Sketching HIStory #3

Sketching-HIStory-2-wIntroduction – The Bible is God-breathed

home-altar-w.jpgWhen I was growing up, we lived in the Philippines which was mostly Roman Catholic. In our home, like in many Filipino houses, we had an alcove that was traditionally reserved for family religious icons. On the wall panel, we had a statue image of Jesus as he was ascending into heaven. Underneath was an altar, a narrow table laid out with a beautiful white table cover intricately knitted by my grandmother (on my mother’s side). On the two ends of the table were a pair of candles on silver sticks. At the center, sitting on a slight tilted easel, was our large family Bible. I still remember it well. From a child’s perspective, it was massive and looked quite heavy. I remember my grandmother would scare my siblings and especially me that if we were bad, we’d have to kneel before the altar holding that heavy book up. As the naughtiest, she would dramatically point at it whenever she was annoyed by me. Funny thing though, she never did carry it out.

Anyway, I can still see it in my mind’s eye. It’s thick fabric cover was faded white (almost beige) with the words THE HOLY BIBLE and the cross embossed in whitish-gold on it. Just under the cover, on the second page, are the names of my family and our respective birth dates. I considered it quite sacred, though at that time I didn’t really understand what it meant. As a kid, I was always attracted to that book. Little did I know that written in it were words that would eventually change my life. It was almost three decades later that I got myself a smaller Bible that guided me through my greatest challenges in life and even beyond. Can you believe it?

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However, before I get to that part of my own history, allow me to put out this unmistakable statistic. The Bible is still the best-selling book of all time.

Did you know that when the printing press was invented, the Gutenberg Bible was the first printed book to hit the market? The Bible has been a massive influence on literature and history, especially in the Western World. According to the March 2007 edition of Time, the Bible “has done more to shape literature, history, entertainment, and culture than any book ever written. Its influence on world history is unparalleled, and shows no signs of abating.” [content from Wikipedia]

Of course, it was not statistics nor its influences that impressed me. You see, during my ‘wild and rebellious’ years, the sacredness of the Bible had less an effect on me. Mainly, I got into my head that it was outdated and probably was not relevant to my life. Keep in mind, though, that the only Scriptures I knew were those that were more or less taught in Catholic catechism. The catechism was promulgated by the Catholic Church to reinforce principles and beliefs of the Catholic faithful. I was a kid then and I must admit, I was a lousy student.

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fr-peyton-w.jpgBesides that, what else I knew about the Bible and God was from stories told by family and… believe it or not… from Cecil B. de Mille movies like The Ten Commandments, Samson and Delilah and The King of Kings.

Oh, I almost forgot about the 1960s TV series, Father Patrick Peyton’s Family Theatre which showed dramatized episodes of the Gospel.

That was the extent of my knowledge of God which, looking back, was superficial at best.

I say superficial because I had my own ideas of God. It was either incomplete or most of the time, downright wrong and not based on knowledge (Romans 10:2). How did I know? In hindsight, my little knowledge of Him had not stirred my life to fruition. Even with my college education, I felt empty, unfulfilled and a man with no direction. Like a ship with no rudder, I was subject to the winds and tides (trials & problems of life) that would eventually push me to the rocks and destruction. But then the Bible miraculously opened up to me. What do I mean? Before, others tried to get me to read the Bible but every time I tried… nothing! The words didn’t move me. Today, I know why. During those times, I had no real desire to get to know God. It was only when I came to the realization that I really needed to find out more about Him was when His Word breathed life into me (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

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I became inspired. As 2nd Timothy 3 says above, the Bible, even after 25 years since I thoughtfully opened the book, is still teaching me. I can never exhaust learning from His word. His word is truly living especially when it rebukes, corrects and trains me in righteousness.

So, how did I discover the true God when my eyes first open to His Word?

road-to-emmaus-4-wLet’s go back to the road to Emmaus. Jesus, who those two disciples were still prevented to recognize, took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. [Luke 24:27 NLT] The master teacher of all time brought them back to the beginning of the only Bible they had at that time, the Old Testament. Luke 24 verse 27 mentions first the writings of Moses. Moses wrote five crucial books the first of which is the Book of Genesis. This is the beginning of the Bible. This was where the Lord started me on more than 25 years ago.

Sketching HIStory (SH) will follow the same chronological path through the Bible and I will take on the role of a storyteller. In those stories, I will include my own thoughts and questions I had at that time. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I will also provide related illustrations sketched out either by me or from other sources. My goal is that you will get to know HIM intimately like the way I did. But this blog will only highlight the Scriptural mile stones. It is not an adequate substitution for you to read His words on your own. In fact, I would encourage you to not take my word on face value but seek out what Scripture actually says. Then, you would be prepared and equipped to do every good work, like I have witnessed time after time from those that read and believed.

crimson-thread-wOne other thing that I want to emphasize as we walk together along the chronological trail of God’s story. I believe I will not be committing ‘spoiler alert’ violations when I stipulate what is widely taught that the Old Testament ultimately pointed to Jesus Christ. This is what Jesus was talking about on the road to Emmaus. As a storyteller and follower, I can do no less than try to emulate the Teacher. So, as I post my SH blog entry, I will layout a… CRIMSON THREAD. When you see this symbol, I hope you can see the connection. The rest is up to you.

Well, this is the end of the Introduction. In my next post, let us meet God in the beginning.

Sketching HIStory #2

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Introduction – The Road to Emmaus

There is a road that goes from Jerusalem to the coastal town of Jaffa. No, I’m not talking about the modern day highway where folks from Jerusalm make their way to the hip city of Tel Aviv. Nope, I’m referring to some 2000 years ago, an ancient caravan road about 8 feet wide, enough for five Roman legionnaires marching abreast. It was probably stone-paved and metaled built by their own engineers.

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Now, it was mid-day Sunday, the beginning of the week right after the most eventful Passover in history. Two men, Jews, by the way they’re dressed, were just exiting the north-west gate of the city. They were heading back to their home in the village of Emmaus, about seven miles away. After two weeks celebrating in the city, you would think that these two men would look happy to head home, but instead they were quite somber. Even more so, when they walked by a hill just outside the walls. The hill had a gruesome reputation. The occupants of the city knew it as the hill of the skull. It was frequently used by the Romans for crucifixion. The two men paused to look up to find three empty crosses, the center of which still had the dark stain of blood. They quicken their pace.

As they crested a hill, they began discussing the past events. They were so at it that they didn’t notice a third person behind them, listening. That person was Jesus himself. But they did not know it was him, because they were prevented to recognize him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”road-to-emmaus-2-w.jpg

They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”

“What things?” Jesus asked.

“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” he said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.”

“Then some women from our group of his followers,” said the other disciple, “were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.” [Luke 24:13-24]

Let me pause the story here.

Sketching HIStory is suppose to be about telling God’s story from the beginning to… well… when it came to Him, there is no end. So, why am I starting HIStory at the time of Jesus Christ’s resurrection?

Because of the questions that were in their hearts.

A good story for me always needs a good reason for the telling. Questions have to asked. Now, on that road to Emmaus, Cleopas and his companion had a lot of questions to contend with.

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Just a week before, they were ecstatic to see Jesus, the Messiah, coming into the city like triumphant king as foretold. His miracles and teachings made him the man to see and to put a lot of hope on. They were expecting great things, but then their own leaders had him killed on the cross. Then, confusion was added to their distress, when the city was stirred with the rumors of his impossible resurrection.

What is going on? How can this happen? Why did he have to die? Then, it becomes more personal. What’s going to happen to me? In the long run, all those questions target God. Questions like…

Why war? …crime? …cruelty? …devastation?

Why is God allowing this to happen?

Does He not care?

Deep inside, we want answers to these questions.

Now, I am going to put my neck out on the chopping block and un-apologetically testify that the source of all those questions can be answered by reading and understanding God’s story. But don’t take my word for it.

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Let’s get back on the road and our story. After Jesus heard the concerns of the two followers, I can almost see the empathy showing on his face and a gleam in his eyes like he knew something that they didn’t. With a knowing smile, he fondly placed his hands on their shoulders and said, “You foolish people!”

No, he is not calling them ‘stupid’! The Greek word of foolish is anoétos (pronounced as an-o’-ay-tos) which means ‘properly, non-thinking, i.e. not reasoning through a matter (with proper logic). In other words, they who were taught the Scriptures since childhood should have known better.

“You find it so hard to believe,” Jesus continued, “… all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures (Old Testament). Was it not clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?”

Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. [Luke 24:25-27 NLT]

Imagine, them walking seven miles being treated to the best Bible Study they’d ever heard by the best teacher that ever existed. Of course, that’s my personal opinion but an accurate one. I wish I was there with them. Wow!

In my next post, I’ll end this Introduction with a short walk-through about those writings that Jesus talked about. See you the next time.