A Casual Faith …. Danger of Neglect

In preparing this weeks blog I read some interesting facts I wanted to pass on to you in the Pew. Some books of the NT always garner a certain amount of discussion as to who wrote the book. Some of the writers are known beyond a doubt but Hebrews is one that has been caught up in the “who wrote it” thing. We can study that debate at a different time. But….. someone did have for me the best answer.

Origen made a famous remark: ‘who wrote the Letter to the Hebrews only God knows for certain’. (c. 185–c. 254), Christian scholar and theologian, probably born in Alexandria, Egypt. His most well-known work was the Hexapla, an edition of the Old Testament with six or more parallel versions.)

I like that and find it acceptable, a verbal point in a discussion in which I would lack the credentials to participate. We also read that no one really knew, lots of speculation as to the author but the book was well-loved and often read. It remained on the edge as to its inclusion in the NT due to this uncertainty. It gained that inclusion by being included on the list of the books written by Paul. Sometimes you will hear people argue that the number was fourteen, now you know why they do that. Moving past this here is an excerpt from William Barclay’s Daily Bible Study.

“To us, the author must remain a voice and nothing more; but we can be thankful to God for the work of this great nameless individual who wrote with incomparable skill and beauty about the Jesus who is the way to reality and the way to God.” ( Barclay, Daily Bible Study- Hebrews, Pages 10-11)

There is an urgent message in the Gospel that the years have diminished due to the demands and the influence of secular society. This message of salvation which came from the lips of our Lord has of lately become victim of our, we Christians to be exact, having a casual attitude to a gift we dare not neglect.

From Hebrews 2:1-4,
Hebrews 2:1–4
We must, therefore, with very special intensity pay attention to the things that we have heard. For, if the word which was spoken through the medium of the angels proved itself to be certified as valid, and if every transgression and disobedience of it received its just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, a salvation of such a kind that it had its origin in the words of the Lord, and was then guaranteed to us by those who had heard it from his lips, while God himself added his own witness to it by signs and wonders and manifold deeds of power, and by giving us each a share of the Holy Spirit, according as he willed it?

If we accept the theory of God’s truth being brought by the angels and ignored by people, ( Ten Commandments ) which brought punishment if broken, does it not magnify the importance of the revelation coming from the Son? The words spoken by Jesus Christ and to which God himself added his own “witness by signs, and wonders and manifold deeds of power”. With this salvation comes the blessing that Jesus Christ has broken down every barrier and opened a direct way for us to God. There are so many distractions today that the unique, “church first”, of us old timers is lost in a rush to fit into today’s list of must do’s. A massive re-arranging of changing priorities has lessened the place of the church in our society. I am not one of those doomsday advocates but I do believe we are allowing ourselves to drift into sin, which each day and each new priority we are pushed further and further from God. When we drift from our Christian beliefs we are then open to transgression and disobedience, which then leads to our refusal to hear God’s word or see his glory in others who have done a good work.

Our Christian faith is unique, it comes to us through the very voice of God, which comes to us in Jesus Christ. It must be transmitted to other people through those of us who know him. There is one other thing to be considered. The undeniable fact is that the effectiveness of Christian truth, the words spoke by God through His Son, does make bad people good.

“The theologian James Denney used to say, the ultimate object of Christianity is to make bad people good; and the proof of real Christianity is the fact that it can change the lives of individuals. The moral miracles of Christianity are still plain for all to see.”

It may well be fashionable in our world today to take a more casual attitude toward church, worship and relaxing the words of the Gospel to be more in line with societies expectations. This casual and neglectful attitude places us in danger of fulfilling our duty to God, the church and the lost. I pray that you may find your path to the good way, that it might be your Damascus road.

Thanks for being here in the Pew this week. Next week we will not publish but come back April 8th. I have a confession to make….. Life is Good

jk

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Titus….. “the slave of God and the envoy of Jesus Christ.”

This week we will look at another book in the New Testament that does not get a whole lot of attention. Here we get a chance to see Paul in the mode of a mentor and Titus learning the ropes so to speak. We do not know much about of the work of Titus. We do know that he was a Gentile who Paul took to Jerusalem with him. The new attitude in the church at that time and the Gospel itself allowed him with the agreement of the Jerusalem Council to not require circumcision. We know that he was a hard worker in the missionary field and Paul left him in Crete to finish the work he had begun there. Paul writes to counsel Titus concerning the work he had left him to do. Paul is very specific in his instructions. For those of us in the Pew this little letter is not one of the better known books, nor one we would ordinarily spend time with. Paul strongly believed that for a church to grow the people had to mature in the faith. He believed that three things were important and were the purpose of his Apostleship. The presence of and promotion of faith, knowledge and hope, the balance of which should be sought in all preaching and pastoral instruction. This being a blog we will not attempt to do a commentary, there being a great number of those out there already. Just a few points that make this book qualify for inclusion in my little gems, often overlooked and little read books of the Bible. Paul had some habits, if you will, that were common to him when summoning one of his followers to a task. The first four verses of Titus are a good example of those.

He always established what was he own right to speak and laying down the foundations of the gospel. He is an Apostle with a mixture of humility and pride. His whole life and being had been submitted to his to serving. He considered himself a slave of God which is in turn serving Christ. He chose the title of slave of God which gave him the right to take his place in the succession of past great prophets who served God. He wanted Titus to understand that if he was to be a messenger of Jesus Christ he must become a slave to God’s will in his life. It was not his own mental abilities or moral strengths that gave him authority, it was the authority of Christ, for whom he spoke.

He wished for Titus to know that the message of an Apostle is grounded on the hope of eternal life. The Christian gospel does not offer an intellectual creed, not even a moral code. It offers life through Jesus Christ. He shares with Titus that it is his duty to awaken faith in men and women. A faith which has as its foundation absolute trust in God. When we live our life in that kind of trust, we can then attend to our duty of offering others the opportunity to welcome God into their lives.

It will be Titus’ duty to also equip others with knowledge. To be sure our faith may not only be a response of our heart but it also must rule our minds. Emotion is an ever-changing thing but our Christian life must be a process of loving Christ more and more every day. The result of this faith and knowledge will lead us to living a truly Christ centered religious life. As I wrote earlier Paul was very direct and to the point. The letter continues on with Paul conveying to Titus the importance of rectifying any short comings of the new Church in Crete. Paul writes to Titus what Elders must not be and then follows up with guidelines to Titus, what Elders must be. Paul warns Titus of the false teachers of Crete, He even goes so far as to list one by one the characteristics that describe these false teachers.

All this and we have read through only the first eleven verses! There is no need to go any further to make my point. Point being, as a layman in the pew I know of no better example of the character of the Apostle Paul, his intent and unquestioned love and obedience to his calling than that which is stated in his own written words, in the very first chapter and verse of Titus. He proudly states that he is … the slave of God and the envoy of Jesus Christ.

Can we say that about our lives as we live them in these days? Titus is a letter that all the Church should read. It is as applicable today for us as individuals and I believe the church as a whole. Are we truly…the slave of God and the envoy of Jesus Christ.

Life is Good,

jk

This weeks reference materials: Commentaries : Adam Clark / William Barclay

The Rainbow Bridge …..and Wookie

He was 18 1/2 years old and more than just a cat. He was my daughter’s constant companion through some tough times and into the best of times, neither Wookie or Amy ever gave up on each other or what life sent their way. Wookie and Amy traveled all over East Tennessee as she grew in her chosen profession and to hear Amy tell it, until they reached the city of guitars and hockey pucks….Nashville Tennessee. He was never caged, Sitting beside her on road trips with only his leash and seat belt on. It was a match made in heaven….appropriately so because God created all living things and he loves all the animals just as he does us.

God loves life, God is life and there are many examples of different animals in the Bible. To mention a few, there are sheep, dogs, lions, deers, doves, eagles, fish, rams, bulls, snakes, rats, pigs, and many more. We all know the story of Noah, the ark and God’s instructions to Noah regarding the animals of the earth. Animal cruelty is a sin the Bible tells me so!

3. Proverbs 12:10 A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.

4. Proverbs 27:23 Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds.

God cares about animals.Improbable you say, or just, maybe I never thought of it that way.

Psalm 36:5-7 Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O LORD. How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings.

Matthew 6:25-27 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life?

Psalm 147:7-9 Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God: Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains. He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.

Psalm 145:8-10 The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. All your works praise you, LORD; your faithful people extol you.

Take the time to visit the web address listed here for a great read, biblically based, about God and the animals of creation. ( http://biblereasons.com/animals/)

Amy gave Wookie every moment of her time possible to care and comfort him in his last days. To me and not just because she is my daughter, Amy learned a lesson and taught us a lesson. We can all be nice when we want to but compassion for that which God has created, well thats a God thing. Compassion is caring and doing without conditions or limits. God loves us without conditions and for eternity and yes, God loves Wookie.

Thanks for coming by the Pew this week,

Life is Good

jk

 Reference Material 😦 http://biblereasons.com/animals/)

The Church, The Bible and……The Conversation

I have shared with you how much I admire and respect the many books and commentaries that are available to those of us in the Pew in this digital age. When I study or read these books and various commentaries, they are like a flashlight, brightly illuminating the words on the page, and leading me down a path of better understanding. One such set of books is a favorite of mine and today I would like to shine a little light on them. “The New Interpreter’s Bible.” The books of the Bible provide a rich and diverse subject matter, and I looked at several this week but Hebrews stayed on my mind. Didn’t know why until I pulled volume xii of the NIB off the shelf. Grab your flashlight and follow me as we read through the introduction to the“Book of Hebrews.” The information I am sharing is from the NIB’s introduction to the book of Hebrews. I have taken the liberty to reduce it to a more conversational manner.

Never considered that ones growth in faith could grow out of and be sustained by a conversation between the church and its Bible. Never even thought that reading my Bible might be considered as having a conversation but it is a refreshing and pleasing thought. We, who read and study the Bible, generation after generation, pass on our collective beliefs that make the relationships that define the Christian faith. To be sure there are other voices, even those that weren’t invited that also become part of the conclusions reached. We would like to believe that those conclusions reached were weighted in context by the Christian community and the Book. Not everyone in the community will have equal input and in some cases none at all. The NIB points out that not every book in the Bible participates equally in the conversation with the church. There is the caveat of the church’s willingness or ability to hear it, Hebrews being an example of this. It is not the least read, but it is about halfway out of the 66 books in popularity. It would be misleading to say the book of Hebrews has been left out of these conversations, it has not. The church has called on Hebrews many times, most commonly for a benediction at many church assemblies.

Hebrews 13: 20-21.20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

No need to cover all that is here in this introduction so if you will allow me, I will just wander through lifting a few things here and there. It is noted that the author of Hebrews has great skill in the use of the Greek language, more than any other New Testament writer. It is worth noting that there are some stunning facts worth sharing here. The NIB notes not only the skill in the use of language but that within this book we find “the finest example of homiletical rhetoric available to us from the first century CE.” (volume xii page 4 NIB) The skill and the use of old testament writings in this New Testament writing create a well deserved but not often expressed appreciation for the book of Hebrews. This next tidbit would have never come to my mind. Let’s be plain here, this kind of depth of study is not a common factor or trait of those of us in the Pew. One difficulty that this book has, its name! The Gospels, Acts and Paul are for the most part familiar ground for us in the pew. The placement of Hebrews near the end of the NT is sometimes read as a value judgment. There is yet another interesting observation in this introduction from NIB. Galatians, Corinthians and Philippians are seen as geographical designations and once there we find ourselves to be more alike the people there than different.

Hebrews, well that is not a geographical term, “it is ethnic, and ethnic distances are more complex, more difficult to negotiate, requiring more energy than some people are willing to expend.”(NIB page 4)

I have simply wanted to share with you the wealth of information available to us in the Pew that enriches our discernment of the Gospel as written. These are great times for us ordinary folks to gain insight into the extraordinary wealth of information available to us. That said, let’s finish this and save our batteries till next time we leave the pew.

There is much more contained in this “Introduction To Hebrews” but please consider this. For those who would use Hebrews to teach or preach, this book does little to dissolve the distance between it and the Church. There are not many “lessons for today” to be found in the text. Perhaps these might be some of the reasons that the “conversation” between Hebrews and the Church is not more intense.  I hope you have enjoyed this little detour from the ordinary this week. One more thing…..I could never have afforded the complete set of The New Interpreter’s BIBLE myself. They were given to me by a former Pastor of mine, The Rev. Tim Paul. I will be forever grateful for such a kindness.

God Bless, Life is Good

jk

Jesus Wept……

Once again we as a nation are faced with Pure Evil, that being the heartfelt pronouncement of the Sheriff in Broward County. The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, took 17 lives with an additional 14 in the hospital. Once the Governor, other state officials and law enforcement had weighed in there was the usual interviews with people of note and of course the usual questions. Politicians, an immediate influx of various different theories from experts in different fields as to the type of person that would do such a thing and still the same question remains, how do we stop this from happening?

What motivates anyone to do such a thing? Motivation is certainly a question that needs to be addressed. What can we do better to make this type of event an unusual occurrence? The last question holds a horrible truth. These shootings and the aftermath that follows is becoming the new norm of the day. Same questions, same results nothing of value ever really takes place. It’s as if it is standard practice, almost like a movie script, everyone knows their place, lines and demeanor needed to act out this phase of the story. I used to count and keep names but I don’t anymore, the Politicians who rush to stand on the bodies of the dead to push their political agenda and curry favor among certain groups. The many groups that will use this to further their interests. The gun lobbies and their supporters, pro-gun groups, and the anti-gun. We will hear from the President and religious leaders. Then there will be a parade of Hollywood’s best, I like to call them the Celebrity Caravan lending their face and voice and remarkable knowledge as their contribution to solving this gun problem.

I would suggest that we are the problem and the gun is only the tool. We have seen all over the world and here in the USA a variety of different tools used. Gun, knives, bombs, poison gases, cars, trucks, vans and even humans detonating explosives attached to their own bodies. Here in the Pew is not the place to debate this part of the problem. We find our ground in Mark 7: 21-23

Mark 7: 21-23
21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.”

The secular community and even some of those in the religious community will never take responsibility for our failures or even the state we find our country in, the loss of values and a culture that fosters such evils as we read about in Mark 7: 21-23. We as people and a government find it much easier to place the blame on an inanimate object that is the tool used to commit this evil; it is the guns fault. It is not the purpose of the Pew to debate the gun issue. I stand to be corrected, but I believe the first murder took place a long time ago.

Genesis 4 King James Version (KJV)
8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

There has been a lot of speculation as to how Cain killed his brother, most agree we really don’t know what the weapon used was. We do know that Cain did a terrible thing and God punished him for it. Point being that the loss of life due to evil in any form, is not pleasing to the God we serve.

Luke 19: 41
41 And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes.

I feel that Jesus weeps over this world, over the people of this world, just as he did when he looked over Jerusalem. There will be many words written about Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, I do not have the words to express my sadness. I leave you with this……

Jesus wept. (John 11: 35)

God Bless

jk

A Petition to Contend for the Faith*… Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6: 17


Obsessions can become a bad thing while in a totally different way a constant vigilance can be a good thing. Vigilance is keeping a constant awareness for any difficulties that might lie ahead and in our Christian world today there are many. Recent events have taken me to the Book of Jude again and some new thoughts. We all wonder at times what this Christian life expects of us, Jude tells us in the first two verses, what it means to be a Christian.

-Christians are those who are called by God.
-Christians are those who are beloved in God.
-Christians are those who are kept by Christ.

We are summoned to a duty and responsibility. We are called by God and loved by God. As Christians we are never alone. Christ is always watching over us and most anywhere we go there will be other Christians willing to shelter and comfort us. We are privileged to be called even though the challenges will be many. I as well as many others have spoken to or written about defending the faith and the third and forth verses of Jude speak to just that.In the third verse we read what prompted this letter.

Jude 3
Beloved, when I was in the midst of devoting all my energy to writing to you about the faith which we all share, I felt that I was compelled to write a letter to you to urge you to engage upon the struggle to defend the faith which was once and for all delivered to God’s consecrated people.

Jude has received news that there are some misguided people spreading destructive teachings. Jude knew his duty and he rushed to defend the faith. Ever had a Jude moment? Sometimes dealing with the moment instead of focusing on the future is necessary for the defense of the faith. I believe sometimes we forget that there were others who came before us. This faith we are defending has been delivered to us and is a tradition in an unbroken chain going back to Jesus Christ himself. The links of this chain are made and strengthened by the men and women who have experienced the truth and wonder of these facts. We did not discover these facts on our own, they were delivered to us and are unchanging. This tradition was brought to us in a very personal way, passed on from person to person through the generations. It is unchangeable in the sense that at the very center lies the permanence that is Jesus Christ, who brings salvation to all. This Christian faith is given to those who are called and it is strongest within the Church, not resting in the hands of just one person. We, each generation must pass it down intact and undistorted. This will not be easy but each generation must struggle to defend the faith. Jude sees the threat emanating from “The Peril From Within”. (William Barclay pg 204 DBS Jude)

Jude 4
For certain men have wormed their way into the Church – long before this, they were designated for judgment – impious creatures they are – who twist the grace of God into a justification of blatant immorality and who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Jude wrote this letter to warn that the threat comes from within the Church. There are those who have come into the Church and these despicable people are distorting the grace of God as a means to justify their wickedness. There is much to consider in this small book and there is no way a simple blog can do it justice. Jude writes of bad examples of past transgressions, people who live by the their instincts, without reason and even less knowledge. He is relentless in his attacks, he turns to history, encouraging the Church to remember that the wickedness of others has never ended well. He does his best to paint a picture of these wicked people and questions their character. Jude is blunt and in his words of moral indignation there is even a hint of  repressed anger. So much is here in this book but one point I would make, these people have allowed the sins of the flesh to guide their actions and seek to distort the word of God so that they might justify those actions.

How important is defending the faith? There is a goodness in Christians that keep the faith. It is a faith that was passed on from Christ on the cross, his resurrection, from the Apostles to the Church and of course from the Church to us. Generation to generation without change and defended by the Church through the people of the Church. The world is a much better place because of the faith. We must practice a holy faith. The root meaning of the word holy is different. We are called to be different just as our faith is different. Ours is not a faith of opinions, a set of rules, no way! Our faith has the power to change people and situations.…..Our faith is God-given guided by the Holy Spirit.
One last thing about this faith thing. Faith must be defended because it is by faith we are called to reclaim the lost and there are things we must do to meet this calling.

we must pray and seek the Holy Spirit to guide us in our calling.

we must study and be able to give a reason for our faith, leaving no doubt as to its strength by how we live this life.

we must share that faith not only by how we live but verbally, we must tell the story.

Free will, we have all heard that. Sometimes it may become necessary to act forcibly.

we must never allow ourselves to be drawn into the sins of others.

we must be sure that our faith is strong before we try to lift the weak up out of their despair.

We defend what we know to be true because of the certainty of the promises of Jesus Christ and the resurrection and the life to come. I will close with this. In 1964 Barry Goldwater said this,“Extremism in the defense of freedom is no vice.” Some say it cost him the election for President of The United States. I would hope that as I write this I would not offend you, but “Extremism in the defense of the Faith is no vice.”

Keep The Faith, Life is Good
jk
Blog References: *The New Interpreters Bible, William Barclay DBS

 

Socially Accepted Convention…The Rise of a Culture of Hatred

Not everything that comes into the pew is centered on biblical thought or conversations. Our daily lives expose us to the other side, so to speak. For the Christian there is something more than just today or tomorrow or even the years to come, there is the promise of eternity, life everlasting, the reality of salvation. Stretching it a bit you could say there are two realities. The one of certainty which lies in the promises of Christ or the reality of these days, the uncertainty of what is to come. So let’s deal with the reality of today which means we will have to step out of the pew. Stepping out of the pew causes problems, because we tend to leave a large part of our Christian values behind. It is hard for Christians to live a life in which their values have been reduced by legislation or marginalized by “Socially Accepted Convention.” Like it or not our reality is one of what is to come, not of this day or this world. Yet we must live in the reality of today, which unfortunately causes many of us to try to blend in with or accept these “Socially Accepted Conventions.” What is this convention we are speaking about?

A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated, or generally accepted standards, norms, social norms, or criteria, often taking the form of a custom.
Convention (norm) – Wikipedia

These norms or standards, social or otherwise, were not necessarily due to legislative efforts but simply the results of the culture of the day. Such is the result of Christians not speaking up or in most cases just leaving our values in the pew and accepting things as they are. It is much easier to believe we can do nothing about these things and allow our silence to validate the culture of the day, accepting what is instead of what is possible. I suppose what led me to this is of all things the political climate in our country. Now politics is not the driver here but the total abandonment of our Christian faith to resist the marginalizing of our values is a big part of today’s disfunction. Is he bringing politics into the pew? No, it is the source of what I am about to write. I will try to be reasonable but what I saw the other night during the SOTU address confirmed in my mind what I have felt I was seeing every day. The disrespect, the reluctance to listen and the level of pure hate that enveloped the faces of those who were there was disturbing. Now it would not be fair to say that all of those in attendance were on one side of the aisle only. Hate is never confined to one place, person or thing. It permeates and effects everything around it. What I saw in that chamber was the culture of hate alive and well and to make it worse, no one challenged it. Just like our society today it appeared to be just an accepted social convention, how sad. It had become just another news story of our day. Here are eight core Christian values we sometimes leave in the pew.

• Grace – a subversive value! Giving people more than they deserve.

• Hope – not a guarantee of immunity from harm but a conviction that God is always
present

• Faith – the means to real depth in relationships of all kinds

• Love – means to love the unlovely

• Justice – for all (not ‘just-me’). A concept biased in favor of the disadvantaged.

• Joy – impossible to legislate for this but an essential social value

• Service – meaning is found in service rather than self-centredness

• Peace– not just the absence of fighting but positive well-being

These are theologically based values, God is in and through all of them. They are Christological values, they are all demonstrated in the life of Christ.
Brian Edgar, Director of Theology and Public policy for the Evangelical Alliance. (ethos.org.au)

I think I can wrap it at this point, 721 words so far, yeah I count words, weird but to many words can dull the point you are trying to make. Our acceptance of those “Socially Accepted Conventions” feeds this “Culture of Hatred” which seems to be becoming one of those “Socially Accepted Conventions”. There were many social norms in Jesus’ day although quite different from ours today, which of course is understandable. If we spend our life in righteous indignation there would be no time left to tell “the story”. I simply turn to scripture to offer a little help in a messed up world.

Philippians 4: 8-9
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

God Bless, Life is Good

jk

The Difference Between The Difference?

I am in a state of confusion. Not about my faith, but rather how hard it is for me to understand some of the finer points. In the pew things of religious and faith importance are often lost on us Lay people who sit there. I doubt if there is a large percent of us in the pew that progress beyond the study books and Sunday school books we receive at church and of course reading our bibles.We know the stories and there are certain verses that hold a special place in our faith walk but once past that we sometimes struggle to understand. If we, the layperson in the pew, decide we would like to learn more, we take the first step into the confusing world of theology. Now Merriam Webster’s short definition of theology reads as follows:

“the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially : the study of God and of God’s relation to the world (Merriam Webster)”

We make a decision to learn more about what the Bible tells us, to go beyond the words there and seek a closer relationship with our God. We do that by reading the Bible more, praying and seeking his will in our lives and then we take the next step. The books! Oh my the number of books that have and are being written about faith, how to live a Christian life, God’s plan for our lives, the list is endless. Then it happens, we suddenly discover the enormous amount of writings by biblical scholars and to make a point here, these are men who have spent their lives studying the Bible and seeking to understand what is written and it is a blessing that writings such as these are for the most part, thanks to this digital age, available to most of us. So we step out of the pew and enter the warehouse of this knowledge seeking to better understand God and our relationship with him.

For those of us in the pew, stepping into this warehouse of knowledge is like searching the shelves with a five foot ladder but the knowledge we need starts at seven or better. You see we have just been introduced to Theology, mans take on what God said, what it means, and what our relationship to it is. This week in our Wednesday evening study we got to the discussion of the Trinity and I was totally lost. Oh I know what the theology of the Trinity is, or I thought I did and after getting home I decided to go to that warehouse of knowledge. The next day I was still carrying that ladder to many different sources in my quest to better understand the Trinity. I have a nice collection of different commentaries by well-educated and spirit led men. Usually when I am writing a blog, or a study lesson, I will examine many commentaries, read the scripture, and yes, pray for the Spirit to guide me. Found this while working through that warehouse the source listed below:

“The doctrine of the Trinity has been a divisive issue throughout the entire history of the Christian church. While the core aspects of the Trinity are clearly presented in God’s Word, some of the side issues are not as explicitly clear. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God—but there is only one God. That is the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. Beyond that, the issues are, to a certain extent, debatable and non-essential. Rather than attempting to fully define the Trinity with our finite human minds, we would be better served by focusing on the fact of God’s greatness and His infinitely higher nature. “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:33-34).”

I suggest you go to their website for the entire article. Here is their URL for this item. https://www.gotquestions.org/Trinity-Bible.html

The Book of Revelation, often called the Revelation to John, the Apocalypse of John, The Revelation, or simply Revelation or Apocalypse (and often misquoted as Revelations), is a book of the New Testament that occupies a central place in Christian eschatology. (Wikipedia)

Now sometimes, ok, most of the time I am doing research I find words that require more research. Happens a lot in the warehouse. Christian eschatology, meaning what? Christian eschatology is a major branch of study within Christian theology dealing with the “last things.” This book can be frustrating because of its amazing cast of characters, symbolic imagery and how is something written over 2000 years ago to be viewed in our day.

These are just two examples of things that confront us on our journey of faith.

For us in the pew there are sometimes more questions than answers. The wonderful thing is that in this as in all things God will make a way. I came into this blog confused about some things and I leave it still confused but having discovered a little gem. I am going to alter this quote from gotquestions.com just a bit.

“Rather than attempting to fully define the written Scripture with our finite human minds, we would be better served by focusing on the fact of God’s greatness and His infinitely higher nature.”

Scripture says:

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:33-34).”  Amen and Amen!!

I will leave you with this thought….next time you find yourself stumped or confused, in any situation you have my permission to use the following. “The difference between the difference is relative to the unlikeness thereof.” While they are trying to figure out what in the world you are talking about, you will have time to get to the warehouse.

I greatly appreciate those who read this blog and want you to know that I have no problem being corrected. I spend time trying to be sure that there is reasonable accuracy in what I write. I always make it a point to credit others whose writings I reference. It is important that we christians continue to learn, know what we believe and share it with others. Thank you for joining me in the pew this week. To make it a bit easier here is my email if you have comments or other thoughts as to the accuracy of some material. kcarp4211@gmail.com

Life is Good
Jk

Ebenezer …….. Stone of Help

 

There is a fine old hymn many of us have sung and many of us may have tripped over that stone in verse two, not knowing where it came from or what it meant.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
  Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
  Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
  Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
  Safely to arrive at home.

The hymn was written in 1757 by Robert Robinson. Most of us associate Ebenezer with the character in “A Christmas Carol”. Ebenezer had a few problems but he did become a different man at the end of the story.

Today we look at a story from the Bible found in 1 Samuel 7 beginning in verse 7.

7 When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines.

The people told Samuel to not stop asking the Lord to rescue them from the Philistines (v 8) and Samuel sacrificed a suckling lamb to the Lord (v 9). Verses 10 and 11 tell of Israel’s victory. In recognition of the victory because of the help of the Lord we are told of Samuel’s action in verse 12.

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

One thing we do not want to pass by here is the very first few verses of this chapter. The importance of repentance, verses 2-4. The people come together and confessed their sins and Samuel offers a sacrifice on their behalf. (verses 5-9) Ebenezer means Stone of Help, and Samuel put it there as a reminder to all Israelites that saw it of the Lord’s power and protection. The Lord had kept his promise to bless his repentant people.  V 3–4: Samuel insists that a returning to the Lord must include the putting away of foreign gods and idolatry, and involve a wholehearted commitment to serve Him. The Israelites do this and ‘served the Lord only’.

The people had not been living a Holy life and verses 3-4 indicate the seriousness of their actions. They embrace the fact that they must turn from their sins and do so in mind, body and soul. Not only do they turn from their sin but they dedicate themselves to changing the way they live. Repentance always demands a certain amount of contrition but without change it is a meaningless gesture. Back to verse 12… 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” We know from a previous episode that the Israelites carried the ark into battle only to suffer a resounding defeat. The Israelites presumed they could not be defeated in battle with the ark among them. An interesting thought I acquired while doing research for this blog, from the Reformation Study Bible.

“Now God has given them a great victory over the same enemies. Samuel sets up a memorial stone with the name Ebenezer, “Stone of Help,” not only to commemorate the victory but also as reminder of the different results brought about by presumption on the one hand and by repentance on the other.”

When we seek to live a Christian life, the challenges of this life do not cease. We won’t always be successful but from these scriptures we see that God is receptive to prayers for forgiveness and herein lies another lesson. Showing contrition and seeking forgiveness without changing our ways is worthless. Maybe I am being to harsh here. This I do believe to be true. Contrition, forgiveness and change of how one lives is a process that in the Christian world succeeds only when we give ourselves over to God completely, remembering this from verse 12… “Thus far the Lord has helped us”. We might ask ourselves if “thus far, have we have served our Lord faithfully?”

Life is Good

jk

 

Malachi…Standing Firm In The Faith

It is very difficult in this day to stand firm in the faith because the very nature of society as it is, places obstacles and challenges in our paths. The people of Malachi’s time had been restored to Jerusalem and the temple and walls were rebuilt. They sought instant gratification and had become neglectful of their duties to God and each other. They had been misled into believing that the Messianic kingdom was theirs immediately upon their return. They became discouraged because things had really not changed. The harshness of life, the unfairness and inequalities that they still saw and that the people endured led them to doubt the value of faith and God’s place in their lives. They, like us today allowed the pressures of life to allow a spirit of worldliness to reduce their commitment to God and their worship had become mere formality. Because of this attitude they had also allowed the sins and vices of their world to enter into the heart of their faith. I have written about Malachi in another post but was drawn back because of a devotional I read in the Our Daily Bread. It was written by Pho Fang Chia and the verses it centered on are the basis of this blog.

There are only fifty-five verses in only four chapters, Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament. Malachi was the last of the Old Testament inspired prophets. When read in the context of a letter in one sitting and allowing the flow of his words to build on each other, it is remarkable he said so much in so few words. He certainly held nothing back. God through the prophet addresses his love for his people, and follows that with accusations against the Priests and the unfaithfulness of the people. He is a God of justice and then accuses them about the giving and use of the tithes. We are all at one time or another discouraged when we see all around us the injustices of life and that many times those responsible are left to prosper. Malachi 3: 13-15 says this better than I…..

13 “You have spoken arrogantly against me,” says the Lord. “Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’
14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.’”
Malachi paints a picture of the righteous and the wicked, it is when we reach chapter 4 in verses 2 – 3 that we are given a reason to stand firm in the faith and in verse 4 a reminder of what God expects of his people.

Malachi 4
4 [a]“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. 3 Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty.
4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

Poh Fang Chia in his devotional speaks to a fear that many Christians share but never really talk about. Being different, fearing we will lose out if we don’t blend in. He asks …. How can we stand firm for God in a culture that tells us we will lose out if we don’t blend in? Malachi answers that question in this way in 3: 16-18

16 Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.
17 “On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

The Lord heard his people (v-16), God notices and cares for all who fear and honor Him. We are not called to fit in but to draw closer to Him each day as we encourage each other. (Poh Fang Chia) Malachi is also unusual in that we read a conversation , if you will, between God and the people. The thing I take away from these verses is that God will recognize those who stand firm in the faith, we are never alone or forgotten.

Standing Firm in the faith means we will be different, we may not fit in with the norms of the day but He has promised that we will be His special possession in the great day of the Lord.

Thanks for joining us in the pew this week

Life is Good

jk