Another Great Question…..What Is the Torah?

The Bible’s answer

The English word “Torah” comes from the Hebrew word toh·rahʹ, which can be translated as “instruction,” “teaching,” or “law.” * (Proverbs 1:8;3:1; 28:4) The following examples show how this Hebrew word is used in the Bible.

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  • Toh·rahʹ often refers to the first five books of the Bible—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These are also called the Pentateuch, from a Greek word meaning “fivefold volume.” The Torah was written by Moses, so it is called “the book of the Law of Moses.” (Joshua 8:31; Nehemiah 8:1) Evidently, it was originally written as one book but was later divided for easier handling.

  • Toh·rahʹ is also used for the laws given to Israel on a particular subject, such as “the law [toh·rahʹ] of the sin offering,” “the law about leprosy,” and “the law about the Nazirite.”—Leviticus 6:25;14:57; Numbers 6:13.

  • Toh·rahʹ sometimes refers to instruction and teaching, whether from parents, wise ones, or God himself.—Proverbs 1:8; 3:1; 13:14; Isaiah 2:3, footnote.

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What is in the Torah, or Pentateuch?

  • The history of God’s dealings with humankind from creation to the death of Moses.—Genesis 1:27, 28; Deuteronomy 34:5.

  • The regulations of the Mosaic Law. (Exodus 24:3) That Law is made up of more than 600 statutes. Prominent among them is the Shema, or Jewish confession of faith. One portion of the Shema says: “You must love Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) Jesus described this as “the greatest and first commandment.”—Matthew 22:36-38.

  • Some 1,800 occurrences of the divine name, Jehovah. Rather than prohibit the use of God’s name, the Torah contains commands that required God’s people to pronounce it.—Numbers 6:22-27;Deuteronomy 6:13; 10:8; 21:5.

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Misconceptions about the Torah

Misconception: The laws of the Torah are eternal, never to be set aside.

Fact: Some Bible translations do refer to specific statutes of the Torah—including those related to the Sabbath, the priesthood, and the Day of Atonement—as being “perpetual” or “everlasting.” (Exodus 31:16;40:15; Leviticus 16:33, 34King James Version) However, the Hebrew word used in these verses can also mean lasting into the indefinite future, not necessarily lasting forever. * After the Mosaic Law covenant had been in force for about 900 years, God foretold that he would replace it with “a new covenant.” (Jeremiah 31:31-33) By “saying ‘a new covenant,’ [God] made the former [covenant] obsolete.” (Hebrews 8:7-13) It was replaced about 2,000 years ago on the basis of the death of Jesus Christ.—Ephesians 2:15.

Misconception: Jewish oral traditions and the Talmud have authority equal to the written Torah.

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Fact: There is no Scriptural evidence that God gave Moses an oral law to accompany the written Torah. Instead, the Bible states: “Jehovah went on to say to Moses: ‘You are to write down these words.’” (Exodus 34:27) The oral law, later written down and known as the Mishnah and finally expanded into the Talmud, consists of Jewish traditions that began with the Pharisees. These traditions often conflicted with the Torah. For this reason, Jesus told the Pharisees: “You have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition.”—Matthew 15:1-9.

Misconception: Women should not be taught the Torah.

Fact: The Mosaic Law included a regulation that the entire Law be read to all the people of Israel, including the women and children. Why? “In order that they may listen and learn about and fear Jehovah [their] God and take care to carry out all the words of [the] Law.”—Deuteronomy 31:10-12. *

Misconception: The Torah contains hidden messages.

Fact: Moses, who recorded the Torah, stated that its message is clear and accessible to all, not hidden in a code. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14) The theory that there are hidden messages in the Torah is rooted in Kabbalah, or traditional Jewish mysticism, which uses “artfully contrived” methods to interpret the Scriptures. *2 Peter 1:16.

I hope this helps to explain a little better for you John.

Another Great Question…..

Why did Jesus Christ come?

The historian Luke records the declaratory statement of the angel to the shepherds in Luke 2:10-11: “‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.’”

The word savior literally means “rescuer.” So why did Jesus come? Jesus came to give you salvation. He came to rescue you.

It is important to realize this salvation, this rescue, has individual and corporate implications. Let us look at this rescue, this salvation, in a three-step, time progressional perspective.

First, Jesus came to give you salvation (rescue) from an old style of life – an END.

Jesus came to help people with a past put that past behind them. Salvation is rescue from the past. You can’t do this on your own. You need a Savior. What is for certain about the past?

Jesus rescues you from your bondage to past sin.

The fact is that none of us is perfect. All of us have sinned. The Bible tells us that there is no way in which we can atone for our own sins. We need a Savior. God became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ to die for your and my sins. If we repent of sin, confess our need, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all iniquity. The Bible uses a most graphic description when it declares, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

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Jesus also rescues you from a meaningless existence.

Meaningless is the human predicament, isn’t it? Is there anything more empty than trivial cocktail-hour chatter? Oh, it is nice at times, in a laid-back situation that has no pressure. Some people spend all their lives flitting around to such non-pressured situations, talking about shopping, golf scores, and the escalation of housing prices. All topics of some importance, but not of ultimate significance. How easy it is to anesthetize ourselves to the deeper significant issues of life, living trivial, surface existences that, at the end of the day, leave us empty.

And Jesus rescues you from successes of the past.

Many of us look back to days in which, on human terms, we would be perceived to be more successful than we are at this moment. Our athletic prowess fades. Our earning capacities are diminished. Our physical bodies age. Our minds are not as sharp as they used to be. And the list goes on.

Jesus came to rescue you from an old style of life. He wants to bring to an end your and my bondage to past sin. He wants to bring to an end our meaningless existence. He wants to bring to an end our preoccupation with a backward look to the successes of yesteryear.

Second, Jesus came to give you salvation (rescue) to a new life now – a NEW BEGINNING.

Salvation is rescue to be all you were created to be in the now.

You can’t do this on your own. You need a Savior.

This is where the Gospel of Jesus Christ becomes so exciting.

The Apostle Paul declared to fast-living, bogged-down sinners with meaningless first-century existences, struggling with success issues, that they could have a new beginning in life. He put it in these words: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). He wrote that to people living in that very materialistic coastal city named Corinth, with pressures on them so similar to those on us today.

He wrote to citizens in the northern Greek city of Philippi on the major East/West trade route, declaring how he had learned to “forget what lies behind,” based on what God had done for him in Jesus Christ. No longer was he weighed down by the sins of the past. He was a forgiven man. No longer was he trying to energetically please God, saving himself by zealous actions. No, he had learned God’s love, His amazing grace, and his life had been transformed by the person of Jesus Christ, who offered meaning and purpose for existence. He no longer had to define himself by past successes and failures. He was free to live in the now as he was created to live.

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Some of us have a very distorted understanding of salvation.

Whether we have thought it through or not, we live as if becoming “born again” is the end instead of the beginning. We forget that to repent of sin and put our trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation is not only the end of an old life; it is the beginning of a new life. The day a baby is born is the day of beginning. It is not the end.

Or you can put it in the terms of graduation from college. What do we call graduation? It is “commencement.” What does commencement mean” The end? No! It means the beginning of a whole new life. When a person graduates from college it does not mean they now never need to open a book again, or study, or have creative thoughts. It means they now have been given, at great expense and effort on the part of many, including themselves, the tools to be an intellectually growing person. I have read the average male college graduate reads less than one book a year. I am not certain if that statistic is accurate. I am not certain I have ever met an “average” person. But I do know there are people who assume the life of the intellect is of formal, academic matriculation. A period of formal education brings us to a point, if we take advantage of it, that we see a larger world of ideas in the natural and social sciences. We have an appreciation for art, literature, history. If we nurture that, we are a growing person intellectually all through life. Graduation is truly a commencement, a beginning.

Or take your wedding day. It is meant to be the beginning of a life long commitment to a growing relationship. For some of us, it becomes a kind of de facto end to romance. We have accomplished what we have set out to accomplish. We are now married to that person of our dreams. And we begin to take each other for granted. We would never have done that during the engagement. Symbolically, as a couple kneels at the altar having their vows consecrated, they then stand up, receive the blessing of the pastor, priest or rabbi, and they turn and walk down the aisle into a brand-new life. It is not the end. It is the beginning. Oh, there will be sorrows. There will be joys. And most of life will be lived in an oscillation between those two extremes. That life will have its problems. But it is a new life in which one is able to see in the perspective of “’til death doth part.” That’s what marriage is meant to be.

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Some of us view salvation this way. We see it as the end, not the beginning. We forget that salvation is not only with our past, but it is transformational of our present.

Brian D. McLaren, pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in suburban Washington, D.C., quite insightfully addresses this dynamic in his book, Adventures in Missing the Point. In his chapter titled “Missing the Point: Salvation,” he writes that the modern Christian way of missing the point is thinking that salvation is only about escaping hell after you die. There’s another approach: that salvation means being rescued from fruitless ways of life here and now, to share in God’s saving love for all creation, in an adventure called the kingdom of God, the point of which you definitely don’t want to miss.”

He goes on to acknowledge that salvation does involve the wonderful gift of assurance that you and I will not perish after this life, but will forever be with the Lord. Then he illustrates the importance of how distorted we can be in our understanding of salvation as an end in itself for this life, instead of a beginning with what he calls the “Parable of the Race.”

Once upon a time, in a land of boredom and drudgery, exciting news spread. “There is going to be a race! And all who run this race will grow strong and they’ll never be bored again!” Exciting news like this had not been heard for many a year, for people experienced little adventure in this ho-hum land, beyond attending committee meetings, waiting in lines, sorting socks, and watching sitcom reruns.

Excitement grew as the day of the race drew near. Thousands gathered in the appointed town, at the appointed place. Most came to observe, skeptical about the news. “It’s too good to be true,” they said. “It’s just a silly rumor started by some teenaged troublemakers. But let’s stick around and see what happens anyway.”

Others could not resist the invitation, arriving in their running shorts and shoes. As they waited for the appointed time, they stretched and jogged in place and chattered among themselves with nervous excitement. At the appointed time they gathered at the starting line, heard the gun go off, and knew that it was time to run.

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Then something very curious happened. The runners took a step or two or three across the starting line, and then abruptly stopped. One man fell to his knees, crying, “I have crossed the starting line! This is the happiest day of my life!” He repeated this again and again, and even began singing a song about how happy this day was for him.

Another woman started jumping for joy. “Yes!” she shouted, raising her fist in the air. “I am a race-runner! I am finally a race-runner!” She ran around jumping and dancing, getting and giving high fives to others who shared her joy at being in the race.

Several people formed a circle and prayed, quietly thanking God for the privilege of crossing the starting line, and thanking God that they were not like the skeptics who didn’t come dressed for the race.

An hour passed, and two. Spectators began muttering; some laughed. “So what do they think this race is?” they said. “Two or three strides, then a celebration? And why do they feel superior to us? They’re treating the starting line as if it were a finish line. They’ve completely missed the point.”

A few more minutes of this silliness passed. “You know,” a spectator said to the person next to her, “if they’re not going to run the race, maybe we should.”

“Why not? It’s getting boring watching them hang around just beyond the starting line. I’ve had enough boredom for one life.”

Other’s heard them, and soon many were kicking off their dress shoes, slipping out of their jackets, throwing all this unneeded clothing on the grass. And they ran – past the praying huddles and past the crying individuals and past the jumping high-fivers. And they found hope and joy in every step, and they grew stronger with every mile and hill. To their surprise, the path never ended – because in this race, there was no finish line. So they were never bored again.

McLaren concludes with these observations:

Is salvation for you a one-time experience? Or is it a lifelong journey? It is about rescue from your uncomfortable circumstances (as it was for the ancient Jews), or rescue from this world after death (as it is for many modern Christians) – or is it about being rescued from a life that is disconnected from God and God’s adventure, both in this life and the next? Is salvation about stepping across a line – or is it about crossing a starting line to begin an unending adventure in this life and beyond?

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What is for certain about the present?

Jesus came to give you the privilege of a mystical experience with God.

John writes, “. . . we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). You and I are set free in this life for that mystical dimension of daily relationship with God, the fellowship that comes from reading the Scriptures, prayer, spiritual meditation, and from being a part of the community of faith called the church. You are privileged to engage with God in ways that go beyond the commonplace, boring, day-in, day-out, prosaic existence.

Jesus came to give you the privilege of being a healthy materialist.

You didn’t expect that, did you? Those of us who emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus Christ so often elevate the spiritual to the neglect of the physical. We become content with the mystical part of our faith, tending to see that which is spiritual as at a higher level than that which is physical and material. The fact is that God created all that is. He looked at it, saw it, and declared it “good.” He put Adam and Eve, the highest of His creation, in the garden to preserve, to watch over all His creation. When they disobeyed, sin entered the world. God’s redemption in Jesus Christ is to set right that which is broken. He has redeemed His creation. He wants you and me as His people to be part of His enterprise here on earth, to be caretakers of His kingdom, which exists in a world as fallen as it is. We are His ambassadors to do and say what He tells us to do and say.

We do not earn our salvation by the works we do. But we do flesh out the work of the Holy Spirit of God in the world by taking seriously our responsibilities for this world.

You know how, during His public ministry, Jesus entered the synagogue on the Sabbath at Nazareth. Luke tells us:

He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:17-21).

He calls you and me to be engaged in this kind of enterprise with Him, in which we have a healthy materialism. We understand that people have physical needs as well as spiritual needs. The two are interlinked. You cannot separate one from the other. We are called to join Him in His enterprises here on earth.

It has been exciting to see some of you tutoring over at Shalimar and to see these precious Hispanic young people move forward educationally because of your servant ministry in the name of Jesus Christ.

It is exciting to see some of you engaged with Habitat for Humanity, building houses for the poor right here in Southern California, or going down across the border into Mexico to build houses, churches, orphanages, and to run daily vacation Bible schools, all in the name of Jesus Christ.

How exciting it is to see some of you who are trained Stephen ministers or serve as Deacons here at St. Andrew’s. Many of you have gone through the Lay Ministry Discovery Class so you can know your spiritual gifts, your passion, and your natural style for ministry.

Thank God for the commitment many of you have toward peacemaking. War is not the only way of solving problems in a marriage, in a home, in a community, between nations. Jesus calls us to be peacemakers.

How special it is to see how many of you are doing something for the poor of this world. Bill Flanagan and I figured up the other day that over $350,000 is given each year from those of us at St. Andrew’s to World Vision for special projects and disaster situations, and through the close to 800 child sponsorships to which St. Andrew’s members are committed. Recently we have focused on the matter of AIDS. Some 380 of these children are in an area development program in Malawi, and teams from St. Andrew’s have gone and will go to provide linkage in Christ.

Jesus came to give you and me the privilege of reorienting ourselves to joyful living.

Years ago, when I pastored in Pittsburgh, I got to know a Roman Catholic priest, Father Rick Jones. It has been over 25 years since we have seen each other, but we have carried on correspondence. I received his Christmas letter this week. In it, he writes about the number of times in the biblical accounts of the coming of Jesus that we read words such as joy, joyful, joyfully, rejoice, glad, exalt, gladness, glad tidings. He writes:

The tensions, problems, stresses, and realities of contemporary life can weigh us down so much that we find it difficult to rejoice. We simply want to survive!

There is much written today about addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex, work, and even cleanliness. Enjoying “good things” can be overdone. Ill health, low self-esteem, shame, guilt, sarcasm “veiled anger,” cynicism and alienation from God are all results of compulsive or addictive behavior. These behaviors keep one from freedom that God’s grace will bestow. For the gods of this world bring only emptiness, isolation, and loneliness. Unless we keep our heart secure with a lock and a chain, we will become attached to something of this world that is not for our ultimate good.

Being right with God is the source of our order within. But, since we are all limited human beings, we only have so much “spiritual” energy. If we waste our energy on lust, nursing past hurts, anger, pride, frustrations, being right, being popular, “looking good,” or any of “countless” hosts of replacements for God – there is no room left for God. We must put all things in proper place and abandon those things that disorder, disease, and lead us down a path to spiritual death. Unless we “die” daily to ourselves, Christ is not the center of our life. For only then can we truly heal the disorder in our souls and experience the tranquility of order and true joy. Our self-centeredness keeps our lives “off-key” from God’s plan and will for our well-being, happiness, and joyfulness.

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Jesus came to give you and me salvation, rescue, to a new life now, a new beginning!

Third, Jesus came to give you salvation (rescue) for the life beyond this life – a GREAT FUTURE.

He came to help people live with an expectant, positive hope for the future.

Salvation is rescue for the future. You can’t do this on your own. You need a Savior.

I have observed some people who have tried to figure out the future life on their own. We read more and more about “near-death” experiences.

Several weeks ago, someone described to me how a friend of theirs was literally proclaimed dead by the doctors, but he had come back to life. He told a graphic story about hovering above his own deathbed, watching as the doctors applied the heart paddles, doing their best to revive him. He saw the light of the future and was convinced that he was on his way to heaven – only to suddenly be brought back into his body as he was revived.

A few days later, a woman came in for counseling, quite concerned. She herself had recently had a cardiac situation in which she could not be revived. The doctors had used the paddles, they had flat-lined her, declaring her dead – and then, amazingly, she was revived. She came to me with great concern as to why she had not seen the light and had the near-death experience of which others had spoken so graphically. What was wrong? After all, here she was, a believer in Jesus Christ. Did this mean that there was something wrong spiritually with her?

I was privileged to share with her the fact that we claim the promises of God’s Word in the Scripture, not the stories of experience of others who, although medically declared dead, weren’t really dead because they are still alive here. We are not dependent on stories of near-death to know what the future holds.

What can we for certain know about the future?

For some weeks now we have been studying The Apostles’ Creed. The Creed declares, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” That phrase was not put there by accident. It was put there to emphasize biblical promises of a life beyond this life.

I hope that you are familiar with 1 Corinthians 15. The Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declares the wonderful teaching about the life beyond this life. He writes: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being, for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:19-22).

Then he goes on to state this: “Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).

We must be very careful not to make the Bible say more than it says about the life beyond this life. At the same time, we dare not minimize what it does say that is very specific.

Jesus came to set you free from the specter of hell to life in heaven.

The Bible speaks of hell. Some of its language is quite graphic. Some of our conceptions of hell are shaped by medieval literature, not by the Bible itself. What we dare not do is eliminate the fact of hell because we don’t like the notion. In its most basic definition, hell is eternity absent from the presence of God. We must remember that the same Bible that talks about heaven also talks about hell. To claim what we want without acknowledging the reality of what we find abhorrent is to play a game of self-deception, isn’t it?

The Bible says that when a believer in Jesus Christ dies, he or she steps into the presence of Jesus Christ.

We are told that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” Jesus turned to the repentant thief on the cross and declared, “‘This day shall thou be with me in paradise.’” Our next conscious thought is to be with the Lord.

We are told we will have a new/perfect identifiable body.

I have heard some biblical teachers wax on eloquently as to the precise nature of that body. I don’t really know. All I know is that we are told that life does not end with death, that we are not just a spirit floating out in space. We are told there is the resurrection of the body. What that means in technical, physiological reality I don’t know. But we are assured that we will be recognizable to each other, and that our bodies will be without blemish. That which is corruptible will be exchanged for that which is incorruptible. I don’t know what will be the physical appearance of a baby who dies in the early hours of life, or an elderly person who lives to be 100. I do know that the Bible says that we will recognize each other in a reunion with our loved ones, and we will recognize the saints of history who have gone before and those who will come after.

The Bible says that you and I will have a life beyond anything we have experienced here.

Jesus told His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for us. The Bible speaks in graphic terms about mansions and streets paved with gold. This week I have been reading the Book of Revelation. It is mind-boggling to try to comprehend the meaning of all of that graphic description. My human mind can only just begin to sense a bit of the grandeur of heaven and the life beyond this life.

Jesus came to give you and me salvation (rescue) for the life beyond this life and a great future that goes beyond anything that we can fully comprehend.

Several years ago, as a young man, I was privileged to work with Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. For four summers, I traveled with him internationally. For two years, I worked for him at New York’s Marble Collegiate Church.

I will never forget the story he would often tell about a little unborn child in his mother’s womb during the eighth month of her pregnancy. How eloquently he would describe the conversation of the mother telling the unborn son that soon he would be born. He would argue back, “I don’t want to be born.” She would say, “But there is laughter and music and dancing, family and friends.” His response would be, “I don’t understand any of that. I like it in here where it is moist, dark, warm, and all my needs are met.” She would argue back, “Little one, for another month and a few days that’s alright, but you can’t stay in there too long, or things will turn ghastly.” But the little one, incapable of understanding the life she described outside the womb, would fight with everything he had to maintain the status quo.

Then Dr. Peale, in his own way with words, would shift venues, declaring that now it is 90 years later. That unborn child is now a man close to death. This time, his argument is no longer with his earthly mother. This time, it is with the Father. The Father is telling him of the provision He has made for the life beyond this life. The man argues back, “But I like it here. I don’t want to die!” The Father says, “Life with me in heaven is so much greater than anything you have experienced on earth. Just trust me. You will no longer be subject to sin, sickness, broken relationships, war, the aging process, betrayal of friends – all the brokenness of the world in which you live. Yet the argument goes on. We never learn, do we, to really trust the Father?

Thursday morning, I went to the bedside of Frances Boice, 101 years old, in the last days of her life. I stroked her head, talking to her about some of the times we have had together here at St. Andrew’s. The morphine drip was doing its job. Occasionally her eyes would open. I am not certain how much she comprehended. Then, I put my hand on her and said, “Frances, soon you will be in the presence of Jesus Christ.” Then, with family members joined hand in hand in a circle of prayer, we prayed a prayer of committal of Frances into the mercy of Almighty God.

Yesterday morning, as I was completing final preparations for this message, my office phone rang, and I received word that Frances had just died and I paused to celebrate. She is now in the presence of Jesus Christ and those who have gone before.

Why did Jesus Christ come? He came to give you and me salvation (rescue) from the past, new life for the present, and a great future beyond this life!

What does it mean to give my life to Christ Jesus???

What a wonderful question and I am so happy you are interested in giving your life to Christ. It’s not an easy decision but it’s the best life you can have and the greatest life changing decision you will ever make.

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Jesus took all of our sins with Him to the cross. When He died, He took all of our sins, past, present, and future, with Him. Then when He rose from the dead, He showed that He conquered death, and that we too can have have an eternal life with Him.

So, when you give your life to Christ by repenting of your sins, accepting Jesus as your lord and savior, and inviting Him into your heart, you are freed from an eternity separated from God (who cannot be with sin) and instead are granted salvation and eternal life. You are saved.

While still on earth, you will see that He will slowly, over time, transform you into His likeness. Things that used to seem important to you, earthly things, will no longer dictate how you live. You will have immense joy and a burning desire to live a life worthy of His praise. It is an amazing and indescribable feeling but one you will want to share with everyone you know.

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Isn’t that great news! If you are looking to take this step, I would recommend finding a local fellowship or community type Christian church and talking to one of the pastors. If you need help finding one, you can contact anyone at The Church of Jerusalem and the Christian Nation on google+ or facebook, where a friendly person will help point you in the right direction.

https://plus.google.com/communities/101417819153430644768

https://m.facebook.com/groups/1836724716593323/

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The Salvation Prayer.

You give your life to Christ by confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord and that he died and rose again. Here’s how you do it, just say these words out loud.

Dear God in heaven, I come to you in the name of Jesus. I acknowledge to You that I am a sinner, and I am sorry for my sins and the life that I have lived; I need your forgiveness.

I believe that your only begotten Son Jesus Christ shed His precious blood on the cross at Calvary and died for my sins, and I am now willing to turn from my sin.

You said in Your Holy Word, Romans 10:9 that if we confess the Lord our God and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, we shall be saved.

Right now I confess Jesus as the Lord of my soul. With my heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. This very moment I accept Jesus Christ as my own personal Savior and according to His Word, right now I am saved.

Thank you Jesus for your unlimited grace which has saved me from my sins. I thank you Jesus that your grace never leads to license, but rather it always leads to repentance. Therefore Lord Jesus transform my life so that I may bring glory and honor to you alone and not to myself.

Thank you Jesus for dying for me and giving me eternal life. AMEN.

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Welcome to the Christian family brother or sister and may God truly bless you, now and always.

Does God Control “Random” Events?

What about seemingly random events? Does God control them?

THE FLIGHT OF AN ARROW

First Kings 22 contains a striking case. Micaiah, speaking as a prophet of the Lord, predicts that Ahab, the king of Israel, will fall in battle at Ramoth-gilead (1 Kings 22:20–22). Ahab disguises himself in battle to avoid being a special target for enemy attack (v. 30). But God’s plan cannot be thwarted. The narrative describes the crucial event:

But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate. Therefore he [the king] said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded.” (v. 34)

“A certain man drew his bow at random.” That is, he was not aiming at any particular target. An alternative translation would be that he drew his bow “in his innocence” (ESV marginal reading). The alternative translation might mean that the man shot at Ahab, but he did not know who it was (he was “innocent” of knowing it was the king). Whichever interpretation we take of this detail, we should notice that the arrow struck in just the right place. Ahab was dressed in armor. If the arrow had struck Ahab’s breastplate, it might have simply bounced off. If it had struck his scale armor, it would not have wounded him. But there happened to be a small space between the scale armor and the breastplate. Perhaps for just a moment Ahab turned or bent in such a way that a thin opening appeared. The arrow went right in, exactly in the right spot. It wounded him fatally. He died the same day (1 Kings 22:35), just as God had said.

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God showed that day that he was in charge of seemingly random events. He controlled when the man drew his bow. He controlled the direction of his aim. He controlled the moment the arrow was released. He controlled the flight of the arrow. He controlled the way Ahab’s armor was put on earlier in the day, and the position that Ahab took as the arrow came nearer. He controlled the arrow as it struck in just the right spot and went in deep enough to produce fatal damage to organs. He brought Ahab to his death.

Lest we feel too sorry for Ahab, we should remind ourselves that he was a wicked king (1 Kings 21:25–26). Moreover, by going into battle he directly disobeyed the warning that Micaiah the prophet gave in God’s name. It was an act of arrogance and disobedience to God. God, who is a God of justice, executed righteous judgment on Ahab. From this judgment we should learn to revere God and honor him.

Ahab’s death was an event of special significance. It had been prophesied beforehand, and Ahab himself was a special person. He was the king of Israel, a prominent leader, a key person in connection with the history of God’s people in the northern kingdom of Israel. But the event illustrates a general principle: God controls seemingly random events. A single outstanding event, like the arrow flying toward Ahab, has not been narrated as an exception but rather as a particularly weighty instance of the general principle, which the Bible articulates in passages where it teaches God’s universal control.

COINCIDENCES

We can find other events in the Bible where the outcome depends on an apparent coincidence or happenstance.

In Genesis 24, Rebekah, who belonged to the clan of Abraham’s relatives, happened to come out to the well just after Abraham’s servant arrived. The servant was praying and waiting, looking for a wife for Abraham’s son Isaac (Gen. 24:15). The fact that Rebekah came out at just the right time was clearly God’s answer to the servant’s prayer. Rebekah later married Isaac and bore Jacob, an ancestor of Jesus Christ.

Years later Rachel, who belonged to the same clan, happened to come out to a well just after Jacob arrived (Gen. 29:6). Jacob met her, fell in love with her, and married her. She became the mother of Joseph, whom God later raised up to preserve the whole family of Jacob during a seven-year famine (Genesis 41–46). When God provided Rachel for Jacob, he was fulfilling his promise that he would take care of Jacob and bring him back to Canaan (28:15). Moreover, he was fulfilling his long-range promise that he would bless the descendants of Abraham (vv. 13–14).

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Daniel in the Lion’s Den Daniel 6:19-20

In the life of Joseph, after Joseph’s brothers had thrown him into a pit, a caravan of Ishmaelites happened to go by, traveling on their way to Egypt (Gen. 37:25). The brothers sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites. They in turn happened to sell Joseph to Potiphar, “an officer of Pharaoh” (v. 36). Joseph’s experiences were grim, but they were moving him toward the new position that he would eventually assume in Egypt.

False accusation by the wife of Potiphar led to Joseph being thrown into prison (Gen. 39:20). Pharaoh happened to get angry with his chief cupbearer and his chief baker, and they happened to get thrown into the prison where Joseph now had a position of responsibility (40:1–4). While they were lying in prison, both the cupbearer and the baker happenedto have special dreams. Joseph’s interpretation of their dreams led to his later opportunity to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams (Genesis 41). These events led to the fulfillment of the earlier prophetic dreams that God had given to Joseph in his youth (37:5–1042:9).

After Moses was born, his mother put him in a basket made of bulrushes and placed it among the reeds by the Nile. The daughter of Pharaoh happened to come down to the river and happened to notice it. When she opened it, the baby happened to cry. The daughter of Pharaoh took pity and adopted Moses as her own son (Ex. 2:3–10). As a result, Moses was protected from the death sentence on Hebrew male children (1:16, 22), and he “was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). So God worked out his plan, according to which Moses would eventually deliver the Israelites from Egypt.

Joshua sent two spies to Jericho. Out of all the possibilities, they happened to go to the house of Rahab the prostitute (Josh. 2:1). Rahab hid the spies and made an agreement with them (vv. 4, 12–14). Consequently, she and her relatives were preserved when the city of Jericho was destroyed (6:17, 25). Rahab then became an ancestor of Jesus (Matt. 1:5).

Ruth “happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz” (Ruth 2:3). Boaz noticed Ruth, and then a series of events led to Boaz marrying Ruth, who became an ancestor of Jesus (Ruth 4:21–22Matt. 1:5).

During the life of David, we read the following account of what happened in the wilderness of Maon:

As Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them, a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid against the land.” So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines. (1 Sam. 23:26–28)

David narrowly escaped being killed, because the Philistines happened to conduct a raid at a particular time, and the messenger happened to reach Saul when he did. If nothing had happened to interfere with Saul’s pursuit, he might have succeeded in killing David. The death of David would have cut off the line of descendants leading to Jesus (Matt. 1:1, 6).

When Absalom engineered his revolt against David’s rule, a messenger happened to come to David, saying, “The hearts of the men of Israel have gone after Absalom” (2 Sam. 15:13). David immediately fled Jerusalem, where otherwise he would have been killed. During David’s flight, Hushai the Archite happened to come to meet him, “with his coat torn and dirt on his head” (v. 32). David told Hushai to go back to Jerusalem, pretend to support Absalom, and defeat the counsel of Ahithophel (v. 34). As a result, Hushai was able to persuade Absalom not to follow Ahithophel’s counsel for battle, and Absalom died in the battle that eventually took place (18:14–15). Thus, happenstances contributed to David’s survival.

When Ben-hadad the king of Syria was besieging Samaria, the city was starving. Elisha predicted that the next day the city of Samaria would have flour and barley (2 Kings 7:1). The captain standing by expressed disbelief, and then Elisha predicted that he would “see it… but… not eat of it” (v. 2). The next day the captain happened to be trampled by the people who were rushing out the gate toward the food (v. 17). “He died, as the man of God had said” (v. 17), seeing the food but not living to partake of it. His death was a fulfillment of God’s prophecy.

When Athaliah was about to usurp the throne of Judah, she undertook to destroy all the descendants in the Davidic family. Jehosheba happened to be there, and she took Joash the son of Ahaziah and hid him away (2 Kings 11:2). So the line of the Davidic family was preserved, which had to be the case if the Messiah was to come from the line of David, as God had promised. Joash was an ancestor of Jesus Christ.

During the reign of king Josiah, the priests happened to find the Book of the Law as they were repairing the temple precincts (2 Kings 22:8). Josiah had it read to him, and so he was energized to inaugurate a spiritual reform.

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The story of Esther contains further happenstances. Esther happened to be among the young women taken into the king’s palace (Est. 2:8). She happened to be chosen to be the new queen (v. 17). Mordecai happened to find out about Bigthan and Teresh’s plot against the king (v. 22), and Mordecai’s name then happenedto be included in the king’s chronicles (v. 23). The night before Haman planned to hang Mordecai, the king happened not to be able to sleep (6:1). He asked for an assistant to read from the chronicles, and he happened to read the part where Mordecai had uncovered the plot against the king (vv. 1–2). Haman happenedto be entering the king’s court at just that moment (v. 4). A whole series of happenstances worked together to lead to Haman’s being hanged, the Jews being rescued, and Mordecai being honoured.

Blessing.

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