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Teaching Truth for Transformation

Since God is Good… Why?

DCF 1.0 Since God is Good, Why…

For centuries this question has been asked in various ways: “If God is good, then…” or “If God is in control, then why did… happen?” “Why does evil and suffering exist if God is loving?” These are questions skeptics’ use in an effort to discredit Christianity. Believers ask these when they go through difficulties in life, out of anger or anguish. Some ask out of a true desire to know why, while opponents ask in a way to try and demean or destroy the faith of others. Even the prophet Habakkuk asked God “why” (1:2, 13-14). One of the themes of the Book of Job is an attempt for humanity to understand the suffering of an individual, though in all of their attempts (and ours), they failed to answer the question “why.”

The “problem of evil and suffering” is something the Bible never calls a “problem.” Scripture declares the reality of these things, however. They are related, but evil and suffering are in actuality two different questions. Evil usually has to do with issues of morality, such as terrorist events, murder, genocide, war, etc. Suffering often revolves around questions concerning natural disasters, sickness, death, abuse, and more. Many theologians have given thorough replies to these questions, and in light of recent events, it is good to give a summary. We will look at foundational principles and consider some reasons for evil and suffering in the world.

4 Principles to Keep in Mind

First we must ask, why is someone asking this question! Many ask “why” out of pain, loss, or sadness. If this is the case, then the response should be framed differently for those who only want to cause strife. One’s reason(s) for asking should make us carefully consider how we answer their inquiries. One must also do some digging with wisdom and love to discover the assumptions one is making when asking these questions.

Second, we must define our terms. What is evil? What is suffering? Evil is not a thing, but a corruption, distortion, or lack of what is good. Suffering is the result of or pain caused from something or lack of something else, due to evil. In Genesis 1-2, God created everything “very good.” There was no evil or suffering. This changed in Genesis 3 when Adam, as the primary “cause,” (Romans 5) brought sin and death into the world. Since then, we live in a fallen and cursed world full of evil, pain, and suffering. This world is decaying and “groans and labors” as Romans 8:21-22 states. “Bad” things happen as Jesus said in John 16:33a. Christians and non-Christians suffer, despite false teaching which says God promises everyone health and wealth.

Third, these questions are about God’s character. Note the title – “Since God is good…” rather than, “If God is good…” Each says something different about the Lord’s character. “Since God is good,” we ask these questions. The Lord is good (1 Chronicles 16:34, Ezra 3:11, Psalm 118:29, 145:9) and more. We must start with a Biblical understanding of who He is.

Fourth, another issue is purpose. Those who are or see others going through hardship wonder if there is a reason. God is sovereign or in control over all things that occur (Genesis 1, 2 Chronicles 20:6, Job 1:21, Psalm 115:3, Matthew 10:29, Acts 17:24-28 and more). This goes back to God’s character. Because He is sovereign and good, God must have a reason for everything. While we will never have all the answers, there are helpful Biblical principles.

Reasons for Evil and Suffering

Just because we see evil or suffering today does not mean God can’t stop it. God is good and all-powerful (Psalm 147:5, Ephesians 1:19-21, Revelation 19:6 and more). However, His ways our ways (Isaiah 55:8) and He is outside of time (2 Peter 3:8) and though this is not an exhaustive list, these few reasons may help you, or help you to help others, who are asking these questions. Some reasons for evil and suffering are:

  1. To make us more like Christ – Romans 8:26-29. Paul talks about the Holy Spirit’s role in helping us pray when we don’t know what to say. It is in this context Paul says all things (including problems) work together for the good (determined by God and not us) – to make us more like Jesus! So, remember Romans 8:28 is tied to verse 29.
  2. To turn our attention away from earth to heaven – Romans 8:18-19. Suffering in this life makes us focus on the next life. We are to seek the things above and not the things on the earth (Colossians 3:1). We pay bills, go to school or work, have fun and more, and should do so with an eternal perspective. God uses pain to wake us up and remind us our home is with Him (John 14:3). Our treasure is in heaven, where our heart should be (Matthew 6:21).
  3. To remind us our dependence and security is not on what we have, but in God – Psalm 46:1. God is our security. We depend and submit to Him because of this (Romans 8:29-30, 35-39, Philippians 1:6, Hebrews 13:5-6, to name a few). We only find security in that which does not change. Only God’s word and character do not change (Psalm 118:29, 1 Peter 1:24-25, and Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8)!
  4. To lead us to the grace of God, and the God of grace, who is sufficient – 2 Cor. 12:8-10. Paul had a “thorn” in the flesh and begged God to take it away. God said, “No, My grace is sufficient.” God gave this thorn to Paul’s to keep him humble and dependent on Him. Sometimes we wish God would take away something, but He puts or keeps them there to keep us humble and dependent on Him, His grace, and remind us that He alone is sufficient!
  5. To make us repent – Amos 4:6-10. Israel rebelled often and God used evil and suffering to bring them to repentance. While we are not under the Old Covenant, the principle is the same. When we sin, He uses or brings suffering into our lives, families, churches or nations, to bring us repentance. This happened to the assembly in Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:27-32, and is seen in Job’s response in Job 42:1-6).
  6. Humanity makes choices – Joshua 24:14-15. The debate about “free will” or the “bondage of the will” is another matter. Scripture says humans make choices with consequences. While God’s creation had the potential for evil, He did not create it and does not tempt us to do evil: James 1:13-15. There is an evil one, the devil (John 8:44, 1 Peter 5:8) and a spiritual battle that is constant (Ephesians 6:10-18). Within this, people make choices which affect others. Governments rob people because of greed. Professors teach lies to students because of agendas. A selfish husband or wife, who divorces their spouse, may use children as weapons. These are evil, because the human heart is sinful. The choices people make can hurt others!
  7. God has a “greater good” for what happens – Genesis 50:20. When it comes to hurricanes, wildfires, and evil, there is a greater good. Storms distribute the earth’s heat. Wildfires put nutrients back into the ground. Remember Genesis 50:20? What Joseph’s brothers did was evil (he didn’t deny that), but God meant it for good to save many. Think of the cross! The worst human evil possible is what God used to bring salvation to those who believe in Christ.
  8. It is an opportunity for the Church to make a difference – Romans 8:9-21. Christians made a difference with the unwanted children in Rome in the first century. The Church instituted hospitals, universities, and orphanages. Christians are often in the forefront of helping those who have suffered due to natural disasters. When evil and suffering take place, we should be there with help and hope, both physically and spiritually. I lived in Sendai Japan for just over two years. In March 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami hit this and the surrounding areas. Nearly 16,000 died and many are still missing. This disaster opened the doors for Churches and ministries to help physically and spiritually. The people were open to the gospel because they saw the love Christians expressed. Some became followers of Christ because of the outreach of the Church, turning from darkness to light.
  9. To challenge our assumptions – Mark 4:1-20. When we face evil and suffering, our beliefs, faith, understanding of the Bible and who we think God is, are turned upside down at times. When we are squeezed, we discover what is in us and what needs to change! It is never pleasant, but needed. In exercise, our muscles tear, form again and become stronger. It is a painful process. God strengthens our faith and challenges our assumptions through the evil and suffering we face, to turn us to Him and His Word to learn the truth and be changed by it.
  10. We would not understand the answer even if God gave it to us – Job 38-41. In response to Job’s self-righteousness, God asked him some 70 questions! Job could not answer any of them! God showed Job that even if He explained “why,” he would not be able to comprehend. In fact, God never told Job why he went through everything. Often, we will not know why we or someone else faces evil or suffering. Sometimes, with Bible study, prayer, and discussion, we may be able to find out why and take appropriate action. But do not spend all of your time trying to figure out why, because you may not know this side of heaven.
  11. For His glory – John 9:1-3. Life is not about us. When people do their best to do things God’s way, you hear some amazing testimonies. Think of a godly wife who loves and respects her husband, even when he is not respectful and he becomes a Christian. Think of persecuted Christians who pray for their captors, and their lives impact those who did great evil. Just as Jesus healed the blind man for His glory, He uses suffering and evil we face for His glory.
  12. When we live in an area, we accept what will potentially happen. If we choose to live somewhere, we accept the possibility of suffering. Some places have crime or snowstorms; others are prone to tornadoes, droughts, floods or hurricanes. This is not comforting when everything is lost, but it is a factor we need to consider. With people having more opportunity to live in different parts of the world, the resulting potential pain and fatalities have increased.

Reason for Hope

One more thing to keep in mind is that every philosophy and religion needs to be asked these questions. Often only Christianity is considered when the questions about evil and suffering arise. However, everyone must answer them! Christians should ask non-Christians why they think evil and suffering exist. Only a Biblical worldview gives hope in the midst of the evil and suffering we see in this world.

For Habakkuk and Job, their interaction with God yielded the same results… silence (Habakkuk. 2:20, Job 40:3-5). They were speechless before God. For Habakkuk, faith also resulted after hearing what God said (Habakkuk 3:16-19). Though he did not fully understand, the prophet took comfort in the character of God and recognized His sovereign control over all things, including what he did not understand. Perhaps Job’s faith grew after his repentance in chapter 42, because he understood who God was in a deeper way.

There is evil in the world. We know this because there is a good God to compare things to. There cannot be evil unless there is a good measure to compare it with. To confess there is evil is to say there must be something or Someone outside of oneself that is ultimate good, and that is God. Suffering is the realization things are not the way they should be. Something did go wrong in Genesis 3. Sin is the cause of all problems today, but the good news is, it doesn’t end there.

God, in the eternal Person of His Son, chose to come into this world and die for sinners on a cruel cross and resurrect three days later. Through faith in Him, we have forgiveness of sins and an eternal hope. Jesus died, resurrected, and will return to establish His Kingdom, wherein dwells righteousness (2 Peter 3:13), and where no sin shall ever enter (Revelation 21:27). God will make all things right! In the end, God will personally wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:1-4). This is the Christians anchor of our soul when we face the evil and suffering in God’s world. Look to God, look to the future and remember who He is.

Written by Michael Weis, Bible teacher, Missionary, and Manager of Social Media at Zion’s Hope.

 

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Galatians 5:1 – Bondage to Freedom to Bondage

Galatians 5:1

Bondage to Freedom to Bondage

 

Galatians 5:1 – Stand fast therefore in the liberty (freedom) by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

 

Paul is correcting error in the Galatian church where Judaizers came in spreading lies. These individuals said you needed to follow the Old Testament Law in addition to God’s grace in order to be saved. Paul pronounces judgment on those who proclaim a false gospel in 1:8-9. Sadly, at least some of these followers of Christ (primarily Jewish) fell back under the burden of the Law, which cannot save and no one can fulfill, Acts 15:6-11. They fell into Legalism or believing one can be right with God through the Old Testament Law in addition to God’s grace. Paul urged them not to fall back into bondage, but to stand fast in the freedom Christ had bought for them.

 

They forgot what grace was and attempted to go back to what was familiar and comfortable and binding. Yet, rather than freedom, it put them back into the bondage Jesus had freed them from. We don’t appreciate our freedom because we don’t remember our bondage. They forgot the yoke they bore under the Law and did not appreciate the freedom they had and went back to that bondage. How sad, but Paul boldly spoke and told them of what Christ had wrought at His cross. The curse of the Law is death and when we try to “do” something to “get to God” or focus on externalism, we lose hope because sooner or later we recognize we can’t measure up to the standards, not even our own. Paul uses the phrase “yoke.” No, this is not the yolk of an egg, but a large wooden piece of equipment farmers used to control oxen when they plowed the field. It was a heavy, burdensome weight the animals bore.

 

Today, many Christians have forgotten the bondage they used to be in when it comes to sin. Yes there are specific sins, but the main thing is most don’t understand the condemnation we were under before we were saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, John 3:18-20. So many who have been freed by God’s grace go back to bondage or legalism, putting a yoke upon themselves or allowing someone else to put a yoke upon them, thinking they have to “do something” to get to God or keep in good standing with Him. This is not grace. This is not the gospel.

 

The way to freedom is understanding God’s grace and that nothing is required to work for it or keep it. Do we have responsibility? Yes. Is grace a license to sin? Never. Legalism doesn’t mean there are not rules or boundaries, but it is an attempt to gain favor with God somehow by what man says and does in our power. Liberty is the opportunity to live in the joy God has given to us in Christ for His glory and purposes for our lives. Are we living in the grace and freedom of God’s grace in Christ? Do we recognize our utter spiritual bankruptcy, condemnation and damnation we were under because we have broken God’s Law before He in His grace reached down and saved us? Within the commandments of God there is freedom, because we obey Him out of love, because of His grace and love shed upon us out of gratitude and an understanding of what He has freed us from in Salvation. His grace frees us from bondage that we do not have to go back to bondage once again.

Galatians 1:8 – False Gospels

Galatians 1:8

False Gospels

Galatians 1:8 – But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you tan what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.

Paul corrected problems in the Galatian Assembly.  The error he dealt with was the false gospel of the Judaizers.  They said Gentiles must add works of the Law, mostly circumcision to God’s grace.  Biblically, this is Legalism or doing something from the Law of Moses to add to salvation.  But Paul says if an angel or man preaches a different gospel, he/she/they are to be accursed.  The Greek for “accursed” is “anathema” which means “eternally damned.”  Harsh words indeed, but true.

They were necessary, as they are today.  Legalism is alive.  People say you must add to God’s grace to be saved, including the Law: dietary laws, saying you must worship on a particular day, etc.  Others say you must be baptized, pray the rosary, go door to door, go to Mecca or save the Earth and more to add to God’s grace.  In our world of “inclusivism” where “everyone is ok as long as they are sincere,” we don’t like to hear that God says salvation is exclusive to His grace through faith in Jesus alone!  Scripture says, those who proclaim these false gospels are “eternally damned.”

We as the Church are quick to rightly expose cults, false religions, eastern mysticism or others for their deception and false gospels.  But we forget there are those within the Church, which Paul was referring to, that proclaim false gospels, of which some have mentioned.  One of the main false gospels today is the gospel of “health and wealth.”  Those who teach this say God guarantees His children health and wealth.  God gives health and wealth, but it is not guaranteed and many have been hurt or died because of these lies.  Sometimes it is phrased as “giving you a better life” or “your best life now.”  It’s also stated, “believe and achieve” or “name it and claim it” which is faith in faith.  Faith is key, but this is a false gospel because it places faith in what we want, desire or can do and not God.  Jesus didn’t come to make our life “better” according to what we think, but to save us from God’s wrath!

Another false gospel is moralism.  This is where people proclaim Jesus died to “make you a good or better person.”  Jesus didn’t come to make people better, but to bring people to spiritual life.  If you are a Christian, the messages are, “do better” or “try harder.”  While every Christian should be ethical, holy and moral, this is not the gospel, but the life that results from believing the gospel of God’s grace, recognizing it is ALL of His grace. Moralism is self-defeating, because we realize WE can’t do it.  It comes from pride leading to more pride where we look down on others who “are not like us” or are “not as moral as we are.” Liberalism is false too, where people only focus on helping the poor, widows and the sick, the external results.  The Church should help the poor and more, but to separate that from salvation isn’t the gospel.  The Emergent Church proclaims this false gospel, devoid of doctrinal truth, but merely moralistic and liberal.

The only way to fight a lie is to know the truth and the truth is there is only 1 gospel, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God who took on Himself flesh and died in my place, shedding His blood as the perfect sacrifice. He was buried and physically arose 3 days later and by faith in Him alone in Him, can I be saved.  Do you believe His gospel or do you believe in a false gospel?

Exodus 3:11 – God can use You for His Glory

Exodus 3:11

God can use You for His Glory

 

Exodus 3:11 – But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

 

God called Moses out of a burning bush to bring His people out of Egyptian bondage after 400 years.  Moses, of course, gives many excuses, but God’s command stood and Moses went.  Moses asked a good question though, “Who am I?”  At this time, he was 80 years old and had been in the desert for 40 years, tending sheep.  He murdered an Egyptian 40 years prior to this and ran for his life.  Then in God’s time, He called His servant to be the instrument He would use to free His people.  Moses was a meek man, Numbers 12:3, meaning he had power under the control and authority of God.  He knew there was nothing in him that would want God to call him.

 

In other words, Moses was humble and had a proper perspective of himself, though he had an anger problem and gave excuses.  The last part sounds like me!  All throughout the Bible, we see God calling men and women to serve Him and say things or do things or go somewhere.  Think of Noah who built the Ark. Think of Abraham, whom God called.  Think of Jonah, the rebellious prophet.  Think of David or Hezekiah, the Kings.  Think of Hannah or Mary, humble women of God.  Think of Saul of Tarsus who became Paul.  Think of Peter, who denied Jesus 3 times.  Think of James, the brother of Jesus who didn’t believe in Him until after the resurrection and became the leader in the Church in Jerusalem.  Many more examples could be given of people of different ages, from different backgrounds, different genders, both Jew and Gentile whom God called to do things for His glory.  Read Hebrews 11 to get more of a glimpse of this.  So what does this mean for us?

 

This means that despite our fallacies, weaknesses, education and money or lack thereof, cultural background, family situation and much more, that who God first calls to Himself, and He can use for His glory.  We often ask the same question Moses did, “Who am I?”  The answer is no one.  You may not like it, but that’s true.  I’m no one special.  While God does not need us for anything, He, by His grace calls us to salvation and service.  Imagine that!  The Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of the Universe gives us, His creation an opportunity to take part in His plan of Redemption foreordained before the foundation of the earth!  What could give more hope, more purpose and more wonder than that!  It will be expressed differently in and through people’s lives in different vocations and places.

 

No matter what we struggle with, God has given us victory in Christ and while we will sin, and say and do sinful things, He can use us and wants to.  Don’t get me wrong, we should repent when we sin because it hinders us and affects others, though it doesn’t imperil God.  You may say, “I have nothing to offer God.”  Neither do I!  Welcome to the Church!  “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.”  When we recognize that all is by God’s grace, we will be willing and begin to be equipped to fulfill the calling God has in our lives, whatever that may be.  This is because, despite who and what we are and just like Moses, God can use you for His glory!

Ephesians 4:31-32 – Forgiveness

Ephesians 4:31-32

Forgiveness

 

Ephesians 4:32 – Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor (loud quarreling), and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

 

One of the most difficult things anyone can do is forgive.  We do not forgive for many reasons: 1) We think the other person should take initiative.  2) They hurt me.  3) They don’t deserve it.  4) We like our bitterness.  5) We “can’t” forgive.  6) They haven’t apologized, so why should I do anything?  7) I want to hurt them like they hurt me.  8) I need to prove I’m “stronger” and many more.  One way to describe forgiveness is “release.”  When we forgive, we release ourselves from the desire to “get back” at someone for hurting us.  I won’t get into the numerous ways people “hurt” us or offend us.  That’s not my point. My point is what we do with what is done to us.

 

Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus what a Christian “looks like” in their character.  Paul mentions bitterness, anger or malice, or things we do naturally when we get hurt, offended or if an expectation is not met.  We want to lash out, hold a grudge and hurt who has hurt us.  That is our sinful nature and it is evil!  This means forgiveness is supernatural.  Those who know how much they have been forgiven are more willing and able to forgive because they understand God’s grace and want to reflect that through the power of the Holy Spirit.  While some may forgive, for those who don’t know Christ, they can’t truly forgive because the capacity to do so is not there.

 

In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus tells a parable about how many times we are to forgive our brothers and the answer is 70 times 7, a Jewish way of saying, every time.  When we forgive, it is not that we deny or forget what is done, but we don’t hold it against them.  One who does not forgive does not hurt someone else as much as he/she hurts oneself.  Unforgiveness is a poison that seeps into every area of life and affects those we care about most.  Every time we don’t obey God and forgive, we add a “weight” to our life.  As these weights add up, the baggage damages us more as time goes on.  Though we forgive, it doesn’t mean things don’t need to change, nor does it mean we overlook sin or injustice.  Those who sin need to repent (Luke 17:3), as that is part of the process.  However, we should have the attitude of forgiveness and give them and the situation to God, rather than let bitterness arise in our hearts.  But because we forgive or release someone doesn’t mean there will always be reconciliation.  Reconciliation comes when someone repents and 2 people, groups, etc. come back together in fellowship.  Think of how powerful this is for a married couple.  If each forgives, their marriage will be very strong and able to get through any tough times.

 

How do I know if I have forgiven someone? One of my mentors said the way we know is if we can serve them with joy.  In many ways, forgiveness isn’t “releasing” someone else from what was done to us, but releasing ourselves from the bitterness and sin in our heart and giving everything to the Lord.  Sometimes it’s a process but it is ALWAYS a choice.  It’s not that we “can’t” forgive, but we won’t forgive.  How much have you been forgiven of?  Have we put away the things that are the foundation of unforgiveness Paul mentions: evil, wrath, slander and more?  Only when we understand God’s grace and forgiveness will we truly understand how to forgive.

The Dead Sea Scrolls

 

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It was a January evening in 1947 when a few boys were looking after sheep in the area of the Dead Sea. One boy, Juma, decided to throw a rock into one of the thousands of caves in the cliffs, and to his surprise heard a crack of something breaking. The boys had to leave, but Muhammad, Juma’s cousin, the next morning returned to explore what they hoped was a vast treasure of money.

 

To his disappointment, the “only” things discovered were seven old manuscripts contained in many jars within that cave. Four of these scrolls ended up in Jerusalem’s St. Mark’s Monastery where scholars from the American School of Oriental Research examined them in great detail. The other three were sold to an archaeologist at the Hebrew University.

 

The word spread, and in 1949 many expeditions to the area were formed to search for more scrolls. This led to the discovery of 10 more caves, all containing scrolls. Scholars at that time (though additional research continues) studied the ruins of Qumran and those who lived there ––– possibly a sect called “Essenes” – establishing the origin of the scrolls at roughly 125 B.C. to A.D. 68 (though some are dated into the later second century).

 

The manuscripts appear to have been hastily stored in jars, probably because of the coming Roman army which stopped the Jewish revolts between A.D. 66-70. Archaeologists also discovered much about the lifestyle of these Jewish ascetics (those who separated themselves from society), along with a scriptorium where most of the scrolls were copied.  There are two types of scrolls – Biblical and non-Biblical, or “sectarian,” which describe the lives of those who lived there.

 

In February 1955, the seven original scrolls were placed into the Shrine of the Book – a special museum created to house these magnificent discoveries in Israel – at the Hebrew University. These include: a full copy of Isaiah; a partial copy of Isaiah; commentary on the first two chapters of Habakkuk; the Manual of Discipline; Thanksgiving Hymns; an Aramaic paraphrase of Genesis; and the Rule of War. This discovery is known today as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

 

The impact of this find cannot be overstated. Before this discovery, the manuscripts used to translate the Bible were called the Masoretic Texts, which date to roughly around A.D. 900. With the Dead Sea Scrolls, scholars could compare the manuscripts to see how accurately they were transmitted more than 1,000 years prior to the Masoretic Texts. Thousands of fragments and more than 600 scrolls have been found in these 11 Qumran caves. Every book of the Old Testament, with the exception of Esther, has been found, with additional scrolls as well. Much to the scholars’ surprise, the similarity of these two sets of manuscripts was astonishing, with only minor variations such as style and spelling. This is just one of the evidences that God has preserved His word down through the centuries. We can trust His word and we can trust Him!

Acts 19:19-20 – Are Christians Called to Change Culture?

Acts 19:19-20

Are Christians Called to Change Culture?

 

Acts 19:19-20 – Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all.  And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver.  So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.

 

God did the miraculous through Paul in Ephesus like healing the sick and casting out demons.  Some Jewish exorcists wanted to try the same thing by using the Name of Jesus, with no faith, Acts 19:11-14.  The demons said they didn’t know these exorcists and the possessed man jumped on them and ripped off their clothing and injured them.  This became known and many believed and the Name of Christ was magnified, 19:15-18.  One of the results of believing was the burning of the occultic books, totaling 50,000 days wages!  That’s astounding!  They burned them because of their faith in Christ.  Culture was changed because the hearts of the people were changed!

 

We do not find in Scripture that Christians are called to change culture or society.  It’s not in there, despite the attempts, books and messages by some who say we are to do so.  Christians should address social and moral issues like abortion, homosexuality, poverty, marriage and more because those are Biblical issues.  We should vote and be involved in the legal process and praise God we live in a country that allows us to do this, for now.  But, some are too focused on “changing culture” and make plans, strategies and have ministries honed in on this.  God’s plan is different because some focus on changing society, they forget the people who live in that society.  God has not called us to change culture, but proclaim the Gospel, through which God changes lives, Romans 1:16 and make disciples, Matthew 28:18-20.  By doing this, people are changed and when people are changed, culture or society will change!

 

Culture or society is made up of individuals who believe certain things and have specific practices.  These individuals make up families, who in turn, grow up to work in the various vocations: education, government, entertainment, business, medicine and more.  This is what makes up any culture or society.  People cannot be dissected from living within that culture.  Yes, the past and “tradition” affects people and cultures as they hold on to certain practices common to them, which can be good or bad.  For example, many cultures have their own holidays. America has Thanksgiving, which others do not have.  But don’t forget, that it is people who celebrate this day, not a culture separated from people.

 

The ONLY way to change culture is for people to change.  By the way, people don’t lose their “culture” when they become a Christian.  Jewish people who believe do not cease to be Jewish nor does an Asian believer cease to be Asian and each has their “traditions,” though some need to change.  However, when their heart is changed, their response to sin and the wrong traditions within their culture will change. Rome changed from the inside out as Christians lived the Christian life in the first few centuries after Christ.  One example is at Ephesus.  These individuals, who focus on the Lord, His ways and His truth and proclaim and live that truth in love, will be the means God uses to change people by His grace thus changing the culture.  The same goes for us today.

The “House of David” Stone

Other than Jesus Himself, perhaps no other Biblical character has been attacked as often in regards to his existence as King David. Critics for many years stated he did not exist and the Bible could not be trusted in regards to its historical references to Israel’s greatest king. This all changed in 1993 when a stela (fragment of stone) was found in Tel Dan, in northern Israel, written in Aramaic and dated to the mid-ninth century (800s) B.C. and is stored today in the Israel Museum.

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This basalt stela became known as the “House of David” stone, because lines 7-8 record a message from an Aramean King who claims he defeated the “king of Israel” from the Northern Kingdom and the “king of the House of David” from the Southern Kingdom, and captured Dan, a town in the far north of Israel. It’s important to remember that the Kingdom split in two after the death of King Solomon about 931 BC (1 Kings 11:40), which is why two different kings are noted on this black stone.

This was an extremely important find, though doubted by some. Most scholars hold that this stone refers to the probable campaign of Hazael of Damascus, who defeated Jehoram in Israel and Ahaziah in Judah. References for these kings are found in 2 Kings 8-9 and 2 Chronicles 22:5. Historically, there were many conflicts between Damascus and Israel at this time, as recorded in 1 Kings 15, which is why this discovery is of such significance.

David was Israel’s greatest king. His life is recorded in 1 Samuel 16 to 1 Kings 2, and 1 Chronicles 10:14-29:30. He was a shepherd boy, the sweet Psalmist of Israel, of the tribe of Judah, anointed king by the prophet Samuel. After many years of being pursued by King Saul, David eventually became king and united the 12 tribes of Israel in the Promised Land. In 2 Samuel 7, God gave David an unconditional promise, or covenant, that one of his descendants would always sit on the throne, ruling Israel. Though David sinned greatly at times, and repented accordingly, God called him a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22). David was and is the premiere king for the nation of Israel and beloved, then and today.

David ruled for four decades: “And the days that David reigned over Israel were forty years: seven years reigned he in Hebron, and thirty and three years reigned he in Jerusalem” (1 Kings 2:11).

When studying the kings of Israel and Judah, we find references that David’s descendants were compared to him. King Asa is compared to David in 1 Kings 15:11: “And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, as did David his father.” Likewise, in 2 Chronicles 29:2, King Hezekiah, “…did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done.” David was the pattern for all of the kings descended from him, fulfilled in his greater Son, King Jesus.

Truly the rocks cry out proclaiming the reliability of the Bible. This is not only a testimony to Israel’s greatest earthly king, but also to Jesus the Messiah, the King of Kings who came and will come again to unite His people Israel under His Kingdom, fulfilling all of His promises to them. He is a descendent of the tribe of Judah, the Son of David, the fulfillment of the covenant promise God gave to King David.

We read in Luke 1:26-33: “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, ‘Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.’ And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, ‘Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His Kingdom there shall be no end.’”

 

Written by Michael Weis, a Bible Teacher, Missionary, and Manager of Social Media at Zion’s Hope.

The Pontius Pilate Stone

Pontius Pilate is an interesting individual, particularly when it comes to the Biblical narrative. As is often the case, there was a time when scholars and skeptics questioned the historicity of this man, denying the reliable accounts found in the New Testament.

Then in 1961, an Italian archaeologist was excavating in a Caesarea Maritma ampitheater and discovered a limestone block with three lines still visible.

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Line one: Tiberieum,

Line two: …tius Pilatus

Line three: …ectus Iuda

Translation: Tiberius (Caesar at that time, to which the amphitheater was dedicated), (Pon)tius Pilate, (Pre)fect of Judea.

Scholars acknowledge this is the only known written historical record of the man Pontius Pilate. It was written in Latin and dated to about A.D. 30, as well as some bronze coins found dated from that same time. The original is now in the Israeli Museum, and a copy is at Caesarea Maritima for tourists to see.

Historically, Pilate was appointed as governor of Judea in A.D. 26. He dealt with financial, military, and civil matters. Pilate moved to Caesarea at that time, though his legal authority extended to Jerusalem. While the Jews had some freedom of self-legislation, any legal matters that involved the death penalty had to go through Roman authority, which at the time was Pontius Pilate. Though Pilate did some horrible things in regards to the Jewish people, the Jewish leaders had to bring their case against Jesus to him.

The Gospels record that Pilate was in Jerusalem during the time of Passover, to maintain civil order with the hordes of people traveling there for the Feast. The four Gospel accounts – Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19 – tell us of his encounter with the Jewish leaders and Jesus. Despite his wife’s dream and his attempts to sway the Jewish leadership and people, they continued to cry out for Jesus to be crucified. Pilate washed his hands of the situation and called for the crucifixion of their King.

In addition to the Bible, the Roman historian Tacitus, in his book the Annals, notes that Jesus was crucified when Tiberius was the emperor Rome and Pontius Pilate was procurator of Judea (Annals xv. 44). Two Jewish writers, Josephus and Philo of Alexandria, also write about this man, showing further evidence that the Biblical account is historically accurate.

This stone is important as it not only shows the historical validity of Pontius Pilate, but encourages Christians to trust the Bible. While the Holy Spirit confirms His truth in our hearts and lives, it is also important to learn the historical reliability of the Bible and to tell others about it. Are we doing that?

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