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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Genesis and Matthew XXX: Go Out

Hurry and get out of this place . . . 

Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel . . . 

There are two cases here, in which people are instructed, by God or His Messenger, to Go out

The Old Testament example, of Lot in Sodom, involves a city that had become so corrupt and violent (the lines between sex and violence had become blurred . . . and possibly even confused with the definition of love), that good people were fleeing the city, for their lives. Mobs were gathering, and began to do as mobs always do . . . morphing into random masses leaving fear and destruction in their wake. 

God was going in to Sodom, to destroy it. But . . . does God actually ever have to destroy wickedness? Doesn't humanity do a good enough of a job of it, without help?

But the man Lot, Abraham's nephew, had apparently lived a safe and prosperous life in this once pristine city. Apparently, overnight, fortunes changed for the residents of that city. As the people became more and more enamored with the trappings of wealth and luxury, the sense of evil grew, all around them. But humanity does not address evil effectively. It does not root it out, before it takes hold. There are too many good feelings connected to wrongdoing. What can it hurt? Isn't everybody happier now? And besides, what someone does with their own body and life, is their own business!

If you wait too long, or look the other way, too much, you can lose your ability to fix something that is going wrong. Evil is self-oriented. It's focused on the short term, on feelings, and on the acquisition of stuff. It is sensory, rather than spirit-focused. 

This is what had happened to Sodom. Much like the "Me" movement of the 1980s, it seemed kinda cool at the moment. But it did not portend good things for the next generation, or two, out. 

Lot and his family were told to get out . . . and save themselves. 

But Jesus told His disciples to Go Out . . . and serve the lost children of Israel. The Hebrew people had been scattered abroad, thanks to countless experiences like Lot's, where it was necessary, in order for them to save themselves and preserve their nation. Nobody ever wants to leave their homes, especially in an emergency situation. 

Lot's family left suddenly, and left everything behind, to be destroyed with the rest of it. 

Jesus' disciples left all behind, as their things would just be hindrances to their ministries. 

One generation goes out, to save itself. Another goes out, to save others. One leaves danger, one courts it. Both take nothing with them.

Perhaps the takeaway is that . . . if we don't go out and minister to the world, circumstances will evolve so that we are forces to go out. The world seems to be moving fast, in 2021, in the direction of being forced out. May we be found spreading life and love, in the midst of all this fear.


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Genesis and Matthew XXIX: Merciful

First published Monday, May 9, 2011

To the reader: This was the last blog post that I made, in the "Reflectionary" series, for almost two years. And it was the last one following the format of reading an Old Testament, and New Testament chapter(s) in parallel, looking for commonalities. In 2013, when I resumed Bible blogging, I began reflections based on the Common Lectionary for each successive calendar day. So, there will be no "Ten Year Reprints" for a very long time. Until then, they will be original, and I am going to try to resume the OT/NT parallel readings. Please let me know how you like the different formats. - GD


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"Now let me go down and see: if they have done according to its cry that has come to me - destruction!

"I want mercy and not sacrifice."
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"Why would God permit so many African children to die of hunger?

"Surely you're not saying the 911 attacks were God's judgment upon American immorality!"

If you apply the world's definition of love to its problems, like hunger, disease, war, natural disasters, and famine, it can get quite easy to become angry with God. Surely, would not a loving God care for His children?

The Old Testament is full of accounts of God solving problems by wiping them out entirely, then starting all over. And so the question is, how can this not be defined as merciful, or loving? When an animal is in great pain and will not recover, we advocate "mercy killing." End the pain and suffering. Sometimes the only way God can relieve people's pain, is to take their lives.

This idea of sacrifice carries with it an understanding of death. If there were no such thing as death, then sacrifice would have no meaning. If you have eternal life, you've got it all! "Sacrifice" is part of the equation that keeps the world in balance until death is destroyed at the Return of Christ. We sacrifice because it is a reminder of our mortal predicament. If we give something up, then we understand that it will help someone else who is suffering, thanks to the curse placed upon the earth since the time of Adam's disobedience.

But God prefers mercy, not sacrifice. Sacrifice is Old Testamental. It is self-focused. It is legalistic.

But mercy, which is understood by the mature believer, is New Testamental. It is outwardly-focused. It is based on freedom in Christ. It is conceived and driven in godly Love.

God heard the cry coming from Sodom and Gomorrah. There were those within its boundaries, in great pain due to its rampant sin. So it is today. God does hear the pain of those suffering in the poorest parts of the planet. He calls on us to serve, to act mercifully.

In the end, if the Church does not show up to help, God may be left with only one merciful option.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

While Peter

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.  

 - From Acts 10

I'm going to break this sentence up a little bit, for it has individual words that are packed with importance. 

The subject of the sentence, or main noun, is "the Holy Spirit." The Holy Spirit is the main player in this sentence. The Holy Spirit does something, or acts . . . it is the agent of the main point of the sentence. 

The main verb, or the predicate, is "fell." The Holy Spirit fell. The word "fall" involves a sense of losing control. Something trips you up. Something causes you to lose balance, and then gravity takes over. Gravity is an overwhelming force that keeps us planted, keeps us earthward. Gravity stabilizes us . . . but first it reduces us to some point of fixed reference: the ground. But "to fall" is referring to a thing thart acts suddenly, naturally, and conclusively. In this case, the Holy Spirit did not just rest, or descend gently. The Holy Spirit fell

This alone is a fascinating image. God's power, His breath, His Word . . . came crashing down from out of nowhere, unexpectedly. And in so doing, became the dominant player in the moment. 

Upon all: But the Holy Spirit did not fall on the ground and then dissipate as a wave. It fell upon all that were standing in the vicinity. As it came crashing down, the Holy Spirit fell, not on the floor, but upon people. A force that strikes down from above, can knock you to the ground. A penny dropped from a skyscraper could do some damage if it lands solidly on your cranium. 

But not just all of the all. Some of the people standing there were unaffected by the falling Holy Spirit. Only those that heard Peter speak were affected. But not just Peter speaking . . . only the word that Peter spoke. The people in the vicinity, that heard the word of God, spoken by Peter . . . all of them . . . every one of them . . . experienced the Holy Spirit falling upon them. And it was like being knocked down. People nearby, that were distracted, even if they were standing right next to Peter, were not impacted.

All people, though. Rich, poor, young, old, from all nationalities, all races. If you heard the word that Peter spoke, in that moment, the Holy Spirit fell upon you with great force. It changed you, your heart was filled with godly love. You began to communicate with others, in perfect understanding. You were, in that moment, as Adam and Eve might have been, as they could have been forever, and we all could have been, had we not chosen sin over God. It was a moment of eternity, total knowledge, but total understanding. 

When did this happen? While Peter was still speaking. The thing that kicked it off, was Peter opening his mouth and beginning to talk. He shared his witness, his story, his account. But God took over and transitioned Peter's language into the Word of God . . . at which point it all started happening. A miracle occurred. 

People in perfect accord is miraculous. People in perfect accord do not hurt each other. They do not force others. They do not judge others. They don't break off into political opposing camps. 

All it took was for Peter to begin speaking. 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Genesis and Matthew XXVIII: Rest

 First published Friday, April 29, 2011

. . . and all (Abraham's) household people, whether house-born or money-bought from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.


"Put my yoke on and learn from me: I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls, because my yoke is kindly and my load is light."

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We cannot enjoy the restful life that Christ offers, while we carry around our sack of burdens. The person with worries, or troubles, or stress, is too focused on those things to enjoy Christ. A troubled person is not a restful person. Yet we are called to rest.

Is that not what we want? We want a stress-free life! We wish we could be as care-free as we were in the days of our youth. The burdens of life, which grow heavier by the year, get in the way! But what is the source of these worries? How can we root it out?

Symbolically, a practice was in place, instituted by Abraham, under God's direction. It begins with a cutting away of the flesh, And there is no part of humanity more "fleshly" and harmful than our obsession with sex. We can live without it, yet we are prone to treat it as beasts do, as an urge that must be satisfied. A reading of all of my other posts would indicate that I consider the human male to be particularly at fault. He tends to be the aggressor, the tempter, the seducer. He does not use his mind to plan out his paths. He does not do what is right!

Circumcision cuts away at the most troublesome part of the male physique. It involves the shedding of blood. The removal of the flesh, or of sin, from our lives is not pleasant. Neither is it necessarily a clean process. It is painful, but must be done.

Our worries, our temptations, our fears, our burdens, are all the same as the sin that keeps us back.

Remove the sin in your life - a task that is not easy - and then you are free to enjoy rest,  in Christ.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Show Us

 . . . show us the Father . . . . 

 - From John 14

Thomas made the famous statement "If I see the holes in his hands, and put my hand into the wound on His side, I will believe," and throughout history he has been isolated for his "doubting" nature. As if any one of us were more purely faithful than he. 

But Philip had had an equivalent conversation with the Lord, that merits equal treatment as Thomas's dialogue with Christ.

Jesus was having a deep interaction with the Twelve, in which He was laying out the deeper things to come: the Cross, the Way to eternal life, etc. Jesus had just told Thomas "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

And then Philip, either from pure naivete, or more likely a desire to impress the Lord with his depth of inquisitiveness, says "Show us the Father."

Now, the first thing I notice is where Philip presumes to speak on behalf of the entire group. What he really means is "Show me the Father." But to give his statement credibility, he includes the entire group into his statement. (This is a minor pet peeve of mine - - - the person that speaks for everybody, without knowing what everybody really thinks. "We missed you so much." or "We really love that German chocolate cake you made.")

Jesus goes on to explain that, if you have seen Him, you have seen the Father. That we should just trust Him at His word. But if that's not good enough, consider the works that He has done, that only someone in touch with the Creator could do. 

We all desperately want to see the Father. We want to see Jesus. George Harrison had a number one hit making that same sentiment: I really want to see you, but it takes so long!

There's a linkage between the Person of Christ, and His works. If we really want to see Jesus, we can bring Him into our midst, by simply following Him. Do what He would do. 

It has been hard to see Jesus, to see the Father, in the world that began in March, 2020 and continues to this day (April, 2021). We have been told there is a lot of pain and grief in the world, (that a lot of people have not actually seen for themselves). We have been told that if we follow certain dictums (like religious rites), that we will be "safe." But the dictums are the same old religious routines from antiquity: Cover your face. Go off in isolation. Be quiet.

But unlike these practices when they're combined with real faith, we're supposed to do all of these things today, because it is what a man-made government wants us to do. The requirements in 2021 don't even make any mention of caring for each other. We're supposed to shut up and shut down. 

The world needs to see the Father, and fast. We know how to answer that question, how to satisfy that prayer. Do the works of the Lord. And He never asked us to stay inside. He says "let your light shine."

Indeed. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Genesis and Matthew XXVII: Hard Lessons

 First Published Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Walk in my presence! And be wholehearted!"

"I assure you, among all those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist - but the lowest person in the kingdom of the skies is greater than him."

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Abraham was known for his unquestioning obedience to God. To trust God, and to do what God expects, is the very essence of faith.

John the Baptist lived a simple life marked by an almost fanatical devotion to serving God. He had no regular job, no home, no things. Yet Jesus called John the greatest in God's kingdom.

In the Easter sermon at Dexter United Methodist Church, less than a week ago, the pastor made this point - that everything we do: all our strivings, schedulings, activities, stressings, etc., really count for nothing. The only thing that matters is serving Christ. It was part of a sermon series entitled The Hard Sayings of Jesus.

How about these three things:

* Walk with God.
* Be wholehearted (sincere, pure, righteous).
* Give up everything to serve the Lord.

Abraham believed God, and followed Him. John the Baptist gave it all up. These are two very hard lessons.

Are we ready to rejoice at the wealthy guy that gives it all up to preach to the poor? How about encouraging our friends and family to drop their hobbies and busy schedules, so that they can spend reflective time in God's word and prayer? How about taking a bold stand for virtues such as honesty, sincerity, loyalty, purity, charity?

These pretty much say it all. But on the other side of obedience, trust, purity, and simplicity, are land as far as we can see, a family too numerous to count, and a seat of honor in God's Kingdom.

Do we believe this? What may we conclude by our behavior?
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NOTE to the Reader: You are invited to follow my blog entitled "My Prelude to 2020", in which I share reflections of my life over the course of sixty years, and the parallels in place with world events, that seemed to make the events of 2020 inevitable. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

Genesis and Matthew XXVI: Return

 First Published Saturday, April 23, 2011

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He (Ishmael) shall be a wild-ass of a man, his hand against all, hand of all against him, yet in the presence of all his brothers shall he dwell.


What did you go out to the desert to see? . . . A prophet? Yes, I tell you, a prophet and more . . . 

There is a wild man at the beginning of each testament. In the old, it is Ishmael, first son of Abraham, father of the Arab nation. In the New Testament, it is John the Immerser, Jesus' cousin. John was a child sent from God's promise, born to a woman too old to have children, as was Ishmael's half-brother, Isaac.

Promises abound, and so often it has to do with miraculous births.

Ishmael was not a child of promise. But he grew to be a great nation. He represents the Old Testament. Clans, nations, tribes are everything in the Old Testament. Warfare was the primary mode of building kingdoms. It was, basically, the way the world did things. Yet God operated and worked His will in this context. Today, the descendants of Ishmael are still known for their adherence to this Old Testament way of doing things: rigid laws, heavily male-dominated, use of warfare and its ancient rules (you are to wipe out every trace of life of your enemies).

John comes along, in the days of Christ. Both he and Jesus were born according to a promise. John is the wild man of the New Covenant. He has cast off all worldliness. He does not seek, or need, a "job." He just proclaims the word of God. This is the most important thing. He is not worried about having a son to carry on his name. In the New Testament, to be "wild" means to have nothing to do with the world and its trappings.

Sons in the Old Testament (including Ishmael) were made holy via circumcision. But in the New, all people are made holy by way of belief, demonstrated in the act of immersion first made essential to the church, by John the Immerser.

We become part of a New Family.

Ishmael's nation was blessed, and continues to be so, today, in terms of the multiplying of its population. The messenger of God told Ishmael's mother, to return back to the tent of Abraham, to her family, regardless of how she had been treated.

He calls all of us today, to return back to our families, through Christ.