Notice: I've taken a part-time job, and it's definitely affecting my blogging time. I'll continue to add content here as often as possible.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Gospel Enigmas- Blind Bartimaeus

I find that many of the things Jesus did are perplexing. They make me think, and sometimes I have no conclusions. I'll pose questions and only share my opinion as to meaning in the comments section after a day or so. Interact!

Jesus and a blind man
Jesus and his disciples were walking toward Jericho. A blind man named Bartimaeus was sitting beside the road begging. But when he was told that it was Jesus who was passing by he called out, even when people told him to be quiet.

So Jesus stopped to see what was going on. But he didn't go to where Bartimaeus was, in fact, at first he didn't even speak to the blind man. Instead he told other people to call the man. They did, and Bartimaeus came to Jesus.

But Jesus still wasn't ready to give the man what he wanted, even though he MUST have known. It wouldn't even take the Son of God's abilities to figure out that the man wanted his sight restored. Nevertheless, he asked Bartimaeus, "What do you want me to do for you?"

As soon as the man stated that he wanted to be able to see, Jesus immediately healed him without even touching him!

One of the puzzling things about this story is that Jesus used different methods to heal different blind men, but that's a different post.

Why do you think that Jesus made Bartimaeus come to him and ask to be healed? If I get a few comments, I'll add my personal conclusions at the end of those.

See Matthew 20:29-34
See Mark 10:46-52
See Luke 18:35-43

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lyrics- Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Every Sunday the lyrics from some great piece of Christian music will be featured. It's not that I want worship to revert to using all hymns, it's just that many modern Christian songs don't SAY anything. I really miss some deeper meaning. So I'm going to remind us of some great words.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus (1922)
by Helen Lemmel

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There's light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grown strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

Thru death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more has dominion-
For more than conqu'rors we are!


His word shall not fail you- He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well;
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell.


I will not always tell the background of a song, but occasionally one will be particularly meaningful.

Helen Lemmel was born in 1964 in England but her family soon moved to America. She loved music and returned to Europe to study, marrying there. However, when she became blind, her husband left her. One day, she heard the following, "So then, turn your eyes upon Him, look full into His face and you will find that the things on earth will acquire a strange new dimness." Within a week she had written this hymn, and always attributed it to the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Name Game- Stephen

Sometimes people who are just doing their jobs are elevated in a few moments to icons, who will be remembered throughout history. Stephen is just such a person.

When the church, the body of those who believed in Jesus as Messiah, was young, most of the members were converts from Judaism. Their new faith caused them to be ostracized from their synagogue and even their families. So the believers banded together to care for one another. One of the needs was to distribute food to families. Racism is not just a problem of modern times; those who were Gentiles (not Jews), complained that their families were not receiving as much food as those who had been Jews. So the young church chose seven men with good administrative skills, and “full of the Holy Spirit,” to oversee the program and distribute goods fairly. Stephen was one of the seven chosen. In fact he is listed first and it is noted that he was unusually full of faith and the Holy Spirit. Stephen even did miracles, yet he was primarily a businessman, not one of those early Christians known as a preacher.

Some Jews started an argument with him, but Stephen’s logical thoughts were too powerful, and he won this mental game. So they decided to tell some lies about him and say that he had cursed Moses and even God. A crowd gathered and began to denounce Stephen. Soon he was arrested and brought before the Council.

When the High Priest asked Stephen if the accusations were true, Stephen may supposedly not have had the gift of preaching, but he delivered a powerful message beginning with the history of his people, the Jews, and ending with King Solomon who built the first Temple. He then challenged them to remember that God does not live in structures made by humans. Further, he accused them of resisting the Holy Spirit and killing the prophets of God who predicted the coming of the Messiah. All the while his face was glowing, and he spoke as if he knew that this would be his final speech. Tolerance was not an attribute of early courts of any kind. He was sentenced to death by stoning.

Stephen then said that he saw Jesus in the heavens, standing beside God. He was dragged outside the city and stones were thrown at him until he died. His final words echo those of the Christ he served, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

Standing in the crowd, apparently involved in some way, was a man named Saul. Those who threw the stones laid their coats at his feet before they began the execution. Saul later was converted and became the apostle Paul. Stephen’s testimony in life and death must have had a powerful influence on Saul.

Thus, Stephen became the first Christian martyr, the first to die because of his belief in the divinity of Jesus. We can certainly learn some lessons from Stephen’s life: do your job well, be prepared to clearly state your belief, and be so certain in your faith that to die for Christ is better than to live having denied Him.

Answers to Quiz Yourself

These are the answers to yesterday’s Bible trivia quiz. Hope you had fun!

1. There were seven pairs of every animal God had identified as “clean,” and also seven pairs of each kind of bird. Genesis 7:2,3

2. Daniel, which means “God is my judge.” King Nebuchadnezzar wanted his name to mean “He whom Baal favors.”

3. James and John, Simon Peter and Andrew. Matthew 10:2

4. Timothy. I Timothy 4:12

5. Ruth. Ruth 4:13

6. He hanged himself. Matthew 27:5

7. His donkey spoke to him! Numbers 22

8. Seven seals. Revelation 5:1

9. To the desert to be tempted. Mark 1:9-12

10. Uzziah, who died the year Isaiah had his famous vision of the seraphim. Isaiah 1:1, 6;1

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Fun- Quiz Yourself

Every Friday there will be a game of some kind to play. The answers will be posted on Saturday morning. I’ll start with a simple Bible trivia quiz.

1. More than two of some animals were taken into the ark with Noah. What animals were they?

2. By what name do we usually remember Belteshaser. Hint- the Babylonian king give him the second name.

3. Name two sets of brothers who were Jesus’ disciples.

4. To whom did Paul say, “Let no man despise your youth?”

5. Whom did Boaz take as his wife?

6. How did Judas Iscariot die?

7. What made Balaam obey God?

8. How many seals were on the scroll John saw in his Revelation?

9. Right after his baptism, where did Jesus go?

10. Isaiah began to prophesy during the reign of what king in Judah?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Eco Day- Who Are We?

The overall topic of Christians and the Environment really needs to be approached in a logical progression of articles/ chapters that build on each other. However, that isn’t the way a blog works. Readers are unlikely to search back to earlier entries to see how I got to a certain point. So I’m going to try to create entries that stand on their own, while staying true to the topic.

balance with baby and seal
One of the key differences between a secular environmentalist and a Christian one has to do with the perception of where human beings fit into the overall scheme of the universe.

Things we have in common
The Bible says that we were made from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7 )
Secular thinking says that we were made from the dust of the earth; ie. that living

Monday, August 23, 2010

Off the Wall- Meat Eaters

I like to explore wild ideas which are not essential to my basic faith, and which may not even be valid, but they are always thought provoking.

gravestone with lion and lamb

We are clearly given permission by God to eat meat, all kinds of meat (Acts 10:9-17 and other references). However I think that it is possible to make a case for a reason to choose to not eat meat.

This idea must begin with the realization that Christ's redemptive work was for all creation. John 3:16- God so loved "the world." God loved the cosmos- the entire universe, not just the human world. Again in II Corinthians 5:19, God reconciled the cosmos to himself in Christ. Certainly this does not deny the spiritual

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Possible Features at Off the Sanctuary Wall

Let me first explain my worldview. I am an evangelical Christian who believes that we are sinful by nature and separated from God. Jesus Christ, God's only begotten Son, came to earth, fully God and fully man. He died to satisfy God's need for punishment for sin, and rose from the dead in victory over sin, death, and Satan. I believe that anyone who has personal faith in this work of Jesus is saved to eternal life with God.

That said, I believe that the Christian life is both simple and extremely complicated. The Bible may have all the answers, but we often aren't asking the right questions. Some parts are just plain difficult.

I want to write about all of these things here. I will be happy for any discussion, but will delete in a flash any comments that are simply name calling or derogatory.

Why am I starting another blog? Well, my own faith could use a little exercise. If I write about some of these topics it will force me to think about them anew, more, differently, etc. I've been filling notebooks with some of these ideas and questions for years. Why not share my thoughts?

Possible Regular Features:

Off the Wall- These will be articles that are definitely out of the mainstream of Christian thinking. I just like to explore ideas that don't lead me into conclusions that are in direct conflict with the basics of Biblical Christianity.

Gospel Enigmas- Jesus said and did some very strange things! The more I read the Gospels, the less I understand them. This will mostly be just thought-provoking questions.

Eco-Day- I have taught a number of seminars on Christians and ecology and environmentalism. I'll post tidbits from these occasionally.

World View- This will be more philosophical. What is a world view? Who has one? Does it matter?

Random Rant- Every once in a while I'll just have an ax to grind.

Devotions- There will be an occasional traditional devotional thought.

Reflections- Sometimes I'll simply reflect on life, from a Christian standpoint.

Mind of God- I have a notebook full of thoughts on "How to Know the Mind of God." My idea has always been that some day it would be a book. Perhaps posting some of my notes here will clarify the thoughts into a cohesive whole.


Name Game- Every Saturday one person from Scripture will be featured.


Classic Lyrics- Every Sunday the lyrics from some great piece of Christian music will be featured. It's not that I want worship to revert to using all hymns, it's just that many modern Christian songs don't SAY anything. I really miss some deeper meaning. So I'm going to remind us of some great words.

I doubt that I'll be posting to this blog every day, but here goes...

P.S. The formatting on this template is wonky- the line breaks are not working correctly... trying to figure that out.