Filed under: Christian Living, Church, Old Testament, Religion
Primitive Methods Don’t Suit
Today, reading and writing are common. Letter writing happens daily and book publishing isn’t far behind.
Even the blind and deaf have the means and skills to write out their thoughts, and technology makes it possible for them to communicate those ideas easily.
For most of human history that wasn’t true.
Writing has been around for a long time but the earliest format, engraving on stone, was restrictive to say the least. Just ten commandments required two stone tablets. Tom Clancy’s latest book would require a mountain of rock.
Even when lighter materials like papyrus became popular copies could only be reproduced by hand making it very difficult to circulate documents widely.
If you are of the opinion that following the old paths means eschewing technology, you’ll need a truck to carry your Bible to church each Sunday. You’ll struggle to flip to the book of Psalms too.
Not to worry, though. Since reading wasn’t as widespread in the Old and New Testaments as it is now reproduction and circulation weren’t issues.
But, these facts do raise an obvious question. If written documents couldn’t be shared easily, and many couldn’t read or write anyway, how were community-relevant ideas communicated.
The answer to that question is quite primitive. The most popular form of communication throughout most of human history was the spoken word and the best way to spread important news quickly and widely was through public proclamations.
These proclamations were made by specially designated people in high-traffic locations like the city gates or the courthouse steps. The people appointed for the task were known as the Town or Public Criers and they were clad in special clothing to single them out. It was all very official.
Even as far back as the time of Esther (5th century BC) the King’s official proclamations were communicated to 127 provinces by couriers and criers. It took several months to get the message out but considering the geography and the lack of technology, that’s not bad.
Criers were the interface between governments and the communities they governed. When information needed sharing, criers would ring a loud bell and cry “hear ye, hear ye” – or something similar. Once they had everyone’s attention the crier would then state or read the announcement.
Those who heard the announcement would pass it along mouth to ear, mouth to ear, mouth to ear and so on, but it all started with a public proclamation.
Education, democracy and technology have made criers obsolete. Education makes reading, writing and thinking skills common. Democracy encourages the sharing of ideas publicly. Technology makes it possible for those ideas to spread quickly.
There’s really no comparison between the media of the New Testament and the media of today. Resonant penetrating criers of yesteryear are easily drowned out by today’s most mild mannered tweets.
This brings me to the topic of this post: Preaching. Read more
Is Not Possible
There are several words associated with religion, some of which are complimentary and others not. A few can be taken both positively and negatively.
A good example is the word school. Church is a place of learning so we call it a Sunday School. That can be good or bad.
Some kids love school and some hate it but most adults regret not taking advantage of the opportunity when they had it.
In other words, they’ve learned to love what they used to hate.
But there are other words which aren’t so easy to work around. They are used as insults when referring to the church and believers take it personally. One such word is Crutch. Read more
Filed under: Bible Study, Church, Ministry Methods of Jesus
The Popular Savior Didn’t Work
The Personal Savior Did
Jesus was and is a personal Savior.
Not a celebrity Savior. Not a professional Savior.
You don’t need an appointment with Jesus. You won’t need to locate Jesus or travel to where He works because He’s never far away. He doesn’t maintain office hours and He isn’t limited to one location.
He’s mobile. He finds you and hangs around.
He’s very hands-on. He ministered to people individually in the New Testament and still does that today. Mass meetings weren’t His style. He spent most of His time teaching small groups of people. Often it was just the 12 disciples.
He drew big crowds but not on purpose. Even when surrounded by masses, He remained focused on individuals.
- He spoke to and healed the man born blind in Jerusalem.
- He healed the Centurion’s servant, and although He never saw or spoke directly to the Centurion or the servant, the healing sent a very personal message to the Centurion.
- He healed Peter’s mother-in-law while staying in Peter’s house. The place of healing can’t be more personal.
- Jesus touched a leper to signal a healing. That was seriously personal. Lepers were touch starved. It couldn’t have been more psychologically (personally) medicinal.
In some cases He took individuals away from the crowd to do His work.
- The deaf mute along the Sea of Galilee is a good example.
He was celebrated but His celebrity never influenced how He conducted His ministry. He could work quietly in the background or in the middle of a crowd. He maintained focus in all situations. When surrounded and pressed by onlookers, He managed to single out the needy person and minister to them individually.
Crowds were a barrier but not for Jesus. They got in the way of individuals seeking for Jesus.
- The woman who suffered with a medical problem for 12 years. The crowd was so problematic, her only option was to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.
- The bed bound cripple carried by four friends who was barricaded from Jesus by the crowd.
- Zacchaeus whose short stature made him climb a tree just to get a glimpse of Jesus as He walked by.
The crowd isn’t an intermediary. In fact, salvation requires no intermediaries. Jesus doesn’t work from a distance. He doesn’t save in person but He always saves personally.
Is Form More Important
Should you get baptized or should you not? That’s one question.
Another question, and one that is a little more difficult to answer is if you do get baptized, which baptism is best?
Those are important questions because Baptism is a Christian basic. It’s universal. It applies to every believer but there are differences of opinion on this practice.
Some believe baptism saves or at least puts one in the right place to be saved. Others believe it has nothing to do with salvation.
Some believe infants should be baptized. Others believe they shouldn’t.
Some believe baptism can be administered by pouring or sprinkling. Others believe full bodily immersion is required.
Some believe baptism can only be administered by qualified individuals. Others believe any Christian can baptize any Christian candidate.
Some believe only their denomination’s baptism is legitimate. Others believe that’s an unnecessary restriction.
Some believe the form is all important – only immersion is allowed. Others believe the heart of the individual is more important than the form.
Like belief, the decision to be baptized is individual. Unlike belief, you can’t fake it.
Probably no Christian basic has been debated more than baptism and the debates weren’t lighthearted. History records much feuding over this issue even to the point of drawing blood.
The Bible says much more about belief (faith) than baptism but what it says is important. Here are the facts:
- John the Baptist initiated the tradition of baptism.
- The high number of baptisms was evidence of John’s effectiveness.
- Jesus was baptized by John, even though John questioned this.
- Jesus first disciples were baptized by John.
- Jesus taught his followers to continue the tradition of baptism.
- From the Day of Pentecost onward disciples new believers were baptized. The practice stuck.
- Paul taught that baptism symbolized the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
From these facts we can isolate several takeaways: Read more
Filed under: Christian Living, Church, Personal Development
The Lord’s Supper
Nourishes Relationships Too
The Lord’s Supper is usually mentioned and often observed during the Easter season and there is good reason for that. It acknowledges elements of the resurrection story, the shed blood and broken body of Jesus. It makes sense.
The observance is patterned after the Last supper Jesus enjoyed before His arrest and trial. You could say it was His last moment of sanity before everything fell apart. His last quiet time before the storm.
Our church always observes the Lord’s Supper during Easter but not the stripped down version. We try to create a meal-like atmosphere. Not a full blown meal but as close as we can get during a service.
It was during a meal that Jesus instituted the symbolism of wine-to-blood and bread-to-body so there is nothing in a meal that diminishes that truth. In fact, the history of meal-time adds richness to the idea.
Unfortunately, the sense of “meal” is no longer the foundation for this memorial and the names we give it don’t help much either – communion, holy communion, Eucharist, sacrament, ordinance. In keeping with the overly religious names we give it, the observance has become more like a ceremony than a meal. And, as with all ceremonies of the religious type it is more restrictive than affirming.
It isn’t uncommon for humans to turn meal time joy into an exhibition of decorum but religion has taken that trend a step further. Participants must be members of the church and morally upright. The observance is so heavily draped in restriction that celebration is only a shadow if it is there at all.
For some the meal is a confessional. For others it is a type of mystical cleansing but there are at least three good reasons to rethink our approach. Read more