In Remembrance

Pastor Mike, Spreading Light’s founder, passed away in August of 2018 and went home to be with the Lord following a battle with cancer that was not able to be won in this life. Shortly before his death, Mike asked me to take over his websites for the purposes of maintaining them and to take the burden of doing so from his wife.

This post should have been written a long time ago but it took me some time to come to grips with the loss of my closest friend and be able to approach continuing his work through this ministry. If he was known as Pastor Mike, I guess you could refer to me as Layman Tim.

As Spreading Light Ministries has moved to a new host and some of the related websites are being shuttered to be able to focus efforts more keenly on spreadinglight.com, some aspects of the ministry might look a little sparse for a time. At one point, Pastor Mike had over 20 domain names filled with theological content and all related to spreadinglight.com. That content from the periphery websites has not been lost and has been archived for now. Part of the reason for this contraction of web space is that the nature of the internet has changed quite a bit in the past 7 or 8 years. Mike saw this change and how devastating it could be to websites such as this first hand.

At it’s height, Spreading Light was reaching people in over 100 countries around the world. But Google changed its search algorithm and Pastor Mike saw traffic drop to a fraction of what it once had been, and consequently the income that supported Spreading Light Ministries also. Concurrently with Google changing search algorithms, the way people interact with the internet changed. Spreading Light was founded before social media and smartphones and as such was not built in a way to take advantage of that changing landscape of internet interactivity.

It is with all of that in mind, that I think about the future of Spreading Light Ministries. It will continue to be a repository of Mike’s life’s work. But the changing nature of the internet that I outlined in the previous paragraph also mean that for Spreading Light to continue to have an impact now and in the future and for people around the world to once again be able to find and have the opportunity to read Mike’s words of encouragement, that it has to become more than that.

I hope that you, dear reader, will come along for that journey. I would never claim to have the depth of theological understanding, educational background, or ability to write so extensively on biblical topics as Pastor Mike. I do hope though that I am able to build on that legacy in some small degree and in so doing, ensure that Spreading Light continues to be accessible to a new generation of web users.

– Layman Tim

The Heartbreak of Being a Pastor

There are a lot of things that stink about being a pastor.  There’s the long hours, the low pay, the unending meetings, emergency phone calls and hospital visits, and sometimes dealing with Christians who act worse than children.  Being a pastor is a calling and I truly believe that if you are not called to do it, those things will eat you alive.

To me though, those are all part of the job.  They might not be the most enjoyable parts of the job but most pastors have some understanding of those expectations before they get into it.  Maybe the number of meetings or the sheer immaturity of Christians comes as a surprise but overall the difficulties are not hidden.

To me the real heartbreak of a pastor comes with the realization that we can’t change hearts.  There are numerous reasons why pastors become pastors but probably the biggest reason is that we want to make a difference in people’s lives.  This means different things to different pastors and it will be colored by their spiritual giftedness.  Counselors will counsel, evangelists will evangelize, preachers will preach; regardless of the emphasis, pastors want to make a difference with their lives.

The problem is that we cannot make people do anything.  That’s not to say that we don’t make a difference.  What it is saying is that we don’t win every battle that we’re in.  The best counselors can’t be assured that someone will take their advice.  The best evangelist isn’t going to win every person to Christ.  And the best preacher will not touch the heart of every person in the pews.

There are different measures of success and there’s no way to score a pastor’s true reach.  The reality is though that we’re not always going to succeed and this hurts the most of all.  Certainly there can be some measure of pride that causes hurt anytime we fail to change a heart but there is a real spiritual agony to failure as well.  Every marriage that fails, every gospel that is rejected, every sermon ignored hurts on a real and personal level.  It’s not because we think we know better, it’s because we know the likely consequences for the people we are trying to reach and that inability to reach them hurts almost as much as if we were going through it personally.

It’s easy to think that the church is full of people who have it all together and who have gathered together with a common purpose of worshipping their Lord and Savior.  This is an ideal that probably does not exist in any church.  Hopefully the church has some mature Christians who provide responsible leadership.  At the same time, there are people who are barely holding their life together and the only thing they really know is that they need Jesus and He is getting them through day by day.  And at the other end of the spectrum there is quite possibly someone who has attended the church for decades who clings to church traditions and an heir of self righteousness but doesn’t actually have a personal relationship with God.

The pastor loves these people and wants to save each one of them from whatever circumstance is dragging them down.  He wants to cure every drug addict.  He wants to resolve every financial hardship.  He wishes he could heal every illness.  And he absolutely wants every person to have a real relationship with the Lord.

What breaks the pastor’s heart is that he can’t fix everything.  Even if he had every answer and the energy to address every situation, not everyone will follow his advice.  Not everyone will follow biblical teaching even if they claim to be or really are a Christian.  While the pastor can make a great impact in the life of a lot of people, it’s the people that he can’t reach that keeps him up at night.  If he has 9 successes out of 10, the tenth one will haunt him.

It might seem overdramatic to obsess over failures that didn’t stand a chance of being successes because a person’s heart was hard to begin with.  But the pastor recognizes the stakes that he lives with constantly.  If a lawyer fails at his job, the worst thing that happens is that an innocent person goes to jail.  If a doctor fails at his job, the worst thing that happens is a person dies.  If a pastor fails at his job, lives can be ruined and people go to hell.

No, the pastor is not responsible if he fulfilled his duty and a person did not listen to him.  But he will wonder if there wasn’t another way to reach the person.  He will ponder if perhaps the outcome would be different if he had prayed more.  Maybe he has strong coping skills and can continue on knowing that he won’t win every battle.  He might not beat himself up for the losses.  But he’s still likely to wonder if something else could have been done.

A pastor defines himself as much by his failures as his successes.  The successes get reported – conversions, baptisms, church growth – and hopefully these are celebrated by the church as well as the pastor.  But only the pastor knows about the advice not taken, the people who are still hurting within the church, the well intentioned church attendee that just seems unable to get their life on track.

There a lots of joys as a pastor.  Leading a group of believers in worship of Almighty God is an experience few will ever have.  There are lives that are forever changed for the good.  There are wins in ministry that are worth celebrating.  But all of this does come with heartbreak as well because we know some will just never get it.  They see others live a joyful Christian life but they’ll never humble themselves and submit to it.  It hurts the pastor to watch it happen but he will most likely soldier on because there is always another person who needs help.

Where Should our Loyalty Be?

Today is Independence Day in the United States and there will be a lot of celebrating along with hemming and hawing about what the Founding Fathers would think of our country today.  There has been nearly endless discussion over what flags are appropriate to fly and what our Constitution says about free speech and marriage.

Perhaps though, we take far too much of our identity from the nation and/or state that we were born in.  This is not to imply that I would want to live somewhere else.  It’s just the fact that we should identify ourselves as Christians first and foremost.  If the laws and morals of our land do or don’t match up with our biblically defined values is almost secondary.  We must obey God rather than men.

The author of Hebrews shows us where our loyalty should be.  Hebrews 11:13-16:

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

No matter how much you believe in your country, the fact remains that we are citizens of something greater.  We can discuss all we want about how the country was founded on Christian values and it is getting away from them.  An earthly kingdom – even one founded on Christian values – still pales in comparison to the heavenly kingdom we await.

Each of us may have a certain responsibility to stand up for our beliefs and hold fast to what God teaches us rather than what man says we should or shouldn’t do.  In the end though, we are surrounded by people who are not Christians and they will act as non-Christians act.  While there are good Christian men and women in government, there are many non-Christians in government as well and they will pass laws that are not in line with our values.

Our nature is to despair over the laws of our country changing and moving away from how we understand the Bible.  And certainly there is some reason to despair and be concerned over the moral decay that we see around us.  On the other hand though, we must keep things in perspective.  Whatever nation or state we pledge allegiance to is not the one that God intended for us.  True Christians long for a better country – a heavenly one.

Whatever you do today, whether it is celebrate the founding of a country or despair over the loss of the values it once had, remember that this home is only temporary.  We are strangers and foreigners in this land.  Our citizenship lies elsewhere in a place that is perfect.  We are awaiting that place.  Jesus has gone ahead to prepare that place for us according to John 14:2-3:

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

While we may disdain over what our earthly nation has become, let us keep in mind that this is not our true home.  Our true home is being made ready for us.  And with that in mind, the best we can say is “Come quickly Lord Jesus.”

Where is the Victory?

Another tragedy has rocked our country and has left pundits scrambling to be heard the loudest for their cause in order to take advantage of it.  While racism and guns will be blamed – and may be part of the problem – the root of this is sin.  Racism does not exist without sin.  Gun violence does not exist without sin.  If we fix the sin problem we won’t have these tragedies any more.

And that’s the biggest problem.  Even if Christianity is wildly successful at taking people who are full of hate and filling them with the love of Jesus, all it takes is one person for such events to happen again.  But more to the point, does the church appear to be the least bit successful in reaching our culture and turning people from hate to love?  Certainly there are grand stories to be shared but overall it seems as though we are losing the battle.  And this is not just an issue in the United States.  In many places that were once predominantly Christian, it appears as though the battle has already been lost.  Grand cathedrals are no longer places of worship but are tourist attractions and markers of history of a bygone era.

From the perspective of most people, society seems to be getting worse, not better.  If that is the case, the broader question is why.  Why has the church lost ground in society?  Why has sin become so predominant everywhere we look?  And more importantly, why wasn’t sin defeated at the cross?

There are no easy answers to these questions and how a person responds to them will vary widely on the theology they’ve been taught to believe.  It wasn’t that long ago – a hundred years or so – that the predominant theology said the world would keep improving until the gospel reached everywhere and it would usher in Jesus’ Kingdom.

Now, many people believe just the opposite.  The world is getting worse and worse and it will only be fixed when Jesus returns with a sword to strike down His enemies.  Regardless of the interpretation or how literally one takes it, the book of Revelation certainly depicts a lot of calamity before peace is achieved.

This still begs the question of why though.  Why has the devil not been defeated?  It’s certainly a very hard argument to make that he is not present and active in the world today.  Where is the victory over sin and death that we were promised?  Are all of the promises of the cross only valid at the end of this age?

I don’t have all of the answers but I do have a few thoughts.  For starters, Satan has definitely been defeated already.  In our limited ability, we often depict a battle between God and Satan; I still use such metaphors myself.  That gives far too much credit to Satan and not nearly enough credit to God.  This was never a battle because that would imply that Satan ever had a chance at winning.  Satan has led a rebellion and that rebellion has been thwarted because it never stood a chance to begin with against an all-powerful God.

What we experience today is the effects of the rebellion.  The world is currently Satan’s domain.  He is the prince of this world.  To depict things in a modern context, Satan is holed up in a little house with the full force of the military outside of his door.  He currently has full reign over the things in that house but there is no way that he is getting away.  His rule is not absolute nor is it eternal.  While he holds sway over humanity now and he holds us hostage, it is only temporary and he has not usurped God’s power.

Satan has been defeated at the cross but we still see the effects of sin and death because we are incapable of viewing time from God’s perspective.  Two thousand years and counting since the time of Jesus is a very long time to us but it is the blink of an eye to God.  The rebellion has been crushed but Satan is still going to take as many people with him as he can.

We live in “the end of this age.”  Ever since Jesus ascended to heaven, every generation has had people who were convinced that He would return in their lifetime.  No matter the signs that people see, we don’t know when His return will be.  The end of the age can end tomorrow or it can stretch on for another two thousand years.  That seems unlikely to us but it certainly seemed unlikely to many in the early church who also expected Jesus’ immediate return.

The victory that we experience now is not the victory that we long for.  We long for a time when there will be no more sin or death.  We long for a time when all things will be perfect.  That is not this time.  There will be a day when that is realized however.  It has already been accomplished but it has not been put into effect yet.

We do see parts of the victory in the world around us though.  Amidst the kind of horror that we can only hope and pray we never experience, we can see Christians who respond with love and forgiveness.  This does not mean that there is not also sorrow and anger but I believe that it is only through the power of God that any kind of peace can be given in this kind of situation.

Compare the response of Christians to tragedy to that of non-Christians.  While I can’t say that it is universal, in general there is certainly a greater amount of love and forgiveness that surrounds a tragedy.  That is the victory of the cross that we experience today.  It is the ability to handle the worst of what life has to offer and still awake the next day and say “God is good.”  It doesn’t mean that a Christian is happy about the circumstances but they can still have a peace that passes understanding knowing that God still has the victory despite the evidence that sin is alive and well today.

In the end, we still long for the day when all sin is eradicated and Satan has no power over us.  While we wait, we will endure the effects of a broken world that is in rebellion against God.  But we do so knowing that it is temporary.  We will see the full effects of victory and we can experience the partial effects of it now.

What is Forgiveness?

It has become apparent to me that we really have no concept of what forgiveness really means.  Of course it’s not a surprise that the non-Christian world cannot understand the concept of absolute forgiveness, but I’ve been rather shocked that the church doesn’t seem to grasp the concept either.  As a pastor I’ve perhaps foolishly assumed that since forgiveness is something I spend a lot of time preaching about, that the church would actually understand it.

Theologically every Christian should understand the idea that sins are forgiven through Jesus and the cross.  This is not the stumbling block for forgiveness.  The real stumbling block becomes in how it is applied in everyday life.

When we ask God for forgiveness, there are no strings attached and it is instantaneous and complete.  Forgiveness from other people is a much more complicated venture even though it shouldn’t be.  Make no mistake about it, sin carries consequences and just because forgiveness is granted, it doesn’t mean that the consequences don’t still exist.  A criminal is not released from prison just because he is sorry for his actions or even if the person he has wronged has forgiven him.  Likewise, if a sin occurs within a relationship, that offense can easily be forgiven but that does not mean that there has not been damage done to that relationship.

The trouble with forgiveness from a human perspective is two-fold.  The first is whether the forgiveness we offer is truly unconditional.  There can be no forgiveness unless it is unconditional.  Our tendency is to attach strings to our forgiveness.  We’ll forgive someone so long as they make up for their wrongdoing.  We’ll forgive someone so long as they never do it again.

The second problem with forgiveness is that we place limits on the number of times we will offer it.  Matthew 18:21-22 has a telling example of forgiveness.

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Peter thought he was being gracious by being willing to forgive someone seven times but Jesus responded by saying “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”  The number is not meant to be literal but rather as a statement that forgiveness does not have a limit.

This certainly goes against our human nature.  There is a saying, “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”  In other words, if we’ve been wronged more than once, it’s partly our own fault for forgiving and trusting a person again.  But this isn’t the way that forgiveness works.  Yes, we can forgive but the relationship remains damaged.  However, our forgiveness should not be contingent on whether a person may or may not wrong us again.

It’s easy to forgive when we believe a person made a solitary mistake.  Whether it was an out of character burst of anger or a momentary lapse in judgment, we find it easier to forgive when we think it’s not going to happen again.

However, when a person continually disappoints us, whether it’s through continual drug relapses or through repeated infidelity, that’s where forgiveness really matters.  Can you forgive someone when they’ve done the same thing to you a fifth time?  The Bible not only says that we should, it is demanded of us.

If we refuse to forgive someone because they’ve hurt us for the fifth or tenth or twentieth time, do we want God to hold us to the same standard?  How many times have we hurt God?  How many times have we placed something at a higher value than God?  How many times have we felt God calling us to do something but instead said “no thanks, I’ll do it my way”?

As I’ve said, sin has consequences and this isn’t in any way to imply that forgiveness means that a person should continue to stay with an abusive partner or to endure whatever other things sin brings about.  But it does still mean that we’re called to forgive.  In some cases the hurt is so great and the damage done is so terrible that it will take years in order to unconditionally forgive someone.  That’s possible but it is not an excuse to not forgive.

If there is no sin so great that God can’t forgive, there should be no sin so terrible that we are not willing to forgive it.  If the pain is too terrible right now, at least begin by acknowledging that there can be a time in the future when you can forgive unconditionally.

When we forgive, we open ourselves up for the possibility of future hurt.  We expose ourselves and take down our guard.  Our nature and perhaps even common sense says that this is foolish because we naturally seek to protect ourselves.  But the reality is that if we refuse to forgive unconditionally, we don’t need anyone else to hurt us.  Instead we’re just continually hurting ourselves.

Common sense as well as scientific research tells us that when we hold on to grudges and do not forgive, we cause ourselves harm.  Not only do we find ourselves filled with anger and bitterness, our health suffers when we won’t forgive.  We suffer from high blood pressure, stress, tension, and all other manner of problems.

In the end, there can only be one kind of forgiveness and it has to be the same kind of forgiveness that God grants us.  That kind of forgiveness is unconditional and without limit.  There is no sin so great that God will not forgive us when we repent and God will continually forgive us no matter how many times we fail Him.

2015 – The Year of Rest

For the last several years I have assigned a theme for my year.  Last year I declared to be a Year of Grace and this absolutely turned out the be the case.  The Lord blessed my wife and I with a son after five years of struggle and heartbreak.  A couple of times throughout the year I had to return to my own writing to remind myself that things were out of my hands and that I needed God’s grace to make it through.

Typically I assign a theme at the beginning of each year and I’m late this year because of my theme.  I need rest.  Having a newborn in the house is cause enough to need rest.  My son actually sleeps well through the night but this still doesn’t negate frequent sleep interruptions.

More than just physical rest though, I need a break from my burdens.  God rested on the seventh day as an example for us to follow.  I know that there are different views on whether Christians should still hold to the Sabbath and whether it should be celebrated on the seventh day like the Jews or on Sunday like the early church.  I’m unconcerned about that debate as far as the need for rest goes.

As a pastor, I work on Sundays.  Even if I take the rest of the day off, there’s no way of getting around the fact that I work on Sunday.  So ideally I try to take another day off each week where I do nothing “productive” and don’t beat myself up for watching tv, playing games, or doing anything that would be classified as work.  Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes it is impractical because even if I’m resting, everything else around me is not.

What I have discovered though is that if I go 2 or 3 weeks where I don’t intentionally take a day off where it is decided that I won’t work, I will exhaust myself.  And typically when this happens, I’m out of sync for several days, not just one day.  Often I may skip my day of rest because there is too much work to be done but in the end I actually lose more time.  If I just took a regular day off, I’d be far more likely to prevent the kind of burnout that leads me to getting sick or too emotionally drained to do anything for several days.

The last several years have been kind of crazy by my estimation.  My responsibilities as a pastor and my personal struggles have both been greater than I believe is typical.  The Lord has been gracious and has kept me strong through it all.  He has showered me with blessings beyond measure despite the trials that I have endured.  Because of all that I’ve been through, I’m asking for rest this year.

I know that I am incapable of just deciding to rest.  Just like with grace, this needs to be something that God grants to me.  So I am praying that the Lord grants me rest this year; that He would remove obstacles from my life this year that I might recuperate and recover and be more willing and able to serve Him faithfully when the time of rest is over.  I pray that the Lord would grant me the opportunity to enjoy my new son without the interruptions like I have experienced in previous years or even ones that are typical in everyday life.

Rest was important enough that God wanted the Israelites to do so every seven days but also every seven years.  The Israelites never celebrated a Sabbath year as far as we know.  I don’t presume to be able to take an entire year off from working and I enjoy my job enough that I wouldn’t want to.  But I am asking that the Lord would grant me rest by easing my burdens this year.

Does God Exist?

When looking at the turmoil around the world today – fighting happening everywhere, innocent people dying, children being abused – it would be easy to question the existence of God.  The sad irony is that this statement is true today, it was true ten years ago, and it will be accurate no matter how far in the future you stumble across this post.  The world is a frightful, violent, and sinful place.  There will always be fighting in the Middle East, there will always be countries undergoing revolution, there will always be sinful people doing horrible things to other people.

So with the presence of so much evil in the world there are plenty of people who want to take this as proof that God does not exist.  Because if God existed – and He is the loving God that we claim Him to be – then He certainly wouldn’t turn a blind eye to all of the horrible things that go on in our planet.

There are two approaches to this false notion.  The first is the truth that God exists but God is not present everywhere.  Listen carefully because this is not saying that God is not omnipresent – everywhere.  I know it sounds like I just contradicted myself.  What I mean is that God does not dwell in the heart of every person.  Sinful people do sinful things.

If you sit in a bright and sunny room and then close the curtains to that room, the room gets dark.  The existence of dark in that room is not proof that light does not exist.  Everyone knows that it is just outside of the curtains and that to make the room light once again all that is needed is to open the curtains.  It’s the same way with God.  Evil exists because God has been shut out.  God does not force Himself upon anyone and turn them into mindless creatures who can do nothing but follow His will.

So, evil exists not because God wants it to but because man wants it to and God has given man freewill to choose rather than forcing us all into loving Him and obeying all that He says.

The other side to the problem of evil is that God has done something about evil; He fixed the problem once and for all by sending His Son into the world to die for humanity’s sin.  As horrific as the problem of evil looks when we glance around at the world today, that is minor compared to the real issue.  The horrors that exist in this world, while certainly not meaning to trivialize them, are nothing compared to the fact that sin separates us from God.  Separation from God is hell, figuratively and ultimately literally as well.  The horrors of this world are just a fraction of how horrible eternal separation from God truly is.

Of course everyone wants a quick solution to the problem of sin.  It would be nice if Jesus’ work on the cross had not only defeated sin but had also eradicated it.  It has been 2000 years, so what’s the hold up?  Clearly God does not work on our timetable and the short lifespan that we enjoy is nothing in the eyes of God.  He is not slow to enact His plan.  The coming of Jesus was first prophesied about way back in Genesis 3:15 in the Garden of Eden.  It took thousands of years until Jesus came.  The Israelites left Egypt in 1446 BC to go to a land that had been promised to their forefathers 400 years beforehand.  While they temporarily possessed much of it, they never took hold of the entire inheritance and still wait 3800 years later.  The Israelites were promised a descendant of King David to reign on his throne forever.  It took 1000 years for Jesus to come and 2000 years after that the people of Israel are still waiting for that literal reign to occur.

The point of the brief history lesson is just a reminder that evil is already defeated; it is taken care of, eliminated, wiped away.  What we see and will continue to see are the death throes of sin and evil.  It’s not that God doesn’t exist or that He can’t handle the problem of evil.  He already has.  The problem is that we cannot see the big picture and we are here for what is ultimately a short time in what appears to be a long process to our eyes.

The unfortunate reality is that while we wait for the culmination of sin’s defeat we will continue to experience sin and evil in this world.  It is not pleasant nor pretty.  It is likely to get even uglier before the end.  Every generation since Christ left has looked around at the evil in the world and been convinced that it was so horrid that it was evidence that Jesus was returning in their lifetime.

Whether Jesus returns tomorrow or in another thousand years is frankly anyone’s guess.  Sin and evil will continue until that day when they are completely eradicated and all of humanity stands to be judged whether at the Judgment Seat of Christ or the Great White Throne of Judgment.  As we wait we have two responsibilities.  The first is to do our best to spread the love of God to fight back against evil.  And the second is to simply pray “Come quickly Lord Jesus.”

Biblical Goal Setting

I am not a very structured person which is kind of ironic because most pastors (senior pastors that is) are very structured, strong type A personalities.  That being said, I recognize this as a weakness and I try to do what I can to accommodate this weakness.  For me, the computer helps me to organize things and I keep spreadsheets for virtually everything I do.  When it comes to real papers and such, I’m probably a lost cause however.

What’s the point of this story?  A few years back I had a graduate class on leadership.  The only thing I really remember from the class was a section on creating goals.  I recently ran across my notes from class and thought that this would make a good book.  So that’s what I did.  I wrote a short book on the subject of setting Biblical goals.

goalcover2

For the most part, this book is like any other book that deals with setting goals.  What makes your goals Biblical has to do with your priorities as a Christian.  This doesn’t mean that all of your goals will be about “church stuff” but rather that you recognize what your priorities are supposed to be and that you rank the achievement of your goals accordingly.

While I had sort of incorporated the lessons from my class a few years ago, writing this book has caused me to redouble my efforts at scheduling my time and really being specific about about what I hope to accomplish and when.  So part of me wants to self congratulate and say that if I can do this, anyone can.  And I also want to say “I’m not also the writer, I’m also a client.”

Either way, I believe that the book is worth your investment in time and money – only $2.99! – regardless whether I wrote the book or not.  Because frankly these are not my ideas and I can’t claim to any genius plan, I just broke down good thoughts that other people had and put them into a book.

Currently the book is available on Kindle but it will also be released on Nook and through multiple other e-book distributors.  You can find out all about the book and how to purchase it at our new site Biblical Goal Setting.

What Does Christ Mean?

Previously I wrote extensively about the name Jesus.  This is a continuation on the thoughts about Jesus’ name but now focusing on Christ.

It’s quite possible that you see the name Jesus Christ and you think those two names together as Jesus’ first and last names.  Well, that would be incorrect because the people of that day didn’t use last names like we do today.  Jesus would have been identified as Jesus, the son of Joseph, or more technically “Jesus bar Joseph” as “bar” means “son of.”  (You’ll see “bar” in several names in the Bible.  Barnabas means “son of encouragement.”  The murdered who was released to the people instead of Jesus on the Passover was Barabbas which very ironically means “son of the father.”)

So, if not a last name, where does Christ fit with the name Jesus?  Quite simply, Christ is a title.  It is no different in usage than how you would refer to someone as Dr. or sir.  Given the meaning of this title, it might be more technically correct to say Jesus the Christ.  Or one might argue that the word “the” is implied in the meaning of Christ and therefore unnecessary.

So, getting to the point, what does Christ mean?  It means “anointed one” or “the anointed one.”  This doesn’t sound like too big of a deal unless you realize that the term Messiah also means anointed one.  When people referred to Jesus as Christ, they were recognizing Him as the Messiah.

In Peter’s confession of the Christ, Jesus asked the question “who do you say I am?”  Peter answered by saying “you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Peter did not respond just by repeating back a title that he had heard.  Instead, he was recognizing that Jesus was the Messiah that had been prophesied about and whom the Jews were waiting for for hundreds of years.

Some translations of the Bible are now choosing to translate Christ as Messiah in certain situations.  This is neither good nor bad in my view.  In some cases it makes it clear that the title is understood as the Messiah.  However, if you were familiar with Christ in the particular passage, it could lead to confusion if you don’t understand why the change occurred.  They mean the same.

The final question concerning Christ is whether we should use it alone, in place of Jesus, or only in combination – Jesus Christ.  To me, it makes no difference.  I use Jesus or Christ or Jesus Christ interchangeably in my writing and speaking.  The same person is recognized no matter how it is said.

In the New Testament you’ll also find Jesus, Christ, and Jesus Christ used interchangeably.  I haven’t studied closely enough but there may be a pattern to the usage by each author.  Paul might use Jesus more often in certain instances and Christ more often depending on the context.  I simply can’t say without more research.  But I can say that all three are used independently of themselves and therefore I have no problem using any of them myself.

So refer to Jesus as you like.  Just remember that Christ is not His last name.  Instead it is a title that is an acknowledgement of Him being the Messiah.

What was Jesus’ Real Name?

It may sound like a silly question to ask “what was Jesus’ real name” unless you’ve spent some time on Christian message boards or reading certain Christian blogs.  If you have, you’ll probably notice certain people adamantly insist on referring to Jesus as Yeshua.  These people will often argue with you why you are wrong for calling Jesus, well, Jesus.

What this all comes down to is languages and the translations of those languages.  Some people don’t really that the Bible was not written in English.  Instead it was translated into English from the original languages.  More knowledgeable people know that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament was written in Greek.  But technically part of the Old Testament was written in Aramaic as well and that does have a bearing on this whole thing.

The Jews spoke and wrote Hebrew up until King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and carried the people away into exile.  In Babylon they were surrounded by a new culture and a new language – Aramaic.  Part of the book of Daniel and the book of Esther were written in the language of the Babylonians – Aramaic.  When the exiles returned in Ezra and Nehemiah’s day, they were unable to understand their own scriptures because they were written in Hebrew.  Only the educated scribes and scholars were still able to read the scriptures which is why the people reacted as though they had never heard them read before – they hadn’t.

Things get even more complicated by Jesus’ day.  In Jerusalem there would have been three languages spoken.  The common language of the Jewish people would have been Aramaic still.  The scribes and scholars would have been able to read Hebrew but it wouldn’t have been used commonly.  Then there was the Greek language.  This was known as the “trade language” because it was the common language of the rest of the Roman world.  If you had to deal with anyone who was a Gentile, you probably had to deal with them in Greek.

Now, why is all of this relevant?  Because Mary and Joseph would have spoken Aramaic like the rest of the Jews.  The name given to Jesus would not have been Jesus, nor would it have been the Hebrew Yeshua either, but the Aramaic form of this name.  And guess what, that Aramaic doesn’t look anything like any kind of English – Jesus

And that’s really my point.  No matter how you insist on pronouncing it or what you insist is the “real” name of Jesus, unless you speak and write ancient Aramaic, you’re using a translation of the name.  Several of those Aramaic letters have no equivalent sound in the English language.  One close approximation is Eashoa.  Others have insisted it is still Yeshua.  The fact is that nothing can be 100% correct because we just don’t have letters for those sounds in English.

Having sort of answered the question “what is Jesus’ real name” there is still another question out there.  And that would be, why is Jesus called Jesus?  And that’s a fairly easy one.  That Aramaic name, no matter how you want to pronounce it, is translated in Greek as Jesus.  Technically in Greek it looks like Iesus because there is no letter J in Greek.  Since the New Testament was written in Greek, that’s what the early church would have referred to Jesus as, not His Aramaic name and not His Hebrew name.

In the end, it’s not a matter of what the name is or how we pronounce it.  What is truly important is what the name means.  The Aramaic approximation means “life-giver” which is actually my least favorite meaning.  Both the Greek and Hebrew forms of the name mean Yahweh (the Lord) saves.  There could hardly be a more appropriate meaning for the name of Jesus.

And now, just in case you were wondering, Jesus was hardly a unique name.  We equate it with the one and only Jesus but there were several by that name in the Old Testament, they just happened to be transliterated from the Hebrew rather than translated into Greek.  You know the Hebrew form of Jesus better, not as Yeshua, but as Joshua.  In the end, call it what you want, it all means the same.  And if you speak a language other than English, you’re going to find another translation or transliteration and it’s going to sound even different.

After all of this, you might still be wondering about how “Christ” fits into all of this.  Well, that’s going to be another post, so be sure to click the link above for that information.