Tuesday, December 29, 2015


“Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not”. (Mt. 2:16-18)

There are Bible critics who make the claim that Herod could not have massacred the baby boys of Bethlehem because the Jewish Historian Josephus failed to make reference to King Herod committing this particular evil. But Josephus is not the only first century historian, or source of what happened in first century Judah. Matthew, the author of the gospel by his name, gives us a historical account of the slaughter of the innocents by King Herod. The Holy Spirit inspired Evangelist Matthew is much more trustworthy than a Jewish historian writing 100 years after the said event. There was, by the way, a Roman historian, Macrobius (c.a. 400 A.D.), that writes about Herod’s slaughter of the Innocents.


Some historians, even Christian historians, say that only a few children were slain by King Herod because Bethlehem probably only had a population of about 1000 people, and therefore would have only had 10 to 30 two year old and under children that could have been slain. But the scope of the slaughter appears from the text of Matthew that it was not just the children in the little town of Bethlehem that were in danger of King Herod’s edict. The text states that the slaughter was not limited to the “little town of Bethlehem”, because it bluntly reads that Herod “slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, AND in all the coasts thereof” (KJV, 1599 Geneva, Wycliffe). In other translations we read, “and the borders” (Young’s, Douay-Rheims, ASV, Aramaic Bible in Plain English, Jubilee 2000, Darby, Webster’s); “and in the environs” (NASB, NAS 1977, ); “and in the region” (RSV, ISV ); “and in the vicinity” (NIV); “and in all the districts” (NKJV, Phillips). We can see from these translations that the massacre was not limited to the town of Bethlehem, but included a far greater territory, as far as the coasts and/or borders of Judah.

“There appears to be a hint in verse 18 as to what is being spoken of when we read, “AND in all the coasts thereof”, or “AND in all the borders thereof”. Ramah, the city of Jeremiah’s prophecy is located 5 miles north of Jerusalem (10 Miles north of Bethlehem). Ramah is the city where Rachel lamented from. She was buried in Bethlehem (Gen. 35:19). Ramah is a border town situated on the northern border of the kingdom of Judah, and the southern border of the kingdom of Israel. Judah’s borders ran from the east along the shores of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea to the west at the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, some 30 miles; in the south in the desert, and borders in the north, Samaria, some 55 miles. We also have a hint from the prophecy of Micah as to the scope of Herod’s slaughter; “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah…” (Micah 5:2). Let us take note that the prophecy that Herod was made aware of by the chief priests (Mt. 2:4-8) references Judah as the greater territory in which the Messiah-King would be born. Micah, of course, names the very birthplace of the Messiah, the little town of Bethlehem, and its 1000’s of villages (hyperbolic or not). So it appears from the textual evidence that the slaughter was not limited to “the little town of Bethlehem”, but spread all the way north to Ramah on the border with the kingdom of Israel and quite possibly to the remaining borders; west, south, and east.

An interesting note is that Ramah was the city where Jewish captives were gathered for deportation to Babylon (Jeremiah 40:1). Rachel, the wife of Jacob-Israel, was the mother of Benjamin, whose tribe became part of the southern kingdom, Judah. The city of Ramah was given to Benjamin by lots. So Rachel’s descendants, her beloved children, after much suffering as captives, are now suffering the slaughtering of Herod’s soldiers. Rachel weeps for her children.

So, exactly how many children were slaughtered? According to the Tradition of the Ancient Church, 14,000 children were slain. They are commemorated every year on December 29. For me, this number is far more likely than the 6 or 10 children as the modern scholars seem to prefer.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


As Taught By the Gnostic Sects of the First Four Centuries

Of The Church and the Answer of the Holy Scriptures

    Among the Gnostic heretics and sects of the first four centuries, after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, was a wide range of false teachings about ‘Marriage and Virginity’. These teachings were completely non-Christian, and contrary to the revealed truth of God about these topics as recorded in Holy Scripture. The one extreme, ‘excessive asceticism’, was championed by Tatian, Marcion, and Saturnius. These heretics actually called marriage ‘fornication’. No Marcionite was permitted to marry because to marry and procreate was to participate in the evil work of the demiurge (the heavenly beings responsible for the created world). The other extreme was to be ‘openly licentious’. Two sects that taught this view of ‘Marriage and Virginity’ were the Carpocratians and Borborites. Their views were rooted in popular Gnostic cosmology which taught that the created world was born out of the spiritual copulation between heavenly beings. Between the two extremes of ‘excessive Asceticism’ and ‘open licentiousness’ were the Gnostic heretics, Basilides, Valentius, and Isidore (Basilide’s son). These men taught that marriage was not sinful, but should be avoided by the fully mature believer. Monogamous marriage was acceptable, but the asceticism of the virginal life was belittled. Then, overlapping all these heretical sects were the Manichaean’s , a wildly successful sect that became a world religion. The founder, Mani, of Babylonia, was portrayed by the Manichaean missionaries as the ‘Apostle of Jesus Christ’ to the Roman Empire; to India and Central Asia he was touted as the Buddha; and to China he was presented as the reincarnation of Lao Tzu. Concerning Marriage and Virginity, Mani taught that there were two types of Manichaean disciples: the elect, and the hearers. ‘The elect’ were forbidden to marry and to participate in sexual intercourse, because both the body and procreation were evil. ‘The hearers’ were permitted to marry, or have mistresses, and could have intercourse as long as they avoided procreation.

  As you can see, the religious world swirling around the Church was speaking to mankind’s basic instincts, and redefining marriage from the age-old norm of marriage that Jesus validated when he said, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder" (Matthew 19:4-6). Then Jesus spoke to the disciples about the one alternative to married life when they asked him if "it is not good to marry". Jesus said, "All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs ,which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake.He that is able to receive it, let him receive it" (Matthew 19:10-12). Here Jesus gives us three classes of men who abstain from marriage: First, those men who were born without the inclination, or ability to be married; second, those men who were made eunuchs against their will, and therefore are incapable of having a marriage relationship; and thirdly, those men who choose to live celibate by the grace of God. St. Paul carries forward Jesus’s teaching on this “twofold grace” of ‘marriage and virginity’. The entire 7th chapter of First Corinthians is dedicated to the two callings of ‘marriage and virginity’. The answer to all the false teachings of heretical sects, then and now, as well as detailed instruction concerning how Christians are to live either a married life in Christ, or the life of a virgin fully devoted to Christ are found here in the Scriptures. So read carefully Paul’s instruction that he was inspired to write in response to the Corinthian’s questions. In verse one Paul advocates for living a virginal life, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman”. But for those who cannot resist sexual impulses he says in verse two, “Let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband”. The remaining thirty eight verses expound on these two particular callings that a Christian must discern between or choose between. Once committed to marriage or virginity, “Let every man abide in the calling wherein he was called (verse 20).
    Finally, let us realize that the heresies that early Christians battled concerning 'marriage and virginity' are the same heresies that Christians must battle in the 21st century. "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry..." (1 Timothy 4:1-3). We live in a time when marriage is defined according to doctrines of devils, and where living a virginal life is mocked as unnatural. Let us choose God's truth on the matter. Amen.

Sunday, December 13, 2015


“Who do men say that I the Son of Man am?” Jesus asked his disciples. Peter’s correct answer was finally, “Thou art the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the Living God”. (Matthew 16:13-19) So Jesus is named as the Messiah, and as the Son of God, but take note that these are descriptive titles of “the Son of Man”. The title “Messiah” (Hebrew) or “Christ” (Greek) is speaking of His ministry as Prophet, Priest, and King. “Son of God” speaks of His divinity, and His relation to the Father. Other titles of Jesus describe His other characteristics; “Son of the Blessed” and “Emmanuel” expresses His divine nature; “Son of David” reveals His human nature and His lineage, and the name “Jesus” conveys simply that He is “the Savior” of humanity. None of these titles on their own can give a complete meaning of the person of our Lord because each name only signifies one of His characteristics. However, the title “Son of man” is a comprehensive name, a name that is able to describe all His characteristics and attributes. The Lord Jesus, the very God-man, determined that the title “Son of man” would be his chosen and foundational title that would encompass His person completely. If you were to read carefully through the four Gospels you would discover that Jesus chose for Himself His primary title, “Son of man”. In fact it is the only title that He applied to Himself, and He speaks of Himself as the “Son of man” 80+ times. Do a phrase search at Bible Gateway for “Son of man” if you are interested in marking these verses in your Bible. The title “Son of man” has its origin in the book of origins, Genesis. When God cursed the serpent for his deception of Adam and Eve he said, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman and between thy seed and her seed; he shall crush thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). This curse upon the serpent, Satan, was a promise to Adam and Eve and to all their descendants as well, and became the hope of the human race that a redeemer and savior would be born of a woman that would abolish the authority that Satan had stolen from Adam and Eve. This “seed of the woman” would be the “Son of the woman”, who is the “Son of Man”. Since a woman does not produce seed, this promise means that in the future there would be a woman, a virgin, who would conceive a Son without the seed of a human male. This virgin born Son would be at enmity with the seed of the serpent, that is, the devil and all his devotees. And in the mystery of God’s plan of redemption, this seed, this Son of man, would crush the head of the serpent, loosing us from the devil’s authority (1 John 3:8), destroying the power of death (Hebrews 2:14, 15), and granting life and immortality to those who believe in Jesus (2 Timothy 1:8-10). The Prophet Daniel foretold of this “Son of man” coming with clouds of glory and establishing an everlasting kingdom (Daniel 7:13, 14). This prophecy is fulfilled in the person of Jesus as we read in Revelation 1:12-18. Jesus is more than just a man, He is “The Man”, “Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the Son of man…(Psalm 80:17). Eighty plus times Jesus declares unequivocally that He is the “Son of man”, making it abundantly clear to all who will listen that He is the promised redeemer and savior foretold in Genesis 3:15. Amen.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


Luke 17:1-4 “Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.”
Faith, according to the scriptures, is for overcoming! “..and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4) In the text we are studying now (Luke 17:1-10) faith is for overcoming a number of things; love of money, offences or obstacles put in our paths to thwart ministry, and the “sycamine tree” of bitterness and unforgiveness. The backdrop for Jesus’s teaching here to his apostles is what you find in the previous chapter, Luke 16. In Luke 16:1-13 the Pharisees are listening to Jesus teaching his disciples about the significance of non-possession, that is, being free from the love of money. In Luke 16:14 we see the Pharisees, who were covetous (lovers of money), mocking Jesus about his teaching  where He instructs the servants to be good stewards over the wealth they have been given and to be careful not to hoard it, but to distribute it to the poor while they had the opportunity while still alive. Then when they depart this life they will be received into everlasting habitations by the very poor they ministered to while alive on earth. Jesus responds to the Pharisees mockery with the story of “The Rich Man and Lazarus” in Luke 16:19-31. In this story Jesus warns the Pharisees of the eternal torment awaiting them for choosing to love mammon (money/things) over loving God and having pity upon the poor. This brings us to Luke 17 where Jesus begins with a warning to his disciples that there will be offences put in their pathway of ministry by the religious elite because of their love of money and hatred of the truth. The Greek word here for offences is “skandalon” which is defined as stumbling block or obstacle. Woe to those who cause the offences and would hinder someone from hearing the truth. It would be better that they were cast into the sea with a millstone around their neck. This is speaking metaphorically of being cast into the sea or abyss of fiery torment. Then Jesus warns the apostles that they are to take heed among their own ranks to be watchful concerning trespasses and how they respond to them. For as sure as offences will come from those without the church, trespasses will come from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus commands us that we are to forgive the repentant brother as often as he repents, even endlessly (Matthew 18:22). 
Luke 17:5-10And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.10So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
This brings us to the apostles famous request, “Lord, Increase our faith”. The apostles were feeling the gravity of all they were being called to do, and the many spiritual battles that were about to ensue. They sense their need for one particular spiritual quality that will enable them to overcome, faith. Jesus responds by letting them know that they can overcome with the smallest amount of faith, a faith as a grain of mustard seed. A mustard seed is that smallest of grains. Jesus is saying that each and every believer has within them the ability, the faith, to overcome the un-forgiveness and bitterness that can follow the offences and the trespasses. Jesus gives us a metaphor of how we can pluck up by the roots the bitterness and un-forgiveness that has planted itself deep in the soil of our hearts (Hebrews 12:15). And how we can cast out this devilish wisdom (James 3:14-16) from our hearts, and cast them into the sea which is the abyss. Take note that Jesus guides us on how to express this faith to overcome the rooted bitterness in us. We must “say unto the sycamine tree. Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.” (Luke 17:6) Faith speaks to the tree of bitterness, “Bitterness, I pluck you out of my heart, and I cast you into the sea to drown and never to be replanted in my heart.” I would like to introduce a little ditty to encourage one another with when we are battling bitterness and un-forgiveness, Let us say to one another, “Put the Tree in the Sea”. The sycamine tree is a kind of Mulberry tree, possibly a Black Mulberry, common in the Middle East and prominent in lower Galilee. The sycamine tree has an enormous and very deep root system and is nearly impossible to dig out of the ground. You can cut the tree down to ground level, but the tree can live on because of its deep root system accessing water. This imagery was not lost on the apostles, nor should it be lost on us. The sycamine tree of un-forgiveness must be plucked up by the roots and destroyed in the sea/abyss. Another feature of the sycamine tree is that the silk worms would feed on the leaves and form nests in the branches. This shows us that when we are embittered there are worms that eat at us constantly. I say, “Put the Tree in the Sea”. 
Jesus finishes his lesson on plucking up the un-forgiveness by faith by instructing them that this “life of forgiveness” is their duty as servants. They are to say (referencing the parable of Luke 16:1-13), “We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which is our duty to do.” We are not to live for mammon as the Pharisees (the religious elite) do, we are to live a life of sacrifice and self-denial, spending all including ourselves (2 Corinthians 12:15), caring for the poor.
Faith is often a very misunderstood bible subject. It is important to study each reference in the bible according to its immediate context first, then its context within the particular book of the bible the passage is in, then study the reference in light of the entire bible. Let us be “a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

Sunday, December 6, 2015


 Your faith can grow. God has given to every one of us “the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3). Your faith is designed by God to grow, and to grow exceedingly. The Apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 1:3 says, “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet (fitting), because that your faith grows exceeding, and the charity (love) of every one of you all toward each other abounds”. Here we are shown this very fact of the spiritual life! You, who possess faith in God, and in his Son Jesus, have a faith given to you by God that should ever be growing stronger, and greater, and fuller and richer. Let us take note that Stephen the Deacon (Acts 6:5) was chosen for his ministry because he was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost”.  So our faith in God is measurable. We can have a faith that is a quarter full, half full, or like Stephen, completely full. And what is the primary way in which our faith may grow? It is by hearing the word of God. “For faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). 1 Peter 2:2 instructs us about our spiritual beginnings as newborn babes in Jesus, “…desire the sincere milk of the word that you may grow thereby”.  As we grow in our knowledge of God’s word, we become acquainted with his commands, and as we become doers of these words / commands, we increase in faith to overcome that which his word reveals to us is of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Note in the verse prior that we are to be, “laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes (1 Peter 2:1, 2a). Faith is for overcoming; overcoming these worldly ways that are a part of our old fallen nature, but which can be transfigured by the glory of the Holy Spirit through our obedience of faith. “For whosoever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, EVEN OUR FAITH.” (1 John 5:4) Please note that the verses immediately before we have revealed to us this victorious faith life (the amazing fact that we who are born of God possess a world overcoming faith), we are taught that we who believe in Jesus are born of God, and that we in turn love him who has begotten us again, AND we love all those who are also born again through faith in Jesus. For, “we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments”. (1 John 5:1-3) This is what is meant by “the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith”. In the world we feel malice toward our neighbors; we use cunning and guile in our relationships; we play the hypocrite, wearing masks of deceit, thinking we fool our neighbors while we pretend to be someone other than who we really are; we envy what our neighbor possesses, coveting their house, their wife or husband, their belongings and wealth, all the while breaking the tenth commandment (read Exodus 20:17); and we speak evil of our neighbors. Living in victory means we live in victory over the lack of love for our brothers and sisters by keeping God’s commandments by faith. Our faith in Jesus, knowing his example, believing in his promises, fearing his commands, all of these truths, inspire overcoming faith. May we grow in faith as we grow in love as we come to know God’s Holy Word.