Sunday, August 27, 2006

SPIRIT and Truth, or Spirit and TRUTH, or Spirit AND Truth?

When talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus declared,
Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.
In my church-upbringing and culture, the focus when reading this passage was always on the "in truth" aspect.

Just now, re-reading it, I discover that I think Jesus' focus was on the "in spirit" aspect. He and the woman were discussing where the proper place for worship is: Jerusalem or Samaria. They were discussing issues of "truth". Then Jesus points out that the Jews had the "truth". Then he contrasts the focus on truth with what is to come: a time of worshipping in spirit and truth, pointing out specifically that God is spirit.

I think perhaps my church culture has neglected the spirit in favor of the truth.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Early Church and the Synagogue

Never knew this.... Take it as you will.
Here, assembly is a translation of the word "synagogue," which is used to denote the meeting or meeting place of believers. This fits the Jewish background of the readers (cf. 1:1). Later James also uses the word "church" (5:14).

This sure fits in with the idea that the early church was synagogue-based.

And why don't Bible translators stick to the text instead of substituting words ("ekklesia" for "synagogue"; "the LORD" for "Yhwh", etc)?!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Christians - A Third Race

My cousin has been writing a series of lessons for Bible class, and one of them deals with "The Development of the Christian Assembly".

In the historical background he provides, an interesting nugget made itself apparent.

After the Romans conquered the Jewish nation, they soon learned that the Jews were stubborn in several ways, such as by keeping themselves separate from non-Jewish culture, and refusing to worship any god but Yhwh, and not eating and partying with non-Jews, etc. The Romans learned that the Jews had a long history to which they were loyal (at least in principle), and the Romans found that unless there was a reason to do otherwise, it was generally just easier to leave the Jews alone as much as possible.

In the early years of Christianity, the Romans did not make any distinction between Christian Jews and non-Christian Jews; as far as the Romans were concerned, they were all just Jews. Accordingly, the Romans tended to treat the early Christians like they'd treat Jews, leaving them pretty much to themselves (as in Gallio refusing to bother with trying Paul over "Jewish issues" in Acts 18:12-17).

However, after Gentiles started becoming Christians, it became apparent to the Romans that these converts did not have the long history of being a Jew to account for their refusal to participate in Roman society (worship of the Roman gods, wild parties, etc). The Romans began to see these Gentile Christians as a developing "third race"; not Gentile like themselves, nor Jewish like the Jews.

It just struck my fancy (as it did those Christians, apparently, as per my cousin's writings), that we are a "Third Race", a "new People".


Friday, August 11, 2006

Life is about One Another

The bulk of the following was lifted from

So much of church time is spent on "acts of worship", particularly preaching. But the New Testament spends a lot more time on "one another" than on "church activities":

... you also should wash one another's feet.
John 13:14

A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
John 13:34

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
Romans 12:10

Honor one another above yourselves.
Romans 12:10

Live in harmony with one another.
Romans 12:16

...stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.
Romans 14:13

...make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
Romans 14:19

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
Romans 15:7

(Notice how bringing praise to God is not via song-leading or preaching, etc, but rather via acceptance of one another?)

...wait for each other.
1 Corinthians 11:33

...have equal concern for each other.
1 Corinthians 12:25

Greet one another with a holy kiss.
2 Corinthians 13:12

(Oh, wow. I am so bad at greeting others .... (Not that I'm good at the other items on this list, but this one I know I'm bad at.))

...serve one another in love.
Galatians 5:13

Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2

(Note how the law of Christ is fulfilled? Not by going to church three times a week, or worshiping in a certain prescribed way, or teaching some specific doctrine, but by bearing the burdens of each other.)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Ephesians 4:2

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Ephesians 5:21

(Notice how we show reverence for Christ?)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:4

Do not lie to each other ....
Colossians 3:9

Bear with each other.
Colossians 3:13

Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.
Colossians 3:13

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
Colossians 3:16

Live in peace with each other.
1 Thessalonians 5:13

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.
Hebrews 3:13

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Hebrews 10:24

Offer hospitality to one another....
1 Peter 4:9 not slander one another.
James 4:11

Confess your sins to each other.
James 5:16

Pray for each other....
James 5:16

These things build up the Kingdom.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Purpose of Christian Assemblies

For most of us, all our lives, we've thought the "purpose" of going to church was to "worship".

However, I can't find any support for this idea in the New Testament.

I find our purpose for Life to be "worship" (Rom 12:1), but our purpose for assembling is twofold:

1) to participate in the Lord's Supper, and

2) to build up one another.

Granted, worship is included in our assemblies, but worship is not the purpose of our assemblies. Here's a representative passage from Hebrews 10:24-25:

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Accordingly, I propose (only tongue-in-cheek) that we change the marquee' out in front of the assembly building so that it reads:

Provocation Assembly
Where Our Goal is to Provoke You!
(Unto love and good works...)

How Often to Worship?

In the oldest Mosaic culture, "regular" worship was to be conducted three times a year, in Jerusalem.

Later, after the Exile, "regular" worship was to be conducted every Sabbath, in the Synagogue.

With the New Covenant, we are to "regularly" worship at all times, in all places. "Church" is not our worship time; "Life" is our worship time.
"...present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship" (Rom.12:1).

From three times a year, to once a week, to all the time.

Wow. We're called to a higher standard.

Purpose of Prayer is also for Each Other

Wow. I always thought prayer was to be directed to God, but according to Paul, it is also to be directed to your fellow Christian, for his up-building:
If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.
1 Corinthians 14:16-17

So one of the purposes of public prayer is to edify those hearing you.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

How Can You Women Stand Us Filthy Men?

Last year I got to pondering about men and women (like, when don't I ponder about men and women?). It was easy for me to understand why men like women; you women are soft, and silky, and smell pretty, and look great, and sound like angels when you speak, and are, as someone once said, the closest to heaven we men will ever experience in this life.

Men on the other hand are dirty, always needing a shave, stinky, selfish, uncaring, oblivious, rude, sloppy, lazy. In short, I just don't see what you women could possibly find attractive about men.

And then it hit me. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, each was given a punishment. Part of Eve's punishment was that her desire would be for her man.

Ah-h-h. That explains it.