Sunday, March 30, 2008
There's not much of a name-change here, as both names are very similar in Hebrew. Hoshea means "Salvation", whereas Yahshua (Joshua, Jesus) means "Yah is Salvation" (Yah being short for YHWH, as in Hallelujah! (= "Praise Yah!")).
Although the Tanakh (Old Testament) does not record this tidbit, Jewish tradition makes the claim that Joshua married Rahab, a former prostitute.
Assuming this to be true, it's interesting that approximately 7 centuries later, another man named Hosea (variant of Hoshea) married a prostitute (Hosea 1:2-3).
And finally, about 7 centuries after that, a third man named Yahshua became engaged to a former prostitute. This Yahshua is better known by his Americanized name, Jesus, and the cleaned-up prostitute to which he is engaged is us, the church (Eph. 5:8, 25ff & the general sense of sinners, of which we once were, going "whoring after [our] own inventions"- Ps 106:39 KJV, &tc).
I just found the foreshadowing/parallelism of three Hosheas/Joshuas marrying prostitutes interesting.
What a scene this must have been---little Gershom the Sojourner screaming in one corner; blood dripping from Gershom, running down Tzippora's forearms, smeared on Moshe's foreskin; Tzippora's unhinged, triumphant exclamation; the abrupt withdrawal of God's wrath. This is another story by which all, even those who had taken on the mores of alien societies, could come to understand: the covenant in blood is serious business. And in this ancient religious milieu, still harking back to old ideas of correspondence and the power of blood, to have one's foreskin washed in the blood of one's son's foreskin was to have been circumcised.
This God is obviously not a member of any known "twelve-step program." He is far from "supportive" and "inclusive", to use the jargon of our day---and he is certainly not cuddly. Perhaps he is not a God for an age such as ours but for a more vigorous one, such as the Jacobean, that did not blanch so easily.
(pg. 112, emphasis added)
Saturday, March 29, 2008
In it, he writes:
A chicken cannot mature in its shell of incubation. It utilizes all that the egg has to offer, but if it is to grow, it must break out of its shell. Its original confinement allows for no eating and exercise for full development. Unless it breaks out it will die.
To compare our association in a congregation to a limiting and confining egg shell may seem inappropriate. At least, no congregation should be like that. But the confining traditional boundaries drawn by the greater number of Churches of Christ definitely constrict spiritual learning, exercise, and acceptance of others in Christ.
An unwritten creed defining doctrine and practice is formed by the sincerest of men as an invisible shield around the disciple intended to guarantee rightness and to protect from misdirection. They presume that full growth is nurtured within their prescribed limits. But the disciple cannot learn, exercise, and grow to the fullest without breaking the inflexible shell of unwritten laws. While great emphasis is placed on study of the Bible, if a student learns some new idea or different practice these must be kept very privately. When taught or practiced publicly, varying degrees of rejection are met usually. The disciple may absorb all that the limiting shell offers and still not outgrow judgmental attitudes or reach full potential.
Many in our congregations of the various groups of the Churches of Christ have outgrown their churches. They would like to remain in them to promote non-judgmental acceptance, but they suffer rejection. So they pip their shells for air and push themselves out into a free world liberated from their sectarian incubation. They have learned to read the Word without being defensive and to accept other disciples without being judgmental. When rejected or expelled for their new concepts, some have been blessed to find a more open Church of Christ nearby with which to begin meeting. So they leave in peace without bitterness or arrogance toward those who sought to restrict them.
What is a person to do when he or she outgrows his or her church? No epistle is written outlining a procedure to follow. As in deciding any issue of life, all principles of holy conduct must be observed. Since each person's situation is different, each person must seek the direction of the Spirit in deciding which course to follow. None of us is qualified to judge the case of the other.
If you find yourself in such a situation, or are just interested in following this line of thinking, perhaps you might want to go read the rest of his article.
Monday, March 24, 2008
The preacher was contrasting Demas and Barnabas. Demas is only mentioned three times in the New Testament: here are those three instances in chronological (but not textual) order:
Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.Philemon 1:23-24
Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.Colossians 4:14
Do your best to come to me quickly, 10for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.2 Timothy 4:9-10a
The preacher pointed out how Demas was at one time a fellow-worker, a "good guy", but that near the end of Paul's life had deserted Christ because he "loved this world". He then went on to preach that Demas had become a child of Satan (I don't recall if those were the preacher's words, but it's the meaning I got from his sermon).
It seemed very harsh and judgmental to me.
Perhaps my thinking capability is faulty, but it seems to me that the preacher's conclusion is not warranted, especially when you look a bit closer at the context.
As part of his comparison of Demas with Barnabas, he pointed out Acts 15 which talks about Paul and Barnabas wanting to revisit the churches they had earlier established. On their earlier trip they had taken John Mark, who deserted them part way through the trip. Now Barnabas is wanting to take John Mark again, but Paul won't have anything to do with John Mark, and the result is that Paul and Barnabas go their separate ways.
The preacher was focusing on Barnabas and how he was an encourager (Barnabas means "son of encouragement"), as opposed to Demas who had "become a son of Satan". But he missed the detail about Paul's bitterness at being abandoned. Obviously Paul doesn't cotton to folks who may have good intentions but bail on him for whatever reason.
We don't know why John Mark deserted them on their first missionary trip. Nor do we know why Demas deserted Paul, other than that he "loved this world". We do know that Paul has already demonstrated a bitterness about being deserted.
The preacher equated this loving of the world that Demas was guilty of with the love of the world condemned in 1 John 2:15 -- "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." I'm not entirely confident that the two similar phrases mean the same thing in both contexts. (Nor am I convinced they don't mean the same thing -- that's my point: the evidence is not clear one way or the other, so don't just choose one way and then turn that into "Gospel Truth".)
When we read further in 2 Timothy 4, we find that Demas is not the only one that deserted Paul:
Do your best to come to me quickly, 10for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. 11Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. 12I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. 13When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.Paul is in prison; all his friends have abandoned him for one reason or another. He has enemies. It's not surprising that he might feel some bitterness, and that's consistent with his behavior many years earlier in conjunction with John Mark.
14Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. 15You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.
16At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.
It seems to me that Demas left, like everyone else, when the heat got too great against those who supported Paul (v. 16a). But Paul, realizing that he was letting his anger get the better of him in his letter to Timothy, then asserted his discipleship of Jesus by forgiving those deserters -- "May it not be held against them."
Maybe Demas really does belong to a different class of deserters than do these others that Paul is forgiving; after all, Demas is the only one specifically mentioned as having loved the world. But it seems to me that all the deserters loved the world, trying to save their own skins by "gettin' while the gettin's good". Perhaps Paul was more bitter toward him than toward the others, since they had been so close to each other. I don't want to excuse Demas' failure to be faithful, but neither do I want to condemn him without warrant. As far as I know, he's just like Peter, who denied the Lord three times at the Lord's trial, after swearing just a few hours earlier that he'd never do such a thing. Peter repented. Perhaps Demas did also. The point is, we just don't know.
And to claim that we do know that Demas lost his salvation based on this flimsy evidence is, to my mind, going beyond the text.
I think much of the problem is in the equating of Demas' love of the world with the love of the world condemned in 1 John 2:15. But just because the phraseology is similar, does not necessarily mean the meaning is similar. After all, there's another place with similar phrasing -- John 3:16 -- "For God so loved the world ...". (I'm not implying that Demas loved the world the same way God did; that's obviously not the case. But my point is that similar phraseology can mean different things in different contexts.)
Demas may have indeed turned his back on Jesus, but without better evidence, I'm withholding judgment against him, choosing to believe the best of him (1 Cor. 13:7 AMP), and choosing to hope that like Peter, he returned into the fold of the Master, and like the other deserters, that he was included in Paul's prayer that desertion would not be held against them.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
I didn't come here to see the shows; I came here to drive my parents to meet three couples from church here, so they could all go see the shows. Still, I wound up going to see three shows:
Red, Hot, and Blue - a song-and-dance broadly covering the decades of the 1900's.
Comedy Jamboree - a song-and-dance interspersed with comedy a la "Hee Haw".
Legends in Concert - performances by "legends": Buddy Holly, Marilyn Monroe, George Strait, Ed Sullivan, the Blues Brothers, Elvis. It was particularly funny when seductive Marilyn came into the audience and fingered (literally, on the forehead) my friend David to come up on the stage with her. What a hoot!
I'm glad to have had the experience. It's not my type of usual entertainment, and I certainly balked at the pricing (I think the lowest we paid for a ticket was $14; many were $30, but with shopping around at the discount ticket outlets and coupon books, usually you could get those at a 2-for-1 deal - which is fine if you're not a third wheel, like I have been this trip).
The strip, the main road with most of the theatres and hotels and restaurants, was underplanned by the city fathers; it's just a two-lane with a center left-turn lane. That's been the biggest negative of town. Otherwise, it's a nice little town; size about 6000, most of the amenities you might want, clean. I'm sure there's crime here, but it doesn't feel crime-y.
The performers, and restaurant workers, and ticket sellers, etc, have all seemed like decent folks, many making references to God and country. It's a good place. If you're into live performances, I believe I can recommend this town. (And the pricing of the hotels are lower than anywhere else I've seen (although I'm not a great traveler), and the other prices are normal - not inflated like you might expect in a tourist town.) And the mountainous environment is refreshing for this West Texas dweller.
So pack up the family and come to Branson.
Friday, March 14, 2008
I'm thrilled, and awed, and crushed, to think of bearing the name of YHWH/Yeshua. It's such an honor, and yet such a burden because I know my best right-ness (which I seldom attain to) is as filthy rags.
And so I answer with the following:
It's an honor to wear the name YHWH/Yeshua (Yeshua = Hebrew for Joshua --> Ancient Greek = Iesous --> Olde Englishe = Jesus), like it might be an honor for a bride, very much in love with her husband, to take on her husband's name. (Ten years later she might not feel the same, but for the first few weeks at least ....) It's exciting to adopt the name "Yeshua" as part of my own.
But on the other hand, I know I'm not worthy of wearing the name.
The Message" version of the Bible puts it this way, in Isaiah 64:6:
We're all sin-infected, sin-contaminated.
Our best efforts are grease-stained rags.
The King James Version puts it a little more literally:
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags....
The point is that even if I'm going to church every time the door is open, and even if I'm giving 50% of my income to the church and/or the poor/needy, and even if I'm preaching on every street corner and converting 50 people a day, and even if I know the Bible so well I can quote the entire thing from memory, and even if I pray better and more effectively than Elijah, and even if I perform great miracles in the name of God, and even if every word out of my mouth glorifies God --- no matter how good I am, it's nothing compared to the goodness of God.
And the fact of the matter is, my best goodness doesn't come up anywhere near to what I just described in the previous paragraph. If that kind of goodness is as filthy rags before God, how much less my feeble attempts at righteousness must be.
In my church culture, I grew up being taught that we are saved because we teach and live righteousness. And yes, that is and should be the goal. But what I was never taught, and what many Christians never learn, is that no matter how good and clean and righteous we might appear on the outside, down deep inside, in our darkest depths, in the places we've forgotten exist inside of us because we'd be horrified if we ever actually looked at them, we are "full of dead men's bones and everything unclean" (Matt. ). My church culture has always dismissed this statement of Jesus as applying to those "horrible, hypocritical Pharisees", and to "denominationalists", but never to ourselves, because "we love The Truth".
I was in my forties before I realized that sin dwells in me. Oh sure, I knew I sometimes sinned, but that was an action or inaction. It was something I did or did not do; it was not something I was or was not. But sin is not just an action/inaction; it is a condition, a state of being. Paul writes about this in Romans 7:
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no the evil I do not want to do -- this I keep on doing.... For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!
My church culture has always preached against "inherited sin". It's only been recently that I've realized that there are basically two definitions of "sin" as used in the Bible.
1. Action/Inaction. This is "sin" as I grew up knowing it. It incurs guilt. This type of sin is, indeed, not inherited. Every person is guilty for his own sin.
2. The "condition" of sin. It's another word for "imperfection", or better, "corruption". This type of sin was introduced into the cosmos when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Our "very good" bodies, and indeed, the cosmos itself (Rom. 8:18ff), were corrupted at that time. This type of sin is indeed inherited, and is why death has spread to all people, as Romans 5:12 says:
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned....
Both definitions fit in with the classical definition of "falling short, missing the mark", as an arrow on the archery field falling short and missing the target, as many of us were taught in Sunday School; the first definition of sin is a falling short because of our failure to do or not do; the second is a falling short of the perfection we were originally created with.
My church culture has totally ignored/denied the second definition, and has only defined "sin" as something we do or don't do, not as something we are or are not.
As mentioned, I was in my forties before I realized that the second definition applies: not only might I be guilty of sin because of things I do or don't do; I'm also full of sin because it's in my genetic make-up. I first started suspecting this when I'd have disturbing dreams, doing things in those dreams that I thought I was incapable of doing. It really made me question myself, and I wondered if doing something inconceivable in a dream meant that I'm capable of doing such a thing in real life. And over the next few years, the Lord allowed me to learn that yes, there's a core of sin deep within me that would take over my life if I would just let it. That's what Paul was writing about in that quote above.
No matter how good a life I live; that core of sin is still within me. There's nothing, not a single thing, that I can do to purge that out of me. I can no more scoop out that rotten spot from my inner being than a mis-firing car can replace its own spark-plugs. The best I can do is constantly fight it.
Who will rescue me from this body of death?
Thanks be to God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord, who has already purchased the surgery that will separate me from this rotten core. He's made the purchase; the deal is done; we're just now waiting for the actual surgery. In the meantime, it's an honor to wear the name of Yeshua, who has purchased my surgery, but it's also a burden, because I know that at base, I'm fundamentally flawed, and not worth the purchase price. The old car is not worth buying and giving a tune-up, but the car buyer loves it enough to buy it and fix it anyway. Thanks be to Jesus who loved me more than my worth!
* References to "Jerusalem" and "Israel" would need to be changed to "New Jerusalem" and "New Israel" (not so much out of necessity, but because many Christians in the pews would not realize that WE are now those entities unless it was pretty much spelled out for them, and they would thus be offended, particularly since they would be critically looking for "doctrinal error" since praying a prayer straight from the Bible is "different", and "different", even when straight from the Bible, is so often treated with suspicion).
* Many Christians would be offended at the idea of curses in the Law of Moses being applied to us who are not under that law.
* YHWH has not yet brought disaster on the US, so the past-tense reference of this judgment might need to be converted into a possible (and likely) future-tense.
* Many in the church would be offended at the idea that "we" have sinned; after all, we obey and defend The Truth, unlike everyone else... (John 9, John 9, John 9, repeat to myself, John 9 ...).
* And of course, references to YHWH would generate conniption fits in the aisles and walk-outs, since to use the name God declared as his "name forever, the name by which [he is] to be remembered from generation to generation" (Ex. 3:15) is "different", and as has been mentioned, "different", even when straight from the Bible, is treated with suspicion. (I mostly blame the Bible translators for this ignorance in the church, because they're the ones who changed the scriptures to fit with tradition -- "regarding as doctrine the traditions we grew up with" -- my paraphrase of Matt. 15:9).
* And finally, the phrase "in Jesus' name" would have to be added to the prayer so that everyone would know we were praying in Jesus' name. This despite the fact that we're meeting in his name, in a building marked with his "name" (title, actually), presumably worshiping, "in everything we do in word or deed," in his name, because tradition demands this phrase, even though prayers in the New Testament don't adhere to this tradition. ("...regarding as doctrine the traditions we grew up with...".)
I really didn't mean to be so critical in this post; I started out being moved by this Biblical, spiritual prayer. But on second thought, perhaps it's not a good prayer for public use after all. Sad.
Still, here's the prayer as God saw fit to record it which I would like to be able to pray at church, but probably never will:
[Daniel] prayed to YHWH [his] God and confessed:
"O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
7 "Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 O YHWH, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed YHWH our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. "Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of YHWH our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 YHWH did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for YHWH our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.
15 "Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.
17 "Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name."
I especially love the last couple of verses: "We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy," and "...your city and your people bear your Name." I'm thrilled, and awed, and crushed, to think of bearing the name of YHWH/Yeshua. It's such an honor, and yet such a burden because I know my best right-ness (which I seldom attain to) is as filthy rags.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us....
I did a little research on this passage, and found it to be more interesting than I had ever thought.
I had always thought the "great cloud of witnesses" referred to the great heroes of the faith discussed in the previous chapter, and indeed, this seems to be the popular conception, as it was the view taken by the preacher this morning.
But note the word "also".
In chapter 11, the writer of Hebrews starts out by saying, "By faith, Abel ... was approved as a righteous man..." and "...even though he is dead, he still speaks through this."
And then the writer moves on to Enoch, then Noah, then Abraham and Sarah and so on and so on.
Then in 12:1, the writer essentially says, "Like these heroes, we also are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses."
So who are the "witnesses"?
The idea of running a race is a clue. The writer likely has in his mind the Greek athletic contests that took place in the Greek stadiums built in many cities that had been influenced under Greek and Roman rule. He continues this racing theme by specifying the prize in verses 12-13 (HCSB):
Therefore strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but healed instead.Typical of Hebrew teaching of the time, he uses a small passage (v. 3 of Isaiah 35) to allude to the larger context found in Isaiah 35:
This larger context speaks of joy, and healing of blind and lame and deaf persons, and blossoming deserts, etc; in other words, Paradise is the goal of this race.
3 Strengthen the weak hands,
steady the shaking knees!
The witnesses mentioned above are those people who are sitting in the stadium stands, watching the race. The world has its eyes on us, just as it has witnessed the great heroes of the faith. Not only the world, but angels, demons, and God himself are watching us run the race. You're an athlete performing in front of a crowd; run like the professional you are!
And although I doubt the writer of Hebrews agreed with the practice, he makes another allusion, this time to the Greek practice of participating in athletic games in the nude. The verb for "lay off" refers to the casting off of one's clothes. It's the same word used in Acts, when Stephen is being stoned and those stoning him "laid their robes" at the feet of the young man named Saul. The picture being drawn is that we, as participants in the athletic race, are to strip off our clothes and anything else which gets in the way of our racing. I like the way the New American Standard Bible puts it: "[L]ay aside every encumbrance...".
The whole picture that seems to be in the mind of the writer is that we are athletes running in a race; we are to run professionally, doing whatever it takes to run the race, casting off whatever gets in the way of a good run, and by so doing, like the heroes of old, we will "still speak" to the witnesses watching us, even long after we're dead.
Monday, March 03, 2008
Do we have no clue that we're just as blind and subjective and selective as "they" are? I think it's good to be reminded of the last couple of lines of John 9. In this chapter, Jesus heals a blind man. The religious elite, the Pharisees, question this man, and the story goes thusly:
They called the man back a second time—the man who had been blind— and told him, "Give credit to God. We know this man is an impostor."
He replied, "I know nothing about that one way or the other. But I know one thing for sure: I was blind . . . I now see."
They said, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?"
"I've told you over and over and you haven't listened. Why do you want to hear it again? Are you so eager to become his disciples?"
With that they jumped all over him. "You might be a disciple of that man, but we're disciples of Moses. We know for sure that God spoke to Moses, but we have no idea where this man even comes from."
The man replied, "This is amazing! You claim to know nothing about him, but the fact is, he opened my eyes! It's well known that God isn't at the beck and call of sinners, but listens carefully to anyone who lives in reverence and does his will. That someone opened the eyes of a man born blind has never been heard of—ever. If this man didn't come from God, he wouldn't be able to do anything."
They said, "You're nothing but dirt! How dare you take that tone with us!" Then they threw him out in the street.
Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and went and found him. He asked him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"
The man said, "Point him out to me, sir, so that I can believe in him."
Jesus said, "You're looking right at him. Don't you recognize my voice?"
"Master, I believe," the man said, and worshiped him.
Jesus then said, "I came into the world to bring everything into the clear light of day, making all the distinctions clear, so that those who have never seen will see, and those who have made a great pretense of seeing will be exposed as blind."
Some Pharisees overheard him and said, "Does that mean you're calling us blind?"
Jesus said, "If you were really blind, you would be blameless, but since you claim to see everything so well, you're accountable for every fault and failure."