Tuesday, October 28, 2008

55 - More on THE Pilgrimage - LAW (3)

Not all of us can think the exact same way - so I sympathize if I seem to be on a different wave-length. However - please realize that I am trying to speak to ALL wavelengths - an impossible task - but don't GIVE UP! Stay with me - this is important or I wouldn't have spent the past 35 years thinking about this and getting ready to share it with YOU. Give me a chance to share my pilgrimage, PLEASE.

I have heard MANY sermons about "BE PERFECT" - and most of them are not very encouraging. One context helps - even before I realized Jesus is Covenant. Peter wrote that God said, "You WILL BE Holy, because I am Holy" - 1 Peter 1:15-16. The context, however focuses on GOD - His POWER (verse 5) His grace (verse10) - plus everything God did in Christ, especially His resurrection (verse 3) - so the HOLY was a result of what God did in Jesus Christ. So - since the word, HOLY meant set apart for a special purpose - all Peter is doing through the Spirit - is reminding his readers that GOD is in charge of all of this - so receive it and focus on JESUS. That's the background of the concept of Jesus being destined before the foundation of the world to give us REAL HOPE - HOW? (The concept in verse 20 began in verse 3) We are to have hope because God raised Jesus from the dead - Peter calls it "LIVING HOPE" through the resurrection of Jesus. (verse 3) PLEASE - note the focus - what God did in and through Jesus.

If you remember the concept from 1 John 4 about being CONFIDENT on Judgment day - then you know that any confidence is because "as HE is, so are WE in this world". That is a great definition of HOLY - set apart to be like Jesus and be totally dependent on God 24-7. Now I ask you - doesn't that sound more like an invitation to the great adventure with God - than a diatribe of impossible performance to try to "be like Jesus". Guess what? If you don't focus on yourself - and you do BEHOLD JESUS - Paul wrote that by beholding Jesus, you are being continually changed from one degree of glory to another - ever increasing!" 2 Corinthians 3:18. That is for us.

THAT, my Covenant friends is how we are intended to LIVE. (Paul began that theme back in 2 Corinthians 2:14 - stating that we are always being led IN TRIUMPH" - and that is exactly how a Father leads His children - to grow in VICTORY and grace - to grow as CHILDREN OF THE LIVING GOD - as the prophecy predicted in Hosea 1:10; and as it was fulfilled in Romans 9:26 and 1 Peter 2:10. If you remember the Hosea story - Gomer was anything BUT Holy from our usually held definition - but Hosea MADE HER HOLY by buying her off a slave stand and taking her home. He gave her HIS identity and security - she had nothing and actually had no prospects. The context of 1 Peter spells that out as our situation - but God made a LAWFUL PURCHASE OF US - and all we can do is ALLOW IT. Like Abram - we can trust God's Promises - and THAT will be counted to us as righteousness. That, by the way is the definition of obedience - hiding under the promises and power of God in Christ. That is allowing Christ's KEPT Law to cover us - and HIS performance to give us identity and security. I know there is quite a LOT of poetry in many OT books - but read Hosea through about once a week for a year - and you'll see the whole story of God's redeeming us by Himself. Obviously realize, Gomer did go home with Hosea - she COULD have refused or even run off later - but why would she? She had the only one who EVER really loved her - and he had mercy on her when no one else cared for her. I am like that - God has mercy - lovingkindness to me in Christ - and I allow HIS kept law to be my new identity and I allow His spirit to lead me through life. What about LAW? Well - that becomes my structure for a future life - but I try to keep it because that is what CITIZENS and SONS do - they do it Dad's way- the King's way. That's what LAW is for - to serve us as sons of the Living GOD. More to come

Saturday, October 25, 2008

54 - More on the Pilgrimage - "law" (2)

Realize that I am certainly not dismissing LAW at all - in fact I am embracing it fully. God wishes it to be UNDER us - not us under law. That is part of the original concept given to Adam and Eve of "take dominion over the earth and subdue it". VERY challenging thing to subdue the earth - but even more challenging to do it correctly. First thing they did was give it all to Satan. The result was - they HURT the earth. And - we still reap from that - not just thistles and pain in childbirth either, but the TOUGH task of subduing the earth, period. That's one reason why farming is not respected in our society and the focus is only on production instead of working with the earth to be a blessing to ourselves and the world. I am not a prophet or the son of a prophet - but I do believe insights are happening which will almost demand a return to proper farming and natural production of grains and other plants, as well as livestock which are produced carefully and correctly. But - I digress.

LAW is simply structure for life and protection for community. Law is meant to serve as a way to have order and to live practically. Many stories have been told of situations which emphasize the need of a law for general efficient lifestyles and structure for our interdependence with each other - like respecting the community "well" - to have fresh and clean water for that need. OR - simply to respect your neighbor's "well" so he can have clean water. MANY wars of the smaller variety have been fought over something relating to WATER. Apply that to food, or general well-being or the multifaceted parts of our lives - and you have the story of LIFE. Abuses of the concept include over-hunting or fishing; over use of land without replenishing; and we could go on - but the LAW is - know your situation and plan for the future - that is SUBDUING THE EARTH. That LAW is meant to SERVE YOU, as are all laws. Why do we have a certain number on our roads call "Speed-limits"? To serve you to know what is the maximum drivable speed to be harmonious with others - but we all realize that a faster speed may be demanded by an Ambulance (or even by US) to save someone's life - so we allow that as part of our code of structure. That is simply HOW law is supposed to work.

I haven't seen anyone lately lose their citizenship or life because they were going 71 in a 70mph zone. However, most of us have been reminded a time or two to be careful about how quickly we go from point "A" to point "B". The Policeman was trying to help us have a practical lifestyle which doesn't endanger others. That is how LAW is supposed to operate. (OK - I know we should have exceptions for each of us - so we don't HAVE to pay the fine - right?)

Biblical LAW is much the same. Problem is - most Bible readers take on a different mindset when it comes to LAW. They become like a "gung-ho" Policeman who becomes an over-zealous enforcer of LAWS which were never intended to RULE us, but only to SERVE us. All of that because we have a hard time living practically with law serving us. One of our first responses - "Where do we draw the line?" Well - the answer is - make sure law SERVES us. Bible people are OUTRAGED at the idea - after all, "it means what it says and says what it means" - so DO IT.

Why do we act in this way? Simply - we are not taught to THINK. The concept of "DO IT" isn't for adult humans generally - it is for little children who don't realize safety concepts and animals who don't understand most human concepts. However - us Psychologists know that a whole group of people think that way "naturally" - they aren't conceptual people - they only know what we call "black and white" conceptual constructs. Some are taught to live that way - religiously we might call them "legalists" but in truth they are simply misusing LAW. We've all run into people who had a "Triple doctorate" in etiquette and who just went ballistic over every little thing everyone else did which VIOLATED their sense of CORRECTNESS- even to quoting chapter and verse of the Queen of etiquette - Emily Post. It can get so egregious that a person who just doesn't know all these nuances cannot enjoy eating or even partake in any semblance of PEACE. So - see the exaggeration - not the simple concept - etiquette was originally meant to communicate what was thought of as "civilized ways of life".

What happened? A serving concept became a RULING concept. So, as legitimate as the "rule" could have been, when it becomes a non-serving and rigid overlord, it violates the original place in life it was patterned for and the original influence it was designed to have.

God set up "rules" to have a civilized community. And - don't forget, the community already existed to which the rules were to apply. God was simply structuring HIS community which means that on our own, we don't always act civilized. Add to that, after the FALL, we all want to be GOD in our lives AND others - and structure is not only needed, but demanded. So - the tendency to make LAWS rule over us is normal - even if we should see them as practical and serving. Jesus saw the Pharisees tended to abuse the concept by using human reason to make application of law - their focus was "how to avoid breaking them in any way" - thereby inserting human thought into God's principles for life - and religion has ALWAYS done that. The word Sabbath means REST - but they found all kinds of way to get around the original design of God - but they still felt they weren't breaking the Sabbath command. So - just THINKING about it may not get the job done correctly. In fact, it can lead to TOTAL ABUSE of the practical nature of the original dream. More to come

Thursday, October 23, 2008

53 - MORE on the Pilgrimage - "law"

LAW - can be and must be dealt with in MANY ways - so I am trying to be practical and simple. However - the concept won't really let me. PEOPLE have a big problem with "law" - so I had to deal with two major concepts and a few minor ones. First - or maybe LAST - since many of us are real slow to realize what law is, we should start with the idea of law.I started out thinking "LAW is what I HAVE TO DO" - therefore it is very important - maybe even of ULTIMATE importance. I mean, if you break the law - there will be consequences. But - I also realized, nobody ever breaks the Law of Gravity - isn't THAT strange? (By the way - I can share thoughts like this all day - so I realize we just don't have that much time to waste on MY thoughts - so let's get down to the Reader's Digest version.)

In the Bible, the idea is referred to as either "law" or "the Law" (referring to the Law of Moses.) Problem is - translators don't always differentiate for us - so we have to pull out our Greek text - so it looks like a daunting task to many. So - let's jump to the conclusions in this regard - when the NT says we are not under law - it says we are not under ANY law to KEEP for our salvation. Call that LAW number one about law. Also call it the hardest concept of all. The short version is - Jesus KEPT LAW - both the Law of Moses and any other applicable LAWS which we might break which would dishonor God and be called SIN (meaning basically to miss the mark - or be imperfect.) Jesus is then THE OFFERING - and amounts to at least TWO concepts for us: (1) HE represents one who KEPT the Law and, as our Representative, He is "kept law" given to us. He becomes our gift of a performance which was PERFECT - so if we RECEIVE HIM as a GIFT TO US - we have something of VALUE - ultimate value! (2) From God's perspective, perfection is DEMANDED - make no mistake about that. God doesn't grade on any "curve"- it is "BE PERFECT" - and God only had ONE perfect human - Jesus Himself. Luckily, WE get to receive Him and His perfect performance by faith. That is what Jesus as Covenant meant and means - HE took the exam and we get HIS "A+" on our "report card" and therefore God accepts us "in the beloved" Ephesians 1:3-6. That is just THE LAW. But - did you notice how we can then not be under law? NOTE - Jesus is not UNDER LAW - Law is under Him - and we are IN HIM - therefore we are inside "kept law" and it is then under us! Yes - I did mean to write it just that way.

OK - that just sounds weird to most of us - doesn't it? Well - add to that, Paul used the concept of a new law - the law of LOVE being a fulfillment of "the Law" - and several other concepts - how can we ever get a cogent concept here?

Luckily this is MY pilgrimage - so I can be as messed up as I choose - right ?

Well - we also have a LAW of Moses . . .so allow me to share how I put these concepts into perspective - briefly. First - Jesus challenged the Jewish leaders of His day with what I consider THE major concept in this structure - "the Sabbath was made for man, NOT man for the Sabbath." And - that means the LAW of the Sabbath was meant to SERVE MAN - not the other way around. That is the one thought we have to get - and most do not. That's why religious EXPERTS IN THE LAW claimed Jesus broke the Sabbath law while Jesus claimed He did not. I had to solve that dilemma. So - I just took Jesus word for it - and made the proper application to all laws - they are here for us - to serve us. We DO keep them - but only because that serves us and the community in which we live. LAW SERVES US.

So - then, first of all - put law into its proper place as a servant. After all - I can keep all laws without ever LOVING ANYONE at ANY TIME. But - God wishes me to LOVE and actually puts HIS spirit into me and makes sure plenty of LOVE is available to fulfill HIS structure for all of life. AND - even though the Bible says - "IF WE LOVE - we have fulfilled the Law" - we still don't have any true assurance of salvation in that regard. What do we lack? Ah - that's our central concept - we want SALVATION through what WE DO - and it is not available. God provides that separately - as we discussed back many moons ago as we looked at Romans 3-5. "But NOW apart from law God provides salvation by faith in Jesus Christ." It is a totally different concept. LAW doesn't even get to enter into the discussion- except to be dismissed.

But - we'll allow it into OUR discussion, since that is our subject - but we have to put it into its proper place. Don't allow you mind to get confused - wow, how can we not? Simply by putting your focus on JESUS - having TOTAL preeminence - being the ONLY Savior, and being ENOUGH. That is perhaps our BIGGEST problem in all of Christendom. But - that's why I'm writing this BLOG - to help us focus on JESUS. And - very basically, Jesus taught us that LAW is meant to SERVE US - not to rule us. A difficult concept to be sure in every realm - maybe too tough for us - but let's tackle it anyway - more to come

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

52-More on the Pilgrimage

One surprising thing to me about Bible study and reading is how many verses are "missed" or misunderstood. OR - we can talk about "timing" being misunderstood. Let's talk about one situation - involved in timing. This was a big part in my pilgrimage. It started with the age-old argument (really - would I EVER argue?) about James and Paul and their "doctrine" on salvation by faith. James was always allowed to be more authoritative in my religious circle for some reason in that argument. That is - UNTIL one time I was asked to take the opposite side in a debate. Plus - my friends on the other side checked out all the Library books (commentaries) on James. Well, I think I won the debate (and so did nearly everyone else) but I wasn't happy with the reasoning I had to use in which I got the book of James thrown out of the Bible. (Desperate times call for desperate measures!) So - I began to think about WHY this subject is such a quandary. I nearly always had a great respect for the Truth of Scripture and its inspiration (with that one lapse to win a debate!) and always have wished to take it as it is - and use its message to be a reality in life.

I was listening to someone expound the concept of faith/obedience in reference to "salvation/redemption" and realized he was talking about a different subject. I didn't know why at the time, but I just KNEW he was talking about something he didn't realize was not redemption at all. Maybe I could leave James in the Bible after all! Conclusions - James is talking about "sanctification" not "redemption". We translate the word as "save" - but did the context DEMAND that? NO - in fact I just had a strange "aha" moment and said to myself - "James is a Hebrew of Hebrews talking to Hebrews. He said so in chapter one, SPECIFICALLY. In fact it is in the FIRST VERSE - "To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion"

Well - there's something I overlooked for many years - who the book was written to - oh, I knew who - I just didn't realize what that ONE verse meant. It meant James was talking to Hebrew thinkers. So what? Well - I remembered what Jesus said one time, "The one who saves his life will lose it - and the one who loses it will save it" and I then KNEW what both Jesus AND Jews thought in one focus in this discussion. James is teaching about FINDING LIFE. AND - you cannot find life by claiming to believe - for a Jew, life is what is LIVED OUT - one shows what they believe by how they LIVE. That has NOTHING almost to do with redemption - but with finding meaning in our Christian lives. Paul, in most places, at least those which seem to be in opposition with James, deals with REDEMPTION as a primary focus. AND - he underlines the fact that redemption is "not of ourselves, not OF WORKS" Ephesians 2:8-9. But, Paul follows that with a verse about works in the continuing LIFE of a CHRISTIAN - "we are HIS workmanship, created in Christ for good works" verse 10. However, Paul is writing to Gentiles as the Apostle to the Gentiles - and isn't using a Hebrew focus about life - even though he spells it out pretty clearly when it certainly does NOT deal with redemption that we, in fact DO WORK. Look it up - it comes up multiple times - but not referring to redemption - only to Christian life.

BUT - if a person was just reading James, he might get the idea that works have something to do with Salvation. True - especially if we OVERLOOK the people to whom it was written and what they understood James to be writing.

WORKS and LAW - two big words over which Christians just stumble and thrash around - injuring each other and themselves. I don't expect to end the argument - we don't "let go" of our arguments in Christendom - we generally choose up sides and kill or maim - or at least start a new group AND - we have had a pretty solid example from even early centuries. Find the heretic and banish him forever - ah, there's a great way to solve things. Make people CHOOSE who is "sound in the faith" - and brand everyone else as "heretics". (Fill in your favorite word in this context - liberal, radical, of the devil or satanic, legalistic, in error, or whatever the latest buzz-word happens to be.)

Did you note that at NO TIME did the discussion actually FOCUS on Jesus? No - the focus is on US - and that is a primary problem. Paul's focus of works, at least one MAJOR one is - "God is AT WORK IN YOU, to will and to work" Philippians 2:13. (Another of those verses that just jumped up and hit me over the head and totally cleaned out my ears - and rerouted my life.) Why not allow that context to be a MAJOR part of any discussion about life and works from now on - it is what God is doing when HE is allowed to run us. (By the way - that is harmonious with Ephesians 2:10 and the works WE DO when we are HIS workmanship - at least in my translation.) Works are what God does - and HE runs me now.

Let's tackle that "law" concept - next - It won't be the "last word" on that subject either - but I'm simply sharing my pilgrimage - so, more to come

Thursday, October 16, 2008

51 - More on the Pilgrimage

I don't write from a book - or any previous notes - but I do share previous THOUGHTS. Many have asked about focusing more on the "pilgrimage" and actually all of this is simply that.

I remember reading that verse where Jesus said, "Unless you believe that I am HE - you'll die in your sins". I remember bringing that up in a class situation and someone VERY quickly reminded me that what Jesus taught in His personal ministry was Old Testament. My question was, "How did you decide that?" The answer was that everyone already KNOWS that.

So - maybe I am off beam in saying that Jesus is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE - or even trusting Jesus' Messianic miracles to show His authentication as Messiah. Hey - Romans through Revelation (or even Acts 2 through Revelation) doesn't use the word "Messiah" - someone reminded me. Well - actually, that is translated as "Christ" - using the Greek word and then not translating it - another rejection of Hebrew terms. I accept that - but to say what Jesus taught is not cogent to our understanding of what we know of New Testament doctrine - is simply wrong headed.

So - to share my understanding I have noted a couple of facts stated more than once in Scripture. Jesus was BORN KING - and He is still KING - and that is a fact. I realize things changed at His death and resurrection - but not His kingship. Notice that Acts 2 teaches that "God has made Him to be Lord and Christ (Messiah)" (Acts 2:36.) But - Jesus DID claim to be Lord and Christ in His ministry years. The FACT is we just do not generally understand the concept of Royalty and Coronation. Result - the phrase "born King" makes no sense. So - we must think of a way to explain it away without denying it. Whoa Nellie - don't do that!

I started to embrace what the Bible SAYS - without trying to say "It doesn't mean that." Fact is - sometimes translations do give the wrong idea of some words and phrases, but we don't have many of those. Plus - the ones we do have usually refer back to a misunderstanding of the Hebrew concept - lost to Christendom after the second century in many cases. That's why studying Genesis through Deuteronomy is pretty valuable - it sets up God's structure for FOREVER! What does a "Silver Trumpet" mean? Well several multifaceted concepts come to mind - about which, more later. For today - realize that my pilgrimage is NOT yours - so maybe you do NOT track with my thinking. Christ (Messiah) was slain from the foundation of the world - but actually died in about 30 AD. Those concepts are harmonious - and so are several others we might reject from time to time. God has MANY things going on at once - however - there is only ONE Eternal Covenant - and Jesus is the personification of it. (Those Scriptures have already been given - but they include Ephesians 1; 1 Peter 1; Hebrews 13:20-21) but don't forget - THAT doesn't address the concept of "I AM HE" of Luke 13. HE was talking to people who knew what the statement meant to come degree. HE also said, "IF I by the Finger of God cast out demons, then the Kingdom HAS COME UPON YOU" Luke 11:20.

But what about . . .? Listen - we have to get the WHOLE story. When HE was asked about being a King - HE answered, "I AM and that is the reason I was born - but MY kingdom is not of this world." Well - maybe we need to understand that before proceeding. Luke 23:1-3; Matthew 27:11; Mark 15:2; John 1:49; 12:15; 18:36-37; 19:21; 2 Peter 1:11 helps us see that the concept of KINGDOM is not what we see - but is wherever the KING is - expressing His power (generally love and mercy.) Since it is ETERNAL - and received by FAITH - Abraham had it and rejoiced in it John 8:56. Sure we can call that the Kingdom in prospect - but we need to understand it is also the Kingdom is actuality. But - we like to see everything from OUR point of view - and sometimes that is just too limited to see much.

Jesus said, "Unless you believe that I AM - you will die in your sins" - so doesn't that suggest if we do believe HE IS - we are become alive? And - doesn't THAT suggest the same concept as Abram believing God IN A DREAM - and being declared RIGHTEOUS? (Wow - maybe Jesus Christ actually is the same, yesterday, today and forever - Hebrews 13:8.)

Ramifications - in every DAY from the beginning, people were invited to trust God and be righteous - and then to live with God as a Friend and live victoriously. (Abraham was called the Friend of God and God was called the God of Abraham.)

AND - Jesus is the expression of God in flesh and Promise - so any expression of faith joins one to the Eternal Covenant - Jesus Himself - and is the template of allowing God to be MY GOD. (And for Him to call me "MY SON"). We are ALL sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus - and that is believing that Messiah IS - the focus of all of the Bible and ALL of life - and if we do that - maybe we'll be closer to giving HIM ALL preeminence. More to come

Thursday, October 9, 2008

50-Christ - from BEFORE the Beginning - (3)

My one very difficult concept in this regard was to see a SINGULAR concept running through the Bible to which EVERYTHING else related and referred. Part of that was due to many who tried to divide the Bible up into different ages and Laws. AND - from one perspective, they have a point. It does seem to have change points in history - and anticipation of changes in regard to how God deals with mankind.

Part of this situation comes from what we generally refer to as THE FALL. Obviously when sin entered into the word by Adam, one part of relating to God changed immediately. However, we should realize that God anticipated that - so the change is not as big as we think - from ONE perspective. God had already planned for this situation before HE made us by way of The Eternal Covenant.

Much structure we SHOULD know comes from Deuteronomy - the book of the Covenant. Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy more than any other book. David knew the concepts - Saul did not. BUT - it was simply a writing down of the Promise concepts God began through Abraham. What we sometimes miss is - this book was about the lifestyle of covenant when we allow God to be our Covenant head. NOTE - this was NOT to BE SAVED - redemption - but to be WHOLE - which Hebrew literature expresses by the same word - "saved".

To use a Western example - the Constitution is not a document to get us to be Americans - but a document to help us EXPRESS our lives in an idealized way, expressing our National Dream for how Americans LIVE. We probably never live up to it - but that doesn't disqualify us from being Americans - but there certainly IS a way to violate the Constitution so that we are guilty of Treason - and could well lose our citizenship or at least be quite severely punished for it and possibly lose our physical lives.

NO ONE lived perfectly in reference to the Mosaic Law - except for Jesus - and those who taught Law and were experts felt that HE violated it OFTEN. It's always good to have a REAL expert in our midst to help us understand things - but when God came in the person of Jesus Christ, not only didn't they think He was an expert to be listened to - they were CERTAIN He was "of the Devil" and deserved to DIE. Yet - many scholars STILL think the concept of Pharisee-ism needs to be applied to OUR understanding and allowed to be the final arbiter of how we know Truth. If they are right - Jesus could NOT have been TRUTH - so He doesn't deserve an audience.

THAT is what happens to us humans almost every time we are confronted by ULTIMATE reality - we not only cannot see it, we kill the ones who say they CAN. Us poets come up with some neat lines from that - but generally they are very ironic and sometimes downright DARK.

Jesus from "before the world was" - is a fact to be embraced and held on to - and used to structure our understanding of ANY meaning in our world. So - if that thought is ignored - Truth suffers and error flourishes.

Another generation has the opportunity to study Deuteronomy - and it doesn't look like we're that close to accomplishing it in our time - either. But - as a friend of mine once said, "I thought I heard a Silver Trumpet" - and my response was "How many times did it BLOW?"

Well - at least we got some of Numbers - thank God for that. More to come