Thursday, April 23, 2009

Let's Go Fishin'

A friend showed me a Bible study in which he's currently involved, and I noticed the phrase "fisher of men". This is found in Mark 1:14-17:
14Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." 16As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. 17And Jesus said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men."
We, not knowing our Tanakh's ("Old Testaments") very well, think that this turn of phrase was a merely a pun played by Jesus as he called these two fishermen to be his disciples.

But those fishermen were very familiar with their Tanakh, and recognized both the pun and the reference Jesus was making.

Hundreds of years earlier, Jeremiah (chapter 16) had prophesied that because the Israelites were not true to YHWH, YHWH would hurl them away from their own country and into another place, and take away their joy and rejoicing and replace it with famine and war and death and disease. But then Jeremiah continues on to say that after a period of punishment, YHWH will gather the scattered back to their home. And in this context he says:
16"Behold, I am going to send for many fishermen," declares YHWH, "and they will fish for them; and afterwards I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them from every mountain and every hill and from the clefts of the rocks.
Jesus, as he passes by the fishermen, Peter and Andrew, is essentially telling them, "It's time to bring Israel back to God; you men are going to be the fishermen who do so."

Jesus may also be making a reference to a prophecy in Amos 4:
1Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on the mountain of Samaria,
Who oppress the poor, who crush the needy,
Who say to your husbands, "Bring now, that we may drink!"
2The Lord YHWH has sworn by His holiness,
"Behold, the days are coming upon you
When they will take you away with meat hooks,
And the last of you with fish hooks.
Mark, in his rendition of the story of Jesus, seems to tie this phrase with the imprisonment of John. John had been oppressed and crushed by the elite in Judea who sit around and sip champagne; Jesus is calling these lowly fishers to be the men who use fish hooks to drag such oppressors away.

(Thanks to Brent for the inspiration for this entry.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Life is About People

I was at the bathroom sink the other day, washing my hands, when a forceful sense of thought came into my head:
Life is about people.
And I realized that really, life is not about doing your job, whatever it is; it's not about making art, or music, or finding a cure for cancer, or running a farm and producing food for millions, or repairing cars, or writing blogs.

It's about people.

And I realized that two years ago, I pretty much just wanted to be self-contained, and/or with a few close friends/family maybe. Over the past two years, I've realized that's a selfish position, and I've tried to be a bit more outgoing and aware of other people. I'm not at all good at it; don't really like it; but I'm trying to be more people-oriented.

Then this "revelation" the other day just hit me that this is the important thing.

It's an echo of what Yahshua said when he was asked what was the most important commandment in life. He answered:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself. - Luke 10.27
John also hits this point, saying:
For the person who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. - 1 John 4.20
And the New Testament is full of admonitions to think about the other person, to do good for others, to be focused on the needs of others.

Others others others.

As mentioned, I'm not good at this. I don't really like people as a rule. But I'm learning that I need to change my ways, and become people-oriented. I'm not really changing my life yet, but if I can get my mind to change (which is what the word "repent" means), then my life will align with my thinking.

Life is about people. It's not about me.

Wow. Hard lessons.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dancing with a Mop

So a friend texted me the other day; he had just bought a new sponge-mop, and while using it for the first time, the head came loose.

I texted back the following:
Oh, you probably got the dance-teaching mop instead of the floor-cleaning mop. As you gyrate around the kitchen trying to catch the mophead you're learning to do the Spongemop Square-Dance.
I'm pretty proud of my wit at the moment ... :-)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Franchise Agreement

But word got out. Word always gets out. A retired elder grabbed me in the hall. He said he’d heard about our discussion. He had a look of sheer panic on his face.

“You know you can’t do that,” he said with the greatest of urgency.

“You mean politically? There’s nothing in the Bible on it, of course, and the church will support the decision, I’m sure,” I replied — naively as it now seems looking back on this fateful conversation.

“No, no,” he shook his head. “You forgot about the franchise agreement! How could you forget about the franchise??”

I assured him that I had no idea what he was talking about, and I thought sure he’d lost his mind. He was, after all, quite elderly.

It must have shown on my face, because he looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I’m not crazy!” He looked deeply embarassed. “When I retired, I guess I forgot to give a copy to the next guy. You see, in churches of Christ, the senior elder always keeps a copy of the secret franchise agreement. It has all the rules that you think ought to be in the Bible but aren’t.”

A few days later he drove to my house and handed me an ancient, dusty document, plainly labeled “Franchise Agreement.” And as old as it was, the lettering remained very clear.

The retired elder leaned close and whispered in my ear. “Now it will all make sense. All the gaps, and silences, and peculiarities — now you’ll understand.”

If you grew up in the Church of Christ, I suggest you go read The Franchise Agreement. Then it'll all make sense.

A Look at the Lord's Supper in 1 Cor 11

Norman, on the Church_Of_Christ Yahoo!Group, says (typos and grammar-o's are his):

Then, how can we duplicate it EXACTLY? (It is clear what was going on in Acts 2 and 20?) Certainly the LS [Lord's Supper] was involved. (At least, they claimed to be meeting for the LS) But also an abuse that involved "factions" (Yes, we learn later there was partially) v 19; some eating before others arrived, (they did not understand the LS) v 21, some even getting drunk, (On an 8 ounce bottle of Welch's grape juice? Why would they have gallons of alcoholic beverage if they only came for a 5-part worship to take the LS as we take it today?) v21. Whether this involved another meal or not and whether, if it did involve another meal, it was a Love Feast, is simply untold. (It was NOT the LS only.) In this discussion, it is not important, because the discussion is whether I MUST do exactly as they did and why or why not? My point is that we must know exactly what they did and we agree that we do not know. Therefore, we need to look at other scriptures to determent if they are facts or traditions. Acts 2: 42, 46 and Acts 20:7. The scripture is not followed in these verses (when we come together to worship), traditional beliefs dictates what we teach as scripture.

...

It may appear that it was the LS supper turned into a meal; however, we cannot know for sure, can we? Isn't it true that we do not know EXACTLY how and why they met? If you will look at Paul's explanation of the proper method to take the LS; you see that his illustration was with a meal and AFTER the meal the LS was taken.
(1 Cor 11:25-26 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
To say is was the LS being tuned into a common meal come from outside sources, not scripture. Paul established this church and had already taught them how to take the Lord's Supper. He spent 1 1/2 years with them , and a good while . He had taken the Lord's Supper with them many times; probably about 150 times if they took it every Sunday and only on Sunday as you claim. He showed them how to take it. I am quite sure he did not show them how to remain silent while trays were past with a piece of cracker in one tray and follower by another tray with tiny cup of Welch's grape juice for 150 times and they decided later to have a common meal with alcoholic beverages and call it the LS. They didn't understand or they had forgotten the importance of it.

If you will remember Paul said one remains hungry, or do you despise the church of God and HUMILATE those who have NOTHING (to eat)? Their intentions were to have a love feast and feed the poor. Paul did not condemn them for eating a common meal with the LS. He only said if you can't wait until the poor Christians get there eat at home. The only problem was they were despising the church of God and humiliating those who had nothing?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Is the Church of Christ a Denomination?

(The following was written to a "Church of Christ" mailing list, from a typical "Church of Christ" mentality.)

====

To me, a "denomination" is a part of the whole. Full stop. It doesn't have to recognize itself as such. Nor does it have to be organized above the congregational level and have a statement of faith. These things are often true of denominations.

Using this simple definition, let me show you how I've concluded that the Church of Christ (big "C", Sign-Out-Front) is a denomination.

Imagine a young man in the dark jungles of interior Africa. He's never seen a white man, has no idea of modern civilization, has never heard a radio or seen a TV.

All his life, every Thursday evening, the tribe gathers around for a worship meal. They sacrifice a small animal, and roast it, and each community member eats a small piece of it in a ritual. They interpret this ritual as a means of gaining the characteristics of the animal (if it was a rabbit, they gain speed and agility; if a wolf, strength and cooperation; if a snake, ghost-like movements; etc). They also place a drop of blood from the animal into a common water container, and then all drink a small sip from the water. In this manner, they become one with the spirits of the world. After the meeting, they sing and dance around the fire, in honor of all the gods of the earth, and especially in honor of the Great God above all the other gods.

One day, this young man is out hunting, and he comes across the dead body of a white missionary. He's never seen a white man, but he remembers stories from his youth of God-men coming to Earth as messengers, to deliver knowledge to humans. He recalls that in the stories, these God-men had bodies that glowed white with light. He concludes this dead missionary must be one such messenger. Searching the body reverently, he finds a small book, amazingly enough, written in the language of a neighboring tribe, which this young man understands. He takes the book, and begins to read.

From the book, he learns that the Great God created all of the heaven and earth, and all the animals, and even the first ancestral humans from whom all humanity is descended. He learns other history, and even recognizes the story of Noah and the Ark as being very similar to the story of his own people, and realizes that the stories refer to the same event, only his story must have become corrupt over the generations (after all, it would be presumed that the "God-Man" would have the correct version of the story as part of his message to humans).

He continues reading, and realizes that much of his beliefs, while floundering near and about the one true God, missed it in so very many ways.

He learns that God sent a very special God-Man to Earth, one that was in essence the Great God Himself, in human form. The young man doesn't understand all the nitty-gritty details, but he does comprehend a basic understanding that this Jesus is the Son of the Great God, and that like the animals they sacrifice every Thursday evening, Jesus was sacrificed, but his sacrifice does so much more, in that it opens a renewed relationship between humans and the Great God.

Further study reveals that if the young man accepts this fact, and believes and confesses to it, and changes his mind to start worshiping the Great God and his Son as found in this book, rather than worshiping according to his life-long understandings, and if he's immersed in water for a cleansing and a renewal, he will emerge from the water as a new person, saved before the Great God of the book.

He does so.

My question: Is this young man now a Christian?

I'm going to assume you'll say "yes", even though this young man still has a very incomplete understanding of the ways of Christianity.

Now, come Thursday evening, this young man joins his community for worship, but now, instead of worshiping the gods of the Earth, all his activities are oriented toward giving worth to the Great God of the book, and His son, the God-Man Jesus. The young man still participates in the sacrifice, and the eating of the roasted meat, and the drinking of the blood-tainted water, and the dancing and singing around the fire, but he does so giving worth to the real God, not toward the gods he formerly worshiped.

My next question: Is this young man still a Christian?

Yes, he's worshiping incorrectly, out of ignorance; that's plain. But does that "un-make" him a Christian?

It seems to me that he's a Christian, a member of the church of Christ, the church we read about in the New Testament. He doesn't LOOK to us like a member of the church of Christ, but if I understand the conversion process, he is indeed a member of the same church of which I attend every Sunday and Wednesday. Hopefully, as he continues studying, he'll learn more and more of the Biblical way of worshiping.

Now, one last question: What if instead of being in the dark jungles of Africa, this young man was raised in the Baptist church? At some point in his young adult years, he decides to read the Bible, realizes that what he's been taught all his life is not Biblical, decides to be immersed in water to have his sins washed away and to become a Christian, and asks his Pastor do immerse him. The pastor says he'll immerse him, but not for the forgiveness of sins; the young man replies, "Just immerse me; your reasons don't matter; mine do." So the young man is immersed. Is he now a Christian, a member of the church of Christ? If so, if in his ignorance he still attends the Baptist assembly the next Sunday morning, and still worships in form as the Baptists do, does that "un-make" him as a Christian?

Now perhaps you haven't come with me to the same conclusions I have drawn, but if you have, then it must be asked, "Is it possible, at least theoretically, for a Christian to be 'hidden' in some non-Church of Christ denomination?" If so, then the "church of Christ" is larger than the "Church of Christ"; thus, the "Church of Christ" is a part of the whole, thereby making it, by definition, a denomination.

All Christians everywhere, in the dark jungles of Africa, or in the confused trappings of a Baptist assembly, are members of the church of Christ, even if they are not members of the "Church of Christ".

Of course, you may put more requirements on becoming a Christian than I have laid out here. Perhaps you insist that a true convert have proper understanding that he can't wear any non-Biblical name (such as "Episcopalian" or "Methodist"), or that he have a proper understanding of acceptable worship forms (no women speaking in church; the "Five Acts", etc), or that he have a proper understanding of church organization (multiple pastors, multiple deacons, congregational autonomy, etc). If that's the case, then you essentially require a person to convert to a system rather than to a person.

Maybe I've just wasted a bunch of bandwidth with these what-if scenarios, but hopefully they help demonstrate how it is that although I believe the Biblical church of Christ, as found in the New Testament, is not a denomination, the group we generally consider as the "Church of Christ" is, at least theoretically.

If there are any Christians hidden in denominations, we need to call them out, to be "just Christians"; not "Baptist Christians" or "Assembly of God Christians" or even "Church of Christ Christians". We need to drop the descriptive and divisive names; christians who meet in a building with a Church of Christ sign-out-front should alternate their signs every week with other Biblical descriptions; there's nothing wrong with the term "church of Christ" when it's on an equal level with other equally Biblical terms for the church, but when it becomes the "official" term by which our group is distinguished, we have, in
essence, become a denomination.

Lots of words; probably very little value; my apologies for being so long-winded. Hopefully it'll convey the meaning I intended.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Change Agents

According to an article at Time.com, matzo (crackers to us Gentiles) had been prepared by hand for thousands of years according to strict regulations. In the 19th century the process was mechanized, and for decades the Jewish community was split over the acceptability of such a process. As the article puts it:
But changes to 3,000-year-old religious traditions never go smoothly, and Singer's invention became a hot-button issue for 19th century Jewish authorities. In 1959, a well-known Ukrainian rabbi named Solomon Kluger published an angry manifesto against machine-made matzo, while his brother-in-law, Rabbi Joseph Saul Nathanson, published a defense. Jewish communities around the world weighed in on the issue — arguing that handmade matzo provided kneading jobs for the poor; that the machine made matzo cheap enough that poor people could afford it; that the mitzvah, or good deed, of eating matzo was ruined if a machine was used; that the machine made it easier to abide by the 18-minute rule. These discussions were not resolved quickly — and in some Orthodox communities, not at all.
I think that much of the present controversy over "change agents" in the church may be of a similar nature.

Granted, some changes are indeed actual changes to Biblical practices, and should be shunned. But I suspect many are simply changes to traditions.

Are we defending Biblical practices, or are we defending human traditions, or are we simply resistant to change?

(And go watch the Matzah video - http://www.matzahsong.com/ - it's fun!)

More Archealogical Evidence of Israelite Beginnings

From Israel21c:
Researchers from the University of Haifa today revealed an exceptional archaeological discovery of "foot-shaped" enclosures for assemblies and rituals in the Jordan Valley, dating back to the time when the Jews first settled Israel.
The article goes on to say that these foot-shaped enclosures appear to have marked territory as belonging to the various tribes of Israel, and that this discovery sheds light on the meaning of various terms and on the beginnings of Israel and her holy days.

As I was reading the article, it came to mind that God told Abram:
Get up and walk from one end of the land to the other, for I will give it to you.
(Gen 13:17)
and that when Boaz bought property from another, shoes were exchanged, with this explanation given:

7 At an earlier period in Israel, a man removed his sandal and gave [it] to the other party in order to make any matter [legally] binding concerning the right of redemption or the exchange of property. This was [the method of] legally binding a transaction in Israel.

8 So the redeemer removed his sandal and said to Boaz, "Buy back [the property] yourself."

(Ruth 4:7-8)

Apparently there was quite a symbolism in the ancient Jewish cultures concerning feet/shoes and property ownership. There may even be some related significance to the New Testament practice of shaking off from the foot the dust of a town that does not accept the message of Jesus, as if Jesus is saying, "You won't have me? I won't own you."

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Eazy-Peazy

Once the co-workers learned I had put one of my songs on YouTube, they clamored for me to publish Easy-Peazy also.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

She Didn't Write Me On My Birthday

Okay, I'm no musical genius; my skill is lacking. Still, I enjoy tinkering on the guitar, and having recently created an account on YouTube, decided to put it to use.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Awareness Test

I highly recommend you watch this 1-minute video. It has a lesson to teach us about life in general, and which I believe should particularly be applied to Biblical interpretation and to the interpretation of evidences of all sorts (particularly thinking of Creation/Evolution issues):

Awareness Test

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Working out the Gospel in the First Century

Kevin Parker, in a potent discourse on politics (Facebook account possibly required), wrote this:
The Gospel itself is a part of culture, yet it transcends all human cultures. There is a danger in assuming that our brand of Christianity is the exact and perfectly restored pure 100% Grade A gospel as put forth by the disciples and Church fathers. Face it, folks, those early leaders didn't even agree 100% among themselves, and much of the New Testament witness is a working out of the Gospel amidst various cultural shortcomings and biased perceptions.