Letters

Maturing in Discernment

Not long ago, we were talking about how discernment is becoming more important in the lives of believers. It’s my opinion that the western church has generally not done a great job of teaching discernment. Somebody asked, “How can you grow in discernment?” Made me think.

There is a secret to begin with: If you want to learn discernment, practice discerning. Hebrews 5.14 points out that “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil..” Discerning is part of maturing, of growing up, but it’s developed by “constant use” and “train[ing] themselves.”

It’s work.
 
Somebody has asked, “Wait! If it’s a gift (1Corinthians 12:10), then why do we need to practice? The gift covers that!”

Yeah, tell that to someone who is a gifted musician, a gifted teacher, a gifted athlete. They still need to practice, to study, to exercise. The gift is the raw material that’s capable of becoming a masterpiece. The skill to make it into that masterpiece includes our own responsibility.

Any skill we practice many, many times, we're likely to with more excellence and less uncertainty than things we only do when we're backed into a corner.

The second is this: provision the gift. If we don't give our "discerner" the material it needs, it cannot function well. Hebrews 4:12 reveals that this is the Word of God, which includes, but is not limited to, the Bible. We need to be fueled up for discernment to work right. For me, that’s ongoing conversation with the second person of the Trinity, many hours of listening to the Scriptures, and fewer hours studying the scriptures. Your regimen will likely be different.

Then there’s the question of how does the data from the discerning process reach your conscious mind? Yeah, that's  an interesting one too.

First, don't assume that it actually needs to reach your conscious mind. Don't assume that unless you can put it into logical words, it's not valid: that's discerning by the soul (the mind), not by the Spirit. Do not dismiss the subconscious “nudges” that you get. Listen to them, learn their language, recognize their voice and learn to distinguish it from your own voice, from Father’s voice, from the accuser’s voice.

Second, learn God's language, learn how he speaks to you in this area. Discernment is a gift from God (1Cor 12:10). Since God gives gifts for use (not for decorating our mantel), he will also give to make best use of the gift if you ask him for it. If he speaks to you in dreams, learn the language there. If he speaks to you through physical sensation, learn that language. Learn the nudges, the hesitations in your spirit or in your soul. For me, it came down to the spiritual sense of smell. It likely will come down to something else for you.

But don't ask until you're ready to be stretched. It’s very likely that God will move you outside of the box that you think you’re already out of. I suspect that when he begins to school you, it will be an unsettling season for you, and that you’ll have difficult assignments: embarrassing choices, awkward conversations, unexplained changes to your lifestyle.


But continue past the stumbling blocks. This is part of your becoming mature. The Body of Christ needs you mature, needs you operating in full potential, all of us working together. 
Standard
Letters

Maturing in Discernment

Not long ago, we were talking about how discernment is becoming more important in the lives of believers. It’s my opinion that the western church has generally not done a great job of teaching discernment. Somebody asked, “How can you grow in discernment?” Made me think.

There is a secret to begin with: If you want to learn discernment, practice discerning. Hebrews 5.14 points out that “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil..” Discerning is part of maturing, of growing up, but it’s developed by “constant use” and “train[ing] themselves.”

It’s work.
 
Somebody has asked, “Wait! If it’s a gift (1Corinthians 12:10), then why do we need to practice? The gift covers that!”

Yeah, tell that to someone who is a gifted musician, a gifted teacher, a gifted athlete. They still need to practice, to study, to exercise. The gift is the raw material that’s capable of becoming a masterpiece. The skill to make it into that masterpiece includes our own responsibility.

Any skill we practice many, many times, we're likely to with more excellence and less uncertainty than things we only do when we're backed into a corner.

The second is this: provision the gift. If we don't give our "discerner" the material it needs, it cannot function well. Hebrews 4:12 reveals that this is the Word of God, which includes, but is not limited to, the Bible. We need to be fueled up for discernment to work right. For me, that’s ongoing conversation with the second person of the Trinity, many hours of listening to the Scriptures, and fewer hours studying the scriptures. Your regimen will likely be different.

Then there’s the question of how does the data from the discerning process reach your conscious mind? Yeah, that's  an interesting one too.

First, don't assume that it actually needs to reach your conscious mind. Don't assume that unless you can put it into logical words, it's not valid: that's discerning by the soul (the mind), not by the Spirit. Do not dismiss the subconscious “nudges” that you get. Listen to them, learn their language, recognize their voice and learn to distinguish it from your own voice, from Father’s voice, from the accuser’s voice.

Second, learn God's language, learn how he speaks to you in this area. Discernment is a gift from God (1Cor 12:10). Since God gives gifts for use (not for decorating our mantel), he will also give to make best use of the gift if you ask him for it. If he speaks to you in dreams, learn the language there. If he speaks to you through physical sensation, learn that language. Learn the nudges, the hesitations in your spirit or in your soul. For me, it came down to the spiritual sense of smell. It likely will come down to something else for you.

But don't ask until you're ready to be stretched. It’s very likely that God will move you outside of the box that you think you’re already out of. I suspect that when he begins to school you, it will be an unsettling season for you, and that you’ll have difficult assignments: embarrassing choices, awkward conversations, unexplained changes to your lifestyle.


But continue past the stumbling blocks. This is part of your becoming mature. The Body of Christ needs you mature, needs you operating in full potential, all of us working together. 
Standard
Letters

Maturing in Discernment

Not long ago, we were talking about how discernment is becoming more important in the lives of believers. It’s my opinion that the western church has generally not done a great job of teaching discernment. Somebody asked, “How can you grow in discernment?” Made me think.

There is a secret to begin with: If you want to learn discernment, practice discerning. Hebrews 5.14 points out that “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil..” Discerning is part of maturing, of growing up, but it’s developed by “constant use” and “train[ing] themselves.”

It’s work.
 
Somebody has asked, “Wait! If it’s a gift (1Corinthians 12:10), then why do we need to practice? The gift covers that!”

Yeah, tell that to someone who is a gifted musician, a gifted teacher, a gifted athlete. They still need to practice, to study, to exercise. The gift is the raw material that’s capable of becoming a masterpiece. The skill to make it into that masterpiece includes our own responsibility.

Any skill we practice many, many times, we're likely to with more excellence and less uncertainty than things we only do when we're backed into a corner.

The second is this: provision the gift. If we don't give our "discerner" the material it needs, it cannot function well. Hebrews 4:12 reveals that this is the Word of God, which includes, but is not limited to, the Bible. We need to be fueled up for discernment to work right. For me, that’s ongoing conversation with the second person of the Trinity, many hours of listening to the Scriptures, and fewer hours studying the scriptures. Your regimen will likely be different.

Then there’s the question of how does the data from the discerning process reach your conscious mind? Yeah, that's  an interesting one too.

First, don't assume that it actually needs to reach your conscious mind. Don't assume that unless you can put it into logical words, it's not valid: that's discerning by the soul (the mind), not by the Spirit. Do not dismiss the subconscious “nudges” that you get. Listen to them, learn their language, recognize their voice and learn to distinguish it from your own voice, from Father’s voice, from the accuser’s voice.

Second, learn God's language, learn how he speaks to you in this area. Discernment is a gift from God (1Cor 12:10). Since God gives gifts for use (not for decorating our mantel), he will also give to make best use of the gift if you ask him for it. If he speaks to you in dreams, learn the language there. If he speaks to you through physical sensation, learn that language. Learn the nudges, the hesitations in your spirit or in your soul. For me, it came down to the spiritual sense of smell. It likely will come down to something else for you.

But don't ask until you're ready to be stretched. It’s very likely that God will move you outside of the box that you think you’re already out of. I suspect that when he begins to school you, it will be an unsettling season for you, and that you’ll have difficult assignments: embarrassing choices, awkward conversations, unexplained changes to your lifestyle.


But continue past the stumbling blocks. This is part of your becoming mature. The Body of Christ needs you mature, needs you operating in full potential, all of us working together. 
Standard
Letters

Fulfilling the Law and the Prophets

Abolish is a strong word.

People quote Matthew 5:17&18 at me, to say “See! We still need to be under the Law! Look! See!”

These verses reads, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

I have to admit, if you grab that verse, yank it out of its context, ignore the bit about the Prophets, and try to use it as a club to support a need for the Law (or at least the 10 Commandments), then it kind of fits. If you squint.

Let’s look at this a little more closely, a little more objectively, shall we? Is Jesus really saying, “Psych! I’m not really freeing you from the Law!”? Or is Jesus saying something else.


That “Something else” could be several things:

  1. Perhaps the context tells us some things?
  2. There may be a Jewish metaphor here that we’re not catching because we’re not first century Jews. That might change the meaning here.  
  3. He might be talking about a purpose of the Law and the Prophets that he’s going to fulfill.
  4. He might be talking about and end of the Law, but one that is not His doing.
Let’s look at these possibilities one by one.

1. First, what does the context tell us? This is in the middle of a sermon where Jesus is completely re-interpreting their understanding of the Law. The entire chapter is about Jesus saying, “You’ve heard the Law taught this way…. But I tell you this other thing instead.”

So it’s not reasonable to assume that this is about submitting to the Law, at least not without some more evidence to work with. It’s more reasonable to infer that Jesus is doing away with how that Jewish culture has always understood the Law, and replacing that with a completely new understanding. 

2. Is there a Jewish metaphor here? I’m glad you asked. Yes there is. Jesus says the Law is valid “until heaven and earth pass away.” Well, when is that?

We, in our 21st century, science-based world interpret that literally, and if Jesus were speaking on CNN or the Discover Channel, that would probably be a reasonable interpretation. But that is not how his audience at the time would interpret it, so it’s not permitted for us to impose a 21st century interpretation onto this first century document.

If you look at the phrase in scripture (http://nwp.link/2idn9Ml), it’s used more than 120 times (NKJV). In general, the words are used together to describe “Pretty much everything we know” (which was *much* less than what we know today!), but when used together, it’s specifically addressing the abode of God (see: http://nwp.link/2j2nNR5, especially Isaiah 66:1 and Jeremiah 23:24).

In fact, this view was so prevalent that eventually the temple and its courtyard in Jerusalem became known as “Heaven and Earth,” and was spoken of as immovable. The temple itself, the “dwelling place of God” was Heaven, and the courts, particularly with the court of Gentiles, was “the Earth. In more poetical language, it was described as “Where Heaven and Earth meet.” (https://utpress.utexas.edu/books/grawhe)

3. The structure of the sentence clearly points to the fulfillment of “The Law and the Prophets.” We’ve taught for generations (correctly) that the Law and the Prophets point to Jesus, and this passage in Matthew has been part of that teaching. Certainly, the reference to “the Prophets” would not be part of a declaration of keeping the Old Covenant Law.

These verses are clearly saying that the Law was still in place as Jesus made the statement; it hadn't been fulfilled yet. Recently, I fulfilled my obligations on a loan. Until that loan was fulfilled, I kept making payments. If I missed even one payment, maybe the last payment, then the loan was in default, and the bank had the right to seize my property and sell it off to cover that payment.

But when I fulfilled that loan, when the payments were done, then the loan no longer has any power over my behavior (“Payments are due!”) or consequences (“…or we’ll seize your stuff!”). I was now free from that law.

4. The Old Covenant Law was still in place when Jesus spoke these words about the Law being fulfilled. It was already “obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away,” (Hebrews 8:13), but it didn’t finally “vanish away” until the last possible second: exactly one generation (40 years) after Jesus’ death, when the Jerusalem, the temple (“Heaven & Earth”) and perhaps most significantly, the genealogical records of Israel were all destroyed. Without those records, it was impossible to determine who was a descendant of Aaron, and therefore qualified to be a priest and to make the sacrifices the Law demanded.

When Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD (a description of which is in Matthew 24, in answer to the question of “When will the stones of the temple be thrown down?”), the Old Covenant finally breathed its last and died, completely fulfilled in Christ.

So these verses are not a statement that Believers need to keep the Old Covenant Law. They were a warning that while the Law was still in force when the words were spoken, that Law would end soon. Romans is blunt: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness….” Done.

And Jesus didn't just end Ten Commandments. He ended 613 laws; he ended all of them. All of that is dead. It was obsolete. It wasn’t needed any more.

You see, all of those commandments were the "terms and conditions" for the Old Covenant. And he ended the Old Covenant. (The Epistle to the Hebrews describes it pretty well, better than this article has room for.)

So when that broken down, obsolete covenant was replaced with a New Covenant, the terms and conditions of the first covenant (all those laws, and the priesthood, and the sacrifices) were all replaced with the terms and conditions of the New Covenant as well.


So anyone who names the name of Christ is not under the Old Covenant, and not obligated – not even a smidgeon – to the terms and conditions of that obsolete covenant. We share in a New Covenant, and no man can serve two masters. 
Standard
Letters

Fulfilling the Law and the Prophets

Abolish is a strong word.

People quote Matthew 5:17&18 at me, to say “See! We still need to be under the Law! Look! See!”

These verses read, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

I have to admit, if you grab that verse, yank it out of its context, ignore the bit about the Prophets, and try to use it as a club to support a need for the Law (or at least the 10 Commandments), then it kind of fits. If you close one eye and squint the other. 

Let’s look at this a little more closely, a little more objectively, shall we? Is Jesus really saying, “Psych! I’m not really freeing you from the Law!”? Or is Jesus saying something else.

That “Something else” could be several things:

  1. Perhaps the context tells us some things?
  2. There may be a Jewish metaphor here that we’re not catching because we’re not first century Jews. That might change the meaning here.  
  3. He might be talking about a purpose of the Law and the Prophets that he’s going to fulfill.
  4. He might be talking about and end of the Law, but one that is not His doing. 
Let’s look at these possibilities one by one.

1. First, what does the context tell us? This is in the middle of a sermon where Jesus is completely re-interpreting their understanding of the Law. The entire chapter is about Jesus saying, “You’ve heard the Law taught this way…. But I tell you this other thing instead.”

So it’s not reasonable to assume that suddenly he breaks his train of thought and talks about submitting to the Law, at least not without some more evidence to work with. It’s more reasonable to infer that Jesus is doing away with how that Jewish culture has always understood the Law, and replacing that with a completely new understanding. That is the context.

2. Is there a Jewish metaphor here? I’m glad you asked. Yes there is. Jesus says the Law is valid “until heaven and earth pass away.” Well, when is that?

We, in our 21st century, science-based world interpret that literally, scientifically, and if Jesus were speaking on CNN or the Discover Channel, that would probably be a reasonable interpretation. But that is not how his audience at the time would interpret it. So it’s not permitted for us to impose a 21st century interpretation onto this first century document.

If you look at the phrase in scripture (http://nwp.link/2idn9Ml), it’s used more than 120 times (NKJV). In general, the words are used to describe “Pretty much everything we know” (which was *much* less than what we know today!), but when used together, it’s specifically addressing the abode of God (see: http://nwp.link/2j2nNR5, especially Isaiah 66:1 and Jeremiah 23:24). This is describing the Jewish temple. 

In fact, this view was so prevalent that eventually the temple and its courtyard in Jerusalem became known as “Heaven and Earth,” and was spoken of as immovable. The temple itself, the “dwelling place of God” was Heaven, and the courts, particularly with the court of Gentiles, was “the Earth. In more poetical language, it was described as “Where Heaven and Earth meet.” (https://utpress.utexas.edu/books/grawhe)

So the Law and the Prophets are still valid, under Jesus’ new interpretation, until the temple was destroyed. That’s what it meant to the writer and the original readers of the Gospels. We cannot impose our 21st century cosmology onto the text.

3. The structure of the sentence clearly points to the fulfillment of “The Law and the Prophets.” We’ve taught for generations (correctly) that the Law and the Prophets point to Jesus, and this passage in Matthew has been part of that teaching. Certainly, the reference to “the Prophets” would not be part of a declaration of keeping the Old Covenant Law.

These verses are clearly saying that the Law was still in place as Jesus made the statement; it hadn’t been fulfilled yet. Recently, I fulfilled my obligations on a loan. Until that loan was fulfilled, I kept making payments. If I missed even one payment, even the very last payment, then the loan was in default, and the bank had the right to seize my property and sell it off to cover my failure. 

But when I fulfilled that loan, when the payments were done, then the loan no longer has any power over my behavior (“Payments are due!”) or consequences (“…or we’ll seize your stuff!”). I was now free from that law. 

Jesus was declaring that the fulfillment of everything the Law and the Prophets spoke about was upon them: they were about to see the realization of everything they’d been waiting for for the last couple of millennia!

4. The Old Covenant Law was still in place when Jesus spoke these words about the Law being fulfilled. It was already “obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away,” (Hebrews 8:13), but it didn’t finally “vanish away” until the last possible second: exactly one generation (40 years) after Jesus’ death, when the Jerusalem, the temple (“Heaven & Earth”) and perhaps even most significantly, the genealogical records of Israel were all destroyed. Without those records, it was impossible to determine who was a descendant of Aaron, and therefore qualified to be a priest and to make the sacrifices the Law demanded. Legitimate sacrifices could never be re-instituted.

When Jerusalem was destroyed in 70AD (a description of which is in Matthew 24, in answer to the question of “When will the stones of the temple be thrown down?”), the Old Covenant finally breathed its last and died, completely fulfilled in Christ.

So these verses are not a statement that Believers need to keep the Old Covenant Law. They were a warning that while the Law was still in force when the words were spoken, but that Law would end soon. Romans is blunt: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness….” Done.

And Jesus didn't just end Ten Commandments. He ended 613 laws; he ended all of them. All of that is dead. It was obsolete. It wasn’t needed any more.

You see, all of those commandments were the "terms and conditions" for the Old Covenant. And Jesus ended the Old Covenant. (The Epistle to the Hebrews describes that termination pretty well, better than this article has room for.)

So when that broken down, obsolete covenant was replaced with a New Covenant, the terms and conditions of the first covenant (all those laws, and the priesthood, and the sacrifices) were all replaced with the terms and conditions of the New Covenant as well.

So anyone who names the name of Christ is not under the Old Covenant, and not obligated – not even a smidgeon – to the terms and conditions of that obsolete covenant. We share in a New Covenant, and no man can serve two masters. Dont try.
Standard
Letters

Lukewarm Laodicea?


I’m tired of people looking at Jesus’ letter to the Church in Laodicea and misinterpreting it.

“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

So many preachers preaching from this passage, saying it’s better to be hot or cold. That’s fine, but then they drive right into the ditch. “Hot,” they say, is a person who’s “on fire” for God. And “Cold,” they say, is the opposite, someone who’s turned off on God. But people that are just “meh,” people who aren’t really passionate one way or the other are said to be “lukewarm,” and, they proclaim boldly, “God hates lukewarm!”

The encouragement to be passionate for God is wonderful. The thought that God likes atheists or passionately anti-Christian activity more than half-hearted Christianity? Yeah, that’s balderdash. You can argue that a half-hearted lover of God is better than a hater of God, or you can argue that God loves ‘em all the same, but you CAN’T argue that God loves haters better than folks that are tired of trying.

The root of this whole metaphor comes from Laodicea’s city water supply. This isn’t about half-hearted people. This is about water.

Laodicea, you see, had no reliable springs, no reliable city water of their own, so they imported their water.

They imported water from two other cities: Hierapolis(about 6 miles south) and Colossae, about 10 miles east.

Hierapolis was famous for hot springs, and the water they got from there was still hot if it was fresh. They were (and still are) famous for hot springs, for healing waters, where people can sit and soak their wounded or aging bodies.

Colossaewas in the mountains and the water they got from there was cold if it was fresh. Since Laodiceaspent summers consistently above 100ºF (38ºC), cold, refreshing mountain water was wonderful and refreshing and invigorating!

Both sources of water had a fair bit of minerals in them: they actually invented something like manhole covers to get into the pipes and clean them out regularly, because the minerals would build up and keep the water from running freely. When the pipes were clogged, the water sat in the pipes, rather than flowed through the pipes.

If the water had been sitting, stagnating, in pipes or in a pond or cistern somewhere, it was neither hot nor cold: it was lukewarm. It was also probably unsafe, so spitting it out is a really good thing to do.

But the statement here isn’t that God vomits out people who aren't passionate enough, though the call to passionate following is appropriate. The statement here is “Be who you’re called to be.”

If you’re going to be a healing person, where broken people can come and soak away their pains, great. Be that!

If you’re going to be a bracing drink of cold, mountain water, that’ll wake folks up and get them motivated, great. Be that!

Don’t sit in the pipes so long that you just gum up the works and nobody gets good ministry. And don’t sit and stagnate. That’s not good for anybody.


Whatever you’re called to do: do it. Be passionate about it! Don’t just sit and stagnate. 
Standard
Letters

Lukewarm Laodicea?


I’m tired of people looking at Jesus’ letter to the Church in Laodicea and misinterpreting it.

“So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

So many preachers preaching from this passage, saying it’s better to be hot or cold. That’s fine, but then they drive right into the ditch. “Hot,” they say, is a person who’s “on fire” for God. And “Cold,” they say, is the opposite, someone who’s turned off on God. But people that are just “meh,” people who aren’t really passionate one way or the other are said to be “lukewarm,” and, they proclaim boldly, “God hates lukewarm!”

The encouragement to be passionate for God is wonderful. The thought that God likes atheists or passionately anti-Christian activity more than half-hearted Christianity? Yeah, that’s balderdash. You can argue that a half-hearted lover of God is better than a hater of God, or you can argue that God loves ‘em all the same, but you CAN’T argue that God loves haters better than folks that are tired of trying.

The root of this whole metaphor comes from Laodicea’s city water supply. This isn’t about half-hearted people. This is about water.

Laodicea, you see, had no reliable springs, no reliable city water of their own, so they imported their water.

They imported water from two other cities: Hierapolis(about 6 miles south) and Colossae, about 10 miles east.

Hierapolis was famous for hot springs, and the water they got from there was still hot if it was fresh. They were (and still are) famous for hot springs, for healing waters, where people can sit and soak their wounded or aging bodies.

Colossaewas in the mountains and the water they got from there was cold if it was fresh. Since Laodiceaspent summers consistently above 100ºF (38ºC), cold, refreshing mountain water was wonderful and refreshing and invigorating!

Both sources of water had a fair bit of minerals in them: they actually invented something like manhole covers to get into the pipes and clean them out regularly, because the minerals would build up and keep the water from running freely. When the pipes were clogged, the water sat in the pipes, rather than flowed through the pipes.

If the water had been sitting, stagnating, in pipes or in a pond or cistern somewhere, it was neither hot nor cold: it was lukewarm. It was also probably unsafe, so spitting it out is a really good thing to do.

But the statement here isn’t that God vomits out people who aren't passionate enough, though the call to passionate following is appropriate. The statement here is “Be who you’re called to be.”

If you’re going to be a healing person, where broken people can come and soak away their pains, great. Be that!

If you’re going to be a bracing drink of cold, mountain water, that’ll wake folks up and get them motivated, great. Be that!

Don’t sit in the pipes so long that you just gum up the works and nobody gets good ministry. And don’t sit and stagnate. That’s not good for anybody.


Whatever you’re called to do: do it. Be passionate about it! Don’t just sit and stagnate. 
Standard
Devotionals, Letters

Study to Show Yourself Approved?

Has someone brought this up to you before? 

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

That's the King James for 2Timothy 2:15, and people often bring this up as a justification for their fascination with the Old Covenant, or to reinforce their point that you have to earn favor. 

There's so much Scriptural bastardry in how we've taught this verse. I'm really quite embarrassed.

First, "Study" in 1611, when King Jimmy commissioned his translation meant what the Greek word σπουδάζω means. However, in 21st Century English, the word means "be diligent," or "do your best." It has nothing to do with academic study. 


I'm very much in favor of studying the Bible. But this verse is not even remotely talking about that. Illustrations (like the one here) that tie this verse to a picture of a Bible are seriously missing the point of this scripture!

Second, παρίστημι, "show yourself" (or worse, "shew thyself
") in 1611, is more about "Show what you're really like," not "work for your approval."

"Approved" speaks of a coin that's been demonstrated to be real silver, not lead or tin: this is the real thing. Again, "Show what you're really like."

So the whole thing is more about, "Be careful to let who you really are show." The idea of "Don't hide God's delight in you" is there as well.

We could go on.

This is probably why the NIV (the "Nearly Inspired Version" lol) translates it as "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."

For decades, this verse was used as a club, justifying church rules and expectations, requiring my suffering sweat (or my academic study) in order to be acceptable.

Don't let people use the Bible as a club. It's a love letter from a lovesick Daddy who wants his kids back. Anybody that uses Scripture to control others is a good person to pray for, but not a good person to follow.
Standard
Devotionals, Letters

Study to Show Yourself Approved?

Has someone brought this up to you before? 

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

That's the King James for 2Timothy 2:15, and people often bring this up as a justification for their fascination with the Old Covenant, or to reinforce their point that you have to earn favor. 

There's so much Scriptural bastardry in how we've taught this verse. I'm really quite embarrassed.

First, "Study" in 1611, when King Jimmy commissioned his translation meant what the Greek word σπουδάζω means. However, in 21st Century English, the word means "be diligent," or "do your best." It has nothing to do with academic study. 


I'm very much in favor of studying the Bible. But this verse is not even remotely talking about that. Illustrations (like the one here) that tie this verse to a picture of a Bible are seriously missing the point of this scripture!

Second, παρίστημι, "show yourself" (or worse, "shew thyself
") in 1611, is more about "Show what you're really like," not "work for your approval."

"Approved" speaks of a coin that's been demonstrated to be real silver, not lead or tin: this is the real thing. Again, "Show what you're really like."

So the whole thing is more about, "Be careful to let who you really are show." The idea of "Don't hide God's delight in you" is there as well.

We could go on.

This is probably why the NIV (the "Nearly Inspired Version" lol) translates it as "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."

For decades, this verse was used as a club, justifying church rules and expectations, requiring my suffering sweat (or my academic study) in order to be acceptable.

Don't let people use the Bible as a club. It's a love letter from a lovesick Daddy who wants his kids back. Anybody that uses Scripture to control others is a good person to pray for, but not a good person to follow.
Standard
Devotionals, Letters

The Pilgrimgram 2016-07-07 09:37:00

Has someone brought this up to you before?

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

That's the King James for 2Timothy 2:15, and people often bring this up as a justification for their fascination with the Old Covenant, or to reinforce their point that you have to earn favor.

There's so much Scriptural bastardry in how we've taught this verse. I'm kind of embarrassed.

First, "Study" in 1611, when King Jimmy commissioned his translation meant what the Greek word σπουδάζω means, but in 21st Century English, it's "be diligent," or "do your best." It has nothing to do with academic study.

Second, παρίστημι, "show yourself" in 1611, is more about "Show what you're really like," not "work for your approval."

"Approved" speaks of a coin that's been shown to be real silver, not lead or tin: this is the real thing. Again, "Show what you're really like."

So the whole thing is more about, "Be careful to let who you really are show." The idea of "Don't hide God's delight in you" is there as well.

We could go on.

This is probably why the NIV (the "Nearly Inspired Version" lol) translates it as "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."

For decades, this verse was used as a club, justifying church rules and expectations, requiring my suffering sweat in order to be acceptable.

Don't let people use the Bible as a club. It's a love letter from a lovesick Daddy who wants his kids back. Anybody that uses Scripture to control others is a good person to pray for, but not a good person to follow.

But bottom line: Be yourself. Be really yourself.
Standard
Devotionals, Letters

The Pilgrimgram 2016-07-07 09:37:00

Has someone brought this up to you before?

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

That's the King James for 2Timothy 2:15, and people often bring this up as a justification for their fascination with the Old Covenant, or to reinforce their point that you have to earn favor.

There's so much Scriptural bastardry in how we've taught this verse. I'm kind of embarrassed.

First, "Study" in 1611, when King Jimmy commissioned his translation meant what the Greek word σπουδάζω means, but in 21st Century English, it's "be diligent," or "do your best." It has nothing to do with academic study.

Second, παρίστημι, "show yourself" in 1611, is more about "Show what you're really like," not "work for your approval."

"Approved" speaks of a coin that's been shown to be real silver, not lead or tin: this is the real thing. Again, "Show what you're really like."

So the whole thing is more about, "Be careful to let who you really are show." The idea of "Don't hide God's delight in you" is there as well.

We could go on.

This is probably why the NIV (the "Nearly Inspired Version" lol) translates it as "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."

For decades, this verse was used as a club, justifying church rules and expectations, requiring my suffering sweat in order to be acceptable.

Don't let people use the Bible as a club. It's a love letter from a lovesick Daddy who wants his kids back. Anybody that uses Scripture to control others is a good person to pray for, but not a good person to follow.

But bottom line: Be yourself. Be really yourself.
Standard
Symphony

Encore or Revival: America, April 11, 2016

Polls aren’t lying. The divisive wind from Wisconsin blows through Indiana. The State GOP is already stacking anti-Trump delegates in hopes of a contested convention; this, despite the fact that polls—which aren’t lying—show 1/3 of Republican voters will turn on the party if Trump leads, but isn’t nominated. The Boston Globe borders on faux news over the border, in an unabashed snowball of anti-Trump efforts. It all perfectly mirrors stage three of the five stages of grief: denial, anger, negotiating, depression, acceptance.

How should we make sense of it all? Of all States, militia-friendly Indiana should be fond of the say-it-in-yer-face Donald. The dissents, however, parallel those of the Bible.

To review: The Bible has over 42,000 documented manuscripts supporting that the original writings are as they were. The only peer that comes close is Homer’s Iliad, with about 500 documented manuscripts. Surmountable archaeological evidence collaborates, enumerates, and elaborates the events of the Bible without contradiction. Jesus’ death and resurrection could not be faked or misreported given the documented witnesses, cohesive accounting of events, and the events as they are reportedly agreed to have happened. All these can be researched as the information is widely available to the public. If the Bible is not real, then novelists should find out how fiction became perfectly cohesive with history without a single footprint of tampering. How many authors do that?

Though dissidents overlook the evidence in their academic-sounding explanations for the Bible as having been allegedly fabricated, they seem to overlook one thing: If the Bible is the first perfectly fake document, shouldn’t academics also focus on uncovering whatever brilliant methods led to a manuscript that can’t be proven false?

Usually, when competent people give high-grade arguments against an idea, but don’t pursue the brilliance their own arguments imply, this indicates that they know their arguments are phony. And usually, this indicates stages three and four of the grief process. It’s like a mother saying to her five year old, “The dog did this? Then we need to call American Idol and audition the first dog who can draw stick figures on the wall.”

The reason people provide convincing arguments against the Bible—even though they don’t pursue those ideas as they would if their arguments were true—is simple. People refuse to believe the Bible, despite the evidence, because, like five-year-olds who don’t know they will get caught blaming their mischief on the dog, they don’t want to change how they live.

The Bible teaches that we should forgive our enemies, remembering that we need no grudges since God is sovereign. It tells us to look after our neighbors just as we look after ourselves. It teaches against breaking wedding vows. And the entire debate on sexual orientation is eclipsed by the Bible’s teaching that we should love God more than anyone else—usually “Christian homosexuals” give arguments that talk more about their desire for human love than their abounding love for God, rendering their “Christian-homosexual” argument irrelevant before it can receive a fair debate. Christians love God first—or did they forget that part?

The Bible is only one example. People reject many ideas and virtues, not because they disagree, but because they don’t want to change their unvirtuous behavior.

What is Indiana hiding? Why is the should-be pro-Trump State so set against the Donald? Consider the agricultural numbers published by the Indiana State government.

According to the report in 2012 from the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, 19.4M of Indiana’s 23.3M acres is farm and forest land, 83%. Indiana’s population at the time was 6,537,344; 245,000 worked in the $11.2B agriculture industry. The industry stacks up to $4B in corn, $2.9B in soybeans, $1.2B in pigs, $1.1B in chickens, and $660M in dairy. Each farm averaged 245 acres. According to Statista, Indiana’s GDP that year was $280.49B; according to Indiana University, only about half of the population was working (est. approx. 3.3M in the labor force). Indiana’s produce ranked well in the nation, their staple products often in the top ten.

Do those numbers make sense?

That’s a lot of land and money. If true, 7.4% of Indiana’s labor force contributed to only 3.9% of the economy on 83% of the land, each person bringing $45,700 in revenue. That’s labor union bargaining power! The Democratic lobbyists should be all over Indiana agriculture like fire ants on a sandwich. Yet, according to this, Indiana farming is half as efficient per person as the rest of the State, but makes a lot of money. The remaining jobs in Indiana should bring in an average of $88K per capita per year, on only 17% of the remaining land! Everyone in the USA should be scrambling to work in Indiana where non-farming jobs are worth an average of almost $90K to each employer. So, why aren’t they?

Remember, the reported agriculture jobs were rounded to the nearest thousand while the population figures measure to the ones’ place. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, 40% of Wisconsin dairy farms are Latino workers. Were Indiana farm jobs an estimate? Could numbers given to the State Department of Agriculture been somehow incomplete or difficult to verify?

Let’s re-work some numbers. Let’s say that half of the agricultural labor force is from out of State, not being counted in the stats. And, lets say that farm labor is actually half a million. That would mean that each person brings under $22K in revenue each year, which seems more realistic. Now, each worker costs less money to the big farms. Accordingly, the rest of the unions, lobbyists, and work force doesn’t want to flock to Indiana—except for people from a country with a lower cost of living than the US. 12% of Indiana’s work force contributing to 3.9% of the economy—try putting that in the next State of the Union Address—easy to believe, difficult to prove, unlikely to report.

At least two farming States and the Boston Globe are all in a tizzy about losing the illegals. But, no one seems to be able to figure out why farming States don’t like Trump.

Will the IRS investigate? Probably not. That whole taxation and representation part of history seems to be making an encore, along with America’s next and fast-approaching Bible study renaissance.

continue reading

Standard
Devotionals, Letters

Father, Son & Holy Bible?

The Bible is indispensable for you and me. There’s life in its pages, life that cannot be found anywhere else. Let’s get that out of the way right up front. The Bible is a gift from God.

I wonder sometimes if we haven’t elevated the Bible above where it ought to be, if we haven’t made more of it than God intends for it to be to us.

As a species, we have this tendency, you know, towards extremism. Anything that’s good, we idolize. Anything that is uncomfortable, we demonize. Anything that is questionable, we outlaw. We seem inclined to over-simplify issues, and I wonder if we haven’t done that with the Scriptures.

I heard someone confess, recently that "... he no longer regards the Bible as inerrant, dictated by God, historically accurate in all of its claims or even internally consistent with itself." (Others have asked similar questions with different details. This is the list that came before me, so I’m reflecting on this list.)

Believers have bled and died over those four points points: Is the Bible:

Inerrant?
Dictated by God?
Historically accurate in every detail?
Internally consistent?

We’ve always been taught (or some of us have) that these are true, that the Bible is all of these things. But is it really?

Since I’ve grown up with a very healthy respect for the Bible, my first reaction was something akin to offense that anyone would even question these attributes. I’m not fond of offense in myself, so I try to examine my offenses when they occur.

And two thoughts occurred to me as I thought about this topic:

1.  We’ve always assumed (I have always assumed) that these attributes were true about the Bible. Assumptions are dangerous things. And

2.  These are not attributes that the Bible actually ever (as far as I can discern) claims for itself. The Bible does not, within its pages, ever claim to be inerrant (though it is “God-breathed” or God-inspired”) or dictated by the Almighty (in fact it claims the opposite), or historically accurate in every detail (much of it does not even aspire to be an historical record), nor does it claim that it is completely consistent within itself (though, in fact, it is remarkably consistent, it is not perfectly so).

And all of this leads me to consider these tentative conclusions:

If these are not attributes that the Bible ever claims for itself, then they must be attributes that people, human beings, have thrust upon it, and this must have happened after the Bible was written.

These sort of claims are not likely to be attributed to the Scriptures by secular people, or by contemplative mystics. These are the sort of claims that are more likely to come from a religious spirit.

I would rather not embrace conclusions that spring from a religious spirit, not even when those conclusions revere things (the Bible) that I hold in very high esteem, not even when they’re (presumably) made with good intentions.

None of this will challenge my love for the Scriptures. None of this will diminish the hours I spend in its pages, drawing life from it as Holy Spirit gently and consistently breathes it into my soul.

But I believe I’ll attempt to not attribute to the Bible things that the Bible does not claim for itself. If nothing else, that strikes me as a violation of the command to avoid adding to the Book.

Standard
Devotionals, Letters

Father, Son & Holy Bible?

The Bible is indispensable for you and me. There’s life in its pages, life that cannot be found anywhere else. Let’s get that out of the way right up front. The Bible is a gift from God.

I wonder sometimes if we haven’t elevated the Bible above where it ought to be, if we haven’t made more of it than God intends for it to be to us.

As a species, we have this tendency, you know, towards extremism. Anything that’s good, we idolize. Anything that is uncomfortable, we demonize. Anything that is questionable, we outlaw. We seem inclined to over-simplify issues, and I wonder if we haven’t done that with the Scriptures.

I heard someone confess, recently that "... he no longer regards the Bible as inerrant, dictated by God, historically accurate in all of its claims or even internally consistent with itself." (Others have asked similar questions with different details. This is the list that came before me, so I’m reflecting on this list.)

Believers have bled and died over those four points points: Is the Bible:

Inerrant?
Dictated by God?
Historically accurate in every detail?
Internally consistent?

We’ve always been taught (or some of us have) that these are true, that the Bible is all of these things. But is it really?

Since I’ve grown up with a very healthy respect for the Bible, my first reaction was something akin to offense that anyone would even question these attributes. I’m not fond of offense in myself, so I try to examine my offenses when they occur.

And two thoughts occurred to me as I thought about this topic:

1.  We’ve always assumed (I have always assumed) that these attributes were true about the Bible. Assumptions are dangerous things. And

2.  These are not attributes that the Bible actually ever (as far as I can discern) claims for itself. The Bible does not, within its pages, ever claim to be inerrant (though it is “God-breathed” or God-inspired”) or dictated by the Almighty (in fact it claims the opposite), or historically accurate in every detail (much of it does not even aspire to be an historical record), nor does it claim that it is completely consistent within itself (though, in fact, it is remarkably consistent, it is not perfectly so).

And all of this leads me to consider these tentative conclusions:

If these are not attributes that the Bible ever claims for itself, then they must be attributes that people, human beings, have thrust upon it, and this must have happened after the Bible was written.

These sort of claims are not likely to be attributed to the Scriptures by secular people, or by contemplative mystics. These are the sort of claims that are more likely to come from a religious spirit.

I would rather not embrace conclusions that spring from a religious spirit, not even when those conclusions revere things (the Bible) that I hold in very high esteem, not even when they’re (presumably) made with good intentions.

None of this will challenge my love for the Scriptures. None of this will diminish the hours I spend in its pages, drawing life from it as Holy Spirit gently and consistently breathes it into my soul.

But I believe I’ll attempt to not attribute to the Bible things that the Bible does not claim for itself. If nothing else, that strikes me as a violation of the command to avoid adding to the Book.

Standard