Monthly Archives: October 2017

Pressed Three Times

First-century olive press in Capernaum on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, Israel

Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. (Matthew 26:36)

We recently returned from our first “pilgrimage” to the Holy Land. If I never check off another item on my “bucket list,” this is enough. To walk in the land where God stamped His name defies description, so I will not even try. God assumed human form and traversed this land from Jerusalem to the Galilee; we also set foot on many of the same places.

On one of those stops, we visited the ruins of the city of Capernaum. Jesus made this city His “headquarters” as He ministered around the Sea of Galilee. Peter made his home here as did Andrew, his brother, and James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Here He called Levi (Matthew) away from the customs table to follow Him (Mark 2:1, 14). Capernaum was the site of many of Jesus’ miracles, yet the people did not believe (John 6:26-29); therefore Jesus cursed the city (Matthew 11:23-24). The city came to ruin from an earthquake the leveled it in 749 A.D.

In 1838, American explorer Edward Robinson discovered the ruins of ancient Capernaum,[1] and excavations at the site continue to the present. One of the more interesting finds uncovered at the site is an ancient olive press dating back to the first century. This olive press would have been used in Capernaum when Jesus lived there.

Olives growing on an olive tree on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel

Olives, besides being good to eat, produce oil useful for many purposes. Extracting the oil from the olives required three pressings.[2] The first pressing extracted the purest “virgin” olive oil used for lighting the menorah and other lamps in the Temple. It was also for ceremonial anointing of special servants of God such as priests (Exodus 28:41; 29:4-7), kings (1 Samuel 15:1; 16:12-13), and also for the implements used in the Temple (Exodus 40:9). After extracting the virgin olive oil, the crushed olives were placed into burlap sacks, which were placed in the mortar table for a second pressing. A heavy weight was then added to the pestle wheel. The second pressing produced less pure oil suitable for common use such as cooking, medicine, and fuel for lamps. More weight was then added to the wheel for the third and final pressing, which extracted lye for making soap. At this point, the olives had nothing left to give.

In Jerusalem to the east of the Temple, across the Kidron Valley, rises a hill that has large olive groves aptly named the Mount of Olives or Olivet.

The Dome of the Rock stands where the Temple used to be in Jesus’ day. Across the Kidron Valley is the Mount of Olives where the Garden of Gethsemane was located.

In Jesus’ day, amongst the olive trees, there was a garden that had an olive press. The name of the garden was Gethsemane, which means oil press. On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus went there to pray with His disciples. He left eight of His disciples further down the hill, but His inner circle, Peter, James, and John, He took up to the place of pressing. “Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38, emphasis mine). He knew way lay ahead for Him. The physical pain and agony He knew awaited Him would make any man seek to escape, but that was not what pressed on Him. He was God in the flesh. He was sinless. Soon, the sin of all mankind would fall on Him. Soon that sin would sever His relationship with the Father. “And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39, emphasis mine). He returned to His closest disciples only to find them sleeping (Matthew 26:40-41). The first press was done. “He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done” (Matthew 26:42, emphasis mine.). “And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him” (Luke 22:43). “And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy” (Matthew 26:43). The second press was complete. “And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words” (Matthew 26:44, emphasis mine). “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44, emphasis mine). “Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Matthew 26:45). He gave all He had to give. With the final press completed, He said, “Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me” (Matthew 26:46, emphasis mine). He did not wait for His accusers to find Him. He went out to meet them!

There in the Garden of the Olive Press, He was pressed three times, and He gave His all. He gave up His anointing as King. He gave up His human body – the only suitable sacrifice for sin. He gave the last dregs of His being to cleanse us from our sins, and open the way to eternal life with Him, if we will only accept His sacrifice.

Reader, if you do not know Jesus who gave His all for you, do not delay any longer. Soon He will return, or you may otherwise meet your end. Either way, it will be too late. “Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, …” (Hebrews 3:7-8). Read my page on Heaven.

Notes:


[1]  “Capernaum” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capernaum

[2]  “Oil Presses in the Holy Land” – http://www.biblewalks.com/Info/OilPresses.html

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Light of the World

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9:5)

Jesus, God incarnate, “came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). “In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:4-5, emphasis mine). However, Jesus “… died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, emphasis mine). Furthermore, “…he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight … [and was] taken up from you into heaven” (Acts 1:9, 11, emphasis mine). So then, what has become of  “the light of the world”?

Jesus said He was the light of the world as long as He was in the world, but He is no longer here – in the world. Does that mean the light is gone? Indeed not! Before He left this world He said, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17, emphasis mine). Jesus’ replacement on earth is the Holy Spirit who resides in the heart of every believer. Through the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer, the “light of the world” remains in the world. Jesus said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. (John 14:18, emphasis mine).

Therefore, although Jesus assumes His place at “the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3), His light remains “in the world” by way of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the lives of believers. Therefore, Jesus reminds us, “Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14); so, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Do not hide your light under a basket (Matthew 5:15) – let it shine, Let it Shine, LET IT SHINE!

The time is near when the light will be taken out of this world. Speaking of the end times and the revealing of the Antichrist Paul writes, “And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7, emphasis mine). The One that “withholds” or “restrains” is the Holy Spirit who resides within the heart of every believer, the Church. When “his time” – i.e. the Antichrist – is up, the Holy Spirit will “be taken out of the way.” Where the Holy Spirit goes, the Church goes. The light will be removed and the world will be plunged into darkness. Until then, we, in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, are the light of the world, so we must let our light shine while we are still in the world!

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Stand For the Flag!

Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. (Romans 13:7)

I tire of all the airtime given to overpaid prima donnas who “take a knee” at the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in disrespect of the symbol of our nation – the American flag, Old Glory, the Stars and Stripes. That flag represents the nation – the republic – that affords these crybaby egotists the opportunity to earn outrageous salaries to play a game for fans that can ill afford the admission to attend the games in person. Granted, these players possess uncommon athletic talents that few of us will ever have, but the truth is that most of them have gotten a “free ride” to hone the “God-given” talents they display on the field of contest. That “privilege” comes from the fact that they were born (most of them) under the flag they now dishonor.

The flag they disrespect represents a republic, a nation of laws, which guarantees them the right to express their political views even in opposition to the very law that protects them. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America protects the right of every citizen to exercise his/her freedom of speech, the freedom to peaceably assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. These impertinent showboats latch onto the First Amendment to justify their disrespect. If that is not bad enough, an abundance of left-wing ideologues sound off in their defense, like the local sports idiot for the Dallas-Fort Worth area.[1] No one denies these paid athletes the right to “peaceably assemble” and exercise their freedom of speech in protest to a perceived injustice, but their protest – their grievance – is misplaced. Rather than “petition the Government” for redress of their grievance – they show contempt for the very flag, and indirectly the majority of Americans that honor the flag, that has given them a platform from which to speak.

Just what is the egregious injustice that warrants such a shameful demonstration of ingratitude? It all started last year when the now unemployed, cop-hating quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, refused to stand for the playing of the National Anthem in protest for all the hundreds of poor young black men unjustly slain by racist police (his perception). If the charge is factual, there is certainly reason to protest, not only by black Americans but also by all Americans. Any citizen – no matter what ethnicity – unlawfully executed by one sworn to uphold the law has been denied his/her constitutional “right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury” (the Sixth Amendment). Such an offense would warrant the free expression of speech in protest (not rioting), and to “petition the Government for redress” of the grievance. If such abuse of police authority is really taking place, every freedom-loving American should be up in arms. However, is this really what is taking place? Is there really an epidemic of local police[2] singling out young black men for execution? If this is true, there should be plenty of evidence to corroborate the claim.

The truth is that cops killed almost twice as many whites as blacks in 2015. More whites and Hispanics die from police homicides than blacks. A 7 to 1 ratio of “unarmed” black men shot by police are shot in the process of resisting arrest, usually in an attempt to disarm the officer or beat the officer with the officer’s own equipment. Black and Hispanic police officers are more likely to fire a gun at blacks than are white officers. (I wonder why?) Blacks are more likely to kill cops than to be killed by cops. (The preceding statistics were obtained from The Dailywire.)[3] It is also commonly known that more blacks (in epidemic proportions) are killed by other blacks than are killed by cops of any color.

The record indicates that the protest, by these unlearned[4] prima donnas and their equally ignorant sycophants, enjoys no basis in reality. Rather than publically disrespect the flag, they should turn that activism into action by edifying (building up) those who they consider downtrodden. However, maybe that would be too much in keeping with real American values!

The Bible teaches us that we must “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour” (Romans 13:7).  As citizens, we must pay our taxes (“tribute” and “custom”). We should respect and obey (“fear”) those in authority like the police. The police are there to do a job, to keep law and order. Most of them have families, and many of them are members of our churches. The majority of them took the job to “serve and protect” their community. They do not deserve to be disrespected. When they are disrespected, they are within their authority – the authority we give them – to arrest us. Too many of those poor black men that get shot by police were never taught by their parents, teachers or anyone to respect and (above all) obey the police. They were not taught to “fear” those “to whom fear” is due.

Finally, we are to give “honor to whom honor” is due. Our flag and our National Anthem are due honor. Our flag led our founders to fields of battle to gain our freedom. The red in our flag represents the many gallons of blood that birthed our nation. Many men sacrificed their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to provide for us the freedoms we enjoy, even the freedom to legitimately protest perceived injustices. That flag led Union soldiers (mostly white men) into bloody battle in defense of the black man’s right to be free. Sadly, many blacks today shackle themselves to the racism of self-deprecation that deceives them into viewing themselves of less value than whites – a deception straight from the pit of hell. “So God created [all] man [kind] in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27). “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;” (Acts 17:26, emphasis mine). That “one blood” is all red, the color of the stripes on our flag.

Our flag has draped many a coffin of soldiers, police officers, and firefighters that have paid the ultimate price for our freedom and our protection. Our flag is worthy of honor and respect. Give honor to whom honor is due. Stand for the flag! Our flag represents our freedom of speech to protest any perceived injustice. For that, it should be honored. Stand for the flag!

P.S. If you feel the need to kneel, kneel at the cross of Jesus where His precious blood was shed for you.

Notes:


[1]  “Sportscaster Dale Hansen’s take on the #TakeAKnee protests is an absolute must-watch” – http://mashable.com/2017/09/26/dale-hansen-unplugged-anthem-protests/#NJalYem2Liqa

[2]  “Local police” are governed by local municipalities, not the federal government, which is just one more reason why this “protest” is misplaced.

[3]  “5 Statistics You Need To Know About Cops Killing Blacks” – http://www.dailywire.com/news/7264/5-statistics-you-need-know-about-cops-killing-aaron-bandler#

[4]  They are “unlearned” because even though a majority of them hold college degrees, many of them “earned” that degree through their participation in their field of athletics rather than their achievement in academics. They certainly failed to receive any training in civics.

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Drinking

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; (Ephesians 5:18)

The Bible nowhere prohibits absolute abstinence from alcohol. Indeed, Solomon seems to encourage one to “Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works” (Ecclesiastes 9:7). The psalmist says that God has given us all good things, “And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart” (Psalm 104:15).

So, the Bible does not prohibit the use of alcohol, however, it does discourage its abuse. “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1) “He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man: he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich” (Proverbs 21:17). Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder” (Proverbs 23:29-32). “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted” (Proverbs 31:4-5).

However, there are practical reasons to abstain. First of all, I do not know of anyone who can honestly say they can “control” their consumption of alcohol, especially in a “social” setting. By the time they get “a buzz,” they are already too incapacitated to operate a motor vehicle. At that point, they have already lost some of their self-control. Furthermore, no one knows how alcohol will affect one, or if one has a propensity for alcoholism. Therefore, as a practical matter, it is better to abstain altogether. After all, there is no proven health benefit from drinking alcohol. On the contrary, prolonged alcohol use is deleterious to one’s health – cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, hypertension, et al.

For Christians, the primary reason for abstinence is the Christian testimony we give to our brothers and sisters in Christ and to the non-believing world around us. The Apostle Paul gives practical reasons for abstinence in Romans 14. “It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak” (Romans 14:21). Notice that he does not say, “don’t do it,” but rather that is better not to. To the Corinthians he writes, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.… Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:23, 32-33). In a nutshell, he says that our Christian testimony supersedes our personal interest. Furthermore, God calls us to holiness, i.e. to be set apart from the world around us. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). This requires a serious lifestyle adjustment. Paul says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). Notice that “holiness” makes the “living sacrifice” acceptable to God.

In summary, there is no absolute prohibition against alcohol consumption in the Bible; however, for the Christian, it is a matter of one’s testimony and a matter of holiness. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

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