Sunday Worship – 7.15.2012 & other musings…

19 07 2012

So, it’s been over a year since I blogged anything…  That’s PITIFUL!!  My new goal is to at least blog once a week to cover do a recap of Triumph – Nederland’s worship sets.  That’s not a hard thing to do, I hope…

This past Sunday was great.  We had only one band member missing – Pastor Anthony Fields.  I suppose he gets a pass – he and Pastor Deirdre had their beautiful baby last week.  We had some minor sound issues – Pastor Sara couldn’t hear correctly through her PEM, and Martin’s, our MD, talk-back mic wouldn’t work.  We plowed through, but it wasn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do.

Our set consisted of…

Rez Power by Free Chapel – This went really well; although, I never did get the melody line correct in one spot on the chorus.  I don’t know what as going on with me.

You Are Good by Bethel –  Albert Clavijo led this song this week.  The overall sound for the song was really great.  I love Albert’s energy when he leads.

I Will Search by Israel & New Breed – One of my all-time favorite worship songs.  It just says it all.  Pastor Sara blew it out this week.  I was a little shocked that she didn’t do the bridge, but it ended up being great that she skipped it.

10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman – I just can’t get this song out of my head…  Amazing stuff.  I’m so glad that I took the risk to introduce it to our congregation.  It gets a little wordy, but the lyrics are so powerful.  I also love the fact that we do the song where you really don’t know who is leading.  I think it helps the congregation really get into the song.

I Will Rejoice by David and Nicole Binion – In my opinion, nobody sings this song better than my wife.  There’s such passion and richness to her voice on this song.  I also LOVE singing the duet with her on the second verse.

Overall, there was such a sweet presence of God in the place Sunday morning.  At first, everyone felt a little sleepy, but we woke ’em all up a few minutes into it.

We rounded out the worship service with Pastor Sara and Amanda Trammel singing Anthony Evans’ arrangement of Your Great Name/Forever Reign.  This is such a powerful combination of two incredible songs.  The ladies were great together and really did a fabulous job.

This week, we have the perfect storm hitting us.  Our MD, Martin, and his wife, Amanda, are on vacation this week.  Then, we have youth camp going on which takes out quite a few folks.  Then, the Beaumont Campus needs some support, so I’m sending some vocalists.  We’ll see what we have left…  Should be interesting…

 





2010 was a BIG year…

13 12 2010

As I sit here looking at the Christmas tree and surrounded by folded laundry just begging to be put away, my mind wanders to the events of this year.  It has truly been a very challenging season for Sara and me, but when I think of all that has been accomplished, I realize how much God has been with us through every bit of it.

I just want to take a little time to give glory to God for some of the highlights of the year…

In the fall of 2009, I began to feel God leading me to further my education.  I began to research graduate schools online and had two schools to choose from.  After seeking counsel from my pastors, I decided to go with Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.  I completed all of the necessary paperwork and enrolled.  Classes started on January 18.  I had signed up for full-time status (2 classes per 8-week term).  Even though I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of reading and writing assignments, I loved every minute of it.  After receiving very positive feedback from my professors, I began to see that I was going to succeed and surpass my expectations.  Although I have had to have student loans to attend graduate school, I somehow know that God is going to provide.

I began seriously running at the beginning of the year.  My goal was to complete the Gusher Half-Marathon.  In the process, I went to Tyler, TX to run the Tyler Azalea 10k with a friend of mine that I met on Twitter, Caleb Canal.  It was a really great run, and I exceeded my time goal!  I made a great friend and found out that the hills of Tyler were rough on the hamstrings!!

Gusher – I still cannot believe that I completed the Gusher Half.  13.1 miles without stopping…  I would have never dreamed that I would have completed such an insane event.  I can remember that I trained all during the winter/spring for the event with great weather conditions.  We had a cool winter with relatively no humidity.  The morning of the Gusher, we had an unbelievable amount of humidity, and it was HOT!  My body was not happy, thus my time was not great.  Hopefully, I can beat my time next year.  Even though I was a little disappointed in my result, I still can’t believe that I ran the race!!

In May, Sara and I moved one step closer to adopting our boys.  I can’t discuss any details of the case, and we’re still in the middle of a long battle; but I just know that these are our little boys forever and ever.

The summer of 2010 was a great year in our music department.  In May, I sat down to plan the entire summer’s music selections and gave all of the material to our phenomenal band leader.  Martin took all of the stuff and got to work with the band.  The vocal team worked very hard, and the end result was a power-packed summer of fantastic music and intense worship experiences.  To cap it all off, in August, we introduced a song – “You Are Worthy”.  It really was an amazing moment and one that I will not soon forget!

Also in August, Sara and I were able to participate in Israel Houghton‘s worship conference, A Deeper Level 2010.  This was my third year to attend and second time at the One Church Worship Academy.  God always meets us in a special way at this conference, but this year somehow seemed different.  The weight of the deposit from the Holy Spirit was just unbelievable.  I am still gaining strength from what we experienced this year.  Thanks, Iz!!

In September, I decided to join Triumph Church Physical Training as a part of the “Challenge”.  It is an military-based exercise program that’s just insanity defined.  We met 5 days a week at 5:20am at that Nederland track for 10 weeks.  Our instructors led us through some really intense regimens that challenged me physically, mentally and spiritually.  I got hurt at some point in the process and thought I was out for good, but the instructors made some adjustments to the program to allow me to be a part and ultimately graduate.  Speaking of graduate, the final challenge was AMAZING!!!  I don’t know how long it lasted that night, but I really felt like they were going to kill us.  As much pain as I was in, the feeling of accomplishment at the end was worth every minute.  I can’t believe that I was able to do all of that at 35 years old.  Either I’m stronger than I realized or am just plain STUPID!!

That brings me to December…

Sara and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary.  I can’t believe it has been 6 years…  I have the most amazing, talented, strong, funny, interesting, beautiful wife on the planet.  Thank you, Sassy, for being my best friend and love of my life.  You are an incredible mommy, too!!

Last Saturday night, Sara and I went to Grace Church of Humble, TX to attend their Christmas Concert directed by Pastor Hector Soto.  Pastor Hector and his wife Roxann have become dear friends and mentors of Sara and me over the past year.  God placed them in our lives, and I will be FOREVER grateful.  Anyway, the concert was BEAUTIFUL, AMAZING, WONDERFUL, SPECTACULAR, etc…  The musicianship was unbelievable.  I’m still just amazed at what we saw.  That truly was a highlight of my year.

Tomorrow is my boys’ 4th birthday.  I wish I could talk more about them online, but privacy laws prohibit it.  Just know that I could not be more proud of them and all that they have accomplished this year.  They are still dealing with the effects of the events of their lives before they came to live with us, but they are doing so good and growing up so fast.  They’re my BOYS!!!

I know there must be more that I am missing, but these were the moments that really stand out.  Thanks for reading about some of my all-time favorite moments of 2010.

2011 is gonna be even better!!!!





Education, Discipleship, and Spiritual Formation

10 06 2010

This is my second essay on the subject of Discipleship.  I welcome comments!

A recent study of born-again adult believers shows that most acknowledge that spiritual formation or development is a primary responsibility of a follower of Christ and may be a helpful endeavor; however, they do not feel that it is a pressing need in their lives because they feel that they have mostly mastered the concepts of the Christian faith.[1] Making disciples is the ultimate goal of all believers.  It is what Jesus commanded His followers to do before He ascended to heaven.  He stated in Matthew 28:19a, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”  When considering discipleship, one must ask the question, “How does this happen?”  Discipleship is not a one-time event.  Discipleship is a lifestyle of learning and growing in the things of God as Paul said in Philippians 3:12.  It is a constant process of being trained and mentored by an individual or a collective effort of a group of people.  For the church to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus and make disciples of all nations a thorough understanding of discipleship, education, and spiritual formation and how they interact with each other must be ascertained.

A true disciple can be defined as “becoming a complete and competent follower of Jesus Christ.”[2] It also refers to “someone who is a learner of follower who serves as an apprentice under the tutelage of a master.”[3] Based on this information concerning discipleship, it can easily be established that learning must take place.  The true disciple must have the capability to learn, the ability to learn.  Also, the desire to learn must exist.  It has been established that discipleship is a process.  It is a lifestyle of deliberate choices and decisions to follow Christ and to obey all that He has commanded in His Word.  The key word in the study of discipleship is “process.”  That word connotes a series of steps to attain a certain goal.

Education is a major step in the process of becoming a true disciple of Jesus.  Education has been defined as “the creative process of promoting and attaining growth and development, enabling the complete individual to contribute to his or her culture.”[4] By definition, education is a process in much the same way as discipleship.  In the process of education, there must be a relationship between the teacher and the student (1 Corinthians 11:1).  The student learns from the teacher that which has been designed for the student to teach.  Every student has a different capacity for learning; therefore the methods of teaching or training must be adjusted for every student in order for learning to be most effective.  In relation to discipleship, education is the process by which the disciple learns information from the master, whether that is through classic education styles, such as classroom training, or in more practical activities, such as outreaches.  Without education, disciple making would be impossible.  Education is the vehicle by which information is transferred to the disciple from the master.

The process of becoming a true disciple of Jesus includes another very important piece.  Spiritual formation or growth must take place in the life of the disciple.  George Barna stated, “Churches that are most effective in discipleship have a philosophy of ministry that places daily spiritual growth at the core of the ministry.”[5] Spiritual formation is also a process.  Paul stated in his letter to the Corinthians, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18).”  We move from glory to glory by spiritual transformation.  That process is very similar to another principle that Paul spoke of – sanctification. Sanctification is defined as “being set apart by God and for God.”[6] When Jesus called His disciples, He set them apart for Himself.  He required of them that they leave everything and follow Him.  They left their homes, careers, families, and personal ambitions.  Jesus told His disciples that they must turn from their selfish ways and take up their crosses and follow Him (Matt 16:24).  Sanctification is a process whereby disciples are spiritually set apart to follow Christ and reproduce themselves in the earth.

An understanding of discipleship, education, and spiritual formation are key in becoming true disciples of Jesus and fulfilling the Great Commission of making other disciples.  These three elements are not mutually exclusive.  One cannot have discipleship without education.  Education holds within its very nature an element of discipleship in the teacher-student relationship.  Being a true disciple of Jesus Christ requires that spiritual formation take place. Church ministries should have discipleship as their primary focus.  Spiritual formation would be a natural result of the discipleship program, and education would be the process by which the discipleship would take place.  Barna stated, “True discipleship creates Christians who aggressively pursue spiritual growth rather than passively experience spiritual evolution.”[7] The body of Christ must aggressively pursue creating disciples by fostering an environment, which enhances spiritual growth through the process of education by a quality teacher-student relationship.   

Bibliography

Barna, George.  Growing True Disciples.  Colorado Springs, CO:  WaterBrook Press, 2001.

Gangel, Kenneth O.  Holman New Testament Commentary: Acts, ed. Max Anders.  Nashville,            TN:  Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998.

Mitchell, Dr. Michael R.  “On the Structure of the Discipline and the Essential Activities of            Education.”  Liberty University BlackBoard. http://bb7.liberty.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tabGroup=courses&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fcontent%2FcontentWrapper.jsp%3Fcontent_id%3D_7962168_1%26displayName%3DLinked%2BFile%26course_id%3D_929907_1%26navItem%3Dcontent%26attachment%3Dtrue%26href%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fbb7.liberty.edu%252F%2540%2540%252FB366EB213446C70095182FB591F9C8B2%252Fcourses%252F1%252FDSMN500_B07_201030%252Fcontent%252F_7962168_1%252Fembedded%252F5_Qs_Summary_Pub_Ed.pdf.  Internet.  Accessed on May 23, 2010.


[1] George Barna, Growing True Disciples (Colorado Springs, CO:  WaterBrook Press, 2001), 34.

[2] Ibid., 17.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Dr. Michael R. Mitchell, “On the Structure of the Discipline and the Essential Activities of Education.”  Liberty University BlackBoard. http://bb7.liberty.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tabGroup=courses&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fcontent%2FcontentWrapper.jsp%3Fcontent_id%3D_7962168_1%26displayName%3DLinked%2BFile%26course_id%3D_929907_1%26navItem%3Dcontent%26attachment%3Dtrue%26href%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fbb7.liberty.edu%252F%2540%2540%252FB366EB213446C70095182FB591F9C8B2%252Fcourses%252F1%252FDSMN500_B07_201030%252Fcontent%252F_7962168_1%252Fembedded%252F5_Qs_Summary_Pub_Ed.pdf (accessed May 23, 2010).

[5] George Barna, Growing True Disciples, 31.

[6] Kenneth O. Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary: Acts, ed. Max Anders (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 348.

[7] George Barna, Growing True Disciples, 167.





Discipleship Essay #1 – “What Is Discipleship?”

7 06 2010

I will be posting my essays on Discipleship in the coming weeks.  I enjoy feedback from my readers, so let’s discuss discipleship!

“Discipleship” is one of the most misinterpreted and least understood words in the Christian vernacular.  Any Christian that has been a Christ-follower for any length of time should know about the Great Commission where Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 28:19-20 to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”.  Basically, He was instructing those that followed Him during His ministry to reproduce themselves in the earth.  These disciples were eyewitness to the amazing miracles He performed.  They had first-hand knowledge of the incredible teachings of Jesus.  They knew what to do with that information.  They were to go to Jerusalem and start making disciples there.  Then, they were to go to Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth spreading the good news of Jesus and making disciples everywhere that they went.  These original disciples carried within them the DNA to reproduce themselves under the power of the Holy Spirit everywhere that they went; however, discipleship is about more than making relationships with people and sharing the gospel.  Discipleship carries with it costs, conditions, and an incredible responsibility to reproduce in the earth.

When Jesus called His disciples to follow Him, He did not immediately tell them the cost of the decision they were about to make.  The Gospel writers tell us that He simply said, “Follow Me.”  The costs were built into the call.  For those that decided to follow Jesus, they left behind careers, homes, family, and other things that they cherished or felt gave them worth.  Another call in Scripture to be a disciple or follower was the call of Elijah and Elisha in 1 Kings 19:19-21.  When Elijah called Elisha in the field by casting his mantle upon him, Elisha responded immediately and left his father and mother and destroyed his oxen thereby leaving his home and career to follow this man and the call of God.  Elisha remained with Elijah for the remainder of Elijah’s ministry and learned all that he could from this mighty man.  The results were much the same as the disciples of Jesus.  Elisha’s immediate willingness to count the cost and follow Elijah resulted in him receiving a double portion of his anointing.  Elisha consequently performed twice as many miracles as Elijah.  When Jesus was speaking in John 14:12, He told His disciples that they would do greater works than He would do.  When the costs of discipleship are counted and “paid” immediately by the disciple, God reciprocates by allowing the disciple to function at a greater capacity than the master.

To go along with the costs of discipleship, there are also conditions placed on the disciple.  Many times, Jesus told His followers that they must do something before they could be true disciples.  In Dr. Michael R. Mitchell’s article, “The Conditions of Discipleship,” he states some of the main categories of conditions that Jesus gave His disciples.  Self-denial is the first on this list.  Jesus warned His disciples that they must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him in Mark 8:34 or they would not be considered His disciples.  Jesus also instructed His disciples that to be a true follower, they must leave everything including family, jobs, homes, etc.  Jesus went so far as to require that personal possessions be sold and the profits given to the poor (Matt. 19:21).  Dr. Mitchell ended his article with the categories of “Leaving all,” “Steadfastness,” “Fruitfulness,” and “Love.”  God required in the Ten Commandments to have no other gods before Him, and Jesus reiterated that fact in the conditions He placed on His disciples.  Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ was to become “an all-consuming obsession.”[1]

Reproduction is not just a good suggestion from Jesus, but it was His final commandment before His ascension to the Father.  He told His disciples to go and make disciples.  They were to reproduce themselves in the earth.  God also gave a similar commandment to Adam and Eve when He told them to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28).  God never intended for His people to cease reproducing in the earth and not carry out His will and purpose.  A wise man once said, “Christianity is one generation away from extinction.”  If the body of Christ does not reproduce itself by making disciples, we will have ceased to fulfill the commandment of Jesus.  Barna stated in his book, Growing True Disciples, “An individual who does not reproduce himself in Christ is not truly a disciple since he does not exhibit the selfless love of the Master.”[2] Elijah reproduced himself in Elisha.  Moses reproduced himself in Joshua.  Jesus reproduced Himself in His disciples and the rest of the body of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Many Christians today have either not been taught or they do not fully understand the concept of discipleship.  The body of Christ as a whole has not grasped the gravity of the costs, the conditions, or the responsibility to reproduce itself in the earth.  True discipleship, as defined by Barna, is “becoming a complete and competent follower of Jesus Christ.”[3] The true disciple of Christ must be completely sold out to His cause and mission.  He or she must also be competent in knowing the Word of God and have the ability to teach and train others to do the same.  Barna also describes discipleship as “about being and reproducing spiritually mature zealots for Christ.”[4] Discipleship is about building relationships with people and allowing the Holy Spirit to work through those relationships to allow supernatural reproduction to take place.

Bibliography

Barna, George. Growing True Disciples: New Strategies for Producing Genuine

Followers of Christ. Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press, 2001.


[1] George Barna, Growing True Disciples (Colorado Spring, CO:  WaterBrook Press, 2001), 19.

[2] Ibid., 23.

[3] Ibid., 17.

[4] Ibid., 18.





Unreached People Group Project – Crimean Tatars of Romania

14 05 2010

Here is the infamous project on the Crimean Tatars of Romania for my World Missions class at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary – ICST 500.  Honestly, I didn’t want to write this paper.  I felt like it was a waste of time; however, the more I researched, interviewed, scoured the web, etc., the more I fell in love with these people.  Lord, forgive my selfishness.  Send someone to these beautiful people.  If it’s me, I’ll go.  Enjoy!

Unreached People Group – Crimean Tatars of Romania

Introduction

The Crimean Tatar (or Tartar) people have been in existence for hundreds of years.  They originated in the southern portion of the Ukraine peninsula on the Black Sea.  The Tatar (pronounced ta-TAHR) people have a long and rich history in the region, but they have also experienced heartache and loss due to dispersion from an oppressive regime.  Although it has been many years since their expulsion from their homeland, the people continue to experience discrimination.  The tradition and heritage of the people hold them tightly together as they work to be respected and acknowledged as a formal people group.

The total population of Crimean Tatars is 556,000 people.  The largest contingency of Crimean Tatar people is in the Ukraine with over 255,000 in population. Romania is home to a very small contingency of the Crimean Tatars with only 22,000 living in the very Southeastern corner of the country in the region of Constanta on the coast of the Black Sea.[1]

The balance of this project will discuss the history and culture of the people, the survey of missions work to the Crimean Tatars, and a proposed strategy of how one might reach them effectively with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Background Information

History of the Crimean Tatars

The Crimean Tatar people are associated with a much larger Tatar population located primarily in Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.  The Tatars came onto the world scene in the 1440s when they established their own Khanate.  They are a Turkic-Muslim people who are a remnant of the Crimean Khans.  These Khans ruled the northern coast of the Black Sea for more than 300 years.  Haci Giray Khan formed the Crimean Khanate in 1441 after the disintegration of the Golden Horde.   The Tsarist Russian annexation of the land of Crimea on April 8, 1783 ended the Giray dynasty that had ruled Crimea since the 1400s.[2]

Geographically, the Crimean peninsula in modern-day Ukraine is a prime piece of property as it sits on the northern coast of the Black Sea.  The Crimean Khanate was nestled snugly between the Ottoman Empire in the south and the land of Russia in the north.  Being a Muslim people, they had a tendency to side with the Ottomans, thus creating quite a nuisance for the Russians.  Since the beginning of the Khanate, Russia desired to annex the land and rid it of the Tatar people.  The Tatars wreaked havoc on the Russian people and government for the first 300 years of its existence.  One such example of insurrection was in 1571 when a Crimean Tatar army attacked Moscow.  They plundered the merchants in the suburbs and monasteries in the area.  Ultimately they burned the city.[3] The period from the creation of the Khanate to the annexation of Russia was a tumultuous time filled with wars, skirmishes, and attacks from both sides.

The events leading to the annexation of the Crimean peninsula were wrought with fights and military campaigns against the Ottoman Empire who had control of the area.  The turning point in the fight between the two empires came after a final raid by the Crimeans in 1769.  Russia subsequently attacked them and gained control of the area after 10 long years of military campaigns.  The annexation of Crimea marked the first time the Ottoman Empire lost “Muslim subjects to a Christian state.”[4] The retribution toward the Tatar people for their many attacks on Russia and Russian interests came swiftly and with major impact.  Catherine II forced the Crimean Tatars from their homeland in mass numbers scattering them throughout the Ottoman Empire.  This had a tremendous effect on their numbers.  The population was at 6,000,000 at the time of the Khanate’s peak of power.  The population dwindled to 300,000 to the point of the Bolshevik Revolution.[5]

Discrimination against the Tatar people was very prevalent in the time leading up to the Bolshevik Revolution.  Once the Revolution took place and the Communist regime took power, the Crimean Tatars experienced unbelievable hardships.  As part of the socialist revolution, “ethnic engineering” began to take place and whole people groups were ousted from their native homeland during and after the Second World War.[6] The Crimean Tatars were some of the very ones that were treated with the most hostility.  The deportation of the Tatar people occurred in one day – May 18, 1944.[7] They were loaded into “cattle trucks with primitive sanitation, little food and water, and no medical care, for a journey eastward which sometimes took up to a month.”  Typhus killed many of the deportees, and they had to be buried beside the train cars during brief stops in the remote land.[8] The Soviet Union’s plans of ridding the land of the annoying people that were in opposition ultimately backfired.  The deportations of the Crimean Tatars and other Muslims in the land caused a deep hatred of the Soviet Union and planted seeds of hostility towards the people.  These events eventually aided in the “fragmentation and ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union.”[9]

The Tatars were finally released from their “special settlements” in 1956, but they were not allowed to return to their homes that they had owned before the deportation.  The Tatars scattered across Central Asia, Eastern Europe in places such as Romania, and as far away as the United States.  They ultimately launched a massive human rights movement including appeals to the government to have the ruling overturned.  Ukraine is ultimately in control of the Crimean peninsula and stand at a pivotal point in history as the government has the power to return the Tatars to their homeland.  The entire Islamic world is watching and waiting to see if the government will put an end to the discrimination.[10] Might the Crimean peninsula become another “Palestine”?

Language

The native language of the Crimean Tatar people is Crimean Tatar; however, most cannot read or write the language.  Between 1928 and 1938, the alphabet was changed from Arabic to Latin to Cyrillic making it very difficult for the people to learn of their history, culture, or language.[11] The school system denies thousands of children the right to learn about their people including the language resulting in over 75% of the Tatar people unable to read or write in their native language.[12]

Culture and Family

The Crimean Tatar people of Romania are very close-knit in their relationships.  The older people who were involved in the deportation and were close to the political unrest that resulted have held very tightly to their heritage; however, the younger generation has not embraced the culture.   It is estimated that 91% of the Crimean Tatar people marry within their culture.  The people that live in the urban areas dress in a Western style, while many of the Tatars that live in the rural areas stick more closely to the traditional dress.  They have a deep love of music and songs, called “manes” and “chin”, and perform them at holidays and feast times.[13]

Economy

The Crimean Tatar people are very poor as a whole.  The discrimination that they experience from the societies in which they live has restricted them to very poor housing situations.  They are primarily an agricultural society; however, many do work in the petroleum industry.  They also make extra money selling homemade items such as leather goods and crafts.[14]

Religion

As previously discussed, the Crimean Tatar people hold to the Muslim religion as they have since the inception of the Crimean Khanate in the 1440s.  They are Sunni Muslims from the Hanafite branch.  Sunni Muslims are those who supported the caliphs, or leaders, of the Muslim faith.  They follow closely to the Sunnah, or custom, of Muhammad.  The largest sect of Muslims is the Sunni sect.  The Sunnis organized the Islamic life and created a structure of theocratic law.  The Sunnis look to the community for the final resource of law and ethics.  They are also very committed to the advancement of the Muslim faith around the world.[15]

Survey of Missions Work to the Crimean Tatars

The history of missions work to the Crimean Tatar people cannot be considered without first surveying the history of missions to the Muslim community.  The history of Christian-Muslim relations goes back many centuries to the very beginning of Islam.  Its prophet, Muhammad, started Islam as a formal religion in 570 AD.  From that point forward, Christians, Jews, and Muslims have been locked in a war for control of the city of Jerusalem and to establish which religion is the correct representative of God’s kingdom advancement in the earth.

Historically, the Muslim community has reacted and responded to Christian hostility.  They have also taken the offensive approach to attack Christians seemingly without provocation.  The conflict between the two religions reached an unbelievable climax with the Crusades in 1000-1100 AD.  The Christians were trying to rid the Holy Land of the Muslims causing a wedge in relations that lasts to this day.  The attack on American soil on September 11, 2001 brought relations between the radical Muslim community and the Christian West to another point of all out war.

With all of these events occurring throughout history, it has become increasingly difficult for Christians to spread the gospel message among the Muslim community.  Mission ventures collapse, and missionaries are attacked, arrested, and even killed.  In spite of these hardships, Christian missions have been successful, and many Muslims have named the name of Christ in many regions around the world; however, much work is to be done to see Muslims turn to Christ.

Status of the Church

The church among the Crimean Tatar people is basically non-existent.  The Joshuaproject.net reports only 200 Tatars in Romania are Christians out of 22,000 people.[16] The people as a whole still hold to the Muslim faith.  A report from a Romanian pastor, Pastor Samuel Caba, based out of Arad, Romania confirms this information.  He stated that of the 22,000,000 people presently in Romania, only 2,000,000 name the name of Christ.  Approximately ninety percent of the Romanian population is Russian Orthodox, but they are only nominal Christians.  They believe that they are saved because their ancestors became Christians long ago.  Less that 1,000,000 Romanians are Evangelical Christians.  Other people in Romania are of the Muslim faith or hold to witchcraft-type religious beliefs.  Twenty million people in Romania need Christ and that includes the Crimean Tatars![17]

Challenges to Missions

The challenges to mission work among the Crimean Tatar people are varied.  In some regions of the world where they are dispersed, they are a peaceful people who appear to be ready for harvest.  There has been a New Testament translated in their language, but successful mission work has not yet reached them; however, the Crimean Tatars of Romania appear to be a different story.  The reports coming from the Southeast region of Romania where they are located are that the Muslim religion has a tight stronghold. Bitterness toward the West due to the wars in the Gulf region has made reaching the Muslims in the area quite challenging.  Pastor Caba states that Christian pastors and evangelists are routinely attacked, beaten, tortured, poisoned, arrested, and even killed for preaching the gospel to the Muslims in the region.  He stated that leaders of the Muslim community have historically conspired with the local authorities to have these hostile attacks carried out.[18]

Another set of challenges with the Romanian government and region is with religious freedoms.  If a church or religious organization does not belong to a government-recognized cult or religion, it is not recognized by the government and not given the privileges to fully operate as the other organizations.  Pastor Samuel is actively involved in the fight for religious freedom in the Romanian government.[19]

Present Missions Strategies

To survey the present mission strategies, one must first examine the strategies of the past to the Muslim community and specifically the Crimean Tatars.  In the past, Christians have approached missions in varied ways.  The Crimean Tatar people are very wary of anyone from the outside of their community due to the extreme abuses that they have endured from the Russian government.  They are also incredibly discriminated against in Romania.  They are not even offered full citizenship in the country.  They were ousted from their homeland in the 1940s, and they are not accepted in the places where they were dispersed.

The Crimean Tatars of Romania are located in the Eastern European bloc of nations that have a very unique mindset.  Scot Sexton, a missionary to Western Russia/Eastern Europe in the late 1990s spoke of the views of the people of the area toward the Christian West.  He stated that they were viewed as “celebrities”.  People wanted to know everything about the West and longed for information.  The missions team worked with a local church in the area ministering and speaking in the more rural areas of Russia and Eastern Europe.  Through the course of the lengthy interview with Mr. Sexton, he commented that he often feels that the strategy that they used to reach people with the gospel was not very effective.  In retrospect, he saw many people respond to altar calls and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, but he wonders if they were truly converted to Christianity. The most fruit that they saw were in relationships that were made with the young men in the area in which they ministered.  These young men would associate with them frequently, and there was active discipleship of these men.  They would in turn reach out to their respective families and win them to Christ.  During the four years of his service in missions to the Eastern European people, he only remembers one Muslim Tatar gentleman that came to Christ.  He stated that the Tatar people were wary of churches and religious organizations due to potential retaliation from their family members.[20]

Another missionary to the region of Western Russia and Eastern Europe was in the area during the period of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the period shortly thereafter.  He spoke of a sharp change in attitude towards people from the West due to the American invasion of Iraq and the war with Afghanistan.  The missionaries from America were no longer viewed as “celebrities”, but they were perceived as invaders and greedy capitalists that were only out for control of the world’s oil.  Evangelism in the area became increasingly difficult, and he returned to the United States but not without lasting fruit left behind.  Mr. Sims saw many people come to Christ, relationships formed with local citizens, and disciples made that have had a lasting impact on the region of his ministry efforts.[21]

Proposed Strategy for Reaching the Crimean Tatar People of Romania

The challenges of reaching the Crimean Tatars in Romania and elsewhere are extremely great.  The fear of entering a land and culture of Muslim people would be very difficult to overcome.  Several concerns should be discussed before a missionary or missionary team embarks on a season of labor among the people to reach them for Christ. What kind of pre-mission preparations should be done?  How readily will someone be accepted from the West with the gospel of Jesus Christ given the current political and economic unrest around the world? What would be the best method of evangelizing?  Should the missionaries be tent-makers?  What kind of language barriers would there be, if any?  What about money?  In what areas of service could the missionaries be involved to show the love of Christ to the people?  Should the length of time spent on the missionary journey be long-term or short-term?  Should the missionary be a part of an agency or go it alone with a church backing? All of these questions and many more, in no particular order, should be examined thoroughly before entering such an adverse region of the world.  They need Jesus Christ, and it is the body of Christ’s job to get it done.

Before leaving for mission work, the missionary has many aspects upon which to ruminate.  Ample preparations should be made before leaving to ensure that there is a good transition period so that the missionary can be most effective.  The issue of bonding comes into play at this point.  What is the best way for the missionary to bond with the host culture?  Although it might be very scary at first for the new missionary, the best way for fast bonding to happen would be for the missionary to find a host home and family to accept him or her.  Language is much easier to learn when immersed in relationships in a home setting.  More ways for the new missionary to bond with the culture quickly is to consider only using local modes of public transportation and limiting personal belongings only to the bare necessities.[22]

Prayer is absolutely essential to the preparation phase of the missionary’s journey as well as throughout the deployment.  Prayer is a two-way means of continual communication with God concerning every aspect of life.[23] The missionary should make sure that their prayer life is healthy, and that their communication with God is very frequent.  Paul, the ultimate missionary, encouraged the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. It is an exceedingly difficult thing for a Muslim to do to walk away from their religion and all of the things he or she has been taught.  The power of the Holy Spirit must be at work. Sometimes, the only thing that you can do when ministering to Muslims is to pray for them.[24] The missionary should make sure that information about the area of mission work has been given to the local church or mission agency to ensure that they are praying over every aspect of the mission work to the people.  To go along with a healthy prayer life, spiritual warfare must take place.  Spiritual warfare is defined as “the struggle that Christians have to live faithful Christian lives in the face of onslaughts of spiritual powers of darkness.”  For the missionary travelling to an unreached people such as the Crimean Tatars, an understanding of the spiritual implications of Christians in Muslim territory and how to combat those spirits of darkness is absolutely essential.[25]

Also, before embarking on the new mission, a good understanding of the most effective methods of evangelism should be determined.  When Pastor Samuel Caba was asked his opinion on how to most effectively win Muslim Romanians to Christ, he responded with an emphatic, “Relationships.”[26] Also, when Mr. Sexton was asked the same question regarding the Western Russian/Eastern European people, he responded with the same thought – relationships.  Pastor Samuel even stated that he believes that the most effective approach to reach the Muslim people in Romania would be to go there with the intention of staying in the area and building relationships among the people before Christ is ministered to them.  Once that relationship has been established, then the work of sharing the gospel will naturally occur.  The community that has been formed is the base of a fellowship of believers that will spread the gospel through the same methods – relationships and discipleship.  Jesus taught us this same principle.  When He ministered to the woman at the well in Samaria, he built a relationship with her by showing love and acceptance.  The people invited Him into their community where He taught them for two days.  Again, Jesus taught His disciples how to go into the world looking for a “man of peace”.  They were to remain in that home teaching all that entered.  The gospel would spread from that home until the whole community was affected with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  People who are already committed to each other will come to faith together.[27]

The concept of first building relationships brings up the next concern about acceptance in the culture, especially one that is so wary of westerners.  The best way for this to happen effectively is to show the love of God to them and the power of His love that is shown through His community of believers.  The Muslim community is very close-knit, and it is an easier transition for the Muslim that is newly converted to Christianity to feel that he or she is not leaving something behind but is gaining a new community.[28] The missionary must also take a loving interest in the Muslim’s life and family.[29] The missionary must show that the love is genuine.

In his book, Muslims, Christians, and Jesus, Carl Medearis gives the reader five thoughts on how to reach someone in the Muslim faith for Christ.  First, the Christian should have fun.  Muslims love to party, and we should do so within their cultural frame of reference – no alcohol or pork as these would offend.  Next, Medearis encourages the Christian to have no agenda with basing the relationship solely on winning them to Christ.   Third, he says for the Christian to be “a-religious”, in other words, do not be religious by being defensive, argumentative, or be arrogant in knowledge of the truth.  Fourthly, adaptation to the religious forms of the new Muslim friends is a must.  Some pointers for this would be to pray by standing with eyes open and palms facing up.  Another important tip would be to not invite the Muslim to a “Bible study”.  Muslims do not understand that concept.  It would be more beneficial to invite them to a “discussion about the Bible.”  Ultimately, the missionary should just be normal.  People can tell when an act is being portrayed.  The true love of God is easily displayed if all barriers are down.[30] Of course the issue of syncretism comes up at this point.  The missionary should make sure that while they are contextualizing the gospel, syncretism should be avoided.  There are boundaries that must not be crossed.[31]

As stated previously, the Crimean Tatar people of Romania live in a very depressed economic situation that is in dire need of assistance.  Much of their adverse conditions could be rectified if they were granted full citizenship in Romania, but much can be done to help them by the missionary or missionary team being “tentmakers.”  Agriculture and construction are the primary needs of the people.  Job skills training and small-business startup assistance would be quite beneficial.  English language instruction would help them as well.[32]

The language barriers would be great.  As stated earlier, not very many of the Crimean Tatar people know the native language.  Most speak Turkish, while others speak a dialect of the Russian language.  The relationships that the missionary forms will assist in overcoming the language barrier, which will only take time.

No missionary venture could be pursued without money from some source.  The missionary could gain the necessary resources to survive by becoming a tentmaker and living off the income from those ventures.  Another source of income, of course, would come from the local church or mission agency that deployed the missionary.  One good piece of advice to the missionary is to enter at as low of a financial profile as possible.  First impressions are vital in the long-term success of the missionary.  It is easy to upgrade financially once the missionary is established.  It is not always easy to fix a bad first impression by entering the culture with more money than necessary to survive.[33]

The Message translation of Romans 15:1 states, “Strength is for service, not status.”  Many Christians have missed the whole point of serving others while being too wrapped up in their own ambitions or trying to protect reputations.  If the missionary enters the culture of the Crimean Tatars without looking for ways in which to serve, then he or she has missed a vital opportunity to reach the people with the gospel.  Being like Christ as servants first, the message will be much clearer and found to be genuine in the eyes of the people.  Mr. Sims stated that some of the basic needs in the area were in hospitals, orphanages, and schools.  Also, he stated that during his tenure in the area, the mission team had great success with opening a place for the people to come and get clothing items that had been donated by people in the United States.  The team was able to meet people and begin building relationships with them.[34]

There are two types of mission deployments, long-term and short-term.  The Crimean Tatar people do not have an established church in the region to speak of, so it might not be the most effective method to choose short-term missions first.  While aid and some service projects could be completed and some souls won for Christ, disciples could not be nurtured and cared for in an effective manner.  Long-term missions work would be the most effective to begin with so that the proper relationships could be formed and healthy churches planted in the region.

When considering whether the missionary should venture out on his or her own, join a mission agency, or go with a local church backing, there are many aspects to examine before making the decision.  If one were to venture out alone, there would be no one for support, either financially or relationally if problems should arise.  There are many different types of agencies in existence today.  The “service missions” serve other agencies in the field, for example, literature missions, recording experts, bible translators, etc.  “Standard missions” are concerned with the basic needs such as educational, medical, church planting, etc.  The benefit of affiliating with these agencies is that the missionary is less likely to feel abandoned.  Also, the goal of the mission organization is easily passed on to the following generations.[35] The local church is another effective organization for sending out missionaries into the field; however, there are downfalls.  A major benefit would be the unification of local churches across denominational lines when it comes to mission work.  Joint projects unite the body of Christ if denominal and doctrinal issues can be laid down.  Conversely, the church must be adequately educated and informed of the work being done in the mission field to keep the resources flowing.  Also, local churches often want to do new and fresh things on the field not knowing that their efforts could be greatly enhanced by joining forces with established agencies.[36]

Conclusion

The Crimean Tatar people have a long and sordid history of oppression, injustice, and hardship.[37] They are a people who are struggling to return to their homeland on the Crimean peninsula.  The Tatars long for acceptance from their host countries in which they are dispersed, and they desperately want the Ukrainian government to allow them full citizenship and right to own land in their home country.  The incredible level of discrimination and inhumane treatment over the years has left them in a position to not readily trust outsiders and those in authority.  The Crimean Tatars of Romania have very real needs that can only be met through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  The body of Christ must pray that long-term missionaries will accept the challenge to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the Tatars and show His love in the land of Romania.  Let it be so, Lord Jesus!

Bibliography

Altan, Mubeyyin Batu. “A Brief History of the Crimean Tatar National Movement.” Crimean            Tatars.  Available from http://www.euronet.nl/users/sota/ctnm.htm.  Internet; accessed 10            May 2010.

Bethany World Prayer Center.  “The Unreached Peoples Prayer Profiles:  The Crimean Tatar of            Romania.”  Available from http://kcm.co.kr/bethany_eng/p_code/81.html.  Internet;            accessed 3 May 2010.

Bos, Steven J.  “Pentecostal Church Fears Renewed Persecution in Romania.”  Christian            Persecution Information.  Available from http://www.christianpersecution.info/

news/Pentecostal-church-fears-renewed-persecution-in-romania/. Internet; accessed 12 May 2010.

Caba, Samuel.  Interview by author, 8 May 2010.  Port Neches, TX.  Yahoo Messenger.

Caner, Ergun, and Emir Fethi Caner. Unveiling Islam: An Insider’s Look at Muslim Life and            Beliefs. Updated and Expanded ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2009.

Greear, J. D.  Breaking the Islam Code:  Understanding the Soul Questions of Every Muslim.

Eugene, OR:  Harvest House Publishers, 2010.

Hosking, Geoffrey. Russia and the Russians: A History. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of            Harvard University Press, 2003.

Joshua Project.  “People-In-Country Profile:  Tatar, Crimean of Romania.”  Available from            http://www.joshuaproject.net/peopctry.php?peo3=11434&rog3=RO.  Internet; accessed            28 April 2010.

Medearis, Carl.  Muslims, Christians, and Jesus:  Gaining Understanding and Building            Relationships. Minneapolis, MN:  Bethany House, 2008.

Moreau, A. Scott, Gary B. McGee, and Gary R. Corwin. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical,            Historical, and Practical Survey (Encountering Mission). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker            Academic, 2004.

Sexton, Scot A.  Interview by author, 8 May 2010.  Port Neches, TX.  Digital recording.

Sims, Aaron.  Interview by author, 10 May 2010.  Port Neches, TX.  Telephone.

Winter, Ralph D., and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds. Perspectives on the World Christian            Movement: A Reader. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library Publishers, 2009.


[1] Joshua Project, “People-In-Country Profile:  Tatar, Crimean of Romania”; available            from http://www.joshuaproject.net/peoples.php?peo3=11434&sf=jpscale&so=asc;            Internet; accessed 3 May 2010.

2 Mubeyyin Batu Altan, “A Brief History of the Crimean Tatar National Movement”; Crimean Tatars; available from http://www.euronet.nl/users/sota/ctnm.htm; Internet; accessed 10 May 2010.

3 Geoffrey Hosking, Russia and the Russians:  A History (Cambridge, MA:  Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003), 121.

[4] Ibid., p. 231.

5 Mubeyyin Batu Altan, “A Brief History of the Crimean Tatar National Movement”; Crimean Tatars; available from http://www.euronet.nl/users/sota/ctnm.htm; Internet; accessed 10 May 2010.

[6] Hosking, Russia and the Russians, 504.

7 Mubeyyin Batu Altan, “A Brief History of the Crimean Tatar National Movement”; Crimean Tatars; available from http://www.euronet.nl/users/sota/ctnm.htm; Internet; accessed 10 May 2010.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Hosking, Russia and the Russians, 506.

[10] Mubeyyin Batu Altan, “A Brief History of the Crimean Tatar National Movement”;            Crimean Tatars; available from http://www.euronet.nl/users/sota/ctnm.htm; Internet;            accessed 10 May 2010.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Joshua Project, “People-In-Country Profile:  Tatar, Crimean of Romania”; available            from http://www.joshuaproject.net/peoples.php?peo3=11434&sf=jpscale&so=asc;            Internet; accessed 3 May 2010.

[13] Joshua Project, “People-In-Country Profile:  Tatar, Crimean of Romania”; available            from http://www.joshuaproject.net/peoples.php?peo3=11434&sf=jpscale&so=asc;            Internet; accessed 3 May 2010.

14 Bethany World Prayer Center.  “The Unreached Peoples Prayer Profiles:  The Crimean Tatar of Romania”; available from http://kcm.co.kr/bethany_eng/p_code/81.html; Internet; accessed 3 May 2010.

15 Ergun Caner and Emir Fethi Caner, Unveiling Islam: An Insider’s Look at Muslim Life and Beliefs, Updated and Expanded ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2009), 162-163.

[16] Joshua Project, “People-In-Country Profile:  Tatar, Crimean of Romania”; available from http://www.joshuaproject.net/peoples.php?peo3=11434&sf=jpscale&so=asc; Internet; accessed 3 May 2010.

[17] Samuel Caba, interview by author, 8 May 2010, Port Neches, TX, Yahoo Messenger.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Steven J. Bos, “Pentecostal Church Fears Renewed Persecution in Romania”; Christian            Persecution Information; available from http://www.christianpersecution.info/

news/Pentecostal-church-fears-renewed-persecution-in-romania/; Internet; accessed 12 May 2010.

[20] Scot A. Sexton, interview by author, 8 May 2010, Port Neches, TX, digital recording.

[21] Aaron Sims, interview by author, 10 May 2010, Port Neches, TX, telephone.

[22] Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., Perspectives on the World Christian

Movement: A Reader (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library Publishers, 2009), 467-68.

[23] A. Scott Moreau, Gary B. McGee and Gary R. Corwin, Introducing World Missions:  A            Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Encountering Mission) (Grand Rapids, MI:            Baker Academic, 2004), 180.

[24] J.D. Greear, Breaking the Islam Code: Understanding the Soul Questions of Every

Muslim (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2010), 34.

[25] Moreau, Corwin, and McGee, Introducing World Missions, 287-288.

[26] Samuel Caba, interview by author, 8 May 2010, Port Neches, TX, Yahoo Messenger.

[27] Winter and Hawthorne, eds., Perspectives, 692-693.

[28] Greear, Breaking the Islam Code, 35-36.

[29] Caner and Caner, Unveiling Islam, 241.

[30] Carl Medearis, Muslims, Christians, and Jesus: Gaining Understanding and Building            Relationships (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2008), 152-67.

[31] Winter and Hawthorne, eds., Perspectives, 666-667.

[32] Joshua Project, “People-In-Country Profile:  Tatar, Crimean of Romania”; available            from http://www.joshuaproject.net/peoples.php?peo3=11434&sf=jpscale&so=asc;

Internet; accessed 3 May 2010.

[33] Winter and Hawthorne, eds., Perspectives, 484-485.

[34] Aaron Sims, interview by author, 10 May 2010, Port Neches, TX, telephone.

[35] Winter and Hawthorne, eds., Perspectives, 732.

[36] Winter and Hawthorne, eds., Perspectives, 733.

[37] Joshua Project, “People-In-Country Profile:  Tatar, Crimean of Romania”; available            from http://www.joshuaproject.net/peoples.php?peo3=11434&sf=jpscale&so=asc;

Internet; accessed 3 May 2010.





Book Review – CS Lewis’ Reflections On The Psalms

7 05 2010

This is a required book review for my Old Testament Orientation class.  Enjoy!!

Bibliographical Entry

Lewis, C.S.  Reflections On The Psalms. San Diego:  Harcourt, Inc., 1958.

Author Information

Reflections On The Psalms was written by one of the most influential authors of Christian literature in the 20th century.  Mr. Clive Staples “Jack” Lewis was born to a well-educated family in Belfast, Northern Ireland on November 29, 1898.  Having been surrounded by books throughout his entire childhood, Lewis is said to have found his reality between the pages of the books he read.  Tragedy struck his family when his mother died when he was only 9 years old.  The great sadness that ensued thrust Lewis further into the world of literature and fantasy.  In his teen years, as he struggled with the pain of the death of his mother, he drifted in his faith and ultimately became an atheist.

In 1916, Lewis was awarded a scholarship to University College, Oxford University, England.    In 1917, he took a break from his studies to enlist in the military during the tumultuous time of the First World War.  After being wounded in battle in Arras, he was discharged from the military and returned to his studies in 1919.  Lewis went on to become a Fellow and Tutor of English Literature at Magdalene College in Oxford from 1925 to 1954.  He was later granted the seat of Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College in Cambridge.  Lewis came to Christ in 1931 after being influenced by his close friend, J.R.R. Tolkien.

C.S. Lewis was a prolific writer of fiction, science fiction, poetry, and Christian apologetics.   It has been said that there were “three Lewises.”  First, there was Lewis the distinguished literary scholar and critic.  Then, there was Lewis the writer of science fiction and children’s literature.  Lastly, there was Lewis the “popular writer and broadcaster of Christian apologetics.”[1]

Content Summary

Lewis begins his short book on the Psalms with an introduction that sets the mood for the entire work.  He states in the first line of his Introductory, “This is not a work of scholarship.  I am no Hebraist, no higher critic, no ancient historian, no archaeologist.  I write for the unlearned about things in which I am unlearned myself.”[2] The tone of his Introductory follows the first few sentences.

Lewis begins the body of the book with the first chapter on “’Judgment’ in the Psalms.”  He speaks of the differences of the beliefs of the Jews and the Christians toward the “Day” of Judgment.  The Jews saw the Day of Judgment as a day of vindication from their enemies and those that oppressed them as a people.  The Christians, on the other hand, see the Day as a time when Jesus will return to this earth and ultimately establish His rule and reign and restore everything to its original design.  Lewis warns the reader of falling into the same self-righteous trap as the Jews when calling for vindication on their enemies.

Moving to the next chapter, Lewis moves to the “Cursings”.  This chapter holds one of the most moving portions of the entire book.  He speaks on forgiveness and how we are to do as Jesus taught in forgiving those that hurt us.[3] Again, he warns the reader not to fall into a trap of self-righteousness.  The fourth chapter in Lewis’ work covers “Death in the Psalms”.  The writer speaks on the surprising nature of the Jews’ belief system on death and resurrection from the dead.  According to the Psalmists, Lewis does not see where the Jews believed in the after-life, per se.  The Jews looked for worldly prosperity, but God had to continually warn them and judge them concerning this very matter.

The next chapter sees a shift in mood for the book.  “The Fair Beauty of the Lord” is the subject of the fifth chapter.  The author expounds on the idea of the Jews longing to “see” the Lord in His holy Temple.  The Temple was the place where the glory of the Lord dwelt, and the Psalmists spoke of the desire to dwell in the Temple forever with the presence of the Almighty.  Following the same mood as the previous chapter, chapter six talks about the Law of God being “Sweeter than Honey”.  He expounds on chapter 19 of Psalms and shows how the psalmist viewed the Law in relation to his earthly, sinful state.

The next two chapters, “Connivance” and “Nature”, see another shift in mood.  In “Connivance”, Lewis describes to the reader the psalmists’ feelings on the “sins of the tongue”.[4] He says that some of the greatest battles against the Jews were not fought with the sword, but with the accusations and rumors from the enemy.  In his chapter on “Nature”, Lewis discusses the Jewish views of God as the Creator and the pagan views on creation and how they were similar and were quite different.

Lewis begins chapter nine with the statement, “It is possible (and it is to be hoped) that this chapter will be unnecessary for most people.”[5] Again, he sets the tone of the chapter for the reader.  He continues his musings on praise in the Psalms and how the psalmists viewed it in relation to the Jewish people of the day.

The concluding section of the book contains three chapters that deal with much of the same material.  Chapter Ten is entitled “Second Meanings” and contains Lewis’ thoughts on second meanings in Scripture and the use of the allegory.  Lewis explains in chapter eleven, “Scripture”, how the Scriptures as a whole were viewed and ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  In conclusion, chapter twelve, “Second Meanings in the Psalms”, ties the previous two chapters together and explains the use of the allegory in the Psalms and how it relates to the rest of Scripture as a whole.

Evaluation

How does one go about critiquing a book by one of the greatest writers of the 20th century?  It is truly a daunting task.  First, the strengths of his work should be noted.  As a fellow seminary student commented on the same work, CS Lewis had a very “gentle” approach to his writing style.[6] He captivates the reader by his use of stories and illustrations to further drive his point home with the reader.  The brevity of his work makes it very easy for the reader to comprehend what he is trying to communicate.  Being a scholar of English Literature, he uses his skills to see through the literary forms that the psalmists used to examine and unpackage their original intent and possible second meanings.   Lewis’ knowledge of the book of Psalms and their related references throughout the body is evident in his constant references to the Scriptures.  The appendix of the book shows references to seventy-nine different chapters or psalms.  It further includes the entire body of six chapters.

It is very easy to find the strengths of Lewis’ work on the Psalms; however, the weaknesses are much more difficult to point out.  The modern-day reader might stumble through the book upon the first reading just trying to get familiar with the writing style of Lewis in the 1950’s in England.  He was so intelligent that some of his phraseology and wording could be quite confusing if the reader was not completely focused on the comprehension of the material.  A word that Lewis commonly used that is completely unfamiliar in modern English is “prig” or “priggish” which means acting in a self-righteous or irritating manner.  Another weakness, if it could be called that, would be how Lewis begins the work with such negative themes such as Judgment, Cursings, and Death.  For the everyday reader of the book of Psalms, these negative thoughts might not be what would come to mind; however, once Lewis moves through this opening segment of the book, he moves to the more “positive” themes of the Psalms.

Lewis stated in the beginning of the book that he was not learned in the subject of the Psalms.  He was simply stating how he felt about the different topics and themes that he found in the book.  In that case, Lewis was writing his “Reflections” to the average reader of the book.  He was not trying to have a debate with theologians on the topics at hand, but he just simply wanted to assist the reader in drawing their own conclusions about the Psalter as he had done the same.

Conclusion

C.S. Lewis accomplished the goal that he set out to do.   He wanted to write a book that would touch his readers and lead them on a journey of enlightenment that could be discovered by taking a deeper look at the book of Psalms.  The use of words that are not familiar to the modern-day reader may present a challenge; however, due to the sheer knowledge on the subject that Lewis displayed, one would greatly benefit from reading this book regardless of their station in life or ministry position that they might hold.

Bibliography

Edwards, Dr. Bruce L. “CS Lewis: A Modest Literary Biography and Bibliography.”  Available            from http://personal.bgsu.edu/~edwards/biobib.html.  Internet; accessed 6 May 2010.

Lewis, C.S.  Reflections On The Psalms. San Diego:  Harcourt, Inc., 1958.

Sanchez, Chris.  “Book Review – Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis.”  Available from

http://chrissanchez.blogspot.com/2009/08/book-review-reflections-on-psalms-by-cs.html.

Internet; accessed 6 May 2010.


[1] Dr. Bruce L. Edwards, CS Lewis: A Modest Literary Biography and Bibliography, available from http://personal.bgsu.edu/~edwards/biobib.html; Internet; accessed 6 May 2010.

[2] C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, (San Diego:  Harcourt, Inc., 1958), 1.

[3] Ibid., p. 24-25.

[4] Ibid., p. 75.

[5] Ibid., p. 90.

[6] Chris Sanchez, Book Review – Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis, available from http://chrissanchez.blogspot.com/2009/08/book-review-reflections-on-psalms-by-cs.html; Internet; accessed 6 May 2010.





Herod the Great – Research Project for NBST 521

7 05 2010

For those that might not know, I am a seminary student at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.  I am in my first semester pursuing a Master of Arts in Religion with a concentration in Discipleship Ministries.  My ultimate goal is to get my doctorate.  I know it’s gonna take A LOT of hard work, but I will get there!!

Here is my very first major project.  I am extremely proud of the end product, and equally proud of the grade I received!!  Feel free to comment…  Enjoy!

Herod The Great – Or Was He?

Herod the Great is quite possibly one of the most hated figures in the entire Bible.  His actions at the announcement of the birth of Jesus were nothing short of evil; however, not much is known from Scripture about this evil man.  The only references that we have concerning him are found in the birth of Christ narratives in Matthew and in Luke.  Upon hearing the claims from the Magi that they had come to worship the King of the Jews, he ordered what has become known as the “Massacre of the Innocents”[10].  How could a king order the murder of every male child ages 2 years and younger in a single city?  Did the “massacre” actually happen?  If Herod ordered this mass murder who else were victims of his deranged mental state?  Over the next 3 lessons, we will examine the course of events that occurred during Herod the Great’s reign as king of the Jews that might have led him to such a drastic measure.  We will also look at lessons that we as men can learn from Herod and answer the obvious question of why such an evil man was referred to as “great”.

LESSON 1 – Introduction and Rise to Power

Herod’s reign was wrought with incredible triumphs and horrific failures.  In order to understand who he was as a person and as a king, we must first look at his genealogy and his rise to power.  Valuable clues to his deranged mental state can be gathered from a close examination of the early years of his life and reign as king of Israel.

Herod the Great ultimately became the king of the Jews only after many military campaigns in and around the land of Israel and after alliances were formed with people of power within the Roman Empire.  Although he was referred to as the king of the “Jews”, he was actually only half-Jew.  Herod was raised as an Idumean in the geographical area of the Edomites whom the Jewish people, particularly the Pharisees, hated.  The Edomites refused Moses’ entry into their land en route to the Promised Land.  The Idumeans had formed alliances with the Arabs and even would have reunited with the Arabs had it not been for Herod’s grandfather, Anitpater I.[11]

Antipater I was ruler of Idumea, the area south of Judea, during the end of the reign of the Hasmonean rulers, Janneus and his wife Alexander Salome.  It is believed that Antipater I was not an Idumean by blood.  Many scholars believe that he was actually from the Greek city-state, Ascalon.  Antipater II inherited the region of Idumea from his father.  He married a woman of Arabic origin named Cyprus.  They had seven children of whom Herod was one.  Their children were half Jewish and half Arabic which caused Herod much trouble with the Jews once he became ruler over the land of Israel.[12]

Herod had to deal with many seasons of tensions with the Hasmoneans.  The Hasmoneans, or Maccabeans, were a group of people who had risen against the Selucid Empire of the time.  The Selucid’s sought to end traditional Judaism by encouraging the spread of Hellenism.  Hellenism was the Greek influence on the Jewish religion, which allowed for relaxation of the traditional Mosaic laws.[13] Alexander Jannaeus was one of the final rulers of the Maccabean era.   He had strained relations with the Pharisees of the day, which seemed to only worsen when they disagreed with the way he carried out some of the traditions of the Feast of Tabernacles.[14] Two of Jannaeus’ sons, Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II, fought each other to become king of Judea.  Ultimately, Antipater II, Herod’s father, became the ruler of Judea with the assistance of the Roman Empire.  Pompey, Roman ruler of the area, never made Hyrcanus king; however, he was appointed as high priest.  With Antipater’s backing and assistance, Pompey had Aristobulus II killed.  Once Herod became king of Israel, he had Antigonus, the last of Aristobulus’ sons, executed; thus ending the Hasmonean dynasty.[15]

Antipater II was influential in seeing to it that Herod and Phasael, Herod’s brother, had a place of authority in Judea.  Herod used relationships with Rome and a considerable amount of money to gain his way to power.  Herod was given his first governorship in Galilee at the age of 25 and was named the stategos.[16] Herod captured Jerusalem with the assistance of his military that he had gained while reigning in Galilee.  He attacked the city and overthrew Antigonus from power.  At the conquest of Jerusalem, Herod became the king over all of Israel.

When Herod took control, he was immediately made aware of enemies all around him.  First and foremost was the religious crowd.  He remembered how the Sanhedrin had tried to have him executed some 10 years earlier when he was governor of Galilee, so he immediately rounded them up and had 45 of them arrested and killed.  He then replaced them with people of his own choosing and removed their judicial duties.[17]

The Sadducees were another religious group that were sharply opposed to Herod.  They were very angry with him for his father’s role in ending the Hasmonean dynasty.  They were also open to the Hellenistic views of the Greeks and accepting of their more liberal takes on moral issues.  Herod would have befriended them, but they could not accept an Idumean as their king.[18]

Next in the list of religious opposition for Herod were the Pharisees.  They were the poorer of the two sects.  They were much more religious in their approach to keeping the Mosaic laws and resisted Hellenism; however, they were appealing to Herod due to their opposition to the religious practices of the Hasmoneans.  It is said that Herod became a friend to the Pharisees but a terror to the Sadducees.[19]

The third religious group of the Jews was the Essenes.  The Essenes were a very small sect of Jews that lived in the area of limestone cliffs on the shore of the Dead Sea.  The Essenes were the most spiritual of the groups and the least worldly.  They lived an almost monastic lifestyle.  Herod was most impressed by the Essenes’ piety and strict adherence to Judaism.[20]

Not only were the religious groups a tremendous bother to Herod the Great, but he also found himself in a strange triangle of political games between Antony and Cleopatra in the Roman Empire.  It is well known that Cleopatra and Antony were locked in a heated affair.  Antony was so under Cleopatra’s spell that he began giving vast portions of territory around Israel to her.  Herod had to keep good relations with Antony in Rome in order to remain in power as a client-king.  To make matters worse, Herod’s mother-in-law by his first wife hated him but was in good relations with Cleopatra.  The two women tormented Herod by plotting against him and began the paranoia that would haunt Herod until the end of his days.

In 33 AD, the political landscape in the Roman Empire began to get dicey.  Octavian was the ruler in the Western region while Antony controlled the East.  The two men were ultimately caught in a battle with Herod caught in the middle.  He would ultimately align himself with whoever came out the winner.  He was shrewd and knew how to play the game.  Herod was overjoyed at the news that Antony and Cleopatra had committed suicide.  Herod visited Octavian to solidify his relationship and was officially installed as a client monarch and a “friend and ally of the Roman people.”  Ultimately, it meant that he had become the “emperor’s servant”, but he didn’t care, and Rome didn’t care as long as everyone stayed happy and behaved as they should.[21]

The introduction of the family struggles that Herod experienced with his mother-in-law were only the beginning of his troubles.  Really, Herod’s family struggles started from before he was born.  Many times, we get caught in the trap of feeling as though we must fulfill our family “destiny”.  If our father was one way, we must follow through with that and use our family as a crutch.  We say things like, “My dad was a drug addict, so I guess I don’t have a shot.” Or we might think, “My grandfather was raised in the projects, so this is where I belong.”  As men raising our sons and daughters, we must not put on them the expectation that they must follow in our footsteps.  We need to be godly examples but show them that they need to hear the voice of the Lord for themselves in regard to their ultimate calling in Christ.  Next week, we will study about the militaristic and infrastructure advancements by Herod and show his greatness in the land of Israel.

LESSON 2 – Military and Infrastructure Advancements

Last week, we studied Herod the Great’s genealogy and discussed how we as men must not place unrealistic expectations on our children.  Herod’s grandfather and father set him up for failure and didn’t even know it.  We must pass the torch of belief in Jesus Christ to the next generation and empower them to reach their full potential as Christ-followers.  As men, we are natural mentors.  The next generation is looking to us to lead them.  Herod dropped the ball with his kids just as his grandfather and father did before him.  They were so power-hungry and prideful that they missed valuable opportunities to raise him in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

Herod the Great had the reputation of being an evil, hate-filled man; however, as maniacal as Herod the Great was, he was equally as shrewd of a politician and administrator of his regime.  Herod was responsible for making improvements to buildings in the land of Israel and even built entire cities and seaports to make the Jewish nation one of the most influential in the world.

Herod’s army fought for Herod and fought for Rome equally.  Samuel Rocca stated, “…it is the best-known example of an army of a client king of Rome.”[22] The army’s numbers varied throughout Herod’s regime.  The majority of Herod’s army consisted of Jews, followed by Greek citizens of the kingdom, Ituraeans and Nabataeans.  His royal bodyguard had contingencies from the Germans, Celts, and Thracians.[23] Since Herod made trips to Rome and ultimately tried to emulate their administration, his army closely resembled the Roman military.  In fact, several key positions in his army were Roman or Italian officers.  At the beginning of his reign, Herod had 3,000 – 5,000 troops.  The numbers varied depending on the military campaign, but upon his death the total number of troops was around 30,000 men.[24]

Herod’s thirst for power led him into several major military campaigns.  We’ll take a look at the most important ones.  First was the Initial Kingdom Conquest of 40-37 BC.  Herod had worked his way into the good graces of Rome with Antony and Caesar Octavian.  He was declared ruler of Judea in 40 BC; however, he had to deal with Antigonus, the last Hasmonean ruler, who had been placed in power by the Parthians.  He first marched into Galilee to secure the area with his band of mostly Jewish soldiers.  He sent his brother, Joseph, to Idumea with a small group to secure that area.  After a small counter-insurgency in Galilee, he then set his sights on securing Jerusalem; but Antigonus was not going to relinquish that city without a major fight.  After a siege against the city that lasted over 55 days, the city finally fell.  Herod played his political card during the campaign and complained to Antony about the reckless behavior of the Roman soldiers and gained some popularity with the Jews for his stand.  Antigonus was sent to Antony and was beheaded.  Herod now had control of all of Galilee, Judea, and Idumea.[25]

The next major offensive on Herod’s agenda was against the Nabataeans in what is referred to as the First Nabataean War that lasted from 32-31 BC.  This war was an all-out political game Herod played with the strained tensions between Octavian, Antony, and Cleopatra in Egypt.  Cleopatra desperately wanted this land due to the “Spice Road” that brought her and her kingdom great wealth.  Antony was locked in a battle with the Nabataeans, so Herod decided to assist.  During the heat of the offensive a massive earthquake hit Judea, and thousands were killed.  King Herod took this time to reorganize his troops and go back to battle.  Through many political maneuvers and military campaigns, Herod came out the victor and left Cleopatra to lick her wounds.  Again, Herod had played his political cards right and remained in good standing with Rome.[26]

During the period of relative peace after the First Nabataean War, Herod joined forces with Rome in the expedition into the Arabian Peninsula.  Rome wanted to occupy the land in order to take advantage of the lucrative spice trade.  Herod was there happy to assist, but things did not go so well for him at first.  Augustus (Octavian) became very angry with him due to some political maneuvers that Herod had pulled regarding the Nabataeans, but Herod was able to restore his relationship.  Rome was unable to capture the Arabian Peninsula, and Herod returned to Judea to enjoy a time of peace and prosperity; however, peace was not to last long.[27]

The Second Nabataean War began in 9 BC toward the end of Herod the Great’s reign.  This war was surrounded by the common political games that Herod had become so adept at playing with Rome.  Through a series of miscommunications – whether intentional or not – Herod come out a victor both militarily and diplomatically and remained in good graces with Rome.  He was the consummate client-king and did everything he could to remain that way.[28]

Once the First Nabataean War concluded, Herod began to voraciously build buildings and even entire cities to match the grandeur of the Greco-Roman architecture that he had witnessed during his trips to Rome and Greece.  His love for Roman and Hellenistic architecture is evident in the many buildings that he had designed and constructed.

Herod had two main palaces, one in Jerusalem and the other in Masada near his ancestral home of Idumea.  His palace in Jerusalem was quite grand, to say the least.  It had gardens, pavilions, spacious rooms and suites.  It was decorated in a lavish style with gold, marble, and other adornments.  It was in the western end of the city.  Herod also gave a nod to the Roman and Greek empires in that he named certain sections of the palace after their rulers.[29]

Herod set his sites on the ancient city of Samaria.  He rebuilt it to make it the showplace of the kingdom.  Once work began on the city reconstruction, he named it Sebaste after Augustus.  At the center of the city was the Temple of Augustus with elaborate décor and design.  To this day, parts of what is believed to be the gymnasium of the city remains.  Herod installed hydraulic systems for the movement of water in the city.  He broke many barriers with the city of Sebaste.  The Temple of Augustus was the first temple built in his honor, and it was the first temple built in the same manner as the temples of Italy in the west.[30]

Caesarea was another city that was built upon the remains of a previously destroyed city.  Caesarea was at the north end of Herod’s kingdom and was the only major port in Israel.  It was built on the site of the Hellenistic town of Straton’s Tower.  There was no port there before construction began.  By the time Herod was finished, he had constructed 2 major breakwaters to create a formidable man-made port.  It became the largest port in the eastern portion of the Roman Empire.  The city of Caesarea included city walls, a palace for Herod, bronze statues, and ornate buildings.  Herod even had installed a self-flushing sewer system in the city.[31]

Herodium, or Herodeion, was a massive fortress built to commemorate the victory Herod achieved over the Hasmoneans at the beginning of his reign in 40 BC.  He basically leveled a hilltop to the south and east of Jerusalem and built a fortress there with a marble staircase to the summit of the hill.  Not much is known about Herodium during Herod’s reign, but it is believed to be the site of the final resting place of King Herod the Great.[32]

Arguably, the Temple in Jerusalem was the grandest and most controversial building project undertaken by Herod.  He enraged the Jews by tearing down the old Temple that Zerubbabel built some 500 years earlier because they did not believe him when he said that he would rebuild it.  The religious crowd did not trust his word at all.  When the Temple was complete a year and half after construction started, it rivaled the Temple that Solomon had built.  It was much larger and much more complicated in its design and décor. It took 10,000 laborers working non-stop to complete the sanctuary.  The Temple was dedicated in 18 BC.  Ninety years after construction began, the 30 –acre Temple Mount complex was completed.[33]

As we have seen today, Herod really was a brilliant man with a great vision for Israel and himself.  His vision was just clouded by self-promotion and pride.  Proverbs 11:2 gives us a very clear warning concerning pride.  Herod should have heeded the voice of this writing and been humble before the Lord.  How many times have we as men had a vision for our business or our place of work only to see it be fulfilled before our eyes?  If we have done it for self-promotion, it will leave an empty feeling in our guts and cause us to realize that it is not what brings happiness.  Only accomplishments that have been breathed upon by the Holy Spirit will bring ultimate peace and contentment.  Next week, we will discuss the end of Herod the Great, and his ultimate destruction.  There is a lot to be learned from Herod that we can use in our daily lives.

LESSON 3 – Family Struggles and the End of Herod the Great

In the last two lessons, we have discussed Herod the Great in depth to see if we can figure out why he reacted to the news of the birth of Christ in such an irrational way.  We have looked at his family history and where he came from to see if there were clues there.  We also examined his political regime to see if that could have been a factor in his deranged state of mind.  All of these areas of examination brought things to light that made us understand a little bit more about this man of mystery from the Bible.

Herod the Great was every bit as power-hungry and murderous as his father.  From the very beginning of his life, he was thrust down a path that destroyed everything in his way – either real or perceived.  Herod the Great had ten wives, some of whom were banished, some murdered, and others he simply divorced.  From those wives, he sired some 15 children.  These wives and children proved to be the internal dismantling of his reign as king of Israel.  Through deception and plots of murder, the turmoil proved too much for Herod.  He died a deranged old man that drifted in and out of lucidity until his death in 4 BC.

The most information about his wives comes from the first five.  These wives were responsible for giving birth to the possible heirs to the throne.  Each wife believed that her child deserved the throne and plotted against each other in every way possible to see that their child ruled.

The first wife that Herod married was Doris.  She was probably of Idumean decent.  The Jews disapproved of divorce, so Herod banished her and her son, Antipater III, from the kingdom, and only allowed them to return on festival days.[34]

Mariamne I was the most loved by Herod.  He was captured by her beauty and loved her dearly.  Mariamne was the granddaughter of Hyrcanus, the once high priest of the Hasmonean dynasty.  Herod believed that his marriage to Mariamne I would make the Jews more accepting of him and heal the rift between him and the remaining Hasmoneans, but he was badly mistaken.[35] Through conspiracies against her from Herod’s sister, Salome, Mariamne I was executed.  Herod suffered greatly from the execution of his beloved Mariamne.  He was so distraught from her death that he suffered a lengthy nervous breakdown, breaking out in boils all over his upper body.  He also experienced hallucinations thinking that Mariamne was beckoning him from the hallway.  Herod went on a killing rampage when he recovered by killing Mariamne I’s mother, Alexander, and his sister Salome’s husband.[36] Before her execution, Mariamne I gave Herod two possible heirs, Alexander and Aristobulus.

Not much is known about Herod’s third wife, Malthace the Samaritan, except that Malthace gave birth to another two possible heirs, Archelaus and Herod Antipas.

Mariamne II, Herod’s fourth wife, gave birth to Herod’s sixth son, Herod II.  Herod chose her father, Simon, to be the new high priest, which proved to be a cunning political maneuver by Herod.  Simon was from the lineage that established the Sadduccean sect.  The once loyal Pharisees now did not appreciate him so much, but Herod was only interested in the more sophisticated aristocracy of the Sadducees. Cleopatra of Jerusalem, no relation to Cleopatra of Egypt, gave Herod his best possible heir, Herod Philip. [37]

All seven of Herod’s heirs were sent to Rome at some point to live with Caesar Augustus to be educated and possibly selected as the heir to Herod’s throne.  The first four sons fell victim to the internal battle for the throne and suffered under Herod’s paranoia-induced stupors.

Just before Herod’s death, Herod had Antipater III killed upon suspicion that he plotted to poison Herod to gain the throne.  Salome who had the king’s ear and in whom the king trusted completely supplied this false information.  She hated Antipater’s mother, Doris.  The death of Antipater III caused Caesar Augustus to state the infamous, “It is better to be Herod’s pig than his son.”[38] Alexander was executed in 7 BC along with his brother, Aristobolus, upon suspicion of trying to kill the king in order to obtain his throne.

Aristobolus and his brother, Alexander, were sons of the beloved Mariamne I who Herod regretted having executed.  Herod would have given them the throne had it not been for the meddling ways of Salome.  Herod II, son of Mariamne II proved to be inept and was banished from the kingdom.

Herod wrote four wills to determine who would rule his kingdom upon his death.  Due to the endless fighting amongst his family members, he had to change his will after the execution of banishment of his sons.  The wills all had to be approved by Rome.  Herod’s fourth and final will bequeathed to Archelaus, son of Malthace the Samaritan, areas of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea.  He was ultimately banished from the kingdom in 6 AD after Herod’s death.  Antipas II, or Herod Antipas, was made the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, an area of Israel to the east of the River Jordan.  Herod Antipas was responsible for beheading John the Baptist in Matthew 14 and Mark 6.  He was also the King Herod mentioned in the Passion narrative of Luke 23, because Jesus was from the land of Galilee.  Pontius Pilate sent Jesus to Herod Antipas, but Antipas was only interested in seeing Jesus perform an outward miracle and sent him back to Pilate after he had him tortured.  Antipas was ultimately banished from the kingdom in 39 AD.

Philip was the most effective ruler of the Herod’s sons.  He was declared the tetrarch of Gaulanitis, Batanea, Trachonitis, and Auranitis.  Philip was married to Herodias who danced for the head of John the Baptist as told in Matthew 14 and Mark 6.  Philip was known for “his desire for justice and as a builder”.[39] He was also responsible for building Caesarea Philippi, which is the location of Peter’s confession that Jesus was the “Christ, the Son of the living God” in Matthew 16.  Philip died in 34 AD thus ending the Herodian dynasty.

The gospel writer, Matthew, tells us a story in chapter 2 of his gospel of wise men or Magi from the East coming to worship the king of the Jews.  This infuriated Herod as he was convinced that he was the messiah that would ultimately free the Jewish people from Roman rule.  When the Magi left his presence, he ordered all male children aged 2 and under in the town of Bethlehem be killed.  There are no other historical documents that make reference to this decree by Herod.  There could be several reasons for this omission by the historians of the time.  One of which, and possibly the most popular reason, would be the small number of children that it involved.  Bethlehem was a very small town, and the number of male children aged 2 and under would have probably only numbered 20.[40] In light of Herod’s failing mental state brought on by years of murderous rampages and illnesses that racked his body, this event may have paled in comparison to his horrific and outlandish attacks on the people closest to him.

There is no accurate data to pinpoint the exact date of Herod’s death; however, based on the information that historians do have, it is safe to estimate that Herod died in 4 BC at the age of 69 or 70.  Right before his death, he attempted suicide after a failed attempt by the Palestinians to overthrow is kingdom.  Herod was a very sick man and suffered from a number of horrific and painful illnesses during the last years of his life.  Eusebius quoted Josephus’ account of Herod’s physical state just before his death.  He stated,

“…the disease spread throughout his body with fever, an unbearable itching everywhere, continual pain in the colon, edema in the feet, inflammation of the abdomen, and gangrene in the wormy genitals.  His breathing was difficult, especially if he lay down, and spasms shook each limb-a punishment, according to the diviners.  Still he clung to life and planned his own treatment in hope of recovery.  He crossed the Jordan and took the hot baths at Callirhoe that flow into the Dead Sea but are sweet and potable.  The doctors there decided to warm his body by lowering him into a tub of hot oil, but he fainted, turning up his eyes as if dying.  Noise from his attendants beating their breasts revived him, but he now gave up hope of recovery and ordered that fifty drachmas be given each of his soldiers and large sums to his officers and friends.

“Returning to Jericho in extreme depression, he planned a final, monstrous crime.  He assembled the most eminent men from every village in all Judea and had them locked inside the hippodrome.  Then he told his sister Salome and her husband, Alexas:  ‘I know the Jews will celebrate my death with rejoicing, but I can be mourned for the sake of others and have a splendid funeral if you do as I direct.  Surround the men (in the hippodrome) with soldiers, and the moment I die, kill them all quickly, so that all Judea and every house will weep over me…’

“Later, tortured by hunger and a convulsive cough, he tried to anticipate his fate.  He took an apple and asked for a knife-he cut up apples when he ate them-and then raised his right hand to stab himself (but was prevented).”[41]

King Herod the Great was buried after a very grand funeral procession in a tomb of his choosing in his prized fortress, Herodium.

The old adage, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”, proved not to be effective for Herod the Great.  His enemies were too close, and he didn’t even know it.  His own family fought against each other through rumors and lies.  They schemed to get to either inherit his throne or see to it that the person they wanted did inherit it.  His many wives plotted against him.  His sister Salome plotted against his wives and descendants.  There were banishments, murders, lies, and rumors that surrounded the decision of succession.  It was a bloodbath rivaled only in comparison to the most horrific soap opera storylines.

Many times, those closest to us tend to be the ones that can plot and scheme our downfall if we are not wise to the ways of the enemy.  We must have a discerning heart when it comes to who we allow to counsel us and help us make life-changing decisions.  Our own family and closest friends can give us advice that could send us down paths of destruction that were never intended for us to travel.  Herod’s pride kept him from listening to the right voices.

Perowne gives us some wise advice at the end of his book.  He states that Herod was so bent on advancement of his kingdom and so wrapped up in who was going to inherit his throne that he completely missed the times that he was in.[42] Being convinced that he was the messiah caused him to react in rage when someone dared to say that he was not.  If we cannot discern our season, we will miss the opportunity in the season.  The opportunity of a lifetime only lasts for the lifetime of that opportunity.  He had the opportunity to usher in the new dispensation when Christ came.  He could have bowed his knee in worship.  Instead, he reacted in rage and completely missed it.  We must get past our pride and arrogance and humble ourselves before the King of kings and welcome Him into our lives.  Those who are humbled will be exalted (James 4:10).

Bibliography

Blomberg, Craig L.  Jesus and the Gospels. Nashville:  Broadman & Holman Publishing, 1997.

Butler, Trent C.  Holman New Testament Commentary – Luke. Nashville:  Broadman & Holman

Publishers, 2000.

Hearn, Chester G.  Herod the Great – The Years Before Christ. Baltimore:  PublishAmerica,

2004.

Maier, Paul L.  Eusebius – The Church History. Grand Rapids:  Kregel Publications, 2007.

Perowne, Stewart.  The Life and Times of Herod the Great. Great Britain:  JH Haynes & Co.

Ltd, 2003.

Rocca, Samuel.  The Army of Herod the Great. Great Britain:  Osprey Publishing, 2009.

Roller, Duane W.  The Building Program of Herod the Great. Los Angeles:  University of            California Press, 1998.

Scott Jr., J. Julius.  Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament. Grand Rapids:  Baker Academic,

2009.


[1] Craig L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels (Nashville:  Broadman & Holman Publishing, 1997), 201.  Also named “Slaughter of the Innocents.”

[2] Chester G. Hearn, Herod the Great – The Years Before Christ (Baltimore:  PublishAmerica,

2004), 6.

[3] Ibid., 6.

[4] Ibid., 6.

[5] Samuel Rocca, The Army of Herod the Great (Great Britain:  Osprey Publishing, 2009), 3.

[6] Hearn, Herod the Great – The Years Before Christ, 76.

[7] Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels, 201.

[8] Paul L. Maier, Eusebius – The Church History (Grand Rapids:  Kregel Publications, 2007), 39.

[9] Stewart Perowne, The Life and Times of Herod the Great (Great Britain:  JH Haynes & Co.

Ltd, 2003), 179-180.

[10] Craig L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels (Nashville:  Broadman & Holman Publishing, 1997), 201.  Also named “Slaughter of the Innocents.”

[11] Chester G. Hearn, Herod the Great – The Years Before Christ (Baltimore:  PublishAmerica, 2004), 6.

[12] Ibid.

[13] J. Julius Scott, Jr., Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Academic, 1995), 82.

[14] Scott, Jr., Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament, 87.

[15] Ibid., 89.

[16] Duane W. Roller, The Building Program of Herod the Great (Los Angeles:  University of California Press, 1998), I.

[17] Hearn, Herod the Great – The Years Before Christ, 20.

[18] Hearn, Herod the Great – The Years Before Christ, 20.

[19] Ibid., 21-22.

[20] Stewart Perowne, The Life and Times of Herod the Great (Great Britain:  JH Haynes & Co.

Ltd, 2003), 105.

[21] Hearn, Herod the Great – The Years Before Christ, 34.

[22] Samuel Rocca, The Army of Herod the Great (Great Britain:  Osprey Publishing, 2009), 3.

[23] Perowne, The Life and Times of Herod the Great, 105.

[24] Rocca, The Army of Herod the Great, 13.

[25] Ibid., 24-35.

[26] Rocca, The Army of Herod the Great, 35-38.

[27] Ibid., 38-39.

[28] Ibid., 39-41.

[29] Roller, The Building Program of Herod the Great, 176.

[30] Ibid., 209-212.

[31] Ibid., 133-144.

[32] Roller, The Building Program of Herod the Great, 164-165.

[33] Hearn, Herod the Great – The Years Before Christ, 42-43.

[34] Hearn, Herod the Great – The Years Before Christ, 11.

[35] Perowne, The Life and Times of Herod the Great, 52.

[36] Hearn, Herod the Great – The Years Before Christ, 35-36.

[37] Ibid., 49-50.

[38] Hearn, Herod the Great – The Years Before Christ, 76.

[39] Trent C. Butler, Holman New Testament Commentary – Luke (Nashville:  Broadman & Holman

Publishers, 2000), 46.

[40] Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels, 201.

[41] Paul L. Maier, Eusebius – The Church History (Grand Rapids:  Kregel Publications, 2007), 39-40.

[42] Perowne, The Life and Times of Herod the Great, 179-180.