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Friday, October 7, 2011

Interpreting older (weird) parts of the bible


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All meanings, we know, depend on the key of interpretation.
George Eliot
 


     Have you ever read any of Esops fables? If you haven’t you can find them at http://aesopfables.com/ .  These are stories that are great for kids written by a Greek many many years ago.

 Here is one

“AN ANT went to the bank of a river to quench its thirst, and being carried away by the rush of the stream, was on the point of drowning.  A Dove sitting on a tree overhanging the water plucked a leaf and let it fall into the stream close to her.  The Ant
climbed onto it and floated in safety to the bank.  Shortly
afterwards a birdcatcher came and stood under the tree, and laid his lime-twigs for the Dove, which sat in the branches.  The Ant, perceiving his design, stung him in the foot.  In pain the birdcatcher threw down the twigs, and the noise made the Dove
take wing.”
 
Now, it is easy to see this story is not really about an Ant and a Dove. It is really teaching that one good turn deserves another. We would all agree on this, but when we read the bible and come across a story we tend to believe all the stories are about what they are describing.

Sometimes this is true but sometimes it is not. For example, the ancient jews didn’t muzzle their ox’s while they worked with their grain because the bible said:

“Don't stop an ox from eating while you use it to separate grain from straw.” Deut 25:4 HIRV

This was in a section of rules and regulations. These included:

1st text

The guilty one might have done something that's worthy of a beating. Then the judge will make him lie down and be beaten with a whip right there in court. The number of strokes should fit the crime. But the judge must not give the guilty man more than 40 strokes. If more than that are used, you will look down on your Israelite neighbor.
 
 
And

2st text

Suppose two brothers are living near each other. And one of them dies without having a son. Then his widow must not get married to anyone outside the family. Her husband's brother should marry her. That's what a brother-in-law is supposed to do. Her first baby boy will be named after her first husband. Then the dead man's name will not be wiped out in Israel.

 
 But suppose the man doesn't want to get married to his brother's wife. Then she will go to the elders at the gate of the town. She will say, "My husband's brother refuses to keep his brother's name alive in Israel. He won't do for me what a brother-in-law is supposed to do."

 
Then the elders in his town will send for him. They will talk to him. But he still might say, "I don't want to marry her." Then his brother's widow will go up to him in front of the elders. She'll pull one of his sandals off his foot. She'll spit in his face. And she'll say, "That's what we do to a man who won't build up his brother's family line." That man's family line will be known in Israel as The Family of the Man Whose Sandal Was Pulled Off. 



W
e in the modern world tend to be very negative towards these last two stories and consider them barbaric in many ways. We feel we are so much more sophisticated now that we would never agree with these types of directions.

Yet, let us see what Paul says about that ox. . .

“Here is what is written in the Law of Moses. ‘Do not stop an ox from eating while it helps separate the grain from the straw.’—(Deuteronomy 25:4) Is it oxen that God is concerned about? 10 Doesn't he say that for us? Yes, it was written for us.” 1 Cor 9:9
NIRV

Paul uses this to explain that people who provide others with knowledge and services that enable them to grow in God’s word are entitled to be paid for it.

The ox story in the Old Testament is used to point out a principle which STILL applies. God is a God of mercy who does not want people or animals unable to get their daily food they need and we should not get in the way of ensuring that occurs. The underlying truth extends past the original context.

We need to understand this is true of many parts of the bible.

Look at the texts around the ox text. What do you think may be the underlying truths that extend to today that we can pull out as the deeper meaning.

The first is perhaps key in stating “the punishment must fit the crime” and that is something today that sometimes I feel we fail to ensure. In the western world the punishments are often too lenient and in the Eastern world they are often to heavy handed.

In the story that follows (2nd) it is pointed out that a man must marry his brother’s wife. Is this perhaps saying that family must take care and provide for the future of widows in their own family, as if the person was an intimate part of their own family? They should protect the assets of that widow against being taken over by others due to the lack of income from her now deceased husband.
 
Again, is this perhaps something we in the western world are not very good at doing?

I hope this helps those of us that have difficulty following some of the older parts of the bible with the weird words, stories and descriptions.

Hey, have  a great day!
Fri, October 7, 2011 | link          Comments

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Christians, should we go to non-Christian religious celebrations?
 
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  Ever had a good friend who is not a believer ask you to attend a special event in their religious life?

Something like a marriage ceremony, some type of other religious blessing ceremony, or such?

What do we do?
To make an excuse is to lie because the real reason we don’t feel comfortable going is that the bible says:

“Do not put any other gods in place of me.

Do not make statues of gods that look like anything in the sky or on the earth or in the waters. Do not bow down to them or worship them. I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. I punish the children for the sin of their parents. I punish the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who hate me. But for all time to come I show love to all those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20 NIRV

This seems to be straightforward and say don’t go, but does it?

But Paul also says around eating food to idols:

Now I want to deal with food offered to statues of gods.

   We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes people proud. But love builds them up. Those who think they know something still don't know as they should. But those who love God are known by God.

So then, here is what I say about eating food that is offered to statues of gods. We know that a god made by human hands is really nothing at all in the world. We know there is only one God. There may be so-called gods either in heaven or on earth. In fact, there are many "gods" and many "lords." But for us there is only one God. He is the Father. All things came from him, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord. He is Jesus Christ. All things came because of him, and we live because of him.

But not everyone knows that. Some people still think that statues of gods are real gods. When they eat food that was offered to statues of gods, they think of it as food that was offered to real gods. And because they have a weak sense of what is right and wrong, they feel guilty. But food doesn't bring us close to God. We are no worse if we don't eat. We are no better if we do eat. But be careful how you use your freedom. Be sure it doesn't trip up someone who is weaker than you.

Suppose you who have that knowledge are eating in a temple of one of those gods.
And suppose someone who has a weak sense of what is right and wrong sees you. Won't that person become bold and eat what has been offered to statues of gods? If so, then your knowledge destroys that weak brother or sister for whom Christ died.

When you sin against other believers in that way, you harm their weak sense of what is right and wrong. By doing that you sin against Christ. So what should I do if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin? I will never eat meat again. In that way, I will not cause them to fall.”

This is interesting because Paul actually is saying that these non-real religions have no power or ability.
Attending their celebrations cannot influence us except if we are SEEN by those who are weak in their faith and this causes them to THINK we are bowing down to the idols.

So, this means we each have to make up our minds for ourselves doesn’t it?

Attending the celebration is of no spiritual consequence.

Personally I like to hear what other think and do, but Jesus is central to my life and beliefs. Attending provides a means of understanding others rather than enduing their false gods with power. I respect the person for who they are, but if they ask me I totally do not accept their god or gods.

Personally, I think I reach people better by not rejecting their loving approaches to include me in their life.

Despite this, I must consider those weaker in faith
. By going, do I damage another? This is the key aspect of consideration when we chose to attend a non-Christian ceremony. Sometimes this is easy to deal with by simply talking to others attending and making our beliefs clear. By refusing to bow when others do, since we do have an instruction in that regard.

By attending, we often bring a little light to a empty celebration. That’s a gift I do want to give my non-Christian friend.

Well, your decision is yours to make now that the different aspects of that decision are revealed!
I hope next time someone asks you about attending, you can lovingly give the rationale and conditions under which you would or wouldn’t attend.

Have a great day!
Thu, October 6, 2011 | link          Comments

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The illusion of control
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“He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.”
 George Orwell

Ever have something not go the way you planned?

This happens to everyone doesn’t it?

So what makes some people able to cope more effectively than others?

We all have disappointments and dreams. We all succeed part of the time and fail part of the time.

So, is there perhaps a deeper desire to control others, circumstances and life in general by some people that leads them into more unhappiness and compulsive behaviours?


Our Western society seems to pre-programme us to believe if we just put enough effort in, if we just apply sufficient logic and science, we can control anything.

We believe this lie with an almost religious fervour.

Daily we push ourselves into situations where we manipulate, plan and connive to make circumstances and people do our will.


Let’s ask if we are not being just a little bit foolish?

Our illusion of control unravels quite easily.

All we have to do is get a major illness and all these controlling actions get aborted and many of us collapse into self-pity and to what many consider a depressing inactivity.

We probably fill this emotional state with noise to try and suppress any time that it could provide for us to think, probably because we do not trust thoughts that arrive within the silences.

Why are we so scared of giving up control, of allowing God to direct our lives and instead of pushing, enjoying going with the flow and course set for us by the supreme being of the Universe?

We cannot control, manipulate and plan to perfection, only God can do that!

This is the same God who allowed himself to get beat-up and murdered so that we would be able to get away freely with our bad behaviours.

Someone that loves us that much is not going to allow us to get into things that will damage us if we have the sense to listen to the advice he gives us, right?

Perhaps, instead of pushing for control when we really have none of it, we should allow God’s spirit to guide us into moving into places where he has provided us with the opportunities and abilities to make changes that have eternal value.

Sensing God’s direction is perhaps more important than pushing a self-developed agenda.

Key to sensing direction is relationship, and time spent together with the person of God.

How much time do we spend trying to connect with God in a deep way? Perhaps it would be good to turn off that TV, radio or iPod and surrender to the silence, filling it with thoughts of God, reading his truths and considering the best way to apply them in the “now” of life.

Our motivators in life are really quite simple. Mainly to love and be loved! Then perhaps to be safe and have enough! God will pour love into our lives in ways we cannot begin to understand, and in so doing will enable us to overflow it into the lives of others. Together we can find safety and sharing that provides in the most amazing ways.

True control is enabling God’s controls in our lives and that is something we can do!

Enabling God in our lives depends on us and our decisions, not others and how much influence we can bring to situations.

So today, let’s connect with Holy Spirit and empower our day with God’s pre-planned control of events.


 That way we have a joy filled day!
Wed, October 5, 2011 | link          Comments

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation they find themselves.
  
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Ever want to be a completely different person?

Sometimes we get tired of having to live our life don’t we.

In the past few months I have changed my job and I am glad to say when I went to the new job I didn’t expect to have vastly different circumstances, just a change in the people and a fresh set of things to learn. I like learning!

The topic of today’s blog is not mine, but Paul’s. He said, “Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them.” in 1 Corinthians 7:17

So often we think a change of scenery, a new job, a new marriage, a new whatever will make all the difference.

Paul was wiser than that, he knew when we move to new things, we take ourselves with. We are the one that builds up the relationship and events around ourselves. That’s why when we go to new things, in time, they start to look like the old ones IF we don’t allow God to intervene.

Paul knew that the key aspect is allowing God to change us from within. That way it’s like a permanent vacation. We never get bored, because we are continually changing as we grow in spiritual strength and this changes how we do things.

That same old stuff is then not boring, but challenging. Those difficult relationships become love opportunities. That tiresome person becomes someone who has been hurt by Satan and needs care, love and help.

Each moment in each day is endued with a newness and vitality that brings it alive.

 I was chatting to a friend who a while back would have said he was atheist or perhaps agnostic, but is now a Christian. We commented on how we existed in life before Jesus became our life, then we became alive.

It’s difficult for a person who hasn’t had this experience to understand. Perhaps it’s like having a chocolate fountain, with the chocolate, plugged in but without the electricity turned on. It’s a boring piece of shaped metal.

Then, the party starts and someone turns on the electrical current. Soon that fountain wells up with chocolate and overflows. People come from all over the room to see and taste the overflow.

 A non-Christian is like that fountain, the potential is there but until the Spirit activates us as we decide for Jesus (like turning on that switch) we are lacking in an essential vitality.

Afterwards, we are central to God’s plan for a great life!

I think that’s my spot for today. What’s yours?
Tue, October 4, 2011 | link          Comments

Monday, October 3, 2011

Taking another Christian to court

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   “Laws control the lesser man... Right conduct controls the greater one.”

 Mark Twain


 We hear of people taking each other to court almost every day. However there is a clear statement regarding how two Christians need to react in taking others to court in Christian circles, this is one of the most ignored aspects of the bible.

In 1 Corinthians 6 (NIRV) it says

 “Suppose one of you wants to bring a charge against another believer. Should you take it to the ungodly to be judged? Why not take it to God's people?

Don't you know that God's people will judge the world? And if you are going to judge the world, aren't you able to judge small cases? Don't you know that we will judge angels? Then we should be able to judge the things of this life even more!

 So if you want to press charges in matters like that, appoint as judges members of the church who aren't very important! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that no one among you is wise enough to judge matters between believers? Instead, one believer goes to court against another. And this happens in front of unbelievers!

 The very fact that you take another believer to court means you have lost the battle already. Why not be treated wrongly? Why not be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong. And you do it to your brothers and sisters.”

Some things are ambiguous in our bible but this is not one of them.

It is almost with sarcasm that Paul derides taking of another believer to court.

Yet with the abundance of court cases and legal proceedings against each other, people on the American continent are amongst the most litigious people in the world. Yet we like to think of ourselves as a Christian country.

It is no wonder that so many people outside the American continent look at this with cynicism.

We should be willing to judge from within the church where we can allow God’s will to be done in the situation. This would stop lawyers getting fat of the fights between believers and bring true healing into the situation.

I know many years ago of a young boy who slipped in church (running after others) and hit his head on the floor. Instead of dealing with this within the church context the pastor at the advice of his legal counsel even refused to speak to the parents.

 What is wrong with that?

 This guy had a congregation of a few thousand.

I wonder if he had read this piece of the bible.

At least, if we end up in that situation we will know what to do now won’t we?

 Have a great day!
Mon, October 3, 2011 | link          Comments


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A horrific mining accident results in Joshua Robyn's father being killed. Joshua struggles both with himself and his townsfolk as he tries to make sense of an incomprehensible situation. Is it an accident or a murder? Why is there a seeming link to evil? Why is his work environment suddenly threatening? What is the conspiracy about and what are they trying to do? As action moves dramatically from exotic African grasslands to the heart of North America's cities, the plot unfolds and the pace quickens. Will there be time? Why is a beautiful abused young woman in the center of this plot?

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