Jacob's Journey to Egypt
Three times in the Old Testament, it is stated that seventy people from the house of Jacob went down into Egypt. According to Genesis 46:27, “All the persons of the house of Jacob who went to Egypt were seventy.” In the first few verses of the book of Exodus, Jacob’s sons are named, and then again we are told, “All those who were descendants of Jacob were seventy persons” (Exodus 1:1,5). The third Old Testament reference to this number is found in Deuteronomy 10:22, where Moses spoke to the Israelites about the “great and awesome things” that God had done for them (10:21). He then reminded the children of Israel of how their “fathers went down to Egypt with seventy persons,” which Jehovah made “as the stars of heaven in multitude” (Deuteronomy 10:22). The difficulty that Christians are challenged to resolve is how these verses can be understood in light of Stephen’s statement recorded in Acts 7:12-14. Being “full of the Holy Spirit” (7:55) with a “face as the face of an angel” (6:15), Stephen reminded the Jews of their history, saying, “When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers first. And the second time Joseph was made known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to the Pharaoh. Then Joseph sent and called his father Jacob and all his relatives to him, seventy-five people” (Acts 7:12-14, emp. added). Skeptics, as well as concerned Christians who seek to back their faith with reasonable answers, desire to know why Acts 7:14 mentions “seventy-five people,” while Genesis 46:27, Exodus 1:5, and Deuteronomy 10:22 mention only “seventy persons.” Exactly how many of Jacob’s household went to Egypt?
Jesus Was Rational
A study of the life of Christ on Earth quickly reveals that Jesus functioned rationally, logically, and sensibly. Unlike many religious people who claim to represent Him, Jesus possessed high respect for doctrinal correctness (after all, He authored the Law!). In all of His interactions with people, He conducted Himself with logical precision. One example of this attribute of our Lord is seen on the occasion when Jesus entered the synagogue and encountered a man who had a deformed hand (Matthew 12:9-13). This circumstance prompted His enemies to ask Him a question in hopes of being able to accuse Him of breaking the Law. They asked: “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Of course, they had pre-decided that the answer to the question was “no,” that, in fact, the Law would naturally forbid such an action.
Unfortunately, the prevailing interpretation of the Law of Moses at the time, at least among the Jewish leaders, was that the Sabbath law enjoined total inactivity—as if everyone was to sit down for 24 hours and do nothing. This view was a distortion of God’s law on the matter. The Law gave the right, even the obligation, to engage in several activities (that could rightly be designated “work”) that did not constitute violation of the Sabbath regulation. On this occasion, Jesus pinpointed one such instance: “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out?” (vs. 11). Jesus was recalling a directive from the Law of Moses:
Who Am I to Judge? The Pope, the Press, and the Predicament
Pope Francis pulled a surprise on reporters when he walked back to the press section of his Alitalia papal flight from Brazil and entered into an open press conference that lasted more than an hour. The Pope gave the press what Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton offered as presidents—a casual question and answer session that was on the record.
The biggest headline from the Pope’s remarks was not what he had to say about the scandals at the Vatican Bank, but what he said about homosexuality and, in particular, homosexuals in the priesthood. The key sentence in the Pope’s remarks is this: “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?”
The papal remarks put the international press into a frenzy. Headlines across the world announced a revolution in Roman Catholic moral teaching, a changed position on homosexuality, or at least an historic “new openness” on the issue of homosexuality.
Here Comes the Judge
Perhaps I was simply too young to appreciate the absurdist humor of "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In," the popular television comedy (1968-1973). I never quite understood why the laugh track kicked in whenever Sammy Davis, Jr. shuffled across the screen to the sing-song catchphrase "Here comes the judge." I still don't. But the "Laugh-In" writers must have been on to something, because long after that show went off the air the judge-as-entertainer remains a pop-culture staple. The humor may no longer be explicit, but the entertainment value-as well as the absurdity-remains.
Maybe you've met Judge Judy, Judge Mathis, Judge Mills Lane, Judge Joe Brown, and Judge Hatchett. They're all there in your TV Guide. Even the venerable Judge Wapner came out of retirement (again), no longer to host "People's Court," but to preside over "Animal Court." Really. As Dave Barry so often says, I'm not making this up.
Pope Francis Claims God Will Save Atheists
On Wednesday, May 22, 2013 Pope Francis conducted Mass in Rome. During that service, he made one of the most memorable and astonishing statements ever spoken by anyone who calls himself a Christian. The theme of his sermon was that all humans should do good deeds for others. In the course of the talk he stated:
The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! “Father, the atheists?” Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. “But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!” But do good: we will meet one another there (“Pope at Mass...,” 2013, emp. added).
Be Not Unequally Yoked
Paul admonished the Corinthian Christians, “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). This statement often has been applied to the question of marriage, with the subsequent conclusion that Christians are commanded not to marry non-Christians. However, this interpretation creates several problems.
First, marriage is not under discussion in the context. Great care must be taken to avoid misapplying the principles taught in a given passage. The application of a passage must be accurate. For example, to apply the injunction “taste not” (Colossians 2:21) to eating chocolate would be a misapplication on two counts. First, it assumes that chocolate is included in the category of substances being forbidden in the context. Second, it fails to perceive the fact that “taste not” was what the opponents of Paul were enjoining. They were wrong in their making of a law that God had not made. Likewise, the prohibition of not being unequally yoked would have to be demonstrated to apply to marriage.
"This is the Way God Made Me"--A Scientific Examination of Homosexuality and the "Gay Gene"
The trumpets were left at home and the parades were canceled. The press releases and campaign signs were quietly forgotten. The news was big, but it did not contain what some had hoped for. On April 14, 2003, the International Human Genome Consortium announced the successful completion of the Human Genome Project—two years ahead of schedule. The press report read: “The human genome is complete and the Human Genome Project is over” (see “Human Genome Report...,” 2003, emp. added). Most of the major science journals reported on the progress in the field of genetics, but also speculated on how the information would now be used. The one piece of information that never materialized from the Human Genome Project was the identification of the so-called “gay gene.”
Homosexuality has been practiced for thousands of years. Simply put, homosexuality is defined as sexual relations between like genders (i.e., two males or two females). It was Sigmund Freud who first postulated that parental relationships with a child ultimately determine the youngster’s sexual orientation. But this “nurturing” aspect has effectively given way to the “nature” side of the equation. Can some behaviors (e.g., alcoholism, homosexuality, schizophrenia) be explained by genetics? Are these and other behaviors influenced by nature or by nurture? Are they inborn or learned? Some individuals believed that the answer would be found hiding amidst the chromosomes analyzed in the Human Genome Project.
Applauding Arkansas’ Fight for Life
Arkansas legislators have been busy trying to protect unborn children from the slaughter that has ravaged out country since 1973. Their latest volley of artillery against child murder is a bill that passed the Arkansas Senate Thursday, January 31, 2013. This bill, known as the Arkansas Human Heartbeat Protection Act, will potentially “ban most abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected, a move that would prohibit the procedure as early as five weeks into pregnancy” (Parker, 2013). The bill passed in the Senate by a 26-8 vote.
Those opposed to the bill, especially members and spokespeople for Planned Parenthood, railed against it. Murry Newbern, a lobbyist for the organization, said, “The bottom line is that a woman, not politicians, should make the informed decisions when it comes to her own pregnancy” (Parker, 2013). Such thinking is as illogical as it is immoral. Would anyone contend that a mother should make the “informed decision” to shoot her 18-month-old because he is an inconvenience to her? Would right-thinking people argue that a mother has the right to decide if her five-year-old deserves to live based on her own economic situation or unwillingness to provide for the child? Certainly not. One of the primary duties of our government is to protect the lives of its citizenry, born or unborn; a duty that our government has criminally neglected to do for the last 40 years.
Are Christians Guilty of “Brainwashing” Their Children?
The more worldly and ungodly American society becomes, the more devout Christians will be criticized and persecuted for their beliefs and actions. One popular criticism that has been levied against Christians in recent years involves the Christian home. Allegedly, Christian parents are guilty of brainwashing their kids. Before children are old enough to digest for themselves all of the evidence for God’s existence, the Bible’s inspiration, or Jesus’ deity, some Christians (though sadly not near enough) are ingraining these beliefs into their children. Faithful Christian parents regularly and systematically teach their children fundamental Christian teachings without apology. Is this not a form of brainwashing? Is it not “forcible indoctrination”? How do Christians respond to the “brainwash” accusation?
Religion and politics don’t mix
The old adage—“politics and religion don’t mix”—has become a nonsensical concept as Christians increasingly are being forced to face up to their responsibility to react to the political forces that have encroached on Christian morality.
Christians are people who are "not of this world" but politics is all about what happens in this world (1 John 2:15). We can be involved in politics, but we should not be obsessed with politics. Ultimately, we are to be heavenly-minded, more concerned with the things of God than the things of this world (Colossians 3:1-2). But we must face the fact that religious and moral issues are being politicized. Just because politicians seize upon these issues, dragging them into the political arena, does not mean that they are exempt from religious scrutiny.
On Earth As It Is In Heaven
In our individual lives and in our congregations, we need to recover not only the basics in the practice of prayer but also a deeper understanding of the greatness of prayer. Prayer is a miracle, it's difficult to measure a miracle; but that shouldn't keep us from personally experiencing the miracle of answered prayer.
That people like us on earth can speak to the Lord in heaven is remarkable; that the Lord pays attention to what we say and acts on our behalf is also remarkable. What an astounding thing that Almighty God works on our behalf. The Father hears us and knows our needs even before we ask (Matt. 6:8). The Son intercedes for us and knows exactly how we feel in every situation (Rom. 8:26-27). When we pray, we become part of God's miracle work on earth because he is a great God! The bigger prayer is in our lives, the smaller our burdens and battles will appear and the greater our blessings will become.