Is this the actual site of Pentecost? In 2015, I visited Jerusalem as part of a pastor’s tour with GTI Tours. One of the many stops we made was at the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount. Of all of the possible locations, the Southern Steps seems to fit the description of where Saint Peter and the Apostles preached their famous sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Pentecost marked the beginning of the New Covenant and the establishment of the Christian Church–50 days after Jesus’ resurrection. The place is a natural outdoor auditorium and at the foot of the steps in an area not shown in the footage, were a number of mikvot (small pools for Jewish purification) where the baptisms of the new converts could have taken place.
Was the Southern Steps area the birthplace of the Church? No one knows for sure, but in my opinion it fits all the requirements. What a thrill to stand on the very spot where the Gospel was first preached under the New Covenant!
Watch this 49 second video footage from the Southern Steps!
A very simple argument can show why atheism doesn’t work. Atheism doesn’t work simply because, without God, there can be no hope, no joy, no goodness, no justice, and no truth. How can I say that? I can say that because without God, ideas of truth and justice depend upon people’s thinking about them. Hope, joy, and goodness depend upon people being able to rightly experience and practice them.
The only standard in atheism is power
But people differ from one another in how they think and practice these qualities. They argue about what they mean and what they look like in real life. One person can argue another out of their concept of goodness, or justice. One group of people can gain enough power to enforce their version of truth on everyone else. Under atheism, these qualities are defined and enforced by those with the most convincing arguments or the strongest will to dominate. This is why societies that give way to atheism tend to become totalitarian dictatorships.
Atheism cannot allow real freedom and choice
Most people hate dictatorships. They sense that one group of people telling everyone else what it means to be good, or to have hope, or what what they can and cannot believe to be true, is a very bad thing. Most people understand that true belief and genuine behavior cannot be forced. In other words, human choice is a very real and very precious thing that atheism as a system cannot tolerate.
Atheism falsely claims that belief in God restricts freedom
Some might argue that Christian people and Christian organizations have sometimes tried to force people to believe and act in certain ways. While that may be true, the bad or mistaken behavior of people who claim to believe in God doesn’t change the truth that God is the one from whom flow the qualities of justice, truth, and goodness. God made people to be creatures who can make considered choices for or against these qualities. People’s responses to God and to the qualities that flow from his character determine their experience of hope or joy. The fact that people long for these qualities and desire to experience them seems to argue that God exists, since people can’t experience them fully without some outside source.
Here is the link to a related video from Prager University which makes a very similar argument. I hope you enjoy it.
The Millennial generation needs good news. Here’s why. let’s start with a quick overview of the Millennial Generation. According to the linked video, Millennials are teens and young adults born between the 1980s and the early years of the 21st century. This description agrees with the classic definition of the Millennial Generation as young adults between 18 and 35 years of age. Millennials are the first generation to grow up with cell phones and the Internet. They also grew up during times of economic recession. Some have described Millennials as the most dissatisfied generation in American history. They are also the least religious generation in American history.
Problems of the Millennial Generation
Among the problems Millennials must deal with are heavy student loan debt, unemployment and underemployment, and the frustration of older people at their apparent addiction to social media. If they marry at all, they tend to marry at significantly older ages than previous generations. Millennials also tend to be pessimistic about the future–both about the future of our society and about their own personal future. They tend to have a casual view of sex, drug use, and gender identity. Millennials tend to be overwhelmingly liberal in their political views, but often don’t vote or take part in the political process.
The outlook for the future
So, within the next 10-20 years, the Millennial Generation will have assumed power in all sectors of society from government to business. Their views and values will dramatically shape our world. When it comes to Christian faith, few Millennials identify themselves as followers of Jesus. Next time you are in church, look around at who is there. If you see a healthy group of young adults in attendance, your church is among the few who are reaching this largely unreached generation. Most churches count very few Millennials in their congregation. This is the single most important issue that the Christian Church must solve in the next 10 years. If we don’t reach out to these people with some good news, Christianity in North America will look very different in the future.
I found an excellent video discussing what’s wrong with Millennials. The video by Alexis Bloomer entitled “Dear Elders, I’m sorry” went viral on YouTube. A Millennial herself, Alexis believes her generation is entitled, disrespectful, unproductive, and lazy — to name just a few of the problems she says are common among young people aged 18-35.
A call to action
Of course, it is wrong to label an entire group of people with any description because there is always variation in any group. Even so, many people have felt that Alexis Bloomer’s analysis of her own generation has some validity. Most importantly, at the core of her video, Alexis makes a strong call to action for her generation to show kind, respectful, and productive behavior. Thanks for your timely and sincere words, Alexis.
The missing motivation
The issue Alexis doesn’t go into is how this behavior can become a part of a person’s life. Alexis seems to have been blessed with good parenting. It is true that good upbringing can account for some good behavior for those who experienced it. However, learned behaviors only go so far without the personal peace, security, and a desire to do right that comes from deep within a person. Many people of all generations can speak of the inner change that came into their lives through embracing the good news of forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus. Perhaps Alexis didn’t have the time to include this key inner motivation. Even so, I personally find this call to action refreshing and inspiring. What do you think?
It is hard to overstate the importance of forgiveness. Have you ever had trouble forgiving someone? Almost everyone has had the experience of being hurt so badly that they held a grudge for years after the event. Many people know that forgiving the person who hurt them is the right thing to do. But knowing what is right and actually doing it are different things.
A helpful video
For those who need a bit of clarification about the concept of forgiveness, a short video I came across recently explains the three main types of forgiveness and their applications. The forgiveness types are exoneration, forbearance, and release. Though the Bible doesn’t use these exact terms, I believe the points made in this Prager University video are consistent with what scripture has to say about the nature and blessings of forgiveness. I hope you find it helpful. Michael Bogart
Check out this video: Christianity’s Spread: 1000 – 2016 AD!
In a previous blog, I posted this graphic map of Christianity’s spread from its beginnings around 30 AD to the year 1,000. This sequel video shows its continued global spread until the present time. Note that the maker of this video (Ollie Bye) includes all branches of Christianity in the video, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Christianity as well as Protestantism. He does this by using different colors. Of course the video is simplistic, but it does a great job of showing how Jesus’ words about preaching to all nations is being fulfilled!
The map gives a global perspective
So often we think of Christianity as a European or North American thing that was exported to other parts of the world. This video showing Christianity’s spread over the past one thousand years gives perspective on that idea. The truth is that Christianity only reached most of Europe around 400 years after the time of Christ, and spread to eastern Europe just before the year 1,000 (see the previous video). Christian Faith came to North America with the European colonists in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Share your thoughts
Tell me what you think about this visual representation. Feel free to share the video with your friends, but don’t forget to give credit to Ollie Bye, its creator.
Check out this video on Christianity’s Spread 30-1000 AD! I think you’ll find that it will surprise you with how Christianity became established and the timeline it followed.
The value of this video.
This video shows visually how Christianity spread over its first thousand years from a tiny persecuted group in the Middle East to eventually cover much of Europe and beyond. It is interesting to see that Southern Europe, as well as parts of Africa and Asia became Christianized first. It took 600 years for the ancestors of the English to embrace Christianity. The Germans accepted Christian faith at least a century later, and the Russians converted just before 1000 AD. Notice how Christianity once also covered much of the Middle East and North Africa, but was displaced by Islam around 650 AD.
The next segment
This video was created and originally originally posted by Ollie Bye. I will follow up this presentation with another post by the same person featuring a video of the spread of Christianity from 1000 AD to the present. If you are of Christian faith, I think you may find these videos encouraging. If you are not of Christian faith, you may at least learn some facts that you were unaware of. Either way, enjoy.
Meanwhile, tell me what you think, and feel free to share this post with your friends.
Watch the Video: Christianity’s Spread: 30-1,000 AD
Really? The cross-cultural Bible? Cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding are important themes for society in the 21st Century. Turn on the news, or watch a movie, and the issue of cultural understanding is likely to be brought up somewhere along the line. But, how we are supposed to actually become cross-cultural people? Should we move to a neighborhood that is multi-cultural? Should we listen to the music and read books by people who are not like us culturally? Should we feel ashamed of our own cultural backgrounds? Many people are left feeling confused and angry.
The Value of Cross-Cultural Understanding
My point is not to debate whether cross-cultural understanding is important. Obviously the ability to understand something about other cultures has many positive outcomes. Few people would disagree that mutual cultural understanding would produce greater harmony among in our divided society. The Bible itself looks forward to the day when people from every nation, tribe and language are united in the worship of their Creator (Revelation 7:9).
But how can we develop a cross-cultural outlook when it seems that forces are working to divide people into isolated, antagonistic groups? One way is to rediscover a cross-cultural resource that has always been available to us: the Bible. A moment’s thought will show that studying the Bible is a rich cross-cultural experience in itself.
Cross-Cultural Bible: The Old Testament
For example, reading Genesis requires us to accompany Abraham out of ancient Iraq and Syria into the land of Canaan. The study of Exodus involves the reader in a second-hand experience of Israel’s oppression in ancient Egypt, and the drama of their escape and freedom. The later portions of the Old Testament bring us in contact with the cultures of ancient Israel, Babylon, and Persia.
Cross-Cultural Bible: The New Testament
The New Testament also opens up cross-cultural experiences to the reader. In the pages of the Gospels, we visit the world of First Century Judaism as we walk with Jesus through the villages of Galilee. In the New Testament letters, we travel through time into Greco-Roman culture as we grapple with the problems of Christians in the early churches. It may be possible to read the Bible and ignore the cultural features, but to do so is to miss some of its most important teachings. In fact, we must understand at least some basic elements of the cultures of the Bible in order to correctly apply their lessons to our own times and our own lives.
A few examples will show what I mean. In the Old Testament book of Ruth, Naomi and Ruth, find themselves in a dangerous society. They appeal to Boaz for protection. Boaz then acts to provide protection and to bring them into a family unit. People who fail to understand the culture of ancient Israel might jump to the conclusion that this story is an example of ancient sexism. But understood in light of the times and the culture, it should be seen as a brave and generous act of compassion. Likewise, the provision for slavery in the Old Testament might be seen an oppressive practice, unless the reader remembers that ancient societies had no welfare system. When people fell into hard times and family could not assist, the way to avoid complete ruin and starvation was to enter into a limited period of servitude. Once the period ended, the person could make a fresh start.
In Luke chapter 1, Mary’s acceptance of the word of the announcement that she should conceive the Messiah —before her marriage to Joseph— is nothing short of heroic. That Mary and Joseph would go on to raise Jesus in a disapproving and gossipy village environment, so common in all times and cultures, should cause us to marvel at their faith and endurance. In the book of 1 Corinthians, chapter 11, the command for women to cover their heads in public worship might be seen as insensitive in our own self-absorbed culture. But when the reader understands that the point of the command is the issue of public respectability. Head covering for women demonstrated respectability in that culture. Once the principle is grasped, appropriate application can be made for our own times.
True—people have often applied things taught in the Bible inappropriately. But that fact is not an argument against the Bible itself–only against failing to understand the cultures of the Bible and how its truths can be applied across cultures to our own situation. The point is that, among all of the other amazing things about the Bible, it is also a deeply cross-cultural experience. Time spent in its pages can cause a kind of cultural sensitivity desperately needed in our diverse and troubled times.
How should we pray? Many people are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer. You know, the prayer that Jesus taught to his disciples recorded in Matthew 6 and Luke 11. It begins: “Our Father which art in heaven….”. Jesus taught this prayer to his followers not so that they should merely repeat its words, but to provide a guide for regular prayer.
Who are we talking to?
Focus for a moment on the first section of the prayer: “Our Father which art in heaven: hallowed by Thy Name.” These are significant words. What are they teaching us about prayer? First, these words remind us that we are talking to a person. We are speaking with the God who is real and personal, not an impersonal Force as the Star Wars movie series depicts God. Then, God is called Father. According to Jesus, prayer is to be directed primarily to the Father–the first person of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yes, there is only one God, but he apparently exists in a way that is beyond our understanding: one in essence, yet three in personhood. Jesus, the incarnation of the Son, teaches that our prayers should be directed to the Father. Jesus emphasizes that God is “our Father”. Remember that Jesus taught this prayer to his disciples rather than to the crowds. Those who have put their trust in the Father’s Son may call God Father.
What kind of God are we praying to?
The prayer reminds us that God is in heaven. That means that he is in a position to hear our prayers and do something about them. An earthly father is limited in what he can do, but our heavenly Father is not limited in either wisdom, or power. Finally, God is said to be holy (hallowed be Thy Name). Many people don’t have trouble thinking of God as loving, —possibly because this concept of God is so appealing. But a holy God – one who is pure and perfect, one who is not like us, one who has no sin or wrong associated with him in any way – is a problem for some folks. We need to be reminded of this aspect of God’s nature because it determines both our attitude in prayer and the kinds of things we request of Him. He doesn’t think like we do. He is not motivated by some of the things that motivate us. He is holy.
What is the goal of prayer?
Once we understand who we are addressing in prayer and what kind of being he is, we can focus on the next portion: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” When we pray like this, we are asking God to do those things which will honor Him and serve His own purposes. Praying like this should immediately remove any selfish elements in prayer. By focusing on the goal of God’s Kingdom coming on earth, we are wiping the slate clean of wrong, self-centered, or impure motives.
Praying for God’s Kingdom to come also causes us to focus on exactly those things which he has already promised to hear and answer. Though we may not always know what to ask for specifically, praying like this automatically narrows our requests and intercession to the kinds of things that we are aware of that God favors and is likely to grant. For example, the types of things the Bible says are according to God’s will might include:
that people will hear and respond to the good news that they can be forgiven, remade, and restored to God through faith in Jesus
that people may grow in personal goodness and godliness
that God’s people may be purified and have a positive influence in the world
that the basic needs of family, friends and people’s in general will be met.
Maybe you can think of more.
But if we are praying for God’s will to be done above all else, then we must submit each our will to God’s will before our prayer can proceed to other things. Submitting our wills to God’s will means that we must consent that God’s will can take place in our lives — if nowhere else. We must be willing for His Kingdom to have its effect in the things that are dearest to us, even if it means that our plans are changed, and the direction of our lives alters drastically. We must not harbor those sins of attitude that resist the coming of God’s Kingdom. In other words what we are saying to our Heavenly Father as we pray is that our greatest desire is to have what God desires. We are saying that we will be pleased to see his glory and his purposes worked out in our lives. We are saying that God has permission to use us in this process of accomplishing his will on earth.
What kinds of requests should we make?
Jesus teaches that prayer should include things that we are concerned about. He lists several types of things that are legitimate requests in prayer:
Daily bread. God knows that we need basic necessities like food, shelter, clothing, the means to make a living and the health necessary to maintain life. Notice that there are no luxury items mentioned. The Bible does not condemn extras in life by any means. But Jesus’ prayer focuses on the basics needed to maintain life and productivity. This focus reminds us that we can be content with simple things, and that we should not become caught up in chasing more and better as so many people in contemporary society are.
Forgiveness. Aside from the very few people who really don’t see that they have ever done anything wrong, all of us know we have sinned. We know in our hearts that we have hurt people, that we have shamed ourselves, and that we have offended God’s standards in one way or another. We know this because we recognize that we have violated common standards of right and wrong, but also because we feel guilty and ashamed. At the core of the good news is that Jesus died to secure our forgiveness, cleansing and empowerment to live differently. In asking to be forgiven of trespasses, we are in effect asking to receive the benefits of Christ’s atonement. Part of that request is the realization that forgiveness has indeed been granted in Christ.
The partner to the request for forgiveness is that we forgive others. How can we who have experienced God’s forgiveness refuse to forgive those who have offended us? While perhaps our forgiveness from God is not contingent on whether we fully forgive others, Jesus presents them as a package deal: “…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Protection. “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Very simply, we beg God to protect us from ourselves when under temptation and from people and situations that would bring harm.
Though not all experts agree that this final phrase was part of Jesus’ original teaching, traditionally Christians have included, “For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, Amen.” It is certainly fitting that our prayers may end with a recognition that all good things belong to God. So, with these things in mind, let us pray in the way that Jesus taught His disciples!
This 100-point advanced Bible quiz is designed to measure your knowledge of the key people and facts in Bible’s storyline and motivate you to dig deeper into the Bible itself.
The Old Testament contains (1) ______ books. The New Testament contains (2) ____ books. Together they form the entire canon of Christian scripture. The Old Testament was written primarily in the (3) ________________ language; the New Testament was written in the common (4) ______________ language of the First Century.
The Old Testament
Genesis begins with God creating the earth in a complete cycle of (5) ____ days. The first man and woman (6) _________ and (7) ________ lived in the Garden of (8) ___________, but chose to turn away from trusting in God and embrace the wisdom of the (9) ________________. For this, they were banished from the garden and forbidden to eat from the (10) __________ of Life. Their first two sons, (11) ___________ the firstborn and (12) __________, quarreled and the elder murdered the younger. A third son, (13) ________, was born afterward to continue the godly line.
The following generations saw humanity sink deeper into sin and degradation. God planned to send a (14) ___________ to judge the human race. He chose a man described as “righteous in his generation” to survive this disaster by building an (15) ________ and saving his family as well as pairs of all types of (16) _______________. This man’s name was (17) ____________. His three sons, (18) __________, (19) __________ and (20) ______________ are the ancestors of the current nations of the earth.
After the restored human race rebelled against God again by building the (21) ___________ of Babel, God chose (22) _______________ to begin a new line of faith. This man’s son (23) _______________ was born when his mother, (24) _________ was too elderly to bear children naturally. God blessed this child of faith and his wife, whose name was (25) ________________ with twins, Esau and (26)__________. God later changed this man’s name to (27) _____________. He became the father of (28) _____ sons and a daughter, primarily through (29) ___________ his beloved wife and (30) ___________, her sister. These sons were the founders of the tribes of Israel. Among this sons, the one with the greatest faith was named (31) _____________. He was sold as a slave by his brothers and sent to the land of (32) ___________ but later saved them from a devastating (33) _______________, which afflicted the entire region.
The story of Israel’s escape from slavery is told in the book of (34) __________. After their escape, Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. Their leader, (35) ____________, met with God on Mount (36) _____________ and received the law binding Israel in covenant with God. (37) ___________ is the book which recounts Israel’s conquest of Canaan. To defeat foreign enemies and rescue his people, God later gave them a succession of leaders called (38) ______________. At the end of this period, in response to the people’s demands, God gave them kings through a man named (39) _______________.
The three kings who ruled over all Israel were: (40) ________, (41) ____________, and (42) _________________. The second of these kings is famous for loving God deeply. His killing of a mighty Philistine warrior named (43) _______________ earned him the reputation as a hero of faith. However, his affair with (44) _________________, the wife of a trusted soldier, brought lasting shame and disgrace. The third king over a united Israel was renowned for his great (45) _____________: so much so that the Queen of (46) ___________ traveled a great distance to learn from him. During the reign of the fourth king, the kingdom split in two. The northern kingdom was known as Ephraim or (47) _____________, while the southern kingdom was called (48) ____________.
Ministering in the north were prophets whose role was to call the nation back to faith in God. One of these people who spoke for God, a fiery prophet named (49) ___________, met with the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and demonstrated through his faith that the LORD was the true God. His successor, (50)___________, is sometimes called the helpful prophet. Due to their unfaithfulness to God, the northern kingdom was eventually conquered and scattered by the (51) ________________ Empire.
Just over a hundred years after this, the southern kingdom was exiled to the land of (52) _______________. The two prophets who ministered in this land were the priest, (53) _______________ and (54) _______________, a member of the nobility. The fact that many of the Jews in exile were able to return to the Promised Land after (55) _______ years is recorded in the books of (56) __________ in which proper worship was restored and (57) _________________, in which the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt.
(58) ________________ is the book that served as the hymnal of ancient Israel. This book is followed by two books of wisdom: (59) ________________, a collection of practical truths for daily living and (60) ______________________, which explores the meaning of life. Included in this wisdom and poetic collection is a love song, entitled (61) ____________________________. It expresses the devotion of a king for his lovely bride. Also in this collection, the book of (62) ______ deals with the issue of suffering which seems to be undeserved.
The prophetic books of the Old Testament are divided into two groups: the (63) ____________ prophets and the (64) ___________ prophets, which are distinguished purely on the basis of length, not importance. The prophet whose book contains the most messianic prophecy is (65) _____________. Jerusalem’s destruction was witnessed and described most fully by the prophet (66) ________________. The prophet (67) _____________ attempted to run away from God’s calling, but repented after he was swallowed by a fish and ended up fulfilling his task. Another prophet, (68) _____________ was told to marry a wayward woman to demonstrate God’s commitment to his unfaithful people.
The group of books, not accepted in Protestant versions of the Bible, but which is included in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox versions of the scripture is called the (69) ____________________.
The New Testament
The period between Malachi in the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament era lasted roughly (70) _______ centuries. The New Testament begins with the record of Jesus’ life and ministry by the gospel writers: (71) _________________, (72) __________, (73) ___________ and (74) ____________. In the first verses of the fourth gospel, Jesus is described as the eternal (75) __________ which was with God and was God, and through whom all things were created. He was incarnated in the womb of a virgin named (76) ____________ and born in the city of (77) ______________________. He was later raised to maturity in the northern region of (78) __________________. Jesus taught truths about the Kingdom of God through a kind of story or illustration called (79) ______________. He spent the approximately three years of his earthly ministry focusing on the training of his (80) _____________ disciples. He also performed many (81) __________________ to validate his claims of being the Messiah of Israel and the Son of God. Jesus was put to death by the Roman governor, (82) __________ ___________, during the Jewish festival of (83) __________________, but afterward rose from the dead on the (84) _________ day.
The book of (85) _____________ is the inspired history of the early church. The majority of the letters of the New Testament letters were written by one man: the Apostle (86) ____________. Next to him the most New Testament books were written by the Apostle (87) _____________, who wrote a total of (88) ______. Two short, but powerful letters, found near the end of the Bible were written by the disciple who once denied Christ. His name is (89) ___________. The theme of the letter to the (90) _________________ is that, though everyone is guilty before God, anyone may be saved through faith in Jesus. It is often thought to be the most systematic explanation of the gospel in the New Testament.
(91) ___________________ is the book which encourages Jewish followers of Jesus that Christ is greater than Moses or even angels. The letter whose key word, “joy” is found throughout its four chapters is (92) _________________. Two letters were written to a church known for its immaturity and worldly living. This church was located in the ancient city of (93) _________________. (94) __________________ is written to a man whose escaped slave had become a Christian and was now returning home.
The letter stating most fully that we are saved by faith apart from the Law is (95) ___________________. However, the letter of (96) ______________ makes it clear that faith without works is dead. Three books were directed to two young church leaders named (97) ________________ (98) and ____________. The pair of letters, which most emphasize the “man of sin” and Christ’s return were addressed to the church in (99) ______________________. The book of (100) __________________ fittingly climaxes the New Testament, closing with Christ’s second coming and kingdom.
How did you do? I know this was a challenging test. Even some Christian leaders might struggle on parts of it. A good grasp of the main facts and themes of the Bible is a great foundation on which to build an unshakeable faith!