Archive for March 17th, 2008

A weapon is not something to be trifled with or taken lightly. It is to be handled carefully and used purposefully. Certainly, if one is in a battle or similar situation, the weapon might be used quite often. But regardless, at all times, the weapon is to be taken seriously and recognized for its potential. It is not uncommon to hear in training for use of a weapon that one should “respect” it.

I would imagine that those sentences conjure images of some type of fire-arm in most people’s 21st-century minds. However, in the first century, there were no fire-arms, so when citing a weapon, Scripture writers never referenced an AK-47.

Hebrews 4:12 tells us:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Now granted, the applications of this metaphor* go beyond the fact that the sword is a weapon. But nonetheless, it cannot be denied that this is one of its characteristics. It is not to be taken lightly or used haphazardly.

I ran across this rather disturbing image the other day:

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This is a pretty good example of what I’m talking about. For the uninitiated, that’s Rob Bell’s mug superimposed with a Scripture passage. Were this slide used by Bell himself, his critics would be up in arms — and rightfully so — at the arrogance of using one’s own image right beside Scripture. Were this slide used by a Bell devotee, the critics would be up in arms — and rightfully so — decrying the speaker for improper elevation of a man.

But neither is the case. Here’s the image without its title blurred out.

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Just in case that doesn’t clear it up enough, this image is from a video of someone critiquing one of Bell’s Nooma videos. This slide was put together by one of Bell’s critics. Suddenly, since it’s being used to criticize Bell, the juxtaposition is now a Good Thing ™ and the video is praised on at least one the ODMs (three guesses as to which one).

Excuse me, I just threw up in my mouth a little.

* Or dare I say “contextualization”?

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04Recently I had a conversation with a friend of mine about how it irks me the way people debate over theological issues. The debate doesn’t bother me. If you can find people who don’t take the debate personal, then you can have a great conversation. Too often people get too fired up when they are discussing things. Just last week I had to call a guy and say, “I’m sorry.” And just to get this out of the way, this post has nothing to do with the person I called. I hate it when people say something like, “Well, I believe this because the Bible says it” or “I believe this way because it is the most Biblical way to view the issue.” The implied message is that if you don’t believe what it is they’re saying that somehow you–the heretic–don’t really love God on the same level that they do. You–the moron–don’t really know how to properly read your Bible.

The Baptists use this argument to prove that their way is right. Most of the time they’re even willing to use this method to denounce other Baptists, which is why you have “free will baptists” and “southern Baptists” and “independent baptists” and “regular baptists” and “American baptists.” Someone once told me that there are 138 different baptist flavors. All 138 of them are holding a line, they are opening their Bible and slamming their finger down on a verse and saying, “See, it says it right here! I am right!”

My friend seemed to want to have sympathy for me. He was also sympathetic to the view I was decrying. That is one of the things I appreciate about our conversations. We disagree and most of the time he doesn’t walk away questioning my character because we disagree. He said something to the effect of well, that’s the normal argument for that position. I told him I knew that but I get tired of the Bible being used as the final shock and awe weapon to win the battle. I just don’t believe that when God wrote this love letter He intended for us to use it as a battering ram to win arguments. Anybody can claim that what they believe is backed by the Bible. Anybody can say their way is the most Biblical way. They are the one’s defending the truth. Heck, there is an even a Blog where some one has decided to call themselves the “Keepers of Christ’s Truth.” They tell us, Right now, Truth is under attack, and much is at stake.

So I just want to get this strait: The same God who created the entire universe, who has kept the Bible preserved through countless attacks. The same God who reconciled all men to Himself through the sacrificial death, burial and resurrection of His Son needs some guy with a BLOG to defend the Truth? That’s retarded. That goes beyond any sane, reasonable train of thought. It bugs me to no end. What does this have to do with my opening?

Recently after reading a certain author I googled his name. I found this quote by a “critic” on one of the pages.

“Michael, I’m what’s called a Biblical Universalist [sic] “I didn’t just decide universalism was a nice concept (emotionalism as it is frequently described. I found it to be the truth of the Bible. My study started with trying to prove that Annihilation (the doctrine that God puts out of existence all those who reject Him) was true and Eternal Torment was false – I was more than a little surprised to discover they were both false.

Please don’t miss what he said because you disagree with what he said. He said that he believes what he believes because it is found in the Bible. He’s convinced he’s right and he has Bible verses to back him up. You’re wrong he’s right. It’s that simple. He’s just using the Bible. Now, most of the regular readers here are already thinking of verses and comebacks to prove that he’s wrong. There are some hate mongers who, if this guy’s first name was Doug and his last name rhymed with Racket or if he shared Robert Redford’s first name and the Liberty Bell’s last name, would be putting together hate posts where they would cross link to each other like West Virginia cousins in love and decry him a heretic. Why? He just believes what he believes based on the Bible?

So what? Can we not believe anything? Is everything up for grab? No, I don’t believe so, but I do have a fairly simple litmus test that I will put you through before I choose to listen to your words. That litmus test is simple really. I want to know do you have any of the following in your life?

Love

Joy

Peace

Patience

Kindness

Goodness

Faithfulness

Self Control.

Why aren’t these things listed as the litmus test of our faith. If what you are trying to tell me is of the Spirit it should have these qualities to it. If it doesn’t then it is suspect. I DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOUR DOCTRINE if you do not have these in your life. Your doctrine is as relevant to my life as the NBA.

Feel free to fight for the faith, feel free to write hit pieces about Godly men. I hope it makes you feel better. Feel free to anonymously protest me speaking at your camp and hide behind your authority. Feel free to threaten people below you. Feel free to continue not looking like Christ. It’s Ok, you don’t have to earn God’s love. He forgives you for the mistakes you made in that first marriage. You won’t cause God to love you more by being hateful. He doesn’t need you defending His truth. He did just fine before you and I were ever even a hormone inside our parents, He’ll keep doing fine long after our bodies are nothing more than dust in the bottom of a wood box encased in a cement box with six feet of dirt on our heads. Take all that energy and try to live these things out. Love the gay person who wants the legal right to get married. I dare you. Be kind to the Lesbian who wants to adopt. Be patient with all the liberals. I know, “I’m just spewing social gospel now.” But I’m telling you, you’re not going to impact me all that much without these things in your life. You won’t impact anyone. God won’t be impressed.

I guarantee you I can find someone who disagrees with most of your faith and does so because they believe they have the Bible to stand on. They’ll be willing to say that you just aren’t reading it right, or you’re interpretation is skewed. Sometimes, it cracks me up two opposing sides will be using the same verse. At the end of the day the only thing that really matters is what kind of fruit your doctrine and theology produces and everyone’s Bible says this list is fruit born of the Spirit. So I say Grace and Peace to all the Haters. Haters are on both sides of issues. I say to you, Love. Love your neighbors, love your enemies, love those more conservative than you. Love those more liberal than you. Love Barrack, and Hillary. Love McCain. Love Ken Silva and Ingrid Schluetter. Love God and Love the World. Please just don’t expect me to come running to your view because you have the Bible on your side. Please don’t expect me to give you credence because you believe your way is the most Biblical. Especially, if you’re focusing more on someone looking like you than you are on your trying to look more like this list.

Grace and Peace

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In Part I of this series, we examined Lamb Selection Day, which we Christians celebrate as Palm Sunday (though technically, since the selection happens on Sunday evening, it is actually on Monday in the Jewish calendar).

In this, Part II, we will examine some more of the traditions of Passover as practiced in the first century – in very similar manner as is done today – with the intention of examining some significant details relevant to Christianity.

Removing the Leaven

For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And whoever eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel, whether he is an alien or native-born. Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread (Exodus 12:19-20)

In Hebrew practice and tradition, on the seventh day before Passover, all families would search their houses for yeast (in some Jewish families, a paternal figure would hide bits of bread for the children to search out and find – which may have been borrowed later by Christians in ‘Easter Egg Hunts’. We do not have evidence, though, that this particular tradition was practiced in the first century). All yeast found in the houses would be brought to a central place and burned.

While the elimination of yeast was a rememberance of the Children of Israel leaving Egypt so quickly that there was not time to make bread with yeast, this elimination is also symbolic of systematic removal of all traces of sin in one’s life. Yeast is used throughout the scriptures – both the Old and New Testaments – as a symbol for sin. While it is important to always keep sin out of our lives, it is this purposeful searching that it done at Passover that seeks ALL the sources by which it may have crept into our lives. Both King Josiah (II Kings 23:1-25) and King Hezekiah (II Chronicles 29-30) took care to cleanse their entire kingdoms of the sin of idolatry as a way of preparation for Passover.

The Apostle Paul also reminds us of this need to remove the yeast from our lives at the time of Passover:

Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. (I Corinthians 5:6-8)

The Setting of the “Last Supper”

In the gospels, we read of the supper had by Jesus and his disciples in the Upper Room. This room, most likely in the Essene Quarter of the Upper City (and possibly called an “upper room” because of its location, rather than it being on the second floor of a dwelling place), would have looked nothing like DaVinci’s painting of the Last Supper. For at least 200 years prior to the Last Supper, it was customary to eat the Passover meal while reclining, and archaeological evidence supports the tradition that in the first century, this meal would have been shared around a tricilinium, a short 3-sided table arrangement with the fourth side open to allow food to be served. (This, in itself sheds a great deal of context to the Last Supper that we won’t have time for in this article.)

After going to the Temple at the end of the day to sacrifice the family lamb selected four days previously, Jesus and his disciples would have returned to the Upper Room to prepare the meal. In that year, this would have been Thursday evening. Josephus claims that 500,000 lambs were slaughtered in the Temple at Passover, though some scholars believe it have been sacrifices for 500,000 people comprising a fewer number of family units. Still a large number of lambs, nonetheless!

It is this family Passover meal that Jesus and his disciples would have celebrated on that Thursday/Friday night 2,000 years ago. Then, less than 24 hours later, Jesus would become the Passover Lamb for all of Israel (into which we Christians have been grafted, per Paul’s writing in Romans 11).

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