Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 5 comments

The book "Killing Jesus" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard came into my hands at just the right time, allowing me to read it during Lent and complete it on Easter Sunday

"Killing Jesus" is a historical account of the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. While it's not a Christian book per se, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are referenced as frequently as one would hope they would be for a book written about the death of Jesus.

I found the book to be true to the Gospel and very helpful in sorting out who is who among the Romans. Early in the book there is a description of the events that take place on the Ides of March, 44 B.C. and lead to the death of Julius Caesar. One fact about him grabbed my attention primarily because it could have been used in reference to our culture today: "Julius Caesar has long been devoted to keeping the masses happy. One way to do this is by ensuring that popular entertainment is available to one and all, distracting them from any issues they may have about their government." Sound familiar? And how did that end up working for the Romans?

But I digress. Julius Caesar is mentioned because it was he who chose his nephew Gaius Julius Caesar Octavainus (aka Octavian) as heir, although it would be 13 years (31 B.C.) before he would win the battle with Marc Antony for the throne. Octavian then began going by the name Caesar Augustus, and it was he who "issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world." ~ Luke 2:1 So Caesar Augustus (aka Octavian) was successor to Julius Caesar. Jesus, then, came into the world not long after Julius Caesar left it.

Herod the Great is portrayed as "a puppet who owes his kingdom completely to the brutal and all-powerful republic" of Rome and is subject to Caesar Augustus. He suffered from many ailments and died shortly after giving "orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and in its vicinity who were two years old and younger." ~ Matthew 2:16  His kingdom was then divided into four unequal parts and ruled by those sons that he didn't murder: Philip, Herod Antipas and Archelaus. "They are nothing more than figureheads and carry the title of tetrarch instead of king."

Caesar Augustus declared Archelaus unfit to rule and over the next twenty years, "four other Roman governors have been in charge of Judea. The fifth had just arrived. His name is Pontius Pilate." So at the time of Jesus' crucifixion Herod Antipas was tetrarch of Galilee and Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea, but both held the same position and both were subject to Rome and its ruler Tiberius Caesar (successor to Caesar Augustus). 

The book was heavily researched, as noted in the sources section after the conclusion of the book, and it shows. In addition to sorting out who's who in the Roman hierarchy and giving a Biblical account of the crucifixion, the book also gives interesting cultural explanations for things such as why we celebrate Christ's birth in December when he was actually born in the spring.

All in all, I was very pleased with the book. The only fault I found with it was that while the depravity of the Roman rulers was not given in intricate detail, it was still more graphic than I would have liked. Thankfully, though, these descriptions were only a few pages long. 

Christian or not, I think anyone who likes history would enjoy reading this book, and because it is so true to Scripture I believe it could be very effective in introducing readers to the person of Jesus Himself.


Lisa

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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 5 comments

For as long as I can remember, I've loved candy - sugar of any kind, really - which is why I've always been such a big fan of the Easter basket. I have fond childhood memories of racing around on Easter Sunday mornings, searching for my hidden treasure. (I recall that one year it was in the oven. I'm sure I was given a hint or I would've never found it.) 

The basket was always filled with the traditional Easter fare of jelly beans, Peeps, chocolate eggs (funny, we always used to call them footballs) and of course, the crowning glory of my Easter basket - a lusciously plump chocolate bunny, mine for the eating! I can still conjure up the anticipation I would experience as I quickly unwrapped the bunny, placed my teeth gingerly around the ear and allowed them to sink slowly into the milk chocolate. But instead of gradually working my teeth through the chocolatey goodness, they quickly met in the empty space between the two thin walls. 

It was hollow! What a gyp!

This was probably the first time I encountered false advertising, and I didn't like it one bit! I'm sure I was fairly young when I began asking for a solid bunny for my Easter basket. Sure, it looked smaller than the others, but it was chocolate through and through. Who wanted a plump bunny if it was filled with nothing but air? Not me!

Take a look at your calendar. Odds are, your days look just like the chocolate bunnies I requested - FILLED SOLID!  

No room to breathe...

No margin for error...

It seems as though overscheduling is reaching chronic proportions these days. And while we may feign complaining about it, oftentimes we wear our busyness like a badge of honor. "Well, if you think you're busy, wait until you hear my schedule!" 

We've become a nation of Martha's.

Before becoming a Christian - and for too many years after - I didn't see anything wrong with that. If the world had more Martha's, we could really get something accomplished! Being the first-born, perfectionistic, over-achiever that I was, the Biblical story of Mary and Martha made no sense to me. 

Jesus and his disciples came to their home one day, and suddenly the sisters found themselves with THIRTEEN dinner guests. Martha was scurrying around with the preparations, frustrated that her sister Mary was sitting around doing nothing. 

Maybe Martha thought the house needed to be spotless and she felt the closets should be cleaned (after all, this is Jesus we're talking about, and He sees everything...)

Perhaps she thought the table should look just so, complete with placemats, matching napkins and a seasonally-themed centerpiece (hand-crafted, of course.)

It could be she was scurrying to prepare a 7 course meal and it wasn't going well.

(Have you ever been there?)

This was JESUS after all; He was IN THEIR HOME and Mary was doing NOTHING! 

Can you feel Martha's exasperation? Since Mary wasn't responding to her nagging, Martha decided to go over her head. Certain that Jesus would tell Mary to get on her feet get to work, she asked Him, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” ~ Luke 10:40

I'm sure Martha was expecting Jesus to read Mary the riot act (as I was) but Jesus didn't address his words to Mary.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” ~ Luke 10:41-42

Huh?

Martha, like many of us, was making things more difficult than they needed to be. I'm still amazed at how complicated I can make things that should really be simple. Jesus pointed out that Martha was "worried and upset." I wouldn't be surprised if, while Martha was stressing out over hosting the perfect dinner party, Jesus was just thinking a simple sandwich would be nice...

Jesus pointed out that it was Mary who was doing the better thing. And what is the "better thing?" 

Spending time with Jesus!



How are you doing with that?

If we keep every waking moment of our day filled, where does God fit in? 

We need to be deliberate about leaving margin in our lives so that God can fill it. He generally doesn't shout at us. He whispers, which means we need to have some quiet time in our day if we're going to hear Him. We need space available in our schedule to do those things that God has planned for us; those things we often look at as interruptions.

You see, empty space is NOT a bad thing.

Lisa


I've been known to link up with: Inspire Me Monday, Living Proverbs 31Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, The Beauty in His Grip, Make Your Home Sing Monday, Playdates With God, UniteM,M and MMonday MusingsWhole-Hearted HomeSoli Deo GloriaTell Me a StoryTitus 2sdaysGrowing HomemakersWomen Helping WomenWise WomanTell His Story, Works for Me WednesdayWinsome Wednesday, Wordless Wednesday,   Wednesdays Prayer GirlsThree Word Wednesday,  Whimsical WednesdayMessy MarriageA Little R&RWholehearted WednesdaysFrom House to HomeThe Girls Link UpDoing You Well Wednesday, Think Tank ThursdayThriving ThursdayThe HomeAcre HopThursday Favorite Things,  Mama Kats Losin’ it,  Thrive at Home, Cozy Book HopInspire Me PleaseThrifty Things FridaySpiritual SundayFaith Filled FridayFriendship FridayHeart-Filled Fridays #Fellowship FridaysEssential ThingsMake My Saturday SweetThe Weekend BrewWrite on EdgeFrugal FridayThink Pink SundaySunday Stillness  
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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 8 comments

Since my last post was on the crucifixion, I couldn't leave you there without talking about the resurrection! Enjoy another look at a previous post about the God who brings life to the dead!



Many years ago, my husband Bob purchased a little cyclamen plant for me from a local grocery store.  Although the survival rate for my outdoor plants is much higher than indoor plants (which explains why there were none), prior experience had taught me that cyclamen and Michigan weather did not mix well.  Perhaps because there was only one to dote on, I was able to nurture my little indoor plant and enjoyed many seasons of its vibrant fuchsia blossoms. 

At least, that is, until my cat destroyed it.  

Utterly.

Totally. 

Completely.

Destroyed.

I walked into my sun room (literally the only room in the house that gets any sun) and my heart sunk.  My beautiful little plant was reduced to a pot of soil with leaves and dirt strewn everywhere. With the culprit nowhere in sight (I must note that he did go on to live a long life and die of natural causes), I grabbed my broom and dustpan and got to work, mourning the loss of my poor little plant.

Although I've always been quite organized, somehow I never got around to dumping out the remainder of soil in the pot.  I'm sure being in a room we rarely used for most of the year had something to do with it - out of sight, out of mind.  

That is until one day, when something caught my eye.  

Signs of life!

My poor, brutalized, neglected, left-for-dead plant had some life in it after all!  

There was a leaf...

and then two...

then three...


And then a bud...

and another bud...

and another!

This was truly the little plant that could!  Fast forward a few years, and my resurrected plant was once again thriving and enjoying the longest life a houseplant in my home has ever experienced.  Then in May 2012 Bob and I went on our fifth trip to do mission work in Kenya  and left our youngest son (24 at the time) to house sit while we were gone.  We kept our instructions to a minimum:  

Keep the house standing

Mow the lawn

Keep the plant alive.

Well, I'm pleased to announce that the house was still standing when we returned. As for my plant, we came home to this:


My heart sunk.  Evidently three weeks of 90 degree heat and no water has an adverse effect on plants - who knew?  Ugh!

Since this was the second time my plant had been "killed,"  I was sure this was it. Still, given its history, I held out hope and resumed watering my pot of dirt.

Once again, it was a long process, but over time a little leaf appeared, and then another...

Nine months later, and just look at it now - a spot of brightness in this dreary span between winter and spring!



Imagine the despair those who loved Jesus felt when they witnessed Him beaten, crucified and pierced. They had believed in Him.  They gave up everything for Him. All their faith was in Him, and now He was gone.  It was over.  Their hopes for the future destroyed.

Utterly.

Totally. 

Completely.

Destroyed.

Now what would they do?


Maybe you feel that way too.  

Maybe you're dealing with the death of someone near and dear to you.

Maybe you're facing your own mortality.

Maybe your health has deteriorated to the point where they say there's no hope.

Maybe your dreams have been crushed. 

Maybe you feel like all the hopes for your future have been dashed.

Remember what the disciples learned over 2,000 years ago.   We belong to the ... God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.  ~ Romans 4:17b

Nothing is more insurmountable than death, yet God displayed His power over death when He raised Jesus from the dead on the third day.  If death is not insurmountable for God, do you think your issue is?

Like the disciples, we tend to look at our situation based on our own understanding and reasoning.  But what difference would it make in our lives if we instead focused on God, His power and His love for us, the depth of which He displayed when He sacrificed His Son on our behalf?  

What if we trusted in His plan and His timing rather than our own?  God is not finished with your story, not by a long shot.  Why not stop striving to make things happen on your own schedule, resume claiming the promises God made to you, and watch and see what He has in store!

Father, Thank you for the sacrifice of your Son so that those who believe can spend eternity with you; an eternity that begins the day we accept Him as our Lord and Savior!  Help us to stop living like those who have no hope and instead remember we belong to the God who gives life to the dead and calls things into being that were not.  



Lisa


I've been known to link up with: Soli Deo Gloria, Inspire Me Monday, Titus 2sdays, Tell Me a Story, Teach Me Tuesdays, Courtship Connection, Into the Beautiful, Tell His Story, Word-Filled Wednesday, Winsome Wednesday, Simply Helping Him, Weekend Whatever, Spiritual Sundays, True Vine Challenge, Hear it on Sunday, Use it on Monday, The Beauty in His Grip, Playdates With God, Monday's Musings, Monday Montras, Thrive at Home, Knick of Time, Hope in Every Season, Funky Junk Interiors



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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 2 comments

Have you ever noticed that even though the Gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) all chronicle the life of Jesus, the events included or omitted can vary, as can the order in which they're presented? 

One thing that I've learned from many years of reading the Bible is that EVERYTHING was done the way it was for a reason. There's meaning in everything; sometimes it just takes some digging discover what it is. It helps our understanding if we remember the Bible was written by specific people in a certain time and place. In other words, context matters. If we take a closer look we'll discover many of the New Testament writers were influenced by the Romans who lived among them.  

In a previous post we saw how the book of Revelation was structured like something the original audience, familiar with the practices of Rome, would understand - the Roman emperor's advent. (This is when he declares himself to be god.) We find the same thing happening in the book of Mark, which was written as a letter to Rome. It is believed that Mark mentions Alexander and Rufus as sons of Simon of Cyrene (Mark 15:21) because they were members of the church in RomeThe book of Mark is patterned after the process of the emperor's coronation. (This is when he declares himself to be the king of the world.)  

Mark deliberately did this because the Romans didn’t value people who were weak or who didn’t fight, they valued strength.  The order of events in Mark differs from those in the other gospels because he wants the Romans to see Jesus’ walk to the cross as His coronation.  This letter was written close to the time of Nero’s coronation, so the readers would’ve been familiar with the process. 

Nine steps to the Caesar’s coronation/Jesus crucifixion

#1.  The entire Praetorian guard assembles in the Praetorium.

#1. “The soldiers led Jesus away into the Praetorium and called together the whole company of soldiers.”  ~ Mark 15:16



#2.  A purple robe is placed on his shoulders and a wreath (Greek word “stephanos” meaning a crown you earn) placed on his head.  

#2.  “They put a purple robe on Him, then . . . a crown of thorns.” Mark 15:17
      


#3.  Caesar is acclaimed by the Praetorians; they call out “Hail Caesar.”

#3.  Jesus is acclaimed by the Praetorians: “Hail, king of the Jews.” Mark 15:18



#4.  There is a procession through the city.  Caesar leads the sacrificial bull, carrying the instrument of death (usually an axe).

#4.  Jesus, who was the sacrifice, was in a procession through the city, carrying the instrument of death (the cross). Mark 15:20-21



#5.  They proceed to the highest hill, Capitaline Hill (Capital means “head.”)

#5.  They proceeded to the hill called Golgotha (the place of the skull) Mark 15:22



#6.  Wine is offered to Caesar, but he refuses it, pouring it out.

#6.  “They offered Him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.” Mark 15:23
(This is only found in Mark’s gospel, probably because while unimportant to the other audiences, it was essential to Mark’s parallel to a coronation)



#7.  The sacrifice is made at the bottom of the hill.

#7.  The sacrifice is made.  “They crucified him.” Mark 15:24



#8.  The next two men in rank are elevated.  With one on Caesar’s right and one on his left, they proceed up the hill.

#8.  “They crucified two robbers with Him, one on his right and one on his left.” Mark 15:27  Jesus’ next in rank were the lowest of the low. 



#9.  The people and the gods publicly acclaim Caesar. (There was a total eclipse of the sun at the time of Nero’s coronation.  He probably had prior knowledge of this, but to the people, this would’ve been a sign of acceptance from the gods.)

#9.  The people and God publicly acclaim Jesus.  “At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.” ~ Mark 15:38  

“Surely this man was the Son of God!” ~ Mark 15:39  
When the Roman declares Jesus is God, he’s declaring this is a coronation. 


Mark wanted the recipients to understand that Jesus wasn’t defeated; He was victorious!

There were three criteria that an area had to meet to hold a crucifixion. (1) It had to be by a main gate to the city, (2) near a busy street and (3) by a “cursed” place.  There are two sites in Jerusalem that are possible locations of Jesus’ crucifixion because they both meet these three criteria.  In both cases, the cursed place is an abandoned quarry.  These quarries were abandoned because all the good rock had been removed.  The inferior rock that was left was prone to crack.  

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” ~ Psalm 118:24  

Why do we rejoice?  Look back a couple verses.  

The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;” ~ Psalm 118:22

This is the day the abandoned stone (Jesus) became the head.    


Lisa
                                                        


*This post is based on a lecture from Ray VanderLaan that I heard many years ago. You can find more of Ray's teachings here.


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