Sunday, February 28, 2016

THE GOOD DEED BALANCE SCALE

There are some places in the Bible where I wish that the writers would have added a couple of footnotes. Today’s scripture reading is one of those instances. In this passage, some people had come to Jesus, wanting him to comment about some “Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices,” as the writer put it.

Nothing more about this incident is recorded any other place in the New Testament. We do not know specifically who the people were who were killed and we do not know the occasion upon which this tragedy occurred. Apparently however, there had recently been a confrontation with the Roman soldiers in the temple at the time of a sacrifice. The outcome of this incident was that some of the Galileans present at the temple were killed by the Romans, perhaps right at the altar, since there is a mention of the blood of the people mingling with the blood of the animal sacrifices.

Although we know none of the details, this all certainly does sound like a horrendous event. It was an event that was not only politically motivated, but there were also religious overtones included in the circumstances. It affected the residents in much the same way as we react when we are shown pictures of Americans who have been decapitated by the Islamic State Terrorists. Even more so, since these people of Galilee probably had even closer ties with those killed.

“Were these Galileans worse sinners than all the others?” the people asked Jesus.

In their struggle to make sense of the events that had occurred, this was their question. “Why did these people suffer in such a horrifying way? Was it because these who were murdered were especially bad themselves?” The questioners were implying that perhaps those people were so bad that God had allowed them to be killed.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

SOJOURNERS – THE LIFE OF ABRAHAM


Abraham Lifts His Eyes

Many years ago, in the days when my family and I were preparing for a move to Venezuela from our home in Wisconsin, I identified with Abraham more than any other Bible character.  Like Abraham and his family, that time in our lives was one of sojourning for us. In the course of making the eventual move to Venezuela, we stayed in many different hotels and many homes and for many nights had different hosts.  We often spent long weeks living out of our suitcases. This is often the case in the life of a missionary.

After traveling to several parts of the United States, when we at last had enough financial support to begin our work, we still had one more step we had to make before we could depart for Venezuela. We were next required to attend language school in Costa Rica. While living in that Central American country for some eight months, we came to feel comfortable there and in many ways made it our home. However, because we knew we were not to be there for a long and extended period, we could not come to the point where we felt completely settled there. In some ways, our thoughts were also always directed to the next step we were to take.

Eventually, we did make it to Venezuela. However, even after arriving there, we could not immediately find a home where we would eventually settle. Even when we finally made it to our new country of residency, our sojourning in some ways continued. We first stayed in another house temporarily with a month-by-month rental agreement until we could at last find and settle into the house that would become our permanent home – at least as permanent as we were to be living in that country. 

Dealing with Discouragement as Sojourners

The life of a sojourner has its own special challenges, especially for ones like our family who had previously been accustomed to a settled kind of life and growing deep roots.  Sojourning can be disheartening. In more ways than just the living situation, sojourning can be unsettling. Things can sometimes happen over which we have no control, situations that would not happen if you were in a permanent place of residence. One sometimes wonders when he will again be able to allow himself to feel completely at home.  It was like this for Abraham, and so it was at times for us.

However, the application is wider.  All of us, if we are God’s children, are sojourners, even if we do not actually realize it. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

WITHSTANDING THE WINDS OF TEMPTATIONS

We sometimes tend to think of a person who is a priest as one who lives a somewhat cloistered life, often largely secluded in monasteries or rectories and apart from the daily living situation of most people. Of course, this is not always the case, but I would like you to notice the difference between the offices of the priest, as we have set up in some Christian church organizations, with that of the Great High Priest, as is mentioned in the book of Hebrews. Listen to these words: 

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 NAS). 

The Temptations of Jesus

There are several things about this passage that one could mention, but I am going to concentrate on one aspect only. That is the fact that the High Priest from heaven is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. He is able to do this because he had been tempted in every way that we are....

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I COULD BE MORE LIBERAL IF IT WEREN'T FOR LOVE

(Full title)
IF IT WEREN’T FOR THIS PESKY THING CALLED LOVE,
I COULD BE A LOT MORE LIBERAL 

I recently saw this post on Facebook. It was preceded by a comment to introduce it:
"Ah...common sense ?? Too much for many people to understand...”

Here is the post:

Don’t like gay marriages? Don’t get one
Don’t like cigarettes? Don’t smoke them.
Don’t like alcohol? Don’t drink it.
Don’t like drugs? Don’t do them.
Don’t like porn? Don’t watch it.
Don’t like sex? Don’t do it.
Don’t like abortions? Don’t get one.
Don’t like your rights taken away?
Don’t take someone else’s away.

When I read it, there were two additional comments, both agreeing with the post. One of them simply said, “truth.” 

Usually, I do not quickly comment on a post that someone makes. Facebook people are often pretty touchy, and if you make a comment that in any way disagrees with what was said, you very soon find yourself in a discussion, and sometimes a rather testy one. I don’t like to be in one of these. Besides, these back-and-forths seldom lead to anything constructive. I am actually just a peaceful man. I’m not looking for a fight.

Because of this, I at first did not comment, but the problem was that this post really began to bother me. In some ways, it is a commentary on the direction that our culture is heading. Actually we have already traveled a good ways down this road.

After about a day I went back to it and made a comment. I tried to make it non-confrontational....

Monday, February 1, 2016

LOVE IS ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE NEED

The thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians is one of those passages of the Bible that many people have heard; even many non-Christians. It is about love, and who does not like to hear about love? The chapter contains many well-known phrases: “Love is patient, love is kind. Love never fails. Now abide faith, hope, love; but the greatest of these is love.”

I am trying very hard not to mention that meaningless Beatles song, but its music has so firmly made its way into our culture, that one can hardly talk about the subject of love without thinking of it. In their defense, I will say that I like quite a lot of the music of the Beatles, but I would not go to them for spiritual or theological advice.
 
Love is One of the Things We Need

The song, in some ways, even sounds like some of our modern worship songs that we sing in many of our churches, because it takes one phrase and repeats it over and over and over… “Love is all you need!”

Well, love is not all that we need. What we do need is to put this into perspective a little. The Apostle Paul said in this chapter of Corinthians that love is the greatest of the trio of faith, hope and love, but he does not say that love is the only thing that we need. It seems that we still need a good bit of faith, and of hope as well.

Another thing about it is that when we think of the subject of love, each of us probably has different and diverse ideas and feelings that are associated with it. I am afraid that not even the dictionary helps us out a great deal here. The dictionary that is by my chair where I sit and study defines love as primarily “A deep affection and warm feeling for another.” That is the first definition. The second involves romance and sex. There are a few other definitions as well, but none of them hit the mark. 

Love is a Ting

The truth is however, this word is extremely difficult to define. Just a few days ago my uncle told me a story that I have heard him tell before, but it is propitious that he just mentioned it again. My uncle is in his nineties, and the story involves a lady who was old even when he was young. She had been an immigrant from Sweden, and spoke English with a heavy Swedish accent.

In a Bible Study one day, the pastor of their church asked the people this question. “What is love?”

Everyone sat silent for a few moments, and finally this lady spoke up, “Vell you know, love is a ting, and vi all like it.”

Well, love is a ting. But what can we learn about this ting? The love that Paul describes in this chapter of 1 Corinthians is a type of love that my dictionary does not know about. But even Paul does not actually define love. Rather, he first tells us how important love is.