Christianity 201

May 17, 2017

The Childhood and Adolescent Years of Jesus

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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CEB Luke 2:39 When Mary and Joseph had completed everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to their hometown, Nazareth in Galilee. 40 The child grew up and became strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was on him…

…51 Jesus went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. His mother cherished every word in her heart. 52 Jesus matured in wisdom and years, and in favor with God and with people.

CEB Matthew 2:22 But when he heard that Archelaus ruled over Judea in place of his father Herod, Joseph was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he went to the area of Galilee. 23 He settled in a city called Nazareth so that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled: He [Jesus] will be called a Nazarene.

Following a link I’d bookmarked some time ago, I ended up back at Lightsource, but this time on the page Jesus.org with the title Answering The Mysteries of Jesus Christ. This devotional quoted from a book by Alfred Edersheim which is considered one of the best sources for understanding the world at the time of Jesus.  Click the title below to read at source.

Jesus’ Childhood: The Missing Years?

The gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) tell us little about the childhood of Jesus. We know only a handful of events: the family’s escape to Egypt (Matthew 2:14) and return to Nazareth (Matthew 2:23; Luke 2:39); His increasing wisdom (Luke 2:40); and His visit to the Temple in Jerusalem at age 12 and obedience to His parents (Luke 2:41).

It should be noted that further accounts of Christ’s childhood were included in the so-called apocryphal gospels, written much later by those seeking to fill in the “gaps.” However, these “gospels” present a child who is sullen and uses miracles for entertainment rather than doing the will of God. Neither of these attributes fits with the character of Christ.

While the authentic details of Jesus’s childhood are sparse, we can learn a great deal from the country and area of His youth: Israel and Galilee. While Jerusalem emphasized the intricate and convoluted study of the Old Testament and teachings of the rabbis, Galilee’s distance from the city afforded a somewhat milder approach that had little respect for legalism. For this reason and because of dialect differences, the Galileans were often seen as unlearned. “Galilean—Fool!” became a common expression.

We can expect that Jesus grew up in an atmosphere permeated with the teachings and words of the Old Testament. He also likely attended a Jewish school by age six, since these were common even in remote areas.

Beyond this, the content of His parables and teachings may suggest the everyday sights of His youth: shepherds with their sheep, marriage parties in celebration, foxes in their lairs, tax collectors at the door, widows at work looking for lost coins, bakers in the middle of kneading bread, and the poor in the street.

The one aspect we can be sure of is that Jesus’s youth served to fulfill an important part of His ministry. That is, though fully God, He grew up as any human does.

~ Adapted from The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim (Book II, Chapters IX and X).


So what about all those things attributed to Jesus that are not found in the four canonical gospels (the synoptics plus John)? A quick online search brought us to these two articles:

  • The first deals with The Infancy Gospel of Thomas which is seen as distinct from the Gospel of Thomas itself. Mostly, it describes the content.
  • The second deals with The Gospel of Thomas itself. From the beginning it quotes two verses, describing them as bizarre, which should give you an idea of the writer’s take on its authenticity.

December 24, 2015

The Life That Changed the World

Several years ago I was reading a new book by an author completely unknown to me, so I went hunting around the back pages for some kind of “about the author” section, whereupon I learned that he was best known for founding an organization and an annual conference. That type of endorsement is meant to impress, and it does. Certainly I’ve never done those things.

Maybe it was because it was quite late, but my mind went to a piece of prose (sometimes rendered as poetry) known as One Solitary Life. It turns up on tracts, on Christmas cards, and even email forwards.

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village, where he worked in a carpenter’s shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He never set foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place he was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness.

While He was still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends deserted him. He was turned over to his enemies, and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for the only piece of property he had – his coat.

When he was dead, he was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure for much of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever sailed, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of people on this earth as powerfully as this “One Solitary Life.”

Most sources online credit this to Dr. James Allan Francis.

In light of what I mentioned above, I just wanted to add “he never founded a charitable organization, never established an annual conference.” To which you could add, “He wasn’t on Twitter, He didn’t have a website or a blog, or a Christian television show.”

That reminded me of a section of a quotation from Philip Yancey (see below) which says, “When He did something truly miraculous he tended to hush it up;” so I did a search of the phrase “not to tell anyone.”

The healing of a blind man:

Mark 7:35-37

35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

The revelation of His identity:

Mark 8:29-31

29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Immediately following the transfiguration:

Luke 9:35-37

8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

The raising of Jarius’ daughter:

Luke 8:55-56

55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

All of which points us to Phil. 2:6

6 Though he was in the form of God,
he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit. (CEB)

6 who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be used for His own advantage. (HCSB)

I would add, ‘Did not consider equality with God something to be leveraged.’

Despite this, no one who has ever lived as ever affected the history of mankind so richly, so deeply, so powerfully as this One Solitary Life.

“The more I studied Jesus, the more difficult it became to pigeonhole him. He said little about the Roman occupation, the main topic of conversation among his countrymen; and yet he took up a whip to drive petty profiteers from the Jewish temple. He urged obedience to the Mosaic law while acquiring the reputation of a lawbreaker. He could be stabbed by sympathy for a stranger, yet turn on his best friend with the flinty rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan!” He had compromising views on rich men and loose women, yet both types enjoyed his company. “One day miracles seem to flow out of Jesus the next day his power was blocked by people’s lack of faith. One day he talked in detail of the Second Coming; another, he knew neither the day nor hour. He fled from arrest at one point and marched inexorably toward it at another. He spoke eloquently about peacemaking, then told his disciples to procure swords. His extravagant claims about himself kept him at the center of controversy, but when he he did something truly miraculous he tended to hush it up. As Walter Wink has said, if Jesus had never lived, we would not have been able to invent him.” ~~ Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew (Zondervan 1995) p.23

Quotations today are from the New International Version (NIV) except where noted

February 5, 2015

Knowing What You Believe

(The Message) II Timothy 1:11-12 This is the Message I’ve been set apart to proclaim as preacher, emissary, and teacher. It’s also the cause of all this trouble I’m in. But I have no regrets. I couldn’t be more sure of my ground—the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end.

Today we’re going to look at a creed — though not set out in that form — that many of us would not have had the opportunity to encounter before.  This is from Dr. Michael J. Kruger at the blog Canon Fodder:

One of the Clearest (and Earliest) Summaries of Early Christian Beliefs

Statement-of-FaithSince I am currently writing a book on Christianity in the second century, my research has been focused on some of our earliest patristic texts.  These texts are a treasure trove of fascinating statements and declarations that provide tremendous insight on what early Christians really believed.

Some of my prior posts on this theme include discussions of the persecution of Christians, early Christian sexual ethics, the divinity of Jesus, and the doctrine of substitutionary atonement.

Most recently, I came across an amazing paragraph in one of our earliest Christian apologies.  Aristides, a converted Athenian philosopher, wrote an apology to emperor Hadrian around 125 A.D.  As such, it is one of the earliest patristic writings we possess.  It is a lengthy treatise which compares the God of Christianity with the gods of the barbarians, the Egyptians, and the Greeks.

But, at one point, he summarizes what Christians believe in a manner that would rival even the Apostle’s Creed:

The Christians, then, trace the beginning of their religion from Jesus the Messiah; and he is named the Son of God Most High. And it is said that God came down from heaven, and from a Hebrew virgin assumed and clothed himself with flesh; and the Son of God lived in a daughter of man. This is taught in the gospel, as it is called, which a short time was preached among them; and you also if you will read therein, may perceive the power which belongs to it. This Jesus, then, was born of the race of the Hebrews; and he had twelve disciples in order that the purpose of his incarnation might in time be accomplished. But he himself was pierced by the Jews, and he died and was buried; and they say that after three days he rose and ascended to heaven (Apol. 2).

Aristides makes it clear that Christians affirm a number of key truths:

1. The divinity of Jesus:  “God came down from heaven…”  In the mind of Aristides, Jesus is not an angel, or a semi-divine being, but the very God of heaven itself.

2. The incarnation: “clothed himself with flesh.”  In very vivid language, the author affirms that Jesus is God enfleshed; he took upon himself a real human body (contra the Docetists).

3. The virgin birth:  “from a Hebrew virgin.” This doctrine flows naturally from the prior two.  If Jesus is God, and he took on human flesh, then his conception would be distinctive from other human beings.

4. The authority of the Gospels: “taught in the gospel…and you also if you read therein, may perceive the power which belongs to it.”  Notice for Aristides, there are books called a “gospel” which you can “read” to learn more about the person of Jesus. Moreover, these gospels contain a certain “power” which the reader can discern.

5. The authority of the apostles: “and he had twelve disciples.”  Aristides recognizes that Jesus had an authority structure through the twelve that was necessary “so that the purpose of his incarnation might in time be accomplished.”

6. His death on the cross: “pierced by the Jews.”  This is a clear reference to Jesus’ crucifixion under Pontius Pilate at the request of the Jewish leadership.

7.  His resurrection: “after three days he rose.”  Jesus did not stay in the grave but was raised from the dead.

8.  His ascension: “ascended into heaven.”  Jesus returned to his former heavenly home, in a position of power and glory.

This is a surprisingly thorough and wide-ranging summary of core Christian doctrines at a very early point in the life of the church.  And it was this form of Christianity that was publicly presented to the Emperor. Once again, we can see that core Christian beliefs were not latecomers that were invented in the fourth century (or later), but appear to have been in place from the very beginning.


December 10, 2013

Mary’s Prayer: The Magnificat

This article by K.W. Leslie is probably the best treatment of Mary’s prayer that I’ve seen, insomuch as it addresses several popular misconceptions.  I encourage you to read it as his blog, More Christ, but also to send your friends and family to the article as it appeared.

The prophecy Mary gave to Elizabeth during her visit is called the Magnificat [män•YĒ•fē•kät] from the first word in its Latin translation, Magnificat anima mea Dominum…. It’s a Hebrew poem in that it repeats concepts. Some have wondered whether it’s a hymn which Mary composed on the spot. Or maybe she composed it beforehand, and came out with it now.

Those who don’t understand how prophecy and inspiration work, tend to think of the Magnificat as something the Holy Spirit said through Mary, rather than something Mary said, empowered by the Spirit. They see her as some illiterate, uneducated peasant girl. In reality, the Spirit takes our innate abilities—the ones we have all the time, not just when we’re inspired—and points them at God. The Magnificat isn’t just a one-time freak of nature. Turns out Mary was a poet. Perhaps even a musician. Maybe untrained, with strong natural talents God put in her long before she said this. But maybe someone had trained her; we don’t know. All we have is her poem.

Mary said,

“My soul knows how great the Lord is.
My spirit rejoices over the God who saves me,
because he looked at the lowness of his slave.
Look: From now on, every woman will call me awesome,
because the Almighty did a great thing to me.
His name is holy.
His mercy, to those who fear him, lasts for generations.
His arm performed powerful things.
He scattered those who were overconfident in their thinking.
He pulled dynasties from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.
He filled the hungry with good things.
He sent the wealthy away empty.
He supported his child Israel,
remembering mercy as he spoke to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his perpetual descendants.”

Mary stayed with Elizabeth three months, and returned to her house.

Luke 1.46-56 KWL

Mary’s education.

Most of the Magnificat comes from Old Testament concepts. Sometimes direct and indirect quotes. Those who think Mary was an ignorant peasant clearly don’t understand her culture: Mary went to synagogue.

In the first century, synagogue wasn’t simply a Jewish church, like it often is today. Synagogue was school. The Pharisees had invented the synagogue system to teach the Law, the bible, to the general public. They wanted to encourage men to become bible scholars, grammatís, “scribes.” But if they didn’t go so far, they wanted the men to have a functional understanding of the scriptures.

Synagogues had a women’s section. That’s right: The Pharisees permitted women’s education. They didn’t expect (nor did they want) women to become scholars. But they did expect them to know the Law, same as the men: “A man is required to teach the Law to his daughter.” (Mishna, Sota 3.4e) You can’t obey it, or pass it down to your kids, if you don’t yourself know it. And throughout the Magnificat, Mary demonstrated she did know it. ’Cause, you know, all the quotes.

For I’m your god, the LORD.
I’m El-Qanná/‘Possessive God.’
I have children suffer consequences for their parents’ evil
—and the grandchildren, and great-grandchildren—
when they hate me.
But I show love to a thousand generations
when they love me and observe my commands.

—The LORD,

My heart is happy in the LORD. […]
The experts’ bows are cracked.
The stumblers are belted with courage.
The well-fed have hired themselves out for bread.
The hungry have stopped being hungry. […]
The LORD makes people either destitute or rich.
Some he lays low; some he exalts.
He lifts the poor from the dirt.
He exalts the needy from the landfill.
He puts them in the seat of rich patrons.
He assigns them positions of honor.
For the things which hold up the earth are the LORD’s.
He set them up.

—Hannah, 1 Samuel 2.1, 4-5, 7-8 KWL

My life exults in the LORD.
His salvation thrills it.

—David, Psalm 35.9 KWL

The prowling life is satisfied.
He’s filled the starving life with goodness.

Psalm 107.9 KWL

He sent the ransom for his people:
He instructed his child in his holy covenant.
His name is respected.

Psalm 111.9 KWL

You’ll give Jacob the truth.
You’ll show love to Abraham.
You swore these things to our ancestors long ago.

—Micah, Micah 7.20 KWL

Of course there are other verses. But even if you’re taking your imagery from the bible, you still have to put it all together, as Mary did.

The structure of the poem.

People tend to divide the Magnificat into two parts. First, Mary spoke on how God blessed her personally. Lk 1.46-50 Second, Mary spoke on how God turns the world upside down in order to make it right. Lk 1.51-55 The key to Mary’s thinking is in her statement, “He scattered those who were overconfident in their thinking.” If you think you know how the world works, but your thinking is entirely based on your own comfortable position, are you in for a shocker. (Fellow Americans: Pay attention.)

Mary began by pointing out how her soul and spirit—the immaterial parts of her, which moderns refer to as our “consciousness”—recognize God’s greatness. Partly in comparison with her position, “the lowness of his slave,” because it’s how she thought of herself. Lk 1.38 Partly because she realized she’s now part of salvation history: She referred to “the God who saves me,” for she of course believed, as Jews did, the whole point of Messiah is salvation. Her son’s name Jesus Lk 1.31 means “the LORD saves.” She didn’t yet know how he’d save them; only that the first step was to get born and raised. And she got to raise him.

Much too much emphasis is made on how Mary birthed Jesus, and not enough on how she raised Jesus. Probably that’s because a lot of Christians unconsciously think since Jesus is God, he needed no one to raise him: He already knew everything, and knew better. They point to how he taught the scribes in Jerusalem when he was only 12, Lk 2.41-51 or how the folks in his homeland wondered where he got all his wisdom. Mk 6.2 Or they even borrow some stories out of the ridiculous apocryphal gospels. They don’t understand how, when Jesus gave up his divine privileges, Pp 2.7 this includes his all-knowingness. The only knowledge he took with him was that of the Father. Jn 7.29 The rest he had to learn—from his parents.

Mary appreciated all God had done for her, and the honor he’d given her, and said “His mercy, to those who fear him, lasts for generations,” loosely quoting Exodus. Ex 20.6

Her lowliness led her to recall God likes to use the lowly to accomplish his goals. They recognize their achievements are only done through God’s power, not their own. They appreciate him more. So Mary proclaimed a few of the things God does to put the world topsy-turvy to establish his Kingdom. He scatters the overconfident, knocks down dynasties, fills the hungry and empties the wealthy, and looks out for Israel—an occupied vassal state of the mighty Roman Empire—because it was founded on God’s relationship with their trusting ancestor Abraham.

Yep, Mary understood how God worked. It’s why she was well-equipped to raise him.

June 2, 2013

The Intention Behind The Action

Today we pay a return visit to the blog The Rest That Works and writer Scott Daniels. You’re always encouraged to click through to read at source. This piece appeared under the title The Bottom Line.

The more I pray and try to follow God’s guidance the more it becomes apparent how simple the bottom line really is–love. It’s also apparent what usually gets in the way–a critical spirit, toward myself and others. The issue isn’t whether or not there is something that can be criticized. That is often the case. At issue is our approach. Is it of love or not? 

Probably the clearest story from the Bible that highlights this is when the woman (or different women) anointed Jesus with expensive oil. 

In John, Mary anoints Jesus and Judas objects because of the expense (John 12:1-8).

In Matthew and Mark, Jesus is at the house is of Simon the Leper when a woman comes in with very expensive ointment, and pours it over his head. The disciples in general complain of the waste because it could have been sold for the poor, but Jesus says it’s in preparation for his burial, and that you will always have the poor with you but not me, and adds that“wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (Mt. 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9). It’s one of the few times we hear that he is really impressed with what someone has done, and it has everything to do with intent.

In Luke 7 we have a different story with interesting similarities: We’re at the house of Simon the Pharisee. 

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. 38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” 41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” 48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

In all cases, which may or may not have been different women and episodes, Jesus emphasizes the way the women have shown great love. To Jesus, the love and intent behind our actions are just about everythingIn at least one of these cases, expressing the love is worth a year’s wages blown in a single impractical gesture.

Jesus doesn’t say that the poor don’t matter. He also doesn’t ignore sin. But he clearly says that love moving or not moving through us matters most. He’s saying the spirit is the key.

The bottom line is to rest regarding a critical spirit and work with love. The bottom line is Divine Love, not as a theory but as a movement within us that deals with sin by transforming people and situations through love (us included).

More power to you in focusing on the bottom line.

March 22, 2013

Ministry in Out-of-the-Way Places

Imagine you’re in the middle of a great series of revival meetings where you play a major role and are one of a dozen key leaders, when suddenly God unmistakably directs you to take a day off and go a great distance to speak to one individual. You’d possibly question the wisdom of that, right? Today’s article is from Georgia pastor Brad Whitt. You’re encouraged to read these articles at source and get to know the authors better. This post was original titled A Most Unlikely Environment.

“However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.” Mark 1:45

Do we even dare enter into the personal experience of the Son of Man? Yes, for the fact that He is the Son of Man means we can, without irreverence, see something of our human experience in His. That’s why I believe that this is surely one of the saddest experiences in the earthly life of Jesus. The saddest hours in any human life are those which are spent, “in deserted places” for those hours spent in the deserted places are always spent “outside.”

The outside, deserted places always put a man in an unusual, uncomfortable and most uneasy place. They naturally divert, deter and discourage. There’s no pain quite like the pain of being put in such a position of desolation and isolation. To feel that you are not walking with the rest of world, that you’ve been left behind, that you are no longer in communication with those around you or pushing forward to accomplish what had been set before you is, for an active personality, a terribly fearful thing indeed.

I believe that for the man, Jesus, this time in the deserted places must have been a very trying time indeed. To seemingly be held back from officially beginning His earthly ministry by being baptized by John in the Jordan and then being forced to be alone by the sheer force of such an unlikely environment must have been discouraging.

Yet, in the middle of what would have seemed to be a discouraging time spent alone in a desert Jesus was thronged by people. Mark makes it clear, “They came to Him from every direction.” He was supposed to be alone, but he couldn’t get away from the people. His quiet, lonely desert all of a sudden turned into a hustling and bustling metropolis.

Can you look back and see similar times in your life? I certainly can. There were days when I didn’t feel that I had accomplished much at all. Nothing was conquered or completed, and yet in the rear-view mirror I now see that those were some of my most profitable and productive days for it was in those cool, calm, quiet hours I was most closely walking with Jesus.

Don’t you think that Philip must have argued with the Lord when he was transported to the desert to minister to one Ethiopian? After all, he was in the middle of a large revival and many were coming to know Christ. Why would such a great evangelist be plucked from the place where God was moving so mightily to go share with just one person? That’s not the most effective and efficient use of missionary muscle, is it? Yes, because that one man in that one chariot on that one lonely road was an entire people group in himself. Philip cast his net and caught in one pull more fish that had to that point been caught by all the other disciples working all day long – together.

In my walk with the Lord I have seen Him working in the city as well as in the desert. I have seen Him moving among the clamoring people with their praises and palm leaves and I have seen Him treading the wine press alone once the praises and palm leaves had withered and fallen away. It would seem that the most profitable place of ministry would be the crowded places, not the deserted places. Yet Jesus has shown me that it is in the desert that singing erupts and the blossoms burst forth. The city has become the country and the country has been turned into the city. That’s why I can no longer trust my judgment of earthly things. He has exalted the valley and made the mountain low. I can no longer look with distrust at my desert hour. Every manger has the possibility of a star. Every dark night has the potential for a song. Every hunger pain experienced in the desert can bring a ministering angel. Every bitter cup can become a gift from above. Every cross seen today can be tomorrow’s crown. The Son of man has shown us a new path for personal promotion because He entered into life by the straight and narrow gate.

Brad Whitt appeared here at C201 previously in November, 2012; check out Did God Reveal it To You or In You?

I couldn’t help but think of the line in a popular worship song,

When I’m found in the desert place
When I walk through the wilderness

and thought I would include it here.

March 11, 2013

Romans 5 in The Voice

BibleGateway.com has added The Voice to its list of available translations. This is a truly different approach to Bible translation. Some of you will immediately resonate with what the translators had in mind and will gravitate toward this fresh approach. For others who prefer the traditional approach to scripture, this is not the version for you.  At the Bible Gateway blog, they highlight the unique aspects of the translation:

  • The Voice BibleThe Voice uses a screenplay format for dialogue and conversations. One advantage to this style is that it removes the need for lots of repetitive conjunctions and verbs (“he said,” “she replied,” etc.) that slow down reading. It also lets the translators use some clever and useful ways to convey key details: for example, in Matthew 8, note the use of stage directions to add detail and clearly identify the audience.
  • Words and phrases in italics represent words that aren’t found in the original text, but which are important for bringing out the original intended meaning of the passage. In the words of The Voice translators, this brings out “the nuance of the original, assist[s] in completing ideas, and often provide[s] readers with information that would have been obvious to the original audience. These additions are meant to help the modern reader better understand the text without having to stop and read footnotes or a study guide.” Here’s an example from Romans 6.
  • Another feature you’ll quickly encounter upon reading The Voice is its collection of explanatory material embedded in with the Bible text. These short paragraphs contain devotional material, study notes, background information, and other clarifying detail of the sort that you might typically find in a study Bible or commentary. These notes are placed near the passages they’re expounding on, and are clearly delineated from the text of Scripture as seen … in Romans 7.

Learn much more about the translation here. Also, I recently reviewed a book which tells the story of this version.

Our reading for today is from The Voice; I had chosen ahead of time to also use a chapter of Romans, but I selected Romans 5.

Note: While The Voice uses boxed and indented sections, that was not possible here. Scripture text in green is a convention we use here at C201, but the green and blue is not part of the original formatting of this Bible edition.

Romans 5

The Voice (VOICE)

In God’s plan to restore a fallen and disfigured world, Abraham became the father of all of us, the agent of blessing to everyone. Jesus completes what God started centuries before when He established Abraham’s covenant family. Those who put faith in Jesus and call Him “Lord” become part of Abraham’s faith family. Because God is gracious, loving, and merciful, men and women from every corner of the earth are not only declared right, but ultimately are made right as well. It happens through God’s actions—not our efforts—in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus who was crucified for our misdeeds and raised to repair what has been wrong all along. So the promises of God made long years ago are being realized in men and women who hear the call of faith and answer “yes” to it.

  Since we have been acquitted and made right through faith, we are able to experience true and lasting peace with God through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, the Liberating King. Jesus leads us into a place of radical grace where we are able to celebrate the hope of experiencing God’s glory. And that’s not all. We also celebrate in seasons of suffering because we know that when we suffer we develop endurance, which shapes our characters. When our characters are refined, we learn what it means to hope and anticipate God’s goodness. And hope will never fail to satisfy our deepest need because the Holy Spirit that was given to us has flooded our hearts with God’s love.

When the time was right, the Anointed One died for all of us who were far from God, powerless, and weak. Now it is rare to find someone willing to die for an upright person, although it’s possible that someone may give up his life for one who is truly good. But think about this: while we were wasting our lives in sin, God revealed His powerful love to us in a tangible display—the Anointed One died for us. As a result, the blood of Jesus has made us right with God now, and certainly we will be rescued by Him from God’s wrath in the future. 10 If we were in the heat of combat with God when His Son reconciled us by laying down His life, then how much more will we be saved by Jesus’ resurrection life? 11 In fact, we stand now reconciled and at peace with God. That’s why we celebrate in God through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed.

12 Consider this: sin entered our world through one man, Adam; and through sin, death followed in hot pursuit. Death spread rapidly to infect all people on the earth as they engaged in sin.

God’s gift of grace and salvation is amazing. Paul struggles to find the words to describe it. He looks everywhere around him to find a metaphor, an image, a word to put into language one aspect of this awesome gift. One of those is “reconciliation.” There is hardly anything more beautiful than to see two people who have been enemies or estranged or separated coming back together. When Paul reflects on what God has done through Jesus, he thinks about reconciliation. Before we receive God’s blessing through His Son, we are enemies of God, sinners of the worst sort. But God makes the first move to restore us to a right relationship with Him.

13 Before God gave the law, sin existed, but there was no way to account for it. Outside the law, how could anyone be charged and found guilty of sin? 14 Still, death plagued all humanity from Adam to Moses, even those whose sin was of a different sort than Adam’s. You see, in God’s plan, Adam was a prototype of the One who comes to usher in a new day. 15 But the free gift of grace bears no resemblance to Adam’s crime that brings a death sentence to all of humanity; in fact, it is quite the opposite. For if the one man’s sin brings death to so many, how much more does the gift of God’s radical grace extend to humanity since Jesus the Anointed offered His generous gift. 16 His free gift is nothing like the scourge of the first man’s sin. The judgment that fell because of one false step brought condemnation, but the free gift following countless offenses results in a favorable verdict—not guilty. 17 If one man’s sin brought a reign of death—that’s Adam’s legacy—how much more will those who receive grace in abundance and the free gift of redeeming justice reign in life by means of one other man—Jesus the Anointed.

18 So here is the result: as one man’s sin brought about condemnation and punishment for all people, so one man’s act of faithfulness makes all of us right with God and brings us to new life. 19 Just as through one man’s defiant disobedience every one of us were made sinners, so through the willing obedience of the one man many of us will be made right.

20 When the law came into the picture, sin grew and grew; but wherever sin grew and spread, God’s grace was there in fuller, greater measure. No matter how much sin crept in, there was always more grace. 21 In the same way that sin reigned in the sphere of death, now grace reigns through God’s restorative justice, eclipsing death and leading to eternal life through the Anointed One, Jesus our Lord, the Liberating King.

March 8, 2013

What if God Were One of Us?

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Hebrews 4:15

AMP 15 For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning.

MSG 15  We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin.

NLT 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.

Today we revisit the blog of Murray Wittke where this appeared February 14 under the title God Was One of Us.  If you enjoy this type of good devotional reading, click through and then visit other articles on Murray’s blog.

In 1995 the top 40 hit “What if God was one of us” asked listeners what they’d do if God got up close and personal with them. Have you ever wondered how you’d respond?

The Christmas story declares God did become one of us during the reign of Caesar Augustus. Ancient Israel longed for God to rescue them but never actually expected God to show up personally. And definitely no one expected God to arrive the way the gospel writers say he did.

Matthew says God became one of us in the womb of a young woman named Mary. There within her God -infinite, omnipotent, and eternal- was united with a human ovum and became Jesus Christ, a person with both a divine and human nature. Nine months later he experienced a real birth and entered our world weak and dependent just like one of us. Just imagine… God with a belly button, here with us, one of us.

For thirty plus years he made himself at home with us. He felt hunger, thirst, and weariness. He experienced our joys and sorrows, our grief and pain, and our frustrations and disappointments. He learned what it’s like to live in poverty; to work at hard manual labour; and to live with political corruption and the threat of violence all around. He endured misunderstanding, hatred, and rejection from those he loved. And then publicly and painfully he died. His heart stopped, he breathed his last, and was buried just like one of us. God was one of us and with us all the way from conception to grave.

We show compassion and support for sick or bereaved loved ones by visiting and spending time with them. So does God. He could have felt sorry for us and remained at a distance but instead he joined us within the human predicament. As one of us Jesus Christ knows and understands all we’re going through. You’re not alone. God became one of us and He is near, Immanuel-God with us forever.

The song’s long gone but its questions remain… “What if God was one of us?”

~Murray Wittke


Blog Flashback:

Considering starting a self-directed Bible study? Here are some suggestions we introduced here two years ago, in a piece simply title Study. Perhaps your ideas might result in a submission to C201!

March 7, 2013

One Solitary Life

Last night I was reading a new book by an author completely unknown to me, so I went hunting around the back pages for some kind of “about the author” section, whereupon I learned that he was best known for founding an organization and an annual conference.

Maybe it was because it was quite late, but my mind went to a piece of prose (sometimes rendered as poetry) known as One Solitary Life. It turns up on tracts, on Christmas cards, and even email forwards.

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village, where he worked in a carpenter’s shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He never set foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place he was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness.

While He was still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends deserted him. He was turned over to his enemies, and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for the only piece of property he had – his coat.

When he was dead, he was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure for much of the human race. All the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever sailed, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of people on this earth as powerfully as this “One Solitary Life.”

Most sources online credit this to Dr. James Allan Francis.

In light of what I was reading, I just wanted to add “he never founded a charitable organization, never established an annual conference.” To which you could add, “He wasn’t on Twitter, He didn’t have a website or a blog.” That reminded me of a section of a quotation from Philip Yancey (see below) which says, “When He did something truly miraculous he tended to hush it up;” so I did a search of the phrase “not to tell anyone.”

The healing of a blind man:

Mark 7:35-37

35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

The revelation of His identity:

Mark 8:29-31

29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Immediately following the transfiguration:

Luke 9:35-37

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

The raising of Jarius’ daughter:

Luke 8:55-56

55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

All of which points us to Phil. 2:6

Though he was in the form of God,
        he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.  (CEB)

who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be used for His own advantage.  (HCSB)

I would add, ‘Did not consider equality with God something to be leveraged.’

Despite this, no one who has ever lived as ever affected the history of mankind so richly, so deeply, so powerfully as this One Solitary Life.

“The more I studied Jesus, the more difficult it became to pigeonhole him. He said little about the Roman occupation, the main topic of conversation among his countrymen; and yet he took up a whip to drive petty profiteers from the Jewish temple. He urged obedience to the Mosaic law while acquiring the reputation of a lawbreaker. He could be stabbed by sympathy for a stranger, yet turn on his best friend with the flinty rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan!” He had compromising views on rich men and loose women, yet both types enjoyed his company. “One day miracles seem to flow out of Jesus the next day his power was blocked by people’s lack of faith. One day he talked in detail of the Second Coming; another, he knew neither the day nor hour. He fled from arrest at one point and marched inexorably toward it at another. He spoke eloquently about peacemaking, then told his disciples to procure swords. His extravagant claims about himself kept him at the center of controversy, but when he he did something truly miraculous he tended to hush it up. As Walter Wink has said, if Jesus had never lived, we would not have been able to invent him.” ~~ Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew (Zondervan 1995) p.23

Quotations today are from the New International Version (NIV) except where noted

March 3, 2013

Defining Humility

James (NLT) 4:0 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

John (ESV) 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Last year at this time we visited the blog of Bill Williams, A Spiritual Oasis.  (You might want to read Bill’s story.) We return today for a recent post there originally titled Am I Truly A Humble Follower of Jesus?   As always, you’re encouraged to read featured articles at C201 at their original online source.

Humility tops the list of the virtues to be sought by God’s children. Jesus places it first on the list of blessed attitudes He endorses. The first beatitude begins, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”

True humility is often an elusive quality. For most of us, becoming more humble is one of life’s most difficult challenges. We spend our lives endeavoring to more fully learn what it means to walk humbly with God. Tragically, the moment we conclude that we have “arrived” is the very moment we cease to walk in humility. One author jokingly conveyed this notion when he proposed the following title for his book on the topic: Humility, And How I Attained It.

Humility is also misunderstood. On the one hand, truly humble people are easily misused or abused. They will seldom complain or demand their rights. On the other hand, feigned humility can be used as an excuse for non-involvement in ministry.

This is illustrated by the response one church member made, when asked to help with a good work. He said something like: “Oh, I’m just one of the humble members around here. You should ask brother So-and-so. He’ll probably do it.”

Indeed, humility is often misunderstood; and, growth in humility is very challenging. Still, Jesus promises a blessing to those who are truly humble, stating “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Therefore, we should all endeavor to walk more humbly with the Lord. To help shed some light on the subject, the following characteristics of a humble person are suggested. A truly humble Christian is:

Honest: The humble person knows his or her God-given talents and limitations. She is aware of both her strengths and her weaknesses. She admits to failure as readily as claiming success. She is aware that it is only by the grace of God that she is what she is and will become what she hopes to be.

Unpretentious: The humble person is a sincere servant of God. Whatever he does, he works with all of his heart for the Lord, not for men. He seeks only to serve, not to be seen. His heart’s delight is to hear others praise the Father in heaven.

Manageable: The humble person has taken to herself the “yoke of Christ.” She remains teachable. She is growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God, the Master Potter, is constantly shaping her life. So, she remains soft and pliable and is continually being conformed to the image of God’s Son.

Bold: The humble person knows that serving God means he must dare to travel the road less taken. Because he marches for the Master, he must forge ahead when others shrink back. He also knows that standing with God often involves standing against those who oppose the will of God. He understands that a Christian must stand for something or he will fall for almost anything.

Loving: The humble person is one from whom others continually hear of God’s love. Love is in her heart, because the cross of Christ is always in her mind. She knows what it is to be loved, so her life is an expression of God’s love. She walks in love. Yes, she boldly stands with and for God; but she lovingly encourages others to do the same. She lives to show others God’s love.

Enthusiastic: The humble person remembers that someone once said that enthusiasm has a literal meaning of “God within.” He believes it! He is, literally speaking, an eternal optimist, always pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. He is known for reminding others that “if God is for us, who can be against us?” When the doubters seek to throw cold water on great plans for the Lord, his response is: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Even when things look bleak and gloomy, he or she draws strength from God within and remains fervent in spirit.

Perhaps we all should ask: “Am I truly a humble follower of Jesus?”

In addition to great Bible studies like this one, Bill Williams has a great page of online study resources you should know about.

March 2, 2013

Called to be Misfits

Today we’re featuring another member of Faithful Bloggers (see icon in the side margin) this one is Devotions 4 Real Life.  I chose this particular item… well you can guess the reason; it’s called Being a Misfit.

Recently there has been some talk about  “misfit ministers”.  Rather than being offended, I was actually proud to be counted as a misfit because The One we follow, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was himself a misfit…..

To understand this we first need to look at the dictionary definition of a misfit:

misfit

 A person whose behavior or attitude sets them apart from others.

That pretty much sums it up, and using this definition, then all Christians are called to be misfits…..

Romans 12:2

2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

There you have it, right from the Bible. We are called to not be conformed to the world, to not fit in.

Nowadays,  a lot of denominations and churches use this scripture to preach against various things. It has been used on me more times than I can count because I like Christian rock music….. The Preachers would use the first 7 words in this passage to justify their belief that Christian rock bands were “conforming” to the world because they used electric guitars and drums, they used stage fog in their live shows, and on and on… Like most denominations/churches/preachers who attempt to use the Bible to justify their dislike or in some cases, outright hatred of people who worship The Lord in a way that is different than their interpretation of the Bible or even worse, goes against their “sacred” traditions,  they use it out of context, and they conveniently ignore the other part:

but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God..

The key to this verse is actually in the last portion referenced above. Being transformed by the renewing of your mind. And how do you renew your mind? By prayer and by reading The Bible.  No traditions are going to renew your mind. No amount of following a man made Doctrine is going to renew your mind. You have to seek The Lord in order to do this…..

In fact, many times following so called sacred traditions is the very thing that makes you conform to the World.

The world as used in this verse can mean not only the secular world, but also the religious traditions that have been handed down and practiced by people for no other reason than the fact that it has always been done that way. When you practice so called “religious rituals”  in this manner, and believe that these rituals can make you right with The Lord no matter what the state of your heart is towards The Lord, they lose any Spiritual nature that they may have had,  and become nothing more than a vain tradition that you do to be seen by other people and thus become worldly……………..

Matthew 15:9

9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Jesus came into the world and did not conform. He upset the religious authorities of the day by doing and teaching things that went against their traditions. He also did things that went against their laws. He healed on the Sabbath, He touched people (lepers for example) that were considered unclean, He ate with those the religious authorities hated. The sinners flocked to hear His message and the Pharisees didn’t like that at all…..

Luke 15:1-2
1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.

2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them

In short, this made Jesus a misfit in the eyes of those who considered themselves the “religious authorities” and self proclaimed “Holy men”  of the day…… because he purposely set himself apart from them and their exclusionary teachings. .

My friends I want to challenge you today to break away from these vain traditions and follow the word of The Lord. Get out from behind those stained glass windows and out into the streets. Be a misfit and set yourself apart. Go out and preach the Good News of the Gospel to all people, not just those who look like you, act like you, or believe like you.

Be a misfit Minister, because you will be in VERY good company…..

1 Corinthians 9:20-22

20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;

21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.

22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

February 23, 2013

Jesus, The Holy Nomad

To start today, another section from Matt Litton’s book Holy Nomad, The Rugged Road to Joy (Abingdon).

Holy Nomad - Matt LittonReading the Gospels, I discovered that the Holy Nomad is not the least bit interested in the laws and doctrines of religion.  He is more radical than any philosophy of life.  He does not associate himself with a particular political agenda, a government, a race, or even a nationality.  He is not a hip cultural trend, and based on his violent reaction to people setting up storefronts in the temple, not cool with being presented as a business venture to be marketed and sold.  From the way he interacts with the sick and sinful it’s clear that the Holy Nomad is kind and compassionate, but, also obvious from his harsh words with the religious leaders… The Nomad is not safe.

The Gospel of John says that he was present at the dawn of time but broke into human history, climbed into human skin and walked around in it so that we could see and understand the true nature of God, his father.

In this Nomad we find the universe’s source of compassion, the essence of love, the loyal friend, the divine comforter.  In him we meet the intolerance of inequality, and the very power of freedom.  He is the Resurrection, the foundation of life and the leader of the most important invasion in the history of the universe – the invasion of light.

Witnessing the Nomad on the path of the Gospels, I am left believing he must be the source, the antidote for Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome, the one to bring us out of darkness.

But I also discovered again that there is urgency for us to respond to his call.  The gospel of Luke tells us a story of Spiritual Stockholm Syndrome.  It is a poignant scene where several men are asking Jesus what it means to follow:

On the road someone asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said.  Jesus was curt:  “Are you ready to rough it?  We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.”

Jesus said to another, “Follow me.”

He said, “Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please.  I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.”  Jesus refused.

“First things first.  Your business is life, not death.  And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!”

Then another said, “I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.”

Jesus said, “No procrastination.  No backward looks. You can’t  put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow.  Seize the day.”

“When once the call of God comes, ” wrote Oswald Chambers, “begin to go and never stop going.”  These words often remind me of my friend Craig.  They remind me of Jesus breathing on his followers as he sent them to their work.  I wonder how close the Nomad was in those moments and if we could see it – how he breathed on my friend to empower that first step from the cell of addiction.

Perhaps with each decision, every new step, we should take a fuller breath of God’s spirit – the sacred wind that powers our journeys.

For another excerpt from Matt’s book, click here.

February 9, 2013

The One Who Will Judge is Non-Judgmental

I believe in God,
the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting. Amen

~Apostles Creed  (see also a musical adaptation)

This week we went to an event that featured Steve Geyer, who was billed as a comedian, but really shared his heart for over two hours in a much more pastoral sense.

In one section he spoke about the surprising and unexpected things that take place in the earthly ministry of Jesus; things where the events and people and situations get turned on their heads, including the time Jesus is anointed with perfume by an uninvited guest to a party.

Three gospels carry this story. Mark  (chapter 14) who is usually much more concise gives us more than Matthew

Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them.

Luke 7 is considered to be a different story that took place at a different time, but is a similar story that includes a parable that Jesus teaches:

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

As Steve Geyer referred briefly to this story he said,

“The One who will judge the earth is non-judgmental.”

That phrase really hit me. Here we see another example of the contrast between “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild;” (itself not a fully accurate rendering of the earthly ministry of Jesus) and the one who sits at God’s right hand from where “he will come to judge the living and the dead.” Mercy contrasted with justice. God’s love versus God’s judgment.

John 5:24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

Acts 10:39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

Jesus pours out love and compassion to so many in the gospel narratives, but just as a parent gently loves a child, so also does a parent not hesitate to bring rebuke, correction and discipline. (See this link for an interesting parallel between that and the work of the scriptures in our lives.) God’s justice must be satisfied, and yet, as I ponder Steve’s statement, I see even there a justice that is tempered by mercy and grace.


Even though today’s story may not be exactly in all four gospels, I did a check to see what teachings/stories are found in all four gospels:

  • Feeding the 5,000
  • Identification of the betrayer at the Last Supper
  • Jesus prays in Gethsemane
  • Peter’s denials
  • various elements of the death and resurrection

Scriptures quoted today are NIV; all underlinings in the creed and Bible verses added.

January 22, 2013

God Journeys With Us

This is from a chapter that falls late (chapter 22) into a recent book by Matt Litton, Holy Nomad: The Rugged Road To Joy (Abingdon Press). The chapter is titled Notes to Self: Building Altars Along The Trail.

Israel’s exodus from Egypt was a serious version of Mr. Short Term Memory. Despite God’s hand in the journey, it took His people less than a month to become restless and dissatisfied. They quickly regress into forgetfulness and worry. The story tells us,

“…the whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the sons of Israel said to them, ‘Would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full, for you have brought us into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

They forget so quickly!

…What would you say if you were god? I would be a little incensed. What about the plagues on Egypt and pillars of fire at night? Destroying the greatest army in the world? And this is what I get? But God remains faithful providing them with water from rocks, food delivered from the sky, and victory over those who would threaten them.

Holy Nomad - Matt LittonThree of the gospels tell of the disciples crossing the Red Sea in a boat. A storm comes upon them suddenly when Jesus is sleeping and they all begin to panic and think that the boat will sink. Jesus awakes irritated with their lack of faith and simply commands the sea to calm down. The Story recounts the chaos of weather and sea was immediately put to rest. Isn’t it curious that these men who walk side by side with the Nomad witnessing his miracles and power would panic knowing that he was with them in the boat?

They forget so quickly.

…Part of being nomadic means we must be intentional about remembering God’s faithfulness. This has been part of the Nomadic practice since the beginning of time. It is first mentioned with Abraham in Genesis as he builds an altar to God after securing a great victory. In fact, Abraham constructs altars so often that you might trace his nomadic adventures by the landmarks he left in his wake. Noah builds an altar after the flood. God commands Joseph to build an altar at Bethel in Genesis 35 to remmbe3r all that God has done for him. From the passover to the Last Supper and down the line through the history of the Bible the Nomadic journey was sustained at times by the “altars” signifying God’s faithful attendance to the Nomad.

Think of this way — we are continuing to write our part in a much greater Story that began in Genesis. It is helpful for us to take a moment in our travels to remember the presence of God not only in our lives but in those who came before us. We remember together with our nomadic ancestors. If we truly believe in Resurrection, then we must realize that we are celebrating together as a family.

When we celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas, we remember God’s great gift to us. We are reminded that this gift should move us forward to give to others.

At lent we remember Christ’s journey toward the Cross with reflection that allows us to assess the baggage we are carrying on our travels.

At Easter we are reminded of the great sacrifice of forgiveness. We must be open to accepting the grace we are afforded and pass it on generously to others.

We observe Pentecost to celebrate the Holy Spirit’s movement on the Early Church and the way the Spirit leads us in our journey today.

These traditions are more than the invention of gift card companies, retailers, or national holidays, although they seem to have been hijacked by all three. They are our days.

December 24, 2012

Thoughts on Incarnation for Christmas

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My expanded paraphrase/commentary on Philippians 2.

The mark of being a Christ-follower isn’t going to be measured in external, visible things as much it’s evident in an attitude.  That mindset should be the same as Christ’s.

Even though he was 100% God, he didn’t consider his fellowship in what we call the trinity something to be leveraged, a status update to be posted every five minutes, a trump card to play. Instead he came in a spirit of humility.

Any one of the following four would have been significant but he came in humility insofar as he (a) entered the world exactly as one of us, with all the physical ramifications of being human, (b) generally tended to play his role as that of a servant, doing the things which we would not expect of either an earthly or heavenly king, (c) experienced exactly what we would in leaving the world, through death, (d) not dying of natural causes or illness but in a cruel, violent, painful execution of one counted as a criminal, even though he had not sinned.

Upon completing all of this, God the Father lifted him up to the highest place in heaven, and gave him a title and a position which exceeds any other,  so that ultimately every knee will bow and every mouth confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all people, all places, all things; with God the Father also glorified in this.


Thanks to all of you who make Christianity 201 part of your routine. As it happens, this is also post #1000. It has been a real blessing to see the growth of this particular blog. Thanks for reading, your comments and sharing info about the site with others. I wish our worldwide readership a Merry Christmas and pray for God’s best in the year to come.
~Paul.

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