Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category


Easter is my most favorite holiday of all. Often I hear people wondering, “why do Christians celebrate a death?”. The answer is simple, it wasn’t just a death. It was way more than that. As Paul explains it in 1 Corinthians 15 it is about, not only the death, but the burial and bodily resurrection, according to the Scriptures –and on the resurrection, everything we believe as Christians hangs on:

“And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” 1 Cor 15:14

Among several key awesome reasons that excite me about the cross we have:

  • The sins we all have committed (are committing, and will commit- see here) which put every human being in enmity with God (see here), rendering us as dead in our relationship with God (see here), were fully paid for. It is done! [TETELESTAI]
  • By raising from the dead, Jesus proved he is God in human body (see here), thus validating everything he said, including the authority and veracity of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures (Old Testament and New Testament). (No more wondering whether the Jonah story is true  🙂 )
  • Not only that, but through the resurrection we get a glimpse of God’s three-persons-in-one-God nature, as scriptures teach that God raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 10:9, 1 Pet. 1:21), The Father raised Jesus from the dead (Gal. 1:1, Eph. 1:17,20), The Son raised himself from the dead (John 2:19-21), and The Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11).

 

Nevertheless, there is one particular reason that pumps me up to celebrate Jesus’ dead and resurrection this year.

It all started when I considered verses that describe Jesus as “The only begotten Son” (See John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9), or being begotten [born?] (Hebrews 5:5). That would make sense if related to Jesus’ human birth at Bethlehem, but not as the Son, since as such Jesus is from everlasting to everlasting.

Upon looking up and comparing from the Greek sources, and reading some Greek-beginner-friendly sources, I realized that The Greek term that some Bibles (BLB, NASB, KJV, NKJV) translate into English as “begotten” [g3439 μονογενής monogenēs]   does not mean “only born” but “unique”, as seen used in other passages such as Hebrews 11:17, where Isaac is called ‘monogenēs’ –not only “born”, as Abraham did have other children besides Isaac, but “unique”. Other modern translations render this term more properly “the one and only” (NIV, NLT, ESV etc).

 

So far so good, but we still have the issue with Psalm 2:7 Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5 in which we have God telling Jesus “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You” (KJV, NKJV). Since the Greek word used here [g1080 γεννάω gennaō] means to be born,  one would assume it refers to Jesus –as man, being born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. But that would mean that at some point, he wasn’t, contradicting John 1:1 and other passages. So I searched more.

First, I discovered through searching for what “begotten” may have meant in Jewish culture, that in most of ancient cultures, kings were considered sons of god or sons of heaven, or in some cultures, gods themselves (Romans, Egyptians, Assyrians). However, they were not considered ‘gods’ from birth, but from the moment they were enthroned as kings. It was at that time that they were “begotten” as gods. The term “begotten: was customary of meaning “enthronement as king” (see here)

 

Second, we have Psalm 2, as understood by Jewish traditions as a Messianic Psalm –that is, a prophecy about the coming Messiah (Jesus Christ). Evidently, a poem about the Messiah’s enthronement as king.

Fast forward about a thousand years to Antioch somewhere around year 47AD, when Paul and his companions went to a synagogue on the Sabbath day, and Paul was invited to speak (Acts 13:14-41). As Paul began to speak, he gave a summary of Israel’s history starting with Egypt (v17), the wilderness (v18), the judges (v20), David (v22), and how from king David’s seed, the Savior Jesus would come (v23). Then he continued with John the Baptist introduction of Jesus (v24-25), all the way to Jesus’ death (v28), burial (v29), and resurrection (v30 “…But God raised Him from the dead”). He continues on:

“31 He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people.
32 And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers.
33 God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus” Acts 13:31-33

And then he gives what by inspiration of the Holy Spirit is the one prophecy –of kingly enthronement, being fulfilled at the resurrection:

As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’” Acts 13:33

Ending with “34 And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption…”.

We have the same context of resurrection and enthronement in Hebrews 1:5 and similarly, but connected to his role as priest, in Hebrews 5:5.

Therefore, what we celebrate on Easter is not just a death –a horrible death of an innocent man, or our sins forgiven by God made man, but the enthronement of our King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ!! (see also here). That ladies and gentlemen, is a far glorious reason to celebrate and rejoice!

 

Long… Eternally live the King!!


“It is Finished”. (Matt Papa)

Once and for all, You offered up Your life
For one and all The perfect sacrifice
Atoning blood was shed, Love conquered when You said…

It is finished It is done, To the world salvation comes
Hallelujah, we’re alive! Hell was silenced when You cried:
It is finished, It is finished

Who is this king, Who is this king, So mighty and so strong
He is the one, He is the one, The earth has waited for
God’s remedy for sin, With mercy for all men

Well the earth shook and trembled, The sun bowed it’s head
The veil of the temple was open for men, As Jesus went down in the cold of the grave
Defeated the darkness when He overcame, The keys of the Kingdom were placed into hands
Of children and priests and of fishers of men, Through all generations His voice will be heard
Creation resounds the victorious words!

It is finished…

 


In a purely human way, the term ‘Christian’ is a label either (a) given to people perceived to follow Christ, or (b) claimed by those who –in their interpretation, follow Christ.

With that in mind, there is a wide variety of Christians.

There are Christians who claim The Bible is the one and only source of authority. Other Christians claim there are other equally authoritative books and sources.

There are Christians who believe the Bible is inspired, literal, inerrant, and infallible. Others, that it is metaphorical and subject to culture and times context.

Some Christians hold to the idea that only those who believe, accept and obey Jesus by repentance and life change, can be saved. Others argue that, at the end, everybody will be saved.

Some Christians believe it is OK to have loud music with neon lights and PowerPoint presentations in church. Others are OK with music but only hymns. Others believe any kind of music in church is sinful and only sing a cappella.

Some Christians believe speaking in tongues is an evidence of salvation. Others believe it’s acceptable for some but not mandatory. Others will argue that speaking in tongues is a sign of demon possession.

Some Christians believe love is exemplified by accepting -and even supporting other people’s sin. Some others adhere to the idea that you can love without supporting their sin. Some say that the best and most loving thing to do is to show love by making people aware of what sin is, showing its dangers and guiding people to repentance. Others say that there is pretty much no sin at all.

Some Christians are against same-sex marriage. Some Christians state that homosexuality is a sin, but are OK with non-believers enjoying the social and civil benefits of marriage. I have even read of Christians who argue that Jesus condoned and justified male-male sexual intercourse.

Some Christians may agree with this post, in that there is a vast variety of interpretations and beliefs. Others will label me as heretic (believe me, I already have this week).

We could go on and on describing hundreds and thousands of issues in which Christians disagree. Some perhaps critical; some maybe inconsequential. Who is right and who is wrong?. It is hard to believe that everyone is right when many of these positions are so diametrically opposed to each other. I would think that one day we will know, when God will judge everyone according to what we have done.  I would think God is big enough and just enough to give to each of us according to whether we followed a belief out of honest misunderstanding, or just as an excuse to justify our own pleasures and desires. That is of course, if my interpretation of God’s justice is accurate –I could be wrong. We do get the idea that some, at the judgement time, will be sadly surprised of how deceived or wrong they were (see Matthew 7:21-23)

empty-tomb-and-three-crosses-colette-scharf

Either way, there is one thing most Christians agree and can be united on and celebrate together: Jesus lived, walked on this earth around two thousand years ago, taught, loved and ultimately went to the electric chair of His time, to pay for the due penalty of our sins so that we would not have to. And three days later, He was the first and only human being  who came back to life to never die again, proving what He claimed, that He was the son of God, God himself in a human body. This event was of such relevance to humanity, that millions of people throughout the last two thousand years have and still, talk about, debate and put their hope in Him.

Jesus’ death and resurrection is the single most significant event in human history and the one thing in which our whole faith relies upon. Jesus’ death and resurrection is the one thing that we all –labeled and self-proclaimed Christians, can agree and celebrate together.

May this common cornerstone bring us to a point where we all can examine ourselves, our motives, actions, arguments and positions, and humbly consider that we could be wrong in our interpretations, and to seek to please God and follow Him whatever it takes, by seeking practical and lasting ways to honor Him.

Posted: January 1, 2013 in Holidays, The Bible

Starting on Genesis 1 today? Think again…

Thoughts with accent

If I had to chose only one of my blog entries for people to read, if I could pay people to look and consider only one of my writings, if I could publish and distribute only one post, this would be it. Please please read it and consider it.

Introduction. If you have proposed as a new year’s resolution to read the Bible in this new year, please continue to point 4. However, if you have not even considered such goal, or even if you don’t call yourself a Christian -or if you have doubts about Christianity, if you are a skeptic, please read part 1 first.

4. New Year’s resolution: Read the Bible. So we agree that the most profitable, fruitful and fulfilling resolution for this new year is to know God through the Bible. Great!, awesome goal!. There are so many good Bible reading plans out there (click…

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A little bit of Christmas math & statistics:

The chances you will get murdered in USA: 1 in 8,000
The chances of dating a super-model: 1 in 88,000 (Although I got that one… and I married her)
The chances of being stroke by lightening: 1 in 576,000
The chances of an American male being Tom Cruise: 1 in 150,000,000
The chances of winning the 500 MegaMillons: 1 in 176,000.000

The chances of a 1st century Jewish boy being born in the same place that a 700 year-old ancient manuscript promised for the Messiah: 1 in 280,000

The chances of a 1st century Jewish 30 year-old riding a donkey entering into Jerusalem, as promised by a 500 year-old ancient manuscript promised for the Messiah: 1 in 100

The chances of a man of the time keeping quite as he was being beat and torn, as –you guessed right, promised by a 700 year-old ancient manuscript: 1 in 1,000

The chances of five more specific prophecies foretold 200-1000 years earlier being all-together fulfilled by one man: 1 in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

What are the chances then, of the same God who directed these and many other prophecies and delivered the promises so accurately and exactly, about Messiah’s city of birth, time in history, family etc, on being faithful to what He promises to you?

That if you choose to accept He was real, walked on this earth, was the son of God and a man at the same time;
That He died on a cross to pay for your sins –past, present and future;
That He resurrected like no other man ever has –to prove He was and is God in human body;
That He wants to bless you, protect you, love you, forgive you and use you in His mega plan;
That He can be as real counselor, friend, companion and support here and now;
That He can provide for your needs, make the best of any situation, heal you and speak to you through His Word;
That He will love you and accept you even when you fail –He in fact will forgive you and restore you;
That no matter whether you are an atheist or a church leader, He can take you, right where you are, and make of today, a brand new day?

It’s not rocket science. The odds are in your favor. BELIEVE!.

Merry Christmas!


And I’m not referring to the lights and the gifts and the hot chocolate, or even celebrating Jesus birthday. Although those might be great, I think there is a far more practical reason December is the happiest season of all.

its-the-most-wonderful-time-of-the-year-smallI think this is the season that best lends itself for us to be Christians. Throughout the year we have heard countless messages, sermons and Bible studies reminding us and encouraging us to believe in Jesus, to read and study scriptures, to pray continually, to obey His commandments, to love our neighbor, to tithe and give to the needy, to serve and help others. Throughout the year, we’ve been given practical applications to love our spouses, fellowship daily with God, manage our time wisely, surrender fruitless additions and activities, share the Good News with others, and to stand fearless against adversities.

However, acting upon our beliefs is where the rubber hits the road. Weather you believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit or gift of tongues or whether you are more in the “you’ve got all the spirit at conversion” side of the discussion, I am sure we all can agree with this quote:

Sometimes It takes more Holy Spirit to help with the dishes than to pray…

The Christian life God wants us to live; the Christian life the outsiders are going to be truly influenced by, is a life that both, understands the ‘saved by grace’ identity through a deep relationship with God on a daily basis through prayer and Bible study, and –as a result, acts.

And Christmas season is a perfect time to act because:

–          Giving is on the air. It is not too awkward to give to a waitress a high tip, pay for someone’s dinner or giving practical gifts to foster kids, instead of unnecessary expensive gifts to our own kids (or ourselves). What better season to practice the famous “random acts of kindness”.

–          People are open to kindness, which is an opportunity to, not only pray for people in secret, but pray for them and with them face to face, in the workplace, streets of anywhere else.

–          No other topic in scriptures has more resources (books, advent devotionals, movies, youtube videos etc) available as the Christmas story, which can make it a bit easier for us parents to study and teach the Bible to our kids –and learn ourselves in the process, about Jesus and salvation.

–          You can even use the “12 days of Christmas” excuse, to do special simple but profound acts of love and service to your spouse. Night talks, dates, a rose in her nightstand, back rubs, kitchen clean up, oil change….. your imagination is the limit.

–          Put all of these together, and a few more, and you have a whole set of activities and actions you can take to serve and love others and use these acts of kindness as vehicles to tell others about who Jesus is and what The Gospel means for them; the best way to witness and share our faith with others.

The greatest result, if you take these areas and ideas and come up with your own customized plan, and executed it during December, by the last day in New Years Eve, you will have a great head-start on ‘resolutions’, as you would, not only be focused on things that do matter, and have experienced them, but you would also already have some ‘habit practice’ built-in (they say that if you do something for 21 days, it is more likely to stick with it)… you will have some momentum going -which some argue decides 80% of the success for new year’s resolutions. Imagine if you could live life doing these type of acts, not only on December, but throughout all 2013?

It may not work, but it might. Only giving it a try will tell… and I think it is well worth it. You may say at the end, with a whole new meaning, that December the most wonderful time of the year!


Last week I had what I can comfortably describe as a quasi-supernatural experience.

Friday night. A few thousand people gathered at a local church to worship and celebrate the launch of a new CD. The lights are dim and a new song sung…you can hear the many voices of adults and kids, men and women singing together the verses that describe God’s goodness in providing in all times. Then the lines “faithful faithful” are repeated over and over…. And then it happened:

In way that I just can’t describe completely, my mind became an ultra fast video player. My life started flashing through my mind. I was somehow reminded, or more accurately, started to quickly re-live, times of my childhood and youth. I re-experience in a blink of an eye being a pre-teenager growing up in a single-working-mother home -in hard financial circumstances, in the midst of a violent and uncertain third world country.

I suddenly remembered what it was like to grow up without a dad, or fancy food, or fancy sneakers.
I considered what it would have been of my life, should I have continued in my path to be a Catholic priest.
I ponder upon what it felt to consider suicide when debt and unemployment darken any possible dreams as a college age man.
With a bit of shame and some pain, I remembered laying down on a couch on a dark after-party night, feeling and hearing loudly my unusually fast heartbeat accelerated by excessive use of cocaine, and thinking “I know I could die of overdose any moment”, like some of my friends had.

It was a weird moment; just a few seconds long, but so much was brought up. Then, those memories abruptly turned into considering who I am today, what I have today.

The immediate conclusion and emotion in my heart, contrary to what one might imagine, was NOT “wow!, look at where God has brought me from” -though He has. It wasn’t either “wow! Look at how much God gave to me” –though He did. My thought was not of gratitude for bringing me out of a third world country into the American dream, but rather, gratitude and thankfulness for being and providing father figures when my father was gone. For teaching me and my family to appreciate and see His faithfulness and provision in the little we had and how to make the most of it. I felt thankful for being part of the statistical guerrilla-related 50% survival rate from my mom’s family side. I felt appreciation, not necessarily for what I experienced and what He saved me from, but for having the opportunity to experience those things, under His protection and sovereignty -in spite of my sin and, sometimes, bad decisions.

The song kept on going and going…”faithful, faithful, faithful..”. as I was reminded that thankfulness is not necessarily born from the difference between bad towards good; nor from not having to having; otherwise one would conclude that people who are born with everything, have not much to be thankful for. Rather, maybe thankfulness comes from the understanding that we are born into a sinful and fallen world where bad things are the rule and not the exception. A world where only by the grace, love and hand of God, one can go through without losing their mind –even in-spite of lack of believe of acknowledgment of God’s presence and plans.

I read recently a tweet that read: “The gospel teaches us 1st that we are entitled to nothing, & then, gives us everything.”. That is perhaps, the key to being truly thankful.