Who are the Nephilim in Genesis 6? One of the questions that I get asked most frequently over the years is the strange passage found in Genesis 6. I always get asked, “Who are the Nephilim?” You may be surprised that the most plausible answer is rather simple, and not as complex and bizarre as two of the most common theories espouse. Learn more...
5 Books I Love, That You May Have Never Heard Of... I love what Socrates said about reading and learning, “Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for.” This is the heart of my passion for reading great books. In this last episode of 2019, I provide 5 books from have shaped me, guidelines on how to read books, and links to some of these books that many haven't heard of...
Book #1: "Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith" by Dr. Marvin Wilson. (Theological) Wonderful theological and challenging work to how you look at and study scripture. Although the roots of Christianity run deep into Hebrew soil, many Christians are regrettably uninformed about the rich Hebrew heritage of the church. This volume delineates the link between Judaism and Christianity, between the Old and the New Testament, and calls Christians to reexamine their Hebrew roots so as to effect a more authentically biblical lifestyle.
Book #2: "Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews" by James Carroll. (History) Carroll maps the profoundly troubling two-thousand-year course of the Church’s battle against Judaism and faces the crisis of faith it has provoked in his own life as a Catholic. More than a chronicle of religion, this dark history is the central tragedy of Western civilization, its fault lines reaching deep into our culture.
Book #3: "Silence" by Shusaku Endo. (Historical Ficiton) Seventeenth-century Japan: Two Portuguese Jesuit priests travel to a country hostile to their religion, where feudal lords force the faithful to publicly renounce their beliefs. Eventually captured and forced to watch their Japanese Christian brothers lay down their lives for their faith, the priests bear witness to unimaginable cruelties that test their own beliefs.
Book #4: "Tatoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion" by Gregory Boyle. Gregory Boyle has run Homeboy Industries, a gang-intervention program located in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, the gang capital of the world. In Tattoos on the Heart, he distills his experience working in the ghetto into a breathtaking series of parables inspired by faith.
Book #5: "Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer" by Richard Rohr. This popular and bestselling book of the renowned Franciscan challenges people to move beyond the comfort of a settled life toward an understanding of themselves that is rooted in their connection to God. Only when they rest in God can they find the certainty and the freedom to become all that they can be. Contemplation has its place at the heart of Christianity, a place that allows people to experience how “everything belongs.”
Who has impacted our theology more than any other? One of my favorite questions to ask people is, “Who has had the largest single impact on church doctrine and theology the last two-thousand years?” Most answer with Jesus or the Apostle Paul, and of course I can't argue with that... But outside of scripture who has had the greatest impact, whether it has been for the good or at times to the detriment of the church, on our theology? In this episode, find out who, why, and their key doctrinal ideas...
Part 2 of "True Christians Never Get Depressed? Reconciling Faith & Mental Health." We move towards a healthier hermeneutic in our case study passage of Matthew 17, where a religious father brings his son who is tormented by seizures and Jesus heals the young man. This passage becomes a case study in how we truly reconcile the chasm we have in the church towards the mental health spectrum.
If you are struggling with depression or any other mental health spectrum issue or if you have a loved one or a friend, then you will not want to miss the 5 Guidelines at the end of the podcast that will help us bridge this great divide!
Here is a link to the book, "Learning To Breathe Under Water - Managing Depression in the Sea of Religion."
True Christians Never Get Depressed? Really? One of the most difficult and misunderstood subjects within Christianity and faith in general, is how do we try and reconcile genuine faith with the issue of depression and other related mental health issues on the spectrum? No doubt it is a very tough question to answer, but answer I will try.
This subject is spilt into a Part 1 and Part 2. Part 1 helps us build the framework of the severity of the issue within the faith community, and begins to build a framework towards a healthier hermeneutic. While Part 2 will dive deep into several key passages in the New Testament to try and bridge the gap between scripture and mental health.
As mentioned in this episode, I have written a book on this subject titled, "Learning To Breathe Underwater: Managing Depression in the Sea of Religion." You can get the book via paperback or Kindle. Click here
Are all teachings of scripture equal? How do we discern between two biblical truths? How do we weigh the difference when we see two scriptural truths that look like they are in conflict? Can one scripture or one truth cancel or equalize another? How do we know which one to act upon? How do we know how to prioritize truth, without diminishing the lighter truth?
Click to listen...
In Episode #33, I want to take a deeper dive inside the context of the Roman culture: their methodologies of punishment in relation to identifying the person’s crime, which crimes within the Roman culture had the highest form of punishment, why this phrase, “King of the Jews” was not a unique phrase used just for Jesus, but was a phrase that had been carved into many plaque’s of the crucified, and why this phrase was significant to the story of Jesus’ mission.
These are some of the questions we will explore in this episode titled, “What did the sign on the cross mean, “King of the Jews?” So let’s get started.
Many of us don't know who the author of the book of James is. Some think he is one of the two original disciples, but it surprises many when I tell them it is actually Jesus' brother. James was the leader of the early church, and was truly a righteous man who stood up for the marginalized, the poor, those who had no voice, and was a prophet against religious injustice. In this episode, you will find out the context of the man, the context of his times, and why in the context of Judaism he was considered a Tzedek (a righteous devout follower of God and the Hebrew Scriptures).
Baptism... It is such an odd word and concept when the etymology and context is absent. We all find it meaningful, but what is it? Where did it come from? And why does it matter? Come on a journey to see the concept of baptism wasn't invented by John the Baptist or Jesus, but was a practice that had already been around for hundreds of years. Find out more.
Did Jesus go by another name? If so, what did he hear phonetically? Was Jesus' name unique or was it a very common name? Was "Christ" his last name? Why is it important to understand his original name and background?
Journey with us as we answer these questions and more in our Episode #30, "Did Jesus go by another name?"
The ultimate abuse of any child, is sexual misconduct. To be in a trusted position, a place of authority, a person of faith and to destroy the soul of a child is the ultimate act of evil. In the last 24hrs it has been reported by the Houston Chronicle a breaking scandal within the SBC - Southern Baptist Convention, where over 700 victims have been sexually abused by pastors and leaders. This news story, Part 1 of 3 of the Houston Chronicle is sure to be the tip of the iceberg.
As a pastor of over 25 years and as an insider, I want to provide some thoughts on the horrible abuse. In this episode I want to explore what went wrong, and more importantly provide a pastor's (insiders) view of what may be some possible remedy's that would greatly help curb this kind of systemic evil.
Language is important. We judge people by the language they use. We understand or should I say misunderstand people by the language they use. You may find yourself in a conversation using language and specifically cultural phrases, which we call idioms... that is commonly understood in our culture today. And why do I want to talk about this? Because idioms and the translation of idioms are one of the most misunderstood elements when people try to interpret the scriptures. I would dare say that many mistakes, misinterpretations, and misunderstandings about scripture derive from our fundamental error with idioms.
It is hard for many of us to think that the culture of Jesus’ day had idioms that were indigenous to them. They had cultural phrases that were understood in the Hebrew language, what we would call Hebrew idioms. What if I told you that our scriptures were chalked full of idioms that were very clear in meaning to the original audience of the 1st century New Testament, but when translated into the Greek and ultimately into another language like English, that the meaning gets lost, and can lead to great errors? What looks like code words or esoteric phrases in the English is not code at all, more often than not they are Hebrew idioms that we don’t understand after 2,000 years removed from their original culture and language. What if I told you that many of these Hebrew idioms when put in their proper context actually are very clear? They are easily understood. So, take a journey with me as we examine idioms in language and more specifically the Hebrew idioms in scripture that we often miss as I have titled this podcast, “Understanding Idioms Will Make or Break our Interpretation of Scripture.”
In the last episode of 2018 we are tackling a difficult subject, "Can Suicide Be Forgiven?" Recently, there was a horrific story of a Catholic priest who was officiating the funeral of an 18 year old young man who committed suicide. The priest throughout the funeral referred to the suicide and insinuated that the boy may spend eternally in Hell because of his suicidal action. The boy's father even interrupted his homily during the funeral and asked him to stop. To no avail, the priest didn't stop, and the funeral ended in tears for many. It is hard to imagine the pain of this family and the merciless action of this priest but this horrific event raises many questions:
* Where did this priest develop this idea?
* How has the church and culture dealt with suicide over the last 2,000 years?
* What about Judas? Was his suicide forgivable? Is he in Heaven? Is he in Hell?
These and many other questions are dealt with in this last episode of 2018. It is our attempt to provide an historical analysis and a deeper dive into the context of scripture surrounding the betrayal and suicide of Judas. You will find many thought provoking ideas that may help you wrestling with this most difficult subject either for yourself or for others in your world.
If you are like me, maybe you have always been confused and puzzled at why so many target the Jews with hate filled rhetoric, killings, and overall blame for many of society's ills. Questions that have puzzled me for years have been questions like,
“What drives this illogical behavior?”
“Why has the historic church led many of these canards throughout history?”
“What is the etymology that drives this theological slant?”
Then after I began my study, I was awakened to the horrific shooting this past Saturday in Pittsburgh that distills the current reality of anti-semitism that sadly is becoming a common occurrence.
Once again it raises questions of why the Jews? What drives many anti-semitic rants? And what drives someone to the extreme violence of a synagogue massacre of innocent people worshipping in a synagogue? This is no longer a medieval mindset. This is no longer a Germanic fueled frenzy from the Nazi’s. We have to recognize that what drives this undercurrent of extreme anti-semitic thinking in Western Civilization and more specifically the fuel of anti-semitism in the Christian history of Western Civilization. So, I will attempt to provide a look at some of the Canards, the hoaxes, or fake information that has led to the core of many antisemitic behaviors of the past and I hope may shed some light on some of these current realities…
When you hear the terminology of “salvation” what comes to your mind? What is salvation? Is the concept of salvation to the mind of Jesus and his context different from our modern understanding, especially in the West? Well, I led you just a little, because the implication of my question is “yes” there is a difference. So, let’s explore that difference, how it has evolved and what implications does this have for us today...
Sometimes the subject of prayer can be laborious and difficult. We hear the admonishment to pray continuely from the pulpit, but really what is prayer? When the Apostle Paul encouraged us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to "pray without ceasing" what was the context he was operating from? What if I told you that prayer is not esoteric as much as it is very concrete? Find out what prayer without ceasing means from its original context of Jesus and Paul's day and how this can revolutionize your understanding of what prayer really is...
Our last podcast we explored the connections between the recent religious scandals of the Catholic Church and the Megachurch in Chicago “WillowCreek Community Church.” And it garnered quite a response. Like others it seems like the question that begs is this question, “Why is religious betrayal, the worst of all betrayals?” Why is religious betrayal seemingly the most difficult to overcome? What is it about religious evil that is most insidious?
We all may have a variety of opinions on the why, and I’m sure that most of our heartfelt rants are true, but to help us provide a plumb line, a level, a construct that we can all work in, I want to take us back to a familiar but often misunderstood passage of scripture in Exodus 20 and do a deeper analysis of the 3rd Commandment "Do not take the Lord's name in vain." This background and anaylsis will help us unlock the answer to this most difficult question, “Why is religious betrayal the worst of all betrayals?”
What do the scandals of the Catholic Church and WillowCreek Church have in common? The last several weeks have brought us some of the biggest scandals in modern church history. The Catholic Church in Pennsylvania has had over 300 priests abuse 1000+ minors in the last several decades, according to their own records. And then one of the largest megachurches and arguably the most influential church in the US, WillowCreek Community Church in Chicago, IL has had their founding pastor Bill Hybels step down as multiple accusations of sexual misconduct have been appropriated against him.
Though these are two very different entities, what do they have in common? Find out why the very structures that have supported their past success, are also what fueled their downfall.
Born Again! This well known phrase comes arguably from the most famous passage in the New Testament scriptures in John 3. The dialogue is between two Jewish Rabbi's and teachers of the law, Nicodemus and Jesus. In Nicodemus' late night private meeting, he comes with a curious mind to know if he is the Messiah, the one he has been looking for all his life? Jesus responds with what looks like at first an enigmatic phrase to Nicodemus, but what is shocking once we see the original Judaic context, is this phrase was extremely familiar to Nicodemus. So, the focus of this episode #21 is, "What did this phrase mean in its original context and why did this throw Nicodemus off his spiritual game?" You will find the original context quite enlightening! Enjoy!
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Have you ever heard a charismatic preacher pound the pulpit and say something like, “We are in a war with the devil. And in a war only the most violent wins. In fact, Jesus said it from his own lips, that only the violent men of God will prevail over the devil. Only the strong warriors for God will take the kingdom by force?” If you have been involved in a charismatic church or heard a TV evangelist, chances are you may have heard something like this. They have used this text from Matthew 11:12 as their clarion call to rally the troops and especially try to appeal to the testosterone of men. It is a spiritual infomerical to call the men of the church to stand up for God and beat the snot out of the devil… so to speak.
It sounds really good. It seems to preach well. It gets some resounding AMENS, especially for some of the wives who want their man to be a man of God. But is this really what Jesus is saying??? When this passage from Matthew 11:12 gets quoted as a proof text, it sounds really good. But when you measure it against the other teachings of Jesus, then it doesn’t measure up with the love and grace that is characteristic of most of Jesus’ teachings. So, how do we reconcile this passage? Is Jesus saying something altogether different? What does he really intend to teach in this passage about the Kingdom of God or Heaven?