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

 

 

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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

 

 

 

The Promise

Last week I wrote that the end is really the beginning of the “Promise” which is a neat play on words, or a layman’s admission that my knowledge of theological reason and lingo are not all that developed. As most of us are prone to do we underestimate the scope of things in order to keep them manageable. Well I was speaking of God’s promise of eternal life, again “God’s Promise” and once again the usual practice of underestimating something. According to one person’s count, there are 3573 promises in the Bible. The word promise itself occurs over 50 times in the King James Version of the Bible. (bibleinfo.com) Now I have seen other counts and as the sentence that says “one person’s count” is just that, one person’s count. I can write with complete confidence that I could say that the number is more than one and at least more than a hundred and more than just about eternal life. In secular terms I have opened a can of worms. First thing to be learned here is to never underestimate God and never think of God as one issue Savior.

None of God’s promises in the Bible ever fail, from the very beginning to now, this very day. The first promise in the Bible… Genesis 3:15, I will put contempt between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers. They will strike your head, but you will strike at their heels.”

The last promise found in the Bible:Revelation 22:20, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
Here is a list of some verses where the word promise is found:
Hebrews 7:6
Hebrews 8:6
Hebrews 11:13
Hebrews 11:17
Hebrews 11:33
2 Peter 1:4.
Romans 9:4
Romans 15:8
2 Corinthians 1:20
2 Corinthians 7:1
Galatians 3:16
Galatians 3:21
Hebrews 6:12

Why the list in the middle of a post, is it to prove a statement, written or said? Truth is I hope you will take time to look these up and read each one. I have found that to be close to God, one doesn’t have to be on their knees. When you immerse yourself in the word there is a peace that transcends all the chaos that is in the world around us. There is knowledge and the wisdom that is of God, for direction of our life: Psalms 32:8, KJV. “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.”

The object here is not to play a numbers game but to present a case that can be proven by Biblical writings and lived out by those to whom God promised. Once more we are compelled say “None of God’s promises in the Bible ever fail.”It’s in the Bible, Joshua 23:14, “Look. I’m now walking on the road to death that all the earth must take. You know with all your heart and being that not a single one of all the good things that the Lord your God promised about you has failed. They were all fulfilled for you. Not a single one of them has failed.

In the same manner of promises we need to be aware that those promises of God containing retribution for sins and other transgressions are also kept in full. The God we serve is real and present yesterday, today and tomorrow. The very nature of the world today invites the devil to place in our lives those things that destroy our faith and lead us into the misery of sin and overwhelm us with a despair that challenges our faith.

Follow me on a short journey in words of God’s “Promise” in New and Old Testament form. God’s promise to Abraham ( Gen 12:2-3 ), in which the latter, although childless, was to become ancestor of a great nation. Later this promise was repeated ( Gen 15:5 ), and to his credit Abraham believed God’s utterances. On yet another occasion ( Gen 17:1-27 ) God brought his promise even closer to fulfillment by stating that Sarah would have a son ( Gen 18:10 ), because nothing was too hard for God to accomplish. Paul would write later and call these the “covenants of the promise” ( Eph 2:12 ; cf. Gal 3:6-17 ).

There is the promise to Abraham, a more general declaration made by God at the time of the fall ( Gen 3:15 ), and continued in a promise to David ( 2 Sam 7:12-13 ) that his seed would continue forever. From here on it continues and we see that with Christ’s kingship which was not of this world, it did fulfill the divine promise. Here is the “Promise” I referred to last week. There is now the dispensation of grace. We to this day still share in all the benefits of Abraham’s covenant ( Eph 3:6 ), while looking forward to a time when the kingdom of God, which was ushered in with the age of grace, will be realized when Christ returns to complete the kingdom of believers and establish it for all eternity before God in heaven.

There are so many things to write about here but for what I hope to leave you with this week, there is not enough paper or space to due it justice. We don’t just die, we begin a new and exciting journey just as God has promised. That which our God has promised, as written in His word in yesterday’s past and all the days to come will be fulfilled as “Promised”.

John 5:28-29, NKJV. “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”

As I always try to do here are two web addresses to use for further study. They have been the source of the information I have shared with you.

www.bibleinfo.com/en/topics/bible-promiseswww.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/promise/

God Bless, jk

My View, Death, The End of It…..or the….. Beginning of The Promise

It’s Thursday about three in the afternoon and a typical hot, humid summer day in the south. Some things never really change while other things, particularly those totally unexpected leave us exhausted and re-examining our life and wondering why. I am very grateful for many things in my life, one is the Community of Faith. Today’s post concerns a member of that community. He is a brother in the faith and a member of the church I attend. Today’s post will be difficult for me because it involves a person I don’t know all that well but have a tremendous respect for. There are those people you meet in life that while you are not friends in the usual way, they are someone you would like to get to know better. Such is the case where this gentleman is concerned. In a series that shares the grief of the sudden death of a loved one, the writer puts on paper an agonizing and truly remarkable picture of grief that questions our faith but at the same time in a moment of shared frustration, gives us the reason for and the power of faith. There is also the opportunity to share the “Rest Of The Story”  I Consider these posts to be a remarkable journey through one man’s grief because the questions he asks are not from despair, but rather a believers quest for peace. I would not presume to or be able to adequately address this mans grief. I will in a feeble attempt turn to this scripture. Latter in this post I will return to it.

Philippians 3: 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

When time allows go to this link. (paranormalchrist.com) There will be five posts listed in the box to your right. Read each one, starting from the bottom. While this is an unusual request and requires time, I believe you will be blessed. I was struck by the raw emotion within his written words and yet that overwhelming grief that is expressed captures the finality of death and the burden on those it has taken from. There is no good side to death, you can’t dress it up with all the common clichés we are prone to use as we sincerely try to comfort those whom it has taken from. It has been said that you only die once but it is possible for the living to die many times.

There are always those chapters in the bible that for some reason or another stay with us. In Ecclesiastes for me it is Chapter 3. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:” This is then followed by verses that list fourteen specific things, a schedule for life events you might say. One commentary points out that the question of eternality and spirituality cannot be addressed, because they cannot be seen “under the sun”, without the help of God’s Holy Spirit and the Scriptures; the commentary says all we can do is to simply rejoice in his works before giving way to the next generation.*( *The Bible Panorama)

The writer of the blogs I have referred you to picked Ecclesiastes 9 as a reference point. From a purely human view the word as written here in chapter 9 says there is a common destiny for all of us. We will all die. Death nullifies everything, no good, no bad, simply nothing. The Jewish Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, you die, end of story. Now I should note that not all Jews believed that, even when their understanding of resurrection differs greatly from the Christian belief. So the view here in chapter three is more or less, eat, drink and be merry. We will all have the same fate regardless of what we do. In both chapters there is agreement in the word that God will judge all things as equal. Bluntly put, just do your thing, stay busy and leave without a fuss. It is not my intent to challenge or question the grief of another. I am thankful for this gentleman barring his soul as he has done in this series of blogs. I cannot stress enough how your reading these writings will be time well spent.

You may be asking yourself after reading this far….. “What’s The Point?”*(Paranormal Christ)

Nathan, I am thankful for the opportunity through your writings to somehow in a small way, devoid of a world of well known clichés, share your grief. Maybe, just maybe, if your father could of had a last word with you……..Maybe… Paul writes to the church in Philippi to encourage them to rejoice in their trials and to be considerate of one another. I believe in verse nine what Paul writes ..Maybe..your father would have shared with you.

Philippians 3: 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

I feel that the ” Beginning of The Promise” comes with the death of this life. Next week we will explore the promise that we of the community of faith have inherited because of Christ and the Cross.

Peace my friend and God bless.

jk

 

Walking The Walk

Before reading today’s post please read the following scripture – Ephesians 5: 1-20. Pray and then join me in the pew.

In the church today the scripture as written is being challenged and in some situations completely ignored. Recently a Pastor said that there are times when a particular bit of scripture will make him feel uncomfortable, prompting him to spend more time with it, reading it in its full context, then studying and praying and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I read a great deal and listen to those in the pew in normal everyday conversations and usually I will find something to write about. Today’s blog actually was inspired by one of my daily devotionals. The scripture reading was from Ephesians 5: 1-20 and it stayed on my mind the whole day. I went back and read the entire chapter and you know what…….it made me uncomfortable. What was Paul thinking when he wrote that first verse in Chapter 5?

“you must become imitators of God, as well-loved children imitate their father.”

I believe Paul’s point was that we must live a Holy Life as we have been commanded to from the very beginning of God’s speaking to his people through the Patriarchs of the Old Testament and to this very chapter of Ephesians and throughout all the scriptures. Deuteronomy is often referred to as the book of laws and contains a verse that has become the definitive statement of Jewish identity. Deuteronomy 6:4 -“Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” There would come a point where the Jews would be consumed by attempting to live in strict obedience to the Law, of which an additional 613 laws had been added over time. How do we walk the “Way”
and what is required of us? There are many answers throughout scriptures, here is one of my favorites.
Deuteronomy 10:12
[ A Call to Love and Obedience ] “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul.

I think that this scripture is easily understood and leaves little room for re-interpretation. Today we are overwhelmed with various interpretations and well meaning writings that seek to put the scripture in a form that is livable with today’s accepted social standards. What God asks of us is so simple when written but evidence supports that the living of such is extremely difficult; many fail every day even though God in his wisdom continues through all scripture to provide us with the way and even gave His only son’s life to absolve us of our sins and afterwards sending the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us as we strive to live a Holy Life. We still somehow fall short. Let’s take a closer look at Ephesians 5: 1-20.

Paul sets before these Christian people a high standard to aspire to. He instructs them to be imitators of God. Paul reasserts it is their responsibility to reject certain types of behavior. There is no need to put down an exhausting list of don’ts and do’s, so keeping to that thought, see how Paul states the obvious.

“Let no one even mention fornication and unclean living and insatiable desire among you – it does not befit God’s consecrated people to talk about things like that. Let no one even mention shameful conduct. Let there be no foolish talking and graceless jesting among you – for these things are not fitting for people like you. But rather let your talk be a gracious thanksgiving to God. You know this and you are well aware of it, that no fornicator, no unclean liver, no one who is characterized by that greed – which is idolatry – has any share in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words. It is because of these vices that the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience. Don’t become partners with them”.
(NLT)
Even today Paul’s instructions and abolishment could be said to us with no adjustment of wording at all. “You know this and you are well aware of it” That being so, why do we continue such behaviors? I think part of the reason is our practice of rating some sins as horrendous, while others although bad, don’t quite reach the bar worthy of total righteous Christian indignation. We seem to allow a little wiggle room claiming Christian tolerance and forgiveness. Now I am alright with the tolerance and forgiveness thing on the back end, which leaves open a whole new blog subject but what we do on the front end needs a lot more effort on our part. The front part being learning how to convey our faith as the reason we seek to live a Holy Life. We must become better communicators. Besides walking the walk we must learn to talk the talk.

It has been said that to be a great orator, three things had to be present.
– Theory, a belief, policy, or procedure proposed or followed as the basis of action. We believe these basic precepts are necessary to living our Christian faith.

-Imitation, the assumption of behavior observed in other individuals. We must imitate Christ’s love for all people, be compassionate and be in total obedience to God.

-Practice, carry out, apply and practice what you preach.

Light and dark are words which are often used in biblical teachings to clearly communicate a state of being that produces an immediate picture most people can understand. Paul finds no need for fervent preaching but simply says that the non-Christian lives life in the dark, while Christians enjoy living in the light of the knowledge of Christ. It is a light that makes them useful citizens of this world who work toward not failing in their duty, human or divine, which in turn serves those things that are pleasing in God’s eyes. “It is the Christian’s duty to expose every action, every decision and every motive to the light of Christ.”(William Barclay)

We know that evil does not like the light but we should always remember the light of Christ as not only condemning but with it also comes healing. This is only one of many great chapters that can be found in God’s word. “Walking the Walk” is never an easy thing…..15 SO… be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5: 15-20)
God Bless

jk

 

God, Sin and Society…….

I have been advised that I should not cast doubt on my own person so to speak but fact should never be absent from public discourse. I am a layman, I sit in the pew each week just as many of you do. I hear the discussions and the opinions of my counterparts and what’s important is….I listen. Having shared this please know that I am not offended by correction or disagreement and never intend to knowingly offend anyone.

I think it is reasonable to say that the church faces many challenges in the world of today. The onslaught of negativity and in some places the outright hostility toward religious freedom has passed the point of reasonable concern. There will be those who disagree with my view that when we speak of religious freedom and to whom it applies, Christian beliefs are subjected to an uneven field of play in today’s society. We must recognize that there are countries and governments that openly deny and prevent the practice of Christian faith values or its precepts and it is most often imposed by the government or societal wishes of its people. The state we find the world in today, here at home especially, calls for a closer look at what freedom really means. What about this word Freedom? Merriam Webster has this :

a :  the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action

I believe that to be a reasonable definition, or we could use a familiar phase we all have heard before…. “do your own thing”. Consider this………

In a healthy society, there is a balance between freedom and authority, and a need for just the right doses of each.

Marc Fisher, Washington Post, Baseball will never have another Vin Scully, 29 September 2016

We have arrived at what I see as a huge problem for us of the Faith. Societies view of sin and God’s view of sin differ greatly. Think about this for a moment. Do you really believe there can be a balance between societies view of what is sinful and God’s view? I do not think this is possible. Should the acceptance of questionable practices, those that are not found pleasing in God’s eyes or contrary to His commandments be accepted by the church as an act of tolerance? Back to our friend Merriam Webster for this about tolerance. There were several definitions, the second one fitting the message I am trying to convey.

2
a :  sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own
 beliefs

:  the act of allowing something :  toleration

How do we as Christians explain our acceptance of those things that God has found to be un-holy. Now we find ourselves confronted with truth; we as Christians cannot accept such things. Our society has evolved to the point good or bad, your choice, that things of question are matters of freedom and must be given equal standing. I might also add to that statement “that things of question” are debatable as to their worth as assessed by social attitudes of the day. Some more information that as Christians we need to hear. Here in the USA we do not live in a “Theocracy”

[thee-ok-ruh-see]
1.
a form of government in which God or a deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler, the God’s or deity’s laws being interpreted by the ecclesiastical authorities.
2.
a system of government by priests claiming a divine commission.
3.
a commonwealth or state under such a form or system of government.

Thus leaving us subject to DEMOCRACY.
Definition of democracy
plural democracies
1
a :  government by the people; especially :  rule of the majority


b :  a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections

:  the absence of hereditary or arbitrary class distinctions or privileges


The Apostle Paul writes “Let every person be subject to the governing
authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist
have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities
resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur
judgment” (Rom12:1-2).

We have arrived at our faith “Conundrum”……..

Definition of conundrum
1
:  a riddle whose answer is or involves a pun (as in “Why didn’t the lost hikers starve in the desert? Because of the sand which is there.”)

2
a :  a question or problem having only a conjectural answer … 

We are faced with the conundrum of freedom and democracy, both which
allows us to practice our faith beliefs and so far has defended that, but
limits our ability to share the Good News with others.

So, as Christians where are we at today? We must stop blaming our
inability to grow and bring people into the church on the state of today’s
society, instead we must focus on those things we can control.

-be faithful in our attendance and support of our church and church family

-we must invest in the ministry by giving of our monetary and physical
abilities.

-we must accept and extend to all an invitation to share the Good News but
not compromising our beliefs and those commandments given to us from
God through the Patriarchs of the faith

-we must do a better job of sharing the precepts of the faith and the need to
live a Holy life, passing these on to our children and those new to the faith

These are just a few of the things on my mind. To my way of thinking we
can save no one on our own. It is the saving grace of God and Christ on the
cross that brings salvation to all those who call out to Him. As one man has
written, “it’s not about us”. Our place in this world today and our Christian
calling is simple. We are to go out to all the world and tell the “Good News”
of Jesus Christ. I see nothing divisive in that calling.

God Bless,

jk

 

 

 

 

 

 

Process or Content….. The Struggle of Today’s Church to Remain Relevant….

All churches struggle with what is the best way to grow membership and take the gospel to a world that is full of distractions and competition for the hearts and minds of people. We should note that even among church membership there lies the things of this world that limit commitment and stifles spiritual growth. This post is not about traditional or contemporary, hymnals, large screens, or any of the issues that spawn countless board, trustees, deacons and members meetings and conversations. To make things even more difficult is the annoying habit of our society to label people and put them in different groups and requiring that we deal with each differently. There is some merit to this line of thought but within the church it can become a tool of separation. I don’t have the answer to this very compelling and confusing dilemma many churches face every day. I do believe that at the heart of it all lies “Process and Content”. Process being the tools we use to reach others in and outside the church. Content being what it is we are attempting to share. I may not be saying this well, my point being that I believe the “Process” has become more important than the “Content”

During last Tuesday mornings Bible Study we read and discussed Paul’s leaving Athens, traveling to Corinth and perhaps looking back at his time in Athens during that time of travel. It is very possible that he had a few regrets
and second thoughts about how to best share the word, the good news! I wish to share with you a few thoughts about this time and how the church might learn from it. Our scripture focus today will be 1st Corinthians 2 Chapter.

I believe Paul was struggling with the events that took place in Athens and the fifty miles he traveled to Corinth gave him time to review in his mind what had happened there. They never tried to make it difficult for him to speak and as they did in previous places they made no attempt to run him out of town, he just simply left out of frustration. Truth is there were some who sought him out, eager to debate or question the Apostle. They found him interesting and the only thing they really asked was “what is this babble from this strange man about this foreign god?” I feel sure that many churches today, particularly the smaller ones face some amount of frustration in the lack of growth and the struggle to remain relevant in today’s society.

It is worth the read to see how Paul reacted to a very real situation, one that should be familiar to many of us. There is also the possibility that ego, yes ego was also at work here. the devil comes at us in many ways. Paul studied under Gamaliel and had built a sterling reputation among the upper Jewish class as a protector of the faith due to his relentless persecution of the people of the “way”. Sometimes the egos within the church stifle learning and growth by subjugating them to personal agendas. Paul determined otherwise and resolved to put first the story of the cross, “Jesus Christ and Him crucified”. I think there might be a certain amount of fear; the prospect of not putting his excellent vocabulary or wisdom to use leaves him a bit uneasy. Paul has come to the realization that it is not human wisdom or persuasion that gives power to the message; it is the Holy Spirit. We as the church today must come to the realization that the power of the message lies in the cross, the resurrection and the power of God to save. It is not the size of the buildings, the amenities or the size of the crowd, it is the saving grace of Christ on the cross, that is the story that must be told.

As individuals we may well be at different points in our faith walk but God in his wisdom has given us the Holy Spirit through which the truth of his word will be revealed and God has prepared for his redeemed people. The Spirit works in the hearts of people to reveal their sins and their need for the gospel of Jesus Christ on the cross and his resurrection. It is not my intent to marginalize the efforts of those who seek new ways to share the Good News. My concern lies in the possibility that in doing so we have allowed ourselves to overdo “Process” at the expense of “Content”. As I said earlier I don’t have an answer but I find in the words of an old hymn a way that might make the path forward a little clearer.
Onward, Christian soldiers!  Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus, Going on before.

We are at war with the seemingly innocent excuse of changing to meet the demands of society today. Change is good I suppose but not at the expense of the intent of God’s word. We have only to look to Paul and learn from his example. “Christ on the cross, Paul had come to the realization that it is not human wisdom or persuasion that gives power to the message; it is the Holy Spirit. We as the church today must come to the realization that the power of the message lies in the cross, the resurrection and the power of God to save.”…….AMEN

jk

Reference Material:   The Bible Panorama

The Little Letter With a Big Message

This letter is written to Philemon a leader in the Colossian church. It is a prison letter, co-authored by Paul the Apostle with Timothy. Paul I am sure wrote more personal letters but this is the only one that has survived. From most accounts Paul would have been between fifty-five and sixty years old. We see in this letter the power of Christian fellowship and the reaching out to the Christian community in absolute confidence. Let’s start by looking at verses 1-7. You might read into these first few verses the fact that while Paul referred to himself as an apostle, here in writing to Philemon he identifies himself as “Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ” and we know from the scripture that he is not alone, Timothy is there with him. Paul puts aside any claim to authority and states his appeal with sympathy and love. We read that good deeds can increase our knowledge of good things and bring us closer to Christ. We can also believe that joy and encouragement are the fruits of such behavior for ourselves and those around us. Paul is not seeking a favor for himself, Paul rarely sought favors for himself, this time he sought to help Onesimus find his way back. It is certain that Christian generosity was a characteristic of Philemon. He loved God and he loved Gods people. In his home they could rest and be refreshed. Philemon apparently was known among the Christian community as a generous and kind man.

In these next verses 8-17 Paul humbly summits his request. Again, he appeals not to office or authority but to the bond of Christian love between himself and Philemon. He now speaks of Onesimus for the first time. Paul makes no excuses for Onesimus, admitting there may be some problems with him. He who had at one time been useless is now useful. Onesimus was at least a runaway slave who while in prison with Paul through Christ became useful again. Barclay says that Paul presented himself to Philemon not as an apostle or as we said earlier one of authority, but as a man “who has lived hard and is now lonely and tired.” Knowing Christ does make a bad person good. Many things come to light here. Onesimus’ time with Paul had opened his eyes and heart to Christ. Even though his mind was now on heavenly things, he was once again useful on this earth. Paul is asking a lot of Philemon for it is certain Onesimus must have stolen some money or goods from him to get to Rome. It is the power of forgiveness through Christ that enables those of the Christian faith and family to forgive.

It is a very short letter that Paul wrote so long ago but carries to this day a powerful message. Paul through his dealing with this situation reveals a list of things we as Christians should recognize and practice.

-power of Christian fellowship and the reaching out to the Christian community

-good deeds can increase our knowledge of good things and bring us closer to Christ.

-sympathy and love

-We can also believe that joy and encouragement are the fruits of such behavior for ourselves and those around us.

-Christian generosity

-bond of Christian love

-Knowing Christ does make a bad person good.

-Even though our mind is on heavenly things, we can be useful on this earth.

-It is the power of forgiveness through Christ that enables those of the Christian faith and family to forgive.

How powerful is Christ in us when we summit to his will. Thanks for being here in the pew this week, hope you come back. jk

 

Judas…..A Bad Egg?

My opinion about him is gleaned from years of Bible stories, Sunday School and of course the scripture itself. The best I could say about him would be he was A Bad Egg; the definition of which is someone who does bad things, a dishonest person. We remember Judas for one thing, his betrayal of Jesus. Judas was with Jesus for three years, which means he witnessed many of the miracles that Jesus did during his ministry, shared many of the times when they were in danger and suffered the hardships that came with being a follower of Jesus. So I guess it is only reasonable to ask why he did what he did. It would also not be inappropriate to wonder why Jesus picked him to start with. Scripture leaves no doubt as to he was. One of the other disciples was named Judas (John 14:22) and in Mark 6:3 a half-brother of Jesus is named Judas. John 6:71 and 13:36, identifies Judas as the son of “Simon Iscariot”. Lastly in Luke 22:48 we read in scripture conformation that it is without a doubt that he made a conscious choice to betray Jesus. All the above leaves no doubt about which Judas is being referred to. There are so many things written about Judas by highly respected theologians that provide a depth to this Biblical account that goes beyond the written word. Having said that let’s move on to some other interesting things about Judas.

In John 6:70 Jesus says “have I not chosen you?” , speaking to the twelve disciples and goes on to state “one of you is a devil”. Reading from John 13:26 Jesus again calls Judas out. Did Jesus know the heart of Judas? Of course he did. The other disciples, well that’s another story. They did not give it a thought, after all he was one of them, a trusted member of the Twelve. Even when Jesus told Judas to “do what he was about to do and do it quickly” (John 13:27) the others simply thought Judas was off to buy food or do something for the poor. Judas betrayed Jesus with a crude brazen display of affection, continuing the sinful deception before the others. Oh how loudly the scripture speaks to us and guides us to our saviors divine nature. In John 13:18 Jesus reveals that it is Judas and his action will fulfill the scripture. Judas was was fully responsible for his actions. Most of us sitting in the pew go no father than betrayal for thirty pieces of silver and the kiss that sealed the deal. There is so much back story here that causes us to think longer about this act and the man who did it. This is what I refer to as the second act of scriptural record and Jesus’ path to the cross.

Why did Judas Betray Jesus? Most writers say we cannot be absolutely sure but there are some things that certain scripture reveal to us. John 6: 64 indicates that Jesus knew, although he picked them, that not all of the Twelve believed and he knew who would betray him. Professions of faith and loyalty from the Twelve are often recorded in scripture (John 6:68, 11:16). Also Judas never referred to Jesus as “Lord” but would address him as “Rabbi”. Judas saw Jesus as no more than a Teacher and like the Pharisees he believed Jesus would not and could not overthrow the Romans. John 12:5,6 reveals another disturbing fact about Judas. Judas was a greedy man and in John 13: 29 we learn that Judas was in charge of the money bag from which he no doubt took some from for his own use. We must be careful not to read to much into all these things but careful reading and study does show us this. If order of the Twelve in written word is an indicator of relationship with Jesus we can note that Judas is always last and infrequent. Theirs was not a strong relationship. Perhaps like many people of that day Judas just simply failed to recognize Jesus as God incarnate. So maybe he was just…..A Bad Egg.

Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus! He LIVES! We will rejoice and be glad.

God Bless,
jk

Reference: On Judas Iscariot -Warren Wiersbe