Why Does It Matter If Jesus Existed Before He Was Human?

Most of you are probably familiar with a debate between Christians who believe God created Jesus in Mary’s womb and those who believe Jesus preexisted His human life. You might have strong feelings one way or the other, or you might not care. As one of my friends recently asked, why does it matter where Jesus came from as long as you believe in Him as your savior now?

But I think it does matter. Jesus is the foundation for all the foundational truths we learn as Christians. Without His sacrifice, we couldn’t have eternal life or a relationship with God. He’s the Head of the church and we’re constantly told “look to” and “consider” Him. On top of that, our goal is to become like God as part of His family, so understanding what the Father and Son are like gives us greater insight into our future. How we view Christ’s role in God’s plan matters.click to read article, "Why Does It Matter If Jesus Existed Before He Was Human?" | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Setting The Narrative

I’ll just say right now that I believe Jesus preexisted His incarnation as human. In fact, the main reason I’ve never written about the subject is because I felt the scriptures were so clear on this point. But evidently they’re not, because people I like and respect keep bringing it up. Just a couple weeks ago, I overheard a conversation at church that started something like this: “Do you think Jesus preexisted? I’m not so sure …”

How you answer this question drastically affects how you see Jesus’ relationship with His people and God’s entire plan. There’s a big difference between God creating a Son to die in your place, and half the original God-family choosing to die for you. Continue reading

How To Love The Lord Your God

Jesus told us “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment” (Mark. 12:29-30).

Even though this commandment forms the basis of all other commands and is most important for us to remember and obey, it can also be easy to overlook. It sounds so simple: “Love God, check. Yup. I’m good.” But Jesus went into more detail than just “love God.” He started out by reminding us Yahweh is echad. He is united, preeminent, and the only one worthy of the title Lord.

With that reminder in place, Jesus goes on to quote an Old Testament passage telling us how to love God. The way we should love our Lord isn’t left up to our imagination or emotions. We’re told what we’re supposed to do.click to read article, "How To Love The Lord Your God" | marissabaker.wordpress.com

With All Your Heart

As today, most people in Jesus’s day didn’t just think of the heart as a muscle pumping blood. It was seen as the “seat of emotions” and the core of your “inner man” (labab, H3824). In Greek, kardia metaphorically referred to the “center of all physical and spiritual life” and the “fountain and seat of thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors (G2588, Thayer). That’s the first way we’re supposed to love God — with all our emotions, thoughts, and yearnings that come from the very core parts of who you are inside. Continue reading

Our Feelings Don’t Define God’s Truth

“Do what feels right.” “Follow your heart.” That’s the sort of advice we’ve steeped in living in Western culture. Problem is, that’s not really good advice. Sometimes your heart is wrong. Sometimes what feels good isn’t right.

Speaking more specifically to Christians, one of the hard truths we need to learn is that something can feel okay to you yet still be a sin in God’s eyes. Just because you’re okay with something doesn’t mean God is. And, on the flip side, your dislike of something doesn’t make it a sin. In short, how we feel does not define God’s truth.

God defines truth. Those truths are contained in His word (John 17:17), His law (Ps. 119:142), and His commandments (Ps. 119:151). Either you accept His standards as the basis for truth, or you’re not a Christian. You might be a decent sort of person on the whole, but you’re certainly not a follower of Christ. The Bible is our main link with God. It’s how He has revealed Himself to us. Rejecting the standards outlined in God’s word means we reject His mind and block the Spirit’s work to enlighten and transform us.click to read article, "Our Feelings Don't Define God's Truth" | marissabaker.wordpress.com

A Simple Test

Accepting an outside source as our ultimate authority doesn’t sit well with modern society. We tend to focus on individual freedom and self expression to the exclusion of objective morality. But the Bible says “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord” (Jer. 17:5). A heart following its own desires is moving away from God.

Continue reading

Why do we care about old writings?

A few years ago when I was in college, one of my professors organized a small group of interested students and took us up to the Cleveland art museum. The purpose of our visit, a touring exhibit of religious artifacts from medieval Europe, was interesting, but that wasn’t what lured me there. It was the museum’s permanent collection of illuminated manuscripts.

These manuscripts date from the Middle Ages. Every page was carefully copied by hand, and they didn’t just stop there. Illuminating a manuscript with (real) gold, silver, and bright colors in illustrations and elaborate first letters turned them into works of art. The sort of books you took the time to create like this were held in high value (many are religious texts).

Why care about old writings? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

photo of Cleveland’s “The Glory of the Painted Page” collection

It’s no secret I love books. But most of the books on my shelves are, in the strictest sense, disposable and replaceable. They were impersonally mass-printed in a factory. Any meaning that particular copy has is unique to me. But for the handwritten manuscripts each copy is unique. They’re irreplaceable. And they were created with love.

That’s also true of the ancient writings I saw yesterday. The Ancient Hebrew Scroll Project is one of only 2 or 3 complete sets of the Tanakh (Old Testament), and it’s the only one you’ll ever have a chance to see. It tours in public and there’s never any admission fee. The oldest scroll is a 600 year old Torah. Others are around 250 years old, with the exception of some scrolls too rare to obtain old copies (those are newly commissioned). Several survived the Holocaust, including a Haftorah that was bayoneted six times by Nazis.

Why care about old writings? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

The beginning of Psalm 119 on a scroll written in 2009. Notice you can see the lines are written in sets of 8, each starting with the same Hebrew letter (that’s why it’s divided alphabetically in your English Bibles; because of the type of poem/song it is)

Every single Bible scroll, the new and the old, was created the same way. Two Levites stand holding a completed scroll open before a scribe. The scribe reads one word aloud, then writes it using a pen made from a turkey feather dipped in ink made from gall nuts, gum-Arabic, and ash. He does this for every single word with the exception of the YHWH name of God. For this word, he will not speak it aloud and before writing it he washes his hands and takes up a pen only used to write the Name.

Once the scroll is finished, the scribe counts every letter to make sure it adds up to the correct number for that scroll. If it passes that test, he gives it to another scribe for re-counting, spell-checking, and format inspection. If that scribe gives it the go-ahead, it’s given to another scribe. Only after two scribes double-check the first scribe’s work is the scroll kosher.

Why care about old writings? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Latter (aka “Minor”) Prophets. Scroll written the late 17th Century

“So what?” some people ask. Who cares about hand-writing things like this in the age of computers? And yet this is how the Bible was preserved intact and unchanged for thousands of years. It’s the only way any writing from pre-1440 got passed down to us. There’s something about the process itself that lends meaning to the books and scrolls created with such careful attention.

New, fast, and disposable isn’t always better. There’s value in taking time to pour love and great care into something that will last. That’s one of the lessons the old writings teach us. They give us a chance to stop and ponder what we value. Something preserved in this way has to matter or it’s not worth taking the time.

Why care about old writings? (or, On Torah Scrolls and Illuminated Manuscripts) | marissabaker.wordpress.com

If there were no computers or printing presses any more, which writings would you value highly enough to copy by hand letter by letter so nothing was lost?

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Return to The Lord

Have you ever felt like your relationship with God wasn’t what it should be? I think if we’re honest, we’ve all had seasons in our lives where we knew we weren’t quite right with God. Some of us are going through that right now. Sometimes we know what put that distance in our relationship with Him, sometimes we’re not quite sure how we drifted away. We just know we need to get back.

The Jews and Messianic believers say the month leading up to Yom Teruah (Feast of Trumpets) and the 10 Days of Awe between Trumpets and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) are a season of teshuva. This word literally means “return.” It is derived from the word shub (H7725), which is the form used in scripture. When the Old Testament talks about people turning away from their sins, this is the word typically used (examples: 1 Kings 8:47; Eze. 14:6; 18:30). We also translate shub and teshuva as repentance.Shabbat Shuvah | marissabaker.wordpress.com

  • (Side Note: the English word “repent” in the KJV Old Testament is usually translated from nacham (H5162), to be sorry, and is most often used of God. However, our modern understanding of repentance is better expressed by shub or teshuva.)

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says that all the “idioms describing man’s responsibility in the process of repentance … are subsumed and summarized by this verb shub. For better than any other verb it combines in itself the two requisites of repentance: to turn from evil and to turn to the good” (entry 2340).

Four Steps

Today is the Sabbath between Trumpets and Atonement. It’s traditionally known as Shabbat Shuvah, the Sabbath of Return. While repentance is something we do year round, this is a fitting season to think more deeply about where we stand with God and in what ways we need to turn back to Him. Continue reading

The Honor Of His Name

We talk quite often about how we ought to live our lives as Christians — the things we should and should not do, which laws we must keep, the characteristics of Jesus Christ that should show up in our lives. We also talk about what motivates this way of living. If our hearts aren’t right, the outward stuff doesn’t matter. God cares about why we do what we do as much (or more) as He cares about our actions.

The “why” is connected with how we view God. Are we obeying His rules because we see Him as an intimidating authority figure, or because we respect Him as Creator? Do we follow Jesus because of what we hope to get out of being Christian, or because we love Him and trust that He wants what’s best for us?

Those questions are concerned with how God relates to us. Beyond that is the question of how we view God as Himself. God is the self-existent One who inhabits eternity. We often think of Him in terms of how He relates to humanity, but there’s far more to Him than that. How should we view God simply because He is God?

click to read article, "The Honor Of His Name" | marissabaker.wordpress.com

photo credit: “Prayer #2” by Connor Tarter, CC BY-SA via Flickr

Inherent Glory

In Hebrew, the word translated glory and honor in the verses we’ll cover literally means “to be heavy.” It’s not an abstract or subjective concept. There’s substance behind the honor and glory discussed in the Bible. Kabod (H3519) and the related word kabad (H3513) are used figuratively of an honorable social position backed-up with a “weightiness of character.” This makes the recipient of glory worthy of that honor (TWOT entry 943). Continue reading