The Mystique of Reading the Bible in Greek and Hebrew– Part 4 (Last part :)

– – I have mentioned nuances a lot so far. What I mean is the combination of denotative and connotative meaning: meaning that is directly expressed and meaning which is subtly implied. A silly example of this is if a girl introduces a guy to . . . no . . . those are too messy . . . If a friend tells his friend, I now, know that you care about me.” the Denotation is: At this moment I know you care. The connotation is: At one time I did not know you care. The English Bible brings out some of these denotations and connotations from context, but one thing it can’t make up for is the use of syntax in Hebrew and Greek to establish emphasis in communication. One example off the top of my head is Romans 10:3, “Being ignorant of the of God righteousness and seeking their own to establish they did not submit to the righteousness of God.” The contrast denoted in English and Greek is clear, but the fronting of “The Of-God” righteousness reemphasizes the point of the whole letter about the righteousness of God being revealed  English flattens this and misses some of the nuances pointing back to God’s righteousness in the OLD Testament.

– – It is at this juncture I want to introduce a point about God’s word I have never heard expressed by anyone else, but I think it will be widely agreed upon just by common sense. The Word of God is not just What He says, but also How He says it. It is the same in communication between people isn’t it? One man says “I love you” to a woman he is proposing to. Another time he says, “I love you.” to a co-worker who just got him coffee. Is the word communicated the same? No. Same words, different relationship, different tone of voice, different inflection, different situation, etc. This is the way it is with human communication, and human communication of humans writing to humans in human ways with shared understandings is the way God chose to communicate His divinely inspired word. The Mystery of Jesus’ incarnation is not dissimilar.

– – What I have discovered after 8 years in Greek and 3 in Hebrew, is that the Word of God rings out so much clearer in the original languages, and He is very lovely in His leading, very brilliant in His glory, very true in His tone. Because I am still not a master of either language, I do read English and because I am in relationship with English-listeners I read English, but when I do, it reminds me of watching a VHS tape when you’ve seen Blue-ray. The picture still comes through, but the color, the sound, and the quality is sometimes lacking in the clarity to tell the story in the most meaningful and appropriate way. And I am still learning not to apply my English nuances to the Greek and Hebrew texts; it is something I wonder if we ever unlearn, or if we just humbly accept our own frailty and incapacity to get it right alone.

– – One more illustration which I sheepishly borrow from Kate and Leopold, but those who have actually been to Paris may attest to: The most famous art gallery in Paris is the Louvre. But some people don’t know that only a fraction of the paintings are on the walls, the real art show is in the basement. All the revered works of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and so on.The Bible is like the Louvre, in English you will only get a fraction of all that it contains.

This is my call of exhortation. If you are content with the paintings on the walls of the Louvre, then by all means enjoy them, but if you seek to know the source of their art better, if you hunger for a richer depth of appreciation for the soul and ethos of the art before you, I invite you to come down into the basement, where the fragile treasures preserved timeless await the witnesses who have the heart to enjoy them.

– – But do not go without a guide. Art is best appreciated in conversation. You need bring nothing with you accept humbleness in your humanity, and a heart to seek out Him who is truly good. Let an expert in these paintings teach you so you can enter into the joy, anguish and love that rests deep in the art before you and the heart within you.

– – To do this for the Bible in the original languages, I recommend Mounce’s Biblical Greek, and Van Pelt’s Biblical Hebrew to get you started! And find a good teacher or a fellow student to go through it with you. Languages live between people and die when unspoken; but God’s Word will never die. Enjoy the world you discover in the text; I guarantee it will be bigger than your current one and it is not very far at all from where you live out each day. Be patient, resilient, sentient, and repentant, and His Word will come alive in you to mold you into the shape of the Word: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thank you for reading this introduction, contemplation, explanation, and invitation.

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The Mystique of Reading the Bible in Greek and Hebrew– Part 3

– – Here comes the point I am making: No translation is clear cut. Not even the English word “No” is an adequate translation for the three Hebrew words for “No.” or “Not” or the three Greek words. For example, the First of the Ten Commandments as they have been numbered in the Protestant Western tradition is “No other God’s before me.” But what kind of “No” is this? Or in Romans when Paul said, “Shall we continue in Sin that Grace may increase?” What was the emphasis conveyed in his words, “No.” English is a beautiful language with a substantial collection of words to choose from, and yet none of them mean “exactly” what the words in another language mean. And when people dig deep into the dictionaries of Noah Webster and Oxford, they are digging wells of deeper understanding that tap into underground rivers not flowing with the same intensity or even direction as the authors ever intended.

– – This is why, as my hermeneutics professor taught from Moses Sylva’s book Biblical Words and Their Meaning “Meaning is at the clause level” not the word level. In other words, “Context is king.” Words and context in language are like teammates in a team. The team is the sum of what each individual contributes, and and the individual is defined by his role in the team. So context helps fit the right meaning to the words, and the words make up the context. So, then, if one reads in English the verse “No other God’s before me.” and does not see the Hebrew expression, “No other God’s before my face.” then he lacks a deeper nuance which actually clarifies whether “before” in that verse means “ahead of me” or “in my presence.”

– – So many passages in various English versions are difficult when trying to juggle English nuances with a Hebrew or Greek flow of thought, especially if it is in archaic English which we don’t even use anymore. I mean, what does Lovingkindness *really mean anyway? It escapes me how people can hold so strongly to an English translation with outdated English, perhaps they enjoy the taste of “sweeter water” in their own English language. While I can sympathize with this enjoyment, achieving insight into the original meanings of the Word of God in Old English is limited at best. Why trade the perfectly valid nuances of modern English for outdated ones in search of richer meaning when both are utilizing an emotional and relational communicative manner completely separate from the original author?

(Continued in Part 4)

The Mystique of Reading the Bible in Greek and Hebrew– Part 2

The Bible is one of those rare books in which the heart of the reader is transformed while he reads.


The things the heart did not know are added into the mix
The things the heart thought it knew are shown to be multifaceted
The things that seemed complicated become more simple
The things that seemed simplistic become deeply rooted in deeper layers
And each layer of the Bible into which the heart breeches becomes at the same time a deeper layer of the heart of the reader.
So that whatever the Reader’s heart is searching for is found here in this book, and is found to lead to richer and more beautiful realities upon which all relaity is based.
The treasure of all treasures, the source of all meaning, the wisdom of eternity strung through time.
And all of this is brought forth from the mouth of One.
Who made Himself known to all the earth in Jesus Christ,
He is the Word, the Wisdom, the Way, the Wonderful.
And He is my Savior, my Lord, my friend, my beloved.
I am His and He is mine.
He is I am
יְהוָה Ἰησοῦς Χριστός.
Jesus Christ our Lord
Amen.


– – To read the Bible honestly in any language is to dig deeply into the soul of humanity; because of this, every person who considers the intent study of the Bible must be willing to be honest with the darkest parts of himself. And he must approach it with the reverent care-filled trepidation of a man who has unsteady hands performing surgery on his loved one; perhaps an even better illustration would be a regular patient frequently returning to the operating table with a weak, sick heart, trying not to Jerk around while the Doctor performs surgery on him.

– – In this humble posture, the empty hands are filled with the riches of God’s goodness, one little piece at a time. Each piece can enrapture the reader with the warmth of solidified volcanic rock fresh from the mantle. Over time even this rock cools and the heart cools in response; it must feel His fire again. It must grow with the heat of the All-Consuming fire of God’s holiness, which is the only fire hot enough to keep the chilly emptiness of the World’s vanity at bay.

– – Such began my own “addiction” to reading God’s Word. That is the word that first came to mind: “addiction.” but it’s probably more like drinking soda all your life, and then one day you try just plain water; and it supplies all your body’s needs for replenishment of oxygen and hydrogen through the digestive system, and all without a sugar coma, or the slavish cravings for more. Soda was the “addiction.” Water has offered the freedom from that addiction, and allows the drinker to enjoy all other beverages better. And in spite of every other option being open and enjoyable, water becomes my favorite drink for as long as I live. This is more like what God’s Word is to me, in contrast to the empty philosophies and ideologies of movies, books, and stories which today’s world commandeers to assuage our soul’s deep thirst for meaning, value, purpose and identity. God’s Word is the Water of the World,  by which all who drink of it may live.

– – I live out in the country with my family in two houses and a mobile home, and we all use well water. My Grandmother’s house has a well that was dug to a dept of 100 feet, with a water softener. It’s alright, but this water tastes like a tad of sulfur, and this iron-nasal taste that when I was a kid always tasted to me like boogers. Then there’s my parent’s house where I live, the oldest of the houses. And this house, built in 1960 had a well dug in the back yard all the way down to about 200 feet. They didn’t usually drill that deep unless they had to, but I will tell you, as all others will say who have lived in my family, and as visitors with fresh taste buds attest to us: It is the best tasting, sweetest water around. No sulfur taste; no iron. Just good hard water.

– – You can gather by now one of my points: The deeper you go, the sweeter it gets. The same is true of the Bible. The English Bible translators have done a tremendous job at reconstructing the flow of meaning in another language. It is now possible to read all the way through from Genesis to Revelation the Gospel of God in a language easy to grasp! What a depth of gratitude we owe to those who have interpreted for us God’s Word. God’s blessing be upon them.

Continued in Part 3

The Mystique of Reading the Bible in Greek and Hebrew– Part 1

My Dear Readers, known and unknown,
– – I hope all had a very Merry Christmas celebration. Jesus is the reason for all the seasons and family and friends are the most precious gifts. My most prized gift I received this year is a close but definitive race between my very own blue ceramic, 12-hole, song-bird, “Ocarina of Time.” (Zelda fans will understand my glee!) and my very own black, single-bound, silver-edged, double ribbon-ed Readers Greek and Hebrew Bible! The Bible won by two words.

– – I am a student in Seminary and have learned to read, translate and exegete Hebrew. it’s a slow process, but I am gradually getting more cozy with it. I also took Greek in Seminary, but I had been translating in Greek since my Junior year in High school when my Dad taught me. As a result of studying the languages, the Word of God has opened up to me, like petals of a rose to expose the aromatic bloom of Jesus’ radiance! As Jesus said to the Religious Leaders in John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures [Old Testament] Because you think that you have life in them, but it is these that testify of Me.”

– – Some of my friends, while they confess admiration for the scholarship, don’t see any reason or feel sufficient motivation to learn the original languages of the Bible. They have expressed to me different reasonings:

  • “I don’t need it to do what God’s called me to do.”
  • “I understand the Bible fine comparing different English versions.”
  • “The English Bible I use is all I need for faith and practice and that’s good enough for me.”

These among other reasons are not bad reasons at all. In fact, I’d agree with the first reason that some people are called specifically to areas that learning to read the Bible in the original voice would be a superfluous expenditure of energy. And as for the second reason, the same way two eyes see three-dimensionally, so two or more English versions add a depth to anyone’s reading of the text. And the third reason does not have anything inherently wrong with it. they are right: understanding God’s word in a language of the heart and mind is really all one needs to be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

So, then, why learn to read one even two old languages just to read a book that is much easier to read in English? If you are a person who holds to the first reason, then by all means remain in that condition as God has specifically equipped you. If you are of the other two reasons or another and you are not sure why you would want to learn Greek and (or) Hebrew, allow me to share what I have discovered from my own personal study of the holy written Word of God in Greek and Hebrew.

Continue to Part II (I broke it up into four posts because it was getting long when I wrote it in my journal last night.)

Marks of God’s Servant

To be God’s Servant, you must give up what most people think of as living ordinarily: You do what you want and serve yourself and serve whoever you want to and enjoy life wile you have it. Such a life is utterly sinful and warrants the total death of the fruitless tree. You are a fruitless tree.

What characteristics mark the Servant of God? Well, let us look at the life of one of God’s greatest servants, through which God showed much of his own character. That was Moses. And Moses was a servant whom God raised up to do a marvelous work through, but Moses was not perfect. In many ways he was a man just like us. And yet Moses got to stand with Jesus on the mountain top in glory, with Elijah, another great servant of the Lord. What allowed Moses to be on that mountain top with Jesus, I believe, was that he had sought to see the glory of God face to face, but the Lord told him, “You shall not see my face because no one can see my face and live.” (Ex 33:20) Elijah went to the mountain of God seeking out God wanting God to give him an explanation for what was going on around him. “I’m all alone,” he said, “And they are seeking to take my life.”

I tell you one of the marks of God’s servant, is that others will seek to take his life. In the life of Moses there were two times, well, I mean there were many times that Moses’ life was in danger, but there were two times when he was threatened explicitly or on the verge of being killed. Once was after the 10th sign Moses performed for Pharoh. It was the 9th Plague of Darkness, and Pharoh said, “Don’t you dare show your face again, cause if I see you again I’ll kill you.” Moses said, “Indeed you will not see my face again.” That was the first time. The second time was after the 10th time the Israelites had tested God. It was right there at the edge of the promised land in Kadesh, in Numbers 13 and 14. The people had complained and tested God 10 times in the wilderness, and each time God disciplined them, slew them, gave them what they wanted, and Moses interceded for them. Now at last, this one final thing that the people of God were supposed to do: Go in an enter the promised land. Trust God that He is going to do it! Well, they hadn’t learned to trust God and instead they said in Numbers 14, “Let us go back to Egypt.” And they got ready to stone Moses and Aaron.

What happens next in Numbers 14 shows another mark of God’s servant. And that is God will only talk to you. He is selective of the company He keeps, and it says in the Scriptures that “He is intimate with the Upright.” in Prov 3:32. It also says in Amos that, “Surly God does NOTHING unless he first reveals his secret council to His prophets.” Ps. 25:14, “God shares his secret council with those who fear him.” Only those who fear God, those who are upright, only those whose hearts are pure can abide in His holy Hill. (Ps 15) A pure heart that seeks to know Him, and clean hands to fear Him and Obey Him.

The servant of God Moses goes in to talk to the Lord. Because of His closeness with God the people have sought to kill him, and because of his closeness with God, God will only speak his deepest feelings and thoughts with him. God tells Moses how he feels, and speaks plainly with him. It says in Exodus 33:11 that God spoke to him as one speaks to his friend.

What gave Moses the right to be God’s friend? Moses was a sinner. Moses was also more humble than any man alive. Moses knew his place with God, as humanly as he could know it. It is humility that grants you an audience before the Lord. He does not recognize the pompous or the arrogant, because they are nothing like him. He does not recognize the self-seeking, or the fool-hardy. He will not listen to the complaining, and whining of undisciplined children who aren’t getting their way, at least not without being ready to lash out with anger. If you find yourself grumbling, take heed to the warnings given in scripture. Let us not grumble as they did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. (1 Cor 10:10) It is the fear of the Lord and obedience to the Lord that is humility. Humility rightly takes its English shape from the same latin root as the English word Human. It is because humility is rightly understood as the art of being human. Jesus showed us what God is truly like– he showed us what true humanity looked like. He showed us why God doesn’t recognize the proud, and the reason is because God is nothing like that. The humility of God is shown in God’s servant. Humility is the basic shape a human must take if he is to have any sort of relationship with the God who made him in his image. Until he sloughs off his serpentine shape of a beast rearing its head up towards heaven fangs outstretched, he will not be able to bend low enough to avoid being eclipsed by the enormity of God’s magnanimity.

God talks with Moses and rescues Moses from being killed because he is His friend and he is humble. He tells Moses in Numbers 14 verse 11, “How long will this people reject me? How long will they not believe in Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?” If you look at the accounts of Exodus and Numbers at the miracles God did in their midst: 10 times, and the amount of times Israel rejected God they’re the same: 10 times. 10 is a mark of completeness in the Bible. God has completely done all the sufficient wonders to woo back his people, and Israel has completely done everything possible to reject God until now. God is just and He has borne with these people and he is finished he has it up to here: it is His holy, just, righteous character that even Pharoh recognized after the Seventh sign, that He be done with these people. He says, “I will smite them with pestilence and  and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”

This is where we see the mark of God’s Servant and that is intercession. For the very people who seek to end his life, Moses relates here and also earlier in Exodus, that he would rather that his own life be ended than for theirs to be ended. (Ex 32:32) The level of “Let me take their place.” that Moses claimed is nationwide, but God doesn’t take him up on it. He listens to his friend Moses, and pardons them, and relents in the disaster, but just as with Egypt the Firstborn generation was slain, so Israel will also suffer the consequences of their utter rejection with the death they have chosen over him. What is remarkable about the servant of God, is that he has learned to choose God over everything else. He has chosen God over himself, he has chosen God over his livelihood, he has chosen to serve God completely, so that in a moment of intercession, there is nothing between him and God. He has allied himself with the ultimate power-holder in the universe, with the humility that qualifies him to wield it, and he says, “I even choose that your people should live instead of me. I would gladly give my life, so that these people may live.”

God’s servant is not a relished or cushy position. It may sometimes mean waging your eternity for the salvation of another. But you know something, that level of “I would gladly go to Hell so that they may live eternally knowing you,” is the very spirit in which Jesus Christ came to this earth to intercede on our behalf. And it was the mercy of God that he didn’t send Moses to hell for Israel’s sins. He sent Jesus to Hell for Israel’s sins, and for the sins of the whole world. And because Hell could not contain him, he left with the keys to the grave, and told his disciples, his friends, his servants, those with whom he was closest, that I have all the authority in heaven and on earth. And whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Now we see, what only a true servant of God can see. No nominal Christian will stare this ugly truth in the face and let it reflect in his own. A Servant of God isn’t one who let’s Jesus do all the suffering for him and that’s the end of it. A true servant of God realizes that pregnant truth which Jesus told his disciples, “Remember what I told you, no servant is greater than his master.” (Jn 15:20). “If they persecute me, they will persecute you.” If they seek my life, because I am so closely resembling the one they hate from the bottom of their heart, they will seek your life because you will be so closely resembling the one they hate from the bottom of their heart. Somewhere in Nominal Christianity we got the idea that Christianity is about Christ suffering for us so we don’t have to. But Peter knew better when he said, “As Christ suffered in the flesh, You also arm yourself with the same purpose.”

The Servant of God is self-sacrificing, humbly interceding for the ones who are seeking to end his life. He is so intimate with God that he knows the Heart of God, and lets his own heart break with it. The Servant of God suffers, for the very reason Jesus suffered, “so that others may live.” The servant suffers all the harms the world has to offer natural, supernatural, internal, external, bleeding, beating, blaming, shaming, isolation, excommunication, rejection: everything we have done to God and would do to God if we sinners had the chance. The Servant of God gives the world a chance to respond to God very clearly. Either they will join him in His suffering, or they will seek in the end to kill Him by killing you.

Why would anyone want to be a servant of God? It truly is as preposterous as it sounds for someone to want to be God’s servant. That is why it takes the call of God to raise up such a person to die to self daily. But I tell you, what I have been describing so far in this short article is not something different from Christianity. God’s Servant is anyone who represents God rightly. And the only human being to do this perfectly is Jesus Christ. The Christ is the Anointed Servant of God who rules as King the way God rules. Let me ask you, What is a Christian? A Little Christ. A replica, a reproduction, a fellow anointed servant of God who rules the way God rules. Let me ask you this. How did Jesus, who rightly represented God rule? He served. How did he conquer? He gave Himself. What power did he have? Only that which flowed from the Holiness of the Spirit within him, which the Father gave him to accomplish His will.

One of the final thoughts I’ll leave you with for now about the Servant of God is something I have been hinting at this whole time, and it may be obvious once I say it. It is only God’s servants who are authorized to wield God’s power. The Holy Spirit fills the believer with power to accomplish God’s work supernaturally. If you are looking to be filled with supernatural power than become God’s servant in truth from the heart. If you want to wield God’s mighty demonstrations of healing and miracles, recognize this is your price tag. To represent Him in power, is to know Him in pain. To know Him in the power of His resurrection, is only possible through knowing the fellowship of His sufferings.

O God speed the day! Raise up true servants of God, so that the world can be reminded in living color how You look and move and feel for them. God give us servants, give us prophets, give us those with whole lives devoted to serving you in the power of Your Spirit. Give the church your benchmark for holiness, so we can know that the Kingdom of God is NOT in words but in power! Call Your people to repentance. Call your people to Obedience. Call your people to Seek you. Call your people to Faith, believing and trusting and knowing You. And Lord give us hearts utterly devoted to serving you again. And let the world be drawn to you by the light of our fires, so they may see our good works and glorify You our Father who suffers with us.

God’s Servant, It’s Time to Love God F.O.L.K.S.

To be God’s Servant, you must give up what most people think of as living ordinarily: You do what you want and serve yourself and serve whoever you want to and enjoy life wile you have it. Such a life is utterly sinful and warrants the total death of the fruitless tree. You are a fruitless tree.

So how shall God’s servant represent His God? It is in this Acronym. It is first by Fearing Him, Obeying Him, Loving Him, Knowing Him, and Seeking Him.

Love
Obey          Know
Fear                               Seek

In brief, this is what each word entails as you go up the mountain to the pinacle: Love.

 Fear— Depart from Evil (Prov. 16:6)
        Obey— Do Good (Ps 34:14)
                 Love–With all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Deut. 6:5)
        Know–Intimately share (Phil 3:10)
Seek–Turn toward, look to learn (Jer. 29:13)

Starting with the bottom of the mountain:

  • Fearing God means you recognize Him as Holy, Just, and Powerful. He is good, and that is a terrible thing for us, because we are not good. We fall so terribly short and lack so severely the glory of His Image with which we were first endowed, that we deserve nothing at all but the tormenting fires of hell, reserved for everything the bears the Evil One’s resemblance: corruption, weakness, selfishness, and sloth. Therefore, depart from evil, which receives from God the just recompense on anything unworthy and oppressive to what is good.
  • Obeying God means serving Him as your Ruler, your master, your Captain, your boss. In obeying him, you recognize your responsibility of being His image bearer on earth. He is the one you represent, therefore do as He does! He is the Sovereign lord of creation, and he has made you sovereign lord over the earth as His representative, so serve as He serves, work the ground to bring forth life the way He does. Do good to your neighbor as He does. Outwardly and temporally and definitely show the world who God is by doing the good that he commands you to do.

From the other direction:

  • Seeking God is more than just looking for Him. It is trying to find him. Seeking recognizes that God is infinite and you are finite, and so you are like a cup constantly dipping into the ocean of His eternity, but simply for the reason you want to Know Him. Seeking the Lord means turning your face upward to behold him, it means looking for Him trusting that He will reward the one who diligently seeks him. (Heb. 11:6)
  •  Knowing God means intimately sharing with God all that you are, and allowing Him to share all that He is with you. It recognizes that you are related with Him, and He wishes you to know Him, just as you wish to be known. (1 Cor 13:12) To know Him, is to be familiar with Him in relationship as a friend, as a confidant like the disciples were to Jesus while He walked among us on the earth.

At last the Summit:

  • Loving God is the final goal: It means to live for Him, where He is your everything, and everything in your inner and outer life is completely devoted to Him. Love means, you wouldn’t do anything that would be against Him. Love means that everything you do is for Him. Love means you are actively engaged in seeking Him out and pursuing Him. Love means you treasure the intimacy He shares with you with a tender and faithful heart.

All five of these dimensions are indispensable to fully representing God.
Fear acknowledges, “I am sinful.”
Obey acknowledges, “I am purposed to do good.”
Love acknowledges all these things and says, “I am Yours, You are my God.”
Know acknowledges, “I am related with Him.”
Seek acknowledges, “I am finite.”

You cannot say you love God without fearing and obeying Him. You cannot say you love God without seeking Him and knowing Him. Most of us will rise up the slope to the summit of love from one direction, but without the Moral and the Relational, without the Internal and the External, without the mind and the heart, without the soul and the strength, our love will be only one-dimensional or two-dimensional. Never will we represent our God fully as His Image bearer on earth as Jesus did.

My call is to you–you who wish to be one of God’s servants as described in Isaiah 42. Grow in the fear of the Lord, and seek Him while He may be found. Obey Him to share His work, and know Him to share His heart. Above all let it be love which crowns you with the seal of His image.

Vote 2016

A sober moment of decision
The air is thick with wisdom
Sleep deprivation clouds my broken concentration

Atrus returned to MYST to destroy
Both the Red and the Blue Books
I am the one who brought him the missing page: my page.

How is it I play this game
By someone else’s rules?
Crazy game toys with my life: will it be counted?

Humanity needs to be governed
Too irresponsible right and left
Come Righteous Judge and rule over us with Love and Truth!

The Disciple and the Tree

In response to those in the church who say the primary purpose of any disciple is to make more disciples, I have this to say:

Jesus called the church to make disciples.
Jesus did not call the church to make disciplers.

Being a discipler is totally part of being a disciple,
But there is more to a tree than the seed which bears it;
Or the seed in the fruit on the branch which stretches out
With the leaves that take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen
Shading the bark shielding the hart and the sap drawn up from the ground
Through the roots which stand the tree upright toward the heavens.

In the same way there is more to a disciple than the new convert;
Or drawing people to the gospel by the love of Christ
Which comes from humble submission to God in working as He does
Offering strength and rest to those in need, preserving the value of life in truth
Being grounded in a world from which we are inseparable, being dust
Standing upright before God for the good of all men.

There is more to being a disciple than being a discipler
Just as there is more to being a tree than a bearer of seeds.

The church must remember the tree out of which is made the cross they are called to carry.
The church must remember what it means to be fully human.
Only then will she ever properly represent the fully human Jesus Christ.

Who is the Second Adam.

How Personal is He?

There’s a post on Facebook that has been floating around for a while that I have a real issue with. This is an article about my issue with it.

The post is a cartoon drawing with two scenes. The top scene is a man on his knees praying toward the Clouds of Heaven asking, “God, please speak to me!” The next scene is a large hand reaching out of the clouds to hand him a Bible. While I get the point (if you want to know what God said, read the Bible. “G-doi!”[Little shout out to Wreck it Ralph for that one.]) I immediately reacted against it. “Oh come on! God is a lot more personal than that!”

Isn’t He?

A certain man had two sons. He was a busy man, and worked in his office with the door closed. One day, one of his sons knocked on his office door, and asked to speak with him. In response, the man slipped a piece of paper to his son that said, “I love you, son. If you have any pressing concerns read my notes I left you.” The son left and went to read his father’s notes. A little later the other son knocked and asked to speak with him. Immediately, the father swung open the door, and invited the child into the office and showed him what he was up to.

Which son did the man show more love to? Which one do you think will continue the family business when they are older?

Consider this verse: John 20:31–“These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

I learned this verse in AWANA, a program for children to learn Bible verses from an early age, based on the idea of 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to show yourself approved, a workman that needs not to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of Truth.” Though I barely understood these words as a 7 year old, I did understand the idea of Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed: AWANA. I got the Citation for completing the whole program and purchased the white gold citation ring with my name and that verse on it, as a reminder of my pledge to “rightly divide” His Word.

It was in Seminary that  this”training” came into question. I heard a professor from Wheaton, John Walton,  say these words which would shock most of my many self-proclaimed fundamentalist friends:

“The Bible was not written to us. We believe the Bible was written for us, like it’s for everyone of all times and places. But it wasn’t written to us. It wasn’t written in our language, it wasn’t written with our culture in mind or our culture in view.”

I am inclined to agree with him to a point. If the Bible was written “to” us (and for this writing, I say us representing American, technological, free people) it would have been written in English, and He probably would have used emojis. 🙂 Just saying. The Bible records two very distinct conversations: The Old Testament records God’s personal involvement and conversation with the people of Israel as a testimony to the Nations of His Goodness and unfailing love for all who would Hear His voice and keep His word; the New Testament records the conversation between Jesus Christ, the Son of God, his followers, and the people of the whole known world at that time. Even this verse in John 20:31 is written to John’s audience at his time. Just because it has been translated into English does not mean that it was written directly to “you” O ye noble English speaker.

Let me put it this way. Which is more meaningful to you: to get a letter from a friend with inside jokes and shared understandings? Or to read a letter from your dad to your older brother who are both fishermen who talk about life using fishing metaphors and you’ve never been fishing a day in your life? (A little shout out to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs for that one.) “Better is a friend who is near than a brother who is far away.” Solomon said to his son.

I’ve been deep in the languages, and submerged myself into some of the contexts of the Bible. The Word of God is so much more profound than in English: but it’s also a lot simpler than most teachers make it out to be. What really gets me fired up about this, is It’s also a lot more interpersonal than most Christians think it is, and also a lot less intrapersonal than most American Christians think Let me explain.

I have sat under teachers who have said, “You have got to have a relationship with this book.” I cringe every time, because a book can’t talk back, can’t hold you, can’t convict you, except on your terms. It’s a lot easier to tie yourself to a book than it is to stare into the face of another human being eye to eye. Especially if the book isn’t even written directly to you in the first place.

On the other hand, I have watched my fellow believers swaying to complete misappropriations and misapplications of the Biblical Text. As a result they emotionally mislead many and themselves to their own disgrace. It’s a lot easier to read whatever you want into the words of the Bible than to read it as a conversation between two other people, in which you hopefully know One of the parties very well. Or rather in which One of the two parties hopefully knows you very well.

Both of these approaches are shallow and lead to error. One sucks all the blood out of a body, the other suffers from internal bleeding. What is the answer? Is there a third way?

Yes.

Paul, suffering persecution unto the end of his life, passed the torch to his “son in the faith” Timothy saying this, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ JesusAll Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

“From whom.” I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure what Paul means here. One helpful note from translation: the “Whom” is plural! That throws out the idea of it all coming back to God teaching you, which is what I thought at first. Paul is writing a letter, so it could be he’s referring to something or someone not referred to in the text like teachers in the past, but . . . The word could be translated “who” or “what.” And directly after he says “knowing from ‘whom’ (pl) you’ve learned it he goes on to describe  the “sacred writings” of the Old Testament.

This is common sense. Interpretation is not a science; it’s an art. In electricity, energy passes from a positive electrode to a negative electrode. Interpretation is like tracing the path of the bolt of lighting between them. In communication the positive electrode is the speaker, the negative electrode is the listener. The meaning is the spark they share between them.

Many people would love to load a bunch of meaning into 2 Timothy 3:16 as the verse for the authority of the whole Bible: Old and New Testament. Paul wasn’t referring to his own letters, he was referring to the sacred writings of the Old Testament. To say he meant more than that is to set up another negative electrode with which there is no “spark.” The New Testament is gonna have to look somewhere other than this statement of Paul for its authority, which I do affirm.

Let me share my interpretation of this passage: Paul is praising Timothy for how he has grown in Bible study. This is an older man commending his follower in how well he has followed him. And when Paul is gone, Timothy will 1. Know what he’s been taught. 2. Be deeply assured in faith about it, and 3. Know the sources that it is based in.

You have read so far so kindly, let me pause for a second. Is he talking about teachers or scriptures? Both are valid interpretations. We do need multiple teachers just like we need multiple eyes to see 3-D, and two people to verify truth. The grammar of the language Paul used to write this thought to Timothy could go either way, but the usage of the words for “learning” really make it sound like he’s talking about people. Multiple teachers.

So, he goes on to continue the same thought of 1. Knowing what he’s been taught, 2. Being deeply assured in faith about it, and 3. knowing the people who taught him. 4. by discussing the sacred writings. Aha! And how do these writings function? One thing to note is that, Paul at no point of this passage does Paul refer to the Sacred writings as God’s Word to Timothy. The Old Testament served the purpose of “giving wisdom that leads to Salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

We see from this snippet of conversation why wisdom is important (because it leads to Salvation), but how do the texts give wisdom? Could it be through seeing how the spark of meaning jumps between God and His people in a specific and personal way? Is it wisdom to take a letter between two people talking about cars, and put yourself in the position of the recipient, when you have no idea what a carburetor does? Or is it more humble to say, I would rather see what the letter meant to the original recipient before trying to understand what it meant. Which way is more human and accurate?

And what about this “faith” thing? Faith is internalization of truth as reality that externally shapes your world around you. But truth that is not kept between two people is not truth. It is a man talking to himself, and you can find that in any insane asylum. Faith is like putting your weight on a rock while climbing a cliff knowing it is sturdy enough to hold your weight. Woe to those who put faith in an engine to start that has only positive electrodes distanced from the negative ones. Because such an engine will not combust with true fire.

The beauty of the divinity of the Scriptures (which is absolutely true, and attested by Jesus Himself in conversation in the book of John), is that God speaks by divine revelation communicated very humanly between at least two people. Search the Scriptures and see if you find anything that is not written or spoken from one person to the hearing of another. Hint: before you go thinking about Proverbs, remember it was largely written from a father to his son. Kings, Chronicles, Samuel? Nehemiah? Hmmmm.

All of the sacred writings of Scripture have the very breath of God in them. When God breathed in the second chapter of Genesis it was to put life into the man. If you are reading the Old Testament, and you are not feeling the life in them, perhaps it is because you’re trying to suck air through a hole in God’s cheek, instead of aligning yourself with the person on the other end of God’s breath to whom He is speaking, and feeling in that moment “the cool of the day” in Eden, “the whirlwind of the storm” in Job, “the gentle whisper” to Elijah at Mt. Horeb.

It is because of God’s breath/spirit in these passages they are profitable for teaching, exposing, improving, and training in righteousness.  Without God’s breath, they are not. Without God’s spirit they will not make the man of God fully complete to outwardly complete every good work.

Is it possible to read the Scriptures and miss God’s breath entirely? Jesus said to the religious leaders of His day, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”

Let me regather: The point I made in the beginning is God is more personal than to hide himself behind words distant or disconnected from our own hearts. The way we handle the Bible: Old and New Testaments must be human/humble acknowledging that God spoke directly to others, and we can get in on that spark if we just line up the electrodes and watch the meaning unfold. That’s where the fire is! I’ve seen it! It’s real! He is real! Not only this, but God still speaks directly to us! He still directly speaks to each one who has the ears to hear, as the Holy Spirit living within His people guiding them into all truth, especially the truth of the Holy Scriptures. But the question of this whole grappling is “How personal is He?”

You see, dear reader, one of the reasons I hate sin so much, is it blinds us to the Goodness of God. That is why the “goodness/kindness/loyalty of God leads us to repentance.” And is it in a father’s accessibility to his children that we recognize God’s own goodness, or in a father’s cold detachment through a book that once meant something and is supposed to mean something again. Whenever I have gorged myself on the empty pleasures of this world, whether food, movies, wrongful sexual stimulation, it is SO hard to see Him. And I hate that. Because when I see Him, I enjoy His likeness in all things, especially in the face of another human being. That is where the same spark exists. Love is the true fire between two faces that kiss, and don’t let anyone tell you that physical touch means nothing to love.

It is exactly my point that God’s engagement with the people of God in the Holy Scriptures is just as personal as a kiss between two lovers. He made them, breathed into his nostrils, clothed them, spoke to them, instructed them, led them, said “please” to them, shared His secrets with them, performed great miraculous wonders for them, showed Himself to them, pursued them, wanted to be pursued by them, grew angry with them, was grieved by them, disciplined them, brought them back to life, saved them out of slavery, fed them, gave them water, adopted them, taught them, fortified them, fought for them, protected them, beautified them, glorified them, and sang songs of gladness over them.  And that is just some of the things we have recorded! Then He walked among them and touched them, gave himself up for them, won the victory for them! He was their friend, their father, their God, their beloved. How much more personal can you get? Why would you think that God would be any less personally, actively involved in your life?

I think I’ll close this grappling with just one more thought. If the people of God represent God in the world, then they must pay great heed to this question. We become like the One we worship. And if we worship a God who is like a book, then the church will see itself as a book that the world can pick up and read and be saved, or a book that can be overlooked and rejected. If we worship a God who is personally, actively engaged with us in the same way He has been personally, actively engaged in the pastthen we are going to go after this world. Why? Because that’s what Jesus did. He went after the world so that the world could have life through him, not through a book. It was Jesus the people of Israel rejected, not the Scriptures. It was God’s last demonstration of His forbearance to the people who had killed all his servants and been exiled and returned enslaved: “I’ll send them my Son. Surely they will hear Him.” Let those of us, who have been entrusted with the very gates of the Kingdom of Heaven, with which little children are so familiar, not be included in this woe: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”

The Syrian Proxy War: Solution

I figured out how to end the Syrian proxy war.

  • Solution for the United States: Only attack ISIS.
  • The only way to handle a big complex problem is a small simple solution. Otherwise you only add to the problem.
  • You will either do one thing, or you will accomplish nothing.
  • You must pick one enemy to fight, and expose your side to the others in the war. You will be saying, “I am not guarding against you, because you are not my enemy.”
  • The nations who watch will be tempted to utilize your vulnerability against you, but usually trust brings out the good in people which secrecy allows to hide.
  • Pick one enemy. The world will not be fault you for attacking the same organized people who attacked Paris and your own nation, and who have behead Christians.
  • What’s more, United Sates, you must pick this one enemy which you had a part in making, because of your involvement with Iraq. ISIS is a monster you helped make. Take responsibility in destroying it.
  • Once ISIS is removed from the equation, start talks of truce.
  • Once the war is over, the Syrian refugees may return home.
  • Then you must turn your attention to your own borders and wipe out the Islamic Extremists that have infiltrated this country.
  • To not attack evil is to harm what is good.
  • To make peace when the real enemy is still at large is premature.
  • So do it, United States. Focus your attack on ISIS. Expose your side to the others. They will stay out of your way, and even if they don’t, turn the other cheek.

Happy Thanksgiving.