2017 Goals Week 3

Follow my progress this year toward meeting 10 goals!

Better Homes & Gardens says tracking your goals makes them 10 times more likely to become habits. It also suggests treating yourself when you succeed. Great idea!

Week 3 of 52

10)   Practice 12 spiritual disciplines.

I am practicing the Spiritual Discipline of Bible intake this month. I have been daily reading 2 1/2 chapters of the Bible in 2 Kings, Proverbs and Hebrews. But, Bible intake is more than just reading the Bible. We also absorb Scripture by hearing it. Don Whitney says this on taking in the Bible at church:

…the ongoing worship of God cannot be separated from the Word of God, which you don’t expect to be read aloud or preached on the golf course or at the lake. We are to discipline ourselves to go and hear the Word of God. (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. p 25)

I go to church weekly to hear God’s Word. It is often a true discipline for me not done out of enjoyment or profit, but raw willpower. Follow my pictures each week on instagram #Igotochurch. Add your own!

I also enjoy listening to two of my favorite preachers on-line.

9)   Complete 12 credits toward MDiv.

The first class was cancelled due to weather, but work begins. Translation, pronunciation, and diagramming were completed this week. The first round wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Isn’t that the way it always goes?

8)   Connect with one person a week.

Check! I had a couple of opportunities this week. I also spent the weekend in the snow with middle-schoolers taking selfies and learning about God’s purposes.

7)   Complete writing a 12-week Bible study.

Nothing.

6)    Submit 6 articles for publication.

Nothing.

5)    Learn how to needle felt and create 25 sculptures. 

I have been working on a trio of human figures. I cannot decide how to do their clothes so I’ve just been staring at them all week. Here’s the start of the head of one.

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4)    Complete 12 house/yard projects. 

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The linen closet is the project of the moment. We have always had a curtain hanging over it, and so we forget it is still unfinished. Stephen took measurements for 3 drawers and 2 glass doors. I found a router at a yard sale for $5 this summer. It was all we were lacking to construct doors. I say “we” in the “Stephen alone” sense.;)

3)    Move at least 15 minutes a day.

It was a yoga week until winter camp. Then, I walked and played in the snow.I did skip Thursday since it was filled with errands and meetings.

2)   Fix my teeth. 

The invisalign trays should arrive in two weeks.

1)  Hike to 12 new places.

Nothing this week.

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VIDEO Theology Bits: Circumcision

VIDEO Theology Bits: Circumcision

What’s been mulling around in my head lately? Circumcision. Why did God put foreskins on if they were meant to come off? What about women? Are women excluded from something because they aren’t included in the cutting of parts? How does this effect Christians? I have some answers, but I’m not really satisfied with them. Do you have anything to add?

(Posting a video was a huge accomplishment for me. I’ve been wanting to start posting short videos for a while, but am fighting vanity and fear of getting information wrong. That’s why I love writing. I can edit, and edit to my heart’s content. I probably sound and look ridiculous, but oh well. I need more humility.)

Sources:

Rochel Holzkenner: Why Women Don’t Need Circumcision

Pini Dunner: Why Circumcision Is an Essential Part of Jewish identity

Note after the fact: Found a book written on this topic. Ordered it. Will let you know how my thoughts progress!

Biblical Masters and Slaves: A defense of God’s established order

I’ve not read Uncle Tom’s Cabin until this week. Shame on me. It is a monumental and courageous book. I have been meditating on how a generation of Christians justified slavery. Slavery was so entrenched in the religious culture, to NOT believe in slavery was labeled anti-biblical and secular. Liberal.

On April Fools I wrote a satirical defense of biblical slavery based on the arguments of the antebellum South. I didn’t get it done in time, obviously. I present it now with this little disclaimer. *I am using satire. I believe slavery was practiced in biblical times, but that does not mean we MUST practice slavery to be biblical or godly. I wrote a post on why I believe slavery is wrong, here.*

The Bible and common sense make a clear case for slavery.

1.       The relation of slave and master is not sin.

“There is not one verse in the Bible inhibiting slavery, but many regulating it. It is not then, we conclude, immoral.” Rev. Alexander Campbell

a.       The Ten Commandments confirm both the lawfulness and rightness of slavery. (Exodus 20:5, 20:17).

“The Oracular Decisions of God have positively declared that the Slave-Trade is intrinsically good and licit, [and that the holding of slaves] is perfectly consonant to the principles of the Law of Nature, the Mosaic Dispensation, and the Christian Law” wrote one Raymond Harris in Scriptural Researches on the Licitness of the Slave-Trade. Thus, he said, slavery has “the positive sanction of God in its support.” (http://www.ralphmag.org/tise.html)

b.      The Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, affirm that people can be owned as property, regardless of spiritual equality. (Gen 12:16; 12:50; 16:9; 24:35-36;26:13-14; Lev 25:44-46; Josh 9:23; 1 Kings 8:2; 8:6; 9:20-21; Job 1:15-17; 3:19; 4:18; 7:2; 31:13;42:8;1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 6:5-9; Colossians 3:11; Philemon).

“It [slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God…it is sanctioned in the bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation…it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts. Let the gentleman go to Revelation…Slavery existed then in the earliest ages, and among the chosen people of God; and in Revelation we are told that it shall exist till the end of time shall come. You find in the old and new testaments – in the prophecies, psalms and the epistles of Paul; you find it recognized, sanctioned everywhere.” [ Jefferson Davis, Vol 1, by Dunbar Rowland, pp. 286 & 316 – 31]

2.       God ordained slavery as one form of government over depraved mankind.

a.        After the Fall, God intended the superior to rule the inferior; husband to wife, parent to child,  teacher to scholar, commander to soldier and master to slave.

b.      God made Ham lower than Shem and Shem lower than Japeth.  “Shem was blessed to rule over Ham. Japeth was blessed to rule over both.” (Slavery Ordained of God by Rev. Fred. A. Ross, D.D.)

“When the great Patriarch was moved upon by the Holy Ghost to speak as he did on that occasion, we have no doubt but he did it with real pain and sorrow of heart, and yet it must be done, as it was dictated by the influence of the Eternal’s mandate: “Oh Ham, my son, it is mot for this one deed alone which you have just committed that I have, by God’s commands. thus condemned you and your race; but the Lord has shown me that all your descendants will, more or less, be like you, their father, on which account it is determined by the Creator that you and your people are to occupy the lowest condition of all the families among mankind, and even be enslaved as brute beasts, going down in the scale of human society, beyond and below the ordinary exigencies of mortal existence, arising out of war, revolutions and conflicts, for you will and must be, both in times of peace and war, a despised, a degraded and an oppressed race.” (Bible Defense of Slavery ,Josiah Priest)

3.       Slavery is only evil in some circumstances. We should encourage Masters to use the Golden Rule in their treatment of their slaves.

a.       Most slaves are happy and glad to be cared for.

“The negro slaves of the South are the happiest, and, in some sense, the freest people in the world. The children and the aged and infirm work not at all, and yet have all the comforts and necessaries of life provided for them. They enjoy liberty, because they are oppressed neither by care nor labor. The women do little hard work, and are protected from the despotism of their husbands by their masters.” George Fitzhugh

b.      There are cases of cruelty and injustice in all systems of power. So, there will be cases in the system of master and slaves.

c.       Slavery elevates the African.

“We would remind those who deprecate and sympathize with negro slavery, that his slavery here relieves him from a far more cruel slavery in Africa, or from idolatry and cannibalism, and every brutal vice and crime that can disgrace humanity; and that it christianizes, protects, supports and civilizes him; that it governs him far better than free laborers at the North are governed..” George Fitzhugh

4.         Abolitionists have  eroded the foundation of Scripture. If you say the Bible does not mean what it says in this case, can we trust it at all? Next you’ll  be liberating wives from their husbands!

Conclusion

I think it bears repeating.

I believe slavery was practiced in biblical times, but that does not mean we MUST practice slavery to be biblical or godly.

To read more, visit:  http://biblicalslavery.net/

Progression or Command?

As a Bible teacher and counselor, I confess I sometimes progress. I made up this idea, because I couldn’t come up with a succinct way of saying it … other than coining a new word/meaning. Will you humor me? Here’s what it means. When I progress, I take God’s command and make it relevant to those I’m working with…or even myself. I want to make God’s Word powerful. I want it to make a difference and improve how we live life. I want God to be glorified. And so sometimes, I expound … or progress… what God says to do. I take it a step farther.

Jesus dealt with progression.

God commanded the Jews to not work on the Sabbath. The spiritual authorities of the day, who were intent upon obeying God, needed to decide what  that meant for their culture. This is natural. Those who love the Lord and love others  want to help others understand how to love Him and others too.  So they progressed the command. Eventually, Sabbath became not an expression of love for God , which is what it was intended to be, but a burden. Jesus broke the progression rules when he and his disciples picked grain to eat on a Saturday morning, but not God’s law.

Some progression is necessary. Culture changes with time and place. The world fluctuates. Christians must use wisdom and the Spirit to decide what behavior best loves God and others. I’m okay with that. But wary. I am afraid of progressive burdens. I am afraid of what they say about God. Make no mistake. I am not afraid of God’s commands. But what kind of burdens have I placed on people that God never intended?

Sometimes God’s Word is a little hard to understand, in a practical sense. There is room for differing thought. Can I separate progression from command? Lord, teach me what this means because I’m afraid I’ve often condemned the innocent.

If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. Matthew 12:7

I’m curious what progression you’ve seen in Bible teaching and churches?

The Age of the Disciples Ditto

The most popular post of this blog to date is an article I wrote detailing the argument for aging the disciples in their teen years instead of old men. Read the original post here. And while you’re at it take a look at the discussion in the comments section.  There has been quite a debate, and lots of great information given there.

Here are some of the points made by the commentators:

  • John, often thought of as the most dearly loved disciples, may not have been. Which means he might not have been the one Jesus entrusted the care of his mother to. The concluding thought related to this article, is that Jesus did NOT leave the care of his mother to 13-year-old John. So, who do some think was the dearly loved disciple? Maybe Lazarus? Some interesting arguments for that in the comments. And yes, that means some folks believe John did not write “John.”
  • Adolescence, as we understand, was introduced in 1904 with a book by Stanley Hall. In antiquity there were children and men. If you were 13 and confirmed, you were considered a man.
  • Tradition plays a powerful part in our idea of an older age for the disciples. The commentators encourage us to let Scripture be our guide. (This led to a discussion on preterism vs pre-millennialism.)
  • When James and John’s mother speaks to Jesus about her son’s position in His Kingdom, it makes more sense that her sons were younger than older.

Try a new imagining

As I have been studying John the last few months, I’ve imagined teenage disciples throughout the study. It helps me understand and digest some of the idiosyncrasies of their words and actions. Here are a two examples:

  • When the disciples discover Jesus talking with the Samaritan women, their response is hesitant and almost embarrassed. Imagine youths, often literal-minded, having this discussion with him.

Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him [Jesus] talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

“Rabbi, eat something.”

But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”

Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”

  • During a discussion about Jesus’ departure, they express their confusion. Their continued inability to to draw conclusions from his picturesque language is often found in youth, who lack the required brain development and life experience to often see beyond their immediate circumstance. Imagine a group of teens trying to grasp a hard lesson just beyond their mental reach.

Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”

At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?”  They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”

  • My favorite to imagine, is Peter jumping into the water to prove his verve and to seek affirmation from his mentor; just like many teen thrill-seekers I’ve known.

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.

“It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

  • And the easiest to imagine is a group of young men, in awe of their “idol,” afraid to offend in trying times, yet terrified of their own abilities and desperate for help. They are in a boat and out of control.

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

I challenge you to read through the gospels with a new mind. Can you picture young men with Jesus instead of old?

Were the 10 Commandment Tablets Blue?

As I was studying for a lesson last week, I came across a reference in Wikipedia to something I have never heard of. And boy, did it spark my imagination!

According to traditional teachings of Judaism in the Talmud, they [the tablets] were made of blue sapphire stone as a symbolic reminder of the sky, the heavens, and ultimately of God’s throne; many Torah scholars, however, have opined that the Biblical “sapir” was, in fact, the lapis lazuli. (Wikipedia)

After further research, I concluded that, yes,  it is a common notion in Rabbinic tradition. David Asscherick broke down the arguments well. I’ll sum them up.

The foot of God’s Throne is made of a blue stone.

In Exodus 24, Moses and the elders of Israel are invited up Mt Sinai to seal the covenant with God. They eat and drink. Moses alone may approach God, but the elders get a glimpse of Him from afar. 

9 Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up 10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky.

God cuts the commandments from His throne.

In this setting, God presents the hard copy of the covenant the Israelites have verbally committed to.

12 The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.”

The way the word stone and tablet are written in Hebrew leads the interpreters to believe that God is referring to a specific stone. And the only stone in this context is the blue stone of God’s throne. In Exodus 32, we learn God made the tablets and wrote on them Himself.

15Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets which were written on both sides; they were written on one side and the other. 16The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets.

This Godly handiwork also lends credence to the actual stone being of “godly” origin; the blue stone of His throne.  *Ezekiel 1 also describes God’s throne being made of blue stone.*

And so, we have the Law of God derived from the Throne of God. Ultimately, if we follow the path of these stone tablets, they reside under the earthly representation of God’s Throne: the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant. (For those who need particulars, Moses made the replacement copy of the covenant from the original stone. Now the LORD said to Moses, “Cut out for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered. Exodus 34:1) Interestingly, the temple was called the “footstool of God.” (Isaiah 66:1, Psalm 99:5, 1 Chronicles 28:2) This is a logical rendering, if the stone tablets were carved from the literal pavement under his throne. The Box which held the “pavement” rested in the temple.

The color BLUE has special significance for Israel.

God directed Israelite men to wear blue tassels on their garment. Why? Read in Numbers 15.

39“It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, 40so that you may remember to do all My commandments and be holy to your God.

The blue thread was to remind them of God’s Law, the blue commandments.

Its kind of an interesting idea, don’t ya think?

And So We Shall Rise

The Christ, the infinite unknown being of God confined to the created state of man, rose after death. And so WE shall rise…

Peter, for a few unforgettable moments walked on water. It is a clue of what we shall be in the day the universe is remade to be obedient to the will of glorified and obedient men.

Jesus walked through walls. He teleported. He communicated by thought-talk. He levitated.  He was not some mutation of evolution, but an exhibit of original design. Our big Brother is the proto-type of the human race. We shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is. And so We shall rise…

Paul, a spectator of the cosmic summer which is our eternal home, was stupefied at his vision. Prolific at words, he is wordless to describe the sights, sounds and sensations of spirit joined with body as nature intended. And so We shall rise.

…to ceaseless adoration. We will adore as a mother adores the first sight of her babe. We will adore as man adores his first love and yearns to occupy all his time contemplating the other.  We will adore without longing, because we will have it all.