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  1. #81
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    Default Was Jesus a Lesser God?

    if Jesus was a lesser God, what kind of God was he? was he equal to the Father, or some sort of junior God, possessing the attributes of deity and yet somehow failing to match the total sketch that the Old Testament provides of the divine? that question comes out of another passage, Jesus said in John 14:28, "The Father is greater than I", some people look at this and conclude that Jesus must have been a lesser God, are they right? a good dictum is, "A text without a context becomes a pretext for a prooftext." it is very important to see this passage in it's context, the disciples are moaning because Jesus has said he's going away, Jesus says, "If you loved me, you'd be glad for my sake when I say I'm going away, because the Father is greater than I." that is to say, Jesus is returning to the glory that is properly his, so if they really know who he is and really love him properly, they'll be glad that he's going back to the realm where he really is greater, Jesus says in John 17:5, "Glorify me with the glory that I had with the Father before the world began" - that is, "the Father is greater than I", when you use a category like "greater", it doesn't have to mean ontologically greater, if I say, for example, that the president of the US is greater than I, I'm not saying he's an ontologically superior being, he's greater in military capability, political prowess and public acclaim, but he's not more of a human being than I am, he's human and I'm human, so when Jesus says "The Father is greater than I", one must look at the context and ask if Jesus is saying, "The Father is greater than I because he is God and I'm not", frankly, that would be a pretty ridiculous thing to say, suppose I got up on some podium to preach and said, "I solemnly declare to you that God is greater than I am", that would be a rather useless observation, the comparison is only meaningful if they're already on the same plane and there's some delimitation going on, Jesus is in the limitations of the Incarnation - he's going to the cross; he's going to die - but he's about to return to the Father and to the glory he had with the Father before the world began, he's saying, "you guys are moaning for my sake; you ought to be glad because I'm going home." it's in that sense that the "Father is greater than I", so this isn't an implicit denial of his deity, the context makes that clear, being ready to accept that Jesus was not a lesser God, there is a different and more sensitive issue to raise; how could Jesus be a compassionate God yet endorse the idea of eternal suffering for those who reject him?

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    Default The Disquieting Question of Hell ...

    the bible says that the Father is loving, the New Testament affirms the same about Jesus, but can they really be loving while at the same time sending people to hell? after all, Jesus teaches more about hell than anyone in the entire bible, doesn't that contradict his supposed gentle and compassionate character? quoting the hard-edged words of agnostic Charles Templeton: "How could a loving Heavenly Father create an endless hell and, over the centuries, consign millions of people to it because they do not or cannot or will not accept certain religious beliefs?" first of all, we are not sure that God simply casts people into hell because they don't accept certain beliefs, we can back up and take a run at a more thorough answer by discussing a subject that many modern people consider a quaint anachronism: sin ... picture God in the beginning of creation with a man and a woman made in his image, they wake up in the morning and think about God, they love him truly, they delight to do what he wants; it is their whole pleasure, they're rightly related to him and they're rightly related to each other, then, with the entrance of sin and rebellion into the world, these image bearers begin to think that they are at the center of the universe, not literally, but that's the way they think, and that's the way we think, all things we call "social pathologies" - war, rape, bitterness, nurtured envies, secret jealousies, pride, inferiority complexes - are bound up in the first instance with the fact that we're not rightly related with God, the consequence is that people get hurt, from God's perspective, that is shockingly disgusting, so what should God do about it? if he says, "well, I don't give a rip", he's saying that evil doesn't matter to him, it's a bit like saying, "oh yeah, the Holocaust - I don't care." wouldn't we be shocked if we thought God didn't have moral judgements on such matters? but in principle, if he's the sort of God who has moral judegements on those matters, he's got to have some moral judgements on this huge matter of all these divine image bearers shaking their puny fists at his face and singing with Frank Sinatra, "I did it my way." that's the real nature of sin, having said that, hell is not a place where people are consigned because they were pretty good blokes but just didn't believe the right stuff, they're consigned there, first and foremost, because they defy their Maker and want to be at the center of the universe, hell is not filled with people who have already repented, only God isn't gentle enough or good enough to let them out, it's filled with people who, for all eternity, still want to be at the center of the universe and who persist in their God-defying rebellion, what is God to do? if he says it doesn't matter to him, God is no longer a God to be admired, he's either amoral or positively creepy, for him to act in any other way in the face of such blatant defiance would be to reduce God himself, but what seems to bother people the most is the idea that God will torment people for eternity, that seems vicious, doesn't it? in the first place, the bible says that there are different degrees of punishment, so we're not sure that it's the same level of intensity for all people, in the second place, if God took his hands off this fallen world so that there were no restraint on human wickedness, we would make hell, thus if you allow a whole lot of sinners to live somewhere in a confined place where they're not doing damage to anyone but themselves, what do you get but hell? there's a sense in which they're doing it to themselves, and it's what they want because they still don't repent, one of the things that the bible does insist is that in the end not only will justice be done, but justice will be seen done, so that every mouth will be stopped, in other words, at the time of judgement there is nobody in the world who will walk away from that experience saying that they have been treated unfairly by God, everyone will recognize the fundamental justice in the way God judges the world, justice is not always done in this world; we see that every day, but on the Last Day it will be done for all to see, and no one will be able to complain by saying, "This isn't fair."

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    Default Jesus and Slavery ...

    to be the Son of God, Jesus must be ethically perfect, but some critics of Christianity have charged that he fell short because, they say, he tacitly approved of the morally abhorrent practice of slavery, as Morton Smith wrote:

    There were innumerable slaves of the emperor and of the Roman state; the Jerusalem Temple owned slaves; the High Priest owned slaves (one of them lost an ear in Jesus' arrest); all of the rich and almost all of the middle class owned slaves. So far as we are told, Jesus never attacked this practice ... There seem to have been slave revolts in Palestine and Jordan in Jesus' youth; a miracle-working leader of such a revolt would have attracted a large following. If Jesus had denounced slavery or promised liberation, we should almost certainly have heard of his doing it. We hear nothing, so the most likely supposition is that he said nothing.

    how can Jesus' failure to push for the abolition of slavery be squared with God's love for all people? why didn't Jesus stand up and shout, "Slavery is wrong"? was he morally deficient for not working to dismantle an institution that demeaned people who were made in the image of God? people who raise that objection are missing the point, to set the stage, we'll talk about slavery, ancient and modern, because in our culture the issue is understandably charged with overtones that it didn't have in the ancient world

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    Default Overthrowing Oppression ...

    in his book Race and Culture, African-American scholar Thomas Sowell points out that every major world culture until the modern period, without exception, has had slavery, while it could be tied to military conquests, usually slavery served an economic function, they didn't have bankruptcy laws, so if you got yourself into terrible hock, you sold yourself and/or your family into slavery, as it was discharging a debt, slavery was also providing work, it wasn't necessarily all bad; at least it was an option for survival, please understand, we're not trying to romanticize slavery in any way, however, in Roman times there were menial laborers who were slaves, and there were also others who were the equivalent of distinguished PH.D.'s, who were teaching families, and there was no association of a particular race with slavery, in American slavery, though, all blacks and only blacks were slaves, that was one of the peculiar horrors of it, and it generated an unfair sense of black inferiority that many of us continue to fight to this day, now let's look at the bible, in Jewish society, under the Law, everyone was to be freed every Jubilee, in other words, there was a slavery ban every 7th year, whether or not things actually worked out that way, this was nevertheless what God said, and this was the framework in which Jesus was brought up, but you have to keep your eye on Jesus' mission, essentially, he did not come to overturn the Roman economic system, which included slavery, he came to free men and women from their sins, and here's the point: what his message does is transform people so they begin to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves, naturally, that has an impact on the idea of slavery, look at what the apostle Paul says in his letter to Philemon concerning a runaway slave named Onesimus, Paul doesn't say to overthrow slavery, because all that would do would be to get him executed, instead he tells Philemon he'd better treat Onesimus as a brother in Christ, just as he would treat Paul himself, and then, to make matters perfectly clear, Paul emphasizes, "Remember, you owe your whole life to me because of the gospel." the overthrowing of slavery, then, is through the transformation of men and women by the gospel rather than through merely changing an economic system, we've all seen what can happen when you merely overthrow an economic system and impose a new order, the whole communist dream was to have a "revolutionary man" followed by the "new man", trouble is, they never found the "new man", they got rid of the oppressors of the peasants, but that didn't mean the peasants were suddenly free - they were just under a new regime of darkness, in the final analysis, if you want lasting change, you've got to transform the hearts of human beings, and that was Jesus' mission, it's also worth asking the question that Sowell poses: how did slavery stop? he points out that the driving impetus for the abolition of slavery was the evangelical awakening in England, Christians rammed abolition through Parliament in the beginning of the 19th century and then eventually used British gunboats to stop the slave trade across the Atlantic, while there were about 11 million Africans who were shipped to America - and many didn't make it - there were about 13 million Africans shipped to become slaves in the Arab world, again, it was the British, prompted by people whose hearts had been changed by Christ, who sent their gunboats to the Persian Gulf to oppose this, this makes sense not only historically but in one's own experience, for example, years ago a business man was known to be a rabid racist with a superior and condescending attitude toward anyone of another color, he hardly made any effort to conceal his contempt for African-Americans, letting his bigoted bile frequently spill out in crude jokes and caustic remarks, no amount of arguments could dissuade him from his disgusting opinions, then he became a follower of Jesus, as he was watched in amazement, his attitudes, his perspective and his values changed over time as his heart was renewed by God, he came to realize that he could no longer harbor ill-will toward any person, since the bible teaches that all people are made in the image of God, today, it can honestly be said that he's genuinely caring and accepting towards others, including those who are different from him, legislation didn't change him, reasoning didn't change him, emotional appeals didn't change him, he'll tell you that God changed him from the inside out - decisively, completely, permanently, that's one of many examples I've seen of the power of the gospel - the power to transform vengeful haters into humanitarians, hardhearted hoarders into softhearted givers, power-mongers into selfless servants, and people who exploit others - through slavery or some other form of oppression - into people who embrace all, this squares with what the apostle Paul said in Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

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    Default Matching the Sketch of the Son of God ...

    how the Incarnation works - how the Spirit takes on flesh - remains a mind boggling concept, even so, according to the bible, the fact that it did occur is not in any doubt, every attribute to God, says the New Testament, is found in Jesus Christ:

    *Omniscience? in John 16:30 the apostle John affirms of Jesus, "Now we can see that you know all things."

    *Omnipresence? Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" and in Matthew 18:20, "Where 2 or 3 come together in my name, there am I with them."

    *Omnipotence? "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me," Jesus said in Matthew 28:18

    *Eternality? John 1:1 declares of Jesus, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

    *Immutability? Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."

    also, the Old Testament paints a portrait of God by using such titles and descriptions as Alpha and Omega, Lord, Savior, King, Judge, Light, Rock, Redeemer, Shepherd, Creator, giver of life, forgiver of sin, and speaker with divine authority, it's fascinating to note that in the New Testament each and every one is applied to Jesus, Jesus said it all in John 14:7, "If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well." loose translation: "When you look at the sketch of God from the Old Testament, you will see a likeness of me."

  6. #86
    Administrator squirt's Avatar
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    Default The Fingerprint Evidence ...

    the premise behind fingerprint evidence is simple: each individual has unique ridges on his or her fingers, when a print is found on an object matches the pattern of ridges on a person's finger, investigators can conclude with scientific certainty that this specific individual has touched that object, in many criminal cases, fingerprint identification is the pivotal evidence, but what has this got to do with Jesus Christ? simply this: there is another kind of evidence that's analogous to fingerprints and establishes to an astounding degree of certainty that Jesus is indeed the Messiah of Israel and the world, in the Jewish Scriptures, which Christians call the Old Testament, there are several dozen major prophecies about the coming of the Messiah, who would be sent by God to redeem his people, in effect, these predictions formed a figurative fingerprint that only the Anointed One would be able to match, this way, the Israelites could rule out any imposters and validate the credentials of the authentic Messiah, the Greek word for "Messiah" is Christ, but was Jesus really the Christ? did he miraculously fulfill these predictions that were written hundreds of years before he was born? and how do we know he was the only individual throughout history who fit the prophetic fingerprint? there are plenty of scholars with long strings of initials after their names whom we could ask about this topic, however we want someone for whom this is more than just an abstract academic exercise, he came from a jewish family, attended a conservative Jewish synagogue for 7 years in preparation for bar mitzvah, when asked about what his parents taught him about the Messiah, his answer was crisp, "It never came up." what about Jesus, was he ever talked about? was his name used? only derogatorily, basically he was never discussed, his impressions of Jesus came from seeing Catholic churches; there was the cross, the crown of thorns, the pierced side, the blood coming from his head, it didn't make any sense to him, why would you worship a man on a cross with nails in his hands and his feet? he never once thought Jesus had any connection to the Jewish people, he just thought that he was a god of the Gentiles, did he believe that Christians were at the root of anti-Semitism? Gentiles were looked upon as synonymous with Christians, and he was taught to be cautious because there could be anti-Semitism among the Gentiles, he developed some negative attitudes towards Christians, in fact, later, when the New Testament was first presented to him, he sincerlely thought it was going to basically be a handbook on anti-Semitism: how to hate Jews, how to kill Jews, how to massacre them, he thought the American Nazi Party would have been very comfortable using it as a guidebook, sad is the thought of how many other Jewish children have grown up thinking of Christians as their enemies

    Louis S Lapides, M.DIV., TH.M.

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    Default A Spiritual Quest Begins ...

    Lapides said several incidents dimmed his allegiance to Judaism as he was growing up, his parents were divorced when he was 17 and surprisingly, even after all these years hurt could still be detected in his voice, that really put a stake in any religious heart he may have had, he wondered, where does God come in? why didn't they go to a rabbi for counseling? what good is religion if it can't help people in a practical way? it sure couldn't keep his parents together, when they split, part of him split too, on top of that, in Judaism he didn't feel as if he had a personal relationship with God, he had alot of beautiful ceremonies and traditions, but God was the distant and detached God of Mount Sinai who said, "Here are the rules - you live by them, you'll be OK; I'll see you later." and there he was, an adolescent with raging hormones, wondering, "Does God relate to my struggles?" Does he care about me as an individual?" not in any way he could see, the divorce prompted an era of rebellion, consumed with music and influenced by the writings of Jack Kerouac and Timothy Leary, he spent too much time in Greenwich Village coffeehouses to go to college - making him vulnerable to the draft, by 1967 he found himself on the other side of the world in a cargo boat whose volatile freight - ammunition, bombs, rockets and other high explosives - made it a tempting target for the Vietcong, he remembers being told at his orientation in Vietnam, "Twenty percent of you will probably get killed and the other eighty percent will probably get a venereal disease or become alcoholics or get hooked on drugs." he thought he didn't even have a one percent chance of coming out normal! it was a very dark period, he witnessed suffering, he saw body bags, he saw the devastation from war and he encountered anti-Semitism among the G.I.'s, a few of them from the South even burned a cross one night, he probably wanted to distance himself from his Jewish identity - maybe that's why he began delving into Eastern religions, Lapides read books on Eastern philosophies and visited Buddhist temples while in Japan, he was extremely bothered by the evil he had seen and was trying to figure out how faith can deal with it, he used to say, "If there is a God, I don't care if I find him on Mount Sinai or Mount Fuji, I'll take him either way." he survived Vietnam, returning home with a newfound taste for marijuana and plans to become a Buddhist priest, he tried to live an ascetic lifestyle of self-denial in an effort to work off the bad karma for the misdeeds of his past, but soon he realized he'd never be able to make up for all his wrongs, he got depressed, he remembers getting on the subway and thinking, "Maybe jumping onto the tracks is the answer." he could free himself from his body and just merge with God, he was very confused, to make matters worse, he started experimenting with LSD, looking for a new start, he decided to move to California, where his spiritual quest continued, he went to Buddhist meetings, but that was empty, Chinese Buddhism was atheistic, Japanese Buddhism worshipped statues of Buddha, Zen Buddhism was too elusive, he went to Scientology meetings, but they were too manipulative and controlling, Hinduism believed in all these crazy orgies that the gods would have and in gods who were blue elephants, none of it made sense; none of it was satisfying, he even accompanied friends to meetings that had Satanic undercurrents, he would watch and think, "Something is going on here, but it's not good." in the midst of his drug-crazed world, he told his friends he believed there's a power over evil that's beyond him, that can work in him, that exists as an entity, he had seen enough evil in his life to believe that, he says with an ironic smile, "I guess I accepted Satan's existence before I accepted God's."

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    Default "I Can't Believe In Jesus" ...

    it was 1969, Lapides' curiousity prompted him to visit Sunset Strip to gawk at an evangelist who had chained himself to an 8-ft cross to protest the way local tavern owners had managed to get him evicted from his storefront ministry, there on the sidewalk Lapides encountered some Christians who engaged him in an impromptu spiritual debate, a bit cocky, he started throwing Eastern philosophy at them, "There is no God out there," he said, gesturing towards the heavens, "We're God; I'm God; You're God. You just have to realize it." "Well, if you're God, why don't you create a rock?" one person replied, "Just make something appear. That's what God does." in his drug addled mind, Lapides imagined he was holding a rock, "Yeah, well, here's a rock," he said, extending his empty hand. the Christian scoffed, "That's the difference between you and the true God," he said, "When God creates something, everyone can see it. It's objective, not subjective." that registered with Lapides, after thinking about it for awhile, he said to himself, if I find God, he's got to be objective, I'm through with this Eastern philosophy that says it's all in my mind and that I can create my own reality, God has to be an objective reality if he's going to have any meaning beyond my own imagination, when one of the Christians brought up the name of Jesus, Lapides tried to fend him off with his stock answer, "I'm Jewish," he said, "I can't believe in Jesus." a pastor spoke up, "Do you know of the prophecies about the Messiah?" he asked, Lapides was taken off guard, "Prophecies?" he said, "I've never heard of them." the minister startled Lapides by referring to some of the Old Testament predictions, wait a minute! Lapides thought, those are my Jewish scriptures he's quoting! how could Jesus be in there? when the pastor offered him a bible, Lapides was skeptical, "Is the New Testament in there?" he asked, the pastor nodded, "OK, I'll read the Old Testament, but I'm not going to open up the other one," Lapides told him, he was taken aback by the pastor's response, "Fine," said the pastor, "Just read the Old Testament and ask the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - the God of Israel - to show you if Jesus is the Messiah. Because he is your Messiah. He came to the Jewish people initially and then he was also the Savior of the world." to Lapides, this was new information, intriguing information, astonishing information, so he went back to his apartment, opened the Old Testamen to it's first book, Genesis, and went hunting for Jesus among the words that had been written hundreds of years before the carpenter of Nazareth had ever been born

  9. #89
    Jokeroo Legend arella's Avatar
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    Wow sweetie. You have really gone to alot of trouble here.
    Feeling betters yet? I hope so


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    Quote Originally Posted by arella View Post
    Wow sweetie. You have really gone to alot of trouble here.
    Feeling betters yet? I hope so
    lmao ... it was never a matter of feeling good or bad, it was a matter of finding out there was an interest in what I had to say in a thread in debate, a thread that was intended to ridicule others and what they believed or did not believe, I watched the view numbers climb there, and through prompting from another, I walked out of that thread and let it die a most deserving death, bringing my information here, where it could be absorbed by those who choose to do so based on the content, not on dirty laundry, and I have to say I couldn't be more pleased with the views it's getting here! sig free and with only the words as the attraction, I know you don't believe sweetheart, but I feel the Lord working through me, I love you

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    Quote Originally Posted by squirt View Post
    lmao ... it was never a matter of feeling good or bad, it was a matter of finding out there was an interest in what I had to say in a thread in debate, a thread that was intended to ridicule others and what they believed or did not believe, I watched the view numbers climb there, and through prompting from another, I walked out of that thread and let it die a most deserving death, bringing my information here, where it could be absorbed by those who choose to do so based on the content, not on dirty laundry, and I have to say I couldn't be more pleased with the views it's getting here! sig free and with only the words as the attraction, I know you don't believe sweetheart, but I feel the Lord working through me, I love you
    I see. Very good!!! I have seen that there are many people out here that are seeking answers. No matter what faith or practice one chooses to follow, it should be done with pride and whole hearted dedication. I applaud you! For me this says so very much about your spirit and soul. We have discussed rather lightly lol some similarities between our faiths. Jeasus teaches love... I walk the path of love and light. You pray...I cast spells... both are wishes made from the heart...or they should be! Many of our holidays are on the same day even if our rites are different. I love you Sugar Butt! I'm happy to know that this is a labor of love for you!!!


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    Default "Pierced For Our Transgressions ..."

    pretty soon Lapides was reading the Old Testament every day and seeing one prophecy after another, for instance, Deuteronomy talked about a prophet greater that Moses who will come and whom we should listen to, he thought, Who can be greater that Moses? it sounded like the Messiah - someone as great and as respected as Moses but a greater teacher and a greater authority, he grabbed a hold of that and went searching for him, as Lapides progressed through the Scriptures, he was stopped cold by Isaiah 53, with clarity and specificity, in a haunting prediction wrapped up in exquisite poetry, here was the picture of a Messiah who would suffer and die for the sins of Israel and the world - all written more than 700 years before Jesus walked the earth ...

    He was despised and rejected by men,
    a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
    Like one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

    Surely he took up our infirmities
    and carried our sorrows,
    yet we considered him stricken by God,
    smitten by him, and afflicted.
    But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
    and by his wounds are we healed.
    We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to his own way;
    and the LORD has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

    He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
    he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
    By oppression and judgement he was taken away.
    And who can speak of his descendants?
    For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
    He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
    though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth ...

    For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

    Isaiah 53:3-9, 12

    instantly Lapides recognized the portrait; this was Jesus of Nazareth! now he was beginning to understand the paintings he had seen in the Catholic churches he had passed as a child; the suffering Jesus, the crucified Jesus, the Jesus he now realized had been "pierced for our transgressions" as he "bore the sins of many." as Jews in the Old Testament sought to atone for their sins through a system of animal sacrifices, here was Jesus, the ultimate sacrificial lamb of God, who paid for sin once and for all, here was the personification of God's plan and redemption, so breathtaking was this discovery that Lapides could only come to one conclusion: it was a fraud! he believed the Christians had rewritten the Old Testament and twisted Isaiah's words to make it sound as if the prophet had been foreshadowing Jesus, Lapides set out to expose the deception, he asked his stepmother to send him a Jewish bible so he could check it out for himself, she did, and guess what? he found that it said the same thing! now he really had to deal with it

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    Default The Jewishness of Jesus ...

    over and over Lapides would come upon prophecies in the Old Testament - more than 4 dozen predictions in all, Isaiah revealed the manner of the Messiah's birth (of a virgin); Micah pinpointed the place of his birth (Bethlehem); Genesis and Jeremiah specified his ancestry (a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, from the tribe of Judah, the house of David); the Psalms foretold his betrayal, his accusation by false witnesses, his manner of death (pierced in the hands and feet, although crucifixion hadn't been invented yet), and his resurrection (he would not decay but would ascend on high); and on and on, each one chipped away at Lapides; skepticism until he was finally willing to take a drastic step, he decided to open the New Testament and just read the first page, with trepidation he slowly turned to Matthew as he looked up to heaven, waiting for the lightning bolt to strike! Matthew's initial words leaped off the page; "A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham ..." Lapides eyes widened as he recalled the moment he first read that sentence, he thought, Wow! Son of Abraham, son of David - it was all fitting together! he went to the birth narratives and thought, Look at this! Matthew is quoting from Isaiah 7:14, "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son." and then he saw Matthew quoting from the prophet Jeremiah, he sat there thinking, You know, this is about Jewish people, where do the Gentiles come in? what's going on here? he couldn't put it down, he read through the rest of the gospels and he realized this wasn't a handbook for the American Nazi Party; it was an interaction between Jesus and the Jewish community, he got to the book of Acts and - this was incredible! - they were trying to figure out how the Jews could bring the story of Jesus to the Gentiles, talk about role reversal! so convincing were the fulfilled prophecies that Lapides started telling people that he thought Jesus was the Messiah, at the time, this was merely an intellectual possibility to him, yet it's implications were deeply troubling, he realized that if he were to accept Jesus into his life, there would have to be some significant changes in the way he was living, he'd have to deal with the drugs, the sex and so forth, he didn't understand that God would help him make those changes; he thought he had to clean up his life on his own

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    Default Epiphany In the Desert ...

    Lapides and some friends headed into the Mojave Desert for a getaway, spiritually he was feeling conflicted, he had been unsettled by nightmares of being torn apart by dogs pulling at him from opposite directions, sitting among the desert scrub, he recalled the words someone had spoken to him on Sunset Strip: "You are either on God's side or on Satan's side." he believed in the embodiement of evil - and that's not whose side he wanted to be on, so Lapides prayed, "God, I've got to come to the end of this struggle, I have to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is the Messiah. I need to know that you, as the God of Israel, want me to believe this." the best he can put together out of that experience is that God objectively spoke to his heart, He convinced him, experientially, that He exists, and at that point, out in the desert, in his heart he said, "God, I accept Jesus into my life. I don't understand what I'm supposed to do with him, but I want him. I've pretty much made a mess of my life; I need you to change me." and God began to do that in a process that continues to this day, his friends knew his life had changed, and they couldn't understand it, they'd say, "Something happened to you in the desert. You don't want to do drugs anymore. There's something different about you." he would say, "Well, I can't explain what happened. All I know is that there's someone in my life, and it's someone who's holy, who's righteous, who's a source of positive thoughts about life - and I just feel whole." Whole in a way he had never felt before, despite the positive changes, he was concerned about breaking the news to his parents, when he finally did, reaction was mixed, at first they were joyful because they could tell he was no longer dependent on drugs and he sounded much better emotionally, but that began to unravel when they understood the source of all the changes, they winced as if to say, "Why does it have to be Jesus? Why can't it be something else?" they didn't know what to do with it, he's still not sure they really do, through a remarkable string of circumstances, Lapides prayer for a wife was answered when he met Deborah, who was also Jewish and a follower of Jesus, she took him to her church - the same one, it turned out, that was pastored by the minister who many months earlier on Sunset Strip had challenged Lapides to read the Old Testament, the minister's jaw dropped open when he saw Lapides walk into the church! that congregation was filled with ex-bikers, ex-hippies and ex-addicts from the Strip, along with a spattering of transplanted Southerners, for a young Jewish man from Newark who was relationally gun-shy with people who were different from him, because of the anti-Semitism he feared he would encounter, it was healing to learn to call such a diverse crowd "brothers and sisters", Lapides married Deborah a year after they met, since then she has given birth to 2 sons and together they've given birth to Beth Ariel Fellowship, a home for Jews and Gentiles who are also finding wholeness in Christ

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    Default Responding To Objections ...

    if the prophecies were so obvious to Lapides and pointed out so unquestionably toward Jesus, why don't more Jews accept him as their Messiah? it is a question Lapides has asked himself a lot during the 3 decades since he was challenged by a Christian to investigate the Jewish Scriptures, in his case, he took the time to read them, oddly enough, even though the Jewish people are known for having high intellects, in this area there's a lot of ignorance, plus you have countermissionary organizations that hold seminars in synagogues to try to disprove the messianic prophecies, Jewish people hear them and use them as an excuse for not exploring the prophecies personally, They'll say, "The rabbi told me there's nothing to this." he'll ask them, "Do you think the rabbi just brought up an objection that Christianity has never heard before? I mean, scholars have been working on this issue for hundreds of years! There's great literature out there and powerful Christian answers to those challenges." if they're interested, he'll help them go further, what about the ostracism a Jewish person faces if he or she becomes a Christian? that's definitely a factor, some people won't let the messianic prophecies grab them, because they're afraid of the repercussions - potential rejection by their family and the Jewish community, that's not easy to face, even so, some of the challenges to the prophecies sound pretty convincing when a person first hears them, so one by one we'll pose the most common objections

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    Default 1. The Coincidence Argument ...

    is it possible that Jesus merely fulfilled the prophecies by accident? maybe he's just one of many throughout history who have coincidentally fit the prophetic fingerprint, not a chance, the odds are so astronomical tht they rule that out, someone did the math and figured out that the probability of just 8 prophecies being fulfilled is one chance in one hundred million billion, that number is millions of times greater than the total number of people who's ever walked the planet! he calculated that if you took this number of silver dollars, they would cover the state of Texas to a depth of 2 feet, if you marked one silver dollar among them and then had a blindfolded person wander the whole state and bend down to pick up one coin, what would be the odds he'd choose the one that had been marked? the same odds that anybody in history could have fulfilled just eight of the prophecies, this analysis was done by mathematician Peter W. Stoner, he also computed that the probability of fulfilling forty-eight prophecies was one chance in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion! our minds can't comprehend a number that big, this is a staggering statistic that's equal to the number of minuscule atoms in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, million universes the size of our universe! the odds alone say it would be impossible for anyone to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies, yet Jesus - and only Jesus throughout all of history - managed to do it, in the words of the apostle Paul: "But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled." (Acts 3:18 NASB)

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    Default 2. The Altered Gospel Argument ...

    isn't it possible that the gospel writers fabricated details to make it appear that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies? for example, the prophecies say the Messiah's bones would remain unbroken, so maybe John invented the story about the Romans breaking the legs of the 2 thieves being crucified with Jesus and not breaking his legs, and the prophecies talk about betrayal for 30 pieces of silver, so maybe Matthew played fast and loose with the facts and said, "Yeah, Judas sold out Jesus for that same amount." but neither objections can fly, in God's wisdom, he created checks and balances both inside and outside the Christian community, when the gospels were being circulated, there were people living who had been around when all those things happened, someone would've said to Matthew, "You know it didn't happen that way. We're trying to communicate a life of righteousness and truth, so don't taint it with a lie." besides, why would Matthew have fabricated fulfilled prophecies and then willingly allowed himself to be put to death for following someone he secretly knew was really not the Messiah? that wouldn't make any sense, what's more, the Jewish community would have jumped on any opportunity to discredit the gospels by pointing out falsehoods, they would have said, "I was there, and Jesus' bones were broken by the Romans during the Crucifixion." but even though the Jewish Talmud refers to Jesus in derogatory ways, it never once makes the claim that the fulfillment of prophecies was falsified, not one time

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    Default The Intentional Fulfillment Argument ...

    some skeptics have asserted that Jesus merely maneuvered his life in a way to fulfill the prophecies, couldn't he have read in Zechariah that the Messiah would ride a donkey into Jerusalem and then arrange to do exactly that? for a few of the prophecies, it is certainly conceivable, but there are many others for which this just wouldn't have been possible, for instance, how would he control the fact that the Sanhedrin offered Judas 30 pieces of silver to betray him? how could he arrange for his ancestry or the place of his birth or his method of execution or that the soldiers gambled for his clothing or that his legs remained unbroken on the cross? how would he arrange to perform miracles in front of skeptics? how would he arrange for his resurrection? and how would he arrange to be born when he was? when you interpret Daniel 9:24-26, it foretells that the Messiah would appear a certain length of time after King Artaxerxes I issued a decree for the Jewish people to go from Persia to rebuild the walls in Jerusalem, that puts the anticipated appearance of the Messiah at the exact moment in history when Jesus showed up, certainly that's nothing he could have prearranged

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    Default The Context Argument ...

    one other objection needs to be addressed: were the passages that Christians identify as messianic prophecies really intended to point to the coming of the Anointed One, or do Christians rip them out of context and misinterpret them? Lapides goes through books that people have written to try to tear down what the Christians believe, it's not fun to do but he spends the time to look at each objection individually and then to research the context and the wording in the original language, and every single time, the prophecies have stood up and shown themselves to be true, so, here's the challenge Lapides puts to skeptics: don't accept my word for it, but don't accept your rabbi's either, spend the time to research it yourself, today nobody can say, "There's no information." there are plenty of books out there to help you, and one more thing: sincerely ask God to show you whether or not Jesus is the Messiah, that's what he did - and without any coaching it became clear to him who fit the fingerprint of the Messiah

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    Default "Everything Must Be Fulfilled ..."

    there are many stories similar to Lapides', especially among successful and thoughtful Jewish people who had specifically set out to refute Jesus; messianic claims, there's Stan Telchin, the East Coast businessman who had embarked on a quest to expose the "cult" of Christianity after his daughter went away to college and received Y'shua (Jesus) as her Messiah, he was astonished to find that his investigation led him - and his wife and second daughter - to the same Messiah, he later became a Christian minister, and his book that recounts his story, Betrayed!, has been translated into more than 20 languages, there is Jack Sternberg, a prominent cancer physician in Little Rock, Arkansas, who was so alarmed at what he found in the Old Testament that he challenged 3 rabbis to disprove that Jesus was the Messiah, they couldn't, and he too has claimed to have found wholeness in Christ, and there is Peter Greenspan, an obstetrician-gynecologist who practices in the Kansas City area and is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, like Lapides, he had been challenged to look for Jesus in Judaism, what he found troubled him, so he went to the Torah and Talmud, seeking to discredit Jesus' messianic credentials, instead he concluded that Jesus did miraculously fulfill the prophecies, for him, the more he read books by those trying to undermine the evidence for Jesus as the Messiah, the more he saw the flaws in their arguments, ironically, concluded Greenspan, "I think I actually came to faith in Y'shua by reading what the detractors wrote." he found, as have Lapides and others, that Jesus' words in the gospel of Luke have proved true: "Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." (Luke 24:44), it was fulfilled, and only in Jesus - the sole individual in history who has matched the prophetic fingerprint of God's anointed one

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