Monday, January 26, 2015

I don't get it

I don't understand it. Well, that's not quite true; I do understand it, but don't get it. Maybe that's not quite right either. I understand it, I get it, but I don't like it.

I have posted over 3800 times in the last 9 1/2 years. My most popular posts have been ones dealing with obscure stuff like Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic grammar. My all-time most popular post was back in 2006 when I posted about the Carta alphabet wall chart, followed closely by my musings on the plural of index.

Not that any of these have seen huge hits! I'm content to blog on obscure stuff that matters to me and a few others. I doubt I'll ever crack the Bibliobloggers top 50, or even the top 100 for that matter. That's fine with me. I post because I enjoy sharing what I'm reading, thinking, and experiencing.

But yesterday I posted on a current political debate—something I rarely do. In less than 24 hours, it has become one of the top posts of all time—again, that's not a huge number, but in less than 24 hours?

I would rather post on heart holiness and see that get huge hits! Or on aspect in Greek, or something like that : )

But yesterday I ran across an article by the children of same-sex marriages and posted it with some idle musings and it caught hits. And one semi-literate comment from someone who probably never read my blog before and probably never will again... Although his(?) syntax was shaky, I think he accused me of being a self-righteous christian, which is why I suspect he has never read my blog before. The only righteousness I have is that which is imputed and imparted to me by Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit as I rest and abide in him!

It takes on a life of its own

They do not dread Saul or even Yahweh, whom we would expect to be the greatest object of concern because the deity would be the activating force behind the harm in the malediction should it be breached. There is a definite sense that the troops are treating this curse as an independent entity that is not only to be feared but also to be respected precisely because of the fear it inspires. Here, the curse operates on the threshold of hypostasis. It is evolving into an independent entity.— Cursed Are You!, page 112

<idle musing>
As she will note a bit later, the ANE world even had deities that were basically curses come to life. Once uttered, a curse took on a life of its own, as did a vow. That's why Proverbs says not to make a vow lightly...words matter.
</idle musing>

The Pax Romana

To belabor a point now well recognized in the study of ancient Rome: the pax of the pax Romana was at the very least more complex than the panegyrical remarks of Virgil, Velleius, and others would suggest. Indeed, seen from the perspective of the dominated the pax Romana may well be rendered best—if in somewhat of an extended form—as the pacification of other peoples by Rome. As even Tacitus was able to see, the peace of Rome was in reality little more than ruthless domination for those on its underside.—World Upside Down, page 107

<idle musing>
Hmmm...sounds way too much like the pax Americana, doesn't it? And like the pax Britannica of the 19th century and any other pax other than the pax Dei.

Maybe that's why the prophet wailed, "Peace, peace, but there is no peace!"
</idle musing>

The wake-up call

Have you had some moments like this with the truth? You realize something you have never realized before, and it wakes you up.

You realize you’ve been trying to live a Christian life through your own power and strength rather than through the power of the Holy Spirit.

You realize you weren’t actually following Jesus—you were just following a list of rules.—AHA Student Edition electronic edition

Where's the focus?

At the heart of the Sermon is a section on spiritual disciplines because Jesus expects his disciples to practice charity, praying, and fasting. Jesus, however, doesn’t command almsgiving, prayer, or fasting but assumes them. The central issue that provokes Jesus is an act done to be noticed as pious and to gain a reputation. Disciplines are done with eye, heart, mind, and soul focused on God.— Sermon on the Mount, page 195

Thought for a snowy Monday

The false prophet would tell you that if you are a Christian you should not experience any bad times. Everything should go wonderfully for you. You should prosper and be successful in everything you touch your hand to. That sounds fine, but it has no root in the Word of God. What it does do is take the focus off what God has for us.

Robbing God’s people of God’s best is one of the fundamental problems in this generation. These false prophets are exchanging God’s best for what they consider their best. Are we followers of God, or are we following man? False prophets would have us follow them. Always remember that when you follow a man, he will always lead you away from God.—A.W. Tozer, Voice of a Prophet, page 31

Sunday, January 25, 2015

But what do the children say?

I'm sure I will catch all kinds of flack for this one...but it needs to be said. What do the children of same-sex marriages say? It appears that a few of them have filed court briefings...
"While I do not believe all gays would be de facto bad parents, I know that the gay community has never in my lifetime put children first as anything other than a piece of property, a past mistake or a political tool to be dressed up and taken out as part of a dog-and-pony show to impress the well-meaning," Klein wrote.
<idle musing>
So, what of the children? This excerpt is just one of a selection from the court briefing...go ahead and read the rest at the site. Mind you, she was raised in a same-sex family, so she's speaking from the inside.

So, are we being honest here? Or is it a case of "nice" so we don't have to face the flack of disagreement? Is one particular form of sin being privileged here? What is the role of the church? Of individual Christians here?

We are quick to point out the abusive relations that alcohol produces—and we rescue kids from that. We are quick to point out the evils of the sex trade—and we rescue kids from that. When a divorce happens, the judge has to decide which parent will offer the best chance for the children. But what about this?

Anybody who has read this blog for very long knows that I don't elevate one sin above another—they are all reprehensible in God's sight! And I believe in God's unconditional forgiveness and love for all. But, most importantly, I believe in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to deliver people from all sins.

I don't pretend to have an answer here, so don't think I am advocating any particular path. I'm just raising a question that seems to have been neglected in this whole debate.
</idle musing>

Update: I am assuming that the legalization of gay marriage is inevitable. I am simply trying to get the question of what about the children into the discussion. I am not talking about the morality of same-sex marriages. That is a different issue all together. You can probably guess where I come down on that!

Was Rome right?

From Paul’s perspective, however, if peace and justice come through violence and war (whether then or now), then Rome was right and Christ died in vain. The Death of the Messiah and the Birth of the New Covenant, page 192 (emphasis original)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Unholy trinity

Three elements are present here: sensationalism, emotionalism and entertainment. I must point out that all these are contrary to wholesome spiritual development.

Make it Sensational

Sensationalism can capture the headlines, so to speak. That is just a temporary thing. When we sensationalize the gospel message, we out of necessity must take it out of context. There was nothing sensational about dying on the cross. To try to sensationalize this is to miss the whole focus of the crucifixion. To turn the crucifixion into entertainment is about as blasphemous as you can get.

Make it emotional

I have seen some of these sons of the prophets stir up an audience emotionally. By playing on their emotions, they can control the audience and bring that audience to any point they want to. We used to see this in the circus; now we are seeing itin the pulpit. Can anything be more blasphemous than that?

What most people do under emotional high will never translate into daily disciplined living for God.

Make it entertaining

The thing I cannot understand or accept is the entertainment aspect of today’s sons of the prophets. For some reason, they go to Hollywood to get their authority these days. If they can only package the message in an acceptable manner that will entertain the most numbers of people, they count that to be successful. Even so, I wonder how entertaining it was for Jesus to die on the cross?—A.W. Tozer, Voice of a Prophet, pages 21–22

Friday, January 23, 2015

It's complicated

1 Sam 11:6–7 [Saul sending pieces of an ox to the 12 tribes, demanding they assemble for war] establishes several important points about the way a conditional imprecation could be imposed. First, those who are conditionally cursed do not have to be present when the imprecation is performed for the malediction to be valid and effective. They need only to be informed. Notification of the existence of the conditional anathema is made through the dispatch of messengers bearing a token of the curse. Second, the people to whom the portions of meat are sent do not appear to have any right of appeal. They must obey or possibly suffer the consequences of the curse should they choose not to honor the conditions. Third, the right to impose conditional curses was not limited to the priesthood. It was a right also enjoyed by the king. Even though Samuel is mentioned in v. 7, it is Saul who butchers the oxen, cuts them up and disseminates the pieces among the tribes of Israel. There is no doubt that he is imposing the malediction. And fourth, we may assume with some confidence, that the spoken element of the malediction initially declared by Saul was then repeated by the messengers on delivery of the cursed meat.— Cursed Are You!, pages 109-110

False options

Yet, as any number of contemporary examples might remind us—Martin Luther King Jr., to take only the most obvious—the rejection of insurrection does not simultaneously entail an endorsement of the present world order, as if the fact that Jesus was δίκαιος necessitates Luke’s approval of the crucifixion.—World Upside Down, page 88

The social factor

I am pleading with you to come to your senses. There’s a storm brewing, and there is no time to waste. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that those closest to you will be able to escape the devastation of your storm. Your journey to the Distant Country doesn’t affect just you; it affects all those who share life with you.

When Jonah ran from God, the sailors were terrified. Their lives were at risk. Jonah’s running led to the near destruction of the people around him.—AHA Student Edition electronic edition

But I can just fast for it, right?

The most influential understanding of fasting today is the instrumental theory. In the simplest of terms, this theory teaches that we fast in order to gain some benefit. …

But instrumental fasting is all but impossible to find in the pages of the Bible and is rarely reflected in ancient Judaism or the rabbis. Instead of an instrumental approach, the genius of the Bible is its focus on the whole-body response of a human being to grievous, severe conditions. Fasting means a human being refrains from food or water, or both, for a limited period of time in response to some sacred, grievous moment.— Sermon on the Mount, pages 193, 194

<idle musing>
Scot wrote a whole book on fasting, developing this thought even further. Do yourself a favor and read it!
</idle musing>

Daily dose of Tozer

In some places, the church is being marketed as though it were a business. Christianity is not a commercial commodity or product. I do not see that in the New Testament.

What bothers me is the fact that the message gives way and takes second place to the presentation of the message. If the message is presented in a certain way, it is okay regardless if some point is missing. That is my definition of heresy. Heresy is presenting truth but conveniently leaving out some of the truth. This is happening today through the presentation process we have today—A.W. Tozer, Voice of a Prophet, page 19

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Grammar really does matter

Further, Neh 5:13 also illustrates the custom of pronouncing a curse twice. The first articulation is expressed with an active verb that is clearly informed by and coordinated with Nehemiah’s performance of shaking out his cloak. After the predictive act and word is completed, the curse is pronounced again but this time with a passive participle. This reflects a careful balance between the active and passive voice and likewise suggests a mutually dependent paring of ideas in maledictions expressed in this way. Even though the passive participle relies on the preceding curse for some meaning, it is still possible for the passive curse to stand on its own. This proposes that ָארוּר-formula imprecations developed from the second element of binary curses in which the first element expressed the malediction actively with a curse act.— Cursed Are You!, page 66

Religion, the fabric of Roman culture

Because “religion” in antiquity was not a category separable from the rest of life—as modern usage generally implies—this difference in the perception of divine identity amounts to vastly more than a mere difference in a discrete sphere of faith and ritual (that corresponds, e.g., to the subject matter of a particular academic discipline). As both classic and more recent studies have shown, to take ancient religion seriously in its various dimensions is to see that it “ran through all [of life’s] phases.” [Nock, Conversion, 272] Ancient religion, that is to say, is a pattern of practices and beliefs inextricably interwoven with the fabric of ancient culture. Religion is not, however, just part of this fabric, ultimately passive and controlled by other more basic influences such as politics and economics, for example. Rather, religion is also constitutive of culture; it helps to construct the cultural fabric itself. Religion is, therefore, in the last resort “indistinguishable from culture.” [Young, Biblical Exegesis, 50]—World Upside Down, pages 50-51

Always pursuing us

Both sons were in the wrong, and it was really their responsibility to seek out the father. The younger son did, and the father was waiting. As soon as he could see his son on the horizon, he ran to him. He didn’t sit back and wait. He didn’t make his son sweat out each last step. He didn’t posture himself as most patriarchs would have back then, full of pride and indignant about any disrespect. No, he ran to his son.

And when the older brother was in the field, the father left the celebration to find him. He engaged his son even when he didn’t have to.

What do both of these interactions tell.—AHA Student Edition electronic edition

<idle musing>
As Augustine said, the Holy Spirit is the hound of heaven (I know, this post is about the Father!). And I praise God that he is still pursuing me—despite my many stupid, selfish mistakes/sins...
</idle musing>

The power of prayer

I affirm what Tiessen calls the redemptive intervention model [of prayer], in which God’s overall plan is established and known to God while granting freedom within that plan. In this model, prayer changes things, and I believe the biblical models of prayer, from Abraham to David to Elijah to Isaiah to Jesus to Paul and the early churches, affirm this interactive model in which prayer sometimes alters the path of history within the overall plan of God in response to the prayers of God’s people. The upload from this theoretical sketch is that our yearning and our aching for God’s name to be hallowed, for God’s kingdom to come, and for others to experience the blessing of God can prompt God to actions that satisfy those yearning and aches.— Sermon on the Mount, page 188

<idle musing>
Amen and amen! That's my take, as well.
</idle musing>

Thought for the day

Have we come to a stage in this generation that the so-called church is promoting everything and anything that will add to its number? The bottom line, as they say, is success; and success has everything to do with numbers. Whatever brings the numbers in must be all right.

This is far from the church fathers who gave their lives to establish the church of Jesus Christ.

The problem, as I see it, is that we have lost the vision the fathers had of what we refer to as the New Testament church.—A.W. Tozer, Voice of a Prophet, page 17

<idle musing>
And I would go a step further and say we have lost the vision that Jesus, the apostles, and Paul had for what the church is...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

There is a difference

There is a fundamental distinction between a vow and an oath. A vow is a conditional promise that seeks to bargain with a deity to support a desired outcome. Most notable vows articulate the arrangement in positive terms; expressing how each party will mutually benefit when the agreement is fulfilled. Vows generally lack any references to penalties for a failure to meet the vow’s demands. This may be attributed to the fact that a human being cannot punish a deity for not honoring the arrangement. The freedom of divine will must be respected. However should a mere mortal fail to thank the deity for his or her generosity by fulfilling the vow, we can presume that there would be repercussions. Yet again, this leaves the deity free to determine exactly what that punishment will be.

An oath, on the other hand, is a conditional curse. It solicits a deity or deities to punish someone for failure to respect and maintain the terms of an arrangement. One of the more interesting characters {sic] of ancient oaths is that they could be exacted in two different ways. One method allowed one to bind oneself to the agreement. This is an oath as a conditional self-curse. Thus, the one who swears the oath generally determines the nature of the punishment as expressed in the curse. The other method allows a superior party to impose an oath on another person. Here, the superior party unilaterally establishes all features of the oath from every detail of the terms, to expansive lists of curses.— Cursed Are You!, pages 61-62

You hit the stone wall

This collision, however, is not due to the missionaries’ lack of tact (though they were doubtless bold) or to a pagan propensity for rash violence (though there was doubtless bloodlust); rather, its deeper basis rests ultimately in the theological affirmation of the break between God and the cosmos. For to affirm that God has “created heaven and earth” is, in Luke’s narrative, simultaneously to name the entire complex of pagan religiousness the character of ignorance. Pagan religion, regardless of the specific differences engendered by time and locale, knows only the cosmos; it does not know God.—World Upside Down, page 50

What are you portraying?

Jesus knows that most people base what they think about God on His representatives. In that day, people viewed God based on how the Pharisees and teachers lived and behaved. Think about it: Our interactions with employees shape our view of a company. I mean, if you walk into Target and a sales representative is rude and cusses at you, you’re not going to be happy. You might complain to him personally, but more likely, you or your parents are going to say, “I’d like to speak to the manager, please.”

That’s what’s behind Jesus’s challenge to these Pharisees. These older brothers lived and worked in the Father’s house. They told the people how to follow the Father. Jesus knew the people were looking to them as a reference point of what the Father is like. And He knew there were a lot of older brothers totally misrepresenting the heart of God. (There still are.) These older bros were portraying God as a Father who is unreasonable, unpleasable, uncaring, and unmerciful. And it’s often the older brothers’ portrayal of God that sends prodigals to the Distant Country in the first place.

But that’s not the kind of Father Jesus described.—AHA Student Edition electronic edition

Simply put...

Those who genuinely love others forgive. Those who don’t are not kingdom people.— Sermon on the Mount, page 183

<idle musing>
You couldn't put it much simpler than that, could you. Or truer.
</idle musing>

Good advice

My child, stand firm and trust in Me. For what are words but words? They fly through the air but hurt not a stone. If you are guilty, consider how you would gladly amend. If you are not conscious of any fault, think that you wish to bear this for the sake of God. It is little enough for you occasionally to endure words, since you are not yet strong enough to bear hard blows.—Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

It's up to them

Although a deity, insulted by the offense of vow neglect, could indeed castigate the offender with a variety of misfortunes, the punishment is never seen to derive from a prearranged, conditional malediction. This illustrates a fundamental distinction between the vow and the oath. The curse in an oath establishes the nature of the punishment in advance while the vow leaves the penalty to the whim of the deities.— Cursed Are You!, page 36

<idle musing>
And given the unstable nature of some of those gods, I don't think that was supposed to be a comforting thought...
</idle musing>

Make the choice

The burning of magical books and the uproar caused by Demetrius and the craftsmen are not two unconnected or random events but rather two different responses to the life of transformation proclaimed by Paul and the early Christians. Acts 19:18-20 and 19:23-40, that is, narrate two sides of the same, stark either/or reality. The practice of magic is incompatible with Christian life, as is the worship of Artemis and veneration of her images/shrines. In Acts, it is either magic or Christianity, either Artemis or Christ.—World Upside Down, page 49

<idle musing>
It still is. We just aren't a quick to realize it because the names have changed. Check out this blog post from the other day:

Superstitious reverence for all things military constantly verges on the idolatrous and prevents the church from being a prophetic people. Memorial Day is not on the church calendar and military color guards marching down church aisles with rifles on their shoulders should not be part of our liturgy.

Consumerism, as much as anything, has come to define much of America’s most visible expressions of Christianity. Take a quick stroll though “Christian TV Land” and you’ll see what I mean. This is what Janis Joplin mocked when she sang, “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz.” The cross heaps shame on all of this.

The American prescription for happiness is the script we’ve been handed. But it’s a lie. It’s a false gospel, yet enormously popular. The only possible way to resist that dominant script is through the adoption of what Walter Brueggemann calls a counter-script. For the Christian that counter-script is the gospel of Jesus Christ — at the center of which stands a cross!

Amen and amen! May we see through the facade...
</idle musing>

It covers us all

The Pharisees listening to Jesus were about to learn what they had forgotten—and what we often forget: the followers of Jesus aren’t on earth to assign blame; we’re here to free the trapped, bandage the wounded, help the hurting, and celebrate homecomings.

AHA.

But the older son didn’t get it. He stayed angry and offended, despite his father’s pleas. This older bro may have worked hard and faithfully tended the fields, but he was lost in his father’s house.

There was no awakening.

There was no honesty.

There was no action.

The truth is, he, too, was a prodigal son. He, too, had a heart that was far from his father. He, too, was lost—but he didn’t see it. Pastor Tim Keller puts it this way: 'The bad son was lost in his badness, but the good son was lost in his goodness.’—AHA Student Edition electronic edition

Try getting around that!

Verse 12 is a prayer request: forgive us our sins as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. In other words, the appeal to God for forgiveness is rooted in our forgiving others. For most of us this seems backward because it seems to make God’s forgiveness conditioned on our forgiving others. But that’s what Jesus says!— Sermon on the Mount, page 182

<idle musing>
And books have been filled trying to get around it for 2000 years! None of them convincing...

Maybe we're just trying to keep grace cheap?
</idle musing>

Thought for a Monday Tuesday

Oh, how good and how peaceful it is to be silent about others, not to believe without discrimination all that is said, not easily to report it further, to reveal oneself to few, always to seek You as the discerner of hearts, and not to be blown away by every wind of words, but to wish that all things, within and beyond us, be done according to the pleasure of Thy will.—Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ