Power of choice, a new liberty?

Good Monday Morning to this week 51 of 2019

This week I saw a very disturbing picture of many worship leaders gathering at the White House. The same people who write songs about Jesus are endorsing policies that are destroying the very people Jesus cares so much about like immigrants and refugees.

This took me to reading Romans 13. This chapter is one of those classic passages, used to make sure we are all being obedient citizens, which historically has led Christians into all kinds of problems:

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities…” (Romans 13:1)

We live in times where dissent is more important than ever. All around the world we are witnessing the rise of the “strongman”  and brutal leaders. These are hard-line men that rule with an iron fist and with little regard for justice or the downtrodden.

Craig Greenfield took a closer look at this:

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, King Herod arrested some of the believers, including James and Peter, and put them on public trial. The night before the trial, an angel of the Lord woke Peter up, removed his chains, opened the prison doors and led him out the main gate of the prison.

Yet after escaping from jail, Peter went on to write:

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to the governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.”

Or when Paul was in Damascus, he escaped from a strongman city governor who was trying to arrest him …  after reaching safety, Paul wrote a surprising letter:

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.”

The key to understanding is in the word “submit”.  The Greek word hupo-tasso, which has been translated as “submit” or “be subject,” literally means to arrange stuff respectfully in an “orderly manner underneath”.

This simple meaning of “social orderliness” would have been understood by original readers, but it is a little obscured in our English translation.

This word is used in Ephesians 5:22 to encourage husbands and wives to submit to one another, and it reflects God’s concern for order and respect.

Here’s the main point – Paul and Peter believed that governing authorities are necessary for keeping the peace. God is a God of order – not anarchy or chaos.

But here’s where we go wrong. There’s ANOTHER word, hupo-kouo, which is best translated as “obey,” which literally means to conform, to follow a command, or to kowtow to an authority as a subordinate. wasn’t used by Peter and Paul, they chose not to.

Though Paul, Peter and other followers of Jesus deliberately disobeyed laws that were in conflict with God’s commands, they still submitted to the authorities by accepting the legal consequences of their actions.

As far back as the book of Exodus, the Hebrew midwives refused to carry out the Pharoah’s repugnant order to murder newborn babies.

Slavery was lawful. The holocaust was legal. Segregation and apartheid were legally sanctioned. Many of today’s laws are created to protect much “other” rather than people.

So does the law or does God dictate our ethics?

Could this be showing us another way to interpret Romans 13 as Peter and Paul meant? If we break an unjust law to highlight and protest its injustice, we should be willing to submit to the punishment for breaking such laws, so that we demonstrate our respect for the role of government, in general, no following a God of chaos, each doing whatever we want but a God of order and respect for one another and the governing authorities.

There are times when we, as followers of Christ, will be called upon to stand up with a holy ‘NO!’ in the face of evil and injustice.

This week I saw a preview of the film of the life of Franz Jagerstatter, a forgotten martyr, devout Catholic, telling the harrowing and heartbreaking true story of his life refusing to take the Hitler oath. During his military training in 1940, he notices the evil underlying the Nazi regime and arrives home dead-set on refusing to fight for the army in the future. He declared his refusal to fight when he was summoned back to the Linz barracks in 1943, where he was held in custody, transferred to Berlin-Tegel to await trial, and condemned to death for sedition.

Gregory Williams puts it this way:
The Greek word used in Romans 13 by Paul is exousia, which is defined: “power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases.” It is translated “right” in Hebrews Revelations and it is even translated “liberty” in Paul’s own 1Corinthians 8:9.

In the original text of the Bible the translation of exousia as liberty or right would fit the context of scripture. One may translate it as power of choice. The Greek word exousia is considered to be one of the strongest words in the Greek language representing the idea of liberty. Accepting the idea that Romans 13 is actually a statement by Paul in support of individual liberty, rather than a command to submit to the commands of authoritarian rulers, will be difficult for some pastors and Christians alike to admit.

Romans 13 could be read as follows: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher liberty. For there is no liberty but of God: the liberties that be are ordained of God. Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the liberty, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the liberty? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same.” Romans 13: 1,3

God desires that every man should have the unimpaired and divine right of choice as long as that choice does not violate the right of our neighbor to make his own choices. There is a distinction between the privileges of governments granted by the people and the rights of the people granted by God. We must not only care about the rights of others while exercising our own, but we must fulfill that obligation without infringing on the rights of our neighbor to make their own choices. To accomplish that mission prescribed by God we must discover the whole truth and provide for it.

From the beginning, our Creator has allowed that men have the power to choose to be free souls under God or go under the authority of other men and their gods. That choice is never without consequences.

As Christians, we not only profess Jesus as Lord but we follow him. We proclaim the Kingdom of God is here, just as he did. We don’t claim to be residents of earthly borders but of the kingdom that is within. Jesus is the only governing authority of this kingdom. To be disobedient and resist this authority is to not feed the hungry or give water to the thirsty or clothe the poor. It’s to not welcome the stranger into our home, our land. It’s to not forgive our enemies.

So what do we do when we see injustice within the governing authorities? Do we follow Jesus to feed the poor welcome the stranger and proclaim a different kingdom than the one the world system has drawn borders around and tries to keep people out of and say “the kingdom is within you, welcome”

In the upside-down kingdom where Jesus is Lord, the table is open to everyone.

Wishing you a wonderful week as you welcome this Jesus and his arrival to the world.

Philemon

 

 

Shared happiness tastes better!

Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.
Charlotte Bronte

Good Monday Morning (now Tuesday) to this week 50 of 2019

Traveling home from Togo in West Africa yesterday, I spent my time in planes, trains and buses. Arriving safely late Monday evening I was reminded of my missing Monday Message and a little story of untasty food because of an interesting situation with a toddler.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

On Sunday afternoon in Adido-Adin, I was drinking coffee spending some time with a toddler staying at the same place. This toddler enjoyed my company and was happy to share all with me and assumed I would do the same. When I didn’t share the hot coffee with her, she was greatly insulted and wouldn’t look at me anyhow. Actually, she was deeply hurt and tried to express that in many emotions to her mother. All of my reconciliation attempts failed for a very long time.

From time to time I tried other attempts, playing with toys, making a joke, offering a hand, a smile, all failed. As I then ordered lunch and started eating salad, this finally caught some attention, yet only very vaguely.

The happiness of my lunch and nice salad was quite unshared. A fork a knife and a spoon were with my plate. I finally took the fork put some corn onto it, took the spoon and put a few pieces of corn onto the spoon as well. Putting the spoon into the hand of the toddler she took the first bite, still not looking at me. The next spoon she refused, then returned to grab the spoon and take another load of corn and salad. Her hunger was long gone because she had her favorite lunch already. But sharing these colorful yellow corn pieces with me, eating with a spoon, seeing me do that the same, finally brought peace and reconciliation between the two of us.

Happiness shared can truely be called happiness; with the taste being so delicious!
warapunga

I wish you a wonderful week with the taste of happiness, forgiveness and reconciliation. 

Philemon

 

God says you fill his mind

Thoughts to make your heart sing.

Good Monday Morning to this week 49 of 2019

When you were little,  did someone big and strong carry you?

As I go through the day’s here in Togo, I see the “little ones” being carried in many ways. A wonderful moment is usually when the babies get uneasy, unhappy, though fed, it’s simply time to get some rest, and where best than on the back of the mother. Gently she wings the baby onto her back, positions the feet, wraps the towel carefully around and tightens it until the child is firmly secured. In no time the babies fall asleep. The message is clear, affirming, straightforward;  I can help, trust me, I’ll show you, let me get you firmly positioned and you’ll have a wonderful sleep.

God’s intention is very similar with his words, actions, His affection, His care and love for us. Are they really an option to fully trust? How we need this firm swing onto his back to realize that He is for us, that we are fully in His grip, that He is in charge and has got us tight “under His wings”.

I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem;
they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord,
give yourselves no rest and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem
and makes her the praise of the earth

In other words: Take no rest, all you who pray to the Lord. Fill his mind, give him no rest!  Isaiah 62:6-7

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. Isaiah 58:9

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
1 John 4:16

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

And so we know and rely on the love that God has for us. 1 John 4.16

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I’ve got your back!

But you will not leave in haste or go in flight;
for the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

Like the child on the back of the mother, the mother can do many things while the child rests, but her mind is on the child, feels every move, feels the warmth, and reacts to the sleeping and awakening.

You fill God’s mind! 

In His grip! 

Philemon

Crossing the Jordan

I’ll cross over the Jordan someday. Jonny Cash

Good Monday Morning to this week 48 of 2019

This week the Jordan river came up in a few talks, in music with a live event, hearing of life-changing baptisms and in reading about the amazing story of  Eliyahu Ben-Shaul Cohen.

Last week we looked at times when our well runs dry and concluded with Faith, faith being one of the most vital keys to keeping your well, well-watered. So what is it like to stand on the shore of the Jordan? What does this phrase mean?

Crossing the Jordan ….

God made a promise to Abraham, Isaac and the Jewish people that their descendants would inherit a land given to them by God himself. Before Jacob died, the children of Israel found themselves living far away from that land.

Slavery, a handful of plagues, forty years in the wilderness added to the long story arriving at the shore of the Jordan.

Before Joshua could lead the people into the land flowing with milk and honey, an intimidating river had to be crossed – the flood stage of the Jordan River to be exact. By the grace and a miracle of God the people safely crossed the river, and by faith, they received a land that they had only heard of through a promise that had been made so long ago.

The river starts flowing on the slopes of Mount Hermon, on the border between Syria and Lebanon, and flows southward through northern Israel to the Sea of Galilee/ Tiberius. Exiting the sea, it continues south, dividing Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank to the west from Jordan to the east before emptying into the Dead Sea. The surface of the Dead Sea, at an elevation of about 430 meters below sea level the lowest land point on Earth.

The Jordan River is more than 360 km in length. After 1948 the river marked the frontier between Israel and Jordan from just south of the Sea of Galilee to the point where the Yābis River flows into it from the east. Since 1967, however, when Israeli forces occupied the West Bank, the Jordan has served as the cease-fire line as far south as the Dead Sea.

The Jordan Valley itself is not well watered. The Jordan is fed by rains falling on the neighboring plateaus; the waters then flow downward through rivers or wadis. The Jordan itself is shallow. Its high-water period lasts from January to March. The existence of thermal springs, in the Tiberias region give the Jordan’s waters a relatively high degree of salinity. The Jordan’s waters are of special importance for irrigation especially for several oases in the bordering foothills at Jericho permitting the cultivation of oranges, bananas, early vegetables, and sugar beets.

The Jordan River is the river that David crossed to escape Absalom’s rebellion. Elijah and Elisha crossed the Jordan River before Elijah gave his double portion of anointing upon Elijah and being taken by a whirlwind into heaven. The Jordan River baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, perhaps the most popular biblical events at the river. This biblical event is one of the foundations of the Divine Trinity of God.

Joshua ordered the people to consecrate themselves, the next day, he assembled them a half-mile behind the ark of the covenant. He told the Levite priests to carry the ark to the Jordan River, which was swollen and treacherous, overflowing its banks with snowmelt from Mount Hermon. As soon as the priests waded in with the ark, the water stopped flowing and piled in a heap, 20 miles north near the village of Adam. It was also cut off to the south. While the priests waited with the ark in the middle of the river, the entire nation crossed over on dry ground. The Lord commanded Joshua to have 12 men, one from each of the 12 tribes, pick up a stone from the center of the riverbed. Once everyone had crossed, the priests with the ark came out of the riverbed. As soon as they were safe on dry land, the waters of the Jordan rushed in.

Israel learned important lessons from the miracle of crossing the Jordan River. First, God demonstrated that he was with Joshua as he had been with Moses. The ark of the covenant was God’s throne on earth. Literally, the Lord went into the dangerous river first, demonstrating his role as Israel’s protector.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:2

God revealed that his wonder-working strength would enable the people to conquer the enemy they faced. Most of the year, the Jordan River was about 100 feet wide and only three to ten feet deep. However, when the Israelites crossed, it was at flood stage, overflowing its banks. The mighty hand of God parted it, made it safe for his people to cross with no other power overcoming God’s mighty power.

Crossing the Jordan – a breaking with the past for Israel.
When the manna stopped, the enemies needed to be overcome.
Crossing the Jordan – crossing to a new form of a spiritual life of freedom.
Crossing the Jordan – a transition and the begin of a new conquest. (for Joshua for sure)
Crossing the Jordan – a preparation for a new mantel,  again with a transition an a crossing on dry ground (also for Elijah and Elisha).
Crossing the Jordan – a place of new beginnings, not just the waters part, the heavens did as well.
Crossing the Jordan –  a place of personal conversions as in the cases of Rahab, Naaman, Zaccheus, and Bartimaeus.
Crossing the Jordan – requires leaving one shore and crossing the river for another.
Crossing the Jordan – entering a promise,  crossing over to new spiritual life.
Crossing the Jordan – the Grace of God leading you home.

Pick a stone from the Jordan river today:

Joshua placed a second set of stones in the river bed to be cover by the water when God removed His unseen hand holding the river back. Sometimes we are to build monuments in our hearts that only we know about monuments of anonymity in our hearts reminding us of God’s power and provisions.

Wishing you a good week “crossing the Jordan”! .. remember not to cross alone!

Philemon

When the well is empty.

You think of water when the well is empty. Ethiopia

Good Monday Morning to this week 47 of 2019

Drink water from your own cistern and freshwater from your own well. Proverbs 5:15

Cape Town is a city of more than 3 million,  suffered from drought for three successive years, which led to extensive water shortage. In February 2018 they got the shocking news of a possible “day zero” due in April 2018,  if the people did not implement water-saving actions, with a maximum use of 50 liters of water per capita per day. In European countries, the estimated water usage is between 130-160 liters per capita per day.

Environmental psychology is a relatively new, however a growing branch of psychology. Many of the questions that arise here can be explored and understood within popular and valid frameworks, from social, cognitive or biological models. The term ‘coping’  indicates the psychological and physiological condition where an organism or person is expected to master and adapt to a stress-inducing/evoking challenge. Coping can be understood as a positive expectation of a situation. Two possible consequences of not coping are – hopelessness and helplessness.

Not just our environmental well runs dry, often also our physical or spiritual wells
“My soul is greatly troubled. But You O Lord – how long? says David in Psalm 6:3.

In the frailty of our souls, even prayer is hard at such times.  We can’t just replace the dryness of our souls with prayer as good as it is!  One of the difficulties in prayer is that it doesn’t stem from what we do, but from what God does.

In our spiritual life, with intense soulsearching and prayer, there are times that even then God seems to take a step back from us. Why do our prayers find no answers? We hear no whispering of his voice or indication that He is close or within reach. We are left feeling alone, isolated, confused and perhaps angry. Of course from good teaching we know that God is within us – never to depart. He will never leave us or forsake us! We’ve got that part of theology engraved, yet the distance, the absence may only be a perception, while the struggle is genuine even if the distance is not.

For some of us, there are clear responses to these situations. Pray more, pray harder, examine our inner life, look for personal mistakes and failures, learn new prayers, try new spiritual exercises, keep looking for hidden distance in us that concludes that we are being punished by God. With more and more religious effort, the distance doesn’t change but we ask more questions and even put God’s love and care into question.

Did you ever ask God for unshakable faith and then he started to shake your faith?
Back to David in the Psalms, “How long O Lord?!” Could the silence and stillness of God, be pathways on which our faith grows? Doesn’t our spirituality grow and increase by faith, is fueled by faith, so that these times of distance also become times of God’s mercy,  strengthening a very part of us, in need of the fuel called; Faith?!

Could the first part of filling the well, not be the rain, but the gentle soft precipitation of faith? As we physically wait for the first snow to fall this November in Switzerland, we go from a long month of heavy rain to the gentle reception of the precipitation of snow. Be it snow, drizzle, rain, the atmosphere becomes saturated with water vapor, so that the water condenses and precipitates. Isn’t it so with faith, we saturate the spiritual atmosphere with faith? On the other hand, fog and mist are suspensions to precipitation, because the water vapor doesn’t condense sufficiently. Fog and mist could be mistrust, incertitude or confusion in regard to our spirituals lives.

Back to lack of rain or the drought, Cloud seeding is a type of weather modification that has been experimented for quite a while. It changes the amount or type of precipitation that falls from clouds by dispersing substances into the air which changes the microphysical process within the cloud. Evidentially cloud seeding was attempted during the 2008 Summer Olympics n Beijing to coax rain showers out of clouds before they reached the Olympic city in order to prevent rain during the opening and closing ceremonies. Do we also attempt spiritual cloud seeding, trying to force an outcome, especially in times when the well runs dry?

What do we do to fill our well with? Do we try religious attempts to force it, like the physical attempt of cloud seeding? There are so many books, Internet sites, recommendations explaining what you need to do to fill that void, water your dry well with, sometimes even in “7 steps”. No, I won’t fall to the urge to do the same and give you these steps like with a quick fix.

Let’s take another approach:

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought, it is not anxious and it does not cease to bear fruit.
Jeremiah 17.7-8

My child, pay attention to what I say, listen carefully to my words.
Don’t lose sight of them let them penetrate deep into your heart,
for they bring life to those who find them and healing to their whole body.
Guard your heart above all else for it determines the course of your life.
Proverbs 4: 20-23

Have you never heard? Have you understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.
Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength, they will soar high on wings like eagles they will run and not grow weary they will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40: 28-31

It’s a time for faith, His well has not run dry, He is there!

Wishing you a blessed week as you think of the water while the well is not empty or as you wait in faith for a new filling of your well.

Philemon

 

 

 

 

Belonging

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten
that we belong to each other Mother Teresa

Good Monday Morning to this week 46 of 2019

Belonging;

The best of community does give one a deep sense of belonging and well-being; in that sense, community takes away loneliness. Henri Nouwen

Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect.
Brené Brown

Belonging; 

The affinity for a place or situation, acceptance, association, attachment, inclusion, kinship, loyalty, rapport, relationship.

“It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together.” Keegan

Having a sense of belonging is a common experience. Belonging means acceptance as a member or part. Such a simple word for huge concept. A sense of belonging is a human need, just like the need for food and shelter. Feeling that you belong is most important in seeing value in life and in coping with the intensity of daily life.

So many churches or groups of people claim that first, you have to behave right, and then you can believe the Gospel, and then once you have gotten that right, we will let you belong and become a member of our church or group. I believe it has to be the other way around. When it comes to church, I think the formula in a sense should be;

belong, believe, behave.

Jesus first let these individuals know that they belonged—that He loved them regardless of their behavior. One of the most powerful verses is in Mark 10 where it says, “Jesus looked at him and loved him,  in the encounter with the rich young ruler who chose money over following Jesus. Or another of his answers “whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Me”. People around Jesus didn’t have to believe in Jesus before they were shown His love and compassion. Rather, they believed because of it. And only after the belonging and the believing comes the third step—behaving. Because I belonged, it led me to believe. Because I believed, it causes me to change my act, challenging that within me that wasn’t is according to the belonging one you now believe in.

The House of Belonging
Awake to a new morning.

Thinking for a moment
it was one day like any other.

But, the veil had gone
A new feel of heart.
I thought; as I utter the place of exile
the dimensionality of being out there,
to then have my face turned towards a place,
immediately start to walk in that direction
of a new way, a new being part of partaking,
spelling the word;  be, be-longing to belonging.

Was it the quiet and stillness of
God Shekhinah, as HIs manifestation, descended to
dwell among humanity?

Another prayer returned through
the voice of He with the
triune nature calling forth the real sense
of belonging?

And I thought,
this is a good day!

This is the day
I realize
how easily the thread
is broken
between the world of exile
to the one to belonging
coming as you are and yet in the same
breath,  extending this acceptance to
others as they come as they are.

And
I found myself
sitting up
in the quiet pathway
of light, away from
separateness to togetherness
with the unique gem of being a partaker.

For we have become partakers of Christ,
For we have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit. Hebrews

This is the bright home
in which I live, this is where
I ask my friends to come,

This is the temple
of my new home
having made His home
as I belong to something greater
where I belong.

I belong, I  present my authentic, imperfect self,
I accept who I am, I embrace who is He is,
He that is greater within me.

There is no house
like the house of belonging.

Warapunga
Inspired by Yahwe,  D.Whyte, B. Brown

Wishing you this same belonging!

Philemon

 

 

 

 

The Mask You do’n(o)t Live In?

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

Good Monday Morning to this week 45 of 2019

Recently I was made aware of the fact that I am a “white male”… . For most of my life
I’ve been “culturally-color-blind” and was trying to understand what the explicit mentioning of this title meant.  Where does this idea come from, is this an attempt to unveil or an attempt to cover over with a mask? I am quite sure you’ve had similar experiences due to an ethnic, gender or social peer group you’ve spent time in. Of course, I am aware of the privileges I’ve had growing up in a country (PNG) with few in this category. I do ask myself this morning, is this the right season to walk this line? Of course, I am a white male, not that it matters;  with slightly red hair and red skin (smile), not out of the middle class and spent most of my life caring for marginalized, so this mask feels estranged and hostile to say it mildly. Yes, I won’t put on this mask, not saying that those masks aren’t there or don’t continue causing so much harm, hurt and discrimination to many all over the world.

Galatians 3:28, represents a new construct of reality, opposing the dominating construct of Hellenistic-Roman society. Although Christians still had to live in this Hellenistic-Roman culture, they had a new mental context in their minds, which became the social context when they gathered for worship. Scholars pose the question as to whether Galatians 3:28 is indeed the great egalitarian text that it is often assumed to be.
It does as well address the issue of inheritance of Abraham’s promise, and against this background, one should indeed accept that no worldly distinctions have any bearing on the inheritance of the promise. Douglas A. Campbell distinguishes important aspects: He points out that the heart of the matter is “the uncompromising eschatological logic of Paul’s reconciling gospel and that this has universal abolitionistic consequences. Secondly, he argues that the binaries typical of Hellenistic social ideology could be detached from the Christological claims and may indeed be abolished itself.

Paul’s Christology thus underpins a (controversial) model of community in which Jew and Gentile enjoy unbounded table-fellowship, sharing one bread and one cup, demonstrating in concrete social interaction that they are “one body in Christ”.
Paul did not have the abolishment of human categories in mind. However, he wanted the relationship between people of different status to change – a claim that is best understood in terms of the metaphor of the building of family.

Alio Cissé Niang puts it nicely:
Paul the counterculturalist, acting with liberating passion for all people, emphasizing that all are God’s children, in spite of ethnicity, social status or gender, as Galatians 3:28 indicates. Paul viewed believers as a new ethnic group that had been created through participation in Christ, with all other norms being relativized. A theology of inclusiveness. The Church as a unique culture, while at the same time respecting the peculiarities and particularities of ethnic and cultural specificities with the emphasis on both unity and diversity.

Galatians 3:28 could indeed be an “open text”, interpreted in diverse ways, these approaches emphasizing the immense depth of this verse with the importance and implication of these momentous words. Could this verse be
The Magna Carta of Humanity?

Mary McLeod Bethune writes with impressive implication to her life:

With these words, the scales fell from my eyes and the light came flooding in. My sense of inferiority, my fear of handicaps, dropped away: “Whosoever”, it said. No Jew nor Gentile, no Catholic nor Protestant, no black nor white; just “whosoever”. It meant that I, a humble Negro girl, had just as much chance as anybody in the sight and love of God …

Wishing you a wonderful week as you keep embracing this verse unmasked, revealing the wonderful implications of this inclusiveness and knowing of new belonging.

Philemon

 

Mistakes I’ve made, when reading the Bible.

Two situations lead me to this text today:
The more important first, a talk with my young adults about the relevance of the Bible in today’s world and culture and secondly a rather simple article, nevertheless catching my attention with the title:  “Seven mistakes I made in my twenties”.

Here a few of the mistakes I’ve made reading the Bible.

Good Monday Morning to this week 44 of 2019

1. Looking for insight rather than a personal application.
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. – Matthew 18:20
A great verse for all small group leaders, pastors and gatherers of people!

Although God is always with us when believers gather together, it doesn’t mean that He is not with us when we are alone because God is omnipresent meaning He is always with us no matter the circumstance.

2. Failing to research the context.
And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched.” (Mark 9:43)
The Broadman Bible Commentary nicely writes: “… if what you desire to do, or the places you long to frequent, or the things you are greedy to possess… would entice you into a path departing from the way of life, whatever sacrifice is necessary must be made to return to the path of life!

3. Sticking to only one translation. (this now comes so much easier now with so many translations available on the internet)
When Saul realized that the LORD was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David. (NIV) 1 Sam. 18:28
But when Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and that all Israel loved him. (RSV)
Quite a difference here!

4. Thinking the only way to read the Bible is by looking at the words on a page.
And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die … meaning: “Don’t tear your clothes”, if you only read the words on the page it leads to a strange interpretation.
It’s good to be sensitive to distinctions between Israel and the Church and Old Covenant and New Covenant eras/requirements.

5. Not using the Bible to help interpret itself!
Interpretation, based on the author’s intention of meaning and not the reader.
Get into the author’s context, historically, grammatically, culturally and the literary forms and conventions the author was working in. Interpretation in the context of the passage. Interpreting of Bible not only literally, allowing for normal use of figurative language.  For example, Isaiah 55:12 states the trees of the field will clap their hands. Since trees do not have hands or clap this must be a figure of speech.
Interpretations come to life, once in the context of the passage, as with the trees of the fields clapping their hands!

5. Not forming your own interpretation. Some questions to ask as you form your  interpretation in prayer and in the company of the Holy Spirit:

What do I learn about God in this passage?
What do I learn about people?
What do I learn about relating to God?
What do I learn about relating to people?

How would I say this verse in my own words?
The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity. Proverbs 11.3

Formed in my own words: Be an honest person of integrity, this will keep you on track, all else will destroy you.

6. Sometimes I look for verses that “only” fit the topic or theme I have in mind:
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

This is a verse where an infinite, all-powerful God meets very finite, not-so-powerful human beings. Sure, the possibilities are endless with God. The spiritual gifts, holy callings and life journeys available to the Jesus follower can be endless. The keyword is simply can. Do you see the words should or will? Isn’t the emphasis on the infinite God and not on us here?

I’ll conclude with Deuteronomy 31.6 (NIV the interpretation that I grew up with!)

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Moses sharing this with Joshua at the age of 120, knowing he won’t continue to the promised land as a consequence of his own sin, yet knowing a God that has lead him faithfully in all his ways, he now lays this promise on Joshua.  Moses animates the people to the perseverance of hope when God declares that He will be their helper even to the end. Faith corresponds with God’s promises, and is, in harmony with them, it, therefore, extends itself to our whole life, even beyond death itself; for God removes all doubt as to the future by these words, “I will not leave thee nor forsake thee.”

Wishing you a blessed week!
Philemon 

Lost in reality

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid again. In his joy, he goes away and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Good Monday Morning to this week 43 of 2019

The opposite of being lost could be: found, located, situated, here, present
in, owned, retained, there, adequate, enough, sufficient, accounted for, at hand
in attendance.

Last week we looked at secrets hidden in scripture and discovered the chiasms found in many texts. Lost and found are concepts and words also very often mentioned. The world “found” is quite popular in the KJV, with it being mentioned 470 times.

In this parable, we could speak of the “being lost” or the “being found”.

There is a man, and there is a field, these two things are immediately recognizable. Where could this lead us? The man in these parables  … Jesus himself. And the field, the world of humanity, the human race, all of society. With these clues, a key to this first parable is opened. Jesus came,  found a treasure hidden in humanity. Something was hidden, lost in the human race, but to then be uncovered it. And then he did an amazing thing and covered it up again, buried it again. Then he went and gave all that he had and bought that field of humanity. The purpose is not lost, the treasure is not lost. It was found, unveiled and hidden again. God emptied himself, being equal with God, he didn’t keep the treasure but gave all he had as he walked the mystery of darkness before being found again. A treasure was uncovered for a brief time the secret revealed but then hid again. And then he went and gave all that he had and bought the field in which it is hidden. Here we see the narrative to the story unfolding. The owner of the land now becomes the owner of the veiled or hidden treasure. The owner is now in control. He bought the field in order that someday he might use that treasure. This treasure is now hidden or “Lost in reality”, hidden in the now, in today.

Later Jesus drives this point home with his statement in John:  “Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one”. Hidden yet revealed, the perspective of the interrelationship between, this age, our reality, the coming age and the interplay of the various elements in our lives.

To find love you must enter into the sanctuary where it is hidden, which is the mystery of God. Thomas Merton.

Wishing you a wonderful week, being present, located in the field of the hidden treasure, with the field already in the hands of the eternal owner.

Philemon

 

 

 

Secrets of God

Good Monday Morning to this week 42 of 2019

He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him. Ephesians 1.9

Jesus answered them, “To you, it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them, it has not been granted. Matthew 13:11

In this passage of Matthew 13, Jesus answers in terms of the elect, God’s chosen people, defined by those who have genuine faith in God in contrast to those with rebellion, spiritual dullness and unbelief.

Jesus answers with a well-structured chiasm. (Two ideas are interwoven in one narrative.)

“Chiasmus, the figure of speech in which two or more clauses are related to each other through a reversal of structures in order to make a larger point; that is, the clauses display inverted parallelism”

Jesus said:

While seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘you will keep on hearing, but will not understand; you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes,

otherwise

They would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and he would heal them. Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men
desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

The literary beauty of the chiasm is apparent.

Another example of an ABCB’A’ chiasm in John 4.

A – But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth:
B – For the Father seeketh such to worship him.
C – God is a Spirit:
B – And they that worship him
A – And must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Chiasmus is not a secret Bible code, although it is often hidden by translations which may obscure the occurrence of repetitions of keywords and phrases, and sometimes it is hidden by numeric verse and chapter divisions.

Jesus himself taught in chiastic structures. Take the parable of the workers recruited for a penny a day recorded in Matthew 20. The parable is bounded by the classic chiasm.

“The first shall be last, and the last first” which is repeated at the end of this parable but in reverse – “the last shall be first, and the first last”!

In between, the parable is a dramatized chiasm – the first laborers are called up last, and vice versa. This clearly demonstrates that chiasm is a conscious technique in the mind of Jesus for teaching disciples.

One more meaningful Chisam.

No one can serve two masters;
for either, he will hate the one
and love the other,
or he will be devoted to one
and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and wealth.
(Matt 6:24 NASB)

Chiasms are usually arranged in the same top-to-bottom form as they appear in the text:

A – No one can serve two masters;
B – for either he will hate the one
C – and love the other,
C – or he will be devoted to one
B – and despise the other.
A – You cannot serve God and wealth.
(Matt 6:24)

In Western cultures, we are trained to look for the emphasis at the beginning and/or the end of the text. Therefore, we naturally believe that this verse is about serving either God or money.

Looking deeper at this chiasm, you see two places of emphasis: the center point focuses on loving the right master and the first/last elements focus on serving that master.

While serving God is good and proper, love and devotion to Him should be our driving force.

Wishing you deep insights this week as you look at the mysteries or secrets of God and discover beauty, right in the depth of the living Word.

Have a blessed week

Philemon