Tanakh, The Hebrew Bible…Jews, Christians and The Word of God

I am not sure how I got to this title but I will go with it any way. While it might seem strange why I would focus on the Jewish Bible, consider this. If you took the “good book” and open it to Genesis read a bit and then opened the Jewish Bible, Tanakh, read it a bit, it would almost be like looking in a mirror.  Oh there will be some different words here and there and there is only one Bible which has been translated into over 2000 languages. Currently, there are more than 40 different versions in English, from the King James Version, which was published in 1611 and is still going strong, to modern versions, some of them very simplified. (English.https://www.quora.com/How-many-different-types-of-Bibles-are-there-How-are-they-written)

I was drawn to this subject by the differences of the day that plague us in increasing fervor in the church today. There are so many issues that divide us because of societal pressures and the church’s struggle to remain relevant in the lives of its people. Both the OT and the NT are of one God but there is a natural tendency to view each differently and negate one to a lesser role.  Bible translation began about 2000 years ago. It connects us with our heritage and our inheritance, we are after all the adopted children of God through the body and blood of the risen Christ. Now days there is little of the OT in our bible studies in church.The Tanakh , the result of the coming together of a number of Jewish scholars and rabbis from the three largest branches of organized Jewish life in America, resulted in bringing together the three main translations of the Jewish bible. Started in 1955 the ongoing translation was published in  three main stages. The Torah in 1962, The Prophets, (Nevi’im) in 1978 and The Writings (Kethuvim) 1982, all three with applicable revisions were brought together in English in the form of today’s Tanakh. What drew me to the Jewish Bible was the sudden realization that this great written treasure of God’s mercy and redemption was not due to random events of history but rather the will of God and his desire to reconcile with his people.

(The Scriptural witness to the Son of God, however, did not begin with the New Testament – it first appears in the Old Testament in the abbreviated form of “Son” (with one exception).  While the number of Old Testament references to Son [of God]are nowhere near as numerous as that in the New Testament, they are extremely significant and have helped Christians recognize that Jesus Christ is indeed this Son of God and what the Bible means by this phrase.)   

 http://biblicalmissiology.org/2013/02/11/son-of-god-in-the-old-testament/ 

For it is written:

But the LORD will still give you proof. A virgin is pregnant; she will have a son and will name him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

A child is born to us!

A son is given to us!

And he will be our ruler.

He will be called, “Wonderful Counselor,”

“Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,”

“Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

New Testament writing: 

Galatians 3:28-29 King James Version (KJV)

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

I find peace, continuity, certainty, promise and redemption in the scriptures. There is one God, one salvation and one savior before whom all people will stand to be judged by the only judge that matters. We as mortals may find many things that divide us but old things prepare us for the wonders of new things. All things are of God…..Amen

Come back next week, God bless.

Life is Good

jk

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Responsibility The Glue That Holds It All Together

 

Authority, Accountability, neither works well unless there is a reasonable amount of responsibility that is driving these two attributes. God has given us both individually and collectively a sense of responsibility. Quite reasonable to say that this particular thing, responsibility, differs in intensity among we humans. God at that moment in the garden gave the human race a guide to their responsibilities: Genesis 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

We shouldn’t look at that verse as a to do list but rather a very plain listing of what was expected, you might say, our earthly responsibilities. Responsibility can and often does mean different things to different people. In Matthew 25: 14-30 we have the story of the master who was to be traveling for a while  choose  to give three of his servants each a different number of these bags for them to keep safe until he returned. He had wisely thought it best not to carry such wealth while on the road. Sometimes this biblical account leaves me wondering. I find no instruction as to what they were to do with this wealth that had been entrusted to them other than keeping it safe and they would be held accountable to him because they and they alone were responsible for it. There are many scriptures where responsibility is given by God to certain individuals and it is often followed by accountability. Here is a twist I didn’t see coming when I started this weeks blog,  responsibility can also be a corporate thing. Groups, organizations, even churches have corporate responsibilities to their members and their communities. Be a good time here to look at the definition of responsibility.the state of being the person who caused something to happen

: a duty or task that you are required or expected to do

: something that you should do because it is morally right, legally required, etc.

One of the more common aspects of responsibility is the nature of a man to deny responsibility for his failures or transgressions . This usually takes the path of blaming others when we fall short of the goal. Of course one of the best known “blame games” in the Bible took place in the garden. Adam blamed Eve, and ultimately even the Lord, for the sin in which he found himself. Of course Eve blamed the serpent. The scripture is full of examples of God’s people blaming others for many different things. Sarah was not happy with Abraham when Hagar bore him a son, even though it was her advice to Abraham that initiated that event. Esau sold his birthright to his brother Jacob then complained that Jacob had deceived him to get the birthright. Arron made the golden calf but would not own up to it and Pilate washing his hands of any responsibility for Jesus’ death. 

  Paul addresses the issue of accountability in the Book of Romans. He also established that God is righteous and his judgment is based on truth (Romans 2: 2).  We all, each one of us will be individually  held accountable before God. (Romans 14:12)

Paul reminds us in Romans 1:25:

25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

The Israelites had the law, in some ways they were privileged but with that privilege came a greater responsibility. (Romans 2:9)   

There are none among us that are righteous, we have all sinned. Jews, Gentiles, all must come to Christ and repent. 

Wrapping this series up I will leave you with these thoughts. It is my opinion that of the three responsibility is the most important and here is why. Authority is granted or given, Accountability is imposed……responsibility is an inherent trait which when all is said and done will determine how we use that authority and how we hold others accountable. 

Thanks for sticking with us through this series. Hope to see you back in the pew next week.

Life is Good

jk

With Authority Comes……..Accountability

This is the second in a three-part series. Last week we started with authority looking at the biblical side of this word. As we did last week let’s first look at the secular side of the word.

Accountability

: the quality or state of being accountable; especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions

Part of being held accountable is to accept responsibility and next week we will look at that. I have always felt that one of the attributes of the Christian that is a problem for many people is that we are not fond of being held accountable. Romans 14: 12 is a fair summary of the teaching put forth in this scripture.

12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

This can get a bit confusing but we will try to put some weight behind our reasoning. From a Christian perspective we acknowledge that authority begins with God. Romans 4: 12 above clearly states that there is a moral ruler of the world whose desires for us  were revealed to all through the law but in Romans 4:15 those of us who believe that God gave us free will, we are given this little nugget to ponder.

15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.

There were those to whom the law of Moses was not given yet they are not excused from accountability because it is shown that even heathen had the law to some extent revealed in conscience; so that they are “without excuse” (Romans 1:20). 

20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Now we will carry this a bit further. Paul wrote in Romans 2: 12

12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.

Then we point to the book of Luke and his recording of Jesus Christ’s words on this subject.

Luke 12: 47-48

47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Simply put we will all be held accountable. There is always the truth that as we grow it is reasonable to believe we mature and our knowledge grows and it is only reasonable that so does our accountability for our actions in this life. WE seem to put too great a premium on ignorance, using it as an excuse for our behavior. Sometimes we excuse bad behavior because of  mitigating circumstances. In our secular dealings concerning accountability this often can determine the severity of judgement. Consider this if you will. Christians know that there is a higher authority that calls us to account for our actions. Suppose you say “I was drunk and did not know what I was doing.” It is best we understand   God’s accountability and will and in this higher court you will be guilty twice….for being drunk and then for your actions. Why do some find this concept of accountability before God as being so strange, even among the non-believers there is a sense of judgement for personal actions. Everywhere in the world today there is some kind of law or form of acceptable behavior. When broken there is accountability and judgement. Jesus spoke often of the life to come and of being held accountable in the form of a divine judgement that all people would face. It is not unreasonable to believe that this includes all people, did not God create all things?

I could go on and on with this but the end result is the same for God’s people.  For Christians Authority is a God thing and so is Accountability. While we are not exempt from secular law, we are made strong through the promise of God’s Law.

Next week the last in this series, we will look at Responsibility in a Biblical sense. 

Thanks for coming by.

Life is Good

jk

  

  

Authority, Accountability and Responsibility A RE-DO

While reviewing some past blogs I came across one written on February 8, 2015, Authority, Accountability and Responsibility. We had these motivational meetings that were designed to help us all be of one mind, you know a team thing. I recall thinking of those days as the Feel Good About Me and You Days. It was like Mr. Rogers had come to work. I have always remembered the three words that this particular training exercise was designed around. Authority, Accountability and Responsibility three words that I supposed were important to us as individuals and as a team. Here are the secular definitions for each.

Authority

: the power to give orders or make decisions: the power or right to direct or control someone or something

: the confident quality of someone who knows a lot about something or who is respected or obeyed by other people

: a quality that makes something seem true or real

Accountability

: the quality or state of being accountable; especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions

Responsibility

the state of being the person who caused something to happen

: a duty or task that you are required or expected to do

: something that you should do because it is morally right, legally required, etc.

 It is amazing to read the Christian perspective as written in the Gospel. For the next three weeks we will look at each of these words in the biblical sense. This week we will start with Authority, the secular definition.

: the power to give orders or make decisions: the power or right to direct or control someone or something

: the confident quality of someone who knows a lot about something or who is respected or obeyed by other people

First we should acknowledge that authority begins with God, for there is no authority except from God ( Rom 13:1 ). Remember we are looking at authority in a biblical way. We might note that authority is the freedom to decide or a right to act without hindrance. God has the right to create and shape our world as he pleases.( Rom 9:21 ) Authority is a thing of prerogative and  is valueless without the power to make it effective. God granted and provided the power of authority to the Prophets, to the Apostles and how can we not believe that through God’s authority and power, Paul took the gospel to all the people as he was commanded to do. To the Christian, authority is a God thing. 

Second, we are reasonably sure that authority requires the power, and ability given by God for it to become a factor in any situation. Example, Satan has the authority to function within the area established by God. God gave Jesus the authority to forgive sins ( Matt 9:6-8 ) and to drive out spirits. ( Mark 6:7 ) It’s a Powered by God thing.

Third, the word authority is often used to justify or validate an action or procedure, a warrant if you will to perform said action or procedure, a granting of said authority. Another word used here is a “license”, for example to build up the church.( 2 Co 10:8 ) Saul was sent to Damascus with a warrant to persecute the Christians by the authority of the priests. ( Acts 26:12 ) Jesus was asked by what authority he taught such things.( Matt 21:23 ) 

Christians know or should know that all power and authority is from God. We must look at the Greek word exousia, (ex-oo-see’-ah) from which translated comes the word authority whose short meaning is power to act, authority. Strong’s Concordance puts forth this definition: (a) power, authority, weight, especially: moral authority, influence, (b) in a quasi-personal sense, derived from later Judaism, of a spiritual power, and hence of an earthly power. Let’s go to the next point that is important in the study of God’s word. What of the prophets, disciples, and even Jesus? Returning to Strong’s Concordance and that word, exousia,  

In the NT, 1849 /eksousía (“delegated power”) refers to the authority God gives to His saints –authorizing them to act to the extent they are guided by faith (His revealed word).

This brings us to our Fourth point. It is written that the fourth use of authority is noteworthy from a theological perspective. All of us at different points of our lives submit to authority by constraint or conviction. We live under the authority of God, our creator. When we seek to live under our own authority or place our trust in other things, we are then open to sin and separated from God. It is a tendency of human nature that we seek independence from authority, setting ourselves up as the ruling and final authority of our life actions. There are many interesting things written on this subject of Godly authority and the areas of our life where it should prevail. All of us will find issues with authority within our homes, with government and of course the church. We can find scriptural guidance in God’s word. In Peter 2:13-14 we find instructions concerning governing authorities. In Ephesians 6:1-2 children are told to obey their parents. We must be mindful that it is with God’s granting of that authority that we comply. If that authority violates God’s trust, then such authority no longer exists. But if God’s trust, word and will are subverted, then we may as we read in Acts 5:29 disobey.

Much more could be written on this subject and some of it I am sure would be controversial. During the time of Christ, the disciples received their authority from the lordship of God the Father through obedience to Jesus. Then Jesus Christ delegated authority to the apostles to lead the church in its affairs. Are those things which we do today in the church, in God’s name and authority in keeping with his will. And do they warrant his trust and granting of authority?

Thank you for coming by the pew this week. God bless and remember,

Life is Good

jk

Teaching, Coveted Prestige…Greater Condemnation

It is James’s conviction that teaching is a dangerous profession and failure is always met with greater condemnation because it is chosen not imposed and far greater is expected of those who chose to teach. In the early church the teachers had the awesome responsibility of receiving the converts and instructing them in the New Way and educating them in the Christian faith. The apostles and the prophets were constantly traveling, they did not have a particular congregation to minister to, to these teachers they handed over the converts. Just think of how inspiring it was to know that you had the opportunity to instill your faith values on those who were entering the Church for the first time. This was a huge responsibility and with it came a problem.This system, for lack of a better word, was fraught with teachers who sought to simply make Christianity just another form of Judaism. There were those whose lives were a contradiction of what they taught and they only brought dishonor to the faith. Then there were those who sought to teach without the knowledge needed and of course those who pandered to the desires of the crowd. All of the aforementioned problems are still to this day present in the church.

Today’s blog is meant to enlighten not to condemn teachers or those who are considering such a calling. Those who follow that call set out on a perilous journey because of the temptations that challenges our character. James has much to say about Christian teachers in these first few words in chapter three. As stated above you will find many examples in the NT writings of teachers that failed their responsibilities, James laying much of that on the fact that speech was the instrument they had to use, a dangerous thing in itself, powered by of course, the tongue. Let’s look at other distractions, while subtle, are very much are at play. Many of these teachers took the place of the Rabbis in Judaism. Many of these were saintly men but like the Rabbis were treated with such respect and awe that it was possible to ruin a man’s character, to give them an overwhelming sense of importance brought about by the treatment of the people around them. There is the danger of spiritual and intellectual pride. They would be teaching young people and those new to the faith and James lists two other things that could be cause of failure. 

-They must teach the truth, free of their own opinions or even their own prejudices.

A couple of things here to be considered. We are in a period in the church today where the way we look at things is being driven by societal needs and the heightened awareness of social justice. It is a Christian attribute to love your neighbor as yourself, no argument here but there should be concern when the intent of scripture as written is debated and marginalized to include those agendas that contradict its intent. I will follow that up with an opinion of my own. To use truth to marginalize another person is also not right. I know you can’t have it both ways but it seems to me that truth without compassion is not a Godly thing.

-When what you say is overpowered by what you do, you have failed. Never get into the position where those you are teaching cannot hear you because they are  listening to what you are. Do not say one thing and then do another. James leaves us with two thoughts in verse 2 that are woven into Jewish thought and literature.

-we all sin at one time or another, we are sometimes caught off guard, we mess up and we lose our focus on living a Holy Life.

-It is made plain that sin is made easy and consequences greater through carless spoken words.

In the next set of verses James speaks to the issues of the tongue. That is another blog in itself. I just simply wanted to share a view from the pew of how important a role those who teach and lead need to realize the importance of their work in the Church. People have been playing loose with the word forever but it is more important now than ever that we welcome those new to the faith, those struggling with their faith, those living in the faith and those just watching God’s people in everyday life, are told the truth. 

I close the blog today with another personal opinion. There are many great teachers, commentaries and books and of course the Bible itself but there is only one truth.

John 1:14

 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:17

17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Pray, seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and be faithful to your God. As always thanks for coming by the Pew this week. 

God Bless, Life is Good

jk

Resource Material for this blog…..DBS, William Barclay

On Even Ground, Respect of Persons

Respect of Persons,  sounds innocent enough, no word or phase exercise here. In studying James chapter two we find a different way of viewing the phrase as used. Seems it had come to mean undue and unfair favoritism; it means pandering to others because they are rich or influential or popular. Such favoritism is consistently condemned in biblical writings. It is a fault of which the orthodox Jewish leaders completely acquitted Jesus. Even they were bound to admit that there was no favoritism with him. The case for the condemnation of respecting persons according to their social or group status is wrong and many examples exist to prove this. Peter after his vision in Acts 10:34 learned that there is no partiality in God’s view of people. Romans 2:11, both Jews and Gentiles were subject to  the same judgement in God’s sight. This is a view that Paul lays upon his people again and again. The Old and New Testaments condemn partiality of judgment and favoritism of treatment by giving undue weight to a person’s social standing, wealth or worldly influence. Even today we know that at some time we are guilty of this and in some instances it extends into our churches at times.

Proverbs 22:2 The rich and the poor have this in common: the Lord is the maker of them all.

This subject is critical to the ministry of God’s people to His people. There were problems in the early church even though at that time the church was the only place that social distinctions did not exist. You know there had to be some uncomfortable moments, it would only be natural and I will guarantee those moments occur even now after all this time. It is hard for many of us to admit but we do make differences between ourselves and other people and groups. The harsh reality of Christianity is that in the presence of God, all are one. At this point it is important for me to be on record……My greatest concern is the knowledge that every day I fail to serve God, by allowing the world I live in to distract from what I know to be right in God’s eye. The question that begs to be asked is, do you sometimes make judgements based on appearance, status, ethnicity or just the plain fact they aren’t like us.

In James 2:4 the people are called out so to speak,”have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?”

We can look to Matthew 7:1,2 for a blunt to the point judgement of what James is saying.

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”

Plain and simple, no misunderstanding…….You are breaking a commandment when you judge others.

In James chapter two verses 5-7 there is a scathing indictment of those who continue to be judgmental. We must be careful as Christians not to engage in a judgement reversal here. The church needs rich and poor but here again is the weight of God’s will for his people….There is no Jew, no Gentile, no rich or poor in God’s eye all are equal. Many in the early church were poor. They heard the message in the streets, in homes and along the trade routes. They came to the church because there they found Hope, Grace, Forgiveness, Welcome and a God that loved all people. A God who loved all people without qualifiers. Here is a lesson we all would do well to note… “the message of Christianity was that those who mattered to no one else mattered intensely to God.” (Daily Bible Study, James pg 76”) In the society that James lived the rich did oppress the poor. In Christ there was welcome for all, especially for those who have no one to welcome them and a value had now been set on those who were once regarded as valueless. I close this weeks blog with these verses from James.

James 2:8–11 

If you perfectly keep the royal law, as the Scripture has it: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself’, you do well. But if you treat people with respect of persons, such conduct is sin and you stand convicted by the law as transgressors. For, if a man keeps the whole law and yet fails to keep it in one point, he becomes guilty of transgressing the law as a whole. For he who said ‘Do not commit adultery’ also said ‘Do not kill’. If you do not commit adultery but kill, you become a transgressor of the law. 

God holds all People to be Equal and Sin is Sin, and Sin separates from God. Living a Christian life in a world of different values is not easy and requires a constant effort of a faith that continuously seeks going on to Perfection. I pray your path follows the light that is Jesus Christ….Hope and Love for all people.

Life is Good

jk

The “Daily Bible Study” is a series of  NT Books, written by William Barclay and was a source for today’s blog.

Pharisees and Scribes…Self-Righteous Hypocrites or Zealots of Tradition?

Todays blog requires an additional question. Are there Pharisees among us today? Many believe that the Pharisees somehow are looked at a bit to harshly. Here is what we know. The Pharisees were an influential religious sect within Judaism in the time of Christ and the early church. The name, Pharisee, comes from a Jewish word meaning separated. They included the oral tradition in addition to the written law and they insisted that all Jews must obey all 600 plus laws in the Torah, along with the rituals contained in the purification ceremony. These men were mostly middle-class and held leadership positions in the synagogues. An interesting point is that they were a minority in the Sanhedrin as to the number of positions they held as priests, yet they also seemed to be able to control the decision-making of the Sanhedrin because they were popular with the people. Fast forward to today. There are many things that are contrary to our faith values today along with   questionable leadership which yet seems to flourish simply because it is popular with the people. I have included the Pharisees in other writings in the past but here is a fact that has eluded me until my recent readings. Among the Pharisees were two schools of thought, based on the teachings of two rabbis, Shammai and Hillel. No need to delve into that at this time but is interesting that after a period of time these two schools within Pharisaism became so hostile to each other that they would no longer worship together. Sound familiar? Think the of church splits that happen in today’s Christian community. You can find much more information about the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin in other books and study material.  

We are using scripture from Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23. Most of us have always been taught that the Pharisees and Scribes were self-righteous hypocrites, the bad guys in the narrative. Jesus himself calls them out as such. Are we to question our Lords spoken words, of which Mark has noted in these scripture readings? I don’t think so but I also believe that motive and intent are reasonable qualifiers in any situation and are pivotal to understanding the scripture fully. Sometimes good intentions can blind people and cause them to not trust God. Remember motive and intent? It is important that we at least consider the intent and motive of the Pharisees when reading these scriptures. Before God gave the law he told the people that they were to be a holy nation, priestly in their behavior among the nations around them. These men understood that God was calling them to be His people. They believed that the law was a gift to bring order into their lives as God’s people. For them to observe that law was a witness to the nations around them and  gave glory to God. I do not want to burden you with details and there are many but rather present a few facts for you to consider in future discussions about the Pharisees. One thing we all have in common with the Pharisees would be our attachment to traditions. They believed that the laws concerning the priests serving in the temple applied  to all of God’s people and all aspects of their lives. The fact that the priests had to wash their hands before entering the temple or offering a sacrifice was the basis of interpreting the law to mean that all Jews must wash their hands before a meal, making it a sacred time. The Pharisees intent was to bring all aspects of life under the canopy of God’s law. Their motive of protecting these traditions was their way of protecting the Jewish faith and way of life amid the Roman occupation. One of the best examples of this protective attitude is found in Mark 7:1-8. The real issue here was not proper hygiene. The Pharisees looked upon it as a neglect of tradition and undermining of God’s law. 

These Pharisees may have had some legitimate concerns in their day and time. It is my opinion that they acted with closed minds and sought to undermine anything that challenged what had become the tradition of Jews living out their lives and worshiping their God. There is one other factor that we must include….Power…Power to control God’s people and influence their religious life with the Law being first and foremost in all their life actions. In Mark 7  Jesus makes it very plain why he is so displeased with the Pharisees.

Mark 7:6-8, 14-15, 21-23 

6 He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ 8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” 

14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”

 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

There is no tradition that can protect us from the evil behavior of others or ourselves. The Pharisees got to the point where they thought themselves to be a rung above everyone else. They used the law as a leverage to separate themselves from those they deemed not worthy of God’s love. The Pharisees built a wall of law and tradition to keep others out. Now what about that other question? Are there Pharisees among us today? Yes, most definitely and here is a thought to take with you. The gospel shows us that true faithfulness is going among those considered unclean, loving those who are unloved and serving and giving our lives, time and resources to all people —

Matthew 25:35-36 New International Version (NIV)

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Matthew 22:37-40

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Sharing the word with you is an important part of my life for which I am most grateful. I am also grateful for the numerous authors, commentaries and articles that provide the material for these blogs. They, prayer and the Holy Spirit are my guides through this wonderful world of God’s word. As always I will endeavor to acknowledge the sources that provide these insights into the gospel each week.

Life is Good

Jk

Resource material for today’s blog is from an article written by Elisabeth Johnson, Professor, Lutheran Institute of Theology.

 

Immigration and The Church

 Once again a murder committed by an illegal alien has awakened the passions of both sides of this debate. I am of a small majority and there is the possibility, I may be the only one who believes that immigration is an issue of its own and the Church does not need to be involved in it. Say that again….The Church does not need to be involved in the immigration issue. It is fine for christians to bring their Christian Values to the debate and at this time in our nations history it is sorely needed. The church needs to direct its resources to the needs of those who are the victims of this ongoing immigration problem. As always another loss of life involving an illegal alien and down the same road we go. Here we see this identity trend pop up, more on that later.

As always in situations of this nature,  the narrative centers on the perpetrator and not the weapon, I make this distinction to make a point that the loss of life is overshadowed by the rush to gain political or social credit and to boost personal or organizational agendas. Because church today is influenced more than in past days by the pressure of social relevance, this is indeed a subject that resonates in the pew. Almost all denominations have issued position papers by leadership that explains their stance on immigration. Not everyone in every pew agrees totally with these particular statements, they differ from denomination to denomination. It is my opinion this has become a difficult issue because of an unintended turn of events surrounding immigration. We have been hearing about the evils of identity politics, which in turn has found its way into the immigration debate. This is taking us down a winding road that leads to no solution. Immigration has become a problem, why? People from all over the world have been coming to the United States from its very inception. I believe it is because we have assigned other factors to it, that complicate a very simple definition of immigrant as a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence and does so as prescribed by law. Notice that no where in this definition is there an identifier that makes one immigrant different from another. There are just to many labels being ascribed to those people caught in this dilemma, consider this list:  immigrant, alien, illegal alien, illegal alien/immigrant or that shortened description uttered in total frustration, an illegal. Here is another one to add, it is a bit milder and strangely enough, the least used. Migrant…but “there’s no one simple description of a migrant. Across the U.S. political spectrum, politicians and activists present Central American migrants as either dreamers or law-breakers; those fleeing violence or those abusing immigration loopholes; crying toddlers or MS-13 gangsters. These labels force migrants into rigid categories, losing the diversity of their reasons and their wide-ranging demographics and backgrounds.”  I continue to quote from the article listed below. “The face of migration has also changed. Back in 2000, Mexican nationals made up 98 percent of the total migrants and Central Americans referring to Honduran, Guatemalan, and Salvadoran migrants only one percent. Today, Central Americans make up closer to 50%.”(lawfareblog.com  June 23 2018) 

The road we are on has more turns than the “yellow brick road” and there will be no Oz and no Wizard to make things right at the end of our journey. Conservatives favor the term “illegal immigrants,” which hardliners often shorten to “illegals”; immigrant advocates prefer “undocumented immigrants,” a phrasing that they say prods the conversation back toward the humans in question, but “Unauthorized” often shows up as a neutral alternative. That is a brief history or background of where we are today. Now, what about the Church? 

I have a rule when writing that it is important the information you share is as accurate as possible. I also believe that I don’t know everything. I have an opinion about everything but knowledge does not dwell in opinions. I have researched this immigration thing quite a bit. Churches have always been involved in humanitarian ministries, it is the Christian calling and we of the church are to lift up, protect the helpless, feed the hungry and oppose the injustices that marginalize those less fortunate than ourselves. There is a small detail that we often get wrong. We are to serve God’s people. Who are God’s people? We agree I am sure, that God created all things…. Here we find that detail, we sometimes pass over, all.  All people are God’s people, period. Back to my earlier statement “The Church does not need to be involved in the immigration issue.” The church does need to be cleaning up this mess created by Governments and organizationsalso people with personal agendas as well as political parties who seek to strengthen their voting bases. The church needs to be on the people side of this issue, trust God to deal with the rest. The secular world is a good example of why the church needs to remain true to its calling. There are those, outside the church, who believe making placards, marching and chanting or screaming obscenities at those you disagree with or in general becoming a mob with an opinion does nothing to deal with or relieve the human suffering caused by this issue. In my research I have found two excellent articles that are well-balanced and I believe worth the read. Scott Rae is Professor of Ethics at Talbot School of Theology and author of numerous books on Christian ethics. The link to his article is posted below. The other author is Lynne Bollinger for which I do not have a direct link to. You will find her article “The Church as a Place of Belonging” included in a book by Dan Boone “A Charitable Discourse, Volume 2.” I have listed the publishing house below.

If you have read this far I encourage you to follow-up by reading the suggested material. We must as the church look beyond the issue of immigration as a social and political issue and do all we can to make it a “people” issue, “God’s People”. Pray, seek to be informed, become involved in your community through the many church programs that serve this immigrant community and remember 

Matthew 25:34-36 New International Version (NIV)

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

We must do the Kingdom’s work.

Life is Good

Jk

https://zondervanacademic.com/blog/bible-immigration/

Boone, Dan. A Charitable Discourse, Volume 2: Uncomfortable Conversations (Kindle Location 1361). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition. “The Church as a Place of Belonging –  Lynne Bollinger”

The Job Syndrome

We all very different, or so we like to believe. Most know the story of  Job, his descent into a world of misery he never imagined was possible for him.  Job is a wealthy man living in a land called Uz with his large family and extensive flocks. God counts him as“blameless” and “upright,” always avoiding evil (1:1).  Satan comes to God who has boasted about Job’s goodness and argues that Job is only good because God has blessed him abundantly. Satan challenges God that, if given permission to punish the man, Job will turn and curse God. God allows Satan to torment Job to test this bold claim, but he forbids Satan to take Job’s life in the process. Many different writings make note of the fact that the Satan in the book of Job is not the same as the one in the NT. This Satan at this time is one of the heavenly minions.

Job finds himself in dire straights, one disaster after another which of course brings to mind a question that is asked often by all of us. Why Me Lord? Job does not know the answer to that question but there are others who believe they know, according to the customs of the day. We  often ask ourselves when things go wrong, “What have I done wrong or what could I have done differently?” There is a turn in this account of Job that I have overlooked in the past and it is possible you may have also.

We see in the early going conversations between Job and his friends they believe that God blesses the good and punishes the guilty, so they felt Job must be guilty of some terrible sin and should repent.  Job, does not believe that, which we as readers of the first chapter, know to be true. His friends continue to press him to admit his sin, then we encounter Elihu who grows weary that no answer has been presented by any of the four involved in this conversation. Elihu leans more toward divine providence, which he insists is full of wisdom and mercy. It is possible that suffering may be decreed for the righteous as a protection against greater sin, moral betterment and warning, causing us to have a greater trust and dependence on a merciful, compassionate God in the midst of adversity. Reasonable thought, how often has a crisis moved us closer to God? Job has endured a number of setbacks and his friends while distraught at his situation continue to push Job to repent of his sin, believing still it is responsible for where he finds himself at this moment in time. It is at this time (chapter 32) that Elihu, who by the way is not an elder joins the conversation with a lengthy speech. It is thought that his not being an elder, he waited out of respect for those older than him to have their say. It is here that we encounter that turn I spoke of earlier. We all seek answers as to why this or that has happened to us. Job was no different and the treatment he received, one more of judgement than comfort in his time of distress and from his friends no less, most likely drove him even lower. He was driven to revisit the good things he had done, the stature he had attained in living a good life…..he sought the presence of God. Then came the turn. We might expect Job, in chapter 38, to answer Elihu. What we get is God’s response to Job which is all questions. The paradox of a question becoming an answer, allowing Job to take these facts and make the connection of Why. 

Why do good people have to suffer? The book of Job raises many questions and leaves us searching for the answers. We can become confused, angry, scared and yes…demanding in our times of trial. In chapter 38, verses 1-11, the majesty, glory and authority of God are put before Job with questions. Consider… God answers Job, but I am sure it was not as he expected. God has some questions for Job, a quick look at 38: 1-11

Verses

-1-3 God makes his presence known in many ways. The questions start, not what Job wanted, he wanted to address God directly. He wanted to know the charges against him and win justice for himself. Instead he gets questions he can’t answer.

-God invites Job to prepare for confrontation.

-Job 13: 21 Withdraw your hand far from me, and stop frightening me with your terrors. 22 Then summon me and I will answer, or let me speak, and you reply to me.

-4-7 These verses are to impress upon Job that he can’t even begin to understand the depths of God’s wisdom and knowledge.

-8-11

8“Or who shut up the sea with doors, 

when it broke forth from the womb, 

9when I made clouds its garment, 

and wrapped it in thick darkness, 

10marked out for it my bound, 

set bars and doors, 

11and said, ‘Here you may come, but no further. 

Here your proud waves shall be stayed?’

So tell me Job, can you do any of these things? Did you see me do these things? Point is Job, if not, who are you to be seeking a confrontation with the Almighty to bring your case to and receive vindication?  These questions are not to marginalize Job but to hopefully show him the majesty of God and to glorify God. 

As I bring this weeks blog to close I still ask WHY? In these first eleven verses we see how ordinary we are.  Job must come to the realization that he lacks the knowledge to ask such a question….he is mortal, just a man. So what is the Job Syndrome? I think it is taking too much for granted, no, better said, taking God’s blessings for granted. Then when things don’t go our way we want to know why. Ponder on this….no person receives salvation by doing good things or having nice things……..Why?

 

Singing of Hymns and Psalms,Prayer,Vocal Thanksgiving,Instruction  and The Lords Supper…..an Order for the Centuries. 

I hope to keep this as simple as possible. The early church was pretty much made up of Jews who had accepted Christ as the Messiah. There was of course the new and major acceptance by these Jews that Christ was the promised Messiah and that salvation was found only in Him. They continued to worship in the Jewish fashion for several years in some places but in time added a few things to distinguish themselves as followers of Christ. People of the way as we became to know them in later writings. Added were the Lord’s Supper, they gathered daily for prayer and fellowship, preaching and teaching. A major change was the moving of the worship services from the Jewish Sabbath to the first day of the week because it was the day of the resurrection. An interesting fact here is that from the very inception of this new Christianity the synagogue was in full power of its various functions. There came a time that Christians were no longer allowed to worship in the synagogues. The early Christians had always viewed themselves as a Jewish sect and this set in motion some changes in the order of worship. They did maintain the same rites as their Jewish counterparts with changes coming as Christian Scripture became available. To fully understand the changes that occurred over time, go to the link at the end of this blog. While the New Testament does not offer many details on the order of worship or leadership in the churches earliest days there are some things we do know. When the time came that they were no longer able to worship in the synagogues, they began to meet in homes. We are able to find some order of worship in the books of Acts, Corinthians, Colossians to name just a few. There would be singing of Hymns and psalms, prayer, vocal thanksgiving and instruction.   

Paul, in his writing to the church in Corinth, describes two types of Christian gathering – one is the Lord’s Supper (cf. 1 Cor 10:16-17; 11:20-29) or the ceremonial community meal; a second gathering was the Prophetic Assembly, which included both singing and thanksgiving in unknown languages, with interpretation (for purpose of edification), and prophecy (cf. 1 Cor 14:1-33).(Dr. D W. Ekstrand)

Some things never change, we might enhance them some, to better preach and teach the word but the core of it all is the church being called, our calling, to take the word to the people of God. Do not pass lightly over the phrase people of God, for He is the creator of all things and people of God means just that. We are to go to all people not just those who we are comfortable with or places that are convenient for us. Back to last weeks blog. Can we even perceive how difficult we have made this church thing in today’s world? All the groups, labels and social pressure that confronts our planning, going forth with the word and serving the needs of our communities. Time never makes anything   simpler. We can reduce decades to X, Y, Z but take several paragraphs to turn a scripture to our needs. The church has grown beyond what we read about in the New Testament, we still celebrate the Lord’s Supper and it is true that we seek to add to His Kingdom by proclaiming the Word of God and looking to Jesus Christ as the way to our salvation. 

So to sum up….we need more than religion. Salvation is not a group activity. It requires a personal relationship between the person and God, and through His son Jesus Christ. I am trying to stay away from the buzz words of today’s religion and are calling you back to The Way. The church has indicated these past years that it is becoming more and more fluid in its interpretation of scripture and is finding itself a captive of societal changes that are weakening its ability to respond to its calling.  

Matthew 18: 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

Remember to sing the hymns, psalms, pray earnestly for the Holy Spirit to guide, giving thanks for everything, study the word and celebrate the Lord’s Supper often…. Jesus Christ has risen! Every thing else is just details that will change…It is the way we do church… 

Thank you for joining me in the pew this week. Please take time to read the excellent article that was a source of the information in today’s blog. Go to the link below

http://www.thetransformedsoul.com/additional-studies/miscellaneous-studies/-worship-in-the-early-church

Life is Good

jk