Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Hound of Heaven, the Word of God and conversion stories



Last week the temperature soared to 108 and smoke from fires in the hills and mountains hung in the trees of Sacramento. But the wind from the ocean and the coastal fog has sent the delta breezes our way. The last two mornings and nights the wonderful delta breezes have blown away the smoke and heat.

In the same way the testimonies of both Toby Brown and Bill Crawford have, at least for me, blown away the lingering effects of General Assembly. That is not to say that there are not great and troubling effects for the whole body of Christ when one part sinks into apostasy.

But the stories of how others were converted to Jesus are like great big gulps of water to thirsty people. While it is always the “Hound of Heaven” relentlessly pursuing us that is the actual cause of our conversion, the ways of coming to Him are like snow flakes, of a unique design. But one part of the story, always, is in one way or another, the word of God.

I thought of my own interaction with the Bible and my conversion as I read about Toby’s journey to an acknowledgement of the total truthfulness of God’s word.

I cannot remember a time, after I learned to read, when I did not read God’s word. But I didn’t understand it; I just thought it must be important. When I was thirteen my Sunday School teacher, who had also been my fifth grade teacher, my sixth grade gym teacher and the wife of the postmaster in our small town, asked us all if we were Christians. I said I was trying to be!

I was baptized in the Methodist Church that year, because I was trying to be a Christian and because everyone else my age was also getting baptized. Later in Stockton, California I started searching for God. The Hound of Heaven was pursuing. I tried different Churches, read books by Christian Scientists and kept reading the Bible. I knew it pretty well I just didn’t understand it.

Finally I asked God to help me understand what the Bible was saying.

A school friend took me and my sister to her father’s church for what she called a revival. We went all week to a little store-front Southern Baptist Church. On the last evening I was convinced, by some dear church ladies who thought I was already a Christian, that I should be baptized by immersion. (God has a sense of humor after all.) So down to the front I went.

When the pastor asked me, “Do you believe the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses you from all sin?” yes, it really was like a light bulb going off in my head. No one in that church ever knew but my yes was my yes to Jesus Christ.

I was sixteen and finally the Bible opened up with God’s wondrous story of redemption. I couldn’t get enough. The first book I devoured was Romans.

My college experiences were different than either Toby’s or Bill’s. Well to start with, I had six children first! But I went to two secular colleges, a city college, and then the University in Sacramento. And I went as a Christian who believed God’s word was true. I had some wonderful yet hard experiences, because when God sends you somewhere you go in the strength of God’s care but he doesn't always send you to easy places.

Some examples of studying philosophy, religions and finally history in a secular college arena: at City College where I majored in philosophy I came across my first progressive Presbyterian. He taught many of my philosophy classes. Dr. Merritt did not believe in the deity of Christ and hated Augustine as we all found out in the History of Modern Philosophy. World Religions was taught by a Wicca member. And the class I took on the new search for the historical Jesus was, of course, taught by a fellow of the Jesus Seminar. I could go on.

But the important point here is that God’s word was always sufficient in those classes. At one point Dr. Merritt asked if someone had a Bible so they could read Isaiah 53. He wanted to show how the writer was speaking of Israel as God’s son. How easy it was to read and then slip in the words, “You know, some people believe these words were written about Jesus Christ.”

His words and His presence are always sufficient.
"But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." (Romans 5:8-10)

12 comments:

Dave Moody said...

Thanks Vi. Very encouraging.

grace & peace,
dm

Bill Crawford said...

how beatiful are the feet of them who bring good news.

Benjamin P. Glaser said...

Amen Viola!!!

Jean H said...

Chr*istianity is truly a religion that borrowed ALL of it's components from many religions. The Romans who put Chr*istianity together wanted a unified religion that appealed to every person. The Christians, who began with Paul, the apostate who was excised from Judaism, took a legetimate Ribi of Perishim heritage (modern day Orthodox Judaism) and created the anti-Torah Y*eshu or J*sus. The real Ribi who was called Yehoshua, became tainted by the false religion of Chr*istianity so much so that now in modern times Judaism refuses to acknowledge who this Ribi really was. The death of a righteous man or Tzediq can bring redemption of a generation. That execution was NOT for the sins of the world but for ONLY the Jewish people, Israel. The truth of this Ribi can be found in 'Who Are The Netzarim'(which can be purchased at: www.netzarim.co.il). Science and logic are the keys to understanding Torah (the Rambam supported science and logic). Other scholars recently have come forward revealing the falseness of Chr*istianity such as Dr. Barrie Wilson in “How Jesus Became Christian” and by the late Oxford Historian James Parkes, “The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue”. I hope that all Chr*istians will wake up and see that they have been deceived for 2000 years and that they will see the truth is following G-d (haSeim) with-in Orthodox (not Ultra-Orthodox) Judaism. It took me almost 50 years to search out this truth… I hope you find it much sooner.

Viola said...

Jean H.,

This posting was meant to lift up Jesus Christ as he is known in all of the Holy Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments. If you are not following that Jesus you are not following the true Christ of Christianity but a false Christ. It would take an extreme amount of postings and a great deal of reading to dialogue about this. May I recommend several good books for you to read since you have also mentioned some books yourself?

Basic Christianity by John Stott, Mere Christianityby C.S. Lewis, The New Testament Documents: are they reliable? by F.F. Bruce, and History & Christianity by John Warwick Montgomery. Those are old but very good.

It would undoubtedly help you to read some reliable Christian Histories, and by that I mean histories that are accepted by all the major branches of Christianity.

There are, have been and will undoubtedly continue to be men who call themselves the Jesus or point to a mere man who was or is Jesus, but only God taking on human flesh and living and dying for us could redeem humanity. And because we are all sinners we all need such redemption. That is good news.
John in his first letter to a church reminded them of the Apostles witnesses to Jesus Christ. “what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (1 john 1:1-3)
John went on to tell the church that those who deny that Jesus was the Christ are anti-Christ. The Church has never changed on this truth about Jesus Christ.

Grace said...

Amen, Viola. Thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

What's a "Ribi"?

Ritchie

Viola said...

I would guess that its a Rabbi

Rev Kim said...

Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this!

Anders said...

Viola,

Please quote Scholars instead of your Christian sources. If you are only studying NT and Christian writings – it’s not strange that you draw the conclusions you draw.

We in Netzarim do follow the historical person who was born in Betlehem 7 years BCE – Ribi Yehoshua.

Please study in our History Museum (link see further down).

“The earliest extant complete source texts of what the Christians call their “New Testament” are the Greek — Hellenized — codices א and β of the 4th-century. All historians, including Christian scholars, agree that there was no “New Testament” during the lifetime of Ribi Yәhoshua his original eyewitness followers, or even his Nәtzarim.

According to the earliest extant Christian Church historian (Eusebius), these original Jewish followers of the Pәrushi Ribi Yәhoshua (”Ribi,” hello; only the perushim had Ribis and rabbis) rejected the Christian claimed “new testament” (EH III.xxvii.4-6)!!!

Christianity was born with the Hellenist-Roman expulsion of the 15th Nәtzarim Paqid [leader of Netzarim] from Yәrushalayim [Jerusalem] in 135 C.E. and his consequent displacement by the first gentile – (Hellenist-Roman) Christian – “bishop.” While the occasional verse of Hebrew Matityahu (NHM) may have been translated into Greek from ca. 64 C.E., large-scale translation by Hellenists into Greek and redaction of Hebrew Matityahu (NHM) and various letters, with the inherent Hellenization, began in earnest only subsequent to 135 C.E.

Even according to the most authoritative Christian scholars, e.g., The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, acknowledges:

“A study of 150 Greek MSS of the Gospel of Luke has revealed more than 30,000 different readings… It is safe to say that there is not one sentence in the NT in which the MS tradition is wholly uniform… But there are many thousands which have a definite effect upon the meaning of the text. It is true that not one of these variant readings affects the substance of Christian dogma” (”Text, NT,” 2nd edition (Abingdon, 1962).

Of course Christians redacting the Jewish texts made Christian redactions to make the Jewish texts compatible with “the substance of Christian dogma.” Duh.

Quoting again from The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible,

“It is equally true that many of them do have theological significance and were introduced into the text intentionally… Many thousands of the variants which are found in the MSS of the NT were put there deliberately. They are not merely the result of error or careless handling of the text. Many were created for theological or dogmatic reasons — even though they may not affect the substance of Christian dogma. [Thanks for reminding us that Christians made Christian redactions compatible with Christian dogma; ybd]). It is because the books of the NT are religious books, sacred books, canonical books, that they were changed to conform to what the copyist believed to be the true reading. His interest was not in the ‘original reading’ but in the ‘true reading’“

(ibid.) — as perceived by the Roman Christian redactors, of course. (Emphasis added and quoted from Who Are the Netzarim? (WAN))

The Nәtzarim never changed their mind about it, maintaining that only the Jewish Tana”kh is Scripture and only their own The Nәtzarim Hebrew Matityâhu (NHM) was a legitimate account of the life and teachings of Ribi Yәhoshua.

The Nәtzarim haven’t changed from this position, and won’t change from this position.

“ (quote: www.netzarim.co.il – Glossaries)

Anders Branderud

Disciple of Netzarim who are follower of Ribi Yehoshua - Messiah - in Orthodox Judaism

Viola said...

Anders,

This is part of the quote you listed.

"It is true that not one of these variant readings affects the substance of Christian dogma"

You do not believe in the same Jesus Christ that Christians have worshiped for two-thousand years. On that we agree.

You of course are writing of the Ebionites when you refer to Eusebius. They did reject the deity of Jesus Christ, that is true. But the truth is that all of the very first Christians were Jewish and only a small minority of them were Ebionites. So that is hardly an argument at all.

The truth is that some of Paul's letters are the very first written Christian documentation in the New Testament. There were still many people, including all of the apostles, alive when he wrote. Others could have refuted him and did not.

You will note I suggested several books written by scholars. Basic Christianity by John Stott, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, The New Testament Documents: are they reliable? by F.F. Bruce, and History & Christianity by John Warwick Montgomery.
You write, "Please quote Scholars instead of your Christian sources. If you are only studying NT and Christian writings."

Are you so arrogant as to suggest that Christians can not be scholars?

Jesus Christ died on the cross for all sinners, including you and me. I pray that you quit rejecting the the Lord who died and was resurrected for you.

Anders said...

Viola,
Hello,

You have given me no Scholar in a leading university. Please name one Scholar in a leading university (for example Harvard, Princeton, etcetera) that holds your opinion.

A quote from James H. Charlesworth – The historical Jesus:

“[Ribi Yehoshuas] devout Jewishness. [Ribi Yehoshua] was a very devout Jew. [p.48] (..) [Ribi Yehoshuas] devotion to Torah and Judaism is evident also in his actions. During his last week alive, [Ribi Yehoshua] was in Jerusalem. Why? Ha had ascended to the Holy City to celebrate Passover, as required by Torah. During this week, [Ribi Yehoshua] taught in the Temple and, quoting the revered prophet Isaiah, called the Temple “a house of prayer” (..) Thus, [Ribi Yehoshua] should not be imagined as the first Christian. He was a very devout Jew who observed Torah (the Law [Instruction is the correct translation] recorded in the Bible). Perhaps, as previously mentioned, he was so devout that he wore the religious garment of a conservative Jew, the sitsit [ציצית ; tzitzit], which pours outside the outer garment with fringes (..) “
The commentars in brackets are mine.

James H. Charlesworth is George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature and Editor and Director of the Princeton Theological Seminary Dead Sea Scrolls project.

From Anders Branderud
Geir Toshav, Netzarim in Ra’anana in Israel (www.netzarim.co.il) who are followers of Ribi Yehoshua – the Messiah – in Orthodox Judaism