Tag Archives: Jesus

Where I’ve Been, lately

Welcome all, and the Lord bless you.  For some time I slowed down here while I did some training and “setting up shop” in the grants writing field.  But then I stepped back after becoming discouraged, realizing I needed to rethink my goals and strategy.  That sounds so . . . blah and businessy, doesn’t it?  But it’s actually true.  I wasn’t approaching things the right way and had to calm down about it.  Be still and know the Lord, right?  Yes, be still.  And listen.

In the meantime, during Christmas break time, I decided to go ahead and get going on an idea I’ve had for a long time.  And that is coming up with a clothes design called “Monkwear” (apparently the name has been used before since I couldn’t use that name on Twitter).  I have always had this tug on my heart, this desire that stems from sadness, that Christians should be more united.  Christ prayed for it, yet, we seem so much at odds with each other so often.  So I thought it would be neat if Christians would wear similar and humble clothes all at the same time–to show unity and to be encouraged by seeing siblings in Christ that we don’t personally know.  How much stronger would some of us be if we could only see how many really had faith, and were willing to show it (in what seems a non-confrontational way)?

Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:17

So Monkwear.  Brown simple clothes to wear one day a week or month.  I’m still working on a basic design I want to have on my version of Monkwear; I want to get it “right” and it’s daunting.  In the meantime (again), I’ve been learning GIMP and whatever else I need to know to sell designs on CafePress.  I might do another outlet later, but it’s CafePress for right now.  In case anyone is interested, I have these designs up now; there are even some “With Christian Eyes” things there.  This is not to promote my blog, since the url is not on it, but the sentiment CS Lewis wrote:

“I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

The shop at CafePress is Monkwear and The Priest’s Dabblings, and you can connect with me on Twitter if you want at MonkwearCP.   (You can sign up for deals and coupon codes, which provide significant discounts – see CafePress home page.)  Thanks SO much for reading this far, and for visiting my shop if get THAT far!  In this media-saturated age, I know how much your time and attention are worth.

Be one, Jesus prays.   From John 17:23 (V Priest design).
Be one, Jesus prays. From John 17:23 (V Priest design).
Rooted in Love; Ephesians 3:17b-19 (artwork by V. Priest [c])
Rooted in Love; Ephesians 3:17b-19 (artwork by V. Priest [c])
For Valentine's Day, or any day.  V. Priest (c)
For Valentine’s Day, or any day. V. Priest (c)
With Christian Eyes bumper sticker.
With Christian Eyes bumper sticker.
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Prophecies fulfilled, others set in motion, at Jesus’ birth

Christmas gift box icon on old paper background and pattern
A slightly altered version of a saying floating around the internet.

Christmas is such a secular holiday anymore that a person is made to feel like they’re offending someone if they unselfishly wish someone a “merry Christmas.”  Instead, it’s all about having “happy holidays” or enjoying “the season” (my Christmas cards for this year say that . . . but what “season”?  Winter?  The season of blessing retailers with books in the black?).  It’s gotten so strange that some claim that you don’t need Christ in Christmas.  That makes sense . . . nowhere.  I’m surprised that calling it simply “the giving season” hasn’t caught on, akin to the calling of Thanksgiving “turkey day.”

I’m not complaining so much as noting the secular trend, in full swing now, to eliminate Christianity from public life.  Christmas, however, gives us the opportunity to enlighten people about God’s word, possibly more than any other holiday.  When it comes to Easter, people need to accept the New Testament witness regarding Christ’s resurrection.  With Christ’s birth, however, there are prophecies from the Old Testament (or Tanakh) that are pretty clear, and, there is no good reason to think the prophecies weren’t written centuries before Jesus was born.  These prophecies are from the books of Isaiah and Micah.

First, and no doubt very familiar, is Isaiah 7:14.  With verse 13 for context:  “Then Isaiah said, ‘Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.'”  This prophecy is announced as fulfilled in Matthew 1:22-23.  Here it is in context (Matthew 1:20b-23):

“an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).”

Some critics like to point out that the word “virgin” is not specifically used in Isaiah, but, in the historical and cultural context, a young unmarried woman (a translation of the word used) meant the same thing as “virgin.”  It’s an odd criticism in any case, since, what else would God have meant?  Would an unchaste girl getting pregnant be any kind of sign from God?

Another criticism, and one without merit, is that the book of Isaiah may have been altered later.  There is no end to such criticisms of the Bible generally.  However, Isaiah is consistently viewed as ancient by scholars, even if some moderns like to imagine that it was written by two or three authors during three periods (the youngest being from about 400 BC).  More importantly, the birth prophecy is in the early part of the book, universally believed to be written in the 700s by Isaiah.  Regarding complete authenticity of the writings, a confirmation came via a Dead Sea Scroll of the entire book of Isaiah.  This scroll is from about 150-125 BC.  Having confidence in the authenticity and the ancientness of Isaiah, we can enjoy the related prophecies in Isaiah 9 (1b-2, 6-7):

“. . . in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful[,] Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.”

There is another prophecy, from Micah 5 (2 & 4), that is quoted in Matthew and is therefore considered fulfilled.  As written in Matthew 2:6:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.”

The book of Micah was written about the same time as Isaiah was.  There are more prophecies regarding Jesus Christ, of course, some fulfilled and some yet to be.  You can view some of them in a linked list at Prophecies Jesus Fulfilled.

Wishing you a warm and love-filled Christmas, I also leave you with a couple of songs for you to enjoy:

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear  (simple and traditional; Bruce Crockburn)

Oh Holy Night (Josh Groban)

Sources:  (1)  NIV Archaeological Study Bible (Zondervan 2005), pp 1055, 1115, 1477.   (2) Rational Steps to Belief in Christ

Christians are Called to Heal (Not Hurt)

Nazareth Hospital (Christian), in Nazareth, Israel
Nazareth Hospital (Christian), in Nazareth, Israel

. . . the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.  When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick (Matthew 13b-14).

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.  As you go, proclaim this message:  ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.  Freely you have received; freely give (Matthew 9:35-38, 10:1,7-8).

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

“Freely you have received: freely give,” Jesus told his disciples.  Are we not also his disciples?

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.  News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them (Matthew 4:23-24).

Jesus healed everyone.  In the passages above (and in many others), people came to Jesus because of his good news and the healing he did to back up his claims.  Jesus also commanded his disciples to go and heal, right along with his command to proclaim the good news.  We may not all have the gift of healing, or perhaps we, in reality, don’t have the faith for it.  But . . . instead of people coming to us, why are they repulsed?

Is it only because we haven’t healed someone through faith?  Why, in this country (the USA), would anyone come to us when so many “Christians” are out there loudly proclaiming that the poor don’t deserve health care (can you imagine Jesus saying that after reading all the verses about him healing the poor, the sinners)?  Why would anyone come to our churches when so many loudly proclaim that the poor shouldn’t receive health care from the government, when they can’t get it from anywhere else?  Did Jesus give us the story of the Good Samaritan (provided below as well) so we can only nod in admiration, instead of actually living it (or at least trying to)?   Did he ever say, or even hint, that a Christian’s business is somehow separate from his spiritual life (of course not – our faith and obedience come first–in fact, they are all)?

Below are many bible excerpts, but by no means all (I did not provide much cross-referencing of verses here, either), on healing.  It seems to me that Christians often gloss over these as they read.  Certainly, most don’t take them to heart like the early church did, or the later church that set up hospitals.  A forthcoming post will address the healings in Acts and how earlier Christians tended the sick who were poor, and set up hospitals.  There are still some hospitals around that are owned and operated by Christians, but cries for all those who have no health care in the USA to somehow pay today’s hospital bills on their own muffle out – like cattle stampeding over feathers – the small, quiet, and steady work of the Christians who still obey Christ’s call to heal.

Luke 10 (The Parable of the Good Samaritan)

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?”  he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Matthew 8

When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. . . .”  13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

14 When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah [53:4]:  “He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases.”

Matthew 15:30-31.   Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.  The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

Matthew 19:1-2.  When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan.  Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

Luke 13:10-13.   On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.  When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.”  When he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

Luke 18

35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”

38 He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Lord, I want to see,” he replied.

42 Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” 43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

Matthew 21:14-15.  The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them.  But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.

Matthew 12

. . . he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

15 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. 16 He warned them not to tell others about him. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

18 “Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
21 In his name the nations will put their hope.”

22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.

Mark 5 (see also Matthew 9 and Luke 8)

21When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”

36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Luke 7

11Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”

Mark 6:4-6.  Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.”  He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.  He was amazed at their lack of faith.

John 9

1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was.

Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”

But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

10 “How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.

11 He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”

12 “Where is this man?” they asked him.

“I don’t know,” he said.

13 They brought to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 Now the day on which Jesus had made the mud and opened the man’s eyes was a Sabbath. 15 Therefore the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. “He put mud on my eyes,” the man replied, “and I washed, and now I see.”

16 Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.”

But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided.

17 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.”

The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

18 They still did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight until they sent for the man’s parents. 19 “Is this your son?” they asked. “Is this the one you say was born blind? How is it that now he can see?”

20 “We know he is our son,” the parents answered, “and we know he was born blind. 21 But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who already had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue. 23 That was why his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”

27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”

30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

Matthew 13:5.  For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’

2 Kings 5

1Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.

Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekelsof gold and ten sets of clothing. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”

When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

11 But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.

13 Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14 So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

15 Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”

16 The prophet answered, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.” And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.

17 “If you will not,” said Naaman, “please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord. 18 But may the Lord forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I have to bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this.”

19 “Go in peace,” Elisha said.

___

(all passages are from the NIV 1984)

The Repentant Criminal on the Cross, Luke 23:39-43

Image from Chora Church, Istanbul, Turkey (1903; CC Flikr), modified by author.
Image from Chora Church, Istanbul, Turkey (1903; CC Flikr), modified by author.

Jesus Christ was crucified along with two other men, criminals, who, according to Matthew and Mark, insulted or mocked Him (Matthew 27:44, Mark 15:32).  But Luke provides for us a different picture–that one of these criminals was redeemed–and today I was very pleasantly surprised by a new insight on this.  Luke 23:39-43 reads:

 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”  But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?”  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.  Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

This has always been an inspiring passage, one of hope.  It also teaches, directly from the words of our Lord, that people go straight to heaven when they die (as does 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 and 1 Philippians 1:22-24, though some try to teach otherwise).  I basically hadn’t thought about it much otherwise, but then I realized today what a drastic measure of faith and spiritual knowledge the criminal showed by him when he asked, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

How did the criminal know about Jesus’ kingdom, and that He would be coming into it?  Obviously the criminal knew it was spiritual, not just physical, since they were all dying.  How did he know that?  Most of the disciples didn’t even understand all this, and for the most part, they weren’t even with the people at the crucifixion (Luke 23:49, but also see John 19:25-27).  The disciples displayed their lack of understanding after the crucifixion, so they wouldn’t have been good witnesses during the event in any case.

On the road to Emmaus they grumbled about Jesus not fulfilling what they thought He was supposed to do, until the post-Resurrection Jesus met up with them and “interpreted for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27b).  The women, too, had to try and convince Peter and the others that the Lord was resurrected . . . not dead.

Yet the criminal (can I call him something . . . Bob?) came to an astonishing understanding of Jesus’ purpose during his last hours on earth, without having been a disciple.

Of course, it was the Holy Spirit’s doing, but did the Spirit just simply give this man the spiritual knowledge all of a sudden?  How much did Criminal Bob talk with Jesus on the cross before this?  My bible note suggests that Jesus talked with  Criminal Bob.  Certainly He could have, but they couldn’t have talked much, since when a person is crucified it’s very hard to breath.  In fact, that’s the idea of crucifixion–you are caused to have excruciating pain while you force your body in a position to allow breathing.  [I do have problems with the explanation of crucifixions that claim these extreme symptoms, at least when applied to Jesus and the two criminals, simply because they are said to have talked so much!  Perhaps they had a foot support or the nail didn’t go through the medial nerve . . . I don’t know.]

However Criminal Bob came to his understanding doesn’t actually matter.  What matters is that he was a blind criminal, then he came to see before it was too late.  There is hope for anyone.  Hope and grace are continually present and active!

Christian Poems XII: Three by C.S. Lewis

The Naked Seed [1943]

My heart is empty.  All the fountains that should run
With longing, are in me
Dried up.  In all my countryside there is not one
That drips to find the sea.
I have no care for anything thy love can grant
Except the moment’s vain
And hardly noticed filling of the moment’s want
And to be free from pain.
Oh, thou that art unwearying, that dost neither sleep
Nor slumber, who didst take
All care for Lazarus in the careless tomb, oh keep
Watch for me till I wake.
If thou think for me what I cannot think, if thou
Desire for me what I
Cannot desire, my soul’s interior Form, though now
Deep-buried, will not die,
–No more than the insensible dropp’d seed which grows
Through winter ripe for birth
Because, while it forgets, the heaven remembering throws
Sweet influence still on earth,
–Because the heaven, moved moth-like by thy beauty, goes
Still turning round the earth.

——

The Apologist’s Evening Prayer [1964]

From all my lame defeats and oh! much more
From all the victories that I seemed to score;
From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf
At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;
From all my proofs of Thy divinity,
Thou, who wouldst give no signs, deliver me.

Thoughts are but coins.  Let me not trust, instead
Of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head.
From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee,
O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.
Lord of the narrow gate and the needle’s eye,
Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.

——

Dungeon Grates [1919]*

So piteously the lonely soul of man
Shudders before this universal plan,
So grievous is the burden and the pain,
So heavy weighs the long, material chain

From cause to cause, too merciless for hate,
The nightmare march of unrelenting fate,
I think that he must die thereof unless
Ever and again across the dreariness

There came a sudden glimpse of spirit faces,
A fragrant breath to tell of flowery places
And wider oceans, breaking on the shore
For which the hearts of men are always sore.

It lies beyond endeavour; neither prayer

Nor fasting, nor much wisdom winneth there,
Seeing how many prophets and wise men
Have sought for it and still returned again

With hope undone.  But only the strange power
Of unsought Beauty in some casual hour
Can build a bridge of light or sound or form
To lead you out of all this strife and storm;

When of some beauty we are grown a part
Till from its very glory’s midmost heart
Out leaps a sudden beam of larger light
Into our souls.  All things are seen aright

Amid the blinding pillar of its gold,
Seven times more true than what for truth we hold
In vulgar hours.  The miracle is done
And for one little moment we are one
With the eternal stream of loveliness
That flows so calm, aloof from all distress

Yet leaps and lives around us as a fire
Making us faint with overstrong desire
To sport and swim for ever in its deep–
Only a moment.

O! but we shall keep
Our vision still.  One moment was enough,
We know we are not made of mortal stuff.
And we can bear all trials that come after,
The hate of men and the fools loud bestial laughter
And Nature’s rule and cruelties unclean,
For we have seen the Glory–we have seen.

CS Lewis - mystery photo (modified from internet image).
CS Lewis – mystery photo (modified from internet image).

——

* This poem speaks of Lewis’ moments of “joy,” spiritual glimmers of God, prior to his actual conversion to faith.  Of the book that this poem was published in, Spirits in Bondage; A Cycle of Lyrics, in Three Parts (pp 40-42), Lewis wrote his friend Arthur Greeves “. . . nature is wholly diabolical & malevolent and that God, if he exists, is outside of and in opposition to the cosmic arrangements” (CS Lewis by B Gormley, p 61).  Stanza breaks were added by me . . . for ease of reading.

The other two poems can be found in CS Lewis: Poems (1964), pp 117 and 129.

Christian Poems XI: Eliot, and a prayer from Kierkegaard

ASH WEDNESDAY (FROM CANTO I)

By T.S. Eliot

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive toward such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And I pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

In A Sacrifice of Praise (2nd ed), James H. Trott, editor (Cumberland House 2006), 714-715.

heart2-1

___________

AT THE LORD’S TABLE

(One of seven entries in the source cited)

By Soren Kierkegaard

O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst first love us, who until the end didst love them whom Thou didst love from the beginning, who unto the end of days dost continue to love him who would belong to Thee; Thy faithfulness cannot deny itself–oh, only when a man denies Thee can he compel Thee as it were to deny him also, Thou loving One.  So be this our comfort when we must accuse ourselves of the offences we have committed and of the things we have left undone, of our weakness in temptation, unfaithfulness to Thee, to whom once in early youth and ofttimes again we promised faithfulness–this be our comfort, that even if we are unfaithful, Thou dost remain faithful, Thou canst not deny Thyself.

In The Prayers of Kierkegaard, P.D. LeFevre, editor and author (Univ of Chicago Press 1956), 120.

Lent, the Rich and Poor in Orange County, and low-income housing

 

The average prA Place at the TAbleice of a home in Orange County, CA, where we live is over $646,000 (the average for CA as a whole is over $345,000).  This simply floors me.  You cannot be low income and really live in this county, yet there are poor everywhere.  The gap between rich and poor is amazing.  There are homeless in the plazas I walk to, along the sidewalks and in McDonald’s (and there are a great many that hang out at the library a bit farther away) and some have died in these places recently.  I have more than they do, by far, and we are low income.  So what are all the wealthy here doing?  Surely many must be millionaires here for the average price of a home to be over half a million dollars.

I just got done looking over a property that we’re trying to buy through a low income housing project.  Only one unit is available, and it is farther away from where we work than I’d like . . . but seeing how the prices are only going up now, we should take it if we happen to be chosen to buy it.  Who knows how they decide that . . .  The average price for a home in the city in which it is in – though it is on the boarder of an even poorer city – is almost $426,000; if you can believe it, the average one year ago was over $100,000 less (hurrah for economic recovery???).  I think, honestly, that the price for the low income home we’re trying to get is too high.  I think the bank owns the whole property or something, and is asking “market value,” but providing loans that are not normally available.  I’ll find out tomorrow.

Anyway, I come to this after reading the short introductory chapters of A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor (by Chris Seay).  Our church is using this book this Lenten season.  I don’t know why most nondenominational Christian churches do not emphasize fasting at all.  Some will talk about it and encourage people to do it, but this is somewhat rare from my experience.  The new church we’re going to is affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church denomination. It’s not Catholic-related by any means (they emphasize Christ’s church in the world, and de-emphasize themselves, more than any church I’ve attended), but they observe Lent.  Christ fasted for 40 days before His public ministry began, and He said that His followers would fast after he ascended, so I don’t know why we don’t emphasize it more.  Anyway, reading this book and considering its messages, is humbling.

It says in here that there are 2.2 billion children in the world – and guess how many live in poverty? – almost half, 1 billion.  Also, stunningly, a child dies every 15 seconds for lack of clean water to drink.  Drink clean water and thank God for all He gives us.  The book, and our church, suggest eating simply for Lent and giving the difference of what we would normally spend on our food to the poor.  I hadn’t thought about it much yet, but I’ll see what we come up with.

“Why do Christians ‘pick and choose’ which Biblical laws to follow?”

1273151_84403885 stock.xchng ba1969I’ve seen that question asked so many times on the internet, and it surprises me that more people don’t know the answer.  But then again, I always have to check my surprise because, really, the answer isn’t taught much in churches, it seems.  I had always gone to Bible teaching churches, and the subject just doesn’t come up much (or at least it didn’t in the past).  Maybe, in a way, it just seems too obvious to pastors, but then why do people keep asking?  One law that will get a sermon now and then, since it specifically relates to non-Jews, is whether keeping the “Sabbath” “holy” is still required (this is from one of the Ten Commandments), but that specific subject is for a future post.

So what is the answer?  As so many ask, why don’t we stone homosexuals anymore?  Implying, I guess, that since we no longer stone them, then we should no longer think their actions sin anymore either.  Of course, the one action or lack thereof (capital punishment) doesn’t change what God thinks of the crime (homosexual acts); what has changed between the Old and New Testaments was the timing of judgement.  A major part of the Old Testament covers the time of the Jews, the history of the nation of Israel.  God made the nation of Israel to be a human group that was governed by God’s laws, and His specific revelations would come through Israel during that time.  They were an example that the pagan nations around them could see, and for future peoples to learn from.

But we – Christians –  are not the nation of Israel and so we don’t mete out punishments to people that sin against God.  We are to convey God’s plan of redemption to all peoples.  God’s plan is redemption, it isn’t punishment, per se.  His focus, as it was at the beginning and as it will be in the future, is for humans to have a wonderful life in fellowship with Him.  God is extending His hand to all who will accept Him during this church era, and is reserving judgement until later.  Sin is still sin.  Just because God doesn’t zap people from heaven when they sin doesn’t mean He doesn’t see it or that He has changed His mind about it.  Consider these quotes from two of the sources provided below:

The New Testament gives us further guidance about how to read the Old Testament.  Paul makes it clear in places like Romans 13:8ff that the apostles understood the Old Testament moral law to still be binding on us.  In short, the coming of Christ changed how we worship but not how we live.  The moral law is an outline of God’s own character–his integrity, love, and faithfulness. . . .   The New Testament continues to forbid killing or committing adultery, and all the sex ethic of the Old Testament is re-stated throughout the New Testament (Craig).

If we are to understand the application of the Law to ourselves, we must understand its purpose.  The law was never intended to be a permanent and full revelation of God’s mind to man but was given for the express purpose of preparing the way for Christ (Galatians 3:23-25).  Furthermore, the law given through Moses was never intended for any people except the nation of Israel (Deuteronomy 5:1-3; 6:6-7).  Thus, with the death of Christ upon the cross, this impermanent law, the Old Testament, was taken away (Colossians 2:13-17).  Now instead, God “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.”  (Hebrews 1:2; cf. Matthew 17:1-5)  One who goes back to the Old Testament and tries to be justified by it has “become estranged from Christ” (Galatians 5:4) (Sharp).

So, in response to  the original question, we don’t “pick and choose” which laws to follow, since those laws aren’t for us to enforce.  We do, however, acknowledge as sin what God tells us is sin, and we convey it to others since “the Good News” is that Jesus died for our sins.  If there was nothing for Him to die for, then obviously He died for nothing.  If people don’t or won’t recognize their sin, then they will not see why Jesus had to die for them.  So, if you don’t know what sins are or don’t think that you’ve sinned, why would you think Jesus relevant?  The gospel would be pointless.

If homosexual sins, or any other sins, are said to be forgiven and thus accepted by God, it makes a mockery of the whole actions of Christ.  Christ said to the adulteress, “go and sin no more.”  We are to strive to live sin free; to continue to live a life of sin, purposefully, is to deny Christ’s work.  It’s like saying I can go out and murder, and the whole time Christ is at my side smiling, knowing He’s got me covered.  Yes, we all sin, but the point is to recognize sin and repent of any sinful actions, so that we can have relationship with God; God will forgive the repentant, but to be unrepentant means to be unforgiven.

For a more detailed presentation of the subject, please read one or more of the sources listed below.

_______________

Sources/For Further Reading:

Craig, David.  Dr. Tim Keller on The Bible and Homosexuality – What’s the Big Deal?

Dorsey, David A.  “The Law of Moses and the Christian: A Compromise,” in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (34:3/Sept. 1991).

Sharp, Keith.  Understanding the Law.

__________________

Image from ba1969 at stock.xchng, “Bible Collage 2.”

Christian (Christmas) Poems X: Shaw, Auden, Eliot

657685 sotck.xchng juliafMARY’S SONG

By LUCI SHAW

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star
fallen to my arms.  (Rest . . .
you who have had so far
to come.)  Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly.  Quiet he lies
whose vigour hurled
a universe.  He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.
His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world.
Charmed by dove’s voices, the whisper of straw,
he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.
Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed
who overflowed all skies,
all years.
Older than eternity, now he
is new.  Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught that I might be free,
blind in my womb to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth
for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.

In The Poetic Bible, C Duriez ed. (Hendrickson Pub.s 2001), 113.

___________

AT THE MANGER MARY SINGS

By W.H. AUDEN

O shut your bright eyes that mine must endanger
With their watchfulness; protected by its shade
Escape from my care: what can you discover
From my tender look but how to be afraid?
Love can but confirm the more it would deny.
Close your bright eye.

Sleep. What have you learned from the womb that bore you
But an anxiety your Father cannot feel?
Sleep. What will the flesh that I gave do for you,
Or my mother love, but tempt you from his will?
Why was I chosen to teach his Son to weep?
Little One, sleep.

Dream. In human dreams earth ascends to Heaven
Where no one need pray nor ever feel alone.
In your first few hours of life here, O have you
Chosen already what death must be your own?
How soon will you start on the Sorrowful Way?
Dream while you may.

In The Poetic Bible, C Duriez ed. (Hendrickson Pub.s 2001), 112.

___________

JOURNEY OF THE MAGI

By T.S. ELIOT

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

In The One Year Book of Poetry, P Comfort and D Partner, compilers (Tyndale House Pub.s 1999), December 28 & 29.

Thoughts on Singing and Evolution

Cover from the “Voice of the Blood” cd, Hildegard of Bingen (from Amazon.com).

In church last weekend the thought came to me that the beauty of human singing is an example of a God given gift or virtue.  How can singing, beautiful singing, be considered a trait that evolved?  Our voices are so varied to begin with that it’s hard to think that somehow that variety evolved, but then there is also singing.  Can you imagine a chimp or ape singing?  The thought is laughable.

The theory of evolution is based on the survival of the fittest.  Surely that works at a basic level in any environment with any species.  But there are many problems with the time frame for species to actually diverge and develop (despite what basic level text books say . . . they make it sound like all is fact when it is not); and it can easily be shown that there has not been enough time for humans to have developed to their present state from their nearest assumed ancestor (for more on this, see “Science and Human Origins” Informational Review).

So besides all the other differences between us and the very small and very ape-like ancestor of ours, singing had to develop somehow, right?  As already mentioned, environment plays a factor in who lives and who does not.  But a biggy that evolutionists use is sexual selection.  I’m not writing a scientific discourse here, but am going by my past studies (I have a degree in anthropology with an emphasis on human evolution and archaeology).

Here’s an example.  Why are human female breasts so big (usually, and compared to other primates)?  Well, you can imagine the answer:  males had more sex with females with bigger breasts, producing more big-breasted females.  And you might reflect on how that answer just doesn’t seem valid based on human sexuality, that while many men find large breasts attractive, most men wouldn’t care about that when it came to the chance for sex.  And if you imagine it from a purely scientific, non-Christian viewpoint, “evolving” men probably cared even less and raped more.  At any rate, scientists may try to argue that human singing is a result of not survival of the fittest in the environment, but survival of the most reproduced based on attraction, just like the breast example.

Do you think that could be so, really?   A good singer (or any other charismatic person, for that matter), may have more sex partners – which in the past would result in more offspring.  But, considering how beautiful good singing is, wouldn’t we all be great singers by now?  Or, wouldn’t some populations have a very high per cent of great singers by now, and some have mostly lousy singers?  And, of course, this type of argument can’t account for the amazing nuances/differences of the human voice itself.

No, we were created with these traits.  Singing is often, if not always, associated with the spiritual.  I don’t mean that singing is always spiritual, but that is has always been used in spiritual contexts as far as I’m aware.  Singing is emotional, it’s often spiritual, it can induce or promote thoughts of love.   We as humans think musically and mathematically, with thoughts of the music of the spheres and the singing of angels.  This all coming from the survival of the fittest?  I don’t think so.  When we see human aggression and greed, the survival of the fittest makes sense, but when it comes to beauty like human singing, it does not.

[Edited on December 23, 2014]