Monthly Archives: March 2016

Truth As Defined In Psalm 119

In John 18:37b, Jesus responds to a question from Pilate by saying  “….everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”  Pilate then says, “What is truth?”   Jesus doesn’t answer him and I wonder if Pilate’s question was more of a rhetorical nature and he wasn’t expecting any sort of answer from Jesus.   But it is a good question.

What is truth?

In Psalm 119, we are told many things about the Scriptures.  One of those recurring themes is the Bible is something we can trust.  This three verses in Psalm 119 cover three descriptions of God’s Word which enlighten us on why we can trust His the Bible.

God’s Word is the Standard

For centuries, a yard stick has been the same length.  The history of establishing a standard measuring length goes back to the 1100’s.  Having an established standard of measurement has allowed people the world over to transact commerce and exchange information.  It eliminates confusion when a standard of measurement has been agreed upon.  But is there a standard to measure truth?

In the New Kings James Version, we are told in verse 89, “Forever O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.”

The psalmist makes a point to tell us God’s Word has been “settled” or determined, established.  It is the measuring stick we hold everything up to so we may determine what is true.  If I know God’s Word is true, I can determine if other ideas are true by measuring them against the Word.

Confusion reigns when everyone uses a different standard.  “What you define as truth may not be true to me” is no way to find a moral foundation.  From Psalm 119, we see God’s Word is the standard.

God’s Word is Right

In verse 128, states, “Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.”

Not only is His Word the standard but now we are told it is true – in all things.  Notice how the psalmist makes the decision to regard the Word as being true.  He says “I esteem…” which is a fancy way of saying I have “determined.”  This is important because I can’t know everything and I can’t trust everything.

“Truth” as printed in text books changes over time.  Societal norms vary where what once was considered immoral can be widely accepted.  While important, we can’t just trust our feelings and emotions because those change and are subject to a variety of factors.  How can one decide if what you are reading is really true?

According to Psalm 119:128, we can use His Word because His Word is right.

God’s Word is Forever

Deep into Psalm 119, we find this gem of a description of His Word in verse 152, “Concerning Your testimonies, I have known of old that You have founded them forever.”

Our source of guidance is His Word. Why, because according to verse 152 of Psalm 119, He is the founder.

Forever is a long time.  Technically, that isn’t a correct statement because “forever” is beyond time.  God’s Word is something so solid, so real, so authentic, that it will last beyond our understanding, logic or reasoning.  It is forever – because He is the founder.

We can gain great confidence that His Word will not change over time.  It is as solid now as it was 2,000 years ago.  We can make moral decisions based off His Word and know those will stand the test of time, no matter what else changes around us.

So, from these three verses, Psalm 119 teaches us:

  1. God’s Word is the standard to which all other ideas are measured.  – vs 89
  2. God’s Word is right and the final source of all that is true. – vs 128
  3. God’s Word will outlast everything because it is forever. – vs 152

Spend some time in His Word and be confident in it.  You can trust it.

-jm

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The Young Messiah

What about those early childhood years of Jesus?  Other than the story at the end of Luke 2 when He stayed at the temple to speak with the Rabbi’s when He was twelve, the Scriptures are silent about the childhood of the young Messiah.

Recently, I had the honor of screening the new film, The Young Messiah at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention.  The film debuts nationwide on March 11 and while “movie reviews” are not the thing I normally write, it seemed my early screening of the film gave me the opportunity to write about this film.

the-young-messiahThe movie begins in Alexandria, Egypt when Jesus is seven years old and follows the family on their journey from Egypt back to Nazareth and their early struggles return to the village they left nearly eight years ago.

The boy Jesus discovers He is different.  He heals a bird early in the film and performs a special miracle of raising from the dead another boy who died while he was bullying Jesus.  That miracle alarms other Jews living in their community.  Finally, through a series of events along with a dream given by God to Joseph, the small family decides it is time to return to Nazareth.

There is a demonic character who plays the role of instigating various situations aimed at hurting and even attempting to kill the child Jesus.  Only Jesus can see the creepy looking character and while he is prominent in the first half of the film, the role has a relatively minor appearance in the second half.

In the second half of the film however, there is a Roman centurion (played by Sean Bean) who participated in the slaughter of babies at Bethlehem.  He is commissioned to find this “special child” and destroy Him.  Clearly, the events of Bethlehem seven years ago haunt him and yet, he proceeds in an attempt to kill this little boy.  This makes up the bulk of the films plot and climaxes with a showdown in the temple between this Roman soldier and the young Messiah.

There is a funny situation when Joseph wishes to enroll Jesus in the local Hebrew school when they return to Nazareth.  Jesus is quizzed with a series of trick questions from the old Rabbi running the school and Jesus amazes everyone with His responses.  Joseph’s little smirk while His son is answering the Rabbi’s questions brought out some laughter.

The film does bring up an interesting idea.  Was Jesus always in possession of the knowledge that He was the Messiah, God’s Son sent to save the world?  This film presents the idea that He didn’t fully know or understand who He was until at the end of the film when His mother tells Him the whole story of His birth and what she understood of His mission.

From a strict movie stand-point, the actor playing Jesus was convincing – as long as you could get past his British accent.  He seemed miscast for this role.  Further, the demonic character was quite creepy, but under developed.  Either he needs to be featured more in the film or dropped all together.   The film had its’ villain with the centurion and without further development, the demonic character was unnecessary.

I must admit, this isn’t something I’ve ever thought about and other than the afore mentioned incident when He was twelve, the Bible is silent about His childhood.

There are some liberties taken with the Scriptures.

According to the film, Mary’s brother and his wife and their son (named “James”) have gone to Egypt with Mary and Joseph.  They decide to make the return trip to Nazareth with them.  There is no Biblical indication this ever occurred and having their son named “James” really leads to some confusion.  According the Bible, Jesus had a younger brother named James who goes on the write the New Testament Book of James and was elevated to the head of the church in Jerusalem by Acts chapter 15.  Additionally, James the apostle was the brother of John, both of whom were sons of Zebedee and were not mentioned in the Bible as being cousins of Jesus.   I’d be less bothered with this whole family relationship element of Mary’s brother if their child wasn’t named James.  It’s just confusing to people who don’t know Scripture well enough to understand who those other men named James.

Further, Jesus becomes quite sick at one point and depending on your theology about sickness, some may be bothered with the concept of the child Jesus nearly dying from “the fever.”  This scene does lead to a great interaction between Jesus and the demon.  When the demon reaches out to touch Jesus, the seven year old Son Of God summons all the authority his young boyish voice can muster and commands the demon in no uncertain terms not to touch Him.

The movie moves along well, its plot line isn’t complicated or boring.  There are scenes of violence, crucifixion scenes and the demonic character.  Those images could disturb young viewers.

I wish the producers would have had some sort of Biblical disclaimer at the beginning of the film letting the audience know this was a work of fiction and not a true Biblical story. Go ahead and see the film just don’t get your theology from it or even your understanding of Biblical history.

If you tolerate a British sounding child as Jesus you’ll probably enjoy the film.

I Muse On The Works Of Your Hands

I’ve been spending some time in Psalm 143.  Especially verses 5 and 6.

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands. I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land. (NKJV)

I’ve been thinking about how important it is that we meditate on His works.

Many of us are too busy.  We’re so busy doing many things, good things, things that are often for ministry and/or helping others, but we may miss some important tasks. In this case it’s time thinking about Him.

The term “muse” isn’t one we use very often.  Many modern version use the word “ponder.”  The meaning in Hebrew means to “ponder or converse with oneself aloud.”  We might say to deeply consider or to weigh a matter etc.  Obviously, this is way more than just giving God a casual or passing thought.  But how often do we just give God a passing thought?  How often do we take some time and seriously think about Him and His works?

I have a friend of mine that can find the wonder of God in such simple things.  He’ll often just stop while he is walking outside and be so moved over the beauty of a flower.  He sees, way more than I do, the beauty of God’s Glory in simple things.  But he takes time to muse or ponder over the wonders of God’s creation.  He makes a point to see look at God’s creation and see His works.

In verse 6, the Psalmist says “I spread out my hands to You.”  Of course there is a literal meaning here, but I also think this implies a mindset of being totally open to Him.  To be a person totally surrendered to Him.  It is something we often say that we are surrendered to Him, but are we, really?  I’m thinking this has an application that I am just beginning to appreciate.  Letting go of my desires and longing for His in every area of my life.

What does that really look like, being totally open to him?

That’s just something else to “muse” today.

Blessings My Friend

-jm