Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Message of Jesus

I like the way The Message renders Matthew 4:23ff:
From there [Jesus] went all over Galilee. He used synagogues for meeting places and taught people the truth of God. God's kingdom was his theme—that beginning right now they were under God's government, a good government!
We are now under God's government. Live like it.


Matthew records in chapter 4 that the first four of the inner core of Jesus' disciples were two sets of brothers. Interesting, I think.

Concerning the recruitment of Simon Peter and Andrew, Matthew makes it sound like Jesus just walked up to them on the beach and said, "Follow me", and they did. But Luke fleshes out the story a bit, and adds the details that Jesus actually spent a bit of time with them first, having borrowed their services as "roadies", using their boat as a stage from which to preach, separated from the crowds by a few meters of water. After his preaching, he stayed on the boat while they went out to sea, and it was during this fishing expedition that events occurred that led to Peter's and Andrew's decision to follow Jesus.

Call U-Haul

In reading Matthew 4 last night, I realized for the first time that when Jesus began his ministry, he did not keep his home in his hometown of Nazareth. Immediately after the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus went home to Nazareth, and then moved from there to Capernaum.

I've always read this as part of his itinerant wanderings, but no; it was an actual move of his homeplace. Capernaum is now his hometown.

And Isaiah had prophesied that the suburbs of Capernaum would be blessed by a Light coming into their neighborhood.

The Message Highlights Again

You've read my blog before about the wonderful reading Bible that is The Message. It's not a Bible I'd trust for accuracy in study, but just for reading, it's great.

In reading Matthew 4 last night, it served to highlight something I've never noticed before in other translations.

When Jesus was tempted the three times by Satan, each time he responded by quoting scripture found in Deuteronomy. He did not quote from three different Tanahk ("Old Testament") passages, but only from Deuteronomy.

I have no idea if that has any significance whatsoever, but I did find it very interesting.

YHWH in the New Testament

Matthew reminds me in chapter 3, in his quote of Isaiah 40:3, that the writers of the New Testament do not use the name YHWH when quoting scripture containing the name.

Why is that? They are changing the Word of God.

I understand that it was not culturally-acceptable at the time to use the Holy Name of God, to instead substitute the phrase "the Lord" for it (just like most of our modern English Bibles do, only they tend to put the word "Lord" in small caps).

But does this mean that God approves of changing his written word to accommodate cultural norms? If so, does this mean we are free to change phrases like "My brothers" into "My brothers and sisters", or "greet one another with a holy kiss" into "greet one another with a holy handshake"?

Or does it mean that the writers of the New Testament were not that "controlled" by the Spirit to such a fine level of detail, and that their writings were colored by their own understandings and misunderstandings and therefore may not be "inerrant"?

Or does it mean something else entirely? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Who Saw the Spirit of God Descending on Jesus?

Matthew 2:16-17
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.
I always thought it was John the Baptist who saw the Spirit of God descending onto Jesus, but apparently it was Jesus himself who saw it. Interesting.

The Baptism of Jesus

Why was Jesus immersed?

Well, "to fulfill all righteousness", of course (Matthew 3:15).

But what does that mean?

Jesus is the only human to have ever walked the "Path of Righteousness" perfectly. Every other human has fallen short in some way. If you keep the Law perfectly, except for having once gotten angry at a schoolmate and keying his car as you passed through the parking lot, you've sinned, and have fallen short of the glory of God; you've ruined your chances of being worthy of heaven.

However, Jesus, having been perfect and therefore worthy of heaven, has somehow made this perfect-score available to his fellow humans as a gift. We, as believers, are given his right-ness.

When you were immersed, what if your nose didn't quite make it under the water? Then strictly speaking, you've failed to be properly immersed.

What if your understanding of immersion is somewhat lacking? Then strictly speaking, you've failed to be scripturally immersed.

But Jesus was properly, scripturally immersed. He got it right. He got the perfect score.

And because he gives us his perfect score, we too, are covered by his immersion.

John the Bum

In reading Matthew 3, I considered John the Baptist. Here we have a 30-ish year-old man, living out in the wilderness away from society, wearing anti-socialite clothing made from the hair of camels, eating locusts and honey.

Was he grime-encrusted? Did he have oily, stringy hair? Or did he spend enough time in the Jordan to be sparkling clean? Was the Jordan muddy or clean where he did his immersing?

I have no idea how one would make clothing from camel hair. I wonder if it'd be course and scratchy, or smooth. I wonder if it would be light and airy and cool during the hot days, or warm and toasty in the frigid nights. Would it be heavy when wet from the Jordan, or would water drain off easily?

Hmm; locusts and honey. Yummy. I did a quick Google and discovered that although bees are not acceptable eating according to Jewish dietary laws, honey is fine. And locusts are one of the few insects that are also kosher.

And he doesn't exactly have social schmoozing skills, as evidenced by his ranting against the elites who come to be part of the party.

Just what attracted the masses to this fellow living on the edge of society?

Luke tells us what John's message is. It's not about going to church three times a week, or avoiding alcohol, or knowing the correct rituals to follow in synagogue. It's a continuation of the Old Testament message to treat others properly (see this blog entry about the sense I had of the OT's over-arching themes), especially in the financial realm. When I get to the book of Luke, I'll likely have more to say about this.

We never much think about John, but I find him to be a rather interesting character.

Announcing the Arrival of God

Matthew, in his recounting of the beginning of Jesus' ministry, briefly mentions John the Baptist. In doing so, he quotes from Isaiah 40:3, reporting in 3:3:
A voice of one calling in the desert,
'Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.'
However, looking directly at Isaiah 40:3, we find this:
A voice of one calling:
"In the desert prepare
the way for YHWH;
make straight in the wilderness
a highway for our God.
Matthew was, in essence, telling his readers that John was the forerunner of not merely the "Son" of God, but of God himself, of YHWH on Earth.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Worshiping Baby Jesus

As I started reading the New Testament last night, in Matthew chapters 1 and 2, the thing that struck me is that Jesus was worshiped as a baby. I'm not a touchy-feely, baby-coo-ey sortta guy, but I was awed to consider holding God in my arms, stroking his cheek, brushing his hair from his forehead, smelling his baby-scent goodness.

Blessed is Mary, who held the entire universe in her hands, who from her body provided life-giving sustenance to the Maker of the universe.


By the way, do you know what the occupation was of the wise men?

They were firemen.

How do I know? Well, silly, they came from afar ....


Also note, there were three types of gifts given to Jesus by the wise men; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And legend has it that there were three wise men. But the Biblical accounts give no indication of how many wise men there were. Could've been three; could've been two; could've been two-hundred. We're just not told.

Monday, March 26, 2007

In with the New, Out with the Old

I'll be starting the New Testament tonight, after having finished last night reading the Old Testament.

I'd like to point out that the terms "Old Testament" and "New Testament" really are misleading. Many Christians mistakenly believe that the "Old Testament" is old, and is no longer relevant. Many of these folks believe the Old Testament has been done away with, nailed to the Cross.

But that's not true.

It's true that the "Old Covenant" has been nailed to the Cross, but the "Old Testament" is not the same as the "Old Covenant" (although the words mean the same).

The "Old Covenant" is the Law of Moses only, a subset of the "Old Testament". The Law of Moses applied/applies only to the nation of Israel; it never applied to non-Jews. Even the Ten Commandments have no jurisdiction over non-Jews, as that was part of the covenant with Moses and Israel.

There are, however, other covenants in the "Old Testament" which were and are binding on all peoples, not just the Jews.

For example, the covenant to be fruitful and multiply and steward the Earth (scientific inquiry is a necessary part of stewarding the earth -- Science is a God-mandated endeavour) is an agreement given to all humans.

Also, the covenant to never again send an earth-destroying flood is a promise to Jew and non-Jew alike, as well as to the animals of the world. This same covenant also instituted the death penalty for murderers, and has never been rescinded.

There were also other covenants, but most of those were with individuals or other nations serving minor roles in the story.

The main point I'm trying to make: although the "Old Mosaic/Israelite Covenant" (which is found in the "Old Testament") was nailed to the Cross, the "Old Testament" itself was not. We, all humans, are still bound under contracts found in the Old Testament.

Out with the Old, In with the New

I just finished the Old Testament last night.

When I was a teenager I started trying to read the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. I've had some periods where I've failed to be consistent, but over the years I've managed to read through the KJV, the NASB, the NIV, the NKJV, and now I'm working on The Message (which is a great reading Bible, but a lousy study Bible). I've got a "rule" that I have to read one chapter of the Bible every night. It takes me about three and a half years to get all the way through.

After finishing the OT this time 'round, the following themes seem most dominant in my mind:

1. Acknowledge and honor YHWH.
2. Treat others with justice and fairness.
3. Be truthful and honest.
4. God is most concerned with the fortunes of a nation as a whole rather than with individuals (without being unconcerned about individuals).
5. Government tends to corruption, and corrupt government is evil. Government conspires to take away the rights and properties of the individuals. (And I've seen this lately in my efforts to utilize my land, build a house, etc. Government has stolen much from me, simply because "they" can.)

UnHappy Birthday To Me ...

I turned 44 this past weekend; wow; I'm getting to be an old man.

But that's no problem; I have a faith and a hope that this is just temporary. When Jesus returns, I'll get a new body that is just as real as the one I have now, but without the flaws, such as old age. Sweet! I'm looking forward to it (although with a bit of trepidation, because after all, we do walk by faith rather than by sight -- I've never seen it; I just have faith in it).

But the title of this entry mentions an unhappy birthday.


Because the one person from whom I was looking to get a "Happy Birthday" did not so greet me. There are some deeper issues here than a mere forgotten birthday wish; this is just one more indication to me that a mistake I made some time ago has done irreparable harm.


Time to move on ....

Monday, March 19, 2007

Expect to Get Hurt

I have a friend on the other side of the world who I believe needs to hear this message:
People always hurt other people, even when they love them; that's just Life.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts

From 1 Peter 4:9ff:
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.
(emphasis added)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Server-Building Seminar

Jonathan Gray writes:

Event Info
ACM System Administrator & Server Building Workshop
Wanted to share my experiences
Time and Place
Start Time:
Monday, March 12, 2007 at 6:00pm
End Time:
Friday, March 16, 2007 at 9:00pm
COBA 214 also known as MBB 214
Abilene, TX
Contact Info


I plan to cover topics including:
How to design a network topology
General server building practices
A few more specific topics such as DNS

This is a hands on workshop. We've got 4 servers that we are going to completely wipe and start over with. I'll divide whomever shows up into teams to rebuild a server.

I am also inviting other knowledgable people to participate in the discussions. I don't claim to know everything and I realize there may be some areas that I am wrong about. People are welcome to come and critique my knowledge and add their own (provided it does not detract from the overall progression of the workshop).

The workshop will end whenever we reach a stopping place or 9pm whatever comes first.

I am also trying to make the workshop minimally cumulative so that people can miss a day or two if needed.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Get a Job!

Or, as Paul puts it in his letter to Titus (3:14):
Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Hosea Nuggets, Part Second

I'm not a great believer in man-made global warming (especially since Mars is also undergoing a similar climate change). Yet I've become convinced over the past year or so that human sin does have a direct effect on the Earth. Here's a quote from Hosea 4 that emphasizes this:
YHWH indicts the whole population: "No one is faithful. No one loves.
No one knows the first thing about God.
All this cussing and lying and killing, theft and loose sex,
sheer anarchy, one murder after another!
And because of all this, the very land itself weeps
and everything in it is grief-stricken—
animals in the fields and birds on the wing,
even the fish in the sea are listless, lifeless."

Hosea Nuggets

From Hosea 3:1
Then YHWH ordered me, "Start all over: Love your wife again, your wife who's in bed with her latest boyfriend, your cheating wife.
Love her the way I, God, love the Israelite people,
even as they flirt and party with every god that takes their fancy."
This struck me that a man's love for his wife is not just feelings, or a commitment, or a desire. It is a holiness; it is an imitation of God.

Men, loving your wife is the Holy Thing to do.