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Wednesday, May 8, 2024

A Future for this Nation

Painting by Liz Lemon Swindle

What follows is a first-person account by a biblical person that draws the reader into the life and times of Jesus and his followers. Such vignettes stimulate the imagination. They encourage contemplation of real events and real persons.

By S. J. Clydeson

The last time I felt this discouraged was when my good friend “John in the wilderness” was beheaded.

Then Jesus came speaking words my ears had never heard before. He spoke of hope and everlasting Life. His parables were remarkable and profound. They changed me from the inside out.

It was very pleasurable to see the effect His words had on the “spiritual leaders” and the SO Sad U sees who rejected belief in bodily resurrection.

The thought troubled me that people could despise one so much. Because of all the good Jesus had done, they put Him to death, but not until they had Him beaten unmercifully, then the crucifixion!

My Savior was tortured, bleeding, and in agony. How could anyone endure this suffering?

My heart is broken! What am I to do? Who will save Israel now?

After the events on Friday there is an emptiness within me, even the report of the tomb being empty does not register.

It happened like this:

My good friend Cleopas and I were heading to Emmaus, when a stranger met us on the road. As we walked, He listened intently to our rantings about what we had witnessed days earlier. The stranger listened. The last thing I remember saying was, "No longer is our conquering redeemer with us. Is there a future for this nation?"

Then the stranger began to speak. He spoke of things that sounded so familiar, as if straight from the Scriptures! We insisted He break bread with us and as He blessed it, we saw His nail-pierced hands and knew immediately that our King Jesus lives!

Father, forgive my unbelief!

* * * * * * *

"Imagine the greatest Teacher explaining the greatest themes from the greatest book and bringing the greatest blessings to men's lives: eyes open to see Him, hearts open to receive the Word, and lips open to tell others what Jesus said to them." ~Wiersbe

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Ed is in Hospice

Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” (Matthew 13:52)

Ed's hat.

I received news today that the founder of this blog, the Rev. Edward F. Lundwall, Jr. is in hospice. Please remember him and his family in your prayers.

Ed is a retired Army Chaplain and a veteran of the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War. He is 93 years old. He and his late wife, Marionette, were Baptist home missionaries for nine years. They have three children, five grandchildren, and one great grandchild. 

Ed pastored Disciple Baptist Church in Chattannooga, Tennessee, a laboratory effort to study Biblical discipleship and how to apply it to the Church. He holds a B.S., a M.RE, and a M.Div degree and is a freelance writer specializing in discipleship.

This blog began on 27 July 2013 as the cooperative effort of Ed Lundwall, Hope Ellen Rapson, and Alice C. Linsley. The three met in the summer 2013 in Rossville, Georgia for brunch, and after the meal, Ed invited us to his home where we saw the extent of his writings on discipleship. There was an entire wall with floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with notebooks. As we chatted and perused the volumes, Hope and Alice realized that this dear disciple of Jesus Christ deserved a wider readership. Hope was an English teacher and Alice had experience with blogs. The plan was to make Ed's writings accessible to a wider audience.

This blog isn't sexy. It isn't provocative. There is nothing here to thrill those energized by polemic and politics. The posts are about developing a biblical lifestyle as a disciple of Jesus Christ. They are somewhat old-fashioned, with the flavor of good ol' time religion. The material is practical. It can be used for daily devotions, for Bible study, and to teach Sunday School classes.

The posts do not reflect a specific denomination. We draw on resources from many Christian traditions: Anglican, Baptist, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Wesleyan. It is our intention that every article be biblical, honest, and edifying.

May God bless you as you read the posts.

Alice C. Linsley, Administrator

Sunday, March 24, 2024

His was a crushing, body piercing, hole boring death.

Jesus Carrying his Cross by Daud Akhriev

At Calvary Jesus was treading the winepress alone; and of the people there were none with Him. (Is. 63:3) His disciples had abandoned him.

The treading of the winepress speaks of divine judgment (Is. 63:2; Lam. 1:15; Rev. 14:19Rev.14:20).

The Virgin Mary stood weeping before her beaten and wounded son who she knew to be God's son. A sword pierced her mother's heart. (Lk. 2:34-35)

The closer we are to our Savior, the more we will feel the sorrow of His passion.

Winepresses are found throughout the Ancient Near East and Egypt. They were especially common on the hills within Abraham's territory which extended between Hebron and Beersheba. 

The winepress consisted of two vats or troughs (Heb. yekebh, Gr. hypolenion). The higher vat is where the grapes were trodden upon, and the second, lower vat received the juice from the bruised grapes. 

Jesus' suffering is described in Isaiah 53:5 - But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

The oldest Hebrew copy of the Psalms from the Dead Sea Scrolls, dating to the century before Christ reads the verb in this verse as ka’aru. This is a Messianic passage:

 ...a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.

The Hebrew ka'aru indicates a deep wound. It suggests boring a hole. The term relates to the leather workers (tahash) who bore holes in their materials. They are called karmaara, a word related to the Hindi lohakara, meaning copper smith. As a child in India, I remember the sound of the copper smiths who pounded their wares.

There is a linguistic connection to the biblical word ka-aru. The word appears to be of Nilotic origin. Among the Luo of the Upper Nile ka-Aru means "the place of the one who pierces."

In Isaiah 1:6 the King James Version has the word "bruises" using chabbarah. Chabbarah is linguistically related to the Luo chaddho, meaning to cut out, to pluck out, or to bruise the skin. A wound of this type is called chaddhoreh in Luo.

The linguistic connections should not surprise us because Jesus' early Hebrew ancestors spoke Akkadian, the oldest known Semitic language. Many Sanskrit words emerged from Ancient Akkadian. The Indian scholar, Malati J. Shendge, concluded that the language of the Harappans of the Indus Valley was Akkadian.

Ajay Pratap Singh has written, "Comparisons of Akkadian and Sanskrit words yielded at least 400 words in both languages with comparable phonetic and semantic similarities. Thus, Sanskrit has, in fact, descended from Akkadian."

The Bible also makes it clear that Jesus' early Hebrew ancestors moved into many parts of the ancient world from the Nile Valley (Gen. 10). He is a descendant of the early kingdom builders such as Nimrod, one of "the mighty men of old" described in Genesis 6. The Hebrew kingdom builders maintained commerce on the major water systems of the ancient world. They migrated out of the Nile Valley in different directions, and they were served by the prestigious caste of Hebrew ruler-priests.

Together the biblical references describe Jesus' execution as a crushing, body piercing, hole boring death.

Let us never forget what our Savior Jesus Christ did for us. May we bow our heads and bend our knees before his holy Cross.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

A Healthy Approach to the Bible


Dr. Alice C. Linsley

For the sake of argument, what authority can the New Testament documents have without the doctrine of verbal plenary inspiration? This doctrine states that every word in the entire biblical text was inspired by the Holy Spirit so that there are no errors in the original Scriptures.

But what of discrepancies? When we consider the Gospel accounts of Jesus' birth, ministry, death and resurrection we find discrepancies that result from different perspectives. In fact, if the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John agreed in every minute detail, we would have evidence of collusion among the witnesses. We would have reason to be suspicious. Such discrepancies on minor details are actually evidence of authenticity.

Even to speak of "errors" is misleading. Are contextual incongruities errors? A contextual incongruity is evident in Genesis 6:4 which poses the Nephilim as fallen angels (a Rabbinic notion) while also presenting them as historical “heroes of days gone by, men of renown.” The term Nephilim is derived from the same root as the Aramaic npyl which means giant, as in great. This is equivalent to the Arabic nfy, meaning hunter. Noah’s great grandson Nimrod is described as a “mighty hunter” or a “mighty man” before the Lord. Nimrod was a Kushite kingdom builder who married a Sumerian princess. He was among the "First Lords of the Earth."

Some portions of the New Testament include Jewish Midrash which contradict other portions of the canonical Scripture. Hebrews 12:16 describes Esau as an immoral and godless person, yet Hebrews 11:20 describes Esau as blessed. Which is the inspired word? It cannot be the midrash which contradicts the picture of Esau in Genesis as one who forgave his brother Jacob for trying to steal his inheritance birthright and his father's priestly blessing. 

In Hebrew 7:20-28, the author states that the former priests did not take oaths. However, there are historical documents that attest to oaths among the Hebrew priests. These include oaths of office, of loyalty, and of truth telling. The priest took an oath that declared loyalty to the high king who he served, and the oath was declared before the appointed royal official or high priest under whom the priest served.

The author of Hebrews is honest about his lack of information. He admits that many of the religious practices of the period of the Exodus are not familiar to him. Of the Ark of the Covenant, the mysterious manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, he explains in Hebrew 9:5 – “Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.” 

The Bible is indeed a miraculous codex. It contains all things necessary for salvation. It should be read as objectively as possible, apart from denominational interpretations, dispensationalism, or concerns about errors. The reader has a responsibility to apply reason. Today the amount of information available to help people understand the Bible is enormous. 

To those steeped in the mindset of "the plain meaning of Scripture" this might sound a strange teaching. There is nothing "plain" about the canonical Scriptures. They are dense, multi-layered, tightly woven, and provocative. They require intense study and close reading with great attention to details. This should be especially true for those who claim Scripture as their first authority (prima scriptura).

We are heirs to the empiricism of the twentieth century and we can legitimately draw on that heritage when investigating the Scriptures as objectively as possible. We may approach the Bible less polemically than past generations. We can understand difficult passages because of the work of learned Bible scholars, textual criticism, biblical archaeology, biblical anthropology, and the study of biblical languages and biblical populations. Today the available “ordinary means” of understanding the Bible are vastly greater and more diverse than in the past.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

The Church at Prayer


"Prayer is the nearest approach to God and the highest enjoyment of Him that we are capable of in this life." - Archbishop William Law

The Church is a great mystery, the nature of which is known only to God. The divisions among Christians reflect cultural and historical realities about which countless volumes have been written. 

It can be safely said that where the Church is there is prayer that aligns with divine revelation in Scripture and Tradition. The Holy Spirit inspires prayer and sometimes moves us to prayer in times of urgency. 

The single prayer upon which all Christians agree is the "Our Father" or "The Lord's Prayer". The authority for this prayer comes from Jesus Christ himself who taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses (debts) as we forgive those who trespass against us (our debtors); and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Types of prayer range from personal prayer in daily devotions; extemporaneous prayers in public services of worship, and formal liturgical prayers. Christians believe that prayer is offered to glorify God, to render praise and thanksgiving, to intercede for others, to confess sins, and to consecrate, sanctify, and ordain.

The following prayers come from different Christian traditions, but all express what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

This "General Thanksgiving" is found in The Book of Common Prayer (Anglican).

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we, thine unworthy servants, do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all they goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all men; We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful; and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord,, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end.

This prayer comes from the Ethiopic Liturgy.

Truly the heavens and earth are full of the holiness of thy glory, in our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, thy holy Son. He came, and was born of the Virgin, that he might fulfill thy will and make a people for thee. He stretched out his hands to the passion, suffering to save the sufferers that trust in thee; and was delivered of his own will to the Cross, that he might abolish death and burst the bond of Satan, trample on Hades, lead forth the Saints, establish a covenant, and make known his resurrection! 

These two prayers come from the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox Church:

Illumine our hearts, O Master who lovest mankind, with the pure light of thy divine knowledge. Open the eyes of our mind to the understanding of thy Gospel teachings. Put us in fear also of thy blessed commandments, that we, trampling down all earthly passions, may follow after the life of the spirit; both thinking and doing always such things as shall be well pleasing to thee. For thou art the light of our souls and of our bodies, O Christ our God. (Attributed to St. John Chrysostom.)

O Most Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. O lord, cleanse us from our sins. O Master, pardon our transgressions. O Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities for Thy name's sake.

This memorial prayer comes from the Liturgy of the Apostolic Constitutions.

He who fashioneth all that are born into this world was himself fashioned in the Virgin’s womb; he who was without flesh became flesh; he who was begotten from eternity was born in time. He was holy in his conversation and taught in accordance with law, and he drove away all manner of disease and sickness from among men, and wrought signs and wonders among the people. He who feedeth the hungry and filleth all things living with plenteousness partook of food and drink and sleep. He manifested thy name to those who knew it not; he put ignorance to flight, rekindled piety, fulfilled thy will, and did finish the work which thou gavest him to do. And when he had duly accomplished all these things, betrayed by one diseased with wickedness he was seized by the hands of lawless people, priests and High Priests, falsely so called, and a rebellious mob; and having suffered many things at their hands, and having endured all kinds of indignity by thy permission, was delivered to Pilate the Governor. The Judge was judged, the Saviour was condemned, he who is impassible was nailed to the Cross, and he who is by nature immortal died.

Prayer for the Church (attributed to William Law).

Gracious Father, we pray for thy holy Catholic Church. Fill it with all truth, in all truth with all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Savior.

This prayer comes from the Liturgy of the Coptic Jacobites.

O Longsuffering, of great mercy and truth, receive our prayer and supplication’ receive our petition, our penitence, our confession upon thy pure and holy altar in heaven. May we be accounted worthy to hear thy holy Gospel, and to keep thy precepts and commandments, and to bear fruit therein an hundredfold, and sixtyfold, in Christ Jesus our Lord, O thou who art blessed with him and the holy and lifegiving Spirit.

Anglican Prayer of Humble Access before reception of Holy Communion.

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Was Jesus Omniscient?


Icon of the Second Council of Nicaea

Dr. Alice C. Linsley

The question of whether or not Jesus was omniscient is far above my paygrade. The Son of God becoming incarnate is a singular event and a great mystery. Far greater minds than mine have struggled to understand this at the early Ecumenical Councils and they concluded that Christ has two natures: fully human and fully divine, and that the two natures are neither mixed, nor separable. In other words, one nature does not overthrow the other. The two natures exist in perfect harmony in the God-Man Jesus Christ.

Jesus knew his destiny because he knew the expectation of his Hebrew ancestors concerning the Son of God: how he would be conceived by divine overshadowing (Luke 1:35); show his authority over wind and water, die, and rise on the third day. He predicts his death in Jerusalem. He draws on the story of Jonah being 3 days in the whale’s belly to speak of his third-day resurrection. He repeatedly called out the Jewish elite for obfuscating this Messianic Faith of their ancestors. They made it about politics. Jesus’ message was about our need for repentance and glorifying his Father in Heaven.

The Gospels often speak of Jesus knowing the thoughts of his enemies. Matthew 12:25 is an example: "And Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said unto them..." Did Jesus read their minds? That appears to overthrow what is within the realm of possibility for a fully human person. Rather, it means that Jesus knows the ways and manners of sinners and God-mockers. That fits the context of His dispute with the Pharisees in Matthew 12. This is not an example of omniscience, but proof that He knows the evil that resides in our hearts. 

It seems to me that the term “omniscient” may not be the best term to use in reference to Jesus Christ. It suggests the Greek philosophical attributes for the Godhead and is foreign to the Semitic way of thinking about God.

Omniscience means that Jesus was never surprised or disappointed, nor would He wonder about things. Jesus knew Judas would betray him, but that knowledge must have brought Him disappointment and sadness. In some instances, Jesus showed surprise or astonishment at the faith of Gentiles who approached him. Consider the stories of the Centurion (Matt. 8:10; Mark 6:6) and the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30). Our Lord condescended to the level of understanding of others out of love and compassion. This is what a good teacher does to increase the student’s understanding.

Jesus recognized that He is the subject of the Isaiah passage: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” 

He declared this in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:17-21).

Friday, December 22, 2023

A Blessed Feast of the Nativity


Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath shined the light of knowledge upon the world; for thereby they that worshipped the stars were instructed by a star to worship Thee, the Sun of Righteousness, and to know Thee, the Dayspring from on high. O Lord, glory be to Thee.