as much prayer cover as possible. Over the past six weeks, I’ve been humbled and overwhelmed by the many expressions of love and the promises of prayer from people in Green Acres, Tyler, and around the nation. (Even if there were some weird rumors going around like I had colon cancer and was resigning from Green Acres!)
Six weeks after the TUR surgery my doctor had scheduled a prostate biopsy. I had that done on April 14. My doctor removed twelve cores of tissue from my prostate (another fun day), and these were sent to the pathology lab. I met with my doctor earlier today (April 23) to discuss the results of the biopsy and the report was WONDERFUL! I left his office praising the Lord.
Of the 12 samples, only one showed any misshapen cells that could be considered cancerous, and they are the same early stage/low grade cells that were found from the TUR surgery. So, the worst case would have been if they found more advanced, wider-spread cancer in the prostate, but instead, there is only a small presence (which we already knew from the TUR results).
For those who understand the medical numbers, my PSA is 2.9, The focal area on the one core showed low-grade adenocarcinoma with Gleason score 6 (3+3). Using the TNM staging scale, the cancer stage is T1a.
So, I am praising God for this good report! It just “happened” by “coincidence” that the passage I’ve been studying and preparing to teach on this Sunday is Matthew 6:25-34 where Jesus said, “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life ….Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” Of course the word “coincidence” isn’t in God’s vocabulary! And I can honestly say that I haven’t been worried about what the results of the biopsy would show. And I’m not worried about the future.
I’m not naïve enough to believe Bobby McFerrin’s song, “Don’t worry, be happy!” Instead, the song I’m singing is:
“God is good all the time;
He put a song of praise in this heart of mine.
God is good all the time;
through the darkest night, His light will shine.
God is good; He’s so good; All the time!”
As far as treatment options, I’m going to be discussing these with a couple of other doctors (including my daughter and son-in-law, who are both physicians). I’m a good candidate for the “expectant management” treatment, which means that my doctor watches my PSA and performs another biopsy in a year to see if there is any change. Another option would be to undergo radiation therapy, which I am also investigating. As I consider my options, I covet your prayers and any advice from those of you who have walked in my shoes.
For your information, I feel great and am only able to play golf about six days a week now.
Basically, I want you to know how much I appreciate your prayers and support. It means more to me than you’ll ever know. I agree with the sentiment of the Apostle Paul who wrote these words to the brothers and sisters in Phillipi, “For I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” (Philippians 1:19)
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Saturday, April 18, 2009
Not long ago I spoke on 2 Corinthians 13:12 where Paul encouraged the Believers to "greet one another with a holy kiss." I believe there is a greater need for us to express affection within the Family of God. Here's what I said in that message:
Have you ever heard preachers or teachers say that a kiss on the cheek was the general social custom of the time, and that today since our custom is shaking hands that we should substitute a handshake instead of a kiss? That sounds good, but it causes us to miss a very important point. All it takes is a study of the secular customs of the Roman culture and you will find that KISSING ON THE CHEEK was NOT a regular form of greeting among friends - they would actually shake hands - or men would grasp each others forearms - haven’t you seen the movies? Spartacus says, “Andronicus, how are you? And he grabs his forearm. Actually handshaking originated to show that a person was not holding a knife or sword in their hand.
During the time Paul wrote this, a kiss on the cheek was a custom reserved for family members. It’s the same with us; we kiss our children, our parents and grandparents, and our brothers and sisters, but we rarely kiss strangers. The point Paul was making is that the people in our church aren’t strangers, we’re part of the Family of God. We’re brothers and sisters in Christ, and when we gather together it’s like a family reunion. I never really liked for my Aunt Gertrude to kiss me because she wore a lot of lipstick and I usually had to wipe it off my face, but I sure loved her banana pudding so I endured her kisses! In other words, we should show the same affection here that we show to our biological family - maybe even more! Now I’m not advocating a frenzy of kissing, I’m just saying that we ought to be free to express holy affection to one another. That’s a lot better than getting one of those dead-fish handshakes and a mumbled hello.
Somebody sent me the picture (see above) of two infants. The story sounded almost too good to be true, but I checked out the facts and discovered that it is an inspirational, true story about the value of affection. Much of this information was gleaned from a blog by Donald DeMarco, a seminary professor in Cromwell, CT.
Kyrie (red dot on diaper) and Brielle Jackson were born on Oct. 17, 1995, a full 12 weeks ahead of their due date. At that time the standard practice at the Medical Centre of Central Massachusetts in Worcester, where the twins came into the world, was to place them in separate incubators in order to reduce the risk of infection.
Kyrie's birth weight was two pounds, three ounces. She gained weight quickly and slept calmly. Brielle, however, three pounds lighter than her sister, had breathing and heart-rate problems. The oxygen level in her blood was low, and her weight gain was slow. On Nov. 12, tiny Brielle went into critical condition. Her stick-thin arms and legs turned bluish-grey as she gasped for air. Her heart rate soared. The Jackson parents watched, terrified that their little daughter might die.
It is said that desperate moments call for desperate measures. Nurse Gayle Kasparian, after exhausting all the conventional remedies, decided to try a procedure that was common in parts of Europe, but virtually unknown in the United States. With parental permission, she placed the twins in the same bed. No sooner had she closed the incubator door, Brielle snuggled up to Kyrie and began to calm down. Within minutes, her blood-oxygen readings improved. As she dozed, Kyrie wrapped her left arm around her smaller sister. Brielle's heart rate stabilized and her temperature rose to normal.
In due time, the twins went home. Their parents placed them, once again, in the same bed where they continued to thrive. Even after five years, according to mom and dad, the twins still sleep together and, not surprisingly, still snuggle.
The photograph of Kyrie hugging her little sister, dubbed "the Rescuing Hug," appeared in both Life magazine and Reader's Digest. It brought fame to the pair and spurred a growing interest in co-bedding premature twins, triplets, and quads. The University of Massachusetts Memorial, for example, has co-bedded at least 100 sets of multiple-birth preemies. Observing this practice over a period of five years, the hospital staff there have not found a single case of twin-to-twin infection.
Someone has said that we need four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance, and 12 for growth. This may not be mathematically accurate, but it does illuminate a truth about human beings: "I touch, therefore we are," is infinitely more revealing of human nature than "I think, therefore I am."
Science tells us that hugging is healthy in a variety of ways. It strengthens our immune system, reduces stress, assists sleep, and is an antidote to depression. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill state that cuddling with your spouse can be good for your blood pressure. Kathleen Keating may not tell us everything we want to know about the mutual benefits of hugging in her book, The Hug Therapy, but she does make it clear that hugging can be wonderfully therapeutic in a variety of ways for people of all ages.
We adults are often blind to the obvious. Sometimes, it takes two premature infants to remind us of what kind of beings we are. Through hugs and handshakes, smiles and squeezes, touches and tickles, kisses and cuddles, we honor and affirm one another. This is not something we need to learn. Brielle and Kyrie knew this long before they were conscious of it. But it is something we may need to re-learn, and surely something we should never forget.
So, as you head out into your world of people, don’t be asking yourself, “Who is going to hug me?” Instead be asking, “Who can I hug today?” Hugs are MUCH better than drugs!
Comments? Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
President Obama ran on the slogan: “Change We Can Believe In” and then “Change We Need.” I’ll be the first to admit that we’re in a financial mess, and we “need” some fundamental changes. However, one of the proposals of the President’s 2010 budget plan is to reduce the tax deduction that can be claimed for charitable donations. This includes money given to churches as well as other non-profit organizations. This effectively means a TAX HIKE for the most generous donors.
I believe that this is a CHANGE WE DON’T NEED! If you agree, then join what FoxNews has called “The Charity Revolt” and let your voice be heard. To me, this proposal is a violation of the principle of separation between church and state because the people most affected by this proposal will be religious donors.
Americans are generous givers, but studies have proven that “religious people” are much more generous than “secularists.” In the year 2000, religious Americans (33% of the population who attend worship at least once a week) were 25 percentage points more likely to give charitably than “secularists” (27% who attend worship less than a few times a year, or claim no religion). In terms of actual dollars given, religious Americans gave nearly four times more money per year ($2,210) than secularists ($642). Religious people also volunteered more than twice as often as secularists. (According to an article in The American Magazine.)
Many charities and non-profits that depend on their endowment income have been adversely affected by this recession. At a time when philanthropic giving is dropping, this proposal could drive the nail in the coffin for some non-profit ministries and organizations that depend heavily on large donations from generous givers. Most churches will survive, but they will be required to reduce their budgets if their most generous givers are penalized for making large donations.
The Obama Administration’s response to criticism of this measure is that the government is going to give money to non-profits to make up for this shortfall. Budget Director Peter Orszag said, “Contained in the recovery act, there’s $100 million to support nonprofits and charities as we get through this period of economic difficulty.” (quoted in The Washington Times, 2/27/09)
Okay, let me get this straight. The government is going to PENALIZE people who give the most to support churches and charities, and then they are going to turn around and compensate by giving government money to nonprofit organizations? How much of that $100 million do you think churches or uniquely Christian charities will receive? Don’t hold your breath. (Remember, ACORN is also a non-profit organization.) This is just another example of the government wanting to get into the business that has always been reserved for churches and charities.
We teach and practice that God’s Word instructs us to give a tithe (10%) to the Lord’s work. This proposal will penalize many people who are trying to honor the Lord by giving Him ten percent of their income to His work. This proposal doesn’t limit the amount most Americans can deduct for their donations; instead, it targets families making over $250,000 per year. It’s still a bad idea because it penalizes those who give the MOST money to churches and other charitable organizations.
The previously cited article in The American Magazine reports that the top 10% of households with an average income donate 25% of the all the money that is contributed to charity. And households with a net worth of $1Million or more are responsible for 50% of all charitable gifts. I’m surprised that there isn’t a louder outcry over this proposal from churches and other non-profit organizations.
This is certainly not an attack on President Obama because I am committed to pray for him and, unlike Rush, I wish him (and pray for) success as he leads us out of this recession.
However, we can’t be too surprised about this proposal because charitable giving doesn’t appear to be a high priority in his life. His and Michelle’s tax returns are public record, and over the past seven years, the average income they reported was $551,000 (a low of $241,000 in 2000 and a high of $1.6 million in 2005). The average percentage of their income that the Obamas gave to charity over that seven-year period was 2.17%.
But compared to Vice-President Joe Biden, the Obamas are wildly generous! Over the past decade, Mr. Biden and his wife Jill (a college instructor) gave a TOTAL of $3,690 to charity. That computes to an average of 0.2% of their income to charity. That’s not two percent – that’s two-tenths of a percent.
Contact the White House and your Senators and Representatives to express your opinion about this proposal. If you want to join THE CHARITY REVOLT then contact the White House and your representatives and say or write:
“I’m opposed to the Administration’s 2010 budget plan to reduce itemized tax deductions for charitable giving.”
As I said in the beginning of this blog, this is a CHANGE WE DON’T NEED. If you agree, then you need to let your voice be heard in Washington –NOW! I’ve included the contact information for the White House and for Texas and East Texas. You can click here to find the contact information for your own Senators and Representative.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500
Representative Louie Gohmert
1121 ESE Loop 323, #206
Tyler, TX 75701
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison
284 Russell Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Senator John Cornyn
100 E. Ferguson St., #1004
Tyler, TX 75702
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I write this blog with apologies to Frank Morison who has written a wonderful book with the same title about the scientific proof for the literal resurrection of Christ.
However, the stone I’m writing about isn’t as large or significant as the stone that was rolled away from the tomb of Jesus. My stone was a pernicious kidney stone.
I’ve never had a kidney stone before, but I’ve been associated with two guys who had kidney stone attacks. The first one was when I was in college on a youth retreat. Robert, a tough guy who played college basketball, was one of our leaders. About 1:00am he woke me up with his face drenched in sweat and a wild look in his eyes. He said, “You’ve got to drive me to the hospital.” So I loaded him into the back of my 1972 Plymouth Satellite Sebring and we took off for the 40-mile drive to Jackson Hospital in Montgomery, Alabama. He was sitting/lying/climbing the walls of the back seat while his wife was trying unsuccessfully to hold him down. He was screaming with a guttural roar that sounded like an angry male moose. I’m driving thinking, “Come on, suck it up, it can’t be that bad.” Yes it can.
My second vicarious kidney stone experience happened in seminary. I was singing in the Easter cantata at the church where I served as Associate Pastor. Halfway through the performance, Barry (the minister of music) suddenly turned green and started sweating profusely. Next, he bent over awkwardly to one side making it hard to follow his direction. He finally waved his arms in defeat, called a stop to the music and hurried off the platform. Everyone was so stunned, we didn’t know what to do. A minute later, his wife scurried back on stage and motioned for me. She said that Barry was on the way to the ER with a kidney stone. Would I mind finishing directing the Easter musical? I remember thinking, “C’mon Barry, what a pansy!” He wasn’t.
At 3:00am on January 16, 2009 (three hours into my 56th birthday) I awoke with a dull pain in my lower left back that felt like a muscle strain. The pain wasn’t severe, but it was annoying enough to keep me from going back to sleep. I finally got up at 5:00 as I do on Fridays to teach our Men’s Fraternity group at church. I made it through that with no real trouble. It was fortuitous that I had a regular appointment already scheduled with my urologist that morning, whom I shall lovingly refer to as Dr. Jekyll. When I described my symptoms, he suspected it was a stone and sent me to another location for a CT scan. Happy Birthday to me. The scan revealed that there was a fairly large stone (5mm) present. But it still wasn’t hurting too badly, and, hey, I’m a tough guy. Meanwhile, my kidney function was also below acceptable levels, so my urologist and primary doctor (who I will affectionately reference as Dr. Feelgood) discussed admitting me to the hospital. Happy Birthday to me.
They were ready to admit me, but when my daughter (who is a Dermatologist) weighed in with the fact that I wasn’t really hurting (because I’m so tough), they agreed to allow me to stay at home and just come in on Saturday for an outpatient blood test. They told me to drink LOTS of water, so I was obediently guzzling it by the gallon. After a good night’s rest on Friday, I had decided that this kidney stone deal was a piece of cake and, as I had suspected all along: Robert and Barry were wimps. I was wrong.
On Saturday afternoon, I suddenly went from feeling a dull pain in my back to scream-like-a-girl level of pain in a matter of minutes. Let me see if I can help you understand how to replicate what I felt that day. First, get an aluminum softball bat and have someone start tapping you on your lower back – gently at first like shiatsu massage. But increasing in force until your “masseuse” is swinging for the fences. Don’t stop there, however. While they are hitting you with the bat as hard as they can, drive a dull nail through the bat and keep hitting. Then, with the person still hitting you with the nail/bat, have someone stand in front of you and take a very sharp ice pick and start poking your bladder from the front. Both people must keep poking and swinging until you are certain that the nail and ice pick are meeting somewhere between your kidney and your bladder. Then it gets bad. The bat and the nail and the ice pick get bigger.
I’ve never taken much prescription pain medication, but I had an old prescription bottle of Percocet. I took one – no change after an hour. So, I took another one. I couldn’t tell that it helped at all, but, hey, I am a tough guy so I’m trying to tough this out. I spent most of Saturday night pacing from one side of my house to the other (which seemed to take my mind off the pain), bent over in pain, singing every praise song I know between groans and grimaces. I’d try lying down, but the pain was too bad, so I’d get up and walk again. Then it got worse.
By Sunday morning, I was in such pain that I was nauseated (a new experience for me), so I couldn’t even keep water down. My daughter and son-in-law (who is also a doctor) arrived at our house after church and realized that I needed to get to the hospital asap. My daughter called Dr. Feelgood and Dr. Jekyll and they agreed.
So, for the first time in my life, I was admitted to the hospital. But to be honest, I don’t remember much about it. I recall getting into the hospital bed and getting an IV in the back of my hand.
The nurse giving me 4cc’s of morphine said, “this should take away the pain.” It didn’t. The pain was still there causing me to double up and need to walk around. That’s when the wonderful Dr. Feelgood came in. He works with many hospice patients so he is somewhat of an expert on pain medication. When he saw the morphine wasn’t working, he ordered Diladid (I think that’s it). Almost immediately, the pain disappeared as I vanished down into a warm, fuzzy, rabbit hole. (That’s why I call him Dr. Feelgood) So finally the pain was gone, but the stone was still there.
On Monday, Dr. Jekyll decided to “go after that pesky stone.” Because of the location of the stone, lithotripsy (using sound waves to crush the stone) wasn’t an option. Before I went into surgery, they gave me more drugs, which induced conscious sedation. I don’t know what that means, but I’m sure that all I did was quote scripture verses. Right. Then they gave me general anesthesia, and Dr. Jekyll did his thing. I’m not going to offend your sensibilities by telling you how he went after that pesky stone, just know that it wasn’t pretty. He wasn’t able to extract it during surgery. I think he only made it mad. Have you ever tried to drag a cat out from under a bed when the cat doesn’t want to come out from under the bed? I imagine that’s what that stone was doing – backing up and hissing at the surgical instruments.
So the good Dr. Jekyll inserted a device forged from the depths of hell called a uretral stent inside the tiny tube that runs from my kidney to the bladder. The purpose of the stent was to dilate the ureter to allow the stone to exit. But the stent gave the stone a good run for the pain money! But the only time it hurt was when I breathed. Seriously, it hurt for a few days, and then felt better.
About a week ago, I was scheduled for another visit to Dr. Jekyll to go after the stone again. I had another CT scan performed before the visit to his office, and the scan revealed that THE STONE WAS GONE!
I had gotten emails and cards from friends quoting scripture saying, “this, too, shall pass.” Well, if I passed it, I wasn’t aware of it. Friends who’ve had kidney stones assure me that you KNOW when it passes. So I feel blessed that the stone is gone, and I’m feeling good again. I deeply apologize to Robert and Barry for thinking they were wimps, and I have a new found empathy for people who have kidney stones. I really do appreciate both Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Feelgood, and I have promised both of them that I will drink LOTS of water to prevent future stones. But, WHO MOVED THE STONE? Only God knows.
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Monday, February 2, 2009
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Adrian Rogers was one of my heroes and mentors. I always considered him to be the “prince of preachers.” Over the last decade before he went home to be with Jesus, I had the privilege of knowing him on a personal level. He was a kind, compassionate, witty, positive friend who encouraged me and other young pastors. I miss him. In these days of economic bail-out plans, perhaps we need to hear his words of wisdom again:
“You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom.
What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation.
You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.”
Dr. Adrian Rogers, 1931-2005
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
UPDATE: Click here for a video of this amazing story!
One of my favorite Sports Writers is Rick Reilly. For years, the first page I would read in my Sports Illustrated magazine was his column on the back page. Rick has left SI and writes for ESPN Magazine now. One of his recent columns was so good that I want to share it with you. The following is his article:
They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down in Grapevine, Texas.It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.
Did you hear that? The other team's fans?
They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, "Go Tornadoes!" Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.
It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on—by name.
"I never in my life thought I'd hear people cheering for us to hit their kids," recalls Gainesville 's QB and middle linebacker, Isaiah. "I wouldn't expect another parent to tell somebody to hit their kids. But they wanted us to!"
And even though Faith walloped them 33-14, the Gainesville kids were so happy that after the game they gave head coach Mark Williams a sideline squirt-bottle shower like he'd just won state. Gotta be the first Gatorade bath in history for an 0-9 coach.
But then you saw the 12 uniformed officers escorting the 14 Gainesville players off the field and two and two started to make four. They lined the players up in groups of five—handcuffs ready in their back pockets—and marched them to the team bus. That's because Gainesville is a maximum-security correctional facility 75 miles north of Dallas . Every game it plays is on the road.
This all started when Faith's head coach, Kris Hogan, wanted to do something kind for the Gainesville team. Faith had never played Gainesville , but he already knew the score. After all, Faith was 7-2 going into the game, Gainesville 0-8 with 2 TDs all year. Faith has 70 kids, 11 coaches, the latest equipment and involved parents. Gainesville has a lot of kids with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery—many of whose families had disowned them—wearing seven-year-old shoulder pads and ancient helmets.
So Hogan had this idea. What if half of our fans—for one night only—cheered for the other team? He sent out an email asking the Faithful to do just that. "Here's the message I want you to send:" Hogan wrote. "You are just as valuable as any other person on planet Earth."
Some people were naturally confused. One Faith player walked into Hogan's office and asked, "Coach, why are we doing this?"
And Hogan said, "Imagine if you didn't have a home life. Imagine if everybody had pretty much given up on you. Now imagine what it would mean for hundreds of people to suddenly believe in you."
Next thing you know, the Gainesville Tornadoes were turning around on their bench to see something they never had before. Hundreds of fans. And actual cheerleaders!
"I thought maybe they were confused," said Alex, a Gainesville lineman (only first names are released by the prison). "They started yelling 'DEE-fense!' when their team had the ball. I said, 'What? Why they cheerin' for us?'"
It was a strange experience for boys who most people cross the street to avoid. "We can tell people are a little afraid of us when we come to the games," says Gerald, a lineman who will wind up doing more than three years. "You can see it in their eyes. They're lookin' at us like we're criminals. But these people, they were yellin' for us! By our names!"
Maybe it figures that Gainesville played better than it had all season, scoring the game's last two touchdowns. Of course, this might be because Hogan put his third-string nose guard at safety and his third-string cornerback at defensive end. Still.
After the game, both teams gathered in the middle of the field to pray and that's when Isaiah surprised everybody by asking to lead. "We had no idea what the kid was going to say," remembers Coach Hogan. But Isaiah said this: "Lord, I don't know how this happened, so I don't know how to say thank You, but I never would've known there was so many people in the world that cared about us."
And it was a good thing everybody's heads were bowed because they might've seen Hogan wiping away tears.
As the Tornadoes walked back to their bus under guard, they each were handed a bag for the ride home—a burger, some fries, a soda, some candy, a Bible and an encouraging letter from a Faith player.
The Gainesville coach saw Hogan, grabbed him hard by the shoulders and said, "You'll never know what your people did for these kids tonight. You'll never, ever know."
And as the bus pulled away, all the Gainesville players crammed to one side and pressed their hands to the window, staring at these people they'd never met before, watching their waves and smiles disappearing into the night.
Anyway, with the economy six feet under and Christmas running on about three and a half reindeer, it's nice to know that one of the best presents you can give is still absolutely free.
by Rick Reilly, ESPN Magazine
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