Notice: I've taken a part-time job, and it's definitely affecting my blogging time. I'll continue to add content here as often as possible.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Technorati Claim Code

Sorry for a small technical post. Just need to show my Technorati Claim Code till they find it. YEM29QTN75TC

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Mind of God - What’s Not There II

The Mind of God has been one of my pet topics for decades. I am going to be brave and explore it a bit more, here in public. I’ve been collecting ideas and thoughts in a notebook. We’ll see where this goes. To find all of the posts on this topic, look for Mind of God in the Topic Cloud and click on it.

people standing outside church
Does God care what we wear to church?

One of my favorite authors of recent years is Henri Nouwen. His writings have succeeded in making me think about things in new ways. Since the “mind of God” is one of my pet topics, imagine my surprise to read this in his book Reaching Out:

"We should all have the mind of Jesus Christ, but we do not all have to have the mind of a schoolteacher, a carpenter, a bank director, a congressman, or whatever socio-economic or political group... "

I think that the point here is that various conventions and techniques are not part of the matrix of absolutes that make God the supreme authority. I grew up with the firm teaching that one wore stiff, uncomfortable clothes to church and that this would make God happy. I’ve been in churches where those who did not dress "properly" were scorned. Perhaps you have too. But does God care what you wear? Probably not. You could make a case for being clean, and dressing well as a sign of respect, but various passages make it clear that our choice of (modest) clothing is not high on God’s list of priorities.

Some people think that all U.S. Christians are Republican. Others think that all moderate Christians are Democrats and that Republican Christians are fanatics. Is our political party one of the things which weighs upon the mind of God? I don’t think so.

Nouwen goes on to explain how even he was sucked into confusing technique with righteousness. He lived for several years in a community of students with special needs. They would celebrate Eucharist together (Communion), and were comfortable with each other. They developed a non-traditional, but loving and natural method of observing this remembrance of Christ. It all felt very spontaneous to them.

But, a few new students eventually joined them and wanted to change things a bit. Nouwen says they were surprised to discover that they felt like telling the newcomers "that’s not how we do it here."

He continues, "We had to face the fact that we had become clannish, substituting our minds for the mind of Jesus Christ."

Isn’t that powerful? I think it’s time to check what’s in my mind and make sure that it’s not focused on trivialities, techniques, or traditions which are not in God's mind.

Romans 14:17

Monday, September 27, 2010

Gospel Enigmas- Conversation with a Demon

I find that many of the things Jesus did are perplexing. They make me think, and sometimes I have no conclusions. I'll pose questions and only share my opinion as to meaning in the comments section after a day or so. Interact!
Jesus sends demon away
Jesus sends a demon away
carved door panel, Pisa, Italy
Jesus had just begun his ministry. He had overcome the devil in his temptation. Next, he went to his hometown of Nazareth, where Jesus plainly declares that he is the Messiah. But people didn't believe him- he was just Joseph's son to them.

So Jesus went to Capernaum, and began to teach. The people there quickly recognized that he was someone with authority. A man there was possessed by demons, and the demons struck up a conversation with Jesus. They also recognized his authority. In fact, they called him the Holy One of God!

He receives a "stamp of authenticity" from a supernatural being. That would be somewhat like being recognized as a VIP by Donald Trump-- someone who was a VIP himself. But Jesus would have none of it! He told the demon to be quiet.

Think about it. A demon would want to do something that would further Satan's cause, not God's. So it must have thought that correctly identifying Jesus would be a bad thing. Did Jesus not want the people here to be brought abruptly face-to-face with his divinity? Weren't they ready for this yet? Just a few days before, Jesus was pointedly critical of the people in his hometown who refused to believe that he was the Messiah.

To complete the story, Jesus cast out the demon. The people were amazed and told other people about him.

What was the difference between these two groups of people that made Jesus desire different reactions to him?

Luke 4

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lyrics- Faith is the Victory

Every Sunday the lyrics from some great piece of Christian music will be featured. It's not that I want worship to revert to using all hymns, it's just that many modern Christian songs don't SAY anything. I really miss some deeper meaning. So I'm going to remind us of some great words.

Faith is the Victory
by John H. Yates, 1891

Encamped along the hills of light
Ye Christian soldiers, rise
And press the battle are the night
Shall veil the glowing skies
Against the foe in vales below
Let all our strength be hurled
Faith is the victory, we know
That over comes the world

Faith is the victory!
Faith is the victory!
Oh, glorious victory
That overcomes the world


His banner over us is love
Our sword the Word of God
We tread the road the saints above
With shouts of triumph trod
By faith they, like a whirlwind's breath
Swept on o'er ev'ry field
The faith by which they conquered Death
Is still our shining sheild


On every hand the foe we find
Drawn up in dread array.
Let tents of ease be left behind,
And onward to the fray.
Salvation’s helmet on each head,
With truth all girt about,
The earth shall tremble ’neath our tread,
And echo with our shout.


To him that overcomes the foe
White raiment shall be given
Before the angels he shall know
His name confessed in heaven
Then onward from the hills of light
Our hearts with love aflame
We'll vanquish all the hosts of night
In Jesus' conquering name

I will confess that this hymn ended up high on my list of favorites as a young person because we were allowed to sing it faster than most other hymns. The tune (as is true of quite a few hymns) is quite sing-song. But one can't deny that it's very sing-able, and the words are great. I found one video of it that's pretty good. Sandy Wyman & Jim Ayars sing Faith is the Victory

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Name Game - Achan

achan stoning
The Stoning of Achan by Gustave Dore
We don’t know very much about Achan, but what we do know doesn’t end well. Achan lived at the time when the Israelites moved into the Promised Land, and he was part of Joshua’s army. We suddenly learn his name when he makes a really bad decision.

After the city of Jericho was defeated the Israelites were told not to take any spoils for themselves. Whenever God gave this command He was deadly serious about it being followed. And I do mean “deadly.”

There were plenty of valuable things to tempt the soldiers. Achan just couldn’t see letting it all be destroyed. So he collected about 5 pounds of silver (perhaps coins of some kind), and a wedge of gold that weighed over a pound. He also saw a beautiful robe that looked like it had been made in Babylon, and he decided he couldn’t live without it, too. He took these things, and buried them under the floor of his family’s tent.

Following the amazing conquest of Jericho, spies reported that it would be easy to take the small city of Ai. But the men of Ai routed Israel handily. Joshua knew something was wrong! He and the other leaders spent a day in prayer, and the Lord told them that someone had taken forbidden things.

By a dramatic and public separation of tribes, clans, and families, Achan’s guilt was revealed. When confronted, he confessed what he had done. It turned out that he couldn’t live with that beautiful robe, either.

In a display of justice that we, in the age of grace, can’t really comprehend, Achan, his entire family, and all his animals were taken to a nearby valley and stoned to death. His tents, possessions, and the things he had stolen were placed with the bodies and were burned. When it was all over, rocks were piled on the spot as a memorial. The place was named the valley of Achor, which sounds similar to Achan, and means “trouble.” (Hebrews liked word play.)

That is almost the last we hear of Achan. However, when the genealogies of the tribes are given in I Chronicles, it’s very interesting to note that Achan’s name has now permanently morphed to Achor– trouble.

Apart from inspiring gratitude that we are now offered forgiveness through Christ, we might take another lesson from Achan. Are we doing things that will cause our descendants to look back and say, “Oh yes, great grand-daddy (mother) was real trouble,” or will they say, “Our family serves God because of that person’s life?”

Joshua 7
I Chronicles 2:7

Answers to Quiz Yourself

These are the answers to yesterday’s Bible trivia quiz. Hope you had fun!

1. Jonathan was David’s best friend. I Samuel 18

2. Paul was a tentmaker. Acts 18:3

3. Jacob met Rachel at Laban’s well. Genesis 29

4. Jubal is called the father of all who play the harp and flute. (Hence, the word “jubilee.” )Genesis 4

5. Ephesus is noted for hard work and perseverance. Revelation 2

6. Esther is also called Hadassah. Ester 2:7 (her cousin was Mordecai)

7. Jonah and Nahum both prophesied about Ninevah.

8. James wrote to the twelve scattered tribes of Israel. James 1:1

9. Jacob was Joseph’s father. Genesis 30

10. Lydia sold purple cloth. Acts 16:14

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Fun- Quiz Yourself

Every Friday there will be a game of some kind to play. The answers will be posted on Saturday morning. Here’s another Bible trivia quiz.

1. Who was Prince David’s best friend?

2. What was Paul’s method of earning money (not his missionary efforts)?

3. Where did Jacob meet Rachel?

4. What is the name of the first musician mentioned in the Bible?

5. Which church, mentioned in Revelation, is noted for hard work and perseverance?

6. By what name do we usually remember Hadassah? (Hint- she was raised by her cousin.)

7. Name two prophets who focused on Ninevah.

8. Most of the books in the New Testament were letters written to a specific church. But one book is written to the twelve scattered tribes. Which one?

9. Who was Joseph’s father?

10. Who is noted as being a seller of expensive purple textiles?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Off the Wall- Holy Atoms

I like to explore wild ideas which are not essential to my basic faith, and which may not even be valid, but they are always thought provoking.
man with glowing edges
Recycling is good. Recycling is GREAT. But this post is not about environmental topics, exactly. I did get to thinking a while back about the truth learned in a Solid Waste Management class that we can't ever make things go away, we just move them around. (Well, we can transform them, or compartmentalize them. But I promised that this is not on environmental issues.)

So, I was thinking about the atoms in the universe. They get recycled constantly. The oxygen molecule I breathe in probably was transformed by a plant from carbon dioxide, which might have been released by a bacteria that ate a molecule of some nasty pollutant, which stole the oxygen from the water column in a stream, which incorporated it from the atmosphere, which.... Well, you get the idea. I read once that every atom in our bodies is exchanged over a 3-year period. I really am a different person than I was 3 years ago!

There is some mysterious way in which we are so linked to all of creation that our attitudes toward God affect the natural world. Obedience to God will allow the trees to "clap their hands," and the hills to "skip for joy." (Isaiah 35:1-8 has an example of the response of the natural world to holiness) But when we sin, rebel, act deceitfully, or worship other gods, all creation responds with lowered production, or lowered resistance to pollution. (Jeremiah 7:17-20 is one example) Creation also suffers in our judgment.

The physical, atomic, material parts of us are real. God's creation of them granted them a reality. But as noted above this material universe is totally fluid. Is my big toe made up of an atom of the star Betelgeuse, one of elm bark, and another of leopard spots? More to the point, is the Mississippi River made up of atoms of me, Jesse James, Billy Graham, the Unibomber, and of you? Do these recycled atoms somehow mystically carry the imprint of my spirit?

Can I literally make the world a holy, or a godless place just by the nature of the atomic fairy dust I sprinkle everywhere?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Whose Directions Are You Following?

GPS unit
My sister-in-law, Loretta, is visiting. She just drove up from Alabama, a twelve-hour drive. We were joking about her difficulties with her new navigator, Lucy.

Lucy kept offering information of doubtful value. While driving around Indianapolis, it really didn’t matter if they took the Interstate loop up the west side or the east. But Lucy kept insisting that they had taken the wrong one, and complained noisily for miles. Finally she gave up and agreed to just take US 31 off the north side of the loop, no matter how they got there.

After a few other minor disagreements, the last major complaint was when Lucy insisted that our house number didn’t exist. Loretta knew better, but Lucy had the last laugh. As they were driving past the cemetery a quarter-mile from my house, Lucy kept saying, “Turn right, now; turn right, now; you have reached your destination.”

Loretta looked at Lucy askance, and said, “I hope not!”

Perhaps by now, you have surmised that Lucy is a GPS unit. I’m sure many of you have your own funny stories about being led astray by these modern wonders. But there’s a lesson here. It’s not a new lesson, but the GPS theme gives us a slightly new perspective.

The directions offered by the miracle of computerized navigation are only as good as the information stored in the system’s databank. No one wants to end up sitting at the end of some dead end road with the machine annoyingly insisting that you are where you want to be, when clearly, that is not where you are. Everyone wants to buy the system with the best maps, best list of places of interest, and most recent updates. Many drivers blindly trust these flawed systems, even more than their own common sense.

In the story above, Loretta knew more than the GPS, because she had traveled to our house before. But when she's going somewhere new, she has to trust the GPS databank. The most trustworthy person or system (assuming basic honesty) is the one with the most knowledge, the one who has the broadest view of the situation.

Yet, a lot of people wander through life following some system of directions with incomplete or faulty data, created by someone who did not have complete information about the way. Other people reject all directional guidance, preferring to make up a system as they go along that works for them with no view at all of a map for their lives. But the real test, the critical test, is whether the directions you choose to follow will get you to the goal in the end.

I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. What set of directions are you using for your life? Are you following a trustworthy guide to lead you to a meaningful goal?

II Timothy 3:16
Psalm 119:105

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lyrics- Jesus the Very Thought of Thee

Every Sunday the lyrics from some great piece of Christian music will be featured. It's not that I want worship to revert to using all hymns, it's just that many modern Christian songs don't SAY anything. I really miss some deeper meaning. So I'm going to remind us of some great words.

Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee
Ber­nard of Clair­vaux, 12th Cen­tu­ry (Je­su dul­cis me­mor­ia); trans­lat­ed from La­tin

Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than Thy blest Name,
O Savior of mankind!

O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!

But what to those who find? Ah, this
Nor tongue nor pen can show;
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.

Jesus, our only joy be Thou,
As Thou our prize will be;
Jesus be Thou our glory now,
And through eternity.

O Jesus, King most wonderful
Thou Conqueror renowned,
Thou sweetness most ineffable
In Whom all joys are found!

When once Thou visitest the heart,
Then truth begins to shine,
Then earthly vanities depart,
Then kindles love divine.

O Jesus, light of all below,
Thou fount of living fire,
Surpassing all the joys we know,
And all we can desire.

Jesus, may all confess Thy Name,
Thy wondrous love adore,
And, seeking Thee, themselves inflame
To seek Thee more and more.

Thee, Jesus, may our voices bless,
Thee may we love alone,
And ever in our lives express
The image of Thine own.

O Jesus, Thou the beauty art
Of angel worlds above;
Thy Name is music to the heart,
Inflaming it with love.

Celestial Sweetness unalloyed,
Who eat Thee hunger still;
Who drink of Thee still feel a void
Which only Thou canst fill.

O most sweet Jesus, hear the sighs
Which unto Thee we send;
To Thee our inmost spirit cries;
To Thee our prayers ascend.

Abide with us, and let Thy light
Shine, Lord, on every heart;
Dispel the darkness of our night;
And joy to all impart.

Jesus, our love and joy to Thee,
The virgin’s holy Son,
All might and praise and glory be,
While endless ages run.

I was intrigued to learn that these words are centuries old, but were translated into this version in 1849 by Ed­ward Cas­wall. I also had NO idea that there were this many verses. Only the first few usually appear in hymnals. I found this soft, but pleasant version, sung by Lauren Sears on You Tube. I also discovered that it is often sung to a completely different tune, but you'll have to hunt that out on your own if you want to.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Name Game - Dorcas

Dorcas window, Christchurch, Bath, England
Dorcas window, Christchurch, Bath, England
We know very little about the woman named Dorcas, but what we do know is powerful. She lived in the first century AD, in the town of Joppa. Joppa was an important port city on the Mediterranean Sea, still in existence, and now called Jaffa. The population is about 60,000, and it has been incorporated into the city of Tel-Aviv. Joppa/Jaffa is not only important, it is one of the oldest ports known. It was mentioned by the Egyptians in the Armana Letters, possibly written in the 1300s BC. One legend says that it was named for Japeth, a son of Noah. This was the town from which the prophet Jonah sailed, and it was the port which received the cedars of Lebanon which were shipped in to build Solomon’s Temple.

This portrait of Dorcas’ hometown gives us some insight into her story, because it turned out that she was well-known to many people. This might be interesting, but not so meaningful if one comes from a small town. But Dorcas lived in a large and sophisticated city.

Incidentally, we are told that her name means Gazelle, and that the Aramaic translation is Tabitha, a name still in use today. She is called a disciple. Some scholars speculate that she was a leader in her local church, because of the use of this word. It certainly tells us that she was a devout Christian, intent on practicing her faith. Philip, one of the Apostles, had preached along the Mediterranean coast, and she may have come to hear of Jesus as a result of Philip’s tour. (Acts 8:40)

The reason Dorcas first became known to the people in Joppa is that she was a noted seamstress. I suppose that there were quite a few seamstresses in those days before the racks of ready-made clothing, so this alone was still not enough to make her stand out. But Dorcas was a Christian, and what she did that was different from those around her was to sew extra clothing and give it to the poor.

The reason that we remember Dorcas, hundreds of years later, is that she died. That’s not a very notable feature either, is it? But she did not remain among the dead. What we are told in the direct story is that she became ill and died. Her friends prepared her for burial, but then they heard that the apostle Peter was in Lydda, a city over 10 miles away, probably a day’s walk. Peter already had a reputation for being able to perform miracles, so much so that people tried to maneuver their sick friends and relatives so that just his shadow would fall across them (Acts 5:15). He was immediately sent for. The time frame here gives us plenty of evidence that Dorcas was really dead. Even supposing that the messenger rode an animal or ran to Lydda, then fetched Peter, it’s unlikely he could have reached her in less than 24 hours. When he returned her wake was in progress.

The upper room where she had been laid was filled with widows who were weeping over her. They all wanted to show Peter the clothing that she had so generously made for them. Peter sent them all out of the room, and he knelt and prayed, then said, “Tabitha, kumi,” or “Tabitha, arise.” And she did. Just like that!

She sat up, and Peter helped her to stand. She then received her friends back into the room, and greeted them. We are told that the news “raced through the town.” That’s certainly easy to picture. What an amazing event! As a result, many people believed in Christ. This event happened in the early days of the church, before Paul’s ministry began. It’s no wonder that it became one of the miracles recorded in the Bible.

We often commemorate events like this, and people like Peter who obviously had the power of the Holy Spirit. But there are lessons to be learned from Dorcas as well. She was not a public speaker, or a traveling missionary. Yet, she had a talent, and she used it for the Lord. Through her friendships her story had a powerful influence on the entire city of Joppa, and the early church.

We are never told if Dorcas is a Jew or a Gentile, both Hebrew and Greek names are given for her. The leaders of the early church were already learning that Christianity was for all the world, not just the Jews. It may be significant that Peter’s next stop in his journey was with the Roman army officer in Caeserea named Cornelius. There he was told of the vision which became the pivotal message to the apostles that they were to preach to the Gentiles.

Acts 9:36-42

Answers to Quiz Yourself

This is the answer to yesterday’s Bible puzzle. Hope you had fun!

What treasure was captured by the Philistines on the day that Eli and his sons died?

In case you couldn't get the question put together correctly, or just want one last chance to guess, I won't post the answer directly, but you can--

read the story in I Samuel 4 to find the answer.
look in the comments- the answer is the first one.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Fun- Quiz Yourself

Every Friday there will be a Bible game of some kind to play. The answers will be posted on Saturday morning.

Using a New International Version Bible, look up the missing words. When you have a complete sentence, answer the question. Give yourself a pat on the back if you remember the details of this story.

[ 1 Corinthians 14:26, word 1 ] [ Matthew 6:21, word 4 ] was [ Numbers 21:25, word 2 ] by the [ Judges 15:9, word 2 ] on the [ Exodus 14:30, word 2 ] that [ I Samuel 1:17, word 1 ] and his [ Genesis 6:10, word 4 ] [ Romans 5:8, word 17 ] ?

New International Version at Bible Gateway

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Eco Day- What Causes Environmental Harm?

The overall topic of Christians and the Environment really needs to be approached in a logical progression of articles/ chapters that build on each other. However, that isn’t the way a blog works. Readers are unlikely to search back to earlier entries to see how I got to a certain point. So I’m going to try to create entries that stand on their own, while staying true to the topic.

factory smokestacks
by Alfred Palmer, Wikipedia Commons
What would you list as the primary causes of ecosystem devastation? Global warming? Industrial dumping? Cutting the rainforest? As science (not a dirty word to this Christian) explores the relationships between dynamic systems on our planet we learn more and more about the interdependence of all the parts.

Just this week we’ve begun to learn that there are two inches of oil on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico for a radius of about 70 miles around the point where the Deepwater Horizon rig was located, and that there is no evidence of worms, crustaceans, anything, in that layer. How long will it take for those food sources for fish and other sea life to return? And the blame game is just beginning. As the blowout preventer is examined, we will be certain to hear in detail whose failings caused every little portion of that disaster.

These are very modern problems, so it would be quite a surprise to discover that the Bible had anything specific to say about habitat destruction and pollution, wouldn’t it? Try this on for size.

Zechariah 7:11, 14– “But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry.

"'When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,' says the LORD Almighty. 'I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land was left so desolate behind them that no one could come or go. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.'"

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not proposing that companies who do illegal dumping should not be held accountable. I’m all in favor of studying the correlation between weather patterns in Europe and the shrinkage of the South American rainforest.

But, at its core, the cause of the devastation is... that when God called to us, we did not listen. Pretty basic stuff, eh?

Think about when the world was perfect, in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall. Why do we call it before the Fall? Because there was no sin on earth yet. And what was one of the primary consequences of that first sin? Humans were banned from the perfect garden, and the ecosystem began a long slide toward desolation.

Backing up through history to the time when nature was in perfect harmony turns out to correlate to the time when man and God were in perfect harmony. Is this a coincidence?

Zechariah 7

Monday, September 13, 2010

Random Rant - Would Jesus Burn the Koran?

Occasionally there is an issue that makes me a bit hot under the collar. (OK, if you know me, you know that this may happen more than occasionally).

I’m usually one who runs away from political discussions. Personally, I can’t stand discussing, or hearing discussed all of the nuances of current events, and everyone’s opinions on what’s wrong with whatever. But that’s just me. Many people find it fascinating. I’m even married to one of those people.

However, when pastor Terry Jones, and his plan to burn Korans, was catapulted into the spotlight last week, he made an amazing statement. He said that he believed that if Jesus were here, he would burn the Koran. This steps out of politics and into Biblical interpretation, and it got me thinking. Here is what I’ve decided on the topic.

We have three, possibly four, examples of Jesus becoming angry enough to do physical harm to property. Overall, Jesus’ life is exemplary in terms of peaceful responses to any wrong that was done. So, perhaps we should look at those examples and see what they can reveal as a lesson in when we are allowed to damage someone’s property.

First of all, we have to remember that all of Scripture provides details on several major periods of human history. There are three primary ones, Israel as God’s people under the Law of Moses, the Church as God’s people under Grace, the redeemed as God’s people after the Second Coming and Judgment. Each has specific types of action associated with it. This matters to the current question, because many people pick up a Bible, open it and read something like, “An eye for an eye.” So they assume that God believes in tit for tat vengeance. Or they read “God is love,” and assume that God will never do anything that seems harsh, such as mete out judgment. The critical student of the Bible knows that right now we are living under Grace, and we should live by the rules as set out for us in this time period.

Jesus’ life is given to us as the example to follow. I Peter 2:21 says, “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” So we would do well to see how Jesus did act on questions like the one we are asking. Interestingly enough, the bulk of the answer follows in verse 23, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”

Almost everyone remembers the story of Jesus overthrowing the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple. Some scholars say that there are two separate instances of this, but that’s beside the point. Why was Jesus angry? Was he demonstrating his authority to proclaim Jehovah God as Supreme over other gods? No, he was angry with people within his own religion, Judaism, who claimed to serve God, but who had defiled the Temple and were using it for their own greedy passions.

There is also the confusing story of Jesus cursing the fig tree and causing it to wither. It’s impossible to explore the meaning of that incident in a paragraph! But it certainly was not an example of Jesus lashing out at any of the beliefs of the surrounding nations or factions.

The other example of Jesus destroying property comes from a story told in three gospels, where he cast demons out of two men. The demons begged to be sent into a herd of pigs instead of just being left in limbo, so Jesus complied with their request. The pigs immediately ran off a cliff and were killed. This seems pretty tough on the farmer! One possible explanation is that the farmer was Jewish, and pigs were an unclean animal to them, so that this part of the episode becomes similar to the cleansing of the Temple. No matter what the reason, the destruction had nothing to do with making a statement on some other culture’s religion.

Now, this is not to say that Jesus believed that all religions are fine. He boldly stated that He is the Only Way to reach God. But the phase of history where his authority is revealed to all has not yet been reached. Matthew 25 gives us a picture of that day when Jesus will return in glory, and will separate the nations and the people into believers and non-believers.

If there is condemnation to be done, God will do it then. It’s not up to us. Meanwhile, we are told to love others, perhaps even to let them take advantage of us. I don’t see Jesus burning any Korans just yet.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lyrics- I'll Never Let Go of Your Hand

Every Sunday the lyrics from some great piece of Christian music will be featured. It's not that I want worship to revert to using all hymns, it's just that many modern Christian songs don't SAY anything. I really miss some deeper meaning. So I'm going to remind us of some great words.

I'll Never Let Go of Your Hand
Don Francisco (1978)

I know what you've been hearing
I've seen you hide your fear
Embarrassed by your weaknesses
Afraid to let Me near
I wish you knew how much
I long for you to understand
No matter what may happen, child
I'll never let go of your hand

I know you've been forsaken
By all you've known before
When you failed their expectations
They frowned and closed the door
But even though your heart itself
Should lose the will to stand
No matter what may happen, child
I'll never let go of your hand

The life that I have given you
No one can take away
I've sealed it with my Spirit, Blood and Word
The everlasting Father
Has made His covenant with you
And He's stronger than the world you've seen and heard

So don't you fear to show them
All the love I have for you
I'll be with you everywhere
In everything you do
And even if you do it wrong
And miss the joy I've planned
I'll never, never let go of your hand

The life that I have given you
No one can take away
I've sealed it with my Spirit, Blood and Word
The everlasting Father
Has made His covenant with you
And He's stronger than the world you've seen and heard

So don't you fear to show them
All the love I have for you
I'll be with you everywhere
In everything you do
And even if you do it wrong
And miss the joy I've planned
I'll never, never let go of your hand
I'll never let go of your hand

Don Francisco appeared on the Christian music scene in 1977. His first album was Forgiven. The genre of most of his albums is folk-rock, and his style distinctive. I fell in love with his music early on. He's probably best known for "He's Alive," but has several highly popular songs. This is one of them. You can hear him sing it on You Tube. I'll Never Let Go of Your Hand, recorded in 2006 in Boston. Like the rest of us, he's aged, but the words sure haven't.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Name Game- Samuel

Samuel is one of the few people in the Bible whose story we know from before birth until death. We get to know his parents, we learn that he was an exceptional child, we see him grow into his role of leadership, and we also hear about his failings.

He was born around 1105 BC, and died, an old man, before David was crowned as king in 1010 BC. If you are someone who grew up in Sunday School, Samuel’s story probably was one of your favorites, as you learned that God speaks, even to children.

But the story begins with a would-be mother, Hannah, who wished for a son so badly that Eli the priest thought she was drunk when she was desperately praying in the temple. Eli promised that she would have a son, and Hannah vowed to give that son to God.

Samuel, whose name means “God has heard,” went to live at the temple with Eli when he was just a toddler. We don’t know how old he was exactly when God called to him in the night, but he was still a child, serving under Eli. The old priest almost blew it, telling Samuel twice that no one was calling him. But then he realized that the Lord was breaking a long silence, and once again had found a leader who would listen in the person of Samuel. Samuel then answered with, “Yes, Lord, I am listening.”

Thus begins a transition from God dealing with his people through the Judges to speaking through the Prophets. Samuel is sometimes considered to be both the last of the Judges, and the first of the Prophets.

He anointed the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David, and counseled both of them in their spiritual lives. He lectured the Israelites when they turned away from God. His reputation for treating the people with respect was unblemished.

His one serious failing was a problem common to many people in religious leadership. His sons did not follow in his teaching. One has to wonder why this is so often true. Are intense leaders so caught up in their ministry that they fail to make vital connections with their children? Samuel appointed his sons, Joel and Abijah, as judges in Israel. But they were greedy, and began to take bribes. It was really the end of an era.

The people were angry at the lack of justice provided by the judges and insisted on having a king. This was not the type of government that God wanted for Israel, but the people insisted. Samuel tried to convince them of their mistake, but he was too close to the problem, because of his sinful sons.

So God chose Saul to be king, and told Samuel how to find him. Samuel always felt close to Saul and grieved greatly when Saul turned out to be as disobedient as his own sons.

Samuel is also mentioned in the faith “Hall of Fame,” Hebrews 11.

One of the most powerful questions Samuel ever asked still resonates today, “Has the Lord as much pleasure in your burnt offerings and sacrifices as in your obedience? Obedience is far better than sacrifice.”

I Samuel 1:1 - I Samuel 25:1
Hebrews 11:32

Answers to Quiz Yourself

These are the answers to yesterday’s Bible scrambled word game. Hope you had fun!

Place names from the life of Jesus

1. NAZARETH- where he spent his childhood

2. CAPERNAUM- where he began his ministry

3. GETHSEMANE- the garden where he prayed

4. BETHANY- where his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived

5. JERUSALEM- much of his ministry took place in this city, the triumphant entry and his trial

6. GOLGOTHA- the place of the skull, another name for Calvary, where he died

7. BETHLEHEM- where he was born

8. EMMAUS- he appeared to people there after the resurrection

9. SAMARIA- where he met the woman at the well

10. GALILEE- the region where Nazareth and Capernaum are located

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Fun- Quiz Yourself

Every Friday there will be a Bible game of some kind to play. The answers will be posted on Saturday morning.

Unscramble these place names from the life of Jesus











Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Mind of God - What’s Not There I

The Mind of God has been one of my pet topics for decades. I am going to be brave and explore it a bit more, here in public. I’ve been collecting ideas and thoughts in a notebook. We’ll see where this goes. To find all of the posts on this topic, look for Mind of God in the Topic Cloud and click on it.

priest before the ark of the covenantimage from
Often, a good way to begin to define something is to list things that it is not. Once some things are eliminated one can focus on what’s left.

What is not in the mind of God? This is one of those somewhat goofy questions, such as “What can’t God do?” Yet, there are some things that are not in God’s mind.

Under the Old Covenant, recorded in the Old Testament, the sins of human beings were defined by the law. Not only individuals, but families, and entire nations were held accountable for breaking that law. Grandchildren were held accountable for their grandparent’s sins. When God decreed that a nation should die because of sin, not only the warriors, but women, children and animals had to die as well. The law is unquestionably harsh. But something better was on the way.

The prophet Jeremiah, around 500 BC, recorded the word he received from the Lord, “The time is coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel.” Jeremiah spoke about a time when the law would not be the primary way that God dealt with people, but that he would put the “law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” At that time he prophesied people would only be held accountable for their own sins, and that God “will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

This is part of a lengthy prophecy, and we are not left to wonder what it means. The writer of the book of Hebrews goes into a detailed explanation. As the young church began to recognize what Jesus’ death and resurrection meant, they could hardly contain their enthusiasm!

It became crystal clear that the sacrifice of Christ’s blood was the final sacrifice that God would require. The priests would no longer need to kill animals. The letter to the Hebrews says, “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (The “we” refers to anyone who recognizes that one sacrifice as the only requirement needed to satisfy God).

It goes on to quote most of the Jeremiah passage, including that line, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” So, for those of us who have chosen to live under the New Covenant, our sins are not in the mind of God. He chooses to forget them. Gone.

So, does this make any difference in the way we should live? You bet!

We now have confidence “to enter the Most Holy Place.” This is a reference to the temple, where the priest would come into the very presence of God. Only the High Priest was allowed to go there, once a year, to receive forgiveness for the sins of Israel. But now, because our sins are not in God’s mind we are invited to “draw near to God.”

Sounds pretty ordinary to those of us who have been going to church our whole lives, but this was astounding stuff to a nation who had been used to death sentences for things like touching the Ark of the Covenant. They were used to hearing that no one could see the face of God and live, but now we are told that we can boldly go right up to the throne of grace to receive mercy.

And there’s more. We don’t have to carry around a guilty conscience. Whenever we do something wrong, we don’t have to wait for a whole year (which they had to do under the Old Covenant) to be forgiven. We can get up after each time we fall down, dust off our knees, and keep moving forward.

Pretty good consequences just from something that’s not in the mind of God.

Jeremiah 31
Hebrews 4
Hebrews 10

Monday, September 6, 2010

Random Rant - Friendliness and Church

Occasionally there is an issue that makes me a bit hot under the collar. (OK, if you know me, you know that this may happen more than occasionally).

church dinner
Here’s a paradox. The church should be the kind of place where one can quickly form friendships and find people with whom they have many things in common. With a (likely) shared world view, one should be able to assume a huge body of shared beliefs and move quickly to finding additional things in common.

In actuality, most of the times I’ve found myself part of a new church group, the people are polite, but aren’t much interested in forming friendships. By contrast, at some other general interest groups I’m involved in, people easily converse and express interest in me, exploring the possibility of staying in touch... an initial step in becoming friends. Hopefully, I express interest in them as well.

Let me confess, right out of the box, that I’m not the greatest at personal relationships. However, I’ve learned, over a lifetime, some of the basics of both how to draw out other people, and how to answer questions in an interesting way. (You may think this is an easy skill, but I was an only child, raised in a home where we did not speak at meals. Conversing was not a skill I learned until college- but this is a tangent.)

We’ve been going to a particular church for three years now. I haven’t been going every week, but often. We’ve been to several dinners; I’ve been to an evening for women; I’ve volunteered to help at one event. Every Sunday we shake hands and greet those around us. However, I have yet to make a single new friend. (There are a few people there whom we knew before we attended.) Basically, I’ve decided that after this long, no one is going to approach me to be friendly, and I’ll need to be the instigator if I want to know who anyone is or what their interests are.

I think that part of the problem is the format of activities. In clubs based on interests, people are generally doing some activity (hiking, birdwatching, quilting, model railroading, etc), and are free to visit in between spurts of concentration on the activity. Of course, in a church service, we are all focused on worship, not each other.

However, even at the dinners we’ve attended with this church I haven’t felt a glimmer of interest in me. OK, OK, I know I shouldn’t be thinking about me. Yet, when we were new, I did have expectations that the people who “belonged” would take the lead to learn about the new people. I’ve now realized that this isn’t going to happen, and if I want to try to find any friends there that I am going to have to take an aggressive role. I have to admit that not very motivated to do so.

Where I’m going with this is to pose a question. If we Christians want people to believe in a God that cares about them, don’t we, as individuals, need to be doing a better job of caring than secular groups?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Lyrics- I Know that My Redeemer Liveth

Every Sunday the lyrics from some great piece of Christian music will be featured. It's not that I want worship to revert to using all hymns, it's just that many modern Christian songs don't SAY anything. I really miss some deeper meaning. So I'm going to remind us of some great words.

I Know that My Redeemer Liveth (1893)
words by Jessie B. Pounds
tune by James H. Fill­more, Sr.

I know that my Redeemer liveth,
And on the earth again shall stand;
I know eternal life He giveth,
That grace and power are in His hand.


I know, I know, that Jesus liveth,
And on the earth again shall stand;
I know, I know, that life He giveth,
That grace and power are in His hand.

I know His promise never faileth,
The Word He speaks, it cannot die;
Though cruel death my flesh assaileth,
Yet I shall see Him by and by.


I know my mansion He prepareth,
That where He is there I may be;
O wondrous thought, for me He careth,
And He at last will come for me.


This was written as part of an Eas­ter can­ta­ta “Hope’s Mes­sen­ger,” first performed in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1893. It was so popular that it appeared in a hymn book, The Praise Hymn­al, in 1896.

This is one of my favorites of the old hymns, although it is rarely sung. That's probably because its not in modern hymnbooks. The tune is as important to me as the words when labeling a song as a favorite. This one has it all.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Name Game- Joshua

Have you ever noticed how honest the Bible is? Almost all of the great heroes have some major blemish on their performance record. It’s as if God wants us to remember that He uses us as we are. When we let everyone down, and sin, he’s ready to forgive and let us move on as soon as we are ready.

But Joshua’s life is pretty much a non-stop shining example. Joshua was a great leader to emulate. He was a young man when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. In fact, he was one of the twelve spies sent into Canaan to scout out the possibility of taking the land that God had promised them. Along with Caleb, they were the only two who believed that they could conquer the strong people they saw. As a result of the timidity of the Israelites, they were forced to wander for 40 years in the desert. Even Moses did not get to enter the Promised Land, but Joshua and Caleb did. That’s a pretty impressive resume, right there!

When Moses received the Ten Commandments, Joshua was the only one allowed to go part way up the mountain with him. He was already in training for the primary role of his life. After Moses’ death, Joshua became the next leader of the entire nation, to bring the Israelites into the land. God himself endorsed this choice.

Thanks to the popular song, “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho,” most people probably remember the story of the Israelites victory over this walled city by unusual means. After marching around the city for six days, according to some specific instructions from the Lord, and taking no military action, on the seventh day they marched again, blew horns and shouted. When the city walls fell down the conquered people could have no doubt about the power of Jehovah God. The entire account is an amazing lesson on trusting in God rather than in our own strength.

Through military actions, Joshua’s army did take control of much of the land of Canaan. He passed several tests of his leadership. He identified disobedience and sin in the ranks, and dealt with it swiftly. He made it clear to all that he was following God rather than his own plans. Joshua and God were so in tune that God gave him extra daylight in order to win a battle. Think about that– it means that the earth was disturbed in its turning. (More about that some time.) The campaign against Jericho is mentioned in Hebrews 11 as one of the shining examples of great faith.

His biggest failure that is recorded was that he was tricked into making a treaty with one tribe of people that he should have been fighting against. Why was it held against him for being tricked? Because he didn’t ask the Lord what he should do when faced with the choice of whether to believe the deceptive messengers or not. Nevertheless, he honored the treaty, knowing that he could not break his oath.

Joshua’s farewell speech, at the age of 110, is one of the best remembered in history, as he challenged the people to forsake idols, and said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

(Exodus 24:12,13)
the book of Joshua
Hebrews 11:30

Answers to Quiz Yourself

These are the answers to yesterday’s Bible matching game Hope you had fun!

1. Samson - Delilah
Samson and Delilah are the classic lesson about trusting someone who schemes. Samson told the secret of his great strength to his wife, Delilah, and she betrayed him to the enemy. Judges 14

2. Ananias - Sapphira
Ananias and Sapphira are the only people in the New Testament who were struck dead by the Lord for a sin. They were a married couple who sold a piece of property. They weren’t required to give all the money to God, but they lied when they brought their gift and said that it was all of the purchase price. That was a fatal mistake! Acts 5

3. Timothy - Eunice
Eunice was Timothy’s mother. She is called a woman of great faith who raised Timothy well. 2 Timothy 1:5

4. Moses - Zipporah
Zipporah was a Midianite woman who became Moses’ wife. Exodus 2:15-21

5. Zechariah - Elizabeth
Zechariah and Elizabeth were the parents of John the Baptist. John was born when Elizabeth was old, and Zechariah was temporarily struck dumb because he did not believe this was possible. Luke 1:5-23

6. Lazarus - Mary
Lazarus and Mary (not the mother of Jesus) are brother and sister. Martha was another sister. They were close friends of Jesus. John 11:1

7. Aeneas - Dorcas
Aeneas and Dorcas are only connected by the fact that they lived in nearby towns, and were both miraculously restored to health by Peter. But their stories appear side by side in Acts 9.

8. Ahab - Jezebel
Ahab was declared to be the most wicked king of Israel. His wife Jezebel was so evil that her name has become synonymous with evil manipulation and deceit. 1 Kings 21:25

9. Barak - Deborah
Deborah was a prophetess, a judge who was leading Israel. She told Barak that he would have victory over the Canaanites in battle. Judges 4:4-6

10. David - Abagail
In I Samuel 25 Abigail’s husband, Nabal, insults David. David sets out to attack Nabal, but Abigail rides out to meet David with gifts and an apology, which are accepted. (Nabal later dies and Abigail and David marry.)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Fun- Quiz Yourself

Every Friday there will be a Bible game of some kind to play. The answers will be posted on Saturday morning. Match the man in the left hand column with a woman associated with him from the right hand column. Give yourself an extra pat on the back if you know what their relationship is.

1. Samson

2. Ananias

3. Timothy

4. Moses

5. Zechariah

6. Lazarus

7. Aeneas

8. Ahab

9. Barak

10. David

A. Mary

B. Eunice

C. Abigail

D. Zipporah

E. Deborah

F. Sapphira

G. Delilah

H. Dorcas

I. Jezebel

J. Elizabeth

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mind of God - Introduction

The Mind of God has been one of my pet topics for decades. I am going to be brave and explore it a bit more, here in public. I’ve been collecting ideas and thoughts in a notebook. We’ll see where this goes. To find all of the posts on this topic, look for Mind of God in the Topic Cloud and click on it.

brain with power surge of light
image from
One of the most powerful verses and chapters in the Bible is Philippians 2, where Paul tells us to “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. Who, being in the form of God... made himself of no reputation and... he humbled himself and became obedient unto death.” (Condensed but I haven’t changed the meaning.)

I remember the first time I discovered I Corinthians 2:16 in the Living Bible. It says, “But strange as it seems, we Christians actually do have within us a portion of the very thoughts and mind of Christ.” WHAT? I went scrambling back to the translation of my childhood, King James, to see if that was really what the verse said. Here’s what I found, “we have the mind of Christ.”

This was astounding! Paul actually did say that we have the mind of Christ! Now, I know that my mind is rarely behaving the way I think Jesus’ mind did. I may be able to control my actions and choose to (mostly) do the right things. I may be able to guide my thoughts so that I’m not usually dwelling on anger, greed, lust, etc. But for the most part, my mind is pretty much centered on one topic, me. And that is the opposite of being focused on God, serving him and others.

After all, way back in 700BC, Isaiah said, “Who has understood the mind of the Lord?” (Is 40:13) I think most of us would agree that this sounds like too tall an order. Isaiah also said that God’s “ways are higher than your ways and [God’s] thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9.

And yet, we “have the mind of Christ.” That seems impossible to fathom. What does it mean? The Living Bible actually backs off from the literal translation and cautiously says that we have a portion of that mind. But literally the original says “we have the mind of Christ.” Wow!

So how do I tap into this amazing potential? What does it mean to have the mind of Christ? I decided that if I am supposed to have that mind, indeed already have it, that I need to try to learn what’s in God’s mind.

We all have unused portions of our minds... we may have a talent we’ve never yet discovered. We can improve our memory with practice. We can expand our vocabulary. This topic will continue to explore how we find that “mind of Christ,” and begin to let that mind guide our lives.

This won’t be me telling you what to do. This will be me trying to learn what I should do.