Monday, September 26, 2016

The Goads and the Ox--Acts 9

One of the hardest fights is to fight against something we know to be right.  Our pride resists and we don't want to accept it.   We become stubborn as an ox fighting against the goads, those wooden prods that poke us when we go the wrong direction.

This is Paul's story.  Because there was a problem. He couldn't deny his experiences with those blasted Christ-ians.

"These men began to argue with Stephen, but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke" (Ac 6:10).

Every time these guys spoke, Paul could not stand up against them or fight the Spirit.  I believe it's because he felt that their message was true but his mind told him differently.  He could not, would not let this heresy sway him.  His would stay strong and uphold the law.

But not stronger than the power of Jesus  Thankfully.

"About noon, O king as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions.  We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'" (Act 26:13-14).

In his fight against Jesus, Paul surrendered.  And today we have much to be grateful for that encounter.

I too often find myself fighting against the goads.  There are things I want to do that are good, but not necessarily best.  In the past the Holy Spirit has met me and I am glad.  I hope to mature to the point where I obey instead of fight, but until then, I'm glad the Lord is so ferocious for our hearts.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Admiration in the Absence--Mk 3:1-6

(copyright:  bigstockphoto)

I'm just so glad it wasn't me.  I couldn't have not done what Jesus didn't do.  Especially if I had heaven powers behind me.  Here's the scene:

Jesus heals a man with a shriveled hand.  Therefore the Pharisees plotted to kill him.

Seriously?  Kill him for...healing someone?  Even Jesus was angry and deeply distressed.  They cared more that it happened on the Sabbath than for the man who had an incapacitating, mocking magnet deformity.  No telling what I would have done.

And that's why we have to admire Jesus.  For what he didn't do.

1)  He didn't call down 10,000 angels and strike them with lightning, sending them straight to hell without passing go.

2)  He didn't pass judgment against the Pharisees that went something along the lines of "Pharisees are always ________" or "Pharisees never _________".

3)  He didn't vow never to return to a synagogue because they were "so full of hypocrites" even though almost every synagogue was full of hypocrites.

4)  He didn't get discouraged in the ministry or develop a hard heart even though the church leaders wanted to kill him for preaching love and truth.

Instead he let the Pharisees live, he continued to minister to other Pharisees, he intentionally went to more synagogues every week and he didn't lose heart in his mission, even if he did lose his life.


Totally admirable.

No one will ever be ashamed to follow a man/God like this.  Praise Jesus.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

A Testimony Worth Reading

I read this recently and I keep coming back to it.  What a powerful testimony.  Please click the link and take time to read.  I tried to paste it here but wasn't able to.

Once Upon a Time

Copyright-James Morrison/Getty
Once upon a time there was a people who for the most part knew what was right and did so because it was the loving thing to do.  Eventually it became less about loving and more about what was legally right and what was legally wrong.   Soon it was just about following the rules.  Perhaps they were afraid of lawsuits.  Or afraid of people.  Even the "church" people did the same thing.   The people forgot about compassion, love, justice and mercy and came all about doing something to avoid getting in trouble with "the law."  Then Jesus showed up.  You can read about it here:  The Gospel of Matthew (esp Mt 23).

Monday, August 22, 2016

We are the Blessing--Ps 84:5-6

"Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion."

Valley of Baca is a literally the Valley of Weeping.  But when God's people come through it, they make it a place of springs.  Wherever God's people go, they make things better.

* Dirty areas get cleaned up
* Employers get a return on their hire
* Broken people get hospital care
* Hungry people get fed
* Hurting people get encouraged
* Lost people get saved

And life gets better for everyone around them.  Why?  They don't go from struggle to struggle or difficulty to difficulty but strength to strength.  And when their strength is in him, they can do things that serve Him who is greater than themselves.

We are the blessing.

Friday, August 19, 2016


David Hamilton is coming out with a Bible formatted to understand the verbs.  Do you know THE most frequently used verb ascribed to God?  See if you can pick from this list:

He Speaks
He Blesses
He Loves
He Rebukes

You probably can guess.  It's He Speaks.  Our God is the God of communication.

The Lord's Prayer Re-Examined

If we were to write the Lord's prayer according to what we really pray (including me), it would probably read like the following:

"Father, give me today my daily bread and tomorrow's bread too. 
Deliver me from evil people.
In Jesus' name Amen."

Then if we pulled out our Greek geek selves we might do a word study on "father" and delve deeper into this intimate meaning of "Daddy" or "Abba."

It's a good start.  But we all must grow from there.

The first thing I'm struck with about the Lord's prayer is it's corporate nature.  When we think of prayer, we almost always tend to think of it in terms of our individual relationship with the Father.  But this isn't the Lord's prayer.  Read it again noticing the words of community:

"Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.'

For if you (plural) forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly father will forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."  Mt 6:9-14

Now it could be that as he was addressing the group, he meant the corporate teaching to be individualized.  But consider that Middle Eastern culture is a relationship, group-centered culture, I'm not so certain.

So with that I wondered what it would be like for me not to pray "My Father" or just "Father" but to begin praying "Our Father."  Just trying this once and immediately perspective changed.  As I say "our" I think of my brothers and sisters who are being killed for their faith right now.  I also think of the people in my life that I like and don't like.  I think of the nation I live in. 

It means my prayers I am praying are greater than myself.  The answers God gives are not just about me.  It is about the "we" and the "our" and the "us."  It creates sense of corporate responsibility with corporate blessings.  Maybe a new way of praying could actually be rediscovering the old.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Jesus, The Caregiver

One of my Middle Eastern friends tells the story of when his sister was being courted by a suitor.  The older brother in typical culture gathered his 4 younger brothers to meet with the young man.  They came looking tough and intimidating.  They would meet with him 5 times to find out if he was good enough for their sister.  They would also try to add an intimidation factor.  If at the 3rd visit they liked the guy, they would begin by offering him tea as a sign they were warming up to him.  After 5 visits they would give their blessing.  If after they married and the husband was harmful to their sister, they would investigate.  If they found their sister in the wrong, they would let him deal with it.  If they found he was wrong, they would deal with him.

In Middle Eastern culture (and many African cultures) the responsibility of the family falls on to the oldest brother.  He is to protect the family name and make sure the family is protected.  An older brother is also oftentimes expected to financially send the young siblings to school.   It's double the honor, double the responsibility.

Jesus is Middle Eastern.  And he is the oldest brother.  He had the responsibility of caring for his family, especially his mother and the other siblings.  (According to tradition his father died young.)  At one point his brothers thought he had gone crazy so they tried to pull the "mom-card" to get him to stop (Mk 3:30-34).  Didn't work.  Jesus knew what they were up to.  "Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."

But on the cross it was different.  Jesus had a responsibility to his mother.    And it wasn't pretty as Michaelangelo so shockingly reminds us in his painting--Jesus was naked.  They gambled away his under garments.  And the Romans wanted the greatest possible shame.  There was a reason that "All those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things" (Lk 23:49).

But it was different with family.  Jesus' mother was there.  It was her son.  And the disciple Jesus loved.  And in the moment of his greatest agony as he became the sin of the world, he still was focused on the one in front of him--his mother.

"When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother."  From that time on, this disciple took her into his home" (Jn 19:26-27).

It wasn't his brothers or even his sisters but it was the man who came to the horror of the cross to look after his mother.  To this man he handed over the care giving responsibilities.  Ironically it was this man who would live the longest.

Jesus was indeed a caregiver.  Not in her sickness but in his crucifixion.  This tells us much about the kind of man we follow.

Saturday, August 13, 2016


Concern about finances has been a struggle for me since my dad first left my mom as a kid.  I worried often for my mother who was working three jobs and how we were going to make it.  Whenever we went to a restaurant I would find the cheapest thing on the menu and order it.  It was not until my late 20's that I was able to purchase the non-cheapest menu item.

Fast forward some years later.  Being in international ministry has meant living a life of trusting the Lord and in income level that is beyond comprehension to any ordinary person.  A meeting with the financial advisor this week was laughable.  I just ended up praying for her instead.

But it is also a concern for me and I wish it weren't.  Lately that concern has reared its ugly head yet again.  A lot of present and future unknowns and I find myself grinding to find ways for income.  I've looked into so many things I've thought of writing a blog just on what hasn't worked well.  Have I made an income?  Nope.  Yet there's burden inside that keeps pushing and driving forward.  But it has significantly reduced my time with the Lord.  Signficantly.

This morning I open my Bible and read this:

"Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
and nothing you desire can compare with her."

Prov 8:10-11

'Nuff said.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

God, My Protector

I've been thinking off and on over the years of God being my protector.   I know He has protected me countless times.  It really is the question, how does he protect my heart?  Not that life is not full of hardships.  In fact we know it is.  "In this world you have many troubles," he says.  I've experience my truckloads of challenges.  But how does he protect my heart?

In thinking tonight of Jesus as a male/as a man, I was thinking through how he protected while he was on earth:

  • When the children came to him and the disciples were trying to shoo those annoying kids out of the way, Jesus invited them to them and elevated them, saying the kingdom belonged to such as these (Mt 19)
  • When they were stoning the woman caught in adultery, he asked a question that was really a rebuke.  They dropped their stands. (Jn 8)
  • When the Roman soldiers came to arrest him, he stepped forward and told them it was him they were looking for, and to let the disciples go (Jn 18)
Jesus was their protector, even on this earth.  It didn't mean they weren't exposed to hardship, but they knew he was in their corner.  There is so much more to understand and know.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Deeper Translates to Higher

It has often been said that to go high one most go deep.  You can't build a sky-scraper in shallow soil.  But to do so beckons patience.  I can't say I'm naturally patient.  If anything the Lord teaches me that while I don't have patience, I can grow it.  It's painful.

Currently I'm writing a book about Paul and the Galatian churches.  My typical way of doing things is to obsess about it until I get it done.  Let's get the book written in a week or two.  Perhaps it's because I fear if I delay it, I won't get it done.  Maybe it's just because I'm an idea and action person.  Or it could be because I want it out there Right Now!  I don't know.

And then I read three things that cause me to pause.

First was Jim Cymbala's book Fresh Power.  He was meditating on the Scripture in 1 Cor 2:4-5:

"My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power."

Jim says this:

"Think of these words today when so many speakers and churches want to produce "wise and persuasive words," cleverness and human charisma, a beautiful church plant and great programs for the family--everything but the "demonstration of the Spirit's power" that the apostle Paul exalted to the glory of God."

The  Scripture provokes a question to me.  How much am I seeking the Lord's power in what I do?  A 5-10 minute prayer time?   I think of great preachers such as Billy Graham.  I've heard better preachers but the anointing on him is powerful.  And I know great books that have changed history that have not always been the most powerful writing such as "In His Steps," but they have been anointed by the Spirit.  Are we cultivating God's power to bring the transformation as we study and pray?  Am I more excited to get a book out than to slow down and seek the anointing and direction of the Lord as I write?

The second cause to pause was studying Paul's timeline of his life this morning, when he came to the Lord he immediately prayed and fast, blindly, for 3 days.   Then shortly thereafter headed to Arabia for 3 whole years, consulting no one but receiving the gospel from the Lord.  After that season his ministry exploded.  Why 3 years?  He had studied the Scriptures fastidiously.  Why not just jump into preaching?  Take a few months, maybe a year but 3 years?  Because Paul did not blast out of the starting gates, his ministry was actually richer, deeper, wider and more powerful.

Then then there was my third cause to pause.  A Scripture I have thought of often in Proverbs.

"Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control."  Prov 25:28

Here I read "Self-Discipline."  When I'm not exercising patience, I'm like a city with broken walls.  And if you've ever been to Israel, broken walls were utterly dangerous.  One could not exist long-term without walls, which is why in Ezra and Nehemiah there was such emphasis on the rebuilding of the walls.

Patience and prayer.  Perhaps with this the books I write will be of much richer quality and more anointed through prayer and God's Spirit.  It's not something natural, but it's something I want to grow.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Gospel--Galatians 2

Jesus preached the gospel (Mk 8:35).  But he didn't preach his death, burial and resurrection.  In fact he often silenced the disciples about these things as well as about his identity.  It wasn't time.   The gospel was also announced to Abraham, and that was a few years before Jesus' death, burial and resurrection (Gal 3:8)

So if he preached the gospel then what gospel did he preach?

Paul spells it out to us.

So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”[a]
Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”[b] So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

This is the gospel:  Man is justified by faith [through grace enacted by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ).

Justification by faith.

For those before the Christ, it was a looking towards Him.
For those of us after Christ, it is the looking back.

Christ made it possible for us to be justified by faith.

Not works.
Not laws.
Not following good principles.

Just faith in Jesus for our salvation.

He's saved us.  We didn't.
He redeemed us.  We couldn't.

That's the good news.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Jesus--The Scary One

The job of the Roman soldier was to invoke so much fear into the life of the citizens that there was no room for disobedience.  When a Roman soldier appeared, people ran for their lives.  It was trained into them to be brutal and heartless.  Their very presence invoked fear.  People ran from them and the Romans expected it.

But things don't always work out the way they're supposed to.

A detachment of soldiers was sent out to get Jesus.  Blood was in the air but orders were to bring him back alive.  They confidently marched to the grove of olives, hardened and tough.  Judas was going to lead them to him and they would hunt him down.  This one would be easy.

But as they drew near, instead of Jesus running in fear, he "went out" to them.  He stood up and instead of running from them, he went to them.  Instead of the Romans demanding answers, Jesus asked them the question.  "Who is that you want?"

"Jesus of Nazareth," they responded.

"I am he."  

With that the Roman soldiers drew back in fright and fell to the ground all over each other.  A bumbling mess. 

"If you are looking for me, then let these men go.”

His concern?   To protect his disciples.  He didn't run from the battle, he ran into it, protecting his men (who all ran away). 

Jesus is the true warrior.   The one turning the tables on the enemy.

Where men try to invoke fear, He is their fear (Is 8:13).

The Tripping Up of a Generation

We are an obese generation.  And it's spreading to more than just our own country.  Even skinny people are eating unhealthy.  We want our food and we want it the way it tastes good to us.  I struggle with this. I like chips, a cold Coke and some good chocolate.

I was rereading a psalm the other day.  And there it was.  Do you want to know what was a strumbling stone for Israel?  Food.  They wanted their food.  Gives us the leeks of Egypt!  We had pots of meat there!  They couldn't embrace the hardship of lack so they complained.  Again and again.  And God was angry.

How much self-control do we have with food?  And I don't just mean for overweight people.  Are we willing to "suffer" so enter into the best that God has for us?  In my mind I think I can, but my actoins show something completely different.  God help me.

The Believer's Fire

What is the real test of the believer?  Is it hardship?  Difficulties?  Persecutions?  If we survive these coming out better and not better?  No.  There's another test for the believer that is often much more difficult. More slippery.  And has many deceptions.

"The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives."

Does a man try to deflect it in false self-humility?  Does he receive it and become bloated up?  Or does he receive in genuine humility, giving honor and thanks to God? 

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Withering--Ps 1

Lately under the crazy of it all, I've felt a "withering" of life in general.  Then I'm reminded in Ps 1 that the person who meditates on the Word night and day does not wither.  And sure enough, my Bible time has been neglected.  Time to dig to the waters again.

Friday, May 20, 2016


I've been reading the book of Job lately and it is with new eyes.  Eyes of trial.  Here's some observations:

  • It was Job's friends and family that could've been his closest support that were his biggest nemesis. 
  • Where were Job's friends when his children died?  Why did they only come when he himself was knocked down?
  • At the sniff of blood the vultures gather
  • "What he feared, happened."
  • Eliphaz was a jerk.  His opening statements were infuriating.  Yet God offered forgiveness in the end to the extent that Job would pray for him and his friends.  
  • It was only "After Job Prayed" for them and forgave them that God blessed Job's life.  I think forgiveness would have been challenging when friends pour salt in your wounds.  But Job did and God blessed him.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Fighting the Chill--Mt 24:12

Scriptures says that because of the increase of wickedness the love of most will grow cold.  In this time of great suffering I understand that.  Ungodly people take advantage of suffering for their own self.  If you read this, I ask for your prayer for a supernatural grace of forgiveness.  We must all fight our love growing cold. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Psalm 103:10

Scripture says He treats us not as our sins deserve.  This sounds wonderful and such.  It's not until I'm asked to treat others not as their sins against me deserve that it becomes gritty.  And scary.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Suffering of Patience--1 Pet 3:20

There's not a need to have patience unless there's some kind of suffering in waiting.  That waiting can be for something bad to change or for something good to finally happen.   It's what makes patience so very difficult, at least for most of us Westerners.

Even God suffers and has to wait patiently.

"God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built."  1 Pet 3:20

You have to wonder if God was thinking, 'Hurry up, Noah, please. I can't stand the level of evil that is on the face of the earth.  This suffering humans are inflicting on one another causes me unspeakable distress and I must wait until you build this boat.'

Patience is a barely existent virtue in my character.  I don't like suffering and I want it to end quickly.  I want somebody to do something.  More often than not when I have to wait too long, I try to take control and do things myself.

But this isn't the way of the Lord.  His ways are patience.  Endurance.  And long-suffering.  Because timing matters as He assembles everything and all people in place.  It's not always just about me.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Foundations of Persecution--1 Pet 1:1-2

"Foreboding" perhaps wasn't the best description.  But definitely a sense of change coming, change that would cause the followers of Jesus to be a bit more alert.  The economy was tanking, corruption was going viral and the highest leadership of the nation fell to the lowest of standards.     Persecution seemed to be lurking in the shadows and perhaps would rear its ugly face openly.  Nero was Emperor and he held no affection for the followers of Christus.

So Peter writes.  He writes as one who has himself walked through scary times and even failed.  But because he did not give up but had pressed on, restored by the resurrected Lord himself, he had something to say.

He identifies himself as the sent out one of Jesus and then writes to those scattered throughout Asia Minor.  It was a scroll passed from one house church gathering to the next.  After identifying himself and his audience, he opens with this:

"[you] who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: grace and peace be yours in abundance."

If you look at the core of this sentence it basically says " be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood."

 This is... strange.  Chosen for obedience?  Sprinkled with blood?

It could be strange but not for those who would know the Old Testament/Covenant stories.  When Moses was sealing the covenant with the Israelites, he spelled out the commands for them to follow, then took blood and sprinkled the people (Ex 24).  The blood and the commands both were signs of the covenant (Heb 9:19-21).  All covenants have expectations and a loss of blood.  (Think marriage and the marriage night with a virgin).

Chosen for covenant.  Western culture doesn't always get the concept of covenant.  Covenant is a binding union.  Not a contract.  It's secure and irrevocable.  Covenant was very appropriate for the time.

Soon the Christians would watch as their children, friends and experience for themselves what it was like to be hated by the masses, and tortured by the authorities.  Peter needed to prepare them.  And in the same breath he says hello he reminded them that God's people were a covenant people--a people chosen to be in covenant with God.  This security, this eternally binding and inseparable union was to be the foundation for any and every trial that they were to face.

It wasn't the promise of deliverance from trials.  It wasn't the promise from deliverance from anything of this earth.  But it was the promise of Himself.   Forever.  Eternally. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Sleepy Faith--Psalms 3-4, Mark 4, Acts 12

Sometimes faith shows itself at its greatest when one just goes to sleep.  I remember the story of a missionary who was stranded somewhere in a dangerous part of Africa.  They knew there were violent thieves around and they feared for their life, but they could do nothing about it.  As the man was praying, the Lord spoke to him the Scripture in Psalm 4:8--"In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety."  So with that Word, he shared with those with him and they decided the best thing they could do was lie down and sleep.

Sleep throughout Scripture has often been a fruit of faith.  Consider David when pursued by Saul and his whole army (Ps 3). 

Lord, how many are my foes!
    How many rise up against me! 

 Many are saying of me,
    “God will not deliver him.”

  But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
    my glory, the One who lifts my head high. 
 I call out to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy mountain.

 I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. 
 I will not fear though tens of thousands
    assail me on every side

Surrounded by tens of thousands who were pursuing him to his death.  And David goes to sleep.  It was the sleep of faith.  And it wasn't the first time (Ps 4).

We see it again in the New Testament.  Jesus and his disciples, some of who had grown up on the waters of the Galilee, were convinced they were going to drown in a storm.  And where was Jesus?  Sleeping.  Soundly.  They woke him up, he rebuked the wind, rebuked the disciples, and in my estimation, went back to sleep.  (Lk 8:22-25; Mk 4:35-41).

And another time in the life of the disciples.  King Herod had just arrested and beheaded James.  Seeing this pleased the Jews, he seized Peter also.  The church was earnestly praying and what was Peter doing?  Sleeping.  Soundly.  So soundly the angel of the Lord had to slap him on the side to wake him up (Acts 12).  It was the hour that he might have joined James in getting beheaded, but there he was in the cell, sleeping between two soldiers.

How can you sleep when the world is spiraling out of control?  How can you sleep when people are crying for death outside your window?  It's only possible by faith.  The same faith, like Daniel's friends when told to worship or die:

"If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue from your hand, O King.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up" (Dan 3:17-18).
 And I think with every act of faith in this form, the forces of darkness shudder.  Shudder at our snoring.


A Comma of Errors?--Eph 1:4

There are no commas in Greek, there are really, really long sentences, and it sometimes is a problem.  A simple comma can change everything.  Sometimes it is significant, sometimes it doesn't change much.

The other day I decided to look up something in Greek in Ephesians.  I had studied ancient Greek for 3 years in college.

Here is the Greek literal translation of Eph 1:4-5:

"He chose us in him before the foundation of the world to be be holy and without blame before him in love he chose beforehand for to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ."

 No commas in Greek (at least in the original).  But the Bibles add the commas for us English readers.  Read the difference from the KJV and every other translation.

KJV:  "He chose us in be holy and blameless before him in love.  He predestined us...."

Everyone else:  "He chose us in be holy and blameless before him.  In love, he predestined us..."

The change matters. 

Is he asking us to be holy and blameless in our love?
Or is he saying it was in love he predestined us?

Very different. 

And for a moment I felt encouraged.  I'm not a KJV only person by any means, but to be holy and blameless in love?  For me that draws me more than just being holy and blameless and that's it.  To be holy and blameless in love gives me mission and grace.

It's also nice to think that in love he predestined us to be adopted as sons.  Adoption in love is assumed as it is an eternal covenant.

The Greek is not clear as to which way "love" goes.  That's why the different translations. 

But for now I'm leaning toward the KJV rendering.  We're to be holy and blameless in our love.  It means my love must mature.  Not just my moral uprightness.   Things to ponder.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

A-salted--Mt 5:13

"You are the salt of the earth.  If salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?"

In a land of refrigeration, we fully underestimate the value of salt.  It meant life.  I preserved food which was essential and was so valuable that it was often used to pay wages.  Pliny the Elder (1st century guy) stated that the word "salary" came from the word "salt" as the Roman soldiers were often paid in salt.  It's where we get the expression, "worth their salt."  Ancient Chinese considered salt second only to gold in value.

The question that often arises is the chemist's question.  How can salt lose its saltiness?  Hyrdrochloride (salt) is one of the 3-4 most strongest compounds in the world.  So did Jesus not pass chemistry class?

Indeed in the context of the day, he did know.   Salt cannot be broken down and separated except from water that would cause dilution but this isn't necessarily something you can "toss out and trample by men..  Yet there was in a sense a way salt could "lose its saltiness."  The Dead Sea is very mineral rich and also has so much salt one can literally sit in the water.  The problem was that
other minerals could adhere to salt molecules--nasty ones like boron, magnesium and bromides.  When salt became overloaded with other minerals, the salt with its attachments became useless and worthy of being "tossed out"and "trampled by men."   It was an illustration that an entire crowd of people could relate to as they needed good salt to preserve their food.

But we must be careful to not get so caught up in the science that we lose Jesus' point.  If salt loses its ability to be useful because it has adhered to other things, it is worthless.  There is a warning in this text.

So what does this all mean?   There are seemingly endless applications.  One needs to read the Scripture more or be careful of attachments or not get diluted by the world.  All good.  What we do know Jesus was saying that salt had a capacity to have a form that was not useful if it became compromised.  In the context of pressure, persecution and just life in general, this is readily understandable.  Something that is compromised is almost never beneficial, be it a trust, a relationship, or one's life in Christ.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

His hands

I like hands.  They say a lot about a person.  Are they smooth or calloused?  Perfectly painted or chipped from work?  Are they wrinkled and tanned or smooth and white?

So I looked at hands in Scripture.  In particular the hands of Jesus.  Perhaps in his earlier days the hands of Jesus were rough and calloused from hard labor.  We tend to think of Jesus as a carpenter but from what I understand, the word can also be translated "stone-worker" (just google it if you have any doubt).    When you go to Israel, you notice that there are stones everywhere and for every building.  Carpentry work was for the rich people.  We know for sure Jesus wasn't from a rich family.   They couldn't even afford the obligatory lamb sacrifice for when Jesus was born.  Instead they had to go with the two young pigeons or a pair of doves, a concession for poor people (Lev 12:8).  So for me  I'm quite sure it wasn't trees Jesus was working with in his job.  Rather he was blue collar factory worker that did the grinding work of stones.  So his hands.  Calloused and rough.  And strong.  Very strong.

At 30 his hands changed.  Because at 30 the first thing we read about his hands is that they were washed.  Washed in the waters of baptism.  From there he would begin his life of ministry and I'm sure his hands began to heal from their callouses.  Not totally but they would be growing smooth again.

But now his hands took on a different role.  Instead of receiving the smashing and scraping and bruising from hard work, his hands would now be the conduit of healing for the smashed and scraped and bruised bodies and hearts and lives of others.  Because now Jesus began to touch people.  Holy touch.  Life-giving touch.

Lepers.  You kept your distance.  You made sure you drove those people-turned monsters  away and made them shout "unclean" so you could keep your distance.  You drove them away when they came near.  Jesus went to them.  He touched them.  And the people recoiled in horror.  Luke 5:13

Dead people.  They are cold.  They are stiff.  They stink.  And they are unclean.  A widow whose only hope was her son had just lost him, perhaps in a tragic accident.  It was her death sentence as well as his.  The funeral was in place when Jesus met them.  Keep your distance and let the people grieve, they said.  Jesus aproached the funeral procession.  Then the coffin.  Then he reached out his hands and touched it.  And the people recoiled.  But the young man was brought to life.  Luke 7:4

God's Presence.  For all people who seek it they forget that it is scary.  Very scary.  Peter, James and John saw their rabbi transfigured before them.  Then Moses and Elijah appeared.  Then the Lord spoke to them telling them the Father loved his son and they were to listen to him.  A bright cloud enveloped them. They fell facedown to the ground, terrified.  But Jesus.  He came and touched them.  He knelt down, touched his friends and told the to not be afraid.  He touched them.  Mt 16:7

Jesus touched eyes and they were healed (Mt 20:34).  He actually put his fingers in someone's ears to heal them (Mk 7:33).  He even spit and touched a man's tongue ((Mk 7:33).   Something about touch made broken people whole, lonely people loved, and rejected people and even more ostracized.  Somehow people didn't it when hurting people were helped.

Out of Jesus' hands come life, healing, deliverance, acceptance and love.   Bold hands that were not afraid of anything.

Then I look at my hands.  Hands that have not always been holy.  It's interesting that the holiness of the heart is connected to the hands (Ps 24:4).

But then there's one other thing I remember about Jesus hands.  I am there. 

"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands" (Is 49:6).  

 Engraved..  On the palms.  The most painful part.  Permanent. Bloody.  And forever his.