"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

James MacDonald and Christianity Today

Last week I wrote an article entitled Boys and Their Toys: Understanding the Southern Baptist Convention's Celebrity Leadership Politics. In essence, I challenged Christianity Today's decision to publish a guest editorial (Nov.2, 2018), written by James MacDonald, the pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel. In his CT guest editorial, Pastor James MacDonald defended his decision to file suit against three families - Julie Roys, Scott Bryant, Ryan Mahoney, and the men's respective spouses - for their writing of articles that outlined what the authors believed to be Pastor MacDonald's' gross mismanagement of people, resources, and ministries at Harvest Bible Chapel. Eventually, James MacDonald dropped the suit that he defended in his CT editorial. Subsequently, the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel fired James MacDonald for some of the very things the one-time defendants of his lawsuit revealed in their writings.

In the comment section of my blog, Mark Galli, the Editor in Chief of Christianity Today, entered into a written dialogue with me. I appreciate Mark's transparency as he took issue with what I wrote. He said the decision for Christianity Today to publish James MacDonald's opinion piece was his alone, and it had nothing to do with James MacDonald giving a vintage 1971 VW Beetle automobile to Ed Stetzer. Ed is a contributing editor to Christianity Today.

In the dialogue, I asked Mark this question:
"If Julie Roys (one of the defendants in James MacDonald's lawsuit) wrote you an email and asked for an editorial on the abusive power of celebrity pastors, or if Ed Stetzer connected Julie Roys with CT (and you) and she requested to write an editorial about the dangers of power run amok among celebrity pastors, would you have responded positively?"
Mark responded:
"Absolutely. Under the same restraints: It would have to have been a biblical argument about the abuse of power in general. The challenge would have been taking the argument forward because we have editorialized on that very theme often over the years."
After reading this exchange, a pastor friend in Florida, Brett Maragni, contacted me. He told me he had two written pieces that had been submitted to Christianity Today for potential guest editorials in response to James MacDonald's opinion piece. Mark Galli and Christianity Today chose not to publish either one of these two written opinion pieces. 

David W. Jones, James MacDonald's research assistant for ten years, wrote the first editorial piece and submitted it to Christianity Today for publication. Joel Anderson, a long-time staff member of Harvest Bible Chapel wrote the second opinion piece and sent it to Christianity Today requesting publication as well. Neither man had conversed with the other before writing and submitting their individual articles, and neither man even knew the other one was writing something to send to Christianity Today

Again, Christianity Today rejected both pieces for publication. The question that keeps ringing in my head is "Why does James MacDonald receive permission to publish a guest editorial in Christianity Today and others who wrote opinion pieces -  better-written articles, definitely more biblically grounded, and more reflective of Christianity today - did not receive permission from CT editors?"

Could it be "Boys and Their Toys" is far closer to the truth than some would like to admit?

Both men rejected by CT for publication of their articles have given me permission to make public their written responses to James MacDonald's opinion piece


Then read the two guest editorials rejected by Christianity Today (below). 

After reading all three pieces, it may be time to draw your own conclusions about the state of Christianity today.  Using the little "t" for "today" in the previous sentence and not the big "T" is intentional. So is the pun.

Here are the two articles rejected by Christianity Today. 


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Is It Biblical to Sue Another Christian?
By David W. Jones

On October 17, 2018, megachurch pastor James MacDonald and his church, Harvest Bible Chapel, filed a defamation lawsuit against five individuals: Scott and Sarah Bryant, Ryan and Melinda Mahoney, and Julie Roys. The lawsuit seeks damages and a temporary restraining order. The catch?  All five defendants are professing Christians.

Aware that 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 forbids Christians from suing other Christians in secular courts, Pastor MacDonald wrote an opinion piece to explain why his lawsuit is biblically justified. (1) To make his case, he needed to prove two things: (1) that Scripture’s prohibition on Christians suing other Christians is not absolute, but rather allows for certain exceptions; and (2) that his specific situation qualifies as one of these exceptions. His argument fails on both counts.

Did God Actually Say?
Regarding the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, MacDonald argues for what he calls “a deeper understanding of Scripture.” He asserts, rightly, that we must look at all relevant texts regarding an issue, not just one primary text (in this case, 1 Corinthians 6). So he puts forward three additional texts for consideration: Matthew 18:17, John 8:49, and Romans 13:1-7. Yet MacDonald does not demonstrate how these texts give Christians the freedom to set aside 1Corinthians 6 and sue other Christians. An examination of each reveals no such justification.

Matthew 18:17 describes the end of the church discipline process. If a sinning church member refuses to repent after multiple appeals by other members, the sinner is to be excommunicated and treated as an unbeliever. MacDonald infers that the person can then be sued. Yet Jesus does not actually say that; lawsuits are foreign to the context.

Regarding John 8:49, MacDonald cites Wayne Grudem’s recent book on Christian ethics. (2) Grudem shows that, even though Jesus remained silent on his way to the cross, he did not normally allow his character to be slandered. Rather, the Lord responded to critics. Grudem then infers that we need not suffer in silence when our character is maligned. We can follow Christ’s example and refute false statements made about us. This is a valid point and helpful. Yet Grudem does not mention suing fellow Christians, as MacDonald implies. In fact, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 does not appear in that section, nor anywhere else in the book.(3) So Jesus may have corrected his opponents, but he did not sue them (nor their spouses). The record can be set straight without resorting to secular courts, especially for a megachurch pastor with multiple communication platforms.

Romans 13:1-7 does not apply to Christians suing Christians, either. It says government has been ordained to carry out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer, literally, ‘the one practicing evil’ (verse 4). In the same verse, Paul says a ruler ‘does not bear the sword in vain,’ which is widely understood as a reference to capital punishment. So this passage refers to criminal behavior, such as murder and the like. Presumably, the wrongdoer is not a Christian. So Romans 13 is talking about criminal law, not civil law. (4) Also, it immediately follows Romans 12, which contains one of the longest and clearest passages in the New Testament about not seeking revenge, but rather treating your enemy better than he or she deserves (see Romans 12:14-21). Surely that colors any application of Romans 13:1-7.

So MacDonald uses three texts that are not about civil suits to explain away the one text that is about civil suits (1 Corinthians 6). He also ignores completely the biblical teaching on nonretaliation (e.g., Leviticus 19:18; 1 Samuel 24:12; Proverbs 20:22; 24:29; 25:21-22; Matthew 5:38-45; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:27-36; 23:34; Acts 7:60; Romans 12:14-21; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 2 Timothy 2:24-26; 1 Peter 2:19-23; 3:9, 14-18; 4:8; Hebrews 10:32-34 et al). In light of these texts, MacDonald’s so-called “deeper understanding of Scripture” appears shallow and unconvincing—a ham-fisted attempt to justify unbiblical behavior.

Missing the Sarcasm
MacDonald’s handling of 1 Corinthians 6 is also inadequate. He does not seem to grasp how incensed Paul is over Christians suing other Christians. The word dare in verse 1 denotes insolence or presumption. It could be paraphrased, “What nerve you have!” The apostle asks whether they are incompetent (verse 2). He explicitly shames them (verse 5). He incredulously asks rhetorical question after rhetorical question, concluding that the presence of lawsuits shows they are already defeated (verse 7). Commentator Gordon Fee refers to this passage as “the most biting sarcasm in the letter.”(5)

MacDonald, who is normally fluent in sarcasm, downplays this. He says, “1 Corinthians 6 deals with two brothers in a single church dealing with a trivial matter that should just be ‘let go.’” Now the word trivial does appear in verse 2, but it must be understood in context. In verses 7-8, the apostle spells out what was going on: wrongdoing and defrauding. The former term denotes behaviors that harm, such as slander and injury; the latter, various types of cheating, such as breach of contract and property right infringements. Why, then, does Paul call such civil suits trivial? For rhetorical effect. In verses 2-3, he says believers will judge both the world and angels—a reference to eschatological judgment. Craig Blomberg says, this “does not mean that the Corinthian litigation did not involve serious offenses, merely that all human litigation is trivial when viewed in the light of Judgment Day.”(6)

So the Corinthians were not simply arguing over the color of the church carpet. Some believers had wronged others, though not to the level of criminal court. Paul does not just dismissively say “Let it go.” He wants them to resolve their disputes—only among believers (verse 5). If a matter cannot be resolved privately, the apostle urges them to suffer the injustice and be defrauded, rather than parading the church’s dirty laundry into the public square (verse 7). The testimony of Christ and the unity of the church trump personal rights. (7)

MacDonald also seems unaware of the social context. Romans with higher social status had an unfair advantage when it came to civil cases. (8) The rich could hire good attorneys; the poor could not (9).  Juries were typically composed of wealthy citizens, who may be peers and perhaps even
friends of the plaintiff, and thus not completely objective. Justice could also be perverted by a bribe, which the wealthy could afford, and the poor could not. All of these factors made it difficult for a poor person to get justice in civil court. So it is possible that wealthier, more powerful Christians were taking those less fortunate to court, in order to power up on them. This almost certainly factors into Paul’s sense of outrage.

The piece raises issues of practical application. To paraphrase MacDonald, what if there is collateral damage? What if the matter is serious, perhaps even illegal? What if the plaintiff and defendant are from different churches? These are legitimate questions, though it should be recognized that they deal with the application of 1 Corinthians 6, not its interpretation. Paul provides no exception for collateral damage or illegality. He urges the Corinthians away from the secular courts, even if it means allowing oneself to suffer injustice or be defrauded. The issue of different churches does pose a difficulty, but it is not insurmountable. In Roman law, a citizen might opt for private arbitration rather than dragging a matter through the courts. (10) Paul points out that Christians could do the same. Surely, there are wise Christians in the area who can step in and mediate—leaders who are respected and trusted by both parties. So MacDonald has not made his case that the Bible allows exceptions to its prohibition on Christians suing other Christians. Both his interpretation and application of the relevant passages
are wanting.

Brother Goes to Law against Brother
The second thing MacDonald needs to prove is that his lawsuit constitutes an exception to the general prohibition in 1 Corinthians 6. Several factors make this highly suspect.

First, the piece says MacDonald is suing “three outspoken critics.” As mentioned above, the lawsuit actually specifies five defendants: two bloggers, their wives, and an independent journalist. The inclusion of the wives casts the lawsuit in a different light. 

Second, the bloggers have published little in the last few years. Why sue them now, especially since MacDonald admits that some of the criticisms had merit and bore good fruit? Why try to get a temporary restraining order against them after six years?

Third, the inclusion of the journalist was initially puzzling, because she had not published anything about MacDonald or Harvest prior to the lawsuit. How could she be labeled an“outspoken critic”?  Why seek a temporary restraining order against her? Turns out that Mrs. Roys had been working on an article about MacDonald, and the latter got wind of it.11 The temporary restraining order appears to have been an attempt to keep the article from seeing the light of day. Mrs. Roys quipped, “I always knew I ran the risk of being sued for speaking the truth. But I always envisioned that it would be for something I actually published, not for something I merely indicated I was going to publish.”(12) If this is the motivation behind the lawsuit, it should be recognized as an attempt to limit freedom of speech.

Finally, MacDonald ends by denying he seeks vengeance. He also denies seeking damages (although the lawsuit does request damages in multiple places). He expresses a willingness “to give grace and forgive,” but that of course assumes it is the bloggers and journalist who sinned. Until MacDonald answers the charges made about him (apart from simply painting them all as “lies”), the question remains open as to who is telling the truth. MacDonald says he prays for “the blogger’s peace,” although that is hard to reconcile with the decision to sue these families for damages. Like the wealthy citizens of Corinth who used the courts to their own advantage, he almost certainly has resources at his disposal beyond that of the defendants.
4
So MacDonald has not made his case that his lawsuit qualifies as an exception to 1 Corinthians 6. On the contrary, several factors call into question the motive(s) behind the suit.

WWJS—Who Would Jesus Sue?
As a general rule, when someone contravenes the express teaching of Scripture, and then tries to justify it with a “deeper understanding of Scripture,” discerning believers should take note. The question, “Did God actually say?” landed the first couple—and the rest of the human race—in a world of hurt. Jesus says, ‘whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:19). Later, in the same 
chapter, the Lord instructs us to turn the other cheek, renounce our rights in court, and go the extra mile (verses 39-41).

To answer the question posed in the title of this article, it is not biblical to sue a fellow Christian. Perhaps there could be an exception. But MacDonald has not made a case for why his lawsuit is that exception. Mediation is the preferred way of resolving disputes among Christians. Thus, I would urge the leadership of Harvest Bible Chapel to withdraw its lawsuit against these five believers and seek private mediation with a third party.

Dr. David W. Jones is Senior Pastor at Village Church of Barrington in Barrington, Illinois.
From 2001 to 2010, he served at Harvest Bible Chapel as James MacDonald’s research
assistant. He was also Associate Editor for The Holy Bible: English Standard Version
(Crossway, 2001).

Footnotes:

1 James MacDonald, “Why Suing Is Sometimes the Biblical Choice,” Christianity Today, Nov 2, 2018, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/november-web-only/james-macdonald-harvest-bible-chapel-suing-ourcritics-bibl.html.

2 Wayne Grudem, Christian Ethics (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2018), 334-35.

3 Grudem has made a statement regarding this lawsuit: “I have not expressed any opinion on the merits
of the specific lawsuit that James McDonald has initiated, nor have I looked into any details about that lawsuit or the accusations from the people who have criticized his ministry online. Nor do I intend to.”

4 In the Roman world, slander and libel were matters for the lower courts, as they are today. See Bruce Winter, “Civil Litigation in Secular Corinth and the Church: The Forensic Background to 1 Cor 6:1-8,” NTS 37 (1991): 559-72; cited in Thiselton, 420. So also Brian S. Rosner, Paul, Scripture, and Ethics: A Study of 1 Corinthians 5-7 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 112-15.

5 Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1987), 229.

6 Craig L. Blomberg, 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1995), 117.

7 Sadly, the “Friendly Atheist” (Sarabeth Caplin) has already picked up on Harvest’s lawsuit and blogged about it. https://friendlyatheist.patheos.com/2018/10/26/chicago-megachurch-files-defamation-lawsuit-againstbloggers-and-journalist. Accessed Nov 8, 2018.

8 A.C. Mitchell, “Rich and Poor in the Courts of Corinth: Litigiousness and Status in 1 Cor 6:1-11,” NTS 39 (1993): 562-63; cited in Thiselton, 419.

9 Gerd Theissen, The Social Setting of Pauline Christianity: Essays on Corinth (Philadelphia: Fortress,1992), 97; cited in Thiselton, 420.

10 Winter, “Civil Law and Christian Litigiousness,” 67.

11 Julie Roys, “Hard times at Harvest,” World, Dec 13, 2018, https://world.wng.org/2018/12/hard_times_at_harvest. Accessed Dec 13, 2018.

12 Kate Shellnutt, “James MacDonald Sues Harvest Bible Chapel Critics for Libel,” Christianity Today, Oct 30, 2018, https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/october/james-macdonald-harvest-bible-chapel-sueelephants-debt-jul.html. Accessed Dec 3, 2018.


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James MacDonald and The Elephant’s Debt:
The Issues Underneath the Issues
by Joel Anderson

It was 1995 and my wife and I had just moved to the Chicago area to attend seminary. We were in a bagel store where the college student working the counter commented on Christian shirt I was wearing and invited us to church. What college kid is that fired up about their church? We’d been in town less than two weeks and decided to take her up on the offer.

That was our introduction to Harvest Bible Chapel.

We loved the simple, clear and urgent way Pastor James taught God’s Word and the
fresh and meaningful worship. We were hooked.

I joined an early morning men’s small group led by Pastor James, and in a matter of months, had been given an opportunity to join the staff—a dream coming true for a hungry seminary kid.

The church was in a season of explosive growth and moving into their first building. I thrived on the fast-pace of the team and appreciated the strong leadership and uncomplicated, no-nonsense vision Pastor James provided.

We were part of the team that birthed the church planting vision, planted two churches with Harvest (numbers 2 and 27), saw the birth and growth of Harvest Bible Fellowship, served as a founding board member and later served on the Harvest Bible Fellowship staff, recruiting and training church planters.

All told, we’ve served at six different Harvests over 22 years.

During those early days, I served as the young adult pastor and ministry partner for bothScott Bryant and Ryan Mahoney, the authors of The Elephant’s Debt blog. They were small group leaders and helped teach.

All that backstory to say this, I know and love personally each person embroiled in the lawsuit brought by Pastor James and Harvest Bible Chapel against Scott, Ryan and Julie Roys (the only person I haven’t met personally). Through my journey, I’ve been through the ringer because of my own sin and have been shown unbelievable grace, mercy, love, forgiveness and a redemptive path through it all—and that’s what I ache for.

I have no axe to grind and no loyalty or agenda to foist on an already complex matter. My heart is only to attempt to bring some clarity from what may be a unique vantage point.

It may sound trite, but my sole desire is to see Christ honored through this apparent impasse, offering a model for the body of Christ, and a watching world, of what an ambassador of reconciliation truly looks like in the mire of real life.

After reading the first report of the case and the follow up editorial Pastor James wrote, I felt compelled to plead for a Christ-honoring path to “come reason together.” With a legal case pending, those being sued are in many ways, locked out of the public forum to provide an apologetic for their blog. Just as Pastor James has written to offer further clarity, I believe there is helpful, and necessary, dialogue to be added.

My primary concern is this: the presenting issue (the biblical grounds for believers suing believers) isn’t the primary issue. The issue under the issue are the claims Scott, Ryan, and Julie have made, and their right to make them. That’s the real issue. If we allow the discussion to be diverted toward an apologetic about lawsuits, the squirrel has taken our eyes off critical substance that compelled TED to go public with their concerns.

Were their facts correct and do they have a right to report their concerns? That’s the question we should be discussing.

I get it and I’ve been there. None of us love our laundry put out for public display and possible scrutiny. But aren’t we encouraged to bring matters into the light? What often causes fear (and subsequent anger) is what unexpected and undesired exposure will cost us.

But if the Christian’s economy is truth, let’s seek it, and refuse to allow the damage control machinery to engage. The world’s concern is controlling the narrative. That’s not the playbook for the body of Christ. No church or pastor is perfect and shouldn’t be held to an unrealistic and impossible standard. And, no blogger or radio host is perfect either. 

So what do we do? We work through it. If the facts are true, own it. If they aren’t, provide the missing data. This is Christ’s church we’re talking about. And if ministry is done in the open and with integrity, what do we have to fear?

The precious tension in an elder-governed church (Harvest’s model) is what the body “gets to know.” The TED blog exposed details of the Harvest financial story that weren’t public. While we can get stuck in the debate about how much information is necessary and helpful for the body to know, that again isn’t the issue. Were the facts reported accurate and do they have the right and freedom to go public with it?

The answer, I am convinced of, is a clear “yes.”

I love Pastor James. He was a mentor who gave me more than I could return. I love Scott and Ryan and don’t believe their intent was to spread lies or be exacting or malicious. But it isn’t about that either—who we love or like or appreciate or don’t. It’s about honoring Christ in the mess and trusting that He will guide us as we humbly defer to wise counsel, His Word and Spirit.

Bottom line, we cannot allow the matter of suing another believer to eclipse the substance and inception of this debacle. What is true and do people have the right to know and report it?

Shut down the legal process. Stop draining kingdom resources and appeal to godly spiritual peers to help corral and guide this toward a Christ-honoring process of reconciliation.

We’re broken people who need the Gospel every day. Let’s admit our need and work it out.

Let’s get to the issue under the issue and let the church and watching world learn from our frailty that we serve a God who is able to supply all our needs.

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It's Thursday, But Sunday's Coming!

All followers of Jesus believe that Christ died and rose from the grave. This is foundational to the Christian faith. The Scriptures declare that God delivers those with this faith (Romans 3:25), and without it, no one has hope of pleasing God (Hebrews 11:6).

However, more than a few people believe Christ died and rose from the dead without knowing when and why He died.

Knowledge about the details of Christ's death and resurrection immeasurably strengthen one's conviction and assurance that Christianity is not one of many possible valid religions, but is the body of truth once delivered by God to us (Jude 1:3).

Jesus Christ died on Thursday, not Friday.

If this is the first time you've heard that Jesus died on a Thursday, it might sound strange to your ears, particularly when powerful songs, great messages, and vivid memories revolve around Good Friday. However, if you allow yourself to be influenced by Scripture only (sola Scriptura), you will find that the Thursday death of the Messiah becomes a powerful demonstration of God's infinite ability to orchestrate His Story as the centerpiece of history.

Jesus died at 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon, on Thursday, the 14th of Aviv, 30 A.D at the age of 33, at that very time God appointed for the Messiah to die.  "I have come to fulfill the Law and the prophets" (Matthew 5:17), Jesus said.

Jesus did just as He said He would do--He fulfilled the Law. There is no other day, no other time, no other way Jesus could have died and there is no other day, no other time, no other way Jesus could have risen from the dead for the Law of God to be fulfilled.

For all those reading this post who have been duped by religious leaders into believing that sins are swept away by our promises to God or our performance for God, what I am about to write can help you see that those religionists who are stuck on man-oriented religious performance have no idea that true, biblical Christianity sets sinners free to trust Christ's performance.

The truth of what is written in this post will thoroughly erase any belief that God's mercy, love and grace is determined by our ability to adequately perform. Take a moment and determine to "Grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ" and read slowly and carefully through this post. You will not regret it.

Jesus dying on Thursday and rising on the following Sunday is thoroughly supported by the Scriptures and is not a new proposition among evangelicals. Nearly one hundred and fifty years ago the scholarly Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 27 (1870), pp. 401–429 published an article entitled The Crucifixion on Thursday – Not Friday by J.K. Aldrich. Greek and New Testament scholar Professor Brooke Westcott of Great Britain, author of the classic work An Introduction to the Study of the Gospels (Cambridge: 1881), pp. 343–349, adamantly maintained that Christ's crucifixion was on Thursday, not Friday.  In 1974 Christianity Today published The Day He Died, by Dr. Roger Rusk, Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Tennessee. In this short article, Dr. Rusk shows through his computer-enhanced lunar calculations that Jesus died on Thursday, the 14th of Abib, 30 A.D.

The Way the Jews Measured Time

There are three basic things you need to understand about the way the Jews kept time in Jesus day before you can know why Jesus died when He did.

First, the Jewish months revolved around eyeballing the moon during its phases of brightness in the sky. When a 'new moon' occurred (see chart), the priests would blow their horns and declare that a new 'month' had begun. Aviv was the first month of the new year for the Jews (see Leviticus 23:5), occuring in the spring as God woke nature from her winter slumber. Aviv corresponds to March/April on our calendar. Jesus died on the 14th day of Aviv, 30 A.D. at 3:00 in the afternoon which would correspond to April 6, 30 A.D. on our western calendar.

Second, the Jews in Jesus day did not call the days of their week Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc... as we do. They called them "the first day of the week, the second day of the week, etc..." The seventh day of the week was a Sabbath and is known to us in the western world as 'Saturday.' The 'first day of the week is what we call Sunday. Of course, Jesus rose on "the first day of the week" (John 20:1).

Finally, a new day began for the Jews at 6:00 p.m. in the evening. In the western world, we have six hours of night before 12:00 midnight and those six hours are the last six hours of our day. At midnight, a new day begins.

But this is not so in Jesus' Jewish world. The hours from 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight were the first six hours of a NEW DAY. So, Jesus died at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, the 14th of Aviv, just three hours before the sixth day of the week (Friday), the 15th of Aviv, began. In the Bible, at 6:00 pm a new day begins. So if the Jews ate a "Passover Meal" after sunset (6:00 pm), the meal would be eaten in the first hours of a new 24-hour day, not the last hours of a 24-hour day.

The Passover lamb was killed on the 14th of Aviv every year (Passover), but the Passover Meal was only eaten that night in the first few hours of the 15th of Aviv, the beginning of the week-long celebration called the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

The Reason Jesus Died on Thursday (the 14th of Aviv) in AD 30.

After Moses led the Jews out of their Egyptian bondage fifteen hundred years before Christ was born, God "appointed" seven Holy Days (holidays) for the Jews to keep throughout the year. These Holy Days, called High Sabbaths, were national celebrations of God's faithfulness and mercy to His people. God was very specific in His Law (Leviticus 23) as to when and how these Holy Days were to be celebrated.

The first three Holy Days occurred in the spring, during the month of Aviv, all within one week of each other. The first holiday was Passover. According to Exodus 12:1, the Passover lamb was to be chosen on the 10th of Aviv and slain on the 14th of Aviv. After the Passover lamb had been chosen on the 10th of Aviv, the people would inspect the lamb to make sure there were no spots or blemishes. The lamb could not have any broken bones or be defective in any way. Four days after the lamb was chosen, the lamb was slain.

At 3:00 p.m. on the 14th of Aviv, the lamb would be killed in preparation for the Passover meal. The 14th of Aviv was therefore called "the day of Preparation for Passover" in Scripture (John 19:14) .  The Jews would also use the day of Preparation (the 14th of Aviv) to sweep away any leaven in their houses in preparation for The Feast of Unleavened Bread.

As already stated, the Feast of Unleavened Bread began on the next day, the15th of Aviv, the same day the Passover Meal was eaten, and lasted for seven days. During this week long festival, the Jews were forbidden to consume bread with leaven.  As the week of Unleavened Bread began during the early hours of the 15th of Aviv (from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at night), the Jewish Passover meal would be eaten. The lamb that had been killed three hours earlier (at 3:00 p.m. on the 14th of Aviv) was roasted and eaten at the Passover meal after sunset. The lamb would be eaten along with the unleavened bread that had been prepared during daylight of Aviv 14. Leaven in Scripture is a picture of sin or evil. After the Passover lamb died and had been taken into the Jewish houses, sin and evil disappeared.

The Passover lamb always died on Aviv 14, and leaven was always swept away from the homes on Aviv 14. Again, this day of Aviv 14 was called the day of Preparation for Passover. The actual Feast of Passover was eaten after sunset, in the early hours of Aviv 15, the first day of Unleavened Bread. Remember, the Jewish day BEGINS at 6:00 p.m. so though the Passover meal was eaten between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. of what we in the western world would consider the SAME day (Passover, Aviv 14),  the Jews considered that time the NEXT DAY, Aviv 15.

The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Aviv 15) was considered a High Sabbath for the Jews. This High Sabbath was not a regular Sabbath (Saturday), but a special annual Sabbath.

That means Friday, Aviv 15, AD 30, was a High Sabbath and Saturday, Aviv 16, AD 30 was a regular Sabbath.  The resurrection of Christ occurred on Sunday morning (Aviv 17) after two Sabbaths, back to back, had been observed by the Jews.

This is precisely what the New Testament teaches. The gospel writer Matthew describes the time when the disciples came to the empty tomb of Christ on Sunday morning by writing, After the Sabbath(s), at dawn on the first day of the week...” (Matthew 28:1a).  The Greek word translated Sabbath in this text is “Shabbaton” (plural) not “Shabbat” (singular). Any English translation that does not use "Sabbaths" is mistranslating the Greek text. The crucifixion week had the High Sabbath on Friday plus the weekly Sabbath and Saturday.

Jesus died on Thursday, AD 30, the day of Passover Preparation Day, Thursday, Aviv 14. The next day, the First Day of Unleavened Bread (Friday)  was Aviv 15 and a special High Sabbath for the Jews. The next day, Aviv 16 (Saturday) was the regular Sabbath for the Jews. It was not uncommon for the Jews to have TWO Sabbaths back to back during Passover, an event that occurred at least once a decade, and this is precisely what happened during crucifixion week as stated in Scripture.

In further fulfillment of Scripture, Jesus died at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, Aviv 14, at the very time the national Passover lamb was being sacrificed in the temple.  When the Jews counted days, they measured any portion of a day or night and considered it an entire day or night. Jesus was in the grave for 3 days and 3 nights. He was placed in the tomb on Thursday (Aviv 14), remained in the tomb all night/day Friday (Aviv 15; notice the night time comes BEFORE the day time in a Jewish day), all night/day on Saturday (Aviv 16), and into the nighttime hours (6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. of Sunday, (Aviv 17).

Jesus rose from the grave sometime between the sunset following Saturday (Aviv 16) and sunrise of the first day of the week (Mark 16:9), which was Sunday (Aviv 17) for the Scripture says it was still night.  The time Jesus spent in the grave fulfills the prophecy Jesus said about His own death and resurrection:
"For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:40).

The Anti-Type Fulfills the Type

Follow Jesus as He enters Jerusalem in the spring of 30 A.D. He entered the city on Sunday, Aviv 10, the day we call Palm Sunday. The procession for the national Passover lamb of Israel had just taken place. The lamb had been led into the city from the east and was taken to the Temple to be the public sacrifice for the nation of Israel, an event that would occur four days later (Aviv 14). The lamb was met by crowds of people waving palm branches and joyously singing Psalm 118.

Jesus made His final entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey, following the national Passover lamb (Matthew 21:1-11). The Jews, many of whom had either known of Jesus or personally witnessed His great miracles, placed their palm branches in front of Him and shouted to Him passages from Psalm 118: "Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest!’”

Just as the Jews began to cleanse their homes of leaven in preparation for Passover, so Jesus went to His Father's house and cleansed the Temple of evil (Matthew 21:12-13). From Aviv 10 to Aviv 14 the national Passover lamb was in full public view at the Temple so the Jews could ensure the lamb was perfect and without defect. During those same four days, Jesus was inspected and interrogated by the chief priests, elders, Pharisees, and Sadducees. He left them bumfuzzled because "they could find no fault with His character (see Matthew 21:23-27). Even the Roman governor of Jerusalem (Pilate) and Herod, the governor of Galilee could "find no fault with Him."

Jesus ate the Passover meal the night BEFORE He was crucified (early hours of Aviv 14, between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.). The Jews would NOT eat their Passover until 24 hours later, but Jesus instituted a New Covenant - with no lamb eaten - giving bread and wine and saying, "This is my body, and this is my blood, which is shed for you." He was the Lamb of God. It was His death that mattered. The Law of God in the Old Covenant was about to be fulfilled by the Lamb of God.  Within a few hours, the Anti-Type (the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world) would fulfill the type (the Passover lamb of Israel). The agreement between God and man changed at Calvary with the institution of the New Covenant. God had Himself a new people (from every tribe, race and nation), a new Temple (the lives of believers in His Son), a new priesthood (men and women, slave and free, Gentile and Jew), and a New Command ("love one another as I have loved you"). The Law pictured that "the just live by faith," but the Lamb made that picture a reality. Faith in Christ's performance for sinners is the only thing that makes a sinner right with God.

Jesus was placed on the cross at "the third hour" (9:00 a.m.) on Aviv 14 (Mark 15:25), less than twelve hours after He shared the New Covenant meal in the Upper Room with His disciples. So it was that the national Passover lamb was bound to the Temple's altar at the very same hour.   As Jesus hung on the cross, darkness came over the land (Luke 23:44-46) from about "the sixth to the ninth hour" (from noon to 3:00 p.m.). At 3:00 p.m. on Aviv 14, 30 A.D., Jesus died. At that very same time, the national Passover lamb in the Temple was slain by the High Priest. The Passover lamb was sacrificed in the Temple on Aviv 14 "between the evenings" (3:00 p.m.), just as Jesus, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed for the world "between the evenings." As the High Priest brought the knife down on the national Passover lamb, he cried “It is finished!”  Just outside the city gate, at that very hour, Jesus cried on the cross, "It Is Finished!" and He died.

Remember, it was forbidden by the Law of God for any of the bones of the Passover lamb to be broken (see Exodus 12:46).  At the crucifixion, soldiers came by to break the legs of the two criminals crucified along with Jesus, but they discovered Jesus was already dead. The reason for breaking the criminal's legs was to ensure that they would die before sunset and the Passover meal and the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Aviv 15). It took Jesus only six hours to die. I am reminded that He said, "No one takes my life. I lay it down of my own accord" (John 10:18).

Jesus rose three days later, early on "the first day of the week" (Sunday).  His Resurrection Day was the same day that the Jews "waved the sheaf of firstfruits" in the Temple during the Feast God appointed in the Law, a Feast called "The Feast of the Waving of the Sheaf of First Fruits." Jesus rose on this day, and the fulfillment of the Law in rising as our "first fruits" of resurrection is quite instructive (listen to last year's Easter message).

Application

Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law. Everything in the Old Testament was about Him. When He walked with the two men on the road to Emmaus, He "began with Moses and all the prophets and explained to them all those things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27)

God appointed the seven Holy Days for Israel (Leviticus 23) nearly a millennium and a half before Jesus ever walked the streets of Jerusalem! What are the odds that Jesus enters Jerusalem on the 10th of Aviv, dies on the 14th of Aviv, is in the tomb during the days of Unleavened Bread, and rises on the "morrow after the Sabbath" (Sunday, the 17th of Aviv) on the very day the Jews celebrated the Feast of the Sheaf of Firstfruits? I could go on and explain to you the Anti-type fulfillment of the last four Jewish feasts (Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets, Feast Day of Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles), but that is another post. I think you see the beauty of Christ in the Passover.

Next time somebody mocks Christianity and tells you it is a religion of myths and fairy tales, why don't you take a little time to show them that His Story is history itself. Jesus was born on Tabernacles, died at Passover, rose from the dead on the Feast of Firstfruits, came to indwell us on Pentecost and will come again at the Feast of Trumpets?  It would be wise for all people to see the Holy One in the Holy Days of the Old Testament and how Jesus Christ is the utter fulfillment of the Law.

Finally, when somebody asks you how your sins are swept away, refuse to point that person to any promise of man, any commitment promised by man, or any pledge of religious fidelity by man! Point the questioner to the Man who accomplished for us what we cannot accomplish for ourselves.

This is the faith once delivered to the saints, and it is worth believing. It sets you free from trusting in your performance to one hundred percent trusting His performance for you.

The Shortsighted Thinking of "Peace for Our Time"

When England's Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940) made peace with Adolph Hitler at the 1938 Munich Pact, he triumphantly declared "There is peace for our time."

Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler has gone down in history as one of the worst decisions of the modern age. 6,000,000 Jews eventually lost their lives through the Holocaust. Chamberlain may have secured peace for his time, but the long-term consequences were horrific.

Many have wondered where Chamberlain came up with the phrase "Peace for our time

At best, it was a hollow boast, at worst, it was an intentional attempt to postpone conflict by attaching it to the future. "Let our children fight fascism, but not us."

Chamberlain's boast is similar to a statement made by King Hezekiah of Judah(739 BC - 687 BC) over 2,000 years earlier.

The prophet Isaiah had told Hezekiah that problems were on the horizon for the nation of Judah:
5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord Almighty: 6 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. 7 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. (Isaiah 39:5-7)
Read again the awful things that Isaiah says are coming on the next generation of Jews.
1. All the nation's treasures will be 'carried off to Babylon.'
2. Nothing will be left in Judah.
3. The king's own children will be 'taken away' to Babylon.
4. The king's sons will become Eunuchs.
5. The Jews will serve the king of Babylon as slaves.
Now listen to Hezekiah's response to Isaiah's words:
8 “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.” (Isaiah 39:8)
Chamberlain, Hezekiah, and ... we who live in the United States of America in 2019.

We all think alike.
We don't mind that the national debt is over 22 trillion dollars and at some point, the government will collapse under the strain of debt.
We don't mind that credit card debt hits a record 4 trillion dollars and people will one day be unable to pay back what they owe, plunging the economy into a depression worse than the 1930s.
We don't mind that the infrastructure of our country has fallen apart and it will be impossible to repair the outdated grids, bridges, dams, and power plants when the system collapses.
We don't mind that cries for expanding socialism in the US guarantees a collapse of the capitalistic business economy that built the United States.
We don't mind...

Because "There's peace for our time."

I Use Sonix to Transcribe Audio Recorded Sermons

I've been a pastor and public speaker for over 35 years.

All those jokes about pastors working one day a week are familiar to me. I laugh at them too, but if you've been a pastor for any length of time, you know that those jokes aren't even close to the truth.

Optically, pastors are seen once a week by most people.

Practically, pastors work every day of the week.

The hurting and the dying are in the numerical minority, but they make up the majority of the workload for pastors between those times the pastor is working on fresh, relevant sermon series, or preparing for the next committee and staff meeting, or other duties associated with pastoring.

Only pastors of large churches with a large staff who help with funerals, counseling, planning, and other pastoral responsibilities have had the time to write for the purpose of publishing books.

That is, until now.

Sonix is a service I use to transcribe my sermons. It's propriety artificial intelligence algorithm takes any uploaded audio (or video) file of my public speaking and transcribes them with a 98% accuracy for words and a greater than 95% accuracy on sentence and paragraph structure.

Transcribing sermons to turn them into published books is now super easy.

Of course, there will still have to be the editing of a Sonix transcript, but the time required to get 8 pages of a typed manuscript is reduced by 98% (two minutes to get a Sonix transcript compared to two hours of human typing). It's amazing to see such a swift and accurately typed manuscript of your spoken words.

Let me show you how it works.

Create your own Sonix account.

Then choose an audio file you wish to upload.

Our church uploads both audio files (podcast) and video files (Vimeo) to the Internet.

Your church may do neither, but you can still use Sonix if you simply have an MP3 or MP4 recording of your sermon on your computer.

Let me give you an example of the product.

I downloaded the MP4 Video file of my February 3, 2019, to my computer, a message entitled "A Mind that Thinks "Never Finishing, Alway Completed" from our Vimeo account (if your sound booth takes a digital recording of your sermon, ask them to send you a copy of the digital file).

Then I uploaded my MP4 file to my account at Sonix.

I hit the "Transcribe" button in my account, and within two minutes, Sonix sends me an email saying my transcription file is ready.

Read below the first page of an eight-page transcript of my February 3, 2019, sermon from the Face of Grace series.  Sonix transcribed in two minutes and gave to me in Word format.  I've done nothing to the Sonix transcript below. It's raw, no edits.

You can watch the beginning of my February 3 sermon here to test the accuracy of the transcript from Sonix.

Wade Burleson A Mind That Thinks Never Seeking; Always Pursued - Feb. 3.mp4 
I don't know how many of you like to travel but I've been around the United States and have had the privilege of going to other countries. I have to say to you though I have never seen more beautiful landscape than western Oklahoma. This week I drove about two and a half hours to sentinel for the funeral of Tom Martin's mother Mae and I took the back roads. I came back through Fairview and oh my word. I think living in western Oklahoma we get used to it but if you ever take a moment just to look around in our first service this morning a woman from Fairview Dorothy she's in her 80s. She told me that legend says that a person climbed the glass mountains looked around and said My what a fair view. And right down there in the valley, a city called Fairview was started. I won't ask a question how many of you in this auditorium have at one time or another lived in Fairview Oklahoma. Lift your hand anybody. 
OK, I see about a dozen of you. Well in the second service this morning a couple from Fairview was present Garen and IVA Martins. They've been coming to a manual for about 19 years almost 20. And when you get up on Sunday morning and get dressed and come to corporate worship I know it's a great deal of sacrifice sometimes to come to get the kids ready and and to come to Emmanuel but these folks along with others drive from Fairview every single Sunday 35 miles Garen wrote me an email several months ago and he gave me permission to read a portion of it to you as I said he and his wife even began attending in 1999 and they joined Emmanuel in November of 2000 and in his email he said Pastor I came across my personal journal from December 2000 and one where I wrote these words a new me has emerged one who understands grace and God's acceptance of me without my works I was always incapable of meeting the expectations that I and others placed on me to seal my salvation.
 But since attending Emmanuel I've learned that because I was chosen by God to be his it's his grace and nothing that I do which gives me my security in him. Oh sure. I want to obey Jesus and work in his kingdom but that doesn't affect my salvation or God's favor of me my obedience and service helps others to know him and helps me to avoid the pitfalls of sin. I have learned since coming to Emmanuel that my security is in God's grace for me and that has given me a peace and a contentment that I have never experienced before.

As you can tell, editing will be required. A few commas are needed, the email from Garen Martens needs to be put in "quotations" to set it off, and there may need to be paragraph adjustments, as well as a few words corrected. In my Habakkuk series, Sonix hears the word Habakkuk and will sometimes use "quarterback" or "have her back" etc., so I have to edit it.

But the time saved having artificial intelligence transcribe my sermons is enormous.

It costs me about $5.00 to get 8 pages of a transcript (plus the annual subscription to Sonix).

But compared to the time it would take for me to transcribe, or as is the case during the first 20 years of ministry, to have a super competent secretary (Barbara Ebert) spend countless hours faithfully typing my sermons - unfortunately, getting carpal tunnel in her hands through constant typing - Sonix gives us all an advantage that only modern technology can afford.

Not everybody has a professional editor mother (Mary Burleson) like I do, who is currently editing the transcripts from Sonix that could become a book (Lord willing) called The Face of Grace, but I believe that you could edit your Sonix transcripts yourself, getting them ready for publication.

I did tons of research for months to find the best way to transcribe sermons, and I can truthfully say that Sonix has knocked it out of the park.

It's heads and shoulders above all other companies in terms of accuracy, ease, and price.

If you wish to sign up for Sonix, go here! You'll be helping me write The Face of Grace if you sign up through this link because I get 100 free minutes of free transcription (about 3 Sunday morning sermons) for each new account through this link (a savings to me of about $15.00 in subscription fees). Thank you.

Right now, we are on chapter 6 of The Face of Grace.

I wish you the best in your publishing efforts!

The Light of a New Day at Southwestern Seminary

Last week, a graduating college senior from our church asked me which seminary he should attend.

Without hesitation, I said, "Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Its campus is near where you live. It's heading in the right direction. You'll be a part of a new legacy." 

The college graduate enrolled yesterday. 

Difficult news will be coming out of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary later today. 

When you first hear of the faculty reductions, you may unwittingly assume the wrong things. 

You may assume Southwestern is now in trouble. Nope. Southwestern was in trouble. The present leadership is doing what is necessary to get the seminary stable again financially, academically, and numerically.

Today's dismissals are a recalibration. It's necessary. It's about time. 

When you hear the news, know that those now responsible for leadership at the Seminary (new administration and trustees) are finally making decisions for the good of the institution, the SBC, and the Kingdom at large. 

The situation at Southwestern prior to June 2018 was far worse than anyone could have ever imagined. 

The sinking ship is now being given ballast.

Whatever else may be said about The Baptist Blogger, the one thing that must be said is that he courageously said what others cowardly refused to say during the years stained glass windows blocked the light of day from shining inside the walls of Southwestern.

Give credit where credit is due. 



Indeed, the light of a new day has dawned at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Boys and Their Toys: Understanding the Southern Baptist Convention's Celebrity Leadership Politics

Photo: Courtesy of The Christian Post
People who know me well will tell you that I tend to fight for the underdog and never hesitate to face down the big dog.

My wife knows that this penchant for rescuing the defenseless, resisting the domineering, and restoring the destroyed comes from my childhood.

The memory of having successfully resisted an older boy's attempt to bully me forever engraved and sealed those emotions in my memory wall.

It's one of the reasons I fell out of favor with the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2005.

It might not be too much of an exaggeration to say I was a "Golden Boy" in the early years of my ministry. I pastored a large SBC church at 29, chaired a national SBC committee at the age of 33, and spoke at many local, state, and national SBC meetings, including serving as President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma through 2004.

But in 2005, I realized that there was a problem in the SBC.

Some will fault me for not seeing the problem earlier. Candidly, I think I did see the problem, but I just thought "liberals" were the only ones who fell into the trap of the "good-old-boy" system of leadership.

In 2005, I realized that my friends, those Bible-believing conservatives who served beside me, were as guilty of fraternization, patronization, and celebritization as the moderates of the 1960s and 1970s.

I fell out of favor for exposing the system.

Indeed, the SBC is a "good old boys" network.


James MacDonald and Ed Stetzer

When James MacDonald petitioned to join the Southern Baptist Convention, his style of leadership did not find a friend in me.

I tried to warn the SBC.

But James quickly became a part of the "good old boys" system.

He began speaking at annual SBC conferences.

He began assuming high-profile leadership roles.

He became an SBC leader immediately.

And here's why.

James MacDonald knew how to play the game.

The Christian Post reported today that James MacDonald gave Southern Baptist leader Ed Stetzer "just under $13,000" in the form of a 1971 VW Beetle.

No big deal, right?

Except for the fact, Southern Baptist Ed Stetzer went on to become a contributing editor for Christianity Today, and according to the Christian Post:
"...arranged a conversation (between MacDonald and CT Deputy Managing Editor Jeremy Weber) that led to the magazine publishing MacDonald’s article defending his lawsuit against her and four other defendants, titled “Why Suing is Sometimes the Biblical Choice.”
I like what I know of Ed. I feel for him in this very public debacle. However, this bizarre situation should be a lesson for us all.

James MacDonald's gift to Ed Stetzer seems to prove that sycophantic celebrity leadership is not limited to one's theological persuasion.

Hat Tip: Dee at Wartburg Watch

A Helpful Tip When You Start Watching the Clock

We're late. We're stressed. We're in a relationship with one who isn't as stressed and isn't paying attention to the clock like we are.

We're waiting.

We're watching the seconds tick off the clock.

We feel our internal engine building combustible steam.

And then we explode.

Far more marriages and relationships are destroyed by clock-watching than most people can fathom. But there's not one person who hasn't experienced the fractures that come from it.

The clock has a way of separating husbands from wives, parents from children, friends from friends.

But maybe it's the way we view the clock that's the problem, not time itself?

God gave His ancient people, the Hebrews, a way to "measure time" (Exodus 12:2).

They "eyeballed" the moon at night.

Every new moon meant a new month. When they spotted the new moon, the Hebrews blew the trumpets and Israel celebrated!

But the concept of time for the Hebrews was also measured by life in the fields.

Since a "lunar" calendar of 12 lunar months is eleven days shorter than a solar year (the earth's orbit around the sun) of 12 solar months. the Hebrew priests would go out into the farmers' fields and feel the ground's temperature, smell the air for pollen freshness, and see the buds (or lack thereof) on the fruit trees and grain stems.

Time touched the senses of the ancients.

Every two or three years the Hebrew priests would "add" another lunar month based upon their feeling that the planting and harvest times had shifted too far from their seasons.

The Hebrews walked with time by sensing and supporting life not by watching and worshipping clocks.

The Hebrews felt time pass.

They felt time's rhythms, sensed its pleasures, experienced it like a heartbeat, measuring time like they gauged another's health; they listened to the heartbeat, they felt the pulse, and they sensed the breathing.

Time to the Hebrews was a living thing. 

But the Romans under Julius Caesar took time and made it mechanical, automated, and - lifeless. 

Western Civilization, including America, followed Rome.

Now, rather than experiencing time with the senses, feeling its rhythm, and viewing the clock as a reflection of one's life, we Americans see the clock as something separate from life, a dictator that demands devotion, with punishment for the person who pays no attention to time.

We've lost our sense of living in the present because we keep looking to the future. 

Here's the helpful tip about clock-watching:

Next time the person you love is late, remember that life is more important than a Roman clock, for time is to be felt, sensed, and experienced like life itself.

If my dedication to a clock is more important than my devotion to life, then maybe the problem is my view of time.

Time should be measured by lives blossoming rather than by clocks ticking. 

As Honey Is Sweet to Taste, So Wisdom to the Soul

Edward's Manuscript on Prov. 24:13
Throughout the Proverbs, King Solomon continually seeks to prepare his son, heir to the throne of Israel, for the moment when power, pleasure, and prestige would be his without measure.

Thus, Solomon continually writes, "My son" or "My son, forget not..." or "My son, eat honey because it is good and sweet to your taste, just as wisdom is sweet to your soul" (Proverbs 24:13).

Solomon is a good father to his son Rehoboam, but he is also a good father to all of us who believe in the God of Israel.

Wisdom is good for the soul.

Jonathan Edwards wrote a book entitled The Pleasantness of Religion based on a message he preached from Proverbs 24:13, where he argues that followers of Jesus (e.g., true religion), above all other men and women, understand what it means to enjoy the pleasures of this life.

Wisdom is good for the soul, and He (Jesus Christ) is our wisdom (I Corinthians 1:30).

Jonathan Edwards argues in his book that following Jesus is the most pleasurable way to live one's life. He basis this philosophy on five principles:
1.  Following Jesus does not remove any pleasures in this life, but rather helps assists a person to understand that pleasures are to be taken in moderation, with discipline, and by the right manner. 
2. Following Jesus actually sweetens all earthly and temporary delights and pleasures.
3.  Jesus sweetens our pleasures because any pleasures without the centrality of Jesus brings more sorrow than pleasure, but all pleasures with Jesus' as our wisdom brings pure and lasting enjoyment. 
4. Following Jesus brings no new internal troubles upon a person, but rather, always brings more of pleasure than of trouble.
5. The follower of Jesus enjoys spiritual pleasures that are much better and sweeter than any temporal pleasure. 
Edwards concludes that the person who follows Jesus has the life that is most suited to experience true delight and pleasantness. 

Indeed, following Jesus is as sweet to the soul as honey is to one's taste. 

Mankind's Manipulation of Time and the Calendar

The resurrection of Jesus Christ will be celebrated on April 21, 2019, a holiday commonly called Easter.

On that same day, April 21, in the year 753 BC, a man named Romulus founded the city of Rome.

Scholars believe that on the day Romulus founded Rome, he also created a system of timekeeping called the Roman Calendar.

The Greeks in Romulus' day already had a calendar based on the four years between the Olympic Games, a method instituted in 776 BC, the year of the First Olympiad.

The Babylonian people, contemporaries of Romulus, also had their own system of calendering using a 12-month lunar calendar that they'd devised based on their observations of the moon.

Methods for keeping track of time in ancient history varied among the nations.

But of all the calendars in the ancient world, the calendar of Israel beat every other nation's calendar for accuracy, simplicity, reliability, and regularity. 

Israel followed a lunar calendar of 12 thirty day lunar months, with an added 13th month (Second Adar) added periodically during a nineteen-year cycle. God told Moses how to establish this lunar calendar (Exodus 12:1-3).

The God of Israel established this calendar for the purpose of instituting Seven Annual Festivals on specific dates of the lunar year.

This Hebrew lunar calendar became Divine Law.

And Jesus came to FULFILL the Law (Matthew 5:17-20).

Jesus was born during the Festival of Tabernacles when God came to "tabernacle with men" (John 1:14).

Jesus died on the Festival of Passover, the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Jesus was in the tomb during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, "sweeping away our sins" (Isaiah 43:25) just as all Jewish women swept away the leaven during that week. Jesus rose from the grave on the "the day after the Sabbath," the day called the Feast of Firstfruits (Lev. 23:15).

Jesus exited the tomb the very morning Jewish men were waving a fistful of firstfruits (grain) in the Temple courtyard; He (Jesus) had become "the firstfruits of resurrection," guaranteeing the full harvest of resurrection to come (I Cor. 15:23). Jesus sent His Spirit, the Comforter, to all His followers who had gathered in the Upper Room for the Festival of Pentecost.

Jesus commissioned His disciples to go into all the world proclaiming forgiveness of sins through the (Feast) of Atonement that is found in the sacrificial life and of Jesus Christ (no atonement is in the blood of any bull or goat), and to take the message of sinners being "at-one" with God through the "at-one-moment" of the cross where Jesus died for "every nation, every tribe, every kindred, and every family" (Revelation 7:9).

And Jesus returned in judgment to destroy the Temple of Jerusalem and all vestiges of the Old Covenant during the Festival of Trumpets in AD 70, officially inaugurating a New Covenant and an eternal Kingdom.

Indeed, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law.

The seasons, the festivals, the harvests, and the years for the nation of Israel flowed with continuity and regularity throughout their history (from. 1500 BC to AD 70).

The priests of Israel would "announce the new moon" by eyeballing the sky, ordering the blowing of trumpets, signaling a "new moon feast" (Colossians 2:16), for a new month in Israel had begun. The word calendar comes from the Latin word calare ("to announce") and lunar ("the moon").

Again, the nation of Israel had by far the most accurate and advanced calendar.

But for some reason, the western world became infatuated with Rome and King Romulus' very poor calendar that he established in 753 BC.  Historians politely call the Calendar of Romulus irregular.

But the way we Americans keep a calendar today is directly tied to Romulus, not Jerusalem. We've had to work for 2000 years to correct the Roman Calendar while mostly ignoring the beautiful, simple, and accurate Hebrew system timekeeping.

In the year Romulus founded Rome (753 BC), King Uzziah reigned in Jerusalem over the southern Kingdom of Judah (Second Chronicles 26), and King Jeroboam II (see Second Kings 13:13) reigned in the city of Samaria (modern-day Nablus, West Bank, Israel) over the northern Kingdom of Israel.

Romulus developed his calendar and founded Rome nearly 200 years after the Kingdom of Israel divided (931 BC) and over five hundred years after Israel left Egypt under the direction of Moses during the Exodus.

The oldest nation, Israel, had an accurate calendar.

Rome did not.

It's not always best to teach a dog new tricks.

Romulus and His Superstitious Calendar

When Romulus founded Rome, he instituted a calendar based on observations of the moon and a person's ability to keep track of months using fingers on both hands.

He called his calendar ab urbe condita (A.U.C.) - Latin for "from the founding of the city."

But unlike the Hebrew calendar, King Romulus devised an annual calendar of only 10 lunar months of thirty days and an additional four days interspersed throughout the year (304 annual days).  Some think Romulus wanted to pattern the year after the gestation of a human baby, but the Romulus' Calendar was two months short of an actual solar year, leading the Roman poet Ovid to proclaim:
"Romulus was better versed in swords than stars." 
Romulus was infatuated with the number X (ten). He repeatedly used that number in the establishment of Rome. He divided the Roman Senate, military, and polis (cities) into units of ten. Many believe Romulus divided things into ten because Roman numerals 1 through 10 are easily replicated on both hands using fingers and palms.


I
II
III
IV
V

XI
XII
XIII
IX
X


The Roman numeral V is represented by one palm held up with fingers outstretched, and the Roman numeral X represents both palms held up with fingers outstretched. 

The ancient Roman New Year began in the spring (March 1) when "new" things were formed. 

The first four months Romulus named after the Roman gods - Mars or Martius (March) for the Roman god of war; Aprilis (April), the ancient Italian form of Aphrodite, "goddess of the open womb or fertile fields." Maius (May), named after a local Italian goddess; and Juno (June) for the Latin "queen of gods." 

Romulus then curiously named the remaining six months of the Roman year after the Latin words for the numbers the months represented:

Quintilus (Latin for "five")
Sextilis (Latin for "six")
September (Latin for "seven")
October (Latin for "eight")
November (Latin for "nine") 
December (Latin for "ten")

Similar to the Hebrews, the pagan Romans used their priests to declare when a new month began.

But, unlike the Hebrews, the pagan Roman priests also announced three different important days of each month. First, the kalends day or the FIRST day of the month was announced when the priests observed a New Moon in the sky (Latin: kalend - "call attention to the moon").

Second, there was ides day. This was the middle portion of the month (March 15th - for example, the Ides of March). Ides represented the day that the month was half over (Latin: ide - "divide in half").

Finally, there was nones day. This was typically the seventh day of the month, the day when most ancient pagans consulted the great Oracles (see the Oracle of Delphi). 

All days of the Roman month were labeled in terms of their association with kalends (the 1st), nones (the 7th day), or ides (the 15th day) of the month. 

But because the actual solar year is 365 days and not 300 days (Romulus), by the time Romulus died, all the seasons were out of whack! 

So the next King of Rome (King Numa) added two additional months (Januarius and Februarius).

But even 12 months of 30 days fell short of a true solar year, so a future Roman King asked the priests of Zeus stationed Rome to insert an extra month periodically and inform the people of their decision.

Guess what?

The priests figured out the calendar could be a very powerful political tool that governed the people.

The priests kept the calendar a secret from the people, giving the priests a tremendous advantage of the "plebes" common people of Rome. For example, if the people they favored in politics served as consul, they added a month to extend the time (even though an additional month was not required). If they didn't like someone in an office, they would shorten the months through their proclamations to make sure their opponent served less time. 

By the time of the last consul of the Roman Republic, Julius Caesar (b. 100 BC - d. 44 BC), time was so messed up by the Roman priests to the gods, that in the year 46 BC Julius Caesar, with the help of his lover Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, and a famous Egyptian astronomer, "corrected” Rome's calendar to reflect the earth's orbit around the sun (solar calendar), not the moon's orbit around the earth (lunar calendar).

That year, 46 BC, is called "The Longest Year." It lasted 445 days, not 365. For some, that long year was a boon; for others, it was a bust. For all, it was a year of confusion (

Julian was so angry with the manipulation of Rome's calendar by the priests of the gods in Rome, that he endured the withering criticism of changing the calendar by such drastic measures.

Julius Caesar moved the first of the year to January 1, 46 BC from March 1.

That meant the 12 months of the Julian calendar (December) carried the Latin name for 10 (because it was formerly the 10th month). Likewise, November (Latin for 9), October (Latin for the number 8) and September (Latin for the number 7) are all in positions on the calendar that do not reflect their name. November is actually the 11th month of the year, October is the 10th month, and September is the 9th month). It was just two difficult to change the names of the months!

Except, after Julius Caesar's death, who famously died at the hands of conspirators on the Ides of Month (March 15, the middle of the month, 44 BC) the Roman Senate voted to change the name of the month Quintilus to JULY in honor of Julius.

After Julius adopted son Gaius Octavia Caesar became Rome's first emperor on January 16, 27 BC, who decreed that everyone in the Roman Empire should be taxed, an event that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem to register for the Roman tax when Jesus was born (Luke 2:1).

After Caesar "Augustus" died in AD 14, the Roman Senate sought to honor him by renaming the month Sexitilus, the month which came now after the renamed month JULY, in honor of Caesar Augusts - thus the month "August."

However, the Julian Calendar had alternating months of 30 and 31 days. That meant Augustus' month was "shorter" than Julian's month, something supporters of Augustus could not bear. So the Roman Senate voted to take a day from February and add it to August. Both Julian's month and Augustus' month now have 31 days.

Why all the manipulation of time?

Politics.

I find it ironic that the name of the High Priest to Zeus who kept the people in the dark about time in ancient Rome was called Pontifex Maximus. The college of priests who ministered in the Temple of Zeus assisted the Supreme Pontiff by "eyeballing the moon" and manipulating time to their political or religious advantage.

When Constantine declared the Roman Empire "Christian" in 314 AD, the Pontifex Maximus and the College of Priests to Zeus didn't just go away.

The Pontifex Maximus became the Pope, and the College of Priests became the College of Cardinals, and many of the pagan customs of ancient Rome were Christianized.

Constantine gathered the Pontifex Maximus, the College of Priests, and local "bishops" in a city called Nicea in the year AD 325 to debate certain Christian "doctrines."

One of the things debated by the new Roman Catholic Church at Nicea was whether or not to "fix" the "date" for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Jesus rose from the grave on the "morrow after the Sabbath (Saturday) during the weeklong lunar festival called Passover (or also known as the week of Unleavened Bread).

That means every year, if Christians wished to be biblically precise, the resurrection of Jesus Christ would be celebrated the SAME WEEK that Jews celebrate Passover. On the Sunday of Passover, Christians would explain how Jesus fulfilled the Hebrew Law, rising from the dead on the day of the Feast of Firstfruits (always the first day of the week after the regular Sabbath during Passover). Jesus fulfilled the Law, guaranteeing the resurrection of His people (the "full harvest") to life eternal (see I Corinthians 15)

But guess what?

The Romans in AD 325 still held a grudge against the Jews.

So the Romans refused to let the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ "float" throughout the lunar year in accord with the Hebrew calendar and determined to "set a fixed date" on the resurrection in association with the solar equinox.

Thus, we have Easter.

By the way, Easter is a blend of the celebration of the Roman god Ishtar and the Christian God Jesus.

The Romans loved to mix their calendar, their politics, and their religion with their ancient pagan customs and rituals.

What I find ironic is that it just so happens this solar year (2019) that the lunar observance of the Hebrew Passover falls on Friday (April 19). That means the official "Roman" declaration of Easter just so happens to match the biblical account of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Every now and then a blind squirrel can find a nut.

On April 21, 2019, just remember to keep it simple.
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep" (I Corinthians 15:3-8). 
He is risen indeed!