Under The Umbrella of God’s Grace……..

This has not been a good week for our nation. Old wounds have been reopened and we now know that the reality is they have never completely healed. Truth is there can be no healing as long as hate is allowed to remain and continues to fester in men’s hearts and there are those among us that use this hate to advance their agendas. It is worth noting that a large percentage of people are in church on Sunday, somewhere. I am seventy-four and have over the years had a front seat to see and experience the social and cultural changes in our society pertaining to race. We have come a long way, but unlike the Israelites, we here today have yet to cross the river to the promised land. Our bible study class this past week has given me an unusual perspective on where we might go after the events of last week.

Acts 27 tells the start of Paul’s journey to Rome as a prisoner who has demanded the rights of a Roman citizen to be judged by the emperor. Winter was not the best sailing time in this part of the world but the owner of the ship sailed anyway because he feared a loss of profit for his cargo if he delayed any longer. They encounter a savage storm and all hope of survival was lost. I would point you to verses 21 -26, here in chapter 27. They had all been without food or sleep for a long time. There is no hope and these seasoned sailors know that and in verses 22-26 Paul shares a startling fact with them. An Angel to the God I serve has come to me and said that I must not be afraid. God has ordained that I, Paul, must stand before Caesar. The Angel has said that the God I worship and belong to has also granted to me all that sail with me. Men, we will lose the ship but there will be no loss of life.

Folks, if we liken our nation’s journey last week and the weeks to come as one of sailing on uncertain seas……it might be worth our while to be among those whom serve God. We should spend our time ahead praying daily for God’s wisdom to be with those who would lead us. Let us be in church on the sabbath, praising and worshiping the one true God. May we feed the hungry, clothe the needy and find shelter for those who are without. May we love those who hate us and may we learn to forgive all, just as our Father in heaven does. May we extend “The Umbrella of God’s Grace” to all creation.

Thanks for joining me

God Bless

jk

 

Obadiah…. Matthew 25:40

I had this all laid out until I started to put it on paper, or more accurately into print. Obadiah, twenty-one verses broken into three sub-sections and a quick wrap of this last of the little books. It is really simple, Edom’s judgement announced, reason for Edom’s punishment, Edom destroyed and Israel restored. Throw in a little something about Obadiah, Edom’s treachery and pride and about 1200 words latter you got a blog to post. Oh the power of a Layman’s mind or rather the lack of. Before we get to the surprise let’s wander through the verses. The introduction to the book is brief, there is little if any details about the prophet and we have no date for it. What we can be sure of is that verse one clearly states that God has given to Obadiah a message that must be communicated to the people. This message if you will, plainly states at the very beginning that Edom is the subject of the message and the the people need to prepare to do battle. The prophet refers to to Edom as “you”. Verse two is structured in a way that one commentary sees as a strategy which is designed to show the people of Israel that God is about to destroy their traditional enemy.

Verse three addresses pride and states a reason for it. The Edomites were proud of their military might and believed they could not be defeated. the expression “live in the clefts of the rocks” points to another of aspect of their pride. Their capital Sela in Hebrew means “rock”. The city is on a plain between two mountains and is accessible only from one direction. They did not feel they could be defeated. As we read in this book God easily defeated them. Verse four to me contains, I think an important point that the people did not recognize. These are much more than the words of Obadiah but a message from God of impending judgement. As I wander through the verses it is my intent to pick and glean a few interesting things. In verses five and six it is made plain that defeat will be complete and it will come at the hands of former allies. Verse seven continues the theme of Edom’s destruction. An interesting aspect here is it chides Edom for its lack discernment and intelligence, they will be surprised at the force of this divine judgement.

Verses eight and nine when reduced to simple layman knowledge simply reinforces the fact that this divine judgement will be conclusive and absolute. Total defeat, Edom’s intelligence, as well as it military power is criticized and challenged. In short, total destruction. Read carefully verses ten and eleven. Verse eleven is particularly harsh. “On that day you stood aside”……. Here lies the heart of Obadiah’s charge. You did nothing to help Judah…by doing nothing you allied yourselves with the invaders. You became like them and here the prophet goes on to list the things the Edomites did to the people of Judah. He continues to berate them in verses twelve and thirteen. Continuing on from verses twelve to fifteen the theme turns to “The Day Of The Lord”. Simply put, an outpouring of divine judgement against the enemies of Judah. As is found in most biblical writings there is a fair amount symbolism, the list of injustices and in verse fifteen the pronouncement. “As you have done, it shall be done to you.” The remaining verses allude to the aftermath. The destruction to allow the restoration and the assurance that victory will be an ultimate triumph over those who oppose divine will. In today’s vernacular, “God” is in charge.

I have for the most part read and shared the commentary from the New Interpreters Bible. What is here in Obadiah, what have I found. As layman we often pass over significant revelations simply because we never go beyond the words, get off the page and discover the awesome message contain in the bible. Another reason is we do not take advantage of the study materials available to us in this digital age. In the mist of all this is the fact that God is as much displeased with what they, Edom, did not do, as He is with what they did. I am sure not all the people physically attacked the people of Judah but all of them did nothing to help those people either. Theological perspective of some fail to recognize the world of today. It is clear here that God is dissatisfied or better said just plain mad about the attitudes of the Edomites toward their brothers and sisters in Judah.

Here is the little gem hidden beneath the story. We sometimes divorce ourselves from the reality of everyday life. To ignore the plight of those among us and fail to respond to the need of the poor, the excluded and destitute of society, such attitudes invite the judgement of God. I will borrow from NIB and leave you with this thought.

Obadiah’ prophecy calls attention to the need for the church to address the real problems of the day. To reach out to those who are socially excluded, ethnic minorities and the homeless and when faced with the realities of these social problems not to remain silent or ignore efforts that may be intended to oppress certain segments of society. I will quote directly from NIB.

“One of the challenges North America faces is the development and creation of a multicultural, multilingual, and pluralistic society and church. That kind of church is distinguished by the participation of all it sectors, respect for divergent opinions and the incorporation of minority groups in to the decision making processes.”

Matthew 25: 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Really quite simple…….Life is good,

jk

 

 

Just Jude…..

I want to approach Jude a bit different than that of the last three small books. It has been said that the “devil is in the details” so I think I might try to do a Jude Lite with this the fourth book in our little book series. It is generally agreed that that the author of Jude is the brother of James and one of the four brothers of Jesus. There is much to write about concerning this book but I will stay, with the help of Bible Panorama, with eight points of interest. The first we find in verses 1 and 2. We see a profile of a christian. A person who has accepted Jesus Christ and because of this he is called and set apart by God in whom he shall find mercy, peace and love. He recognizes Jesus as his Savior. Verses 3 and 4 instructs us to contend….stand up and defend the faith. The faith “delivered” by God “once” , is neither negotiable or changeable. The Church and many Christians today seem to be developing a habit of “negotiable” approaches to sin and accepted behavior, based on how prevailing winds of public opinion are blowing. Bible study group is involved in a study of Paul’s ministry. The working title of study in the 24th chapter is “An Inconvenient Faith”. Felix becomes uncomfortable when Paul confronts him and his current wife with their behavior. He sends him away, “we will talk latter.” So…..is it not possible that in this day we put aside our faith because it is “inconvenient” or makes us uncomfortable in certain situations. Verses 5-7 speak to God”s condemnation of sin. This condemnation is a continuing principle throughout Scripture. There are many examples of this, two that come to mind is the judgement of unbelievers as Israel left Egypt. Of course there is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and surrounding cities because of sexual immorality and sexual perversion. Sin is sin and the reality of God’s judgement is a given.

In verses 8-11 Jude deals with a situation that the “church” is fighting today. Corruption, here I add a personal note of an observation of my own. The corruption I find most distressing is the corruption of Scripture to fit a personal agenda. This is a mark of false teachings and the lack of respect for the authority of the word. These people show their corruption in what they say and do. Jude makes it plain that they will be “convicted and sentenced” in verses 12-15. Depending on what version you are reading verses 16-21 lists various un-godly behaviors that are occurring among the people. Jude encourages the Christians to build themselves up in the faith through the Holy Spirit and looking to Jesus Christ. We read in verses 22-23 the need for compassion while hating the sin. Sin tolerated soon spreads because silence is confused for acceptance. Remember the familiar “hate the sin, love the sinner”, it is noted that while we should do this, we should also seek to “pull them out of the fire” which takes us back to verses 3-4, Contend, stand-up for the faith bring the sinner home through the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit. The last two verses 24-25 provides us with a much needed reminder of who we are and who we serve. We are reminded that our God, our Savior, The Lord Jesus Christ can and will keep us on a path of Holy living. As Christians we can rejoice in knowing that our God is a sovereign and powerful God of eternity.

When I read Jude it is to me like a good friend who sees some difficulties now and in the future. He presents a no wiggle room assessment and you might say a good old fashioned “talking to”. Thanks for joining me this week in the pew and come back often. Next week our last book in this series, Obadiah.

God Bless, Life Is Good

jk

Love, Truth, Church……..”Walking With Christ.”

This week we continue our look at the five Books of the Bible with no chapters and short on words. 3 John in its Greek text is the shortest document in the NT, 219 words. We have here the same interpretive problem as in 2 John. We can I believe with some certainty see this as a person whose authority is informal and unofficial, while resting heavily on theological and moral persuasion. The addressee, Gaius, is a very common name and is believed in various commentaries to have been at one time associated with the Elder, possibly one of his converts. He is now apparently affiliated with another Christian community within the Johannine circle. We should note that the letter is also directed to “the children of the church and the friends of the church.”

This is a letter of introduction and recommendation. You could say it would be much like a letter of reference that is used in business or educational settings today. In 3 John the letter differs from the standard format typical of such letters of it’s day. John has withheld the identification and recommendation until near the end of the letter. He has expanded the qualifying and theologically formulating of the recommendation’s rational and moved it to the first position. The opening verse is strong in theological formulation. It is very much like the salutation we read in 2 John. We read here in these few words the stressing of Love and Truth. The use of these two words reflect John’s instructions to walk like Christ among the people in Truth and Love. Some say it is John’s oblique way of referring to Christ, of which there is no direct mention or referral to in this letter.

In verses 2-4 the elder is concerned with the health and truth not only of Gaius but also the “children”. In verse two it seems as though the elder is expressing his hope that Gaius’s life will be balanced in both his physical and spiritual endeavors. The elder states he hopes he is in good health and all is well with his soul. Moving to verses 3&4 the elder once again returns to the joy of hearing that the “children are walking in the truth”, living out their Christian calling. He also returns to the family as a metaphor for the church, “some brothers.” One other thing that is worth noting here is the apparent mobility of these early Johannine congregations. The elder speaks of brothers coming to him with good reports, a testament to these early Christian people and their church. The advantage of this mobility is that the encouragement of the elder and Gaius, prominent members of these loosely affiliated congregations, strengthens those in this region. It is a universal thing among the faith, that we have great joy for those who work, walk and live in the word and do it well, they are always an encouragement to all of us.

The elder in verses 5-12 moves on to the practical side of this faith work with suggestions for the brothers. The message here is really very simple. The elder wishes to put before the Johannine congregations an understanding of hospitality which was briefly addressed in 2John. I may get off the rail here but it seems as if the point to be made here is that whatever work is done for those new to the field is in fact an expression of love. There is no distinction made between a loving work done for a fellow Christian and the activity of faith. The Johannine theology considers belief in Christ to be a “work” of God. Works alone won’t save you, but grace will. There may be some distance here between the elder and Paul but faith is activated by love. To make this simple before I become totally confused The elder is encouraging, no recommending, that all should be done to help these itinerant Christians, brothers, strangers as much as possible on their way, not just a polite farewell but assistance in travel expenses and other needs. The elder believes such treatment is warranted because “they set out for the sake of the name.” He points out that they certainly did not receive help from the gentiles. Part of that however was their being careful not to be associated with anything or person that might put a bad light on the ministry. The point here is that it is our duty to help such people. The hospitality and financial aid is not for the purpose of gaining influence over them or make them beholden to us. The purpose is that we may become co-workers with the truth, that we work together for the cause, so to speak. We become fellow workers in the faith.

“I have written something to the church”….verses 9 and 10 concern the condemning of Diotrephes. This is of little help to us the reader because we do not know all that he wrote or to whom it was addressed. I would not credit this as gossip as we know it today but it certainly comes close. The elder is concerned enough about the behavior of one Diotrephes that he believes others should be aware and he even lists five complaints he has with that behavior. Excellent study material here in the NIB, to keep it short I favor the the latter suggestion of what is going on here. We know that these are rather loosely affiliated congregations and it may be that Diotrephes may have refused hospitality to the elder and his associates out of fear that his community’s doctrinal standards might be contaminated. It would not be unreasonable to believe that the elder did not agree with that assessment. The reasoning that follows as pointed out in the NIB is believable and I favor it. If this were the case it would have brought a stunning irony to our attention. “Diotrephes may have practiced a rigorous form of the elder’s own doctrinal and communal discipline, preached in 2 John!” Do we not have such reservations among the faith community this very day?

In these verses 11-12 we read of the elder’s obvious disapproval of Diotrephes actions. Because of Diotrephes challenge and the elder’s support for Demetrius we can reasonably conclude that here we have a good reason for this letter 3 John. The elder reminds them that the general resources of Johannine tradition contrasts with the aggressive, targeted action taken by Diotrephes against those he opposes. It may be that Demetrius is the elder’s envoy to the church that Gaius is associated with. Demetrius comes highly spoken of to the elder, so much so that the elder says “our testimony is true.”

As we now read the last verses of this letter 13-15, there is much to be considered but I would like to share with you the closing remarks from NIB.

“Remarkably, in spite of all its introversion and avowed estrangement from the world, the Johannine church is summoned in this letter to welcome the stranger. the one who comes FOR the sake of the name , who needs equipment for the next leg of the journey, who bears witness to the church’s love and the truth in which the church walks. No one knew better than the elder that opening the door to the stranger carries risks, for the same road that brings to our door genuine need, worthy of our support, also brings disturbance and even danger.”

I step away for just a moment to allow you the reader to absorb what you have just read. The last part of the above statement is so meaningful that it needs to be read over several times.

“But the elder also realized, and testifies to us, that the church that keeps its door locked cannot possibly be faithful to the truth or instrumental for love.”

There is much more to share in this letter but I will end on this note. There is truth in the saying “that good things come in small packages”. Next week Jude. Hope you will come back to the pew. I again this week acknowledge the “New Interpreter’s Bible” as the source of aid in preparing the blog. Remember, there are many sources available for study and sharing, use them to increase your knowledge of the word and to share the word with others.

God Bless

jk

 

 

 

Postcard From Ephesus

There is so much beyond the words written in the Gospel but in these busy times I feel we overlook all that is there. I sometimes think we just read the words and remember the stories and it just becomes a ritual for many of us. The bible is a record of God’s people from time beginning and His instructions to them through the patriarchs; from there into the NT a record of God’s desire to reconcile with his people through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I enjoy having a platform to express my opinion from but I want “From The Pew”, to really be a “Layman’s View of The Gospel.” Nothing wrong with opinion but sharing the gospel and opening the door to understanding it is just as important. Like other layman many times I seek understanding through prayer and the many commentaries and bible study materials available today. I am not bashful about it….there are so many wonderful and knowledgeable sources out there and I use them all. I will always recognize the authors and in some instances provide a url for you to visit them. Last week I shared with you that there were five books in the bible that had no chapters. I also shared that I had written about one of them in an earlier blog about Philemon, ‘The Little Book With A Big Message” and today will be the first in a series that will look at the other four. I have elected to start with 2 John.

In the New Testament only 3 John is briefer than 2 John. Either of these two letters could have been put on a single papyrus sheet, about 8×10 when measured by today’s standards. I liked the term used in the NIB, that they are more like postcards. To me these little letters or postcards contain much more than their size would indicate. In 2 John we find that the opening and closing read like a family letter. There are positive and negative elements, the author also notes there are benefits for compliance and liabilities for those who disregard this letter. (NIB) Who is the “Elder” in the opening verse of 2 John? Both letters are written by the same person and the use of the noun, Elder,would indicate masculine gender or perhaps a man of advanced years. It has also been suggested that it was someone of juridical authority. Now all this can be confusing and there was once a Pastor who advised me not to become overwhelmed with detail. It is surely a person recognized to have at least some moral authority and associated with the tradition to which he testifies within this community. We will leave it at that. The next thing we encounter is the “Elect Lady”. Our reference material lists some speculation as to who that might be. I believe I will take the short path on this and simply pass on to you that the substance of 2 John like that of 1 John is clearly not aimed at an individual but at a Christian community meeting in someone’s home. Plainly here John’s statement in verse 3 is more than just a wish but an assurance to all who believe. Of note also, is that not only is the “Lady” mentioned but also her children, placing an emphasis on the church as a family. Interesting to note that John writes in the following verse 4 “that some of your children are walking in truth” leaving the impression that there may be some division in behavior among the church. The letter seems to use the language of love to clarify what it means to walk in truth as God has commanded the church do from the beginning. From a layman’s view there is also the warning to be aware of those who do not teach the word as intended by God. Be aware of false teachers and even advises the church to refuse them hospitality. There is in fact to be no tolerance for those who go beyond the “teaching of Christ.”

I found it interesting that we find ourselves, the church today, experiencing a realignment of faith values and truths, in order to accommodate today’s changing morals. Verses 9 and 10 encourage us to abide in the teaching and there is always a risk of conflict in doing this. I have referred to “The New Interpreter’s Bible” quite often for direction in writing this blog. Sometimes we can be harsh in our judgement of others and within the reflections section of NIB I found this…… “The elder does not fault as faithless any kind of advance” the meaning here I believe to be a warning about overreacting. “The risk of losing God is incurred, rather by anyone who is so progressive that he does not remain rooted in the teaching of Christ.” Perhaps we as the church today need to do a better job at balancing theology with tradition. This letter also emphasizes something else. We, the Christian community “would be unable to move forward without a tradition that reminds us who we are and to whom we belong and where we have been.”

I have enjoyed my time in the pew today and hope you have.  (New Interpreters Bible is “A standard reference for pastors, teachers, and students, this critically acclaimed commentary series provides a wealth of theologically diverse perspectives from today’s leading scholars.”) You would be best served to goggle it and investigate the many resources it offers and where it can be purchased. Hope to see you in the pew next week.

God Bless,

jk

Pondering’s FromThe Pew…

There are weeks that subjects to write about just don’t come easy. I usually look for something in my devotionals, other reading materials or sometimes I find some topic in current news. There are times I feel led by the spirit to write about something. “From The Pew.. A layman’s View of The Gospel” is in fact just that. All of us who sit in the pew have many ways of expressing our faith and being in church is one of those ways. Many of us seek Christian activities, friendships, projects and such because they allow us to grow in the faith and let’s be honest, not feel marginalized by those who do not share our belief. It is not a form of snobbery or a sense of religious superiority that drives us to do this. I believe it is our desire to remain close to the precepts of our faith, to make them an everyday occurrence and to keep that “Sunday Church” feeling all week long. While most won’t admit it that “Sunday” feeling makes us comfortable, loved and renews in us, regardless of our circumstances a hope for tomorrow through the loving, caring mercies of the God we serve. If you are growing confused as to where this is going…well your not alone.

Many times when I feel lost as to subject or direction I go to my Bible. Now this I share because I did not expect to find help here. Here, being Goggle, of all places. Goggle what your thinking and then look for the path or direction you wish to go. For me today it was of all things some information about the Bible that I found interesting. I am never reluctant to share another’s work or expand on it as long as they are given proper credit in my writings. That being the case I will post a link at the end of this blog that led me to this subject. “…Each of the books, except 5, are divided into chapters and verses. The 5 which aren’t divided by chapters are Obadiah, Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude. These are short books which only have verse divisions.”
(Chapters were introduced to the Bible in 1238 by Cardinal Hugo de S. Caro. Verse divisions were not added until 1551 by Robertus Stephanus.)

No big deal but I found this to be interesting. I don’t think many of us in the pew have thought about this or could even name the books. Now I don’t make light of this or of those people, after all I am one of those. Five books, who would have thought that might lead us somewhere. I found it interesting because some time ago I wrote a blog about Philemon, “The Little Letter With a Big Message”. Now look! How about this, I have four weeks of something to share with you “From The Pew….”!

Back in the day I once did some research on the phrase, “the family of God.” It was an interesting wake-up and one that opened other doors of study to me. As I sit here writing today it comes home to me even more. I now go to another church but I never left my “family” behind, they came with me in my heart and mind. Wherever we go we are among “family”. When we accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior we were then adopted into the “family of God”, with the full inheritance as promised by God to his people, through Jesus Christ His son. There are people whom I love and respect within the “family” that today are suffering illnesses, lost loved ones and at this very moment have begun their journey home; it is amazing but so true, God knows their every need.

Well, if you have read this far thank you for enduring this blog. I really drew a blank, some say writers block. To be brief and to the point, I just didn’t have anything to write about. When you can’t pray, just be still and let the groaning of the Spirit pray for you. Today I just shared what was on my heart, I hope you enjoyed you time in the pew.  Oh yes before I forget. Those five books…there are still four left. Join me in the pew next week and we will take a look at one of those. Check out the link below.

jk

http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/10-amazing-bible-facts/#ixzz4mj0gy07c

The Less Traveled Road

 

 

All believers will travel a road of enlightenment and hopefully grow in faith and service to Jesus Christ but not all roads will take us to the foot of the cross and promised salvation. The road I speak of is our journey into the christian fellowship, the embracing of the word of God and seeking the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Becoming a vital living, serving member of the family of God; to which we have been adopted through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We all are on that journey seeking our very own Pentecost. Many will enter into christian fellowship, joining a church and embracing the word through Sunday school and the preached word. There the journey stops, sadly they never reach their own “Pentecost”. Using “road” as a metaphor, what mode of transportation is available? There are many, Today’s post will focus on the word of God as written in the bible. This is the most common road offered but in reality the least followed. As I always do here is an excerpt from bible.org.

“The first five books of the Bible are sometimes called the Pentateuch which means “five books.” They are also known as the books of the law because they contain the laws and instruction given by the Lord through Moses to the people of Israel. These books were written by Moses, except for the last portion of Deuteronomy because it tells about the death of Moses. These five books lay the foundation for the coming of Christ in that here God chooses and brings into being the nation of Israel. As God’s chosen people, Israel became the custodians of the Old Testament, the recipients of the covenants of promise, and the channel of Messiah” bible.org

Scripture supporting that view.
Romans 3:2  Plenty in every way. First of all, the Jews were trusted with God’s revelations.

Romans 9:1-5  I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

“Then there is the Biblical apocrypha (from the Greek ἀπόκρυφος, apókruphos, meaning “hidden”) denotes the collection of ancient books found in some editions of Christian Bibles in a separate section between the Old and New Testaments[1] or as an appendix after the New Testament.[2] Some Christian Churches include some or all of the same texts within the body of their version of the Old Testament.” (Wikipedia)

Most Christian church goers know little or nothing about these books.

Then there is of courseThe New Testament, “as usually received in the Christian Churches, is made up of twenty-seven different books attributed to eight different authors, six of whom are numbered among the Apostles (Matthew, John, Paul, James, Peter, Jude) and two among their immediate disciples (Mark, Luke). The New Testament was not written all at once. The books that compose it appeared one after another in the space of fifty years, i.e. in the second half of the first century. Written in different and distant countries and addressed to particular Churches, they took some time to spread throughout the whole of Christendom, and a much longer time to become accepted.”

The above is from http://www.catholic.org/bible/new_testament.php, this is a great read for those who want a bare bones article about the bible, history and origin.

In an article written by ED STETZER in July of 2015 he shares his concern that we are basically a nation of “bible illiterates”. Tough words but the numbers tend to prove him right.

The Sad Statistics
“Christians claim to believe the Bible is God’s Word. We claim it’s God’s divinely inspired, inerrant message to us. Yet despite this, we aren’t reading it. A recent LifeWay Research study found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible—essentially the same number who read it every day.”

I have over the years noticed a marked preference among church goers to avoid the Old Testament writings, preferring to read and study the New Testament. So…What is Old Testament vs New Testament? The Old Testament is a record of the giving of God’s Law. The New Testament shows how Jesus the Messiah fulfilled that Law (Matthew 5:17; Hebrews 10:9). In the Old Testament, God’s dealings are mainly with His chosen people, the Jews; in the New Testament, God’s dealings are mainly with His church (Matthew 16:18). I need a better answer and I favor one I found on this web site.
https://www.gotquestions.org/difference-old-new-testaments.html

“While the Bible is a unified book, there are differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In many ways, they are complementary. The Old Testament is foundational; the New Testament builds on that foundation with further revelation from God. The Old Testament establishes principles that are seen to be illustrative of New Testament truths. The Old Testament contains many prophecies that are fulfilled in the New. The Old Testament provides the history of a people; the New Testament focus is on a Person. The Old Testament shows the wrath of God against sin (with glimpses of His grace); the New Testament shows the grace of God toward sinners (with glimpses of His wrath).”

I am very aware that the only true road to salvation is the one that leads us to believe and declare Jesus Christ, is the risen son of the only God, and that through him alone will we find the grace of the father and life everlasting. We are seeing in the church today an overwhelming effort to pervert or a nicer way of saying it, interpret scripture in a manner that allows today’s new culture and societal practices to somehow seem acceptable within the christian community and the family of God. I don’t know if we do it intentionally or if it has just become a normal practice but it seems as if we ignore or at least avoid some of the Old Testament writings. There are certain books of the OT Bible we avoid because they make people un-comfortable or have become a lighting rod which opens the door to discord that divides and destroys the churches ability to meet its calling. We need to once again come to the understanding that neither ( OT or NT ) can or is supposed to stand alone. We cannot and should not ignore, change the meaning, or rewrite God’s relationship and plans for his people through the written word, just to find social acceptance in the world today. Matthew leaves no doubt or wiggle room.

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

This verse right there tells you that all of the basic moral commandments set out by God the Father in the Old Testament still apply for all of us today. This includes all of the 10 Commandments, all the commands not to engage in occult, getting tattoos, etc……But wait…thats old hat, things and people change, times change. Really, do you believe maybe God might change? What road are you traveling today. Got your bible with you? Do you read and study it daily, all the bible, or are you just hanging around the edges.

I pray you will find your Pentecost.

jk

Suneidēsis……The Christian Thorn

We may never know much about the thorn Paul wrote of or even what it might have been. There has been much speculation by biblical scholars as to what it was or might have been. I do not suggest that today’s blog topic was it but I do believe it could very well be mine and yours as we work at living a Holy Life. Never had thought about this even though I often have used the word conscience many times and have even used it as an analogy suggesting that what we referred to as conscience,  was for the Christian, possibly the Spirit speaking to us. A new book, which I acquired on the suggestion of a friend in the faith has led me to today’s blog subject. The book written by Calvin J Roetzel, now in its sixth printing is titled “The Letters of Paul”. Less than twenty pages in and Wham! A few words written by the author and I am encouraged to do some internet surfing and of course spend some time with Merriam Webster. It seems from times gone by and up to this very moment there has always been this thing called conscience, depicted in the secular world as that little man on our shoulder, sometimes even as a little devil, or a kinder picture being that of a cricket, “Jiminy Cricket” to be exact. In his book Mr Roetzel suggests that for Paul there were “things of the conscience”  that were there in times of his following Christ. At this point I guess we should ask, just what is this “conscience thing”? We found and favor this definition.

“The conscience is defined as that part of the human psyche that induces mental anguish and feelings of guilt when we violate it and feelings of pleasure and well-being when our actions, thoughts and words are in conformity to our value systems. The Greek word translated “conscience” in all New Testament references is suneidēsis, meaning “moral awareness” or “moral consciousness.” The conscience reacts when one’s actions, thoughts, and words conform to, or are contrary to, a standard of right and wrong.” (gotquestions.org)

May I suggest some areas that interest me in relation to what things that might drive this “conscience thing”. One being Cultural Awareness.

Cultural Awareness
-the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one’s conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action: to follow the dictates of conscience.

-the complex of ethical and moral principles that controls or inhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual.

It is suggested that this cultural framework, is a term used in social science to describe traditions, value systems, myths and symbols that are common in a given society. A given society may have multiple cultural frameworks. I found it interesting that in some of my reading it was noted that the Hebrew saw himself as a member of a covenant community, not as an individual, and that community being one related to God and his laws. That is to say that a Hebrew was confident in his relationship to God as long as the Hebrew nation as a whole was in good fellowship with him. That being the Hebrew way of looking at conscience, let’s look at the Christian side of this “conscience thing”. Now I could stumble around for a couple of hundred words or so but I believe that which is written in an article in gotquestions.org is a much better and clearer way.

“The New Testament concept of conscience is more individual in nature and involves three major truths. First, conscience is a God-given capacity for human beings to exercise self-evaluation. Paul refers several times to his own conscience being “good” or “clear” (Acts 23:1; 24:16; 1 Corinthians 4:4). Paul examined his own words and deeds and found them to be in accordance with his morals and value system, which were, of course, based on God’s standards. His conscience verified the integrity of his heart.
Second, the New Testament portrays the conscience as a witness to something. Paul says the Gentiles have consciences that bear witness to the presence of the law of God written on their hearts, even though they did not have the Mosaic Law (Romans 2:14-15). He also appeals to his own conscience as a witness that he speaks the truth (Romans 9:1) and that he has conducted himself in holiness and sincerity in his dealings with men (2 Corinthians 1:12). He also says that his conscience tells him his actions are apparent to both God and the witness of other men’s consciences (2 Corinthians 5:11).”

Here lies a fault of today’s society. We tend to not acknowledge those values we disagree with and they receive little or no consideration as to how we interact with others. With all the issues facing the Christian community these days, that is a rather narrow view. We tend to simplify this “conscience thing” by bypassing the obvious question, “what forces shape our values and guides our consciences?” Are we influenced by a conscience guided by Godly thoughts or are we influenced by the culture of the day? First I guess it would be best to understand this “state of consciousness”. My trusty dictionary says it is “the quality or state of being aware especially of something within oneself.” This fits perfectly one of the defining characteristics of Paul. Paul was very much aware of what was his inner-self so to speak or more plainly from a Christian viewpoint, the leading of the Holy Spirit with-in himself.

We need to ask ourselves what is it that feeds our conscience? Is it the word of God and the desire to follow the example of Christ and submit to the will of the father in our lives? Are we obedient to God’s law as given by him in the Ten Commandments.

“Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts” (Psalm 119:97-100, NKJV)

Is it really that simple? What about the pressures of the day? Would it not be reasonable to expect that if we accepted the cultural permissiveness of this day and even worse embraced them, our attempts to live a Holy Life might be compromised? If what we feed our conscience is made of the current cultural permissiveness, could that be a problem for the Christian person? If we look at our conscience as a way to evaluate our actions, then would it not be reasonable to believe that it could be a thorn in our side? I know I have once again left you with more questions than answers. I do find it comforting that beyond the words there was a person who was just like us. We all struggle every day to live a Holy Life and it is remarkable that Paul sought to be “of good conscience” as a servant of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

How about you? Are you of good Conscience? There is that old adage “you are what you eat” implying that what we take in can effect our bodily health. It is stated in such a way that it is not condemning but does put the responsibility on the person to whom it is directed. Could we say that our conscience is an old adage that calls our attention and responsibility to carefully consider what motivates our actions and speech? If you have read this far, I thank you for staying in the pew and allowing me to ponder openly with you.
God is Great! I would pray that all of us would welcome the Holy Spirit into our lives, even when God uses it to through our conscience to give us direction to continue in “the way.”

God Bless,
jk

 

 

The Theocracy of Hate….. Purveyor of Unrest


Few will disagree that our nation today is one of general unrest and that civil discourse is almost impossible due to the turmoil that exists among our people. Turmoil which is best described as a state or condition of extreme confusion, agitation, or commotion brought on by the hate and rhetoric of people determined to destroy anything they disagree with. This effort is aided by a complacent media that no longer reports news but instead choses to write the news. Where do we in the pew fit into this world of uncivil behavior driven by hate and thirst for power? First thing that comes to my mind is that a Christian, a follower of the way could not meet God’s commandment that we are to “Live a Holy Life” and subscribe to any of the beliefs or practices that are destroying our society. Please stay with me through this blog, be aware I am stretching a bit to make a point.

My first stretch is to give form to this madness. The first place we go of course would be the political parties, who themselves are going through a transformation of sorts. Why here first? Because political parties are constantly seeking to gain or consolidate their power base, and power corrupts.We can then move on to factions within these and here lies one of our clues. There are the liberals, the conservatives and add to that the “far left” and of course the “far right”, the last two sometimes referred to as “ultra”. We all can agree that dialogue between these groups can be difficult but we have moved way past that. Still…..while these differences of opinion can be heated, they are not the problem.

My second stretch is to suggest what is driving this destruction of civility and tolerance, to give it form, so I suggest this rather unusual thought. Theocracy……and yes I can hear you asking, does he know what a theocracy is?
theocracies. 1 : government of a state by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided. 2 : a state governed by a theocracy.(www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/theocracy)

Stay with me now. I am saying that this level of hate and lack of civil discourse requires some form of organization. I am saying we are seeing a new form of government. Now some folks are pointing to a shadow government, there has always been a shadow government. Ever hear of those “smoked filled back rooms”? We are dealing with a “Theocracy of Hate”. Those involved in this belong to a government built on hate and have become the powerful “Purveyors of Unrest”. I am simply suggesting that this environment of hate, intolerance , and lack of civility contains a well organized and informed structure which is well financed, closely controlled and goal oriented. It operates like a Theocracy, led by people who are considered to be infallible in judgement to the point that their orders are treated as if they came from a divine source. Disobedience to the source is not tolerated. Talking points, the political process of plausible argumentative replies used to answer a difference of opinion, well they have become a holy mantra of justification.

The “third stretch” is recognizing that this particular Theocracy has also become a “Purveyor of Unrest” within the community of faith, the family of God and those who try each day to live a holy life. Yes folks we are like a bunch of frogs in a pot filled with water waiting to come to a boil. By the time we feel the heat it will be to late. We see what is going on around us but refuse to accept the fact that this “Theocracy of Hate” has allowed this purveyor to come among us and peddle daily the increments of unrest that weakens the faith. You may ask, what might these be? One of the most important and the one that leads us to the rest, is this insatiable desire to rewrite the Word as to its meaning so as to fit the demands of today’s society. Now I realize that a statement such as “meaning of the word” leaves open the process of opinion and that is not all bad. There are many within the church whose “opinions” are crafted to advance their agendas in order to consolidate their positions and power. Hey, you think I might have left the barn with a few less bales of hay than needed? Look at what those who held positions of power and influence in Christ’s day were willing to do to maintain and strengthen it. Call it what it was, a political murder.

I asked at the very first of this post “Where do we in the pew fit into this world of uncivil behavior driven by hate and thirst for power?” The answer for the committed Christian…….WE DON”T. The Kingdom of God is not of this world and we have been called out, to be different, to be a living example of the love of the Father for his children. We read in Isaiah 57: 20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. The wicked will always be with us constantly causing problems which creates the unrest among the Community of Faith. So what to do. It might seem harsh but we cannot allow ourselves to be drawn along the path they have chosen to walk. If we are to have peace within or hearts and minds we must heed that which is written in Isaiah 57:21 There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.” We must separate ourselves from their evil ways. You may interpret this however you wish. Let’s move on to Lamentations 5:5 Our pursuers are at our necks; we are weary; we are given no rest. Think about this for a moment. We are besieged by those who wish to marginalize our faith and denigrate our God. I will stretch a little more within this stretch. In Deuteronomy Chapter 12, verses 8-14 we are told God will choose a special place for His people to worship, rejoice and rest in the promised land. In verse 12:9  for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the Lord your God is giving you. Even though this book is written before our reading of Lamentations there is some advice here that can be carried forward and makes sense. Amen, we have not yet come to that place. There is still work to be done and souls to be saved. Going back to Isaiah 59:8 The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace. We as the Church cannot allow ourselves to be caught up in this
theocracy of hate which will sow the seeds of unrest among our community and weaken our ability to “Go Forth….” I close with these words of our Lord and Savior

John 14:27
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

jk

 

Law, An Adventure in Opinion

I am not a theologian or a lawyer but can’t get this subject off my mind. It has been said that a good writer always writes about those things he knows about which makes my writing about this even more puzzling. I can read and the tools of the digital age allow me access to a great deal of information. I was drawn to this topic because of the prevailing attitude concerning Laws and Rules. I consider rules to be the children of Law and they can sometimes become a bit unruly. Then as I pondered on this sudden revelation I was drawn in even more by a news story in the Washington Post, the link will be included later in this blog.

For law to work best it must be enforceable, fair and written in such a way that it protects those values that best reflect the will of the majority. There are of course other views. I will quote from Wikipedia:

“Law is a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Law as a system helps regulate and ensure that a community show respect, and equality amongst themselves. The law shapes politics, economics, history and society in various ways and serves as a mediator of relations between people.”

I think it can be said with some confidence that the influence of religious beliefs form the basis of many secular laws that are written. Our constitution in part is written by men of religious leanings, some of which worked their way into our constitution. The point of today’s blog is the disturbing trend of people to just simply ignore the law as written because it does not fit their agenda or social needs. Again I go to Wikipedia to look at another form of law.

“Canon law is the body of laws and regulations made by ecclesiastical authority (Church leadership), for the government of a Christian organization or church and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law, or operational policy, governing the Catholic Church (both the Latin Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches), the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the individual national churches within the Anglican Communion. The way that such church law is legislated, interpreted and at times adjudicated varies widely among these three bodies of churches. In all three traditions, a canon was originally a rule adopted by a church council; these canons formed the foundation of canon law.”

Please understand that I am aware of how tedious a read this can be but I want to be accurate and fair. So we start here. Over the past few years, months, weeks and days there has been a display of open disdain for the law as written, discussed, voted on and enacted in the required manner. Immigration laws, sanctuary city laws and just recently our withdrawal from the Paris Accords. Now the Paris thing is a bit different but the response to it by certain interests fits with the direction I am going. If you don’t agree just ignore. I might add that Paris is an agreement not a Law. Here again we see that opinion is far more important than law or any agreement. We have looked at two different forms of law and now I will add a third, again from Wikipedia.

“The Seven Laws of Noah (Hebrew: שבע מצוות בני נח Sheva Mitzvot B’nei Noah), also referred to as the Noahide Laws or the Noachide Laws (from the English transliteration of the Hebrew pronunciation of “Noah”), are a set of imperatives which, according to the Talmud, were given by God as a binding set of laws for the “children of Noah” – that is, all of humanity.
Accordingly, any non-Jew who adheres to these laws because they were given by Moses is regarded as a righteous gentile, and is assured of a place in the world to come (Hebrew: עולם הבא Olam Haba), the final reward of the righteous.
The seven Noahide laws as traditionally enumerated are the following:
1 Do not deny God.
2 Do not blaspheme God.
3 Do not murder.
4 Do not engage in illicit sexual relations.
5 Do not steal.
6 Do not eat from a live animal.
7 Establish courts/legal system to ensure obedience to said laws.

According to the Talmud, the rabbis agree that the seven laws were given to the sons of Noah. However, they disagree on precisely which laws were given to Adam and Eve. Six of the seven laws are energetically derived from passages in Genesis, with the seventh being the establishing of courts.”

There is another type of law, the “Law of God”. I have used that term a time or two in different blogs and it can open a whole new subject for a blog. But let’s keep it simple.How does all of this tie together? It seems that regardless of the origin of the law we have evolved to a place in time that in some issues have no law but that of opinion, and it is divided. We choose to do that which pleases us or fits our agendas, which begs the question, why the law? This may not be the best answer but I liked the fact that it is simple and straight forward.

“Law is simply a guide for people to follow to ensure cohesion, agreement, and peace in civil and interpersonal relationships. Without an understood standard, enforced by a sovereign ruler, everyone would act according to his own whim or desire, and nothing good or worthwhile would be produced” (http://www.truegospel.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Basics.tour/ID/6/What-are-Laws-of-Kingdom.htm)

I have noted that the references to the law above are from Wikipedia, you might want to seek other definitions elsewhere. I will continue on with what I have here. At the start of this blog I pointed out that it is best to write about things you have knowledge of, my next point. For more than 34 years I identified as a United Methodist and still hold a great affection for its people. The Methodist Church today is engulfed in a difference of opinion concerning same-gender issues. I am not going to mire this blog in an argument in which I have no standing. (I am a Christian so of course I have a faith-based reason about this issue.) I intend to use this as an example of the power of Opinion over Law. I refer you to:

Book of Discipline (United Methodist)
The Book of Discipline contains the laws, rules, policies and guidelines for The United Methodist Church. Its last edition was published in 2016. Without going to the link above I pulled this out and it serves the point I wish to make.

“…….is followed by a brief history of the church, then the church constitution, and a statement concerning the doctrine and theology of the church. The Social Principles of the church follow. Finally the legislative section, by far the largest part of The Discipline, appears.”

Other denominations have similar publications that serve the same propose.The following news story is an excellent example of the issue I am writing about. Let’s be clear that this is church law, earlier I listed some secular laws that have seen challenges based on opinion. The church law contained within the Methodist Discipline states that this is not allowed and provides actions to be taken. Before we jump on my Methodist friends we should make it clear that this particular issue has risen its ugly head in many other main-line denominations. The issue here is not the same-gender thing but the this practice of discarding, ignoring, and other wise completely by-passing law in favor of an opinion is not owned by any one group or interest. The link below is the story I have referenced.

www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/06/07/the-united-methodist-church-just-appointed-a-transgender-deacon/?utm_term=.1d9c77c771d2

I started out with the statement that Law is an adventure in Opinion. Why is this? If we incorporate our laws into rules that reflect the Rule of Law, how is it that Opinion, secular or religious now is in many issues the ruling factor. It would seem to me that a law which has been put into place by whatever agreed process is in place and is recognized by a majority vote of the government, institution, or organization would require a similar process to change the law or rule. Do we now live in a society that simply accepts and agrees on what Opinion has the loudest backing, the most money or the ability to just accept their view as Law and to obey the law is optional based on their opinion?

I guess I have left you with more questions than answers. You might say you are confused as to where I was trying to go with this. So am I…….I leave you with this thought. If we are unable to determine when life begins and after all these years we still have a difference of opinion as to how that applies here…….then I guess all our lives are subject to the Opinions of others.
God Bless,
jk