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Friday, December 14, 2012

Our Responsibility as a Society


My prayers and condolences go out for those mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters who have suffered a great loss in their families in America, today. Even as they grieve there is no reason why others of us can not, yet again, speak to this evil that ensnares itself on our society only to rear its ugliest at any season.

I

I do not own a gun, but I do not have a problem with anyone owning a gun, guns, rifles including assault rifles. I have no need for any of these things. No need to paint a scenario as to what I would do if the picture were painted in different shades. I know the Lord, my God. I can understand and have no problem with someone exercising their pre-determined judgment either to shoot or to kill anyone who assaults them or intrudes into their home.

I also understand the American constitutional right, not only to own guns, but to use them. The problem is neither gun control, guns, the type of gun nor the mental state of one who has grossly abused the right to own and use a gun.

We

The problem is our sense of responsibility as individuals and a society. Only in some rare instances has a murderous assault on society been averted by those middle and high school children who would not be silenced by the social stigma of telling on another. When they, like others, heard one of their own utter his intentions to come back with a gun they did the responsible thing and spoke up. Their immediate response to the problem was neither to ignore the individual nor to ask the individual to stop talking that way, but to go to adults in positions of responsibility who, wisely and prudently enough, acted accordingly. Our society pressures its own to keep silent and never tell what is spoken or happens behind closed doors, that is, unless you're a baby or you are not a man. Our society regularly learns of acts long kept secret because the exposure would mean a blow to individuals or organizations deemed more worthy than the victims. No wonder the children and adults alike will often keep silent when they ought to speak up.

Gun owners' talk

Gun owners know their duty to be responsible with their guns. They do not wander about shooting them off as they please. Here is where adults, both gun owners and non owners, have yet to understand and live responsibly, not with guns, but with their tongues. Even the (so called) dialog and statements in the aftermath of the latest atrocity the chorus heard is the exchange of one-liner assertions of what is NOT the problem instead of a probing for the problem and the solution.

There is a sporting talk heard as much on social media on the use of one's gun as it is heard aloud in many other settings. This is as common from professing Christians as non Christians. It is the blood lust thirst for the foolish intruder on whom to gladly and eagerly unload a gun. It's a common scenario painted too often to assert one's right to self-defense and ready willingness to, in the popular vernacular, - blow someone away. This bravado is often accompanied complete, as if we did not know, with a photo or illustration of a weapon.

Acting and talking responsibly

Like I said, I have no problem, I understand and accept the individual's right and use of his/her gun, but by what stretch of our collective social mind is it acceptable to ignore with total silence when that same individual shoots off his mouth irresponsibly about using that gun as his answer to a problem?

And, if we are to hold the bar up to a higher standard than comparing ourselves with one whose mental state is questionable, by what stretch of a responsible mind does anyone feel their mental soundness ought not be suspect if they think this is the stuff, that is, "blowing him away," for coffee table talk and posting on Facebook?

Politicians and gun control

I do not support or advocate gun control. I would advocate and would support legislation which would result in the permanent confiscation and revocation of future gun ownership when two or more witnesses can attest they have heard him/her shoot off their mouth about shooting off their gun. The ONLY way this can work is NOT through government, but through private citizens, responsible individual children and adults, who have a tongue to speak and understand and exercise a true sense of responsibility regardless whether or not they own a gun. If a gun owner can not distinguish between confiscation in this manner to support it and generic, across the board gun control which he can oppose; I would have cause to wonder.

I wonder how many of you, along with friends, would call to responsible accountability one of those friends when he is heard to shoot off his mouth about the use of his gun? Before gun control comes tongue control. Don't shoot off your mouth regardless whether or not you own a gun. Be just as eager and ready to speak up as you might be to use a gun. This basic message on tongue control by the apostle James is for the saints in Christ. However, let everyone judge for themselves and discern if it is not true that one who will not control his tongue so as to shoot off his would just as soon should his gun.

I would vote against the politicians' legislation which blindly and broadly attempts to deny gun ownership or similarly confiscate guns from citizens as their idea of a solution to the problem involving violence with guns.

Jesus: He laid down his life

Lastly, here's something I can say without threat to anyone or fear of anyone because I am responsible and accountable to God: Jesus came and did as He said He would do. He laid done his life, because no one can take it from him, (John 10:18) in order that you might have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10) When not only his fingers but his whole body were stiff cold, he arose to triumph over death and its grip of fear. He is Lord only over those who have committed their lives to him as Lord and Savior. I understand and accept, as I learn from Jesus, the thought of laying down one's life is not something most individuals are prepared to do because the specter is frightening. Do you believe? Do you trust?

Peace to all.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

This Mystery is Great: Unity and Marriage

A few months ago I began meditating, reading and praying over a familiar New Testament (NT) passage. It is a passage popular at weddings. It was my turn to read it as I had done many times I had presided at weddings. This time, however, I was the father and the bride was our firstborn daughter. I prepared fully anticipating the possibility I just might choke-up a bit. I did, _ but I got past it to pronounce my daughter and her fiancé as husband and wife. It was during my preparation that I sensed a need to understand and appreciate more fully the title words of this article which are the words in that passage. (Yes, of course. The condensed wedding message was about a three sentence summary.)

Sometimes when things are not explained or not explained satisfactorily they are often dismissed and written off as being incomprehensible, mysterious, conspiracies, matters to be scorned and mocked. Discussion is often averted with glib, unconvincing responses such as, “You just gotta have faith” or the squeaky new modern, “It is what it is” neither of which offers any understanding which might enlighten listeners.

This is often true in matters of faith and politics. Some of the New Testament writers in the Bible often wrote of what they called a mystery. This has led some NT readers to view those scripture passages as a mystery; secretive and incomprehensible. Worse still is when saints in Christ are admonished by those who preach and teach to simply believe rather than do the work of praying, examining, discussing and understanding those mysteries like all other difficult matters of faith. The result is saints live weak lives, are easily troubled or confused or drawn away by what, at least in the moment, seems to make sense to them. However, the NT use of the term by those writers is nothing like the above when they spoke of mysteries.

A great mystery

When people ask, “Can you keep a secret?” it can mean two things. They want to tell you a secret, or they want to make sure that what they tell you will remain a secret and unknown to anyone. A mystery can be like a secret in that it too can remain unknown. However, unlike a secret which can remain unknown by choice a mystery can remain impenetrable and without comprehension despite great efforts to understand it, to reveal it and to make it known. The apostle Paul in the first century made reference to a mystery that is great when he wrote to the church in the city of Ephesus in chapter five of his letter.

This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

Paul wrote these words after an immediate, prior reference to man and woman in the same letter.

For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother,
and shall cleave to his wife;
and the two shall become one flesh.

Specifically, he related the flesh oneness of man and woman with the spirit oneness of Christ and the church. This use of flesh and spirit by the apostle may seem strange especially given the constant appeals and admonitions by Paul for the saints in Christ to walk not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.

Yet, Paul does not appear to speak of this mystery as something which was unknown or which was to remain unknown to the saints in Christ at Ephesus or throughout the ages. He definitely did not intend to be deliberately obscure or cryptic in his message to the saints in Christ on this matter.

The mystery seems to be something which was to be understood, as in the relationship between man and woman, but also as between Christ and the church.

Again, this seems especially true given that Paul uses the word nourish, cherish and love in the marriage union as clear and palpable outward expressions between spouses in marriage. His call for husbands to love their wives is likened to how Christ loved the church.

The importance of understanding this mystery that is great

Why is it important for the saints in Christ to understand the meaning of this great mystery? One reason is the fact that it centers on the human relationship between Adam and Eve. Second, it necessarily takes one back to that moment when Satan came between Adam and Eve to disrupt their relationship with each other and with God. Third, it is the fact that Satan didn't stop after he lied about God to Adam and Eve. A fourth reason may be as concerns the significance of mysteries in religious cults. Specifically, in Ephesus and throughout Asia the cult of Artemis was dominant in which mysteries were known only to a select, elite few.

After the fall of mankind in the garden Satan proceeded to lie about God. Satan continues to deceive many concerning what God said about the fulfillment purpose of a man with a woman and a woman with a man. There are many who have believed Satan. They have believed their own rationale that all manner of human relationships are pleasing to God if, 1) one was born in that way, 2) they are not hurting anyone, or 3) they are happy. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I believe to understand this great mystery is to understand something about the nature, the oneness, of God and how he desires to see that same oneness in marriage and in the church.

There are some questions which emerge for the saints to examine on this great mystery.
  1. What is the significance of this great mystery?
  2. What does this great mystery suggest about the nature and purpose of God and his relation to mankind and the church?
  3. How does it concern man and woman in marriage?
  4. How does it concern the church?
  5. Why does Paul draw such a correlation between man and woman and Christ and the church?
  6. Is there a manner in which all mankind, not just the saints in Christ, participate and are therefore aware of the reality of this great mystery?
In the beginning

The significance (1) of this great mystery of human interaction is that it has been lost. This is not to say one cannot understand or acquire this great mystery anew. It is to say it is forgotten in troubled, abandoned relationships and marriages. This mystery is not something which was never known prior to Paul's writings. Yes, it has come to be rejected by some for whom the flesh union is the sum of human relationships as well as by others for whom spiritual/spirituality is a personal matter and no business or concern of God, the saints, the church or the scriptures. Rarely are the physical and spiritual valued as essential to the completeness of relationships. Yet, as much as God, who is spirit, declared man had become like Him knowing good and evil it is the flesh form of man which makes man different from God since the beginning.

When Paul referred back to the beginning in the Garden of Eden in the book of Genesis it was because it was there that the prophecy was first spoken by God before the fall of Adam and Eve. Genesis relates the creation account. It relates the beginning of the marriage of man and woman. It relates the beginning of the relationship between the Creator and his creation. God, who is spirit, relates to and is in relationship with the man and woman he created who are flesh. Since that time God has beheld before his eyes the intimate, physical and spiritual interaction, even if shattered and fragmented, between the man and the woman he had created. This same garden scenario suggests (2) the oneness that is God, which He knows and He has seen mere glimpses of that oneness in the marriage union. This same oneness He desires to see in the church.

Why does this glimpse of the oneness of God in the scriptures strike some as something to regard as a human behavioral curiosity while it sends others into a theological scramble? It may be how God refers to himself in the plural (“let US”) form, hence the theological scramble, and when he spoke the mystery of the man and the woman (“man has become like one of US”) becoming one flesh, hence, the human behavior curiosity. The ancient unresolved, misunderstood plural references by God to himself in the scriptures are not the exclusive domain of Jewish, Christian or Muslim scholar discussions. This plurality is as evident in the scriptures about God as it is in the troubled plurality of human relationships.

A prophet: The oneness of God

The mystery of the oneness of God, to whom scripture often refers in the plural sense, was prophesied by God in this reference to a prophet in Deuteronomy 18:15.

Yahweh your God will raise up to you a prophet from among you, of your brothers, like me. You shall listen to him.

As much as first century Jews and twenty first century Christians quantify this passage and see a single individual in the references to a prophet, that is not the interpretation and application by the inspired apostle Peter in Acts 3 and Stephen in Acts 7. The interpretation and application is on the lineage of prophets which God was to send to Israel soon after Moses. Notice how the Deuteronomy passage is framed from beginning to end with references to the prophets in the plural. Notice also, the mention of the disobedience of Israel as much towards Moses as towards the prophets who, Stephen says,
They (Israel, the fathers) killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One  (Acts 7:52)

Unfortunately, that clarification and declaration by Stephen of "the Righteous One" is quite likely quantified by fellow saints in Christ with the numeric value of one. Yes, there was and is ONE Jesus, the Son of God, but the reference of one is of the God clarified and declared by the NT writers inspired by the Holy Spirit as Father, Son and Holy Spirit; all who are Righteous.

What God impressed on Israel through Moses was the one, single, complete, total harmony between 1) everything God said directly to Israel, 2) what Moses said God said, 3) what the prophet(s) said God said, 4) what Jesus said came from God, 5) what the apostles said the Holy Spirit said, and 6) what the saints in Christ state when they read the scriptures.

As much as prophets were to speak with one calling the will of the Lord so, too, the husband and wife in marriage and the church have received the same call from the beginning in the garden and on Pentecost to speak and act in harmony and unity as one.

However, Israel, to the extent that she killed the prophets, no more understood or accepted this unity; this oneness of God through the many messengers of God any more than Israel ever grasped and resolved those plural references. The response to those plural references by Jews to, “just ignore them,” as one rabbi states on the Shema:

Hear Israel: Yahweh is our God. Yahweh is one. (Deuteronomy 6)

seems hardly worthy of a teacher of Israel.

Before His eyes

This is the mystery which God has observed since the beginning of creation. He’s had a front row seat to the longest running stage play in the history of the world on display before his eyes. The principle actors in this performance, which opened in the garden, is the creation of his hands, the man and the woman, of whom God spoke,

Let US make man in OUR image
and later,
Behold, the man has become like one of US.

God viewed as the interaction played out between Adam and Eve. Yes, like Adam and Eve, we are amateur actors consistent only in our missed cues, forgetting our lines and poor performances. Too often we live in the love of God with something less than a convincing conviction for those who observe us. Yet, the initial creation of Adam alone in the garden to interact with God alone was not good in the eyes of God. Although Adam was one with God it was God who in essence acknowledged  that Adam needed a relationship with one of his own kind. Adam was deprived. God was deprived of the interaction He desired to see between two living beings - different one from the other and yet, like God.

Could it be that what God observed in the marriage of the man and woman (3) was what he purposed to see:

A semblance of the Divine Father, Son and Holy Spirit and as incarnated in Jesus, the Son of God?

What is the semblance of the divine which God hoped to see in the interaction of two human beings as different from one another as Father and Son and Son and Father, Son and Holy Spirit and Holy Spirit and Father? Could it be that the mystery which is great and which God desires and hopes to see is the oneness, the unity which is God, not just in our human flesh, but in spirit?

Unity of one

This unity of one is not a quantitative expression of God as one, two, three or four, as mistakenly viewed by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. The Jews were privileged to receive the scriptures of God, but every generation is called to search for the unity and harmony in the interpretation of those scriptures and to discover, rejoice and proclaim that discovery. This is the same unity and harmony; the oneness, which God desired and in which He delighted to see between the man and the woman in the garden before the fall. This is the same unity, the same oneness, which Christ desires to see and delights to see in His body, His bride, the church.(4) How this concerns the church is that without this same unity and oneness the marriage of a man and a woman will remain in a constant struggle to survive.

The church, too, may survive but without the whole fullness and oneness that is God and which he desires for the health, goodness and joy of man and woman and the church without which neither one magnifies the glory of life in Jesus.

As humans, it is extremely difficult to be in complete agreement with anyone whether one’s intimate spouse, friend, acquaintance or much less a complete stranger. However, this is the unity the New Testament reveals about God through Jesus, the Christ. There is nothing which the Father, Son or Holy Spirit had to run by the other for prior approval and authorization before saying or acting out the will of God. Such is the God who is one. The explanation by some saints (self-proclaimed, “oneness”) that Jesus is the Father and Holy Spirit are at best a failure to grasp this plurality and at worse a denial of these divine living beings as they are portrayed by Jesus in the gospels and by Paul in Ephesians 1, particularly. There, Paul spells out the details of what the Father purposed, what the Son was to fulfill in accordance with the Father, and what the Holy Spirit was to do to signify with the seal which designates those who have believed God and obeyed the Son according to the Father's good pleasure. All this was defined before the foundation of the world.

All for one

Since Paul speaks of and frames this great mystery in the context of human relationship, specifically; man and woman in marriage, it is imperative that other human relationships be made subject to discussion. All, atheists, agnostics and theists alike, know and experience the human interaction of relationship in which every man and woman participates. This same human interaction is no less present in the homosexual relationship. Whether or not the homosexual regards or acknowledges God’s purpose as declared in the garden or merely professes a superficial acknowledgment of that beginning, the homosexual relationship he is not exempt from the discussion. It is, in fact, especially subject to the discussion because the mystery of unity of oneness which characterizes God is undeniably to be desired and a delight in all human relationships holy or profane.

Unity through diversity, -- not

Yet, the homosexual/lesbian relationship graphically epitomizes, both in the carnal mind and the flesh of the body, the very thing which God did not like after he created man – that the man was alone.

The response by God to Adam’s need was not to create another human male like Adam, but a human female like Eve. The homosexual/lesbian life is characterized, not by loneliness as some may distort the use of the word here, but by aloneness. It is the human (homosexual and lesbian) affront, not only to God, but even to the very same culture so much touted in the world of the homosexual and lesbian. You may wonder how. It is that the hearty slogan of “unity through diversity” extolled in the workplace, the athletic field as well as in the gathering of the faithful is nothing more than a dull, hollow thud. The mere fleshy union of two same-sex individuals does not and cannot equate to diversity or unity and is, in fact, contrary to the unity-through-diversity culture banner slogan. As much as God acknowledged He was not enough for the human Adam if Adam were ever to experience the joy of human fulfillment it was essential that Adam have a human female companion who was different than the male Adam, not as between male and male or female and female, but as between male and female.

Heterosexual and homosexual relationships are showcase display attempts at unity between two people. Either through the difference of heterosexuals or the sameness of homosexuals there is the mystery of unity which affects them both. This is true of the witting and unwitting regardless whether or not they know or acknowledge God as the Divine Creator. This unity and oneness of God is prevalent. It is the desire and delight of all human relationships even when the moral makeup of those relationships represents a rejection of God and his will. Yet, a union with a gender other than one's opposite is like a battery with two positive or two negative terminals. Such a thing cannot be made and still function as a battery even if it is called a battery. A behavioral homosexual can no more be produced by two homosexuals any more than a physiological woman/man can be produced by two women or two men together.

Other uses of the term, mystery

These are some appearances of the term and phrase involving the word mystery by the apostle Paul:

Paul refers to the mystery, that is, the will of God which was initially unknown only because it was drawn up by the Father BEFORE the foundation of the world or human minds and eyes could focus on it. Ephesians 1:9

The ancient mystery was that Israel were the people with whom God had a covenant. The other side of that was the Gentiles did not have a covenant with God. This changed when Israel's heart was hardened which resulted in the Gentiles hearing and obeying the gospel of Jesus. Romans 11:25

and

3 how that by revelation the mystery was made known to me, as I wrote before in few words,4 by which, when you read, you can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ; 5 which in other generations was not made known to the children of men, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of his promise in Christ Jesus through the Good News, of which I was made a servant, according to the gift of that grace of God which was given me according to the working of his power. 8 To me, the very least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all men see what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things through Jesus Christ; Ephesians 3:3-9

This mystery has been in the scriptures of the prophets from long ago. Romans 14:24,25

on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the Good News, Ephesians 6:19
The mystery is inclusive in the entirety of the Good News.

the mystery which has been hidden for ages and generations. But now it has been revealed to his saints, 27 to whom God was pleased to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory; Colossians 1:26ff; 4:3

Clearly, the mystery in its fullness is revealed, understood and proclaimed best by those who have heard it, believed it and accepted; the saints in Christ. Yet, the unwitting too live in and participate in this mystery.

Conclusion

There is an important need for the saints in Christ to understand the mystery that is great in Ephesians 5 because of its far reach from the beginning in the garden to the church today. The mystery is related to and understood and lived in the relationship of the husband and wife in marriage as much as in the church, the bride of Christ. Paul's use of the phrase is much more than a superficial generality about marriage and the church. These relationships were created in diversity and difference in the beginning, not just in flesh, but in spirit too. Both relationships share a similar calling to speak and act in unity and harmony. This is the same unity, harmony and oneness, the mystery that is great, that is God.

Selected readings:

Great is the Mystery After a brief definition of terms and virtual synonyms the author stakes the content of this article on the importance of sacraments. There's no attempt to explain the phrase in its immediate or broader context.
Sacrament This outline form includes a substitution of sacrament for mystery and offers nothing more than the above.
The Mystery” What is it? Although this article, in my estimation, also fails to identify the mystery that is great with respect to, as Paul states, the church the author rightly emphasizes the importance for saints to understand the mystery.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Mystery Satan Did Not Know

Satan presumed to know what he did not know. Satan’s first appearance in the scriptures was to reveal himself as a liar. He lied to Adam and Eve about the truth God had told them. God had told them they would die on the day they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Satan thought God did not want the man and woman to become like him. Yet, that is precisely (and not to God’s surprise) what happened. God said, Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:22)

What Satan did not know was what God had already purposed and chosen since before the foundation of the world. The apostle Paul spelled it out in the first chapter of Ephesians. This mystery, unknown to Satan, was according to the good pleasure of God. What was that mystery?

Paul’s explanation of this mystery in Ephesians (1:9) was that it was per the desire (1:5) and will (1:9) of God. It was in accordance with God’s good pleasure. It was his good pleasure to adopt children unto himself through faith in Christ Jesus.

The language Paul uses is reminiscent of Satan’s lie to Adam and Eve: Your eyes will be open. (Genesis 3:5) While Eve TOOK and gave some of the fruit to her husband Paul’s prayer language is that, the Father of glory, may GIVE to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of [Christ]; (v. 17)

And

having the EYES of your hearts ENLIGHTENED, that you may KNOW what is the hope of his calling, and what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, (1:18)

God GAVE us the favor of being blessed with every spiritual blessing in the Beloved, that is, Jesus. This was even before the foundation of the world. We COULD NOT have TAKEN it even if we had wanted, but he GAVE it freely.

The lie Satan spoke was exposed. Adam and Eve did die. The initial death, that is their spiritual separation from God, eventually manifested itself in their physical death when the breath of life left their bodies. What does a liar do when his lie is exposed? He changes it. Satan's lie is well known today. It is the belief held by those ignorant and mistaken that death is final. It is for this reason that Paul continues his message in Ephesians:

and what is the exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to that working of the strength of his might 20 which he worked in Christ, when he RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD. (1:19, 20)

Although Satan knew God as creator he did not know the exceeding greatness of his power. Satan learned of God's power over death. When God himself put on a human suit and triumphed over death, as he said he would, Satan changed his lie again.

Those who submit to the one who sits far above all rule, authority and power, and dominion (v. 21) are those who at one time were unenlightened and without hope. The mystery, Paul explains, is that God purposed in accordance with his own good pleasure to call those who were without hope in life. Now, having believed in the historicity and reality of the power of the resurrection of Jesus they are called to make known life and love in the Son.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sound bites in politics and religion

There's a radio program on religion and politics which comes on at night. I've never listened to it. I do not even know the day or time, but it's the voices which play at the start of the show which I have heard. They are the voices of young and old, men and women and boys and girls. They all parrot similar phrases at the start of the show: "I don't discuss politics and religion." These represent what is for many people their total contribution in the arena of politics and religion.

Politics and religion seem to have a magnetic attraction for sound bites. These are one-word or one-liner messages, such as, I don't discuss politics and religion. There's nothing inherently wrong with one-word and one-liner messages. It’s just that too often these reveal either an unwillingness or inability to express in an understandable manner anything more than sound bites especially when the topic demands an explanation. Whether they involve a cause or one's personal life they are not new. They are tossed like chips at the discussion table. They require neither (much) thought nor explanation; kind of like a shout and run from across the fence. Here are two examples on the use of sound bites.

Two sides of the fence

You can’t shout out a sound bite with a full mouth. I am referring to the recent show of support and the contributions by some Americans on behalf of Chick-Fil-A and its CEO Dan Cathy on biblical marriage and stand against homosexuality. The dining out demonstration with the buzz of sound bites (even if muffled) made me realize something about the two sides of the fence.

First, the necessity on one side of the fene to describe marriage under a one-word sound bite: gay. Gay is not just the shout and rally cry for all things political or religious. It's been the defining term for over thirty years. This pride term is the first and last word. Even the absence of the term gay/homosexual in the scriptures is a cause for joy. This alleged absence relies on some seriously mistaken claims Jesus did not say one word about or against homosexuality. The reason it is mistaken is because 1) Jesus did speak on marriage as between a man and a woman as it was in the beginning, and 2) what the apostle Paul wrote on homosexuality was in context of a list of sins by which, he said, those who practice those things will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Paul, and all of the apostles of Jesus, did not speak on their own authority, but by the authority of the Holy Spirit. This evasive reasoning is as juvenile as that of a child who's instructed to play in the front lawn, but replies to his parents, you didn't say I couldn't play in the street. Whether in politics or religion there is every reason to hope that no one THINKS or SAYS anything about, for or against marriage of a moral, political or religious nature. Just say the word the word and be _ gay.

Second, the other side of that fence where I find my brothers and sisters in the faith that is in Christ Jesus is similarly equipped with one word: love. Granted there's not much dialog at a dining out demonstration it does not preclude the need for understanding and discussion of weighty matters. Did anyone thing to invite their gay coworker for some chicken? Lets take a closer look at the earlier mentioned example on the claim that Jesus did not say a single word about or against homosexuality. How could anyone understand what Jesus said and learn anything from mere a one-word yes/no or true/false responses?

The substance of two sound bites: love and hate

Jesus had a way of evoking awe. He did so not with one-word nor one-liner sound bites. He enlightened all who would even think to follow him as to the cost they were to count before making such a claim or decision. He boldly and confidently drew a focus from two different perspectives with a single purpose of creating understanding of love and hate. Matthew's gospel account focuses on love. Luke's gospel account focuses on hate.

Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Matthew 10:37-39
If anyone comes to me, and doesn’t disregard or hate his own father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he can’t be my disciple. 27 Whoever doesn’t bear his own cross, and come after me, can’t be my disciple. Luke 14:25-27

These words are a contrast between love and hate much like apples and oranges. Both are fruits, but they are unmistakably different fruits. Similarly, anyone who loves parents, children and siblings and comes to Jesus does so in love. However, that love between family and Jesus is as different as apples and oranges. They are unmistakably different.

Someone might say they are orphans, without offspring or siblings. They mistakenly believe they can count the cost of following Jesus without any great sacrifice. They might think, they have none of these human relationships to stand between them and their decision to follow Jesus. But, the call of Jesus to anyone who would profess to follow him did not stop short like a one-word or one-liner sound bite. He impressed and challenged would-be believers to hate all things and love him. No wonder that he included this disregard: yes, and his own LIFE also. It is a simple, but troublesome reality to understand how one who is not worthy can not be a disciple because he is not prepared to accept these words spoken by Jesus.

Awestruck

The one-word, one-liner sound bites by gays as their politics and religion seem plain enough. The National Same-Sex Kiss Day (talk about one-liners) display to show the country Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) love is as valid as heterosexual love is like others trying to demonstrate their politics and religion with a mouth full. Even the flippant glibness with which such a same-sex kiss day is declared and presumed to be of national import seems a grasp for an absent political/religous authority. The reason a kiss-in, like dining-out, is a feeble grasp is that it reflects an inability to speak with understanding or conviction what one professes. There is no awe in these things.

No one comes to Jesus as long as they value their own identity above all. Does a man come to Jesus proudly declaring and boastfully identifying himself as with a one-liner slogan: “husband of one wife”? Yet, this is the one-liner boasful pride of gays when they profess foremost their identity as, “gay and proud of it.”

There is no more to fear or to hate in shallow charges of being homophobic and hateful anymore than for gays to fear or hate the words and teachings of Jesus or his disciples who profess and teach those words. Anyone who after hearing and understanding, not sound bites, but the words of Jesus and is awestruck determines whether or not they will count the cost and follow Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

110% Proof Jesus is not God - - a response

(I informed the author of this video of this response on the YouTube video and on Facebook where I first saw it. Readers are encouraged to view the video. gt)

First, what is readily apparent is that those things about which you were ignorant during your days as a professing disciple of Jesus remain with you in your embrace of Islam.
Specifically, your glib, but ignorant claim of Jesus as prophet. Yes, this ignorance is too common among many Christians, but the Muslim claim of Jesus as prophet has its own motives. What motives are those you might ask? It is that if Muslims associate and align their self-prophesing prophet with one, such as Jesus, who is well known, revered, adorned, respected and mistakenly regarded by some as a prophet it could only be good to associate Muhammed with Jesus.

The qualifications of a prophet were defined by Yahweh to Moses and Miriam and Aaron who had spoken against Moses in Numbers 12.

He said, “Now hear my words. If there is a prophet among you, I, Yahweh, will make myself known to him in a vision. I will speak with him in a dream.

Additionally, note how Yahweh distinguishes Moses from a prophet. While you acquiesce to Jesus having MUCH knowledge like any prophet with your free, lax tendency to attribute prophet status; you neither understand what constituted a prophet and how that individual received knowledge as to the will of God. The significance of this definition by Yahweh is for you to ask yourself when did Jesus receive ANY message through from God through a vision or a dream.

Second, you are correct there are multiple and various explanations from my saints in Christ as to Jesus' seeming lack of knowledge in Mark 13:32. This is another instance which reveals your ignorance of days past and which remains with you today.

But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Watch, keep alert, and pray; for you don’t know when the time is.

No, Jesus did not know the day of his return. This is what he said.

My question is what bearing does this supposed lack of knowledge have or what it effect does it have, 1) on his imminent return, and 2) our being prepared for that day?

This seeming lack of knowledge by Jesus, which you seize as the opportune case for denial of his deity, is a complete on-your-ear throw down from what had happened in the garden of Eden. Despite Adam and Eve being told by the God of knowledge of good and evil not to eat the forbidden fruit they did so. He knowingly had told them what would happen, - they would die – on the day they ate of it.

Do you similarly question or deny it was God who called out to Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” because he didn't KNOW where they were in the garden? Do you think God didn't KNOW who had told Adam and Eve they were naked?

The response by Jesus that he did not know the time of his return is nothing less than God's call, a reverse action from what the all-knowing God had done in the garden, to TRUST. Jesus had previously sought to ease the disciples' anxiousness about his imminent departure. They could not understand exactly where he was going, but he reasurred them telling them to not let their hearts be troubled and that he was going to prepare a place for them.

Your attempt, with your own seeming knowledge, to scrutinize the Mark 12:32 verse for a discovery that's not there, but which is actually revealed much more clearly and without uncertainty in a later instance. Interestingly, this later instance is wholly explained and shrouded in a web of deception and lies, as I learned according to Muslims, and with which I am sure you are quite familiar. As in the beginning, the all-knowing God has declared, “Unless you believe I am He, you will perish,” but the response is not much different than what happened in the garden.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The problem with fundamentalism, part 2: Religious fundamentalism - - a response

(This is my brief response to the article which I encourage you to read in its entirety. gt)

Really, there is no problem. Yes, I can appreciate if that sounds simplistic, but it's more in the interest of brevity. I have read both parts of your series.

The things you enumerate: the imperfect nature of words, translations and trinity are the old wheel-spinning rut of best-selling book stuff by Ehrman and others.

You are correct words are imperfect and as such incapable of delivering perfection. It is the dialog of discernment and the resultant understanding which delivers perfection; the completeness by which anyone is able to coherently express their own understanding of a word in context of a passage or a life situation.

As many times as I have heard anyone reject my teaching because of a particular Bible translation in my hand I have been just as quick to ask for their own translation. Why? Because the point to be made can be just easily made from any translation. Yet, the translation scramble remains a favorite to create the impression the presenter has any understanding or in any case to create the desired confusion in the faith of those who have heard their words.
Personally, I have no need, use or desire for the term trinity. It suffices for me as a reader of the New Testament that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are alluded to, spoken of and manifested in different ways as different, distinct entities. I have no problem with any who uses it. I do reject the favorite charge often made that I am merely parroting what Constantine and the council of Nicea delivered to the church. This is a common falsehood and error.

It is a falsehood because the council merely acted on what it acknowledged was already common knowledge and practice throughout the churches all over. It is in error because I am able to speak of and teach the realities of Father, Son and Holy Spirit as they are presented in scripture without any reliance on a document from the Nicean council. If, and I emphasis IF, what the council determined and what I speak and teach are the same it is not because of the council, but because, as I said, the NT is permeated with these things. There is no need for a catchy and perhaps well-intentioned term coined a body led by a emperor with little to no knowledge of scripture.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Problem of Paul - - a response


This is my very brief comment on Hyam Maccoby's book, The Mythmaker: Paul and the invention of Christianity, excerpt as posted in Facebook.

The late Hyam Maccoby (1924-2004) believes the apostle Paul was not a Pharisee. In fact, he states, in his book The fact that this question is hardly ever asked shows how strong the influence of traditional religious attitudes still is in Pauline studies. Truth is this is not a particular point of contention among believers. However, I would like to bring out out these three points from his argument and invite anyone who adheres to his argument to respond. I would like to look at 1) His handling of some of his sources, 2) his advocacy for the Pharisees, and 3) why it is no small matter for Mr. Maccoby to understand or accept the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.

Mr. Maccoby's sources, in the excerpt from his book, include the book of Acts and some (except Colossians) of Paul's letters in the New Testament Bible and the testimony of the Ebionites. Although he touches briefly on other sources these represent his major focus. These also represent some serious oversights, errors, inconsistencies and peculiarities by Mr. Maccoby.

I need to emphasize the article is merely a twelve page excerpt from Maccoby's book. However, those oversights and errors in the article seem fair indicators of the makeup of his book, especially because although he has opportunity to correct or modify his comments he does not do so. Take the time to read the excerpt, as I did several times, before rushing to comment either on his excerpt or my comments. His book is on my must-read list to obtain through my local library.

As early as page two Mr. Maccoby makes the statement as he ventures into the New Testament as one of his sources and declares, Peter, James and John, have left no writings behind them explaining how Jesus seemed to them. Did he not know, did he forget or did he choose to ignore two letters written by Peter and three letters, a gospel account and the book of Revelation by John? I can't be sure whether he means James, the brother of Jesus according to the flesh, or the apostle. Between Paul's own letters and Luke's account of Paul in Acts Mr. Maccoby sees Paul as making claims his visions and transports were actually superior to the other apostles' acquaintance with Jesus during his lifetime. The instances in Acts 9 & 22 cited by Mr. Maccoby, make mention of the vision, but readers can judge for themselves if there is an emphasis or much less a boast by Paul about the vision when Jesus appeared to him.

The second matter which underlines Mr. Maccoby's approach to Paul clashes with his overall view to position the Pharisees in the best light. I am not interested in Mr. Maccoby's personal regard or view of the Pharisees or Pharisaism, but it is his own contradiction on this point.

Information given by a person about himself, Mr. Maccoby claims, always has to be treated with a certain reserve, since everyone has strong motives for putting himself in the best possible light. I agree, and yet, although Mr. Maccoby sees Pau's Pharisee claims as being for the purpose of enhancing his status it makes no sense and backfires on him. Why would Paul portray himself as a Pharisee, whom Mr. Maccoby states were highly esteemed at the time, who persecuted and killed Christians? On one hand Mr. Maccoby attributes the claim by Paul in Acts 22 of being a Pharisee as being Luke's embellishment for his hero Paul. Yet, when Paul does mention his past as a Pharisee in his own letters Mr. Maccoby dismisses it. However, it is these incidental claims by Paul which have a dismantling effect on Mr. Maccoby's charge against Paul because Paul makes no effort to gloss over his lowly Tarsus origins nor does he engage in any embellishment of Pharisees or Pharisaism. Paul does not speak favorably of himself as a Pharisee which, as Mr. Maccoby expects, one would definitely do if they were speaking for themselves and wanted to highten their esteem among men.

It is this matter of the esteem of the Pharisees which underpins Mr. Maccoby's entire scrutiny of Paul. It is also what casts a shadow and serious doubt on his criticism of Paul. He takes great exception, better yet, is incensed, at the scathing of Pharisees as hipocrites by Jesus according to the New Testament gospel writers. He rejects the allegation of hipocrisy by the Pharisees and wonders how the book of Acts, describes the Pharisees as being friendly towards the early Christians, standing up for them and saving their lives? Really?

This assessment of the Pharisees as friendly, standing up and saving the lives of the disciples is oblivious and a stretch given the earlier threat they handed the disciples in Acts 3. At that first clash the disciples were taken into custody by the priests, the captain of the temple and the Sadducees and were merely threatened. In the second clash which Mr. Maccoby cites as his example of the Pharisees' friendliness the friction escalated into a beating. The friction would soon escalate into the death of the first Christian martyr at the hands of a Pharisee by the name of Saul of Tarsus.

It's not difficult to understand Mr. Maccoby's view of Paul and what Paul and Christians testify as being the work of God. He is at as much of a loss with the deity claims by Jesus and the apostle Paul. He is not alone in this struggle to understand and accept the work of a God who does not act as humans think or expect that He ought to act. He goes as far as to state Jesus taught in the style and manner of the Pharisees and was indeed a Pharisee and that the apostles were Pharisees too. As much as this is a stretch it does not pose a problem. Jesus did admonition his disciples to “DO” as the Pharisees “SAY”, but NOT to DO as they DO.

No wonder that Mr. Maccoby cannot fathom how Saul, a persecutor of Christians, became such a messenger for the Good News of the love of Jesus. It is called repentance. It is called conversion. It is called the new birth with neither conversion nor the new birth being a part of the Jewish mindset. All Jews were born, according to the flesh, as children of God. The prevailing mindset was that although a Jew sinned he was not a sinner as all other people of the world.

God did not call a strong, notable leader from among the suffering tribes of Israel when they were in Eygpt as the Hebrews might have thought or expected. He called Moses, a Hebrew, but he was one who had grown up in the home and comforts of Israel's oppressor. He did not call, with Isaiah being a noteable exception, distinguished individuals in Israel to proclaim the will of the Lord to an apostate Israel. Even Israel was often reminded by God, much to their loathe, through his prophets, that He had not chosen them because of any righteousness or anything pleasing about them, but because of his covenant with Abraham.

Certainly, what Israel thought and expected as a messiah was not what they saw in Jesus. No surprise.

Blessings to you in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Christianity Unmasked

Note: I encourage readers to read the complete article by Rabbi Yisroel Blumenthal. I have denoted those clips from his article with italics and asterisk (***) marks. The section headings are from his article. gt

***The Church has enjoyed the credibility associated with these truths because people failed to discern between that which is originally Christian and that which is the true possession of all mankind.

Christianity has also falsely claimed to be the originator of certain truths that do not belong to her.

And finally and most seriously, the Church has set herself up as the sole distributor of truths that belong to everyone.***

The Universal Principles of Justice and Charity

***This literary device accentuates the fictitious notion that Jesus is the originator of these universal truths and that they were unknown to mankind until Jesus uttered them to his audience.***

I appreciate your opening word of caution in your article, sir. It may be my own familiarity with much of the content of your message, but I found nothing shaking about your approach or your claims and unbelief.

As you are a Jew with convictions; I am a disciple of Jesus. Your claims reflect some common misconceptions.

You state: ***This literary device accentuates the fictitious notion that Jesus is the originator of these universal truths and that they were unknown to mankind until Jesus uttered them to his audience.***

The truth is I have stated for many years that with the exception of very few points most of what Jesus taught was not new to the world. That you take exception to what you perceive as Jesus' claims as originator of these truths is more a flaw of interpretation. The claim is as weak as it is unnecessary. Your claim is unnecessary for no less then the reason you cite, namely, that the universal, common principles and truths exposition by Jesus are as much his as they are yours, mine and all mankind to claim. When our convictions meet or exceed those of the originator have we not effectively made those truths our own so as to live and die by them? Certainly, Jesus propounding of those truths was with much more of an intent that to speak or parrot them as others did before and have done so since. More on the exaltation of Jesus and humanity’s “need” for Jesus later.

The Inherent Godliness of Mankind

You have seriously overstated, if not outright misstated, the message of the New Testament scriptures on the evil of man, sir. Your overstatement is a eschew, as for example, of the Genesis 6 passage.

Yahweh saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was continually only evil. 6 Yahweh was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him in his heart.

As much as you eschew the above passage you do concede there is evil in man. It's the matter of that “sorry state of affairs” concerning Jesus that does not sit well with you. More on that sorry state later.

I understand there's no room for any gospel business here and I'll leave that aside for the moment, but your assertion is as ignorant as it is a serious misstatement of the New Testament message. IT IS NOT that non-Christians cannot do good. It is not that they cannot do righteousness. Furthermore, it is not that they fail to DO good or DO righteousness. Rather, it is that the good they do and the righteousness they do is according to a righteousness in accordance with their own standard. Yes, the scriptures do speak of “enemies of God”, but any judgment on them is NOT for the good they DO, but for the good they DO NOT do. More on that later.

The Testimony of the Jewish Nation

Yes, Israel was the recipient of the oracles of God even as Paul reminded the church of Israel's role in God's revelation to man. Your claim:

***The Jew was trustworthy enough to establish the credibility of her covenant with God, her prophets and her Messianic vision.***

What does “trustworthy enough to establish the credibility” mean? Your statement does bring to my remembrance the admonition of God to Israel that He had not chosen them because of piety, goodness or anything God deems favorable. Rather, Israel was chosen because of God's was faithfulness to his promise to Abraham.

The Jewish Scriptures

***According to the Jewish Bible, the deification of any inhabitant of God’s earth is idolatry, the greatest rebellion against God.***

This is certainly a true statement. Yet, as true and noble as it may make us sound or make us appear it is not to say there is much or any degree of appreciation for one of your key points: Man was created in the image of God.

Israel's own sin of idolatry is only reflective of all mankind's own proclivity to idolatry. The interesting point about your statement is that it is glib if not short of memory. The reason I state this is that in a mere matter of weeks or months after God had liberated Israel from Egyptian bondage and after they have already seen his works Israel was quick to forget these works of God and had Aaron built them a golden calf.

Although the sin was immediately dealt with by God Israel was to slip into worse, far-reaching idolatry which resulted in Israel, not God, breaking their covenant with God and being taken captive to Babylon.

What shook my first century Jewish brothers and sisters in the faith to look to Jesus was extraordinary. It was not the matter of a virgin birth or his claims on universal truths, but the claims He unabashedly made and which were clearly heard and understood as much by friends and foes as to his deity.

Those claims would be a hollow, worthless notion had his friends and foes alike not been witnesses to the fulfillment of his claims concerning his resurrection from the dead.

Why does it seem incredible or impossible if God were to elect to take on a similar form as the man which he created? Do we really think such a short term blink-of-an-eye human experience of thirty years could possibly be a hindrance to God? Was God hampered or limited in his governance of creation when he manifested Himself in the burning to Moses? Or, when His presence remained with Israel in the ark of the covenant? The history of Israel in the Torah, the prophets and writings is replete with God surprising people with his actions, often to the appall of Israel and her prophets. Today, if we would understand and appreciated those lessons we would then maybe consider, even if with no less shock or appall then Israel and the prophets, at His incarnation among his own.

The Messianic Hope

***According to Christian theology, the glory of the Messianic era is reserved for those who have placed their faith in Jesus.***

This statement struck me as peculiar until I read the rest of your article. A message of exclusivity does not play well in our present world. The world wants to be safe, as in professing trust in God in accordance with a particular tenet of faith, while being open to anything and everything. This is the way to absolve oneself both from the need to understand, teach and tougher still, to correct.

The Relationship That Man Shares With God

***All we need to do is to focus on the blessings, recognize how we did nothing to deserve them, and we will learn to feel each moment of existence as an embrace from a loving Father.***

This marks an enormous and significant shift between your point on The Messianic Hope and The Relationship That Man Shares With God. You ply on the prophets and their message of hope to the world to employ your own message. Was the message of prophets like today's new age, culture-speak of “focus(ing) on the positive”, “overcome(ing) psychological barriers,” of “Your relationship with your Creator . . . before you were born” or did they call it sin? Yes, in the midst of their proclamation of messianic hope and calling Israel back from her rebellion against God they called it sin. We know of the people's response to the message of sin by the prophets and the fate faced by those servants of God.

Conclusion

Your lament about how the church has stolen the scriptures, Jewish culture is unconvincing. It is unconvincing because Israel still has the scriptures and her culture. Whatever the church or anyone else might do with those scriptures and that culture can in no way be taken from Israel. Your mistaken view to equate the precepts and practices of the Catholic church as that of all disciples of Jesus is seriously flawed.

The thrust of your article fell short. You failed to unmask Christianity, (Personally, not a term for which I have any use and about as intended towards the faith that is in Christ Jesus as your view on the term “Old Testament.”) Had you unmasked those who followed after Jesus as Lord and Savior you would have seen they emerged with much fear. Yet, greater still was their joy, resolve and determination from these who were from among the children of Israel. They followed, unmasked, after one who ostensibly appeared to be like any Jew or any man, but was cleared more than a man. He was God incarnate.

Blessings to you in the name of the our God and Creator of heaven and earth, sir.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Rush Limbaugh: The mockery of mockers

I have never been a follower or listener of Rush Limbaugh. I have not become one. His message may be different but his mindset is no different than the likes of Howard Stern. Over the years I doubt seriously if my total listening time of Rush Limbaugh amounts to one hour.

He may imagine himself, even as some Christians do, to speak of or for the faith that is in Christ Jesus, but that is his delusion. He may speak for conservatives, as some of them claim, but the designations of conservative or liberal,whether touted or rejected, hardly serve as biblical describers of what it means to be a Christian, a disciple of Jesus; one who has crucified the flesh. These are the matters of the world in which many a disciple entangles himself. These are the terms taken up and embraced by many to clothe themselves as righteous or right, but which can blithely and easily amount to mockery.

My first comment to one of Rush Limbaugh's rants was concerning President Obama speaking at a Miami fundraiser. Limbaugh was incensed at what he described as Obama's mockery of the American tax payer. What neither Limbaugh nor many self-professed Christians, of conservative and liberal variety, recognized was Limbaugh's own mockery of the faith that is in Christ Jesus. This from a man (I don't know if he still does) mockingly boasts he is, "on loan from God." Limbaugh likened one of the Obama administration's measures with these words to a particular miracle sign performed by Jesus: "The recovery act stimulus bill it's more like loaves and fishes." . . . "It is all bogus." Limbaugh effectively mocked the miracle of Jesus. He equated the miracle of the loaves and fishes with the stimulus bill describing these as bogus.

Now his mockery on government subsided birth control is being eaten up like loaves and fishes by many for whom Limbaugh speaks. I heartily concur with him that one whose choice to engage in sex should hardly be the responsibility of the American citizen to fund the cost of birth control measures that person incurs for themselves.

As a margin note I refute the argument of politicians who wonder if coverage of medicine may fall on employers' chopping block under the guise of religious belief: Well, we believe in prayer. This does not equivocate with funded birth control. By way of an illustration, the enslaving vices of tobacco and alcohol are not similarly funded. There are two noteworthy points of distinction between these and birth control. When those who are enslaved to tobacco and alcohol determine to be free of these vices they may, as some are able, severe cleanly and abruptly their use of tobacco and alcohol. Others can seek medical solutions or support groups to aid them in their quest to be free of their addiction. The choice tobacco and alcohol users made years before and which they maintained over the years was not dependant on and did not require the necessary engagement and participation of another person as in sexual unions for which some demand the entitlement of birth control.

There's litte reason to doubt Christians (those professing themselves as conversative or liberal) heartily embrace this latest rant of Limbaugh of alleged mockery on Americans. There's another mockery, I allege. Since Limbaugh's rant concerns sexual promiscuity I will reference the passage in the gospel according to John 8. A woman caught in the act of adultery, hence, the sexual promiscuity, was brought before Jesus. I allege there is a mockery, not only by Limbaugh, but by those who have been stirred without discernment to rally behind him, much like the Pharisees who brought the woman to Jesus. They were no more interested in keeping the law of Moses than to see the restoration to faith of their fallen sister. If their interests were truly in keeping the law they would have stoned the woman, according to their law, without consulting Jesus. Their consultation of Jesus was a mockery. Their supposed interests created a carnival spectacle around the adulteress not unlike the insipid voyeurism of recorded video sex demanded by Limbaugh mockingly from the sexually promiscuous on supposedly on behalf of the American taxpayer in exchange for funded birth control.

If you can state unequivocably your interests to restore those enslaved as much to tobacco and alcohol as sex than in all likelihood you are not so blithely or easily taken in by the mockery of mockers.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus - - - a comment



There's much truth which needs to be spoken and this brother in Christ has spoken it. There is no objection to or denial of the problem which he hates. I value and accept heartily what he says. Clearly, he has understood and responded to the fundamental call of Jesus to follow him. I commend him for it. If Americans prefer to watch a video than read a post it holds doubly true of their love for catchy slogans and phrases such as, "Why I hate religion, but love Jesus." This brother, to his credit, has offered much explanation behind his phrase.

I'll take up a cue from his opening words, "What if I say to you?" What follows in the video are his strong convictions. There are a couple of points I would like to address because although this written message holds little appeal for a video audience others may prefer reflecting on the written print. My brother uses the terms "religion" and "Christianity." These are terms which can easily be misunderstood by nonbelievers as well as believers of the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Those who are familiar with video cassettes remember the expectation: rewind before returning it to the rental store. You were expected to RE wind it. That is, to wind it AGAIN. Note the appearance of the prefix RE in these two sentence. It means AGAIN. It is from the Latin RE just like LIGION. Although the term is widely associated, even as this brother does, it has nothing to do with religion. The implication inherent in the term is of one who was at one time bound, but severed that bond. The application of religion to the term is neither wrong nor inappropriate. When applied to God it says, in the strictest sence, the one who is religous towards God is one who after living a life being severed from God CHOSE to be bound (ligion) again (re) to God. So, in this respect my brother is absoutely, if not unwittingly, correct when he states "religion puts you in bondage." (timestamp 2:54)

The other term used by my brother is "Christianity." It, like the term "religion" is widely used and as widely misunderstood. The term was coined by the world to refer to "the faith that is in Christ Jesus." I do not have a problem with the use of the term, but it does suggest to me something about how a disciple has been influenced by the world and probably does not know it.

These words spoken by Jesus bring an imagery to mind of the yoke placed on the neck of oxen.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

However, it is more than an imagery. It is a reality. It is a binding on us when we take on the teachings of Jesus. It is religion. I understand there's an aversion to "commandments" by many saints who equate that with rule-keeping as mistakenly as they equate faithful attendance to the assembly as their fulfillment of the righteousness of God. I take another cue on aversion from my brother. Speaking claims of one's aversion to religion does not equate to understanding those teachings to which we are bound anymore than claiming to love Jesus equates for understanding his teachings.
There is one word noticeably absent from my brother's message of hate and abhorence: hipocrisy. No, this is neither an allegation or charge of hipocrisy on my brother. Rather it is the biblical, and to take another cue from my brother, I can say to you is found in the teachings of Jesus by which those called out of sin to walk in the newness of life are bound. The reality is that there is a related or flip side to his message of hate of religion. It is another familiar slogan: "I'm not religious, just spiritual." Many there are who will craft their own idea about what it means to be bound to Jesus so as to free themselves and dissassociate themselves, in a manner in which Paul never did, from our brothers and sister in Corinth or the fellowship of the saints in Christ today.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Christianity and Gender - - - a comment

This is a comment I posted on this article on the author's blog. My own article on this subject is here.

It was good of you to began with the much discussed Greek terminology on the silence/quietness of women which, ironically, has not quieted the discussion of this subject. Also, a very good point is that Paul urged and encouraged quieteness and orderliness among men and women when praying or prophesying in the assembly. Lastly, the admonition against the haphazard, weapon-like use of the passage is well stated.

Where I do pause is on the connection you draw between the false teachers in I Timothy 1 to include the women in that false teaching. Hence, the apostle's instruction to the women. I understand your efforts to justify this connection in the opening words of chapter two, “Then I urge you first of all…” and then to support it with the patriarchial culture.

There definitely was false teaching. There was/may have been a patriarchial culture, but this key, I believe, towards understanding Paul's instruction to women and which is evident in several of his letters. I am referring to the prevalent dominance of the female culture of Artemis in the very city where Timothy ministered. It was there that the Holy Spirit enlightened the church to Artemis. What the law of Moses was to Jews in Jerusalem and Judea, Artemis was to the Gentiles in Ephesus and Asia.

Paul had himself received no less a similiar instruction directly by the Holy Spirit as he gave to the women when he was prohibited twice from preaching in Asia. Although we never read that prohibition was removed exited then reentered Asia at Ephesus where he stayed two years. It was as much an evangelism strategy by the Holy Spirit as was his direction through Paul for the women. During a time when there was a bit of false teaching at Ephesus and which could potentially have been as bad or worse than Corinth Paul determined this was NOT THE TIME for women, in the female-culture city of Ephesus, for our sisters to take on more than the most passive form of learning and teaching. Paul himself, in a physical manner, was prohibited and restrained by the brothers from stepping into the fomenting mob Demetrius had stirred up in Ephesus in Acts 19.

There are many beliefs attributed to Artemis and although there are various forms of those beliefs these three were pretty much universal. They are alluded to in I Timothy and other of Paul's writings in such a manner that those who had come out of the Artemis cult worship would readily recognize: 1) She was BORN FIRST then turned to assist her mother give birth to her twin brother Apollos, 2) She ensured the succession of KINGS, and 3) She was the SAVIOR of WOMEN. Just in I Timothy 1 & 2 these three are not too subtely countered and refuted by Paul's assertions of Jesus as the FIRSTBORN, the KING and the SAVIOR, not of women alone, but all MANKIND.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The unwearied human body

I confess. Sometimes I grow weary of the endless barrage on the church. This from saints in Christ.

I know a brother who goes on long and tiring about the church's misuse of funds for buildings not authorized by Jesus. Thousand, hundreds of thousand and even millions are spent and still the church cannot meet her budget.

I pointed out the Jews built meeting places. The synagogues were neither authorized nor prohibited under the law of Moses for Israel. Jesus and the apostles taught in those synagogues. It was never a source of contention for them or something about which Jesus castigated the people of God for all their shortcomings, failures and sins.

Clearly, at least it seems to me, the principle of a meeting place for the people of God and the practice of doing so are matters of liberty for the discretion of the saints in Christ. So why does any of this matter?

It matters because as I pointed out to him he has not hit upon some great discovery of the church's sin concerning buildings. Furthermore, I said, imagine the wide open door for smugness and self-righteousness were the church to boast in her self-sufficiency to meet her budget.

As it is the church is as human as you and I and every brother and sister who struggles with finances and various other matters, but who presses on trusting in the Lord to provide for her, not for herself, but for those to whom she ministers.l She is a body. She is human. She, like her Savior, bleeds yet does not grow weary. Blessed and praised be God, her Lord and Savior.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Father, Son, Holy Spirit . . . heart, mind and soul

One of the more common references many of us have heard over the years is this one: God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The tendency is to speak clearly and openly of the Father as God. The Son and Holy Spirit, well, they have a subset status. We even hear about, "He's the second person . . ." The deity test of our conviction is revealed when we stop short of saying point blank: God died. We say, "the Son of God died." This, of course, is true but it is spoken with a corrupt adaptation of: God is not a man that he should lie. (Numbers 23:19) As you can see the passage says lie, not die.

God did die. He did not remain dead. The Giver of Life has demonstrated his power over death, not merely by raising the dead, but by laying down his own life to take it up again.