Episode 40 | Miracles Everywhere: Holy Mackerel!

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-aycsm-9c42b7

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses what it means to be a fisher of people and the tiring work that fishing can be. What happens when one casts their nets and comes up with no fish? What does Jesus call us to when we’ve run out of luck in the waters we find ourselves in? Tune in to find out.

EPISODE NOTES:

A LOOK BACK: Represent!

bflw-devotional-800x490Writing the Life-Giving Water devotionals is not only an important ministry, but is a deeply rewarding spiritual discipline for me as well. With that said, observing Sabbath (aka rest) is an important spiritual discipline as well. So here is a LOOK BACK to a devotion I wrote in the past. Read it, reflect on it, be challenged by it. Who knows how God will speak to you through it and how it will bear relevance in your life today? May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read the suggested Scripture and subsequent devotion.

God’s People, part 126: Herodians

Read Mark 3:1-6

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said.”  (Mark 12:13, NRSV)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

www-St-Takla-org--008-The-priests-take-counsel-with-the-HerodiansPart 126: Herodians. One thing that I hope has been conveyed over the last several devotions is just how divided Israel was between the 1st century BCE and the 1st century CE. We have, so far, been introduced to the Seleucid Empire and the Jews who supported the Hellenization of Israel, the Hasmonean Dynasty, the conquest of Rome, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees. In this devotion we will be looking at yet another sect in a very fragmented and divided land.

The Herodians were a political group (made up of various subgroups of people) who supported the rule of Herod and wanted to see the monarchy restored back to his descendents. In order for us to have this make sense to you, we are going to need to jump ahead to Jesus’ time and look backward. The Herodians rose to prominence following King Herod’s death and were one of the many factions that existed during that time.

Following the death of King Herod, Rome divided up his kingdom between his three sons and his sister. Archelaus became ethnarch (or ruler of a specific ethnic group…e.g. the Jews) of the Tetrarchy of Judaea, Herod Antipater (nicknamed Antipas) became tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea, Philip became tetrarch of territories north and east of the Jordan River, and Herod’s sister Salome I (not to be confused with Antipas’ stepdaughter) was made the toparch (or regional governor) of the cities of Jabneh, Ashdod, Phasaelis.

A tetrarchy was a demotion for Herod’s sons. While Herod the Great was appointed King by the Romans and was sole ruler of Israel (answering only to Caesar), the Romans decided they wanted more control over that strategic region. Thus, when Herod died, they divided Israel up into four regions and appointed Herod’s sons as tetrarchs (or governors) of those regions. They were governors, but they were NOT kings. The tetrarchs fell under the command and leadership of the appointed governor of the newly formed province of Judaea (which was made up of the four regions that the tetrarchs governed).

The Herodians were a group who were supporters of the Herodian dynasty and advocated for the restoration of the Herodian monarchy. Like the Pharisees the Herodians wanted to see their people achieve political independence; however, unlike the Pharisees, they believed that the Hellenized Herodian dynasty was the way to go. They wanted to see one of Herod’s sons, such as Herod Antipas, take the throne as king.

Jesus of Nazareth, of course, was challenging the authority of the political elites and performing many miracles. Many saw him as possible being the anticipated king of the Jews who would liberate Judaea from foreign rulers. We also know that Jesus did, in fact, claim that title for himself. This would have set him odds with the Herodians who supported the Herodian Dynasty.

This should challenge us because, with the Herodians, we can see how political ideologies can over take where we ought to be spiritually. People often let their political worldviews and agendas block them from truly following the One who is Lord of all and Savior of the world. Let us reflect on how we have let our politics grow into idols that they get the very best of us, separating us from God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
If we place all of our hope and faith in human rulers, we will get human results; however, if we place all our hope and faith in God, the results will be divine.

PRAYER
Lord, steer me from making an idol of my political worldview. You, Christ, are all that matters. Amen.

God’s People, part 125: Pharisees

Read John 3:1-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  (Luke 18:14, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

PhariseesPart 125: Pharisees. The Pharisees were a group of people who came into existence somewhere in between the 160s and the 150s BCE, though their roots go much deeper. Following the end of the Jewish exile, Persia had ordered the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple and the refortification of Jerusalem. Once the Second Temple was completed, the Sadducee party had been established. They were, as was discussed in the last devotion, a group of priests and elites who were in charge of the Temple and the worship life of Judah. They were also a very influential and powerful political party.

With that said, the Temple was rebuilt and the Sadducee’s authority established at the behest of a foreign government. Thus, there was much skepticism among people about the legitimacy of the Temple and its leadership. As a result of this skepticism, new sects and/or schools of thought arose.

On top of this, things had changed from they way they once were. No longer was the Temple the ONLY institution for Jewish religious life. This is because, during the period of the exile, there was NO TEMPLE. Thus, the Jews who were NOT exiled, formed local houses of prayer known as Synagogues. The Synagogue meetings carried on even despite the Second Temple being built. Even though most Jews could not regularly attend the Temple service, they would observe their Jewish faith in their Synagogues. The only thing they could not do was sacrifice to God, which could only happen at the Temple.

These Synagogue meetings were led by local scribes and and sages, who were later called “rabbis” or teachers/masters. They would meet on Mondays, Thursdays and Shabbats (aka Sabbaths) and read portions of the Torah, following the tradition established by Ezra. They also maintained the Oral Tradition which was passed down from Mount Sinai to their time.

When the Greeks took over and began to bring Greek influence and culture into Israel, a rift developed between the Sadducees and the sages/teachers over dealings with the Gentiles. This only heightened with the reign of the Seleucid King Antiochus IV, who banned Jewish observances and forced Jews to worship Greek gods. Following the defeat of the Seluecids by the Maccabees, the Sadducees went from being merely a religious group to being a political group as well.

Also around that time, the Pharisees rose up out of the sages/teachers to be a religious/political group in opposition to the Sadducees. The word Pharisee in Greek is Φαρισαῖος (pronounced far-is-ah’-yos) and was derived from the Hebrew word פָּרָשׁ (pronounced paw-rash’), which literally means “to separate”. Thus, the word Pharisee literally means “Separatist”. They’re whole point as a religious and political sect was to promote the separation from Greek culture. How did one do that, through taking the Bible seriously and obeying the LAWS of God.

So, as you can see, the Pharisees started off as a really good group in response to the corruption of other groups. They believed that absolutely loyalty to God was a must if Israel was going to be restored to her rightful place as a sovereign kingdom blessed by God. As with all good things, however, politics and power got in the way and the Pharisees soon forgot why they were Pharisees in the first place.

They became oppressive with the extra rules and regulations they created to ensure that people would follow the Law (e.g. how many steps you could take before it was considered “working on the Sabbath”). They burdened the people with taking things way too far in the other direction of the Sadducees. The Sadducees were on one end of the extremes, and the Pharisees became the other end of the extremes.

The challenge for us is to recognize the danger of extremes. Often times when there is push back against extremism, those pushing back become extremists themselves. We can easily see this in the world, and the political climate, around us. When the KKK amass to rally, so do the anti-fascists (Antifa). What ensues is pure chaos that counters anything God could possibly be calling us to.

Let us be a people who do not become extremists, but follow the heart and soul of what Jesus Christ taught and did. Let us not respond to extremism in extreme ways, but represent the balance as representatives of our LORD Jesus Christ who resisted the temptations of both the Sadducees and the Pharisees. That may not make us popular with either extreme, but it will keep us righteous and in line with God

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Following the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE, the Pharisees evolved into Rabbinic Judaism, which exists to this day.

PRAYER
Lord, keep me clear from the extremes and center me on you and your ways. Amen.

God’s People, part 124: Sadducees

Read Acts 4:1-22

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead.”  (Luke 20:27, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

SadduceesPart 124: Sadducees. The Sadducees were a group of people who existed during the Second Temple period in Jerusalem (516 BCE – 70 CE). They became prominent during the second century BCE and were among the sects of Judaism during a very divided time in Jewish history. The division stemmed around the Hellenization (e.g infiltration of Greek culture) of Israel under the Seleucid Empire.

While some groups, such as the Pharisees, thought one ought to separate themselves from Grecco-Roman culture altogether, the Sadducees worked to regulate relations with their foreign occupiers. This is not to say that the Sadducees promoted Helenization; however, their role was a political one as much as it was religious. They were of the high social class of Jewish society, they were the aristocracy, and they had much influence and power in Judaea.

This was epsecially true when the Romans conquered and occupied Judaea. Annas and Caiaphas were both members of the Sadducees. Annas was appointed to the position of high priest by the Roman governor of Syria, Quirinius. While not all priests and high priests were Sadducees, many of them were. They were responsible for maintaining the Temple and the life of worship. They performed rituals, sacrifices, and other duties related to the temple; however, they also served as politicians and judges.

They were on the Sanhedrin, the ruling Jewish Council, along with the Pharisees. They managed the state domestically, and represented the state internationally. They collected taxes, including collecting international tax from Jews living in other countries. They also equipped and led the Jewish army, and structured relations with the Romans. On top of all of those political roles, the Sadducees also mediated local and household complaints.

The Sadducees were a people of great prominence and importance. With control over the Temple and the worship life of the Jewish people, the Sadducees held a power that few Jewish groups in that time period had. They were an aristocratic sect that had utilized its status in ways that often benefited them to the detriment of the people beneath them. This angered many, and caused dissident sects like the Essenes and the Zealots to take matters into their own hands to usher in the Messianic age.

As we will soon see, this group would cross paths with the Christ, the anointed One of God, Jesus of Nazareth. The Messiah would not be impressed by their power, nor would he be afraid to hold them and others accountable for the way they abused the authority God had given them. This imminent confrontation would lead to the most dramatic and powerful events the world has ever seen.

The challenge for us is to remember the Sadducees and recognize our own desire for power, control, and authority. We ought to keep that desire in check and remember that it is God who is power, it is God who is in control and who has authority, not us.

Let us submit ourselves to God rather than try to bend God into submission. The latter will NEVER happen and will lead us to our own downfall, just as surely as the power hungry Sadducees went down with their Temple when the Romans finally came in and destroyed it along with the entire city of Jerusalem. Remember, to God be the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” – Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:6, NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, I surrender all to you, and place all that have and all that I am in your hands. Amen.

Episode 38 | The Plan: Go Time

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-did82-9b05c7

In this episode, Rev. Todd concludes the 5 part series called The Plan with a look at another letter written by Paul, this time to the Colossian church. Be challenged by this message to with the plan, which includes growing ever closer to Christ and ever more like him.

EPISODE REFERENCES:

God’s People, part 123: High Priest

Read John 11:45-57

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“‘Away with him,’ they yelled. ‘Away with him! Crucify him!’ ‘What? Crucify your king?’ Pilate asked. ‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the leading priests shouted back.”  (John 19:15, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

bible-videos-caiaphas-jesus-trial-1426886-printPart 123: High Priest. When we think of the High Priest of the temple in Jerusalem, we think of someone who was from the Levites and was chosen by God to serve in the position of High Priest, fulfilling the duties of ordering the worship life of the Temple and leading the kingdom of Israel in an ongoing and faithful relationship with God. We think of someone divinely chosen and independent of politics.

Unfortunately, this is a mistake. First, the High Priest WAS a political position as much as it was a religious one. The ancient world did not make any sort of distinction between the political and the religious spheres. That distinction is, strictly speaking, a modern one. This is extremely important to realize. The high priest was not just in charge of religion, but also of law. The TORAH was not just religious law, but the LAW of the land.

Second, the High Priest in the time of the Roman occupation became more of a political role than it was religious. This may sound scandalous and, if you are thinking that, you are absolutely right. It was scandalous. By Jesus’ time, some groups such as the Essenes had left Jerusalem and went out into the wilderness to live. They believed that the corruption of the office of the High Priest, and the ultimate corruption of the Temple, were signs of the end times. Thus, they waited in the wilderness for the Messiah to come, ready to join the holy war when that time came.

The first high priest to be appointed under the newly formed Roman province of Iudaea (aka Judea, pronounced Yoo-dee-ah), was Annas in 6 CE. What’s more, Annas was appointed to that position by Quirinius, the Roman legate governor of Syria. You read that right! A Roman aristocrat and politician appointed Annas as the High Priest of Judea. I am sure you can now see why groups like the Essenes “got out of Dodge” and headed for the wilderness hills.

Annas’ was deposed as High Priest in 15 CE at the age of 36. With that said he held great influence of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Legal Council made up of priests) through his sons who succeeded him in the role of High Priest. First, his son Eleazar succeeded him and was High Priest for one year (16-17 CE). Following Eleazar was Annas’s son-in-law, Caiaphas. He was High Priest from 18-36 CE and was the High Priest who plotted to have Jesus handed over to the Romans to be crucified.

As you can see, there were major politics at play here in the first century. We Christians like to pretend that everything Jesus did was “spiritual” and not “political”; however, this simply was not true. By accusing the High Priest of hypocrisy and corruption, by violently overturning the tables in the Temple, Jesus was intentionally upsetting the political and the religious order simultaneously!

This should challenge us as Christians. We often choose to remain silent on issues because we don’t want to be “political”; however, our silence is just as political as speaking out. In fact, when we don’t speak out we stamp our seal of approval on whatever it is that is going on. We ought not be afraid of upsetting the political or the religious order. If what is going on is wrong, we ought to take a stand against it. Our Lord did no less. We ought to carefully steer away from the status quo, which the High Priests were holding fast to for their political gain and power, and draw close to Jesus who would have us interrupt the silence for the Kingdom of God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Damning are the politics of silence.

PRAYER
Lord, give me courage to interrupt the silence. For I know you are with me and strengthen me. You are my rock and my redeemer. Amen.

God’s People, part 122: Herod

Read Matthew 2:16-18

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. ‘Get up!’ the angel said. ‘Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.’”  (Matthew 2:19-20)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

hires3Part 122: Herod. What can be said about Herod the Great? Like any human being, Herod’s life weaved in between good and evil. There were many that he did that put Judaea on the map, not just in his time period, but throughout time. Some of those feats were amazing; however, Herod, like many rulers before and after him, was utterly corrupted by power and he let nothing stand in the way of his ambition.

To be balanced, let’s quickly look at some of the “amazing” feats of King Herod. First, he was born in about 74 or 73 CE in Idumea, which is also known as Edom and lies due south of Judaea and Moab (where Ruth was from). Traditionally, the Edomites were NOT Jewish and worshipped gods such as Quas, El, Baal, and Asherah; however, post-Exilic Edom did convert to Judaism and so Herod was raised up as a Jew.

Herod became known as “the Great” not because he was a great guy, but because he had spent his reign undergoing major building campaigns, many of which can be seen (in part or in whole) today. He built fortresses such as Masada and Herodium, developed water supplies for Jerusalem, established new cities such as Caesarea Martima, and erected tombs and monuments such as the Cave of the Patriarchs.    He and Cleopatra had a stronghold over asphalt mining in the dead sea. That was used for ship building. Furthermore, he leased copper mines from the Romans on Cyprus.

With that said, Herod was a despot and a tyrant. He had one of his sons and his wife, along with several other family members, put to death. He had secret police spying on common people to “feel out” whether they were malcontent and a threat to his rule. Protests were prohibited and he had no problem removing people by force.

He put any and all who opposed him to death and he taxed the life our of his Jewish subjects so that he could continue to fund his building campaigns. He showed little respect for the laws of Moses and had a Roman Eagle placed in the Temple in honor of Rome. What’s more, this is the same Herod who is reported in the Gospel of Matthew to have ordered the deaths of tons of first-born children up to 2 years old in order to kill any potential messiahs being born in the city of Bethlehem.

It is under this despotic king that Jesus was born, and it is this king that sent Mary, Joseph and Jesus fleeing into Egypt as refugees. In the end, Herod’s lavish lifestyle and his tyrannical power came crashing to a hault once he died. He was the last person to be sole king of Judaea. From his death onward, the province was under the rule of three tetrarchs who were overseen by the Roman Procurator or Governor. This reality should remind us that as in power as we might think we are, we are powerless apart from God. Let us be challenged by that and join forces with God as opposed to against God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
We are powerless apart from God.

PRAYER
Lord, you alone are my rock and redeemer, and I trust in the power of your name. Use me in a way that brings hope, healing, and wholeness in this world. Amen.

Episode 37 | The Plan: Expansion Project

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-hsg8r-9a5797

In this episode, Rev. Todd continues his 5 part series, The Plan, with this fourth installment entitled, “Expansion Project”. This particular episode revisits Abraham from the theological perspective of the Apostle Paul and challenges us, once again, to get with God’s plan.

EPISODE REFERENCES:

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