A Seal from King Hezekiah found in Jerusalem by Archaeologists

CNN posted this today, that a seal from King Hezekiah has been discovered by archaeologists in Jerusalem.

Here’s an excerpt:

It is believed to be the first-ever seal — also referred to as a “bulla” — from an Israeli or Judean King to be discovered by archaeologists.

“The seal of the king was so important. It could have been a matter of life or death, so it’s hard to believe that anyone else had the permission to use the seal,” Eilat Mazar, who directs excavations at the City of David’s summit, told CNN.

“Therefore, it’s very reasonable to assume we are talking about an impression made by the King himself, using his own ring.

“This the greatest single item I have ever found,” added Mazar — a third generation archaeologist.

Archaeology continues to confirm the trustworthiness and historicity of the Bible.

As king of Judah, Hezekiah enacted reforms and brought the people back to the worship of Yahweh and put an end to the worship of idols in the temple.

You can read about the reign of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 18-20 as well as 2 Chronicles 29-32 and Isaiah 36-39.

Advent Meditations: 3 – Paradoxes and Promises

In an article for Christianity Today, Michael Horton began with a captivating introduction:

“It was confusing to grow up singing both ‘This World is Not My Home’ and ‘This is My Father’s World.’ Those hymns embody two common and seemingly contradictory Christian views of the world.” One sees this world as a wasteland of godlessness, with which the Christian should have as little possible to do. The other regards the world as part of God’s good creation to be enjoyed and redeemed.

Which is correct? Well, to some degree both.

Here’s another one for you: God is sovereign, yet “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19)

Which one is true? Is God sovereign, or is the whole world under the power of the evil one?  It would seem that the answer is: both.

These are paradoxes, things which seem that they should be mutually exclusive or contradictory, but yet both are true at the same time: this world is part of God’s good creation for us to enjoy and redeem AND this world is a fallen broken place, which is not our home, and from which we long to be set free. God is sovereign; God is in heaven and He does all that He wants (Psalm 115:3), AND the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

Yesterday I watched the news unfold as multiple shooters entered a holiday party in San Bernardino, California at a center for people with disabilities and proceeded to open fire, killing 14 and wounding 17 more. And like most people, my response was a mixture of grief, sadness and exasperation that events like this have become so commonplace in our country and in our world.

At times like this it’s easy to believe that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one, and perhaps harder to believe that God is sovereign over all things. When you see the reports that there have been more mass shootings in the United States than days this year, it’s easy to conclude that this world is a dark place from which we hope to escape – and it’s harder to believe that the world is beautiful and good and that our focus should be on redeeming it for the flourishing of people to the glory of God. And yet, both are true.

These paradoxical statements are at the same time promises. And the hope of Advent is that the true light which gives life to all people has come into the world, and the darkness has not – and will not – overcome it.

Both sides of these paradoxes are true. Both sides of these paradoxes are promises – but only because of Christmas! Only because God became a man in order to redeem us can we have confidence that our redemption is nigh, and that though the darkness is real, the new day will soon dawn and the darkness will be fully abolished.

Making the News

The past 2 Sundays White Fields Church and yours truly have been mentioned in the local newspapers in Boulder and Longmont.

Last Sunday I was honored to be featured in the Times-Call's annual 100 People of the St. Vrain Valley, in which I got to share about mission work in Hungary as well as what I enjoy about being a local pastor here in Longmont. You can find that article online here.

This past Sunday, White Fields' annual Easter Outreach in Roosevelt Park was reported on by both the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Times-Call. Check that article out here.

Sometimes you can't be sure how what you say to reporters will actually get reported, but I was very pleased with how the Camera and Times-Call reported what I said.

 

Longmont Baby Abductor Will Not Be Charged With Murder

I was talking to a friend in Romania the other day and he said it feels like he is always seeing Longmont in the news.

It’s true. Longmont has made national (and apparently international) headlines a lot in the past few years, and not for good reasons: catastrophic floods, carjackings involving kids, and most recently a fetal abduction in which a woman who was 7 months pregnant responded to a Craigslist ad for free baby clothes was beaten, stabbed and had her baby cut from her womb and kidnapped.

For what it’s worth – crime rates in Longmont have actually decreased in the last year, as opposed to Boulder, which has higher crime rates which haven’t decreased, but this kind of stuff, although not characteristic of this fine town, gets a lot of publicity – as it should.

The suspect’s arraignment will be today at 1:30, but the Times-Call reported that the DA has already stated that murder will not be among the charges brought against this woman, the reason being that Colorado law does not count the death of an unborn child as murder, unless the child lived outside of the womb for some time. The issue in this case is that it’s not possible to prove that the child lived outside of the womb, and if so, for how long – so Colorado’s wording of the law will not allow a murder charge in this case.

People in Longmont were protesting this and picketing on Main Street last week when it was first announced. The charges expected to be brought against the suspect are: suspicion of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault and child abuse knowingly and recklessly resulting in death.

The problem with those charges are that even all together they will not lead to as strong of a sentence as if murder or manslaughter had been part of it. Since the mother survived, and there is no proof that the baby lived outside of the womb, Colorado law has no way to charge her with anything stronger.

What do you think?  Is this justice?

The sad part of this is that if this attack had not happened, this baby would have lived. The baby’s life was clearly taken by this attack. I find it hard to accept that we have no way to prosecute that.

When Misinterpreting the Bible Leads to Tragedy

On Saturday, an apartment fire in NYC claimed the lives of 7 children. When you find out why it happened, you realize just how dangerous it can be to misinterpret the Bible…

Recently at White Fields church I have been teaching on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This past Sunday I taught Matthew 5:17-30, where Jesus refutes the misinterpretation of the Law of Moses by the Pharisees.

The Pharisees made 2 basic errors in regard to their interpretations of the Law of Moses. On the one hand, they would add rules to the Law of Moses, to make sure they didn’t accidentally break any of the commandments. On the other hand though, they created a system of loopholes to circumvent the very rules which they themselves added to the Law of Moses. The purpose of this was so that they could claim that they had “technically” kept the Law, while still making sure they had ways to do all the things they felt the need to do.

Modern day Judaism has had to deal with technological innovations, such as electricity and motor vehicles, which has greatly complicated the question of what constitutes “labor” on the Sabbath. In broad terms, they have landed on the definition that the breaking or building of anything constitutes “work”. So, practically, they have determined that it is not permissibly to drive a car, since combustion happens in an engine, nor are they allowed to turn on or off electricity, because it breaks an electrical current.

To circumvent this rule, especially in cold places, modern ultra-orthodox Jews, have tended to turn on a hot plate or an oven the night on Friday afternoon, before the start of the Sabbath, and that way they can heat food and keep their residences warm without technically doing “work”.

During my sermon this past Sunday, I mentioned a news story about an apartment fire in Jerusalem in an orthodox neighborhood, where – because people considered it not forbidden to use a phone on the Sabbath – the fire spread to 2 surrounding buildings before fire fighters were alerted and got to the scene to put it out.

Right after church, someone told me about the tragic events which had happened for very similar reasons the night before in New York City, in which an orthodox Jewish family had left a hot plate on in the kitchen, a common practice for those who adhere to the “Talmudic fence” which Pharisaical Judaism put around the Law of Moses; when the hotplate malfunctioned and caused a fire in the middle of the night in the apartment which left  7 children dead and the mother and oldest child in critical condition.

This is a tragic example of how misinterpreting the Bible can lead to tragedy…

One of the saddest parts of the news report was the final line:

“We believe that being buried in Israel is important because all of your sins are then absolved,” [Rabbi Alon Edri] said.

These Jews, who take the Law and the Prophets (Old Testament) seriously, understand that the fundamental need of the human soul is for our sins to be dealt with and wiped away. The problem is that they have no way of obtaining this, especially since for almost 2000 years now they have had no temple in which to make the sacrifices of atonement prescribed by the Law of Moses. The idea that being buried in Israel will absolve one’s sins is not found in the Bible; it is something they have created to deal with the problem that they deeply feel and see: that they need their sins to be forgiven, yet they have no way of having their sins atoned for. They have done something similar with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), on which, according to the Law of Moses, a sacrifice was to be made to atone for the sins of the nation – but instead of doing that, modern Judaism has settled for telling people to make “sacrifices of contrition” (read: feeling really bad about yourself and your sin) in order to make atonement. However, this, according to the Law itself, is not enough, for we know that “life is in the blood” and “there is no atonement of sin apart from the shedding of blood.”

Oh that they might come to see that Jesus came to fulfill all of the Law and the Prophets! That He is the atoning sacrifice which God provided for them.

We pray for this family, for the community and for the mother and daughter still in critical condition, that God would comfort them and that they would come to know the righteousness that God has provided for them apart from the Law, since “by the works of the Law, no one will be justified”.

Brett Felton: US Veteran Fighting ISIS and Defending Christians in Iraq

60 Minutes aired a report this past weekend on the Christians of Northern Iraq, and how they are being persecuted by ISIS. It is terrible and tragic, and something the whole world needs to hear about. Take a few minutes to read this report. This is an event of historic proportions: books and churches which have existed since the early days of Christianity are being destroyed. A Christian community is being eradicated.

If we think back on the actions of Hitler in Europe and reflect on what Christians should have done, we must open our eyes to realize that something similar is happening in our day in the Middle East to Christians. What will the world do? What can be done?

One American Christian, Brett Felton, came to the conclusion that the right thing for him to do, as a former US soldier who fought in Iraq, was to return there to help the Iraqi Christians defend themselves. 60 Minutes posted this video report about him. Check it out.

Brett is over there, not hunting ISIS, but training the Iraqi Christians on how to defend themselves if and when ISIS attacks, and he is standing beside them to fight if and when that day comes.

What do you think about a Christian taking up arms to fight against ISIS?

ISIS is clearly doing something very evil – something that should not be tolerated from any group of people, no matter who they are persecuting.

Considering the circumstances, and the fact that ISIS is functioning as a military group, terrorizing largely unarmed, untrained civilians, I think that what Brett Felton is doing is praiseworthy – putting his life on the line to help civilians protect their families and their ancient civilization from an evil assailant.

Supreme Court Upholds Allowing Christian Prayers at City Council Meetings

Supreme Court Upholds Allowing Christian Prayers at City Council Meetings

A narrowly divided Supreme Court upheld decidedly Christian prayers at the start of local council meetings Monday, declaring them in line with long national traditions although the country has grown more religiously diverse.

Yes, our country is increasingly diverse, and we should respect that diversity, but I think this is a victory for the American people. 

What do you think?  Take this poll over at the Longmont Times-Call, and see what other people think.

 

How Safe Is Longmont?

Longmont seems to be in the news a lot in Colorado, but often for the wrong reasons. A few weeks ago a man stole a car in Longmont and led police on a high speed chase. This week a meth flop house was raided and shut down. There have been fatal stabbings and shootings. One can easily get the impression that Longmont is not a safe place to live.

One of my favorite features in the Longmont Times-Call is Johnny St Vrain, a column where readers can email in questions and get answers about anything Longmont.

One writer recently wrote in concerned about the question of public safety in Longmont. Check out that article here. The long and short of it?: Despite the bad press, Longmont is one of the safest places to live in the State of Colorado.

Here's a highlight from the article:

Longmont is statistically one of the safest cities in Colorado, a fact the Times-Call has reported. In December 2011, the city was named the second safest city in Colorado, based research by the magazine CQ. Last year, the Times-Call reported that major crime rates in Longmont have dropped 48 percent in the past decade, based on Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation numbers.

I have always felt safe in Longmont. This is a city of 90,000 people where if a bicycle gets stolen they report it in the newspaper! That says a lot about the city right there! In other places I've lived, I've had my house broken into, I've been mugged, robbed, assaulted – I even had a bicycle stolen, but those things didn't count as “news” in those places. Safe to say that Longmont's pretty safe.

How safe do you feel in Longmont?

 

High Speed Chase This Morning Started in Longmont

This morning a car was stolen at a gas station just down the street from where we live. The scary part is that the stolen car had a 4 year old boy in the backseat, who was taken for a ride until the driver ditched that car and hijacked another one near DIA, pulling a woman out of her van.
Scary that something like this would happen so close to home. The 4 year old is safe, but we pray for him and his parents after such a terrible emotional stress.

The Longmont Times Call posted an article with more info about what happened.

 

A Message from Ukraine

Maybe you have heard about what’s happening in Ukraine – where upwards of 25,000 people have taken to the streets in anti-government protests. 

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A friend of mine who is a pastor in Ukraine spoke at our church here in Longmont a few months ago (click here to watch that video), and today I asked him to write a brief synopsis on what is going on in Ukraine and how we can be praying for them. Here is what he wrote:

“And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it…” 1 Cor. 12:26

You may have seen in the news recently that Ukraine, a former Soviet republic sandwiched between Russia and the European Union, is in the middle of massive street protests.  These protests were originally in reaction to the president breaking his promise to sign an association agreement with the EU.  People were angry and began to protest on the main square of the capital, Kiev.  After a few days on Nov. 30th, the president tried to end the protest with a massive show of violence, sending out special forces and riot police to beat peaceful protesters with batons.  They struck in the middle of the night when the fewest number of protesters were there to resist.  They beat both men and women indiscriminately and savagely, though the protesters posed no threat.  The president hoped that he would be able to put a stop to the people calling him to accountability for his broken promises.  He was wrong.  The reaction was the opposite and the next day many more people joined the protest.  This became no longer primarily a question of economics or which countries to build alliances with, but an outcry against human rights abuses, violence and oppression.  
Last night the president sent in troops and police again to try to clear the main square, though with more restraint as far as violence goes.  They attack began around 1:30am local time, again when there were less protesters to resist.  Many believers across Ukraine began praying.  We called each other, sent texts, waking one another up to stand before our mighty God and Savior and ask for Him to intervene.  It looked like this was the end of the protest and there was a thin line of protesters holding back a flood of riot police.  But then little by little people flocked to the square from all over Kiev in the middle of the night.  Soon the numbers were even.  Then the protesters were the majority.  By a miracle of the grace of God and in response to the prayers of His people, the protesters endured through the night and are still there.  The morning found a renewed protest and masses flocked to rebuild the barricades the police and special forces had torn down during the night.  
But the conflict is not over.  Tonight promises to be an important and difficult night on Independence Square in Kiev.  The protesters are more organized now, talking about organizing shifts for the night watch, but even then it will not be easy.  Also, the temperatures dipped down to almost 5F during the night last night.  Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ, including many pastors, are on the main square and will spend the night there ministering to the people and praying for God’s protection and peace and that His justice would triumph.  Near the beginning of the protests, some pastors set up an inter-denominational prayer tent on the square and people are coming to pray and even receiving Christ during this difficult time!  
The Word of God calls us to stand in unity and solidarity with both our brothers and sisters in Christ and with the oppressed and weak.  In this case, there is great overlap in those two categories.  I would beg you to stand together with the church in Ukraine before God and intercede at this pivotal moment in the nation’s history.  

Please pray for the following points:
1. Not against any party or person per se, but for the nation of Ukraine, that God would pour out His blessing and mercy on this people.

2. That God, who is not a God of disorder, but of peace (1 Cor 14:33) would establish His peace, order and justice in this land.

3. That God, who hates the hands that shed innocent blood (Pr. 6:17) would protect the people from violence and bloodshed, regardless of political affiliation.

4. That God would bless those currently in power by bringing them to repentance and the knowledge of Him and that they would rule in submission to God and turn from their wickedness, that we might live quietly and peaceably. (2 Tim. 2:2)

5. That the people would not be cursed in turning their hope to yet another man or political party in this time of trouble, but would be blessed by putting their hope in the Lord. (Jer. 17:5-7)

6. That the true enemy of man, Satan, who desires to steal, kill and destroy, would be cast down and that his plots would not prevail. (Eph. 6:12)

7. That, as our Lord Himself taught us to pray, the kingdom of God would come and His will be done on earth as in heaven. (Mt. 6:10)

Thank you for standing together as one body with your brothers and sisters in Ukraine.  God bless you and God bless the people of Ukraine!