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A lion a bear and a snake

Chapter 44

Good Monday Morning to this week 44 of 2021

Do you remember the proverb from Amos 5. 19?

A man was attacked by a lion. By sheer accident, he was able to save himself, but then a bear ran at him. Again he escaped. With the last of his strength, he made it to his house and just barely slammed the heavy door in the bear’s face. Gasping for breath, he leaned his hands against the wall—and a snake bit him. The bite was fatal.

What could this be about? Is the meaning really obvious? Our worst enemies are not outside, they are in our own house? Or is it about our shadows? Or is it temptation that keeps returning? Or is the day of the Lord at hand, as many say?

Wow, this little passage ist is extreme!

Gerhard Lohfink … first gives the parable to many of his students – then makes an attempt to put it into context …

It has to do something about the “Day of the LORD,” the crucial phrase that frames and dominates the parable. Amos is using the parable to explain to his hearers in the Northern Kingdom of Israel what the “Day of the LORD ” means for them. Before war and deportation overtook them the people of the Northern Kingdom lived in fragile security. Their economic situation was good. The rich were getting richer all the time and exploiting the poor. Pompous worship services were celebrated, along with lavish feasts. The political situation was heating up. The people expected God to defeat their enemies, as on the “day of Midian”. For them, that was a day on which God had intervened, a day when God had rescued Israel from its foes. Now they were longing for such another “Day of the LORD .” But the prophet levels that expectation to the ground. The “Day of the LORD ” the people are wishing for will look completely different. Embedded in the prophecy of woe stands the parable of the futile flight. There is no salvation any longer for the people of the Northern Kingdom!

The discussion group then debated for a long time about how open to a variety of interpretations an isolated parable text standing by itself can be. Only the literary context or oral commentary or the actual situation in which a parable is spoken can establish its meaning without a doubt. For that very reason, Amos gave his parable a frame—the “Day of the LORD .”

After this figurative indication of the sufferings and calamities which the day of the Lord will bring, Amos once more repeats in v. 20, in a still more emphatic manner, that it will be no day of salvation, to those who seek evil and not good and trample justice and righteousness.

What is your interpretation?

So many people are talking about this day, calamity coming as the day of the Lord. What if the warning is not about the day of the Lord as a day of losing salvation or redemption, but the day of the Lord is when it’s about those not about seeking justice, but instead about trampling on the less privileged and causing injustice? For many, the bite of injustice is indeed fateful.

The encouragement today is as we had it the other day out of Micah:

To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God!

Wishing you a good start to this week.
Philemon

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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

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