Unity is found in those who believe in the three Foundational Christian Creeds
Steven E. Daskal
It is not uncommon for a Christian seeking to share the Gospel with someone from an unchurched background to be confronted with this sort of response: “If Christianity is right, if it is true, how come there are so many different denominations that all disagree with each other?”
In reality, there are two aspects to this issue. First, some religious groups that claim to be Christian churches or are generally believed to be Christian are not — they “preach another Christ.” The Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) teaches about a Christ who is not wholly God and wholly Man, is not a part of a single triune Godhead, and is not in himself the source of salvation. The Church of Scientology doesn’t preach Christ at all. The Church of Jesus Christ, Scientist (Christian Science) preaches Jesus as a faith healer, not part of the Godhead, not the Savior of Biblical Christianity. True Christianity has to reflect the main teachings and doctrines of the entire Bible, not hang on a handful of verses used to create a man-made religion.
The Feast of (Re)Dedication
Steven E Daskal, December 2015
Maybe you’ve heard of Khanukah. Khanukah is commonly known as “the festival of lights,” but what it REALLY means is “The Dedication.” Khanukah is a holiday we Jewish people celebrate every year. I’d like to tell you a little more about this fun holiday.
Jewish people all around the world have celebrated Khanukah for over 2100 years. Unlike Yom Kippur, the “Shlosh Regalim,” or Purim, Khanukah is not a holiday we are commanded to celebrate in the Old Testament. In fact Khanukah itself isn’t even mentioned in the Old Testament, though the events leading up to it were prophesied by Daniel (11:19-45). The holiday was only mentioned once in the New Testament (John 10:22), for that matter. Khanukah celebrates a miraculous event that happened over 200 years after the last book of the Old Testament was written and about 160 years before Jesus was born. In a very real sense, if Khanukah had never happened, Christmas would have been impossible. But most Jewish people don’t realize that Jesus is the Messiah, the Prince of the House of David, of the Root of Jesse, promised to them by God throughout the Old Testament.
The Critical non-Patriarch
Blessed — even while living in the valley
An Encouragement: I encourage you to read through Genesis 37-50 on your own, since I can only hit the “high points” of this lengthy, worthwhile portion of Scripture.
Joseph was the second-youngest child of Jacob, the third of the patriarchs (Abraham and Isaac) who were the founders of the tribe of the Hebrews. His mother was Rakhel (Rachel), one of Jacob’s two full wives. He had single full brother, Benjamin, who was the youngest in the family, but Rakhel died bearing him. He had many half-brothers and half-sisters, born to his aunt, Leah, and to his mother’s and aunt’s maidservants whom they gave to his father Jacob as secondary wives (sometimes referred to as concubines) to bear children to Jacob on their behalf, in accord with the pagan customs of the time. Rakhel and Leah were bitter rivals, Leah being the elder, Jacob’s first wife, and the mother of Jacob’s first sons, but Rakhel being the more beautiful, the one Jacob truly loved, and the one whose sons were Jacob’s favorites. Continue reading
JACOB–Distracted, Deceived, and Blessed
Steve Daskal, CMAA
We must begin by going back to Genesis 25:19-34. If we aren’t clear on this, there is little to be gained from the rest of the story of Isaac and Jacob.
In v.19-21, we see the “generations of Isaac” discussed primarily as leading to the birth of Jacob and Esau.
The great events of Isaac’s life are his miraculous birth to elderly Sarah, the testing on Mt. Moriah when he was about 12 or 13, his marriage to Rebecca, his repeating his father’s failed deception with a later Abimelekh of the Philistines, and the passing on of the covenantal blessing to Jacob. Isaac was something of a prodigy of faith — like Solomon much later, he started well, but didn’t end very well.
Started Strong, But Did He Stay the Course?
Steve Daskal, CMAA
Gen 24 — This long chapter contains the story of how Abraham endeavors to ensure that Isaac has children of his own from “good stock.” I’m not going to go through it verse by verse; you can read it on your own if you haven’t already. Essentially, Abraham is firmly determined to find a wife for Isaac “from amongst his own people” — someone of Semitic, Aramean descent, not a Hamitic Canaanite or Egyptian. He wisely does not want his son, whose descendants are to inherit the land, to marry into one of the pagan families of the “old order” in the land. He also is probably aware of, and saddened by, what happened to Lot, who had not been so careful with his children. Abraham’s anonymous servant is introduced here — and he has an important role for someone who is left anonymous. He may have been the Elieazer of Damascus, Abraham’s foreman spoken of in Gen 15:2, who would have been his heir had Isaac not been born, or perhaps one of Elieazer’s sons (among these people, servants had various degrees of rank, that were inheritable like property). The servant is made to swear two things — first that he would do his best to bring a wife to Isaac from amongst Isaac’s maternal cousins back in Paddan Aram, but above all, under no condition was he to bring or allow Isaac to go back to Aram! Abraham is confident that the servant will be successful; that God will send an angel to smooth his path before him to accomplish what is needful. Although Rebekah has never met her future husband, she seems quite willing to abandon her life in upper Mesopotamia and go in faith to meet and marry her new husband in a distant, unfamiliar land, knowing she will probably never see her family again.
Justified by Faith
Gen 21:1-21 — Isaac, the child of promise, the transmitter of the Abrahamic covenant to the next generation, is finally born. Isaac is an Anglicization of the Hebrew Yitzkhak [pronounced YEE-tz-khawk, which has the same consonant root as the Hebrew word for “laugh”]. We do not know the “how” of this miraculous conception and birth — given the realities of normal human biology, the LORD would have had to have re-enlivened long-dormant tissues, organs, and bodily functions, but for He who created man from dust, this was easy.
The friction between Sarah, the “founding mother” of the covenant, and Hagar the Egyptian servant, has continued on, and is now transmitted to Hagar’s son Ishmael, who “mocked” [laughed at, teased] Isaac, his younger half-brother. By custom and by God’s decree, Isaac the son of Abraham his wife would supplant Ishmael, the son of a concubine, as Abraham’s heir in all senses of the word. Sarah demands that Hagar and Ishmael be expelled (this would be unusual according to the customs of the time), and God tells Abraham to do so. Ishmael leaves the field of view in the Torah. (Ishmael’s grand-nephew Joseph is sold to some of Ishmael’s direct descendants, who transport him to Egypt.) God’s mercy to Hagar and Ishmael is described in verses 15-21.
3_Faith of Our Fathers_ABRAHAM [Gen 17-20]
Holy By Promise, Living On the Promise
Gen 17:1-8, 15-22 –– Names are very significant in the Tenakh — they frequently have a specific representative meaning that reflects God’s plan for the person. Moses, whose Hebrew name Moishe, means “drawn up,” was both drawn up out of the Nile and put on a princely track in Egypt, but 80 years later was drawn up out of his self-imposed exile in Midian to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Jacob/Ya’akov was renamed Israel/Yisroel because he contended with God to gain His blessing. Here, Abram is “promoted” to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah — in both cases signifying the enormous impact their faith and their offspring would have on mankind. Isaac is also named directly by the LORD — with the odd name “He laughs” — reflecting both Abram and Sarai’s laughing at the prospect that they would have a child when Abraham would be 100 years old, and looking forward to the joyful laughter both would share when God fulfilled His promise through the birth of Isaac. Isaac’s miraculous birth demonstrated God’s absolute control over the process of life and death.