Freedom

Chapter 43

Good Monday Afternoon to this week 43 of 2021

Acts 3:21 says that God’s ultimate goal is the “restoration of all things.” We hear so much about freedom of choice, of body, of government and much more, that motivates me to look a little behind or around this topic of freedom.

A few thoughts from Art Lindsley.

Throughout human history, people of all cultures have sought freedom. Some have emphasized inner spiritual or emotional freedom, and others freedom from external restraints (such as slavery or political freedom). Hindus seek an experience of oneness with the universe that frees them from the illusion of this world of distinction. Buddhists seek enlightenment that involves a detachment from desiring anything in this world. Atheists want to be free from the constraints of any objective moral rules.
In the political arena, there are a variety of liberation theologies. Gustavo Gutiérrez wrote his Theology of Liberation with a focus on the political and economic situation in Latin America. James Cone wrote A Black Theology of Liberation to develop a black theology that identified with the oppressed. Others have developed feminist liberation theology that focuses on cultural problems that have limited women’s freedom. Most of the above perspectives involve freedom from constraints but are not clear about what the liberated situation would look like. 

Many people in our culture believe freedom to be a lack of norms, rules, or laws restraining us from doing what we want to do or be.

In the Old Testament, freedom was primarily freedom from slavery.

This freedom was often referenced in the prophets. Jesus’s inaugural sermon echoed this theme from Isaiah 61:1

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
and freedom to the prisoners

There is a consistent thread through the Old Testament pointing to the need for inner and spiritual renewal.

The predominant note of the New Testament is not political freedom but freedom in Christ from bondage to sin, the Law, the old man, and death. It is not that political freedom or freedom from slavery was unimportant but that there was even deeper bondage that had to be overcome first of all. The problem is that even if you were politically free you could still be in bondage.

The emphasis of the New Testament is not political, economic, or religious freedom. However, there is a sense in which we can say, as we saw in the Old Testament, that new inner freedom eventually leads to consequences in the outer world.
Jesus did not fight, as some expected the Messiah to do, for a violent revolutionary overthrow of the Romans.

The inner freedom Christ came to bring has often been the garden out of which other freedoms grow.

Redemption, above all, applies to all of life. Not only are we redeemed from our sin (personal), but we are brought into a new community.

In conclusion

Freedom is not autonomy or doing what you feel like doing without any constraints.

Freedom involves a structure that allows us to be free to be what we are created to be.

Freedom is within the context of Law. The moral Law of Jesus gives us a guide to know how to live and to love.

We are truly free when we know the truth about ourselves and the world. This means throwing off the lies and deceptions to which we are so often captive.

Inner renewal often leads to outer consequences and renewal of the land.

The Bible doesn’t prescribe one type of government but freedom (political, economic, and religious) is consistent with (not contradictory to) the Bible.

Inner freedom inevitably drives toward outer freedom. Inner and outer freedoms are the most ideal state for human beings (Micah 4:4).

God will establish justice in the rabble of nations and settle disputes in faraway places.
They’ll trade in their swords for shovels, their spears for rakes and hoes.
Nations will quit fighting each other quit learning how to kill one another.
Each man will sit under his own shade tree, each woman in safety will tend her own garden.
When God says so, he means what he says.

Wishing you a good week with much of that inner freedom!

Philemon


Undone


Chapter 42

Good Monday Morning to this week 42 of 2021

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

In the last five years of writing this blog these short Monday Messages we have mourned very many loved ones from teenagers to parents and many other loved ones. I sometimes sent out a message tackling some theological issue or even some political issue – to later find out that you were mourning the passing of a loved one.

I started writing 2016 after the passing of my Mum. Now I write today with the passing of Dad last week. Unexpected, in sort of rush, quickly he left us last Tuesday. His life was well lived, always ready for change and a new beginning. Now he started the next journey to a place he preached about all his life, actually his last sermon is only 4 weeks back.

We don’t only mourn our loved ones. We mourn homes, jobs, relationships, friendships, old times, youth, strength and much more.

As you realise, the best book I read this year was the biography of Eugene Peterson, yet even better than his biography is the paraphrased Bible he wrote: The Message. Also this verse takes on much more meaning or new aspects of the whole verse and idea of Jesus.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5.4 NIV

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. The Message

Jamieson Brown puts it this way in his commentary;

This “mourning” must not be taken loosely for that feeling under pressure of the ills of life, nor for sorrow on account of failure. Evidently it is that entire feeling which the sense of our spiritual poverty “having lost what is dear to us” and so the second beatitude is but the complement of the first. The one is the intellectual, the other the emotional aspect of the same thing. It is part of our spirit that says, “I am undone”. Faith according to these verses, is neither a set of intellectual convictions nor a bundle of emotional feelings, but a compound of both. These two beatitudes cohere. The mourners shall be “comforted.” Even now they get beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Sowing in tears, they reap even here in joy. Still, all present comfort, even the best, is partial, interrupted, short-lived. But the days of our mourning shall soon be ended, and then God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes. Then, in the fullest sense, shall the mourners be “comforted.”

You too may feel undone this morning.

May you be embraced by the One most dear to you!

Philemon


River of Life


Good Monday afternoon to this week 41 of 2021

Greatly motivated by a quote about prayer I read last week I will continue with three more of Teresa of Avila (28.03.1515-15.10.1582)

A Carmelite nun, prominent Spanish mystic, religious reformer, author, theologian of the contemplative life and of mental prayer, she earned the rare distinction of being declared a Doctor of the Church, but not until over four centuries after her death.

Teresa, who had been a social celebrity in her home province, was dogged by early family losses and ill health. In her mature years, she became the central figure of a movement of spiritual and monastic renewal .

First Quote

In a state of grace, the soul is like a well of limpid water, from which flow only streams of clearest crystal. Its works are pleasing both to God and man, rising from the River of Life, beside which it is rooted like a tree.

Second Quote

God gave us faculties for our use; each of them will receive its proper reward. Then do not let us try to charm them to sleep, but permit them to do their work until divinely called to something higher.

Third Quote

May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.

Wishing you a start of peace and faith into this new week!

Philemon

Cake

Chapter 40

Good Monday Morning to this week 40 of 2021

Who baked the first cake in the Bible?

Rachel
Rebekah
Miriam
Sarah

And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.

When the three men had accepted the hospitable invitation, Abraham, just like a Bedouin sheikh of the present day, directed his wife to take three seahs of fine meal, and back cakes of it as quickly as possible (round unleavened cakes baked upon hot stones). The eating of material food on the part of these heavenly beings was not in appearance only, but was really eating; an act which may be attributed to the corporeality assumed, and is to be regarded as analogous to the eating on the part of the risen and glorified Christ

Were these three “men” angelic beings who appeared to Abraham in the form of men. However, Genesis 18:1 says that it was “the LORD” (Yahweh) who appeared to Abraham. It is the LORD who speaks other verses as Abraham stands “before the LORD” in verse 22. So, one of the three “men” must have been God Almighty taking on the appearance of a man. But it does seem clear from the context that one of the visitors was God Himself.

Abraham’s response to the appearance of the three men also suggests that he instinctively knew that he was in the presence of God. A typical response to visitors in that culture was to rise and wait for them to approach the home. But Abraham ran to meet them and “bowed low to the ground,” a prostrate posture reserved for royalty or deity.

Abraham was well acquainted with the LORD and would have instantly recognized Him, because the Lord had spoken and/or appeared to him many times before.

These three visitors whom Abraham entertained were heavenly, and Abraham and Sarah were in the company of God Himself. The story teaches us that God is aware of what is happening on earth, and He is involved. God can even visit or send His heavenly messengers to help fulfil His plans.

The next time you’re asked to bake a cake …
Who know’s to what divine occasion you are baking it for!

Wishing you a good start to this week!

Philemon



Mountains


Chapter 39

Good Monday Morning to this week 39 of 2021

In deep thought and awe I sit here in front of large mountain. The mountain is formed like a volcano. As the day passes by, so do the many different variations of clouds, colors and weather patterns. In front of the mountain is a lake and this lake reflects much of what is happening around the mountain. The lake specifically shows the wind and waves and adds to the beauty of the scenery.

Mountains are something we all have in common, we mostly have some connection to, or have experience with them in one way or another. So it was with the writers of the Bible. It’s very common imagary to many of the writers, from prophets to kings. Here a few to meditate this morning.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it.

In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it.

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

 I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone.

For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods.  In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. 

Quotes from Isaiah, Micah, Mark, Matthew, David, Jesus

Wishing you a great start to this new week.

Philemon

Ways of Heart


Chapter 38

Good Monday Morning to this week 38 of 2021

…. and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6.8

Last week I left out this very important part of the verse out.
Not sure why, probably because I was so focused on the selective justice part.
But, oh yes, how important these ways of heart that Micah writes of are!

…. to walk humbly with thy God!

Micah is a master poet filled with metaphors, similes, wordplay and symbolic imagery. Micah judiciously balances oracles of judgment and oracles of redemption, with a uniquely clear view of the sovereign grace of God, and of the origin and divine nature of the coming Messiah. On this occasion, Micah is looking over the hills of Judah from the city of Moresheth to the Philistine cities. He knows of the kings of Judah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah and was active until 728 BC. Micah’s message of judgment is interspersed with words of hope!
In the end, judgment would be replaced by the Lord’s grace, unfailing love, faithfulness, forgiveness, pardon, and compassion. Israel would be restored and renewed, and God would fulfill his promise! In a time of turmoil, dishonesty, division and imminent horror, he warned the people in ways of heart.

…. and to walk humbly with thy God!

The “walk” metaphor is used often in Scripture to describe the overall direction one’s life is heading. Walking in the way of the Lord or walking the light are two examples. This poetic picture envisions a comfortable relationship of presence with God and a life that fits into that path. For walking with God there must be communion, based in love, and resulting in imitation. And that communion must be constant and run through all of our lives.

another beautiful analogy:
“to live continually grasping the hand of God, and conscious of His overshadowing wing at all moments at every step of the walk.”

The Message is a little less poetic but very pragmatic:
.. and don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously!

The adverb “humbly” moves us away from arrogance and the egocentric need to always be better than others, to the simple acceptance of the gifts that God has placed within us. A famous hymn gets in a nutshell:

When we walk with Him, He abides with us!

Wishing you a good start to this week!

Philemon



Justice is not selective


Chapter 37

Good Monday Morning to this week 37 of 2021

Micah 6:8 “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness!

I think it’s important that people take this opportunity to really expound on things like equality, inclusion, diversity. These words need to become transformed into our lives in a relative way that they are applicable, that we are actually working it, that people can actually say well if this is what I believe, if I truly believe in equality, if I truly believe in justice for all, it is justice for all, not justice that is selective, because … a justice that is selective … is an oxymoron, that’s not justice at all. Rev. Mykal Slack, Congregational Life

A challenging quote in a time of much division and much injustice.

Wishing you peace and kindness and clarity to see God’s justice this week!

Philemon

We rise

Chapter 36

Good Monday Morning to this week 36 of 2021

Stood alone on a mountain top, starin’ down. I could go east, I could go west, it was all up to me to decide. Just then I saw a young hawk flyin’ and my soul began to rise. B Seger

This Saturday I got two messages from two friends. Both were within one hour from each other and contained their current observation of hawks. One was a video showing a hawk, circling wildly around a few trees that were in great motion because of the wind. The second was an observation of four, then three then two hawks coming from the bushes. The four birds rose, then one left, three returned, finally two remained and were engaged in a fight or struggle right above the observers head very near an open field where the person observed.

If it’s wild to your own heart, protect it, preserve it, love it and fight for it. Dedicate yourself to it, whether it’s a mountain range, an activity or a relationship. It doesn’t matter if it’s wild to anyone else: if it’s what makes your heart sing if it’s what makes your days soar like a hawk in the summertime, then focus on it. Because for sure, it’s wild, and if it’s wild, it’ll mean you’re still free. R. Bass

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40.31

In the Barnes Commentary, I quote: But they that wait upon the Lord – The word denotes properly to wait, in the sense of expecting. The phrase, ‘to wait on Yahweh,’ means to wait for his help; that is, to trust in him, to put our hope or confidence in him. Shall renew their strength or to change. The Hebrew word commonly means to change, to alter; and then to revive, to renew, to cause to flourish again. They shall mount up with wings as eagles – ‘They shall put forth fresh feathers like the moulting eagle;’ and in his note on the passage remarks, that ‘it has been a common and popular opinion that the eagle lives and retains his vigour to a great age; and that, beyond the common lot of other birds, he moults in his old age, and renews his feathers, and with them his youth. ’So that thy youth is renewed like the eagles,’ refers to this fact a common and popular opinion among the ancients. The opinion was, that at stated times the eagle plunged itself in the sea and cast off its old feathers, and that new feathers started forth, and that thus it lived often to the hundredth year, explaining the meaning of ‘They shall put forth fresh feathers like eagles.

Let us rise to the challenges of this week – with the rising wind of God and the fresh feathers of faith!

Philemon

Built by Angles

Chapter 35

Good Monday Morning to this week 35 of 2021

Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to myriads of angels, a festive gathering. Hebrews 12.22

In recent weeks, the TPLF forces have captured the town of Lalibela, in the northern Amhara region, the site of a cluster of some of Christianity’s oldest houses of worship. The Lalibela churches were carved by medieval Ethiopian Christians as an alternative pilgrimage site to Jerusalem. 

The Lalibela churches take their form, placement, and orientation from both geological features and structures within the complex. While precise dating for the complex and its components has yet to be determined, scholars generally agree that it was constructed in four or five phases between the seventh and thirteenth centuries. Ethiopian tradition ascribes the whole construction to the reign of King Gebre Mesqel Lalibela (r. ca. 1181–1221).

Each of the 11 monolithic structures is dramatically stamped into the mountainous landscape, plunging 40 to 50m into the Earth and pierced with cross-shaped chiselled openings to let sunlight into the hollowed-out interior.

According to the writings of the saints, they were carved over a period of twenty-four years with the assistance of angels.

It is true that each preserved monument ‘speaks for itself. But unfortunately, it speaks in a language that the average visitor cannot comprehend. Beauty and the majesty of natural forces need no interlocutor. Tilden

The mount Zion is frequently described as the dwelling-place of God. Likewise, the heavenly Jerusalem is called the city of the living God, not so much because he,  the living and acting God be the architect, but because He has His throne there. So is it’s no longer so far removed of a thought that he would send his angles from the court of heaven to assist the King of Lalibela to build these magnificent houses of worship.

Now, dear Lord, our prayer is, come with your assistance of angles, as so many things are in danger of being torn down, being destroyed and so many new things are being built. Come with this assistance to the continued building of your Church, a church that will represent you and worship you for many many years to come. 

Wishing you this assistance in this week ahead.

Philemon 

Sacred Space

Chapter 34

Good Monday Morning to this new week 34 of 202

Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. Matthew 6.6


Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the silent hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting world may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Much of the content of the sermon on the mount centres around the secret heart.

Jewish homes had a place for secret devotion. Over the porch, or entrance of the house, there was frequently a small room of the size of the porch, raised a story above the rest of the house, expressly appropriated for the place of retirement. To this place, to the “upper room”,  the disciples were guided to when they wished to hold communion with God.

Prayer in secret is an incredible privilege, we get the privilege of being with our Father in heaven. Only He completely knows what we will receive at his hand in those moments with him, while we gain peace from his presence, and from casting our cares upon him.

A closed room, a closet, a grove, a mountain, a garden, a hill …. The closed-door is more likely referring to the door of your heart. Pray your prayers between you and God, and isn’t it there where faith begins?

God the Father is a spirit he is also unseen, a secret mystery. Yet God is also omnipresent, He sees what is secret, and even knows the mysteries of a person’s heart. Through the mystery and quiet of opening and closing doors in the secret place, there is great reward in knowing God and coming to him by faith.

The New King James has a very special way of concluding the verse;
“and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly”.  If we take the metaphor of the door of the closet; it is part of our decision to go to him, to “close the door” while it is God’s presence and Gods grace to be there and “open the door”.

Wishing you a great start to this new week.

Philemon