Sunday, December 28, 2008

Night with ebon pinion ...

"Night with ebon pinion / brooded o'er the vale...".

Beautifully poetic words, in a beautiful song. But how many people know what the phrase means? I do, because as a kid I looked up the words and managed to put it together into plain English (which I then penciled into my song book at church for future reference). But I daresay that many people have sung this phrase all their life and don't have a clue what it says.

Nothing wrong with beauty; nothing wrong with poetry. Until it gets in the way.
What then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with my understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with my understanding. - 1 Cor 14:15

Friday, December 12, 2008

Three Proverbs

1. Two people can look at the same thing and see it differently.

2. A rich person is not the one who has the most, but is the one who needs the least.

3. You can't make anyone love you.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christians Against Christ

Michael Cecil writes in an online forum:
Christianity is a specific set of doctrines, not merely the claim that a person is following Jesus.

And, if it can be determined that there is a conflict in Doctrine between what Jesus taught and what Christian theology teaches, then Christianity becomes the manifestation of the denial of the Teaching of Jesus.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Saved By Love

Phil Comer writes:
Your salvation depends on how much you love God? Good luck with that. My salvation depends on how much He loves me.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Forgiving the Adulteress?

Every once in a while an epiphany hits you that's been staring in your face for thirty years.

In John 8, Jesus did not forgive the woman who was caught in adultery. Rather, he maneuvered her accusers into dropping their charges against her. Different thing entirely.

With no eyewitnesses to testify against her, there was no case, and she was acquitted (or rather, pardoned - she was guilty, after all).

Yet Jesus perceived that she really was guilty, so he did the only thing left for him to do: he told her to "Go, and sin no more."

The story wasn't about her being forgiven by God; it was about saving her life in the culture's legal environment. Jesus wasn't asking the accusers to forgive her; he was asking them to cool off enough from the mob mentality to make sure they really wanted to testify in a case that would lead to the death of a fellow human being who in retrospect wasn't any more sinful than they themselves were.

A Wise Saying

MamaBear writes on Yahoo! Answers:
Things should be believed in because they are true, not the other way around.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Inside-Out

Now this is an interesting idea. It was in a post by mexangl716 on Yahoo! Answers:
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. KJV

When we are alive on this earth, our bodies are the home of our souls. The body is on the outside with the soul on the inside. The above text seems to indicate (as least to me) that in the resurrection, our bodies will become in some way housed by our souls. The word translated "put on" appears more than 25 times in the New Testament, and almost always refers to the wearing or putting on of apparel.

Now note verse 53 -- this corruptible (our bodies) must put on (as clothing) incorruption (our souls), and this mortal (our bodies) must put on (as clothes) immortality (our souls).
I'm rather hesitant to buy into this idea, but it's certainly something to chew on.

Jewish Symbolism in the Feeding of the Crowds

Yeshua was an Easterner, not a Westerner, and his way of thinking was much less abstract than is ours; he taught in word-pictures rather than 3-point PowerPoint presentations. The two miracles recorded in the Gospel accounts of Yeshua feeding first a crowd of 5000, and then a crowd of 4000, were a word-picture to his followers, who tended to see symbolism in many aspects of their everyday lives.

The first miracle, involving the feeding of 5000 with five loaves and two fish, took place in a very Jewish place, near Bethsaida (Luke 9:10). Beth, in Hebrew, means "house", and "sayid" means, essentially, "box lunch". They're about to eat at the Box Lunch Restaurant. (God loves wordplay, but we Gentiles miss out on so much of it.)

Numbers to the Jewish mindset nearly always have symbolic value. The number 5 would cause a Hebrew mind to conjure up ideas of God's grace and/or the Five Books of the Torah ("Pentateuch"), and 1000 (as in 5 x 1000) would suggest a very "completeness". Two would remind them of the two witnesses in Deuteronomy. The crossing over the sea into this desert just before the meal, at the Passover season, would have them thinking in terms of Moses leading the Israelites through the Red Sea and into the wilderness. The crowds were instructed to sit in groups of fifties and 100's, again reminiscent of the time Moses' father-in-law suggested that he appoint judges over the people in groups of 1000's, 100's, fifties, and tens. The twelve baskets of leftovers would trigger thoughts of the twelve tribes of Israel. The whole event would have the people thinking such thoughts as, "Is this the promised Prophet like Moses, feeding "manna" to us, the Messiah who will free us Israelites from our overlords?"

And then just a few days later, Yeshua is in a very Gentile place near the pagan cities of Tyre and Sidon (Matt 15:21). Here he fed 4000 people with seven loaves of bread and a few fish, and collected seven baskets of leftovers. The number four represented the four-corners of the earth, or in Jewish-think, the gentile nations of the world, and the sevens represented a divine completeness. All-in-all, this event had the people thinking, "Man, this party sure seems to have a lot of Gentile elements to it." (The "few" fish, being unspecified, merely highlights the symbolism of the other numbers which are reported.)

Later, the Jewish mind which reflected back on these two events suddenly realized: "Jesus, the bread of life, born in "Bakery-ville" ("Beth" = house; lehem = bread; Bethlehem = "House of Bread"), is feeding both Jew and Gentile, bringing the two groups into one family, nurturing them with the complete Torah of God."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The US Began As Communists

Ever since the New World had been "discovered" by Columbus in 1492, Europe had been making colonization attempts. Spain was having more success than England, and it wasn't until 1609 that England managed to establish a permanent settlement that did not end in failure, Jamestown.

The Jamestown settlement was a business venture, not a religious one. It nearly failed several times throughout the early years, but a constant influx of people and supplies from England kept it alive long enough to finally get a firm footing.

In the meanwhile, back home in England, a group of people were trying to separate themselves from the official Church of England, the Anglican Church, in order to worship according to their own Calvinistic understandings. These purist separatists, or Puritans, looking for a place where they'd have more freedom to exercise their religious beliefs, moved to Holland. Although they found religious freedom there, their status as non-Dutch prevented them from having any economic success; they were also disturbed that their children were beginning to adopt Dutch ideas rather than the ideas of their own community. So they began looking for another place to go. Their wanderlust earned them the nickname Pilgrims, although they never referred to themselves as such.

The King of England, King James (yes, the same who gave us our King James Bible), gave these Puritan Pilgrims permission to settle in the New World, on the northern edge of the Jamestown settlement area (known as the Virginia Colony, up around the middle of New Jersey), but a storm forced their ship, the Mayflower, off-course, and they instead landed at Plymouth Rock, considerably further North up the coast (near Boston, Mass).

They elected to set up camp there, rather than try to move back down Southward to where they were supposed to be. Some of the settlers were not comfortable being out of the jurisdiction of an official government, so they created the Mayflower Compact, which established the first fully representative government in North America.

The biggest difference between Jamestown and the Plymouth colony was that Jamestown was primarily a business enterprise, whereas Plymouth was a religious enterprise. As such, Plymouth was pretty much left alone to tend to themselves.

According to this article, these first Pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower, and who gave us our first Thanksgiving, were commies. They came over with the idealistic notion that communism was the God-ordained way of life. They spent their first years here with a communistic government, established by themselves.

They nearly died that first year, and had little material success thereafter. As the article says,
[William] Bradford remained troubled by the colony's inability to prosper. He found the answer by studying the Bible and revisiting the notion of private property and incentivized hard work.
The article further notes that Bradford wrote in 1623:
At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should [dispense with communism in favor of a more capitalistic economy].
One of the most telling things which Bradford wrote about this change is this:
This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn, which before would allege weakness and inability, whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression. The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst Godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato's and other ancients applauded by some of later times, that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing, as if they were wiser than God.
Rather interesting, that this great United States of America had already tried and rejected communism, finding it wanting, long before the threat of Communism raised its head in the 20th Century.

And yet now we continually elect politicians who are pushing for the same socialistic communism which Bradford terms a conceit of the ancients.

Those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it. Welcome to the Recession.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mary the Disciple

Dr N. T. Wright says:
Most of us grew up with the line that Martha was the active type and Mary the passive or contemplative type, and that Jesus is simply affirming the importance of both and even the priority of devotion to him. That devotion is undoubtedly part of the importance of the story, but far more obvious to any first-century reader, and to many readers in Turkey, the Middle East and many other parts of the world to this day would be the fact that Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet within the male part of the house rather than being kept in the back rooms with the other women. This, I am pretty sure, is what really bothered Martha; no doubt she was cross at being left to do all the work, but the real problem behind that was that Mary had cut clean across one of the most basic social conventions. It is as though, in today’s world, you were to invite me to stay in your house and, when it came to bedtime, I were to put up a camp bed in your bedroom. We have our own clear but unstated rules about whose space is which; so did they. And Mary has just flouted them. And Jesus declares that she is right to do so. She is ‘sitting at his feet’; a phrase which doesn’t mean what it would mean today, the adoring student gazing up in admiration and love at the wonderful teacher. As is clear from the use of the phrase elsewhere in the NT (for instance, Paul with Gamaliel), to sit at the teacher’s feet is a way of saying you are being a student, picking up the teacher’s wisdom and learning; and in that very practical world you wouldn’t do this just for the sake of informing your own mind and heart, but in order to be a teacher, a rabbi, yourself.

Dark Knight - Bright Hope

I saw the latest Batman movie, Dark Knight, last night. I'm afraid I've gotten too old to suspend disbelief sufficiently anymore to really enjoy the popular movies (physics absurdities, etc).

Still, the film was an enjoyable, if somewhat long, 2 and a third hours.

But the ideas that infused into me, and stuck, are the following:

1) All of us have potential for good or for bad. Or perhaps more accurately, we all have good and bad within us.

2) When the best of us go bad, we go very bad. It's as if the strengths we have when we are good are then applied to evil when we turn. (Of course, the reverse is also true, case in point being Saul/Paul.)

3) Sometimes we turn bad very subtly, thinking we're doing good, never realizing we've become the bad guy, or sometimes realizing it, but self-justifying ourselves because "the end justifies the means". Even the best of us are subject to this failing. Along with this is the reminder that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

4) You must stand on principle. You can't be good 99% of the time and expect allowances for the "exceptions".

5) SPOILER ALERT - I was extremely proud of the prisoner. If you've seen the movie, you know what I mean. If not, you will when you see the movie.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Extend Your Life by 20%; Go to Church

From ScienceDaily:
A study published by researchers at Yeshiva University and its medical school, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, strongly suggests that regular attendance at religious services reduces the risk of death by approximately 20 percent.
and
“Interestingly, the protection against mortality provided by religion cannot be entirely explained by expected factors that include enhanced social support of friends or family, lifestyle choices and reduced smoking and alcohol consumption,” said Dr. Schnall, who was lead author of the study. “There is something here that we don’t quite understand. It is always possible that some unknown or unmeasured factors confounded these results,” he added.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Was Matthew Originally Written in Hebrew?

This guy makes a good case that Matthew was written in Hebrew. It's a long video (2 hours) and covers much more than this one point, but highly recommended if you have an interest in understanding the teachings of Jesus. I'm exhausted and my brain hurts.

One of the evidences he produced is a quote from a disciple of John, Papias, who lived about 60-130 AD, who wrote in the early second century:
Matthew collected the words in the Hebrew language, and each translated them as best he could.
Go watch the video; it's well worth it.

YHWH Exists!

According to http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/emagazine/046.html, the literal rendering of Genesis 2:5 from Hebrew into English is:
And all the shrubs of the field, not yet existed in the land, and all the herbs of the field, not yet sprouted, because YHWH Elohiym did not cause it to rain upon the land, and was without a human to serve the ground.
If you're interested, here's the Hebrew:

וְכֹל שִׂיחַ הַשָּׂדֶה טֶרֶם יִהְיֶה בָאָרֶץ וְכָל עֵשֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶה טֶרֶם יִצְמָח כִּי
לֹא הִמְטִיר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים עַל הָאָרֶץ וְאָדָם אַיִן לַעֲבֹד אֶת הָאֲדָמָה

The Name, YHWH is יְהוָה and the word "exist[ed]" (HYH) is יִהְיֶה . Looking closely at the Hebrew forms, you can see the very close similarity between the two.

Indeed, YHWH is the Great I AM [Existence Itself].

Transliteration vs Translation

Transliteration is the process of changing the sounds of one language into another language using that other language's alphabet.

For example, βαπτίζω ("baptizo") in Greek, comes into English as the roughly-transliterated baptize. If it were translated instead of transliterated, it would come into English as immerse.

That's only background for this interesting tidbit that follows from http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/emagazine/046.html.
In the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, which was originally written in Hebrew, we find that Hebrew words are both translated and transliterated into Greek. In Hebrews 10:5 the Greek word prosfora (prosphora, meaning offering) is the translation of the Hebrew word קרבן (korban, meaning offering). In Mark 7:11 the Greek word korban (korban) is the transliteration of the Hebrew word קרבן (korban, meaning offering).
The same word, translated in one instance, transliterated in the other. Interesting....

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Old Testament Ritual Immersion

I normally don't like to quote an entire article from elsewhere, but I'm afraid you won't go read it if I just post the link, and the following is something I believe is good for Christians to know. From http://www.haderekministries.com/NewsletterArticles/Mikvah.html



The Old Testament Ritual Immersion

The Way Back To G-d Through the Mikvah

The Hebrew word Mikvah refers to the gathered waters, the pool used for immersion. The ritual of immersion in a Mikvah is called baptism in English, or baptisma in Greek and means: to make fully wet; to cover wholly with a fluid; to overwhelm or saturate.

The Hebrew sages taught that the Temple of G-d was a miniature Garden of Eden. When G-d created the Garden, He formed four head waters that flowed from Eden to all the earth. It is believed that the waters of Eden are the spiritual source of all waters. It is through the waters of the Mikvah whose spiritual source is Eden, that man can find his way back to G-d. The main rule for building a Mikvah pool is that the waters must be from a natural source, that is, rain water or a moving stream, etc.­­it must be living water. G-d identifies Himself as the fountain of living water:

"They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters" (Jeremiah 2:13b and 17:13)

The sages teach that everything in the physical world has a spiritual counterpart. Consequently, when a person immerses his physical body in the Mikvah, his soul is immersed as well. The prophet Jeremiah calls G-d the Mikvah ["hope" - kent] of Israel (14:8; 17:13; 50:7), leading to the belief that the spiritual counterpart for the Mikvah waters is the Spirit of G-d. Thus, immersion is the equivalent of being overwhelmed by or saturated in the Spirit of G-d.

The ritual immersion originated at the creation, according to the sages. The Book of Genesis records that the earth was submersed in water before G-d gathered the waters (Genesis 1:10). The Hebrew word used for gathered waters in this passage is Mikvah. When G-d gathered the waters into seas, the earth was resurrected from its watery grave. In Jewish thought, the waters that covered the earth, the Mikvah waters, symbolize the womb of creation. Thus, when a person immerses in the waters of the Mikvah, he is placing himself in a state of being unborn­­subjecting himself totally to G-d's creative power.

The Mikvah (pool) itself represents both the grave and the womb. First the individual enters the world of the non-living­­the grave­­since he ceases to breathe under the water. Then he emerges from the womb, his soul having been saturated or overwhelmed by the Spirit of G-d, resurrected from the watery grave as G-d's new creation. The rabbis say that emerging from the Mikvah is very much like a process of rebirth.

It is said that a seed must be planted in the ground or buried in death before it emerges in new life. When it appears, it is nothing like its former state. It gradually grows and becomes the plant G-d intended it to be. So is the person who is immersed in the Mikvah. When the person emerges from the Mikvah waters of G-d's creation, he is reborn, a new creation­­entering into an elevated state of life.

Observant Jews enter the Mikvah many times during their lives. For instance, some enter the Mikvah before every Sabbath in anticipation that the Messiah will come when they will enter the elevated state of the Messiah's reign. They enter the Mikvah before their Bar Mitzvah to enter the elevated state of becoming a son of the commandment; they enter the Mikvah before marriage to enter the elevated state of being joined as one; they enter the Mikvah before becoming a rabbi, to indicate their elevated state as a teacher of the Law, etc.

Both the grave and the womb are end points in the cycles of life. Both mark a new beginning as well. The person passing through either cycle is about to enter a new elevated state. The dead person's soul enters the elevated state of returning to his Maker: (Ecclesiastes 12:7b). The fetus enters the elevated state of becoming a breathing baby, ready to become a son or daughter of the Covenant. It is said that the Hebrew word for truth, emmet, is a constant reminder of the cycle of life from birth to death through the Mikvah immersion

The Hebrew word for truth is emmet. It said to be a joining of two words­­em meaning mother, implying birth, and met meaning death. The word emmet is spelled with only three Hebrew letters: aleph, mem, tav. Aleph, representing the beginning of one's life, is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Tav, representing the end of one's life, is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Mem is the exact middle. Each Hebrew letter has a meaning of its own and mem stands for water. Therefore, truth teaches that it is through water that a person receives birth and through the living water of the Mikvah during one's life that man finds his way back to G-d in death.

The New Testament Ritual Immersion

Jesus (Yeshua) Points the Way Back to G-d Through Baptism

In the Garden of Eden there was eternal life. Through sin, man was forced to leave Eden. In so doing, they departed from eternal life. Jesus (Yeshua) came to show mankind the way back to Eden, to once again possess eternal life. Jesus' (Yeshua's) body is the Temple of G-d, a miniature Garden of Eden, the source of eternal life.

"Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up...But He was speaking of the temple of His body." (John 2:19, 21)

In the New Testament as in the Old, the living waters are identified as the Spirit of G-d. Jesus (Yeshua), who is filled with the Spirit of G-d, is the spiritual source of the living water's of Eden.

"He who believes in Me [Jesus (Yeshua)], as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive...." (John 7:38, 39)

At the beginning of Jesus' (Yeshua's) ministry on earth, John (the baptizer) was found immersing people in the Jordan River during the Hebrew calendar's season of repentance (Elul). John was immersing the multitudes who came to him in preparation for the Feast of Trumpets. It was believed that the Messiah would come either on a regular Sabbath (i.e.Saturday) or on a Special Sabbath (i.e. a Festival day).

The Phrisees sent priests and Levites to question John as to whether he was the Messiah, the Prophet (Deut. 18:15) or Elijah (John 1:19-26) because the Israelites had a tradition that no one could perform immersion in the Jordan River except one of those individuals. Immersion in the Jordan was a sign of the coming of the Messiah.

The Israelites had crossed over into the Promised Land on dry ground when G-d parted the waters of the Jordan for Joshua. The tradition held that the Promised Land would not be fully occupied and enjoyed by the Israelites until the Messiah came to rule and reign in the earth. They believed that the precursor to the Messiah's arrival would be immersion in the Jordan mikvah by the Prophet, Elijah, or the Messiah himself before the beginning of the Messiah's Sabbath Day of Rest.

The people were immersing in preparation for the possible coming of Messiah during this Festival. John was teaching that man had to immerse in the Mikvah of repentance in order to prepare for the coming Kingdom of G-d that would begin when the Messiah appeared.

"...when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of G-d would come, [Jesus/Yeshua] answered them and said, 'The kingdom of G-d does not come with observation.....For indeed, the kingdom of G-d is within you.'" (Luke 17:20, 21)

John's Mikvah immersion was an outward sign of a mysterious inward change that would enable repentant individuals to enter an elevated state. The one immersed would be ready to receive the Spirit of G-d so that he could enter the Kingdom of G-d:

"Jesus (Yeshua) answered, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of G-d." (John 3:5)

While Jesus (Yeshua) needed no repentance because He was without sin, He entered John's Mikvah waters to be immersed in the Spirit of G-d. He told John that it was "to fulfill all righteousness". As our example in all things, Jesus (Yeshua) was saying that it was necessary to enter the Mikvah of repentance to fulfill all righteousness.

"When He had been baptized, Jesus (Yeshua) came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and he saw the Spirit of G-d descending like a dove and alighting upon Him." (Matthew 3:16)

  • Jesus (Yeshua), the Mikvah of Israel, existed from the Creation:

"All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." (John 1:3)

  • Jesus' (Yeshua's) spiritual counterpart is the Spirit of G-d:

"And the Spirit of G-d was hovering over the face of the waters." (Genesis 1:2b)

Immersion in the Mikvah is like dying and being reborn as a new creation of G-d. The New Testament teaches:

"...we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:4)

"...if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation..." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

"...the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:14b)

Jesus (Yeshua) is the Temple of Living G-d, THE LIFE everlasting in the Garden of Eden; He is THE TRUTH (emmet), the beginning and the end; He is the Living Water, the Mikvah of Israel. Jesus (Yeshua) is THE WAY back to G-d.

Misusing Language

In recent years I've noticed a habit among some in the church to misapply the definition of a word/phrase in one context as the definition of the same word/phrase in another context.

In some situations, this is a valid approach. It definitely works in mathematics:
If A = B, and if B = C, then A = C
But it doesn't always work in human language:
God is Love. Love is blind. Therefore, God is blind.
For example, the word "confess" has two uses which are often conflated together.

James 5:16 urges his readers to "confess your sins one to another".

Romans 10:9 teaches that "if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord'," you will be saved.

These are two totally different uses of the word (one referring to an admission of wrong-doing, the other referring to a proclamation of a Truth), yet often both passages are given in support of the "confession" step of the "Five-Step Plan of Salvation" as if they are the same thing. They're not.

The point I'm trying to make is that we've gotten sloppy in our logic, because our pet doctrines are supported by such sloppiness. We need to be rigorous in our thinking, and not accept the misuse of language just because it scratches our itching ears.

UPDATE:
Interestingly enough, after I made this post, I listened to a podcast in which Casey Luskin had this to say, which seems relevant:
Us folks who are, who have been involved with the legal field have a term for that kind of thinking ... it's called "Outcome-based Jurisprudence", where people don't care about the logic or the reasoning they use to get to your conclusion; they just care about your conclusion, that it's the quote-unquote "politically-correct accurate conclusion" as far as their own goals and agenda's concerned. Good reasoning and logic and truth are not of primary concern when you do that kind of reasoning.
The podcast was very interesting; Casey interviews an atheist who, unlike most of his fellow atheists, believes Intelligent Design has a place at the discussion table. He also mentions that many atheists no longer present a good case for atheism (although he believes one can be made), but rather they just use emotional rhetoric to shut down the discussion. Go give it a listen -- Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Encouraging One Another

A little while back I was reading from Isaiah and I came across this passage which reminds me that we are to be about the business of building up one another:
6 Each one helps the other,
and says to another, "Take courage!"
7 The craftsman encourages the metalworker;
the one who flattens with the hammer
[supports] the one who strikes the anvil,
saying of the soldering, "It is good."
He fastens it with nails so that it will not fall over.
Isaiah 41:6-7 (HCSB)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Baptism as a Gift

A dear friend of mine writes:
Baptism is not something we do to get saved. Baptism is a gift from God to save those who believe. We receive baptism from God and everything that He gives with it.
I find it to be a statement worth considering.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Worship God with your Mind, Soul, and Half a Body

This guy, with no arms or legs, gives glory to God. Definitely worth the five minutes of your life it'll take to watch the short video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2I0DRk8dFjI

I at first wanted to pray that God would give him arms and legs (whether via medical technology, or Providence, or (horrors) a "miracle"!), but then I realized his light might be shining more brightly now, causing men to give glory to our Father in heaven, than if he had healing. So instead I prayed that God would give him encouragement and strength to be used as God sees fit.

Again, worth watching. Go watch it.

UPDATE: Well, never mind; YouTube has taken down the video.

Monday, November 10, 2008

God is One

I was blessed to be able to listen to a family of Messianic Jews this evening, and in the discussion it was pointed out that the husband had been raised in an Orthodox manner, going to Synagogue regularly and learning the prayers in Hebrew, etc. However, when he was 30, some Christian friends thanked him as a representative of the Jewish people for preserving the Bible for the world.

This got the Jewish man to thinking, and he realized that although he knew all the Synagogue prayers and such, he had never read the Tanakh (the Jewish Bible, the "Old Testament"). So he started reading from the book of Bereshit (Genesis), and there in the first chapter, verse 26, the scriptures said:
Let Us make man in Our image....
That phrase very much disturbed him, as the Jewish people are very adamant that "God is One", and not three. After all, one of the "prayers" cited often (twice a day by many orthodox Jews) is the Shema ("Hear"), from Deuteronomy 6:4, which says:
Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad.
(Hear Oh, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.)
"What's this 'Us' business?" he asked himself. So he started doing a word-study, and to his surprise, realized that the word for "One", echad, as used in the Shema, is used for the first time in the Bible in Genesis 1:5, where it says (Young's Literal Version):
...and God calleth to the light `Day,' and to the darkness He hath called `Night;' and there is an evening, and there is a morning -- day one.
He began to realize that in that word "one" was a duality of an evening and a morning. In some mysterious way, the One was a Unity, not a Singularity.

He then saw the same Unity in Genesis 2:24 (HCSB):
This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.
Again, he saw that the One was a unity, not a singularity.

And even in the first verse of the Bible, the word "God" is literally "Gods" (Elohim, plural of El, "God"). But interestingly, although the noun is plural ("Gods"), the verbs are all singular (such that in English, which doesn't always have plural-vs-singular verbs, it might be something more like "In the beginning, Gods, the One, He created the heavens and the earth").

And he saw a distinction between God the Creator in Genesis 1:1, and the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, in verse 2. (It's also interesting to note that the phrase "Ruach HaKodesh" is feminine. Isn't God interesting on so many levels?!)

And it was this simple reading of the scriptures for himself as opposed to listening to the doctrines of mere men (even though they were respected rabbis), that began this man's journey toward accepting Jesus as Messiah.

An Interesting Approach to Solving the Abortion Issue

A friend of mine suggested the following as a solution that former Presidential candidate John McCain should have used during the election season.

Instead of funding abortion, the government should fund research to move unborn babies from the womb of the natural mothers into the wombs of mothers who want the babies.

This solves the problem of not just an unwanted baby, but of an unwanted pregnancy, while preserving the life of the unborn baby, and while providing joy to women who might otherwise be barren.

I think it's an interesting idea.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Jesus in the Bible

I just found this on the web; I don't know that I buy it entirely, but it's certainly interesting.

===

The Old Testament was a preparation for the Stage to be set. Jesus Christ has been here before the beginning. You can find Christ in every book of the Bible.

The Bible Portrays Jesus Christ as the Savior of the World.

Genesis Portrays Jesus Christ as Our Creator God.

Exodus Portrays Jesus Christ as Our Passover Lamb.

Leviticus Portrays Jesus Christ as Our Sacrifice For Sin.

Numbers Portrays Jesus Christ as Our "Lifted-Up One"

Deuteronomy Portrays Jesus Christ as Our True Prophet.

Joshua Portrays Jesus Christ as the Captain of our Salvation.

Judges Portrays Jesus Christ as Our Deliverer Judge.

Ruth Portrays Jesus Christ as Our Kinsman-Redeemer.

1 and 2 Samuel Portrays Jesus Christ as Our King.

Kings and Chronicles Portray Jesus Christ as King.

Ezra and Nehemiah Portray Jesus Christ as Our Restorer.

Esther Portrays Jesus Christ as Our Advocate.

Job Portrays Jesus Christ as Our Redeemer.

Psalms Portrays Jesus Christ, Our All in All.

Proverbs Portrays Jesus Christ, Our Wisdom.

Ecclesiastes Portrays Jesus Christ as the End of All Living.

Song of Solomon Portrays Jesus Christ as the Lover of Our Souls.

Isaiah Portrays Jesus Christ as the Messiah.

Jeremiah and Lamentations Portrays Jesus Christ as the Righteous Branch.

Ezekiel Portrays Jesus Christ as the Son of Man.

Daniel Portrays Jesus Christ as the Smiting Stone.

Hosea Portrays Jesus Christ as Healer of the Backslider.

Joel Portrays Jesus Christ as the Restorer.

Amos Portrays Jesus Christ as the Heavenly Husbandman.

Obadiah Portrays Jesus Christ as Our Savior.

Jonah Portrays Jesus Christ as Our Resurrection and Life.

Micah Portrays Jesus Christ as Witness Against Rebellious Nations.

Nahum Portrays Jesus Christ as a Stronghold in the Day of Trouble.

Habakkuk Portrays Jesus Christ as the God of Our Salvation.

Zephaniah Portrays Jesus Christ as a Jealous Lord.

Haggai Portrays Jesus Christ as the Desire of All Nations.

Zechariah Portrays Jesus Christ as the Righteous Branch.

Malachi Portrays Jesus Christ as the Sun of Righteousness.

The Gospel Portrays Jesus Christ as Our Savior and Lord.

Matthew Portrays Jesus Christ as The Promised Messiah.

Mark Portrays Jesus Christ as the Servant of God.

Luke Portrays Jesus Christ as the Son of Man.

John Portrays Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

Acts Portrays Jesus Christ as the Living Lord.

Romans Portrays Jesus Christ, Our Righteousness.

1 Corinthians Portrays Jesus Christ as Our Lord.

2 Corinthians Portrays Jesus Christ, Our Sufficiency.

Galatians Portrays Jesus Christ, Our Liberty.

Ephesians Portrays Jesus Christ, Our All in All.

Philippians Portrays Jesus Christ, Our Joy.

Colossians Portrays Jesus Christ, Our Life.

1 Thessalonians Portrays Jesus Christ as the Coming One.

2 Thessalonians Portrays Jesus Christ as Our Returning Lord.

1 Timothy Portrays Jesus Christ as Our Teacher.

2 Timothy Portrays Jesus Christ as Our Example.

Titus and Philemon Portray Jesus Christ, Our Pattern; Our Lord and Master.

Hebrews Portrays Jesus Christ as Our Intercessor at the Throne.

James Portrays Jesus Christ as Our Pattern.

1 Peter Portrays Jesus Christ as the Precious Cornerstone of Our Faith.

2 Peter Portrays Jesus Christ as Our Strength.

1+2+3 JOHN Portrays Jesus Christ as Our Life; the Truth; and the Way;

Jude Portrays Jesus Christ as Our Keeper.

Revelation Portrays Jesus Christ as Our Triumphant King.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

What Was Nailed to the Cross?

All my life I thought it was the Law of Moses which had been nailed to the cross. Looking more closely at the relevant passage, Col 2:14, I find that may not be correct:
He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross.
Looking throughout the rest of the book, it's never made explicit what this "certificate of debt" means. Most of us in the church have assumed that it's a reference to the Law of Moses.

However, Cecil Hook makes a strong case that it does not refer to the Law of Moses. His article raises several interesting points which make it a recommended read.

For example:
If the Covenant of Law was destroyed by Jesus' death, how could it still have been only "ready to vanish away" thirty years later as "the day" of the coming of the Lord drew near (Heb. 8:13; 10:25)?
and
Was mankind "law-less" during the seven weeks after the Cross until Pentecost?
Hook summarizes his understanding thusly:
These Gentiles had not been under the Covenant of Law, but each had a list of violations of God's universal law on their record. It was this legal bond or "rap sheet" that was nailed to the cross. Our sin, not law, was nailed to the cross symbolically, with Jesus in his atoning sacrifice.
He goes on to say:
The New Easy To Read New Testament renders this passage simply, "We owed a debt because we broke God's laws. That debt listed all the rules we failed to follow. But God forgave us of that debt. God took away that debt and nailed it to the cross."
Hook continues:
It may be surprising to some to learn that, instead of the law dying, it was the sinner who died . ... Not only is our list of infractions (bond) nailed to the cross, but the believer was nailed to the cross also symbolically being crucified with Christ.
He continues to explain clearly and simply that there was a forty year period between the cross and the "parousia, the coming of the Lord at the consummation of the covenant of law with Israel," and that during this transitional period the "Judean disciples continued to keep the law (Acts 21:17-26)". It was about the time of the destruction of the Temple that the Law of Moses finally ceased to be relevant for God's people, although the process had begun much earlier with the crucifixion of He who fulfilled, but did not abolish, that Law.

Go read the article; it's good stuff.

The Old Law

1. The term "Old Testament", when applied to the 39 books in the front of our Bibles is a man-made application of the term (the term itself is Biblical, but applying it to the 39 books is a man-made application of the term). It needs to be remembered that such usage is not inspired; rather, it is mere tradition. The more Biblical description for these books is "the Law and the Prophets" (Lk 16:16) or "the Law, Prophets, and Writings (Psalms)" (Lk 24:44). (In Hebrew, it would be Torah (Law), Nevi'im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings). Taking the first letter of each of these you get the acronym TNK, which is often expressed in English as Tanakh, a common method of referring to what we traditionally call "the Old Testament".)

2. There are various covenants in the Bible, not just the two ("Old" and "New") that our main divisions of our Bibles would lead us to believe. For example, there's the covenant with Adam in which God instructed Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over the earth. There's the covenant God made with Noah and all the animals and all the earth to never flood the earth again like He did in Noah's day. There's the covenant God made with Abraham to make of him a great nation and to give him land and to bless all the earth through his seed. Joel made a covenant with his eyes not to look at a woman other than his wife. There are many other covenants as well, but this should suffice to make the point.

3. Putting these two points together, and studying the relevant New Testament passages, it becomes clear that it was the covenant with Moses which has been taken away and replaced, not the other covenants. Jeremiah (31:31) makes this clear, and it is reiterated by the writer of Hebrews (8:7) that it was the covenant "made with their fathers on the day I took them by their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt" which was to be replaced by the "new covenant".

Note that this does not replace God's covenant with Abraham; in fact, Paul contrasts the Mosaic covenant with the Abrahamic covenant in Galatians 3, specifically claiming that the Mosaic does not revoke the Abrahamic (v 17), and that we are heirs because that promise still stands (v 29), and that the Abrahamic promise has now been extended to Gentiles (v 14). Looking at the structure of this chapter you see Paul talking about the Abrahamic covenant/promise being our faith (v 6-9), then the temporary addition of the Mosaic Law (v 19), then the removal of that temporary Mosaic Law revealing once again the Abrahamic covenant of which we are now heirs (v 19, 25-29). He then goes on in the next chapter to contrast these two covenants, one as a covenant of law (Hagar, Mt Sinai) and one as a covenant of promise (the free woman (Sarah), the Jerusalem above).

Jesus himself validates the use of the non-Mosaic portion of the Tanakh as authoritative in the Christian era when he was asked about marriage and divorce and he turned to the Creation account as his source of authority. Note that he did not give a "new" law; rather, he appealed to the "Old Testament", and we accept his conclusion as binding on us today. The Bereans also turn to the "Old Testament" as their source of authority when testing the claims of the New Testament, and are praised as "noble" for doing so.

To summarize this point number three, it's not all of the "Old Testament" which has been done away with, but merely the Law of Moses portion, that portion which was given to Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai. The rest of the Tanakh has not been removed; thus we still are to be fruitful and multiply and be stewards of the earth (Gen 1:28-30, a provision of the Adamic covenant which was renewed in the Noahic covenant - Gen 9:1-2); we're still to have marriages consisting of a man and a woman (Gen 2:24); serpents still haven't regrown their legs and/or wings (Gen 3:14); we're still to work the ground and have pain in child-bearing and die (Gen 3:16-19); women will still fall in love with sweaty, stinky, selfish men and thus be dominated by them (Gen 3:16b); we're still to execute murderers (Gen 9:6); we still see rainbows and thus know we'll never see the world inundated completely by water again (Gen 9:12-16); we can now eat meat (one provision of the Noahic covenant that supplanted the vegetarian provision of the original Adamic covenant - Gen 9:3-4); and so forth.

So we need to be careful when we say things like, "The Old Testament has been done away with." Strictly speaking, that is inaccurate. It is only a subset of the "Old Testament", the "Old Covenant between God and Israel, given at Mount Sinai (and only to the Jews anyway, never to the Gentiles)", which has been done away with.

I believe this is an important concept for the church to know, as it's foundational to a correct approach to scripture.

Every Knee Shall Bow

Romans 14:11 (KJV) says:
...every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
That passage (and its sister passage, Phil 2:10-11, and its parent passage, Is 45:23) has always given me the impression that even the sinners will be forced to give obeisance to God and acknowledge Him as supreme.

But last night at church was read Rev. 13:8 (HCSB), which says:
All those who live on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name was not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slaughtered.
I had never before noticed it until last night when the passage was read, but it seems to me that even the non-saved will actually "give worth" to God. It won't be a matter of being forced at sword-point to submit to God; it'll be a matter of being so awed by God's greatness that even the most die-hard atheist won't be able to help himself admiring and wanting and loving God. The enemies of God will finally "see".

God is just that awesome.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Remembering Ronnie

I just got the following in an email, and it is so true. Ronald Reagan was awesome.

===

Didn't realize just how much he's missed, until I read and remembered some of the stuff he said...
and stood for.


'Here's my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose.'
- Ronald Reagan

'The most terrifying words in the English language are:
I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'
- Ronald Reagan

'The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant;
it's just that they know so much that isn't so.'
- Ronald Reagan

'Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because
the U.S. was too strong.'
- Ronald Reagan

'I have wondered at times about what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress.'
- Ronald Reagan

'The taxpayer: That's someone who works for the federal government but doesn't have to take the civil service examination.'
- Ronald Reagan

'Government is like a baby: An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.'
- Ronald Reagan

'The nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on this earth is
a government program.'
- Ronald Reagan

'It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession.
I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first.'
- Ronald Reagan

'Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it.
And if it stops moving, subsidize it.'
- Ronald Reagan

'Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed, there are many rewards; if you disgrace yourself, you can always write a book.'
- Ronald Reagan

'No arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is as formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.'
- Ronald Reagan

'If we ever forget that we're one nation under God,
then we will be a nation gone under.'
- Ronald Reagan

Monday, November 03, 2008

Falling From the Sky

I don't believe it, but still, it's way cool ...

Friday, October 31, 2008

Save the Cheerleader; Save the World

The line is from the first season of "Heroes", although the plotline never really gets fully developed.

Still, the point is, sometimes the fate of the world, or a nation, or a city, hangs on a single person.

You recall the bargaining Abraham did with YHWH when YHWH was on a quest to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, as recorded in Genesis 18. Abraham challenged God, saying, "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if fifty righteous people are found in the city?" (He continues on with some manipulative language -- "Far be it from you to do such a thing..." -- which encourages me somewhat because I often find myself being manipulative in my prayers. Part of our fallen nature, I suppose.)

YHWH relents and says that if He finds fifty righteous people in the city, He will not destroy it.

Abraham then bargains God down to forty-five, then forty, then thirty, twenty, and finally ten.

The end result is that ten people were not found, but God did chase out the four righteous that He did find, Lot and his family (although "righteous" appears to be a generous term for this group).

I was reminded of this event last night as I was reading Jeremiah chapter five. The first verse triggered this memory:
Roam through the streets of Jerusalem.
Look and take note;
search in her squares.
If you find a single person,
anyone who acts justly,
who seeks to be faithful,
then I will forgive her.
Find the Righteous; Save the City.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Early Christian Prayer Styles

In the early 200's AD, the Christian writer Tertullian declares:
Christians look up with hands outstretched . . . with head uncovered . . . and pray without ceasing for all our emperors.
What I find interesting is the idea of looking up, and of having hands outstretched.

Today's practice of bowing our heads, while following the example of the justified sinner in Yeshua's parable of Luke 18:9ff, is apparently not the way it was done in the early centuries of the church.

Further, the disdain given by some non-hand-raising Christians to those other Christians who might raise their hands in worship must also be aimed at Christians who lived much closer to the events of the New Testament than do we.

Friday, October 24, 2008

It's a Free Country

I was just asked a question similar to, "Is it legal to ..."?

That spawned this response:
By the way, in the US, up until the past 30 years or so, the default status for pretty much any activity was "legal" unless specifically forbidden. We'd answer such questions as yours with, "It's a free country." Nowadays, people think they have to ask permission of their government to do anything. Sad.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Church Types

A friend just shared this with me; someone at her church has done some research, and has learned that people in a church can basically fall into one of four categories, like so:




Kingdom - These people tend to focus on taking care of the needy, mowing lawns during work-days, printing the bulletin, running the website, setting up Bible studies, knocking on doors. They are the busy workers who are "about the business of the Kingdom".

Mental - These people tend to be academic; they dig deep into the Word, do word-studies, have debates, conduct the Bible studies that the Kingdom people have set up, teach, study the history of the church, make analogies and three-point lessons.

Mystic - These people tend to be ethereal, finding God in Nature as they walk through the forest, hearing God's whispers, "sensing" God's presence, praying for healing, seeing connections in otherwise apparently-unrelated happenings.

Emotional - These people tend to raise their hands in worship, and to cry during emotional songs/sermons, and to be touchy-feely-huggy, and to get excited at what God has done for us today, and to holler out "Praise God" when good things happen.


Few of us, I would expect, fall completely into only one category. For example, I see myself as about 65% Mental, 15% Emotional, 15% Mystic, and 5% Kingdom.

What I would like to point out about this breakdown are two things:

1) People are different, having different needs, and the expression of those differences is not wrong. (It's not wrong for the Emotional people to raise hands in worship, even if it "feels" wrong to the Mental crowd. It's not wrong for the Mental group to want a "thus says the Lord" for every little detail, even if the Kingdom people are more concerned about the practicalities of getting the message out to the world. It's not wrong for the Kingdom-oriented to want to have a "paint the old retiree's house" day, even if the Mystics believe we should put more emphasis on drawing the retiree's spirit into a mood of appreciation for God's handling of the little "coincidental" (*cough*) happenings throughout his life.)

2) When a church (or preacher) focuses on only one area, that church is only serving 25% of the needs of the people in the community. Over time a church itself may collect only like-minded souls; in such a case, it has become unbalanced, and unrepresentative of and unwelcoming to the remaining 75%, and is in danger of becoming convinced that the other 75% are "unscriptural", simply because they are different.

The Eunuch Went On His Way, Rejoicing

You'll likely recall the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch[1] to Christianity, as recorded in Acts 8:26ff.

The Spirit of God had compelled the early Christian evangelist, Phillip, to go to a certain road toward Egypt, where he "happened" (*cough*) upon the eunuch, a high-ranking official, the Treasurer, in the Egyptian government. The eunuch was traveling home after worshiping in Jerusalem, as all Jewish men were expected to do.

What many of us in the 21st century fail to realize is that it was extremely rare for an individual to possess a copy of any portion of Scripture. The fact that the eunuch had a copy of the book of Isaiah testifies to his wealth, or more likely, power/prestige.

Also what many of us in the 21st century fail to realize is that for most of Scripture's history, the reading of Scripture has never been a private endeavor. The silent reading of Scripture, even among Today's Jews, is fairly well unknown. Instead, reading was always done aloud. You'll notice that the eunuch was reading aloud:
Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. (Acts 8:30 HCSB)
Although the eunuch was almost certainly a Jew (albeit one not living in Judea, the homeland of the Jews), he was "cut off" from full participation in Jewish worship because his manhood had been "cut off":
No man whose [testicles] have been crushed or whose penis has been cut off may enter YHWH's assembly. (Duet 23:1)
So when Phillip joined the eunuch in the official's chariot, the eunuch was fully aware that he was both "less" of a man and less of a Jew than other "normal" men. They started studying the Bible at Isaiah 53:7-8.
Philip proceeded to tell him the good news about Jesus, beginning from that Scripture. (Acts 8:35 HCSB)
I find it interesting that just three chapters later in the book of Isaiah, 56:3ff, the eunuch and Phillip came across some very good news for the eunuch:

3 Let no foreigner who has bound himself to YHWH say,
"YHWH will surely exclude me from his people."
And let not any eunuch complain,
"I am only a dry tree."

4 For this is what YHWH says:
"To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant-

5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will not be cut off.

This must have sounded good to the eunuch, who although a powerful official in Egyptian government was essentially a social outcast among his own people and his own God. No wonder that after immersion, making him a part of the new Kingdom, "he went on his way rejoicing" (Acts 8:39).

===
1. Eunuchs were men who for one reason or another had part of all of their genitals removed, usually non-voluntarily. Many prisoners-of-war who were pressed into servant-hood were often made eunuchs (such as Daniel and his three friends (Dan 1:6, etc; although Daniel does not record such, it would have been standard practice for the Babylonians to do so, and was so prophesied in 2 Kings 20:16-18)), to help prevent them from being troublesome, the way "manly" men might be in such a position of slavery. The "surgery" was often crude and brutal, and very often resulted in death. Those eunuchs who survived the procedure often had the additional stigma of the stench of urine-soaked undergarments, as they had little control of their bladder functions afterward.

Three 'Tions of Christian Living

One of yesterday's sermons at church pointed out three 'tions of Christian living. My summary understanding is thus:

* Education - taking in knowledge of God

* Meditation - allowing the knowledge to infuse into every crannie of your being

* Application - knowledge expressing itself through your being once it has successfully been infused into your being

And as the preacher asked, "What do you think about all day?"

Friday, October 17, 2008

Love God, Love People

Jesus said these two things were the most important items in Life. My friend Nathan Hale has put it to music such that it rolls around in your head, just as Jesus would prefer it to do:


Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Minor Prophet Micah, in a Nutshell

  1. Israel and Judah have sinned
    1. They will be crushed accordingly.
    2. "Yet I will bring an heir to you.... The glory of Israel shall come ...."
  2. Woe to those who plot wickedness and evil
    1. The evildoers "covet and seize fields; and houses, and take them away. And they oppress a man and his household, even a man and his inheritance."
    2. Therefore, Yahweh is planning a disaster for you.
    3. "Lately my people have risen up as an enemy [to me]. You strip the robe and clothing from those who pass by trustingly, those returning from war. You drive the women of my people out from their pleasant houses; From their young children you take away my blessing forever."
    4. You listen to false prophets.
  3. Political Leaders are your problem
    1. You leaders and judges should know justice.
    2. But instead, you "hate the good, and love the evil".
    3. You have cannibalized your people, and they will cry to me.
    4. But I won't listen to them, because they have followed your example.
    5. You prophets going around preaching "Peace" are using your supporters for your financial gain, and when they refuse to feed you, you turn against them in war, in direct opposition to your message. Therefore you prophets will not benefit from my Spirit; your prophetic communications from me will cease.
    6. But one message I will give to you: you leaders are evil, abhoring justice and perverting equity.
      1. You claim to be doing the work of God, but you're really in it for the money.
      2. And you'll stoop to corruption for that money, rather than doing your job properly.
      3. Because of the evil of the rulers, the whole nation will suffer. It's your fault they suffer.
  4. Yet in the Future, Jerusalem will be the headquarters of Righteousness for not just the Jews, but for people of all nations
    1. People of all nations will come to me.
    2. And I will be their judge.
    3. Implements of war will no longer be needed; they'll be converted to domestic tools.
    4. You'll be able to relax at home without worry about attack.
    5. The other nations will have their own ways, but Yahweh will be supreme over all.
    6. And when that happens, those who are suffering will get restitution.
    7. Right now, you Israelites are going through a rough time; being taken captive, all the nations hating you, and all. But this is just temporary. You'll be made strong again, and I'll take their plunder from them, as Lord of the whole earth.
  5. A Ruler is Coming, and He's Special
    1. O Little town of Bethlehem, you'll be the birthplace of this ruler.
    2. This ruler is of old; his goings forth are from eternity.
    3. He'll let the current struggle continue, until the appropriate time.
    4. When it's time, he'll gather his other brothers back into the fold of the Chosen People.
    5. He will come in the name of Yahweh his God.
    6. He will bring Peace, and will defend his people against attack.
    7. His people will be sprinkled throughout all the nations.
    8. He will purge the world of self-trusting defenses, of idols, of witchcraft and sorceries and fortune-telling.
    9. And on the nations that refuse to listen, anger will be executed, with a vengeance.
  6. Yahweh has a controversy with his people
    1. I've freed you from slavery.
    2. I've given you good leaders, both male and female.
    3. Your enemy wanted you cursed by a prophet, but I turned the prophet's cursings into blessings.
    4. And yet you weary yourselves trying to figure out how to worship me.
    5. Here's what I want from you:
      1. All I want from you is for you "to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God".
      2. The city should provide recognition of me in public.
    6. But because you cheat your customers in your everyday transactions, and think you can get by with violence because you have money, and lie, I've made you sick as a nation. This economic downturn you're experiencing, which will lead to your ruin and shame, is your fault for your unethical ways.
  7. Woe is me; I'm living in a fallen world, and it can't get up
    1. Poverty has struck me.
    2. Everyone's out to get me.
    3. "The Man" is corrupt; even the best of them are like thorns.
    4. You can't trust anyone, even who you're sleeping with.
    5. My kids have screwed me over; all my family is against me.
    6. Yet, I can turn to Yahweh.
    7. Even if I fall, and my enemies laugh at me when I do, I can arise again because of Yahweh.
    8. I will suffer Yahweh's disapproval, because I deserve it; I've sinned.
    9. But then He'll plead my case, and execute judgement for me, not against me.
    10. He'll bring me to the light, and I'll see it.
    11. My enemy will see it also, and will be ashamed for taunting me with "Where is Yahweh your God?", and then she'll be the one that's trodden down.
    12. A land is made desolate because of the fruits of the doings of its inhabitants.
    13. The nation that trusts in its own strength will be ashamed, but the nation which is shepherded by Yahweh will see great things.
    14. There is no God like Yahweh, who gets over his anger and is full of compassion.
    15. The nations will come to Yahweh in fear and awe.
    16. Yahweh "will give truth to Jacob, and mercy to Abraham, As [was] sworn to our fathers from the days of old."
Or at least, that's the way I read it.

Man + Woman = Androgyn?

I found these Jewish thoughts on a some aspects of immersion ("baptism", mikvah) to be interesting.

From: http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/1541/jewish/The-Mikvah.htm

Family purity is a system predicated on the woman's monthly cycle. From the onset of menstruation and for seven days after its end, until the woman immerses in the mikvah, husband and wife may not engage in sexual relations. To avoid violation of this law, the couple should curtail their indulgence in actions they find arousing, putting a check on direct physical contact and refraining from physical manifestations of affection. The technical term for a woman in this state is Niddah (literal meaning: to be separated).

Exactly a week from when the woman has established the cessation of her flow, she visits the mikvah. Immersion takes place after nightfall of the seventh day and is preceded by a requisite cleansing. The immersion is valid only when the waters of the mikvah envelop each and every part of the body and, indeed, each hair. To this end, [prior to her immersion - Kent,] the woman bathes, shampoos, combs her hair, and removes from her body anything that might impede her total immersion.

Immersion in the mikvah is the culmination of the Taharat Hamishpachah discipline. It is a special moment for the woman who has adhered to the many nuances of the mitzvah and has anticipated this night. Sometimes, however, the woman may be feeling rushed or anxious for reasons related or unrelated to this rite. At this point, she should relax, spend a few moments contemplating the importance of the immersion, and in an unhurried fashion, lower herself into the mikvah waters. After immersing once, while standing in the waters of the mikvah, the woman recites the blessing for ritual purification and then, in accordance with widespread custom, immerses twice more. Many women use this auspicious time for personal prayer and communication with G-d. After immersion, woman and husband may resume marital relations.


And then a little later in the article:

Trite as it may sound, mikvah offers couples the possibility of repeated "honeymoons" during the course of their marriage. Boredom, a seemingly innocuous state of affairs, can beleaguer any relationship and chip away at its foundation. The mandatory monthly separation fosters feelings of longing and desire -- at the very least, a sense of appreciation -- which is followed by the excitement of reunion.

Over the course of a lifetime, open-ended sexual availability may well lead to a waning of excitement and even interest. The monthly hiatus teaches couples to treasure the time they have together and gives them something to look forward to when they are apart. Every month they are separated -- not always when convenient or easy-but they wait for one another. They count the days until their togetherness, and each time there is a new quality to their reunion. In this regard the Talmud states: "So that she will be as beloved as on the day of her marriage."


This reminded me of a teaching from a Jewish scholar of old:

Do not deprive one another—except when you agree, for a time, to devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again; otherwise, Satan may tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Cor 7:5 - HCSB)

The article continues:

The man-woman relationship thrives on a model of withdrawal and return. The Torah teaches that Adam and Eve in their original form were created as an androgynous being. Subsequently, G-d separated them, thus granting them independence on the one hand and the possibility for a chosen union on the other. Men and women have been pulling apart and coming together ever since. The mikvah system grants the married couple this necessary dynamic. Within their commitment to live together and be loyal to each other forever, within their monogamy and security, there is still this springlike mechanism at work.

I'm not convinced that the Torah teaches that Adam and Eve were androgynous in the Beginning (although it did strike me just a week or three ago that Eve "was taken out of" Adam (Gen 2:23 - KJV)), the claim does remind me of Yeshua's statement that:

... in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven. (Matt 22:30 - HCSB)

This author's "push-pull" imagery reminds me of the meaning of the phrase rendered in the King James as "help meet", which I understand to mean "helper against", as in Yin-Yang.

And more:

Human beings share a nearly universal intuitive tendency for the forbidden. Solomon, the wisest of all men, spoke of "stolen waters which are sweeter." How many otherwise intelligent, calculated individuals have jeopardized their marriages and families in pursuit of the illicit because of its seeming promise of the romantic and the new? Mikvah introduces a novel scenario: one's spouse -- one's partner in life, day after day, for better and for worse -- becomes temporarily inaccessible, forbidden, off limits. Often this gives couples reason and opportunity to consider each other anew. In this "removed" span of time, from this new vantage point, they view and approach each other with enhanced appreciation.

And finally, a hint of immersion's role in Christianity:

The single greatest gift granted by G-d to humankind is teshuvah -- the possibility of return-to start anew and wash away the past. Teshuvah allows man to rise above the limitations imposed by time and makes it possible to affect our life retroactively. A single immersion in the mikvah late in life may appear insignificant to some, a quick and puny act. Yet coupled with dedication and awe, it is a monumental feat; it brings purity and its regenerative power not only to the present and future but even to one's past.

Three Categories of Religious Commandments

According to Jewish thought,

G-d's commandments, the 613 injunctions known as mitzvot, are divided into three distinct categories:

Mishpatim are those laws governing the civil and moral fabric of life; they are logical, readily understood, and widely appreciated as pivotal to the foundation and maintenance of a healthy society. Examples are the proscription against murder, theft, and adultery.

Eidut are those rituals and rites best described as testimonials. This category includes the many religious acts that remind Jews of historic moments in their history and serve as testament to cardinal beliefs of the Jewish faith, such as the observance of the Sabbath, the celebration of Passover, and the affixing of a mezuzah on the doorpost.

The third category, chukkim, are supra-rational principles; they are Divine decrees about which the human mind can form no judgment. Chukkim completely defy human intellect and understanding. From time immemorial they have been a source of amusement, a target of scorn, and an uncomfortable and shameful presence to the detractors of Jewish observance. For the observant Jew, they personify a mitzvah[1] at its best; a pure, unadulterated avenue of connection with G-d. These mitzvot[1] are recognized as the greatest, the ones capable of affecting the soul on the deepest level. Unimpeded by the limitations of the human mind, these statutes are practiced for one reason only: the fulfillment of G-d's word. Examples are the laws of Kashrut, the prohibition against wearing shatnez (clothes containing a combination of wool and linen), and the laws of ritual purity and mikvah[1].


1. immersion[s], "baptisms[s]"

http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/1541/jewish/The-Mikvah.htm

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Praying to Jesus

In my church culture, prayer to Jesus is usually considered unBiblical, with the proponents of this idea generally quoting John 16:23 as the proof-text:
And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
Here are a few notes I just put together for a friend that are worth considering on the matter.

==============

Acts 7:59

As Stephen was dying, he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. The NIV renders Acts 7:59 thusly:
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."

Of course, the NIV isn't the most reliable of translations. Here are a couple of other renderings:

They were stoning Stephen as he called out: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" (HCSB)
And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. (KJV)
And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (NKJV)
They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" (NASB)
And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." (ESB)
They kept on throwing stones at Stephen. He spoke to God and said, `Oh, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' (WE)

I would not want to force the [N]KJV's terminology "calling [up]on God" to be equivalent with "praying". But I think many people might see the two terms as synonymous. The translators of the NIV certainly appear to have done so.

It could be argued that this was a special situation, since Stephen actually saw Jesus. But even if it was a special situation, it still seems clear that the World English Bible's "spoke to God" is synonymous with speaking to Jesus.

It seems to me that if one approaches this passage free of pre-conceived notions of prayer, one would likely conclude that praying to Jesus is Biblical. It seems to me that one must approach the passage with an already made-up mind to claim that Stephen did not pray to Jesus.

2 Cor 12:7-10 (NKJV)

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

It seems to me that the "Lord" to whom Paul pleaded was "Christ", that Paul prayed to Jesus.

Someone might argue that this was not a "prayer", but a face-to-face encounter with Jesus. But to make this claim requires going beyond what the text actually says. The text simply says that Paul pleaded with the Lord, and the context indicates that Lord to be Jesus.

In years past, when I "knew" that praying to Jesus was unBiblical, I always had a twinge of discomfort when reading this passage, because it "felt" like Paul was praying to Jesus in this passage. Perhaps I was letting my pre-conceived biases color my interpretation?

1 Cor 1:2 (NKJV)

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

A person might reasonably conclude that "call[ing] on the name of" is the same as "prayer".

Acts 8:14-25 (NKJV)

14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, 15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
20 But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”
24 Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.”
25 So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.
Who is "the Lord" in this passage? Luke defines the term in verse 16 to be "the Lord Jesus". Unless the term shifts meaning, without any indication of such a shift, between that verse and verse 24, then the reasonable conclusion is that Simon asked Peter to pray to Jesus, and neither Peter nor Luke corrects him on the matter.

James 1:1-8 (NKJV)

1 James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad:

Greetings.

2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Who is "the Lord" in this passage? Well, in verse 1, it's Jesus. Does the meaning change by the time we get to verse 7?

John 14:14 (NKJV, alternate reading)

If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

Is the alternate reading valid? Most modern versions prefer this rendering.

Rev 22:20 (NKJV)

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”
Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Did John just pray to Jesus? Yes, I believe he did.

1 John 5:14-15 (NKJV)

12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. 14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

In this passage, who is the "He [who] hears us" and the "Him" in whom we have confidence? The closest antecedent is "Son of God".

Acts 1:21-25 (NKJV)

21 “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”
23 And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen 25 to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.”

Who is the "O Lord" in this passage? Is it the "Lord Jesus" mentioned three verses before, or did the meaning of the term change without any indication of a change? Leave your preconceptions at the door, please, and just deal with the inspired text.

An Example of Logic

Jesus is prophet, priest, and king.

While living on this earth, he functioned as prophet, being God's mouthpiece to humans.

Now, in heaven, he functions as priest, being humans' mouthpiece to God.

In the future, he'll function (more fully) as King.

In his current role of priest, intermediary, he functions as a go-between; we pray "through" Jesus, and he conveys our prayers to the Father.

If you send a message to your spouse using your child as the runner between you and your spouse, to whom do you speak? The message is actually for your spouse, but you speak to your child. Likewise, if you send a message to God the Father, using Jesus as the runner, to whom do you speak?

An example from TV

If you've ever watched the television sci-fi show Andromeda, you know that the space-ship's on-board computer is named "Andromeda". There is also an avatar for the ship's computer, "Romy" (short for "An'dromy'da"), a very human-looking (and hot-babe-ish (not that I ever noticed - *cough*) android. The ship's crew would often converse with the ship's computer through this human-looking interface. They would talk and interact with the avatar, but in so-doing they were really talking with the ship's computer. I tend to think of the ship's computer as representative of "God the Father", with Romy representing "God the Human", with the radio-link between them representing "God the Holy Spirit". Yes, it's an inaccurate (and perhaps distasteful to some) analogy, but it works fairly well for me.

In this analogy, speaking to Romy is speaking to Andromeda. Likewise, speaking to Jesus is speaking to the Father.

Conclusion

None of these passages or examples absolutely compel me to conclude that prayer to Jesus is Biblical. But they do cause me to lean toward that conclusion. At a minimum, they cause enough doubt in my mind that I'm reminded of Rom 14:1,4:
... don't argue about doubtful issues. (HCSB)
Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. (NKJV)

So, if someone wants to pray to Jesus, I bless God for giving that person a heart of prayer.

Friday, October 10, 2008

How To Study the Bible

I found the following question, from http://www.lipanhousechurch.org/DOCTRINES/BibleStudy2a.html, most interesting.
When Paul and Silas were forced to leave Thessalonica, they came to Berea where they found Jews "of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true," (Acts 17:11).

Question, what Bible study method did the Jewish Bereans use?
The reason I found this so interesting is because I misread the question. The question I found myself asking was:
Question: What Bible did the Jewish Bereans study for their answers?
In fact, when Jesus needed scriptural authority for such doctrines as marriage and divorce, what Bible did He use?

What Bible did Peter use when teaching the crowds the Gospel in Acts 2? What Bible did Paul use when teaching that both Jew and Gentile are sinners in Romans 3, or when teaching that each Christian has his own God-given gift in Ephesians 4? What Bible did James use when teaching about the efficacy of prayer in James 5?

Answer: The early church and her founder and her not-yet-Christian students, such as the Bereans, turned to the Tanakh ("Old Testament") as their source of authority for much of the church's doctrine. We do ourselves and the church a disservice when we ignore and remain ignorant of the first century church's Bible.

Spiritual Gifts, 3

In the Law of Moses it was established that a matter must be confirmed by the mouth of two or three witnesses, as we see here:
15 "One witness cannot establish any wrongdoing or sin against a person, whatever that person has done. A fact must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
Deut 19:15 (HCSB)
and as reiterated in the New Testament:
On the testimony of two or three witnesses every word will be confirmed.
2 Cor 13:1 (HCSB)
When the Apostles were first teaching the Good News of Jesus, their testimony sufficed for one of the necessary witnesses, but for the second witness, God provided signs and wonders:
3 So they stayed there for some time and spoke boldly, in reliance on the Lord, who testified to the message of His grace by granting that signs and wonders be performed through them.
Acts 14:3 (HCSB)
and
20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the accompanying signs.
Mark 16:20 (HCSB)
Sometimes a man's conscience, via the Holy Spirit, might act as a confirming witness to that man:
...my conscience is testifying to me with the Holy Spirit....
Rom 9:1 (HCSB)
Other times, other men might act as confirming witnesses:
27 Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who will personally report the same things by word of mouth.
Acts 15:27 (HCSB)
Today, we have the Bible as a witness. Where's our second witness?

One possibility is to consider the Bible as a collection of witnesses.

Another possibility is to consider extra-Biblical history as the second witness.

A third possibility is to consider that our conscience still may serve as a witness when led by the Holy Spirit.

A fourth possibility is to consider that perhaps miraculous gifts might still serve as a witness. This fourth possibility would be most effective to those who do not know or do not accept historical claims about Jesus, such as in third-world countries, or among atheists.

I'm only saying that if God wants his Word to be confirmed to non-believers, He's free to use whatever method He wishes, including signs and wonders. Just because I may not have witnessed a bona fide miracle, that doesn't mean that God can't and won't perform one at His will. If a pagan becomes a believer because the Word has been testified to him by a teacher, and then that Word has been confirmed by the testimony of a miracle, praise be to God!

Maybe modern Americans don't need signs and wonders because we don't need them as a second witness, and therefore God doesn't grant them to us often (if ever).

Someone once said that we don't believe in modern-day miracles, not because that's what the text teaches, but because that's what we experience, and then we impress our experience onto the text and conclude that's what the text teaches.

Far be it from me to persuade you to become a "holy-roller". But I do want to warn that our culture may have adopted a false doctrine that has managed to quench the Spirit. I'm content to recognize that modern-day miracles are questionable, but that if God so wants to use His Spirit, I'm not going to deny Him that right. And as Paul encouraged in 1 Cor 14:1, I want to:
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. (HCSB)
So far, nuthin'. But that's not gonna stop me from my eager desire.