Tradition and the Calf Path

calf-path

One more time where I find a poem in my travels that teaches more than I expected.  I hope you enjoy.


by Sam Walter Foss

Tradition and the Calf Path

One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail, as all calves do.

Since then three hundred years have fled,
And, I infer, the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bellwether sheep
Pursued the trail o’er vale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him, too,
As good bellwethers always do.

And from that day, o’er hill and glade,
Through those old woods a path was made,
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged and turned and bent about,
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because ’twas such a crooked path;
But still they followed — do not laugh —
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked
Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane,
That bent, and turned, and turned again.
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.

The years passed on in swiftness fleet.
The road became a village street,
And this, before men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare,
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed that zigzag calf about,
And o’er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They follow still his crooked way,
And lose one hundred years a day,
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf-paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.

They keep the path a sacred groove,
Along which all their lives they move;
But how the wise old wood-gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf!
Ah, many things this tale might teach —
But I am not ordained to preach.

The following is the core of the matter.

A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They follow still his crooked way,
And lose one hundred years a day,
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.


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Our Modern Way of Meeting

I found this a few years ago, written by a guy named Rusty Entrekin. I think it catches some of the differences we experience in church life that the first century believer may be surprised by.

Our Modern Way Of Meeting

preacher

How is it then, brethren?

When ye come together, the pastor hath a doctrine, and the minister of music hath psalms.

Let all things be done unto worship.

If anyone besides the pastor hath a doctrine, let him not speak; let him hold his peace.

Let him sit in the pew, and face the back of the neck of the person which sitteth ahead of him.

Complete-church-midnight-mass

Let the people keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith church tradition.

But if they will learn anything, let them ask their pastor after the service, for it is a shame for a layman to speak in the church.

For the pastor, he hath a seminary degree, and the layman, he hath not so lofty a degree.

If any man desire to remain a church member in good standing, let him acknowledge that what I write to you is the command of the denominational headquarters.

But if any man ignore this, he shall be promptly escorted out the door by the ushers.

Wherefore brothers, covet not to speak in the church.

Let all things be done decently and in the order in which it hath been written in the church bulletin.


Hey – I created a poll for your opinions on this post.  Meet me over at “Our Modern Way of Meeting” Poll to let me know what you think.

 

Thanks, and hope to visit with you soon.


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A Literal Bible – Part 2

page-turning-bible-animation-21Does the Bible lend itself to a LITERAL reading?

Our last post on this topic dealt with the question

“Is all the Bible to be read literally?”

We discussed the literal definition of the word “literal” – Oh how boring…., and genres of literature that passages within the Bible fall into. (somewhat interesting….)

This post, I would like to focus on the question

Is the message intended to be taken literally?

This is the heart of the message I am trying to communicate!

The intended (or true) meaning may be clouded or completely in error if taken literally.
Sometimes the message isn’t completely clear and the author will correct the misunderstanding. The following passages are offered to try to explain this concept.

Lets see if some of the messages Jesus gave in the Gospel of John were meant to be taken literally.

  • A Literal Temple

When Jesus said “Destroy this Temple”, the religious leaders understood the literal temple. Might this have been a mistake?

John 2:18-21

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”
21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
  • A Literal Rebirth

When Nicodemus came to Jesus, Jesus told him he must be born again. Did Nicodemus take this literally?

John 3:3-9

3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”
  • A Literal Well

When Jesus told the woman at the well about living water, and she asked Jesus about a bucket and the depth of the well, was she taking Jesus’ words too literally?

John 4:9-11

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water?
  • A Literal Lunch

When the disciples came back from the town, after Jesus discussion with the woman at the well, they were confused about what Jesus had eaten. Maybe the disciples understood Him too literally?

John 4:31-35

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”
32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”
33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?”
34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.
35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.
  • His Literal Flesh

How about when Jesus taught that His flesh was to be eaten and His blood was to be drank. Should that be taken literally?

John 6:48-52

48 I am the bread of life.
49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

The Person of Christ

How about the “I am” statements in the Gospel? Shall literalness help us in our understanding of the person of Christ? Shall we consider the Messiah to be…

  • A Literal Light

John 8:12

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 9:5

5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

  • A Literal Door

John 10:7

7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.

  • A Literal (Path)way

John 14:6

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

  • A Literal Vine

John 15:1

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

John 15: 5

5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Two final points come to mind at this time.

  • Many times throughout the gospels, those who took the sayings of Jesus too literally either
    • Were in a state of confusion, but eventually found clarity,

or

    • refused to consider anything other than the literal understanding.

Those who were confused but hungry and teachable eventually got the message. Those who refused to consider any other understanding seemed to be associated with His enemies.

  • Throughout the gospel, there are thousands of instances where depending on literalness causes confusion. And thousands of instances where it occurs in Johns other writings. Thousands! Even in Revelation. Thousands I tell you, thousands!

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A Literal Bible – Part 1

page-turning-bible-animation-21

Does the Bible lend itself to a LITERAL reading?

Is all the Bible to be read literally?

First off, let me perfectly clear – I’m not saying we are not to read the Bible. Gosh golly nooooo. Read the Bible. Wrestle with it. Struggle with the Word. Argue with Him until it becomes clear. Honestly, if this post is competing for time that you could be reading the Bible, shut me down! Read the Bible instead. It will do your soul good.

Now that you have understood my stance on Bible reading, I suppose I am simply asking that when you read the Bible (remember you should read the Bible), are all portions of the Bible to be read in a strictly literal manner?

Literal Defn

Is it true that the best method of understanding the Scriptures is to interpret the message literally?

I suppose that depends.

First off, lets make sure we understand what the term “literal” means.

I checked the definition found on http://www.dictionary.com, and found the following information.

Literal
adjective

  • in accordance with, involving, or being the primary or strict meaning of the word or words; not figurative or metaphorical: the literal meaning of a word.
  • following the words of the original very closely and exactly: a literal translation of Goethe.
  • true to fact; not exaggerated; actual or factual: a literal description of conditions.
  • being actually such, without exaggeration or inaccuracy: the literal extermination of a city.
  • (of persons) tending to construe words in the strict sense or in an unimaginative way; matter-of-fact; prosaic.
  • of or pertaining to the letters of the alphabet.
  • of the nature of letters.
  • expressed by letters.
  • affecting a letter or letters: a literal error.

noun

  • a typographical error, especially involving a single letter.

Like I said, reading the Bible literally depends on a number of factors. Let’s consider some of those factors.

The Genre of the Passage

Types+of+writing+in+the+Bible

Different genres demand different approaches to interpretation. Types of genres include historical narrative, law, wisdom, psalms, prophecy, apocalyptic, gospel or epistle

In a historical narrative passage, such as the taking of the census before the birth of the Messiah, or the crucifixion of the Savior, literalness serves us well.

In an apocalyptic genre, such as in Revelation, where the writer describes scorpions with stinging tails, it would be wise to consider the genre before committing to a literal interpretation of the passage.

As an aside, it is not a literal interpretation to say that the apostle is describing fighter helicopters. That is an effort to interpret John’s vision by defining what he described as an object that is familiar to 20th century western culture. A literal interpretation will be that the scorpions are scorpions.

A Figure of Speech

Is the writer/speaker using a figure of speech. Some types of “figures of speech” are below with examples from the Bible

  • Hyperbole– an extravagant statement; the use of exaggerated terms for the purpose of emphasis or heightened effect.

Jesus used hyperbole often to teach those listening.

Consider Matthew 5:29

29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.

  • ironyIrony/Sarcasm– The use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. A statement or situation where the meaning is contradicted by the appearance or presentation of the idea. When used to taunt or ridicule, it is called sarcasm.

When the Pharisees went to trap Jesus in His Words, John records their saying with irony. The Pharisees didn’t mean it but the irony is is that He is true, teaches the way of God, etc.

Consider Matthew 22:15-16.

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words.
16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.

sarcasm

Or for a good example of sarcasm, lets take a look at Elijah

1 Kings 18:27

27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”

  • Paradox– A statement that appears to contradict itself.

Jesus used this method in His teaching very often.

One example is in Luke 16:19-31

Those who live in poverty and destitution while being looked down upon by the rich and powerful are really the first in the Kingdom, while those who are rich and powerful while looking down on those who live in poverty are really last in the Kingdom.

The first will be last, and the last will be first.

Or consider

Matthew 22: 1-14

1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying,
2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son,
3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.
4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’
5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business,
6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.
7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy.
9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’
10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment.
12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.
13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Just as those who are initially invited to the son’s wedding reject the invitation, those who are initially left out of the wedding plans are accepted as insiders at the wedding banquet. The insiders are out, and the outsiders are in. (If you desire to further study the paradoxical statements of Jesus, I would refer you to http://www.renewtheology.org/paperCFreeman1007.htm .)

  • The historical/cultural use of a word/topic/phrase in the scriptures.

A good example of this is the phrase “an evil eye”. In my past reading of the gospels, when I came across the phrase “an evil eye” I understood it to refer to an eye full of hate or maliciousness. After considering the historical use of the term in the Old Testament, I now understand the term to refer to a greedy covetous person. Without the historical use of the term being considered, I could not have come to that conclusion.

Recently another good example of an incorrect use of a cultural phrase occurred in my office, when I noticed my boss had gotten a haircut. I made mention that he had “gotten his ears lowered”, without thinking that that phrase may be cultural. As a Canadian in Texas, this sometimes happens! I had to explain that his ears weren’t actually lowered but that his hair was higher’d, (huh?) Canadians can be so hard to understand sometimes, eh?

Our next post will continue considering the Bible’s message, specifically the intention of the Biblical message.

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Jeremiah 7 – The Temple of the Lord 3

Temple_Jerusalem

In our last post, we considered Jeremiah’s demands upon the Jewish nation and the three weightier matters of the law that never changes, that God expects from His people.

Temple worship as a replacement for proper living is considered sin, and Jeremiah simply does not mince words in this passage.

In this post we want to look at the idol that the Jewish nation had erected in place of God, the lying words that they trusted in.

How could Jeremiah make such blatant claims as he does in this passage without riling up the very people who assumed they were the most righteous, those who attended “The Temple of the Lord”.

How is it that The Temple of the Lord”, referred to in Jeremiah 7, is applicable to the modern-day Christian?

Lets read the passage one more time.

Jeremiah 7:1-15

1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:

2 “Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the LORD.

3 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place.

4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’

5 “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another,

6 if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm,

7 then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.

8 “Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail.

9 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known,

10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’–only to go on doing all these abominations?

11 Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD.

12 Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel.

13 And now, because you have done all these things, declares the LORD, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer,

14 therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh.

15 And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Ephraim.

Consider

These worshipers were heading into the temple! Why complain about these folks? At least they were worshiping the true God, right?

Jeremiah says to amend your ways. Worship without right living is hypocrisy and worthy of judgement. (And judgement was on its way!)

Temple_Jerusalem 2

The Temple of the Lord had become a stumbling block to the nation of Israel.

DON’T TRUST LYING WORDS

What were the “lying words” the worshipers trusted? “The house of the Lord, the house of the Lord, the house of the Lord.”

The worshipers were trusting in lying words which were diverting their trust from the living God to the temple.

They viewed the temple as:

A Place of Safety and Permanence

Consider Jeremiahs core message again

….if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.

A conditional promise. Do you see it? If if if if … then.

The Jewish nation had obligations to the covenant they entered into with the Lord at Mt Sinai. Jeremiah was calling the nation to its roots, its past, its obligations and responsibilities. He was not adding tasks or changing the contract. The people had walked away from the agreement, and the prophet was faithfully exhibiting the mercy and long-suffering of the Lord with His people. But the long suffering patience of the Lord was coming to a close and His prophet was warning His people, even as the Babylonians were on the way.

Yes, the Jews of Jeremiah’s day saw the Babylonians coming. It was obvious to all, but the religious Jews refused to acknowledge God’s judgement that was about to fall on their nation and considered the temple (how ironic!) to be their place of protection. How short of a memory we humans have. Obviously they had not learned about using God as a talisman or lucky charm. As a matter of fact, God reminds them of Shiloh later in the passage, and how the Philistines (those dirty dogs!) were able to defeat the Israelites and confiscate the very idol (the Ark of the Covenant) they were trusting in.

Conditional Security - if-150x150 - Red with Splash

As an aside, consider how Jeremiah’s conditional promise with the Old Testament nation of Israel could apply to the New Testament nation of the Church.

If is a big word.

Believers today would do well if we considered our relationship with the Lord in the context of “if” when the Word calls for it.

It was surprising for me to realize the extent of that two letter word in the New Testament – Check it out in my ongoing series “Conditional Security”

Join me on our next blog when we find out the Jewish nation also viewed the temple as a place of absolution.



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Jeremiah 7 – The Temple of the Lord 2

Temple_Jerusalem

In our last post, we considered the distraction of the Temple of the Lord.

Jeremiah 7 arrests me, makes me wonder and consider how The Temple of the Lord” is applicable to the modern day Christian?

What did Jeremiah say? First off, let’s read the passage one more time.

Jeremiah 7:1-15

1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:

2 “Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the LORD.

3 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place.

4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’

5 “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another,

6 if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm,

7 then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.

8 “Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail.

9 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known,

10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’–only to go on doing all these abominations?

11 Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD.

12 Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel.

13 And now, because you have done all these things, declares the LORD, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer,

14 therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh.

15 And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Ephraim.

In our previous post, it became obvious that “The Temple of the Lord” supplied an opportunity for deceptive words to be spread about the Jewish nations security.

Jeremiah was calling the nation back to a personal responsibility to the Lord, instead of trusting in simply going to church – I mean going to temple.

Is this call to personal responsibility something new for these Jewish worshipers? Is Jeremiah demanding completely new requirements upon these folk? Were they ignorant of the Lords demands on their lives?

Consider

Leviticus 19 :18

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Lev 19 :34

You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

Deuteronomy 10 :18-19

He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.

19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

Mic 6:8

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Zechariah 7:8-10

And the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying,

9 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another,

10 do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”

This concern carried over into the New Testament, When the Lord Himself summarized the “weightier matters of the law”.

Matt 23:23

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

Temple_Jerusalem 2

When I read this passage in Jeremiah, I can’t help but think of the Lord Jesus while He was on earth, talking to the religious men of His day. Of course, it is obvious He quoted Jeremiah in Matthew 21:13, where it is written “My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” (Check out Jeremiah 7:11 for the connection!)

What I think is awesome is the connection of the thoughts of Jeremiah and the thoughts of Jesus. Three issues are raised in both of these men’s messages, and I’m a thinking they are as follows.

Judgement

It is obvious where Jesus refers to this thought, so compare it with Jeremiah when he states “thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor”

Mercy

Again, the Lord’s reference to mercy is echoed in Jeremiahs statement “ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place”

Faith

Jesus finishes His classification of the weightier matters of the law by referring to faith. Is this Jeremiah concern, when he mentions “neither walk after other gods to your hurt”?

Consider

  • Both Jeremiah and Jesus were addressing a nation on the brink of catastrophe, and seeking to call the nation back to God.
  • Both Jeremiah and Jesus delivered a message that was generally rejected.
  • Both Jeremiah and Jesus wept over Jerusalem.

I am always surprised how applicable the Old Testaments message is for today’s Christian!

Consider the Temple of the Lord and how you relate to it.

Do you hear Jeremiahs message as a rebuke to your dependence on your physical church.

  • When you drive by the building does your heart swell with pride (Hint – That is a problem!)
  • When you enter the building, do you consider it safe, a physical building that encourages a sense of security. (Hint – Might not be a good thing!)
  • Do you act differently in the building than out of the building (Hint – The alarm bells should be ringing in your head!)

Or do you hear Jeremiahs message as a rebuke to your dependence on your spiritual church?

What? What are you talking about Carl? Hang on – let me explain.

I read in the New Testament where the church (the invisible spiritual church) is the body of Christ, a living organism that is comprised of all believers. If you see the church that way, Jeremiahs message is still so applicable.

When you see a brother or sister, how do you relate to them? Do you see them as a potential safety net in case trouble enters your life?

This “fault” in my faith came crashing in on me a while back.

I remember experiencing a very disappointing, troubling time in my life, and I reached out to a brother and sister for encouragement and counsel. I hoped they could assist in a specific way. They rejected my concerns.

My trust was not in the Lord – my trust was in “the believer”.

The Temple of the Lord is a tremendous blessing that believers can live in and with, but we need to trust in the Living God, and not “The Temple of the Lord”!

In our next post we will consider the misplaced trust Jeremiah was preaching about when he preached, “Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit.”

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Jeremiah 7 – The Temple of the Lord 1

Temple_Jerusalem

The Temple of the Lord

I was in Sunday School a few weeks back and we were studying Jeremiah 7. All during the class, something seemed “off”. It is usually a great class, but this particular time, the focus did not seem to be on the passage.

Why is Jeremiah harping about The Temple of the Lord”, when it is obvious that the Jewish worshipers are attending faithfully?

How is The Temple of the Lord”, referred to in Jeremiah 7, applicable to the modern day Christian?

What did Jeremiah say? First off, let’s read the passage.

Jeremiah 7:1-15

1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:

2 “Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the LORD, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the LORD.

3 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place.

4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’

5 “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another,

6 if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm,

7 then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.

8 “Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail.

9 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known,

10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’–only to go on doing all these abominations?

11 Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD.

12 Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel.

13 And now, because you have done all these things, declares the LORD, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer,

14 therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh.

15 And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Ephraim.

What is it that Jeremiah wants from these worshipers?

AMEND YOUR WAYS

  • amend your ways and your deeds
  • if you truly amend your ways and your deeds
  • if you truly execute justice one with another
  • if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place,
  • if you do not go after other gods to your own harm

Only if the nation of Israel amends their ways, will they be able to remain in the land. (see vs 7)

But Carl – The Temple of the Lord – that is the security, the promise, the TEMPLE. How could anything go wrong since the nation of Israel had the blessing and privilege granted to them to have the TEMPLE OF THE LORD.

Verse 8 speaks of deceptive words again, that the nation was trusting in. These words are…

THE TEMPLE OF THE LORD

Wait, the blessing and privilege of having the temple of the Lord in the nation of Israel is becoming a stumbling block to the nation of Israel. At the very least it was a massive distraction. You see, the Lord is not so concerned about edifices, buildings, construction, brick and mortar….

My wife’s favorite verse goes something like this

1 Samuel 16:7

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

Although Samuel was referring to the stature and appearance of David’s first son, the principle applies here. As idolatrous humans, we seek to honor and worship that which we can see, feel and own.

Temple_Jerusalem 2

The Temple fell into that category. And the Temple was to be abandoned, just like the Father abandoned Shiloh. He did it once before. His word is faithful, and looking back upon Jeremiahs time, it is easy for us to see the fulfillment his prophecy. The Babylonians swept in, and the nation was taken away to Babylon for 70 yrs.

Another prophet (and so much more) came on the scene, and recognized the nation of Israel’s spiritual condition. He spoke of abandoning the Temple.

They crucified Him.
The temple was sacked 40 yrs later. Think of it. The mercy of the Crucified One to allow for 40 years to pass, seeking repentance, prior to bringing final judgement on the nation.

I have more to say, but I would like to finish this post simply considering the mercy and kindness of the One who died for me.

He is good.


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What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean – Matthew 16:18

Institution?

when+jesus+said+loves+your+enemies.jpg?format=original

Organism?
Whats the difference?
Does it matter?

Matthew 16:18

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build an institution called the church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

This misunderstanding held sway in my life for far too long. I mistakenly assumed that the status quo of a building and professional clergy were the correct interpretation of Jesus statement in Matthew 16:18.

Below are 20 points describing the differences between the institutional church and the Traditional Church, as described in the New Testament.

Each of these 20 points of difference are worthy of much more discussion, but these posts are intended to be brief and to the point – kinda like a bumper sticker!

The Traditional Church The New Testament Church
1. The church meets in a special building Churches met primarily in homes.
(Acts 2:46-47; 5:42; 8:3; 12:12; 16:40; 20:7-8; 20:20; Rom.16:3-5; 1Cor.16:19; Col.4:15; Philemon 2; 2Jn.9-11)
2. New converts are added to the existing church to make it bigger. When the number of believers outgrew a home, a new church was formed.
(Rom.16:3-5; 14-15; Acts 2:41-47)
3. The Christian church is fractured into hundreds of different denominations. There were no denominations; instead there was one church in each city, meeting in various homes.
(Acts 8:1; 11:26; 18:22; Rom.16:1; 1Cor.1:2; Rev.2:1; Col.4:16; 1Thess.1:1; Rev.2:12; 3:7; 3:1; 2:8; 2:18)
4. Pastors are trained in seminaries and sent out to serve in a congregation which has no real knowledge of his life or character. Elders were local brothers who arose from within a local church where their life and character were known.
(Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5)
5. The Sunday “worship service” is characterized by passivity among the laity with the Pastor or a select group of leaders doing nearly all the ministry. Church meetings were participatory and interactive – every member had a function and contribution to make.
(1Cor.12:4-27; 14:26; Eph.4:15-16; Rom.12:3-8; 1Pet.4:10-11; Heb.10:23-25; Rom.12:15; 1Cor.12:26)
6. The Sunday morning worship service is characterized by a rigid and inflexible order of service. Church meetings were characterized by informality, flexibility, and spontaneity. (Acts 20:7-12; 1Cor.14:26-31)
7. The goal of the meeting is worship, listening to a sermon or evangelism. The goal of the meeting was mutual edification.
(1Cor.14:3,4,5,12,17,26; Eph.4:11-12,16; Heb.10:24-25)
8. The church is led by the Pastor (or Senior Pastor in a large church). The church was led by a plurality of co-equal Elders.
(Acts 14:23; 20:28; Phil.1:1; 1Tim.4:17; Heb.10:17; James 5:14; 1Pet.5:1-2)
9. The Senior Pastor is seen as set apart from and over the other pastors and elders. The church was cared for by a team of pastors who were accountable to each other and the church; they were also known as elders or overseers. No one elder functioned as the head of the church. (Acts 20:28; Titus 1:5-7; 1Pet.5:1-2)
10. The Pastor is paid a salary by the church. Some elders might be financially supported, but they were usually bi-vocational
(1Tim.5:17-18; Acts 20:33-35)
11. The church is composed of both clergy and laity. There was no clergy/laity distinction in the church – all the members comprised a fully functioning priesthood.
(Heb.13:15-16; 1Pet.2:5,9; Rev.1:6)
12. The Lord’s Supper is observed monthly, quarterly, or annually. The Lord’s Supper was observed as often as the church regularly gathered and was the stated purpose for their meetings.
(Acts 20:7; 1Cor.11:18-20,33)
13. The Lord’s Supper is observed with a piece of cracker and a sip of juice. The Lord’s Supper was observed as a full meal.
(Acts 2:42,46; 1Cor.11:20-21; Jude 12)
14. The Lord’s Supper is observed in a solemn funeral-like atmosphere as the worshippers reflect on Christ’s sufferings and death. The believer’s vertical relationship with Christ is emphasized. The Lord’s Supper was observed with glad and sincere hearts as the church not only reflected on Christ’s death, but also on the future marriage supper of the Lamb which it depicted. The believer’s horizontal relationship with other believers was emphasized.
(Acts 2:46; Luke 22:15-18,30; 1Cor.11:26; Acts 2:42; 1Cor.10:16)
15. A new believer must go through membership or instructional classes before he can be baptized. New believers were baptized as soon as it was humanly possible.
(Acts 2:37-41; 8:12; 8:36-38; 9:17-18; 10:45-48; 16:31-34; 19:5)
16. Baptism is performed by the clergy. Baptism was performed by any Christian.
(Jn.4:2; Acts 8:12; 8:36-39; 9:18; 22:16; 1Cor.1:17)
17. The church must be present when someone is baptized.. The church was not always present when someone was baptized.
(Acts 8:12; 8:36-39; 16:31-34)
18. Pastors deliver monologue sermons with no opportunity for questions or input from the congregation. Various brothers taught the church, and allowed the congregation the opportunity to question them and/or add their own insights.
(Acts 20:7; 1Cor.14:29-35)
19. The church allocates the great majority of its finances for administrative overhead (salaries and building expenses). The church gave primarily to relieve the poor and assist Christian workers, often beyond their means; they had very little if any administrative expenses
(Acts 2:44-45; Gal.6:9-10; 1Jn.3:17; 1Tim.5:17-18; 1Cor.9:6-14; 2Cor.8:3; Phil.4:15-18; Lk.12:33-34; Eph.4:28; James 1:27)
20. Believers are often urged to tithe; that is, they are taught to give a minimum of 10% to the church. Believers gave voluntarily as God had blessed them and they had purposed in their heart; tithing was not carried over into the NT church.
(2Cor.8:3-4; 9:7)

Matthew 16:18

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Gates-of-Hell-Sign

Remember that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His church.

I don’t know if there is any guarantee for the institutional church. (I am afraid it might be skating on thin ice!!!)

Leave me a comment, lets start a discussion.

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What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean – Matthew 5:9

I admit it it – I am Canadian by birth.

I am thankful for my Canadian heritage. As I grew up in the Great White North, I assumed many social norms as being absolutely without debate, the way it should be.

One of these social norms, that carried with it a certain nationalistic pride, was the Canadian armed forces . It was commonly understood that the Canadian armed forces were principally a peace keeping force throughout troubled areas of our planet.

Making Peace for Our Benefit

Fast forward to 2001. I had moved to the USA and was living in a small town in the Texas panhandle. The towers had just fallen and the church I was attending had a special meeting to hear what the President had to say about this. The nation I was living in was going to hunt all terrorists down. The populace demanded peace and security. I felt the national pride oozing out of my friends and understood their desire for defending their nation.

But, as a Christian, I was confused. I had been brought up within a peace keeping society, and was now I lived in a nation that has been involved in warfare for 214 of 235 yrs of existence. (see bottom of post for further information)

Peace Keeper or Peace Maker

Imagine my surprise when I read the Masters words (without the group dynamic of believers cheering on a social norm). His words are simple and incredibly challenging, not only for a believer in America, but also for a Canadian believer. You see, He didn’t say…

Blessed are the peacekeepers: for they shall be called the children of God. Nope – nice try but that’s not what He said.

Lets read what He said

Matthew 5:9

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Believers are to make peace. Being a peace keeper or at least being associated as one, was not His intent.

Some may say that His intent was only to direct the believer in their personal relationships, foster peace among friends, but this seems to unnecessarily compartmentalized His words, dontcha think?

Maybe He meant “Blessed are the peacemakers (cept for situations where the enemy has done something bad)”.

Duh, that don’t make no sense. It’s easy, even pleasurable to be at peace with those who at peace with you.

It is important to remember that as believers we have become followers of another King, and that any time a conflict between an earthly king and our Heavenly King becomes apparent, we must follow Him. When the nation we live in decides to pursue military action, as believers we have the privilege of praying for the safety of all those involved, and relieving those who have suffered due to the conflict.

Do we have the freedom to kill or hurt?

Matthew 5: 9

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

As an aside, consider the list “American involvement in warfare” at the bottom of the post, and reflect on the effectiveness of using violence to engender enduring peace.

Of course, Jesus was speaking to His followers when He gave these instructions, and not to government power.

Government power ultimately used violence/war to shut Him up.


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American involvement in warfare

  1. The American Revolution
    1775-1783
  2. The Indian Wars
    1775-1890
  3. Shay’s Rebellion
    1786-1787
    Rebellion
    Anti-(state)Government Rebels vs. Massachusetts
  4. The Whiskey Rebellion
    1794
    Rebellion
    Anti-Tax Rebels in Western Pennsylvania
  5. Quasi-War With France
    1798-1800
    Inter-State (Naval) War
    France
  6. Fries’s Rebellion “The Hot Water War”
    1799
    Rebellion
    Anti-Tax Rebels in Pennsylvania
  7. The Barbary Wars
    1800-1815
    Inter-State War
    The Barbary States
    (Tripoli, Algiers & Morocco)
  8. The War of 1812
    1812-1815
    Inter-State War
    Great Britain
    The Growing & Troubled Republic
  9. Mexican-American War
    1846-1848
    Inter-State War
    Mexico
  10. U.S. Slave Rebellions
    1800-1865
    Slave Rebellions
    Various Slave groups
  11. “Bleeding Kansas”
    1855-1860
    Civil War (state of Kansas)
    Pro-Slavery vs. Anti-Slavery Kansans
  12. Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry
    1859
    Rebellion
    Anti-Slavery Rebels (Led by John Brown)
  13. United States Civil War
    1861-1865
    Civil War
    United States (The North)
    vs.
    The Confederate States (The South)
  14. U.S. Intervention in Hawaiian Revolution
    1893
    Internal Rebellion & Foreign Intervention
  15. The Spanish-American War
    1898
    Inter-State War
  16. U.S. Intervention in Samoan Civil War
    1898-1899
    Civil War & Foreign Intervention
  17. U.S.-Philippine War
    1899-1902
    Colonial War, War of Imperialism
  18. Boxer Rebellion
    1900
    Internal Rebellion & Foreign Intervention
    Chinese Government & “Boxer” Rebels
  19. The Moro Wars
    1901-1913
    Colonial Wars
    Philippine Muslim Rebels
  20. U.S. Intervention in Panamanian Revolution
    1903
    Secessionist Revolution & Foreign Intervention
    Colombia
  21. The Banana Wars
    1909-1933
    Civil Wars & Foreign Intervention
    Various Rebel Groups In Central America
  22. U.S. Occupation of Vera Cruz
    1914
    Inter-State War
    Mexico
  23. Pershing’s Raid Into Mexico
    1916-1917
    Inter-State, Border War
    Mexican Government & Mexican Rebels (“Bandits”)
  24. World War I
    1917-1918 (American involvement only)
    Inter-State War
    Germany
  25. Allied Intervention in Russian Civil War
    1919-1921
    Civil War & Foreign Intervention
    Russian Bolshevik (Soviet) Government
  26. World War II
    1941-1945 (American involvement only)
    Inter-State War
    Germany, Japan & Italy
  27. The Cold War
    1945-1991
    Global Inter-State Cold War
    The Soviet Union & Communist China
  28. The Korean War
    1950-1953
    Inter-State War
    North Korea & China
  29. The Second Indochina War “Vietnam War”
    1956-1975
    Civil War, Inter-State War
    North Vietnam & South Vietnamese “Viet Cong” Rebels
  30. U.S. Intervention in Lebanon
    1958
    Civil War & Foreign Intervention
    No real foe for U.S. Troops landed to support Lebanon Gov.
  31. Dominican Intervention
    1965
    Civil War & Foreign Intervention
    Rebels in the Dominican Republic
  32. The Mayaguez Rescue Operation
  33. News Story 1975 (May 15)
    Hostage Rescue & Inter-State Conflict
    Khmer Rouge Guerrillas (the new government of Cambodia)
  34. Iranian Hostage Rescue “Desert One” or “Operation Eagle Claw”
    1980 (April 25)
    Hostage Rescue & Inter-State Conflict
    Iran
  35. U.S. Libya Conflict
    1981, 1986
    Inter-State War
    Libya
  36. U.S. Intervention in Lebanon
    1982-1984
    Civil War,Foreign Intervention & Inter-State War
    Syria & Various Muslim and Leftist Lebanese Militias
  37. U.S. Invasion of Grenada
    1983
    Inter-State War
    Marxist Grenadian Faction & Cuba
  38. The Tanker War
  39. “Operation Earnest Will”
    1987-1988
    Inter-State War
    Iran
  40. U.S. Invasion of Panama
    1989
    Inter-State War
    Panama
  41. Second Persian Gulf War “Operation Desert Storm”
    1991
    Inter-State War
    Iraq
  42. “No-Fly Zone” War
    1991-2003
    Inter-State War
    Iraq
  43. U.S. Intervention in Somalia
    1992-1994
    Civil War & Foreign Intervention
    Various Somali Militias
  44. NATO Intervention in Bosnia (Operation Deliberate Force) Summary
    1994-1995
    Civil War,Foreign Intervention & Inter-State War
    Bosnian Serb Rebels
  45. U.S. Occupation of Haiti
    1994
    Foreign Intervention
    Haitian Government
  46. U.S. Embassy bombings and strikes on Afghanistan and Sudan (The bin Laden War)
    August, 1998
    Terrorist Conflict
  47. “Desert Fox” Campaign (part of U.S./Iraq Conflict)
    December, 1998
    Inter-State War
    Iraq
  48. Kosovo War
    1999
    Civil War, Foreign Intervention & Inter-State War
    Yugoslavia/Serbia
  49. Attack on the USS Cole
    October 12, 2000
    Terrorist Conflict
    Terrorists associated with Osama bin Laden
  50. Attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
    September 11, 2001
    Terrorist Conflict
    Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida organization
  51. Afghanistan War (Operation Enduring Freedom)
    October 7, 2001-Present
    War against Terrorism
    The Taliban and Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaida organization
  52. Third Persian Gulf War “Operation Iraqi Freedom”
    March 19, 2003-Present
    Inter-State War
    Iraq

What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean – John 13:19

when+jesus+said+loves+your+enemies.jpg?format=originalWho wants to know the future? 

Come on – I see you out there, just famished for a bit of prophecy to understand.

And when do you want to know it? 

Of course, I wanna know the future, and I wanna know it NOW!

But more importantly, WHY? 

Doh, this is a bit hard to admit to.

Jesus helps us to get our head on straight in the following passage.  Let’s read it together.

John 13:19

Now I tell you before it come, that, before it is come to pass, ye may know the future.

Ah, Carl – you have not been honest with us!  Is that what the Word actually says?  Or is it just what you understand it to say?

OK – you found me out.  Lets look at the passage as it is written.

John 13:19

I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

What is wrong with me?  Again, I understand the message of the Bible differently than what the Bible is trying to communicate to me.

A few days back I was listening to Mark 15.  In that passage Joseph of Arimathaea took the body of Jesus, wrapped it in fine linen and placed it in a tomb.  My thoughts turned to questions.

  1. Did he perform this action out of obedience to the Word? 
  2. Did he see an Old Testament passage and decide to take action to fulfill the prophecy? 

Joseph’s decision to take Jesus body and bury it fulfilled…

Isaiah 53:9.

And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

In this instance, the text seems to teach that the fulfillment of the prophecy was not Joseph’s objective.  If so,  this particular prophecy in Isaiah was not given to inform prior to its fulfillment, but after its fulfillment. 

What????

Well – if that is generally true of prophecy, do we in the modern church look at Biblical prophecy incorrectly?  Do we try to find out the future for our own purposes? 

Granted, some information (ex. Olivet discourse) was given to the disciples prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, that they might escape the judgement of God on the nation of Israel.  Even considering the Olivet discourse though, might the higher purpose of that prophecy be somewhat different from merely saving the disciples lives?  After all, most of the apostles were going to be martyred, and persecution was going to fall on the church shortly after the fall of Jerusalem.

I suppose the general thought of trying to figger out the future is very popular among western Christians (of a certain stripe).  I admit I used to delve into the future forecasting quite heavily, but am now considering the wisdom of this attitude.  After all, each of the obvious prophetic fulfillments I spoke of failed to materialize – I was 100% wrong and in using the Scriptures to prove my point, only made a mockery of the Word – to my shame!)

A year or so back, a particular passage in John got me thinking.  Actually, when I read it carefully, it created more questions than answers!  Jesus is talking to His disciples, telling them of a particular future event and actually lets them know WHY He tells them.

John 13:19

Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.

Did you catch the WHY when I supplied this verse above?  Get ready – here it comes 

exploding head

Why did you supply that prophecy Jesus?

“…that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.”

The purpose was to direct the disciples faith to the person of Christ, not to instruct them of how to save their own bacon.  Not for some temporal reason, but to direct the attention to the Messiah.

Consider

  1. Could revealing the Son of God be the highest purpose of prophecy? 
  2. Should we consider revealing the Son of God to be the primary focus of prophetic interpretation? 
  3. When we come to a particular prophecy in the Word, would the revelation of the Son of God in understanding the prophecy help us to know the heart of God better? 
  4. Would considering the revelation of the Son of God help us to rest in Him instead of hurrying about protecting ourselves from what we think may happen?

Lets consider Biblical prophecy to be a gift, not to inform us of future events, but direct our attention to the One who is faithful!


 

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What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean – Matthew 22:39

 Interpretation

Gotta Love Ourselves?

 I have often heard in Sunday School classes and small fellowships, (heck – even in big churches!) that in order to love God we need to first love ourselves.

Sort of like when Jesus said in Matt 22:39 …

Thou shalt love thy neighbor after you love thyself.

What?  Is that what the Lord meant?

No.  As a matter of fact, it be important to simply read what Matthew actually records from the Masters lips.

Matthew 22:39

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Notice that the Lord made a command with an assumption embedded within it.  The assumption is that we already love ourselves.  The command does not say, “You shall love your neighbour after you have fully loved and honored and satisfied thyself.”

Lets read it once more

Matthew 22:39

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

This seems so obvious, but I still find the occasional believer who has not read what Jesus said but merely listened to some teacher refer to this passage in propping up his humanistic message.  The teaching goes somewhat like this.

In order to love your neighbor, God said that you have to love yourself first.  Only a believer full of love for themselves can supply love for their neighbor.

Is it not obvious that when Jesus said to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, self love was assumed.  This self love is the standard that Jesus was using to compare the amount of love that needs to be expressed to the neighbor.

Love myselfTo Love Ourselves is the Problem

As a matter of fact, it seems that self love is a problem.

2 Timothy 3:2-5

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,

heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good,

treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,

having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

Verse 2 includes self love but it sho isn’t in a list of admirable qualities.  It is also interesting that the culmination of this type of life will produce an appearance of godliness, but alas, denying the power of godliness.

Finally, Paul says – Avoid such people.

Wow.  Kinda harsh a bit, Paul?  He didn’t say to teach them, or to pity them, or to correct them, or to love them ….

Avoid such people.

Jesus also had something else to say about self love.  In Luke 9:23 he states that denying ones self is the way of discipleship, not to find some nebulous self love as the foundation of loving others.

Luke 9:23

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

i-love-myself-quote-1I don’t know about you, but when I have fallen into this thinking, I just can’t seem to love myself enough.  I gotta coddle myself just one more time, one more pleasure, one more right exercised, one more time of me me me.

My problem is that I love myself more than my neighbor, more than Jesus.  I hate it!

Lets read the Word for what it says, not what we want it to say!

Matthew 22:39

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

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What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean – John 14:1-6 – Part 2

 Interpretation

In our last post, we were considering the message Jesus was trying to communicate to his disciples in John 14. If you haven’t read it, this post will be of no benefit to you.

Go ahead and check the previous post out – I will wait for you.

WHAT JESUS PROBABLY DIDN’T MEAN – John 14:1-6 – Part 1

OK – so what did He intend for his disciples to understand?

We discussed the “Father’s house” concept and settled on a possibility.

Lets dig a bit more.

The ESV took a word that John uses only twice in his gospel. In the first instance it is translated as “rooms” The greek word is μονή, (mone).

Interestingly John is the only author that uses this word and he uses it twice in the same chapter. Of course the first instance is where “rooms” is used as the translation.

The second instance is found in verse 23.

John 14:23
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Can you guess where we will find the greek work μονή? In the verse above, μονή is translated as “our home”.

Let’s think about this. Using Vine’s Expository Dictionary as reference material (see below) we find that the word μονή, (mone) defines an abiding place, a dwelling place.

So we have the following considerations:

  • The Fathers House is the Temple.
    • Heaven is not referred to in the passage,
  • The rapture was unknown to the disciples at this time, so they could not have associated Jesus message with any catching up after His death and resurrection and ascension and church age and…. (They had a lot to still learn!)
  • The reference to room in verse 2 seems to cloud the intended meaning of an “abode”.

So what is the Master’s intended message for His people in this passage?

He is speaking of the fulfillment of God’s desire to abide with His people. He will prepare a place by way of His crucifixion and resurrection. He will come to take up residence in His church.

John 14:2
In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

I am thinking that He is talking to His disciples in a manner that they can understand, referring to the temple (the Fathers House) as a place that has many abiding places. I don’t see in this portion any reference to who is abiding in these abiding places. Is it for the believer or for the Father? Could He be saying I am going to prepare a place for you (that place being the church, the body of Christ?) Consider verse 23, where John is speaking of the Father and the Son as abiding with His people.

John 14:3
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

When he prepares this place (the Church, the Body of Christ), He will come again (Pentecost?) accepting/receiving the disciples unto Himself (in the Church, the Fathers House, the new Temple), with the purpose of having His people with Him in the same place (the Church, the Fathers House, the new Temple).

This kinda make sense!

John 14:4
And you know the way to where I am going.”

And you know the way to where I am going. He is going to prepare the body of Christ, and the disciples have been with Him for three years by now – of course they knew “the way” He IS the way. No wonder Jesus was surprised by the question posed by Thomas.

Do we sometimes insert later revelation into a text to support our ideas? Do we sometimes miss the tremendous blessing of the Body of Christ by hoping for something better? The rapture and end of the world is coming, the resurrection has been secured by the Savior. We need to enjoy His presence, and that of others in the Body now, and not simply look to the future as the beginning of (real) eternal life.

It is available now. Are you abiding in his room?

With these thoughts, I would ask you to read the passage with new eyes and consider His message for your life today.


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Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.

What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean – John 14:1-6 – Part 1

 Interpretation Is Jesus preparing a mansion for you?

I was in Sunday School a while back and we ventured into John 14 for some discussion.  It was a good class but I was distracted with something I discovered a while back.

I suppose that is why I am writing this very post.

Whenever I read John 14:1-6, I previously understood it as follows. (italicized inserts my understanding)

John 14:1-6

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

2 In heaven are many buildings. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to heaven to build a castle/palace/house for you?

3 And if I go and prepare a castle/palace/house for you, I will come again at the end of time and will take you to myself in the rapture, that where I am in heaven you may be also.

4 And you know the way to where I am going.”

5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Is this the message the apostles understood from the Master?  I am not so sure and I would like to try to explain why.

This message was given to the disciples after the last supper and prior to the arrest of the Messiah.  At this point in the life of the Messiah, the apostles had not yet accepted the idea of the Master being taken from them in death.  Jesus had informed them of His departure,  but they did not want to accept it, they had no idea of a resurrection, and the rapture as we understand it was a completely foreign concept to them.  (To insert the idea of a rapture into this passage seems to be a very fine example of eisegesis*.)

But Carl – he talks of mansions in heaven.  Does He?  Does he really?  Consider the following.

Is Jesus referring to heaven when He speaks of His Fathers house? Are there any passages in the Old or New Testaments that are able to reinforce this teaching?

Consider all of the passages I found in the Bible that equate the Fathers house to heaven.

…tick tock tick tock…..

Dang – I couldn’t find any either.

But I did find passages that speak of the Fathers house as being the earthly temple of God.  Try these passages out, eh?

John 2:16

And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”.

At no time have I ever considered that the thief’s had set up shop in heaven – It was in the temple that the thieves created a “house of merchandise”

Often in the Scriptures, the Lord speaks of dwelling with His people on earth.  Currently I understand that His house is with the saints, the Body of Christ and we are the living stones, creating a holy temple for the Lord.  These concepts and truths are easily recognized by those who have spent time in the Word.

But I still can’t find where the Fathers house is equated with heaven.  Maybe – just maybe that wasn’t His message.  Maybe heaven is what Jesus probably didn’t mean.

Well then – what did He intend for his disciples to understand?

Lets consider this question in our next post.  Hope to see you then.

Thanks again for coming to visit.  I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.


Christians and the Government

War & ReligionRecently I was discussing with a friend the role of Christians in the armed forces.

This conversation began to make me think of a Christian’s relationship to the government, specifically in the responsibility of a believer in raising a weapon against someone for the sake of a government’s ideology or geography.

Federal AgentLater that night I learned that one of my favorite niece’s husband was in training to become a federal agent. This seemed too coincidental for me to ignore, and since my niece confesses Jesus as her Lord, I thought I would discuss this issue with her.

As I mentioned earlier, her husband was in training to become a federal agent for a government. They are very excited. “Frank” and “Belinda-Lu” (not their real names, dontchaknow!) are in the process of finding out where the government will be stationing this family in the near future.

Exciting times!

These young folk are seeking to follow the Lord Jesus in their daily walk and because of that, I thought I would chat with “Belinda-Lu” about Christians and Government Authority.

A Discussion and a Distinction

What follows is that conversation. (Comments by Belinda-Lu is indented and in italics.)

May I ask you a question about your husbands vocation with the government?

Shoot! Hahaha no pun intended!

First off, congratulations on your husbands graduation!!! It must feel good to complete that step in your lives.

A friend at work has a son joining the US navy and it got me thinking about the armed forces and belief in the Savior. He mentioned that he may specialize in becoming a sharp shooter/ sniper. I asked him about how he feels about killing someone for no other reason than ideology or geographical circumstance. He said he was alright with it, but I am not so sure – he is very young! (I am also not sure of his commitment to the Lord Jesus.)

My question is similar for your husband. I am assuming as a federal agent for your government, your husband may be called upon to fire a weapon upon another person. How has your husband reconciled this possibility with Jesus’ teaching about loving your enemy, turning the other cheek,…

Frank would only fire his weapon if he sincerely believed his life was in danger; and after using every other kind of non-deadly force first to detain a person… Until a court date can be given and our flawed justice system can deal with the matter. Frank’s mission as an RCMP is to “serve and protect” not to “seek and destroy.” He graduates this September.

I understand that authority here on earth is flawed, but everything needs to be done in balance…. Living a life that honors God is attempting each day to do what you believe God is asking you to do, seeking obedience, expecting sacrifice, and desiring to please the Lord.

“Belinda-Lu” – At no time did I intend to infer that your husband was on a “seek and destroy” mission. I hope you will understand that I am not against y’all, and I know that you wish to please the Lord Jesus. (That is why I am asking you this hard question!)

Therefore, lets look at the passage you offered to see if Paul was advocating believers to be active in “carrying out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (v.4)

For many years, I saw Romans 13 as the strongest passage that allowed a believer to be active in government enforcement, but after considering the passage below, (Romans 12:9-21, which provides context to Romans 13), I think Paul was describing (in Roman 13), the God ordained activities of government, but not necessarily endorsing a believers involvement in the government.

Of course I am still learning, and I suppose that is one reason I thought I would ask y’all this question.

Thanks for your patience with me and I do hope all is well. May the Lord Himself bless you and keep you – He is Good.

Romans 12:9 – 13:5

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 13

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,
for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

One thing that is interesting to me is that Paul uses the second person (you) and the third person (he) in this passage. Since this letter was written to believers, it is safe to say that the “you” Paul is referring to are believers. Who is the “he”? Is it the “you”? Can’t be for then he would use the “you”! (BTW who’s on first?)

Following the grammar of the text helps me to show who Paul is referring to. I am going to insert (hopefully clarifying) added words into the text to help us see where Paul is going with his thoughts. Again – if I am incorrect in my understanding of the apostles teaching, let me know. As I said before, I would like to honor God, and to do so, I need to understand His will for my life also!

Romans 13:

Let every person (lost or saved) be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

Therefore whoever (lost or saved) resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist (lost or saved) will incur judgment.

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you (Christians) have no fear of the one (the governing authority) who is in authority? Then (you Christians) do what is good, and you (Christians) will receive his (the governing authority) approval,

for he (the governing authority) is God’s servant for your (Christians) good. But if you (Christians) do wrong, be afraid, for he (the governing authority) does not bear the sword in vain. For he (the governing authority) is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

5 Therefore one (lost or saved) must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

I find it very instructive that in this passage, Paul actually defines two different groups.

  1. Christians

  2. Governing authorities.

If believers should be part of the governing authorities, why did Paul create the distinction? This distinction is what bothers me. I just don’t get it. Where in the passage does Paul advocate a believer “carrying out God’s wrath”?

You also mentioned…

  • “that authority here on earth is flawed”

– No argument there, but it isn’t the issue. Why join ourselves with a system/kingdom that is admittedly flawed (as you correctly state!), when we have been invited into a kingdom that has Him as King?

  • “but everything needs to be done in balance”

– Do you really mean that? Should I balance out my life with part God’s will and part my will? I am not sure what you mean by saying that. Please explain.

  • “Living a life that honors God is attempting each day to do what you believe God is asking you to do, seeking obedience, expecting sacrifice, and desiring to please the Lord.”

– I think you meant …Living a life that honors God is doing what God says to do, obeying, sacrificing, pleasing God. (There are too many scriptures to refer to, to show this. We are judged on our works, not our intentions.)

  • “Frank would only fire his weapon if he sincerely believed his life was in danger; and after using every other kind of non-deadly force first to detain a person… “

– I understand the “life in danger” argument, but my concern was whether or not God wants a believer to be in this situation at all.

Remember the words of the Master… “Blessed are the peacemakers” He didn’t say blessed are the peace keepers!

I do hope that y’all will continue to seek Him and His will. Drop a line when you would like to chat.

Love ya.

Be blessed

Uncle Carl

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, (ESV)

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What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean – Introduction

 Interpretation

When Jesus said to love our enemies, He probably meant not to kill them

My favorite and I were on our way to a Sunday School class when we stopped by a Starbucks to pick up some black vitamin.  As we were heading into the coffee shop, I noticed a bumper sticker that said something like…

“When Jesus said love your enemies, He probably didn’t mean to kill them”

This bumper sticker “stuck” in my mind and made a point simply and forcefully.  I also started to think of other statements of the Lord that may be misunderstood in my thinking.

Occasionally, in my reading, some of these culturally acceptable misunderstandings of what we think the Lord meant may become apparent to me and I would like to share them with you.

Hence, some future posts will be titled –

“What Jesus Probably Didn’t Mean”

As you are reading your Bible, let me know of passages that seem to be at odds with the cultural conditioning we live and breathe in.

Join me as we are wrestling with the text and Considering the Bible.


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