Friday, December 24, 2010

That's Christmas

Here is a great short film that clearly defines the holiday we call Christmas.

To all readers of my blog, may God bless you and your family this year. Seek first the kingdom of God, and remember always...

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your path straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6


Alice E. (Lisa)Guinther
Boulder, CO

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"I Forgive..."

I forgive you,

But my spirit is crushed.



I forgive you,

But my soul is scarred.



I forgive you,

But I hardly can trust.



I forgive you,

But the pain never stops.



Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life—


Really?


Job set his daughters free,

Why am I still in chains?

Monday, December 20, 2010

"I Wonder as I Wander"




I wanted to share this with you all...a traditonal American carol, sung here by the Cambridge Singers.















The lyrics are as follows:

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die,
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;

I wonder as I wander, out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow's stall,
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all.

But high from God's heaven a star's light did fall
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing,
Or all of God's angels in heav'n for to sing,

He surely could have it, 'cause he was the King.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Neighbors

I was thinking about how in our Christian walk we try hard to be a good neighbor.

My neighbors are Mexican…they are a wonderful family with many relatives that come to visit them and share celebrations for birthdays and holidays…or just to have an impromptu meal. So at times there is a real fiesta right next door.

Now my Spanish language skills are basic, I do understand more than I can speak. But that is about it.

I have had the chance to help the little daughter get ready for kindergarten for she spoke almost no English, and interact with the nephews and nieces and various cousins and entertain them with dramatic readings of “If I ran the Zoo” to an appreciative audience.

But for birthdays and holidays I have learned to expect the knock on the door inviting me to come over for some food…and not much conversation.

Or there will be a knock on the door with the offer of a plate of wonderful homemade taquitos or carne-assada and a dish of red rice…and not too spicy either.

But this time, I was just wondering what to make for dinner, and I hear the timid knock on the door…and here is a young cousin with a foil rapped package of tamales…fresh and still hot! “My mother just made these” he said.

You know, I’m the neighbor that they share God’s love with.

And I am blessed.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Avery Dulles from "The Gospels as Confessional Documents"




Jesus Himself, as He lives in the pages of the New Testament, addresses Himself to men. As I read of Him conversing with Peter or Pilate, Mary or John, I become conscious that He is also speaking to me, demanding from me the unqualified surrender of faith. This is not a mere piece of dramatic artifice, but a dreadfully serious challenge. The Evangelists themselves, and the Church through them, solemnly guarantee the reality of Christ’s call. The Gospels, therefore, confront the reader with an existential choice. Either I must accept Jesus, with His sovereign demands upon me, or I must refuse what He asks. To look upon Him with mere interest, to remain deliberately uncommitted, is in effect to reject Him. “He who does not believe shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16) p.34

From: Apologetics and the Biblical Christ. Avery Dulles (1971) Paramus, NJ: Newman Press.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Book Review: "Is God A Moral Monster?"

Well, I may be starting a trend...another book review.



This time a new book by Paul Copan entitled; Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of The Old Testament God(2011) Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI.

This is an enlightening read, and is true of all Paul’s books, well crafted and researched.

What he has done with this book is to take his studies and research in biblical studies, philosophy of religion, Christian apologetics and compile it in a logical fashion to answer the critics of Christianity. Paul puts to rest the public perception that there is a difference between the “God of the Old Testament” and Jesus’ words of love in the New Testament, “…all men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35); the seeming contradictions between the Old Testament and New that continue to plague Christianity today.

Chapter by chapter Paul addresses all the common fallacious understandings of the “New Atheists” that should have been shot down by most Christians a long time ago. Sad to say, most of these misunderstandings have been absorbed by atheists like Christopher Hitchens directly from sloppy teaching coming out of the church.

With outstanding apologetical verve, the chapters authoritatively address each of the common misunderstandings of the Old Testament…things like the “binding of Isaac”, to a more studied theological understanding of the “Kosher” food laws, to treatment of women and slaves, and finally a thorough, and to my mind, definitive look at the “massacre of the Canaanites”.

With sources like Richard Hess, Daniel Block and Mary Douglas to draw from, Paul has put to rest many of the errors of interpretation of the Old Testament still passed along today. All in all, this is a great book to strengthen any apologetics library and I recommend it for use in church classes and as supplemental textbook reading for understanding of the Old Testament.

So, you all need to order a copy! It should be avalible in stores soon, or order from Amazon, or direct from Baker Books.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sustain Me: A prayer























Lord, sustain me this day:

Not with frantic pace
or frenetic activity from which I believe I accomplish much.

But with your quiet strength,
steady pace,
calm assurance,

that you are with me.

That you guide my steps,

that you hold my hand,

and quietly whisper to me

that it is you who accomplish

Your will
in me
as i rest in You.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Friendship


~ A friend is one who needs us and one whom we need. Around us may be many whose companionships we enjoy but were they suddenly to drop out of their places there would be no soreness, no sense of deprivation, no lack of comfort. We do not need them, neither do they need us. A friend is one to whom we cling, though many leagues of space separates us. Though days pass with no sight of his face or word from his pen, we know our friend loves us and that when we meet again we will be on the same old terms. We shall begin where we left off. A friend is one in whom we can confide. The secret chambers of our soul open to his touch on the latch. Thousands imagine their friendships are numbered by scores, but if subjected to these tests every one of them would fall into the great sea of common humanity. ~ J.E. Dinger (p. 80)

Leaves of Gold, 1956


I may have many aquaintances, but few friends. Serving God is the toughest, greatest, hardest, most glorious thing I have ever decided to do. The friends that he has blessed me with are beyond anything I could have possibly imagined.

This is to my friends who cry with me, laugh with me, and pray for me; who I also pray for every day!

For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length an height an depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpassed knowledge that you may be filled up to all th fulness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:14-21

Sunday, November 7, 2010

But What About Our Minds?

It seems that in the Evangelical world today is a tendency towards the “experience”. That is what congregation has the most emotional service, to give the seeker the best in what they are looking for. I have observed that at what is commonly termed “mega-churches” wonderfully choreographed, well practiced worship teams; lights, great equipment, a full-on experience similar to a high-price rock concert.

Books that tout the emotional side of our Christian walk have been pushed on me, when I have denied having read them yet…a shocked “Oh Lisa, you simply must read this, it is life changing!”

And even to the point where I was chastised for spending too much time studying with the comment “…Lisa, you spend too much time in the books”; these words from two different pastors.

But what does the Bible say?

Matthew 22:37 “…You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good an acceptable and perfect."


How about the Old Testament:

Daniel 1:17 “And as for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom…” and verse 20 “And as for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm.”

So much seems to be written in the Bible about how God gives priority to the mind…the intellect, how we think; then how can we as Christians believe that faith is some blind “leap”? J.P. Moreland writes this;

“…Faith is now understood as a blind act of will, a decision to believe something that is that is either independent of reason or that is a simple choice to believe while ignoring the paltry lack of evidence for what is believed.”(p. 25)
If we as Christians are told (ordered?)that we should always be “…ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15)

what then does blind “faith” have to do with that? Yes we are lead by the Spirit; but like a computer, “garbage in, garbage out”. We need to give the Holy Spirit something to work with!

As J.P. writes of the true biblical definition of faith is this “…Faith is a power or skill to act in accordance with the nature of the kingdom of God, a trust in what we have reason to believe is true.” (p. 25) Faith and reason go hand in hand.

But don’t take my word for it, read the Bible…

You can listen to a lecture by J.P. Moreland on this subject here… and click on the lecture "Apologetics Seminar (intro by Ronald Larson)or read his book “Love Your God With All Your Mind” (1997) Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Prayer



















This prayer was sent to me by my friend Dorle.


May the Father of Life pour out His grace on you;
May you feel His hand in everything you do,
And be strengthened by the things He brings you through;
This is my prayer for you.

May the Son of God be Lord in all your ways;
May He shepherd you the length of all you days,
And in your heart may He receive the praise;
This is my prayer for you.

And despite how simple it may sound,
I pray that His grace will abound,
And motivate everything you do;
And may the fullness of His love be shared through you.

May His Spirit comfort you, and make you strong,
May He discipline you gently when you’re wrong,
And in your heart may He give you a song:
This is my prayer for you.

May Jesus be Lord in all your ways,
May He shepherd you the length of all your days,
And in your heart my He receive the praise:

This is my prayer for you, my prayer for you.


Dorle, Happy Birthday and may God richly bless your special day...have fun singing in the choir!

"Ich danke dir dafür, daß ich wunderbar gemacht bin; wunderbar sind deine Werke, und das erkennt meine Seele wohl."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What Did Jeremiah Recall?

If you are a student of your Bible and have read it cover to cover, you know from the history of Israel, the time of Jeremiah the prophet and his cry against Judah warning of the judgment of God against them for their apostasy. Along with Isaiah and the other prophets, he warned of the calamities coming.

Then in Jeremiah’s writings we have The Lamentations of Jeremiah where his woe pours out over the condition of Jerusalem and how the whole of the nation is now crushed. He also laments over his own personal suffering as a servant of God.

Jeremiah writes this:

I have become a laughingstock to all my people, their mocking song all the day. He has filled me with bitterness, He has make me drunk with wormwood. And He has broken my teeth with gravel; He has made me cower in the dust. And my soul has been rejected from peace; I have forgotten happiness. So I say, “My strength has perished, and so has my hope from the Lord.” Remembering my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. (Lamentations 3: 14-20)

Think just a moment of the horrendous trials faced by the prophet in trying to be obedient to God…slapped, beaten, put in stocks, thrown in jail, and left to die in a cistern, and finally dragged against his will to Egypt; the very place God told his people not to go…So Jeremiah and the people of God are suffering together.

But read the next verses:

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope, the lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail, they are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I have hope in Him. (vv 21-24)

What was he recalling to his mind?

Was he recalling the writings of Moses and the Exodus of God delivering the Children of Israel from over 400 years of slavery?

Was he recalling the wanderings in the wilderness? How God cared for those people, taught them, and led them into the Promised Land?

Or did he recall prophesy given to him by God showing him the future and the “New Covenant” where God would finally put his laws within his chosen people. (Jeremiah 31:33-34) Did he know and understand the writings of Isaiah and his prophesy regarding God’s “suffering servant” taking the iniquity of the people on Himself?(Isaiah 53) The true deliverance of God’s people by the shed blood of the Lamb slain since the foundation of the world; God’s own Son to take away the sin of the world.

As my own world seems to be turning to ashes around me, can I look to the fulfilled prophesy in the Bible; seen by Jeremiah, Isaiah, and all the other saints of old who saw the coming Messiah; our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…and in the midst of all the chaos…Rejoice.

When my heart was embittered, and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before Thee. Nevertheless I am continually with Thee; Thou hast taken hold of my right hand. With thy counsel Thou wilt guide me, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from Thee will perish; Thou hast destroyed all those who are unfaithful to Thee. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Thy works. Psalm 73: 21-28

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ahh..."To be or not to be"...must be Maya

While traveling around town, I have noticed the interesting influence of “Eastern” philosophy in the reactions of people around me. With the school of thought that embraces the experiential and rejects rational thinking; that we should strive for unity with the Universe or the universal One-ness.

We rational Westerners need to let go; you know give up on the logical and rational and realize that all that is around us is merely ‘Maya’…Illusion and transitory. All should embrace non-logical forms of thinking (or non-thinking) and allow the “self” to merge with the un-differentiated ONE.


So it does not surprise me when driving down the road I see the SUV at the stop sign; the driver looks my way, then blissfully pulls out and crosses the road in front of me. So this must be an acknowledgement of embracing the contradiction...I am both there and not there.

Maybe next time I will try the same experiment and not use my brakes!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Book review: "Sex, Lies, and the Truth"

Here's a first for me, I am posing a book review of the new book by an acquaintance of mine; Linda Belleville.

Although she and I have not yet met, we have over the last couple of years exchanged emails, and she is responsible for directing me to study at Colorado Christian University...where I am now officially a Junior. (Thanks Linda!)



I want to recommend her new book "Sex, Lies, and the Truth: Developing a Christian Ethic in a Post Christian Society" (2010) Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock.

This is a short, concise book that addresses all the common fallacies of the 21st century “Postmodern” world and the sexual excesses overlooked and accepted in daily live that are in conflict with biblical Christianity.

So many times in this society we tend to divorce ourselves from the commonalities between the “ancient” world and the modern world. Truth be told; there is ‘nothing new under the sun” and Linda makes this abundantly clear. There is no way to water it down…the same sins that faced the Old Testament, late Roman Empire, and today’s “Postmodern” world are common to us as they were in the days of Moses. The teachings of the Apostle Paul are as relevant to the church at Corinth as our own church down the block. Sexual immorality is as destructive today as then.

We as Christians have to draw the line “in the sand” and maintain the prepositional truths of the Bible. Catchy phrases as “relevance” or “relational” are no excuse for accepting the “majority rule.” The loss of biblical mandates of celibacy before marriage, and allowing for same sex marriage as well as male/female hierarchical dominance leads to unhealthy/ unbiblical relationships…all detrimental to the health of the “Body of Christ.” To allow or turn a blind eye to immorality is to “proof text” or twist the truth of God word to suit our own personal agendas.

Linda Belleville has done an excellent job of condensing many years of hard work into a concise book that hits home. This is a book I would highly recommend to add to your collection; and to pass on to friends with questions about sexuality in today’s over-stimulated world.

The Wipf & Stock link is here

The link on Amazon is here

I also posted this review on Amazon.

Friday, October 1, 2010

"...You, Too, Caesar.

Well, I am starting to feel much better...many thanks to all who prayed.

Today while I was reading my inbox, I received this dynamite blog post from American Vision. The breakdown of this exchange of Jesus with the Pharisee's is well known; but the presentation of the historical context is first rate! I am sharing the post by Joel McDurmon. You can read the original post here.


RENDER UNTO GOD WHAT IS GOD’S. YOU, TOO, CAESAR.

Written by Joel McDurmon on Oct 01, 2010 06:00 am

Most people who refer use the phrase “render unto Caesar” don’t consider the biblical account in its context—either its biblical context, or historical context. This causes considerable misunderstanding and confusion about the issue of legitimate Authority among Christians.

The Context

The confrontation (Matt. 22:15–22) takes place in the setting of a larger narrative about Jesus’ triumphal ascent to Jerusalem (Matt 21:1–23:39). As soon as he gets there he enters the temple “and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” but you make it a den of robbers’” (Matt. 21:12–13). And the very next interaction he has in each of the synoptic Gospels is that the Chief Priests and the elders (most likely Pharisees) meet him walking in the temple and demand to see His badge: “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” He confounds them with His own question and gets out of the situation.
So here’s Guy who allows Himself to be worshipped as He enters Jerusalem, He enters riding on a donkey indicating the fulfillment of a messianic prophecy, receiving the appellative “Son of David,” by force driving out the moneychangers, et al, and healing people in the temple. The Jewish leaders had been watching Him and these things He did for some time—they had been sending out delegations to inquire about this fringe messianic activity as early as John the Baptist (John 1:19, 24)—so the priests and elders knew very well about Jesus and how powerful He was.
And yet, as the blindness of pride would have it, they stood before Him demanding He give an account of His authority to them.

Of course, this implies that they had the authority to demand that accounting. And there is some legitimacy to their demand, since they did hold the offices of the Priesthood and of Moses seat, which Jesus himself later recognizes right before he scolds their hypocrisy in Matthew 23. But they had not, could not, see that Jesus was the True High Priest and the True Shepherd of Israel. And thus, they stood at loggerheads (temporarily anyway) over the issues of Sovereignty and Authority.
The whole narrative in which this story sits deals with this theme of the greater authority of heaven versus earthly authority, and the inability of the Jews to tell the difference. This is the very issue Jesus uses to confound the temple leaders when they ask Him about His authority. But the issue is that heaven has authority which man does not; man’s authorization pales in comparison to God’s. The episode and some attendant parables stung these leaders, and they began to plot, particularly the Pharisees, on how they might “entangle him in his words.” (This concept and very word “entangle” or “snare” is used throughout Proverbs in relation to the words or lips or mouth of the wicked and the fool.)

The Tax Plot

It is with great irony that when they take their first shot—which is this question about Caesar’s tax—that they set up a dichotomy between heavenly authority and earthly authority. Where had they learned that tactic, I wonder? It’s as if they counseled together trying to find a way to trick and trap him intellectually, and finally decided, “Hey, let’s use the same trick against Him that He used against us.”
Their sole aim, however, was to discredit him. The Pharisees were a popular movement, by which I mean a movement aimed at the lay people. They were a combination religious and political movement among the people. When the people turned in masses to follow Jesus, and He then confounded the Pharisees, the Pharisees began to lose their audience. In fact, three times this larger narrative emphasizes the fact that they were jealous of Jesus’ popularity and yet could not answer Him or arrest Him because they feared the people. So they plotted, partly out of revenge because He has bested them once publically, but mainly because He had encroached on their turf—stealing their audience, their thunder—so they felt.
So they apply the trick: “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

Notice a few things here: First, they set up the question by characterizing Jesus as one faithful to God only, and who is not a respecter of persons. “Not swayed by appearances” in the KJV is, “regardest not the person of men”; the literal text is “you do not look into the face of men.” I believe this is a direct reference to Leviticus 19:15:

“Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect [receive, cp. Luke 20:20] the person [“face” in Hebrew and LXX] of the poor, nor honour the person [face] of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.”

Most of the commentators seem to think the leaders’ approach to Jesus is mere flattery, as if this country bumpkin from Galilee who receives praise from the people will fall prey to false praise. But this is not the case—He has already outwitted them once—He is no shallow praise-seeker, and they know this by now. They were not trying flatter Him; they were trying to trap Him with God’s Word, as if they said, “You truly serve God only and refuse to bow to any man. Therefore, is it right to give tribute to Caesar?” If the way of God says do not respect persons whether small or mighty, then is it right to pay respect in the form of giving or paying tax to mighty Caesar who is a man? This is the nature of the challenge.
Second, notice they asked a legal question, “Is it lawful….” The word itself leaves it unclear whether they meant Roman law or God’s law, but since it was already Roman law to pay the tax, the question certainly aimed at the law of “the way of God.” The question, again, and the Greek [exestin; cp. exousia, Matt. 21:23] makes it clear that the issue is one of fundamental authority. Does Caesar have legitimate authority to demand tribute? Do we have authority from God to pay to Caesar?
Thirdly, the reference is not to “taxes” in general as so many of the translations have it, but to a particular tax called the kānsos—a Greek version of a Latin word we translate as census. This had nothing to do with sales taxes, duties, commerce or business taxes, or travel tolls, etc. This particularly had to do with the “poll tax” or “head tax” which was based on a census of the people and had to be paid on all persons including women and slaves. And by law it had to be paid by means of Roman coinage.

The Message of the Coin

Jesus responded immediately by calling them hypocrites, obviously because they were hardly sincere in asking. Luke (20:23) refers to their panourgia, meaning something like willingness “to do anything.” The Herodians, especially, played the hypocrites, for they were of the party that supported one of the most ruthless tax collectors in Judean history, Herod. Herod the Great had so heavily taxed the Jewish people that Caesar himself demanded Herod lower taxes in the region. Herod refused, and so Caesar called for a census to be taken in the realm. It is this enrollment of the people, likely, that appears in the story of Jesus birth (Luke 2:1–7).

The trap of the question is well understood, I think: If Jesus said “No” He could be in trouble with the Roman authorities for encouraging tax evasion and treason against Caesar; if Jesus said “Yes” He would certainly lose the support of the people who saw Him as a Messiah against Roman occupation. Either way, the Pharisees and Herodians would win; so they asked; and the implication is “Speak into this microphone when you answer.” They wanted everyone to hear.

Since the census had to be paid by Roman coinage, Jesus asked to be shown that particular money—the “tribute money” or literally, “the money of the census.” And they brought Him such a Roman coin: a “denarius.”

“Whose likeness and inscription is this?”

They knew already they were in trouble. Jesus simply didn’t throw around the “image” or “likeness” casually. In fact, it only appears in all of the Gospels in their accounts of this story. Why so sparse? Because it is a technical term, a term that has a very specific place in the Jewish religion: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Ex. 20:4).

Jesus also specifically made them note the inscription on the coin. This was perhaps more damning the image. The denarius itself—most likely a coin from the current Emperor—carried not only his image but an inscription that read TIBERIUS CAESAR DIVI AGUSTI FILIUS AGUSTUS (“Tiberius Caesar August Son of the August God”), and the back side continued PONTIFEX MAXIMUS (“High Priest”). If this was not a graven image of a false god, nothing is. And Jesus made it a point to enter these facts into the record.

The Currency of Idolatry

Keep in mind, this confrontation begins all the way back in Matt. 21:23 and is taking place in the temple. There was a particular taboo about having the idols in the temple itself. Had not Israel been sent into exile for such infractions? Why did these holy men of Israel, Pharisees and Herodians, now have idols in the temple? Why were they so readily able to produce a denarius when Jesus asked? Hypocrites indeed!
This hit the Pharisees acutely in that they prided themselves in purity and separation from non-biblical practices. A real poke at their bid for popularity, that!—look everyone, the “Pure” “Holy” Pharisees are carrying false gods through their own Temple! By the way, did you say you wanted me to speak into the microphone?
Jesus could have had some real fun here at the expense particularly of the Sadducees (surely close by, as they feature in the next confrontation) who were the Chief Priests of the Temple, including the High Priest. What are you doing carrying a coin around the Temple which bears an inscription that calls Caesar the “High Priest”? You are supposed to be God’s High Priest! Since when did you abdicate your office for the pagan ruler?

And it was certainly not an isolated incident, all of the people carried Roman coinage every day. For example, the Temple itself had a yearly head tax that all Jews had to pay, and it was a half-shekel of silver. But they were forbidden to pay that tax with Roman coins. This is why there were moneychangers in the Temple to begin with. They had a virtual monopoly on special silver coins that were acceptable to pay the Temple tax; and as with any monopoly, you can understand how high the exchange was: these guys were extorting people for specialized coinage which they had to have. This is why Jesus called them robbers: they were literally extorting the people. As they were engaged in a forced exchange, they grew rich in terms of Roman coins.

You can imagine, then, that they had tables and bags filled with Roman denarii throughout the Temple courts. In fact, the moneychangers all wore one of these coins in their ear as a mark of their trade. [They have ears but can’t hear (because of their idols)!] You can image that passers-by and pilgrims to the Temple saw plenty of display of these images right there in the Temple itself. You can imagine, also, that as Jesus overturned the chairs and tables and poured out the money, that the streets rang with sound of silver pings and clangs as coins rolled down the stone pavements. [Some (Caesar’s) heads are gonna roll!]

The entire Jewish civilization had given in to the usage of idolatrous Roman coins. Roman currency was the basis of their commerce. They had thus, despite whatever idolatry they judged to be involved, accepted the social benefit of Caesar’s rule, and thus legitimized it.

Thus, the only answer Jesus’ opponents could give was “Caesar’s.” Not only did the bare facts of the coin itself require this answer, obviously, but it also related to the total dominance over political and economic life throughout the Jewish culture. The coining of money is a symbol of power. The acceptance of that money as common currency is submission on the part of the people to that power. (This does not address the issue of legal tender.)

“Is it lawful?” “Why are you asking? You already do it all day every day.”

Payback Time

But now that Jesus had them in the headlights, He fired the fatal shot: “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Important here in Jesus’ answer is the verb: “render.” The opponents had worded the question wrongly: Is it lawful to “give” or to “pay”? The word is different. The Pharisees’ word is didomi “give”; Jesus says not “give” but apodidomi “give back” or “pay up.” It is a term used for paying what is due to someone, or what belongs to them to begin with. This was an acknowledgement of several things, all of which would have angered the Jews to have to admit: 1) Caesar owns the coin, it is His; 2) the usage of Caesar’s property to your own benefit implies your debt to him to the extent that you do; and 3) Caesar’s enforcement of the recalling of this money (the tax itself) meant that the Jewish people were not free as they pretended, but under foreign bondage still (a clear implication that God’s judgment was still upon them).
They profited by the means, so they had no right to refuse the tax on the means on economic grounds. They enjoyed the order of the Roman Empire, so they had no right to refuse on political grounds. They carried his money right into their own Temple despite the implications, so they had no right to refuse on theological grounds (at least not without repentance).[1] So the Pharisees stood before Jesus and before the crowds, themselves entangled by His words: “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”

The Greater Debt

But, also, render “to God the things that are God’s.”
What most commentators miss or ignore here is that Jesus implies a clear argument a fortiori from the lesser to the greater—if it is true for the lesser case of the man Caesar, how much more true is it for the Greater. If Caesar has authority to demand payment, how much more authority does God have? Instead of this, most commentators see something more of a dichotomy between the two instead of a hierarchy. The State has authority over here, and God has authority over there (your thoughts, emotions, and energies).

But this is not the point, for at least two very outstanding reasons: the image and the inscription. These are the two things to which Jesus called attention in regard to the coin. They are both overtly theological concepts.

We have already mentioned the idea of image in regard to the commandment against graven images. Why was this a commandment? Man is to make no graven image of any living thing, and certainly nothing to be used in reference to divinity. Why not? Because the creation of living things is the exclusive Province of God; and the placing His image is the exclusive Province of God. The man who creates images in this way is both demeaning God Himself through the inadequate representation, and himself attempting the play the part of God by being the Creator and the Image-giver.
In contrast, God is the one who places His image: He places it on man; or more properly, He creates man in His image and likeness. All men bear this image.

The same is true with God’s inscription. We bear His Word written on our hearts, though the fall had some consequence on that. Paul indicates this is true even of the natural man (Rom. 2:14–15). This was especially true of the Pharisees: they literally wore the word of God on their heads and the arms. This appears in Matt. 23:5, when Jesus criticizes them for making “broad their phylacteries.” A phylactery is a small box in which is kept small parchments of Scripture (Ex. 13:1–10; Deut. 6:4–9; 11:13–21). Some of the Jews took the command literally: “these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes…” (Deut. 6:6, 8). So they literally wore that section of Scripture in a small box on their forehead, between their eyes, and on their forearm like a wristwatch. The Pharisees went over the top in this regard, using larger boxes than everyone else to show how much more eager they were to recall God’s Word.

This was true yet even more relevant to the priests: the High Priest wore a golden plate on his hat that read HOLINESS TO THE LORD (Ex. 28:36). He as well literally bore the inscription of God as representative of the entire people of God.
So literally, outwardly, whose inscription was on these guys? I think the theological implications of both the image and the inscription would have been obvious to everyone listening. The impact of the lesson would have nearly made the Pharisees a laughingstock among the people. Yet it would have been a stark wake-up call to everyone listening.

Yes, the people had something of a legitimate debt to Caesar, but Jesus’ lesson was a far cry from saying that the authority of the State is separate or removed in some way from the authority of God, or that we must wait until the end of time until the State comes under God’s authority and judgment. The lesson here is much more challenging, much more comprehensive.

The lesson is, more fully, that all men bear God’s image and God’s inscription. We are all God’s coinage. We all belong wholly to God. All men must “render to God what is God’s.” All men. The Pharisees, Sadducees, the Herods, the masses, and even Caesar himself. Caesar has as much obligation to “render unto God”—bow and submit to God—as everyone else. He as has much obligation to love his neighbors and to obey God’s law as everyone else. He is not a god or a high priest, he is not the source of law and providence; he, like all men, is a man subject to God Almighty’s providence, and God’ Law, and God’s High Priest, Jesus Christ. He has as much obligation to obey; in fact, he has a greater obligation to obey because he represents multiple people in a public office.

Render unto God. All of Jesus listeners would not only have understood the concepts involved, they would have immediately understood the theological nature of the idea of rendering to God. It appeared throughout the psalms of the Jewish worship:
“My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay [render; same Greek word] my vows before them that fear him” (Ps. 22:25).

“Thy vows are upon me, O God: I will render praises unto thee” (Ps. 56:12).
“I will go into thy house with burnt offerings: I will pay [render] thee my vows” (Ps. 66:13 KJV).

“Vow, and pay [render] unto the LORD your God” (Ps. 76:11 KJV).

“I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people (Ps. 116:18).

It even appeared in the Levitical law: where the Levites were set apart for Temple service, they were presented before the High Priest and “offered” or “rendered” unto God as an offering (Lev. 8:13). Their whole persons were rendered unto God.

Authority, Loyalty, and Freedom

Man is free, because God made him that way. Man is not free to the extent that he does render all to God; and societies are in bondage to that same extent. Therefore, where human institutions infringe upon God’s law, you have a decision about loyalty to competing authorities. We must obey God and not men, even to death if necessary in necessary matters. Yet we can denounce and resist tyranny in other matters as an expression of our loyalty to God, and of the proper place of human governments.
It is not improper, therefore, for other men to call Caesar to be accountable before God. And, it should not be considered unlawful for other men to refuse either to use or to accept as payment any particular currency, no matter what human image or inscription is upon it. We must resist tyranny, though never through violent revolution, and there are many non-violent ways to do so.

By what Authority do you do these things? What believer in God ever truly has to question about Authority?

“The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Ps. 24:1). God says, “[E]very beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all it contains” (Psa. 50:9–12).

Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, sure. But render unto God what is God’s.

Recommended sources:
R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007)
Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 287–289.
Gary North, Priorities and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Matthew (online edition).
Samuel Sandmel, Judaism and Christian Beginnings (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 154–167.
Ethelbert Stauffer, Christ and the Caesars: Historical Sketches, trans. K. and R. Gregor Smith (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1955)
Endnotes:
1. See Stauffer, 130–131.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Time out

I am going to take a break this week...I am un-well and need to rest.

I would appreciate your prayers.

Lisa

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Deposed Royalty

The sermon today highlighted the visit our pastor had in the country of Rwanda, and after hearing some of the stories of that country after the horrid genocide and some of the stories of the healing going on throughout that small country, I am revisiting this particular post from last year were I wrote on  the dichotomy of humanity...the greatness and vileness as pointed out by Blase Pascal.
It is dangerous to explain too clearly to man how like he is to the animals without pointing out his greatness. It is also dangerous to make too much of his greatness without his vileness. It is still more dangerous to leave him in ignorance of both, but it is most valuable to represent both to him. Man must not be allowed to believe that he is equal either to animals or to angels, nor to be unaware of either, but he must know both. (Pensee’s 121/418)

There is an amazing greatness in humanity, yet there is also an utter depravity. We so clearly have the capacity for astounding creativity; in the arts—musical and visual; painting and sculpture; don’t forget the sciences—Physics and Biology, and of course Philosophy…all in all the level of our inventiveness is astounding.

Yet the study of history shows over the millennial the horrid level of depravity we have inflicted on our fellow man. The wars and slavery, subjugation and tyranny; the slaughter of innocents and genocide…horrid massacres of fellow human beings for no other reason that they did not fit the majority’s measure of worth.

Societies have created systems of worship based on gods that are merely mega-humanity in an effort to give the general populace something to hold to…but to no avail. Only a God that is above; infinite yet personal can be the source of absolutes mankind can seek for true salvation.

Frances Schaeffer writes of the strength of the Christian world view this way:

This strength rested on God’s being an infinite-personal God and his speaking in the Old Testament, in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ…He had spoken in ways people could understand, Thus the Christians not only had knowledge about the universe and mankind the people cannot find out by themselves, but they had absolute, universal values by which to live...(p. 22)


The Apostle Paul points out in Romans 1:20 that God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen…But instead we make images of the creation and worship them rather than giving worship to the Creator. In today’s world we turn the nurture given to children by their parents into nothing more than behavior necessary for survival.

And on the other end of the spectrum, we take the Judeo/Christian ideals this country was founded on and change them into a evolutionary change pointing to man as the measure of all things…humanity is passing up into a higher level of existence.

Yet in any thorough study of history it is plain to see the depravity of ages gone by is mirrored in daily life of the 21st century. There has merely been a change in the technology. Man is as fallen today as he was during the Roman Empire.

Yet what of the horror we inflict upon each other…And what of the sacrifices and blessings given to some? How do we reconcile these differences?

As Blase Pascal writes:

What sort of freak then is man? How novel, how monstrous, how chaotic, how paradoxical, how prodigious! Judge of all things, feeble earthworm, repository of truth, sink of doubt and error, glory and refuse of the universe! (Pensee’s 131/434)

Can we see the imago Dei in people? The very image and likeness of God in the humanity around us…but also can we recognize the fallen-ness in ourselves and others. Were it not for the grace given to us by God for our salvation…this is what we are called to give to one another

Grace.

But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 6:44)

Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)




Peter Kreeft(1993) Christianity for Modern Pagans: Pascal’s Pensees. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press

Frances Schaeffer (1976) How Should We Then Live. Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

What is Prayer?

What is prayer?

My old Webster’s New World Dictionary dated 1957, defines it this way; “To implore; beseech; entreat… An earnest request; entreaty; supplication…humble entreaty addressed to God.”

When I was growing up we always said stuff that I was told was prayer; for example we always said the “Lord’s Prayer” during the service. But most of the time we listened to someone read words from a paper supposedly for me and for everyone in the congregation…my mind would wander and I’d sneak peeks at what my brother was doing, as I fidgeted on the other side of mom.

As I got older, I knew that I should pray to God for myself and for others. But the hardest thing for me to do was to string more than 10 minutes together to God…I’d lie in the bed, try to pray and generally fall asleep.

But as I studied scripture, something began to happen; I began to care more and more for others and for God. It began to be not an obligation or chore; but a joy, a love, and a privilege to pray. I knew that the people that I am asked to pray for (or are just on “my list”) may not be able to ask God for help “right now”; so they need me to intercede for them. And I know the comfort that it brings me to know someone is praying for me if I ask.

But maybe I should explain my “prayer time”…yes, I do what may be considered “formal” prayers…but for the most part, it is a fairly one way conversation with God. I have come to the place of having confidence in being in God’s presence. I have trust that he hears me, and is “here” when I am praying. So I simply talk to him; knowing he won’t get tired of listening to me (um…he’s the only one!) as I ask for help, listen to my gripes, try to figure out my homework, and pour out my pain or sorrows. Then when I begin to “lift up” the needs of those who have problems, pain, sickness; something begins to change in me—my own needs aren’t so pressing anymore. And even if my needs seem unresolved; I cry out for God to have mercy on all of us trying to keep to his path in this fallen world. The more time I spend in God’s presence, shows to me my own sinfulness…I pass beyond my asking for help to humility that the Creator of the Universe is listening to me…that is where I can only ask for mercy.

That is where the insights are. That is where God meets me, as I fall at his feet in humility.

And that is where my listening begins. This is the joy of prayer, that if I am at the bottom of a muddy pit, I reach up my hand to God in faith; I feel him grasp my hand to pull me out…that is when I turn and reach back to those I know are still in the pit; to help pull them out.

That is what it means to me to pray…for my needs and for the needs of others.

O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me. Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up; Thou dost understand my thought from afar. Thou dost scrutinize my path and my lying down, and art intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, Thou dost know it all. Thou hast enclosed me behind and before, and laid thy hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it. (Psalm 139:1-6)

But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. And when you are praying do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. There fore do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him. ( Matthew 6:6-8)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

More from "Confessions"

How great was your love for us, good father, for you did not even spare your own son, but gave him up to save us sinners! How great was your love for us, when it was for us the Christ, who did not see, in the rank of Godhead, a prize to be coveted, accepted an obedience which brought him to death, death on the cross! He who alone was free among the dead for he was free to lay down his life and free to take it up again, was for us both Victor and Victim in your sight, and it was because he was the Victim that he was also the Victor. In your sight he was for us both Priest and Sacrifice, and it was because he was the Sacrifice that he was also the Priest. By being your Son, yet serving you, he freed us from servitude and made us your sons. Rightly do I place in him my firm hope that you will cure all my ills through him who sits at your right hand and pleads for us; other wise I should despair. For my ills are many and great, many and great indeed; but your medicine is greater still. We might have thought that your Word was far distant from union with man, and so we might have despaired of ourselves, if he had not been made flesh and come to dwell among us. Terrified by my sins and the dead weight of my misery, I had turned my problems over in my mind and was half determined to seek refuge in the desert. But you forbade me to do this and gave me strength by saying : Christ died for us all, so that being alive should no longer mean living with our own life, but with his life who died for us. Lord, I cast all my troubles on you and from now on I shall contemplate the wonders of your law. You know how weak I am and how inadequate is my knowledge: teach me and heal my frailty. Your only Son, in whom the whole treasury of wisdom and knowledge is stored up, has redeemed me with his blood. Save me from the scorn of my enemies, for the price of my redemption is always in my thoughts, I eat is and drink it and minister it to others; and as one of the poor I long to be filled with it, to be one of those who eat and have their fill. And those who look for the Lord will cry out in praise of him.

St Augustine Confessions Book X Chapter 43 (pp 251-251)
R.S. Pine-Coffin (1961) Middlesex, England; Penguin Classics.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Orpheus in the Underworld?

My father and step-mother are huge musical performance fans; symphony orchestra, music festivals, you get the idea. Every year they attend the opera. In fact my first encounter with a live operatic performance was when their usual friend could not attend…and I had a wonderful experience.

This year they again had tickets for the several performances during the summer where they meet their friends, have a picnic dinner, and then attend the opera.

About two weeks went by before we had a chance to enjoy a dinner together to catch up on what we’ve been doing. While chatting, my step-mother brought me up to speed on how they enjoyed the last several opera performances.

The first opera they had attended this season was Orpheus in the Underworld, by Offenbach; and she told me how great the performance was, that the orchestra was outstanding, the stage set was rich and beautifully designed, a gorgeous sight and very well done. Then she went on to tell me of the next week where the performance that evening was Madame Butterfly. “Oh” I asked (having seen it once before) “How was it?” “Well,” she said, “It was awful; they presented it as a ‘minimalist’ type of performance; the stage was bare, just a white curtain…it was just terrible…your father and I did not enjoy it at all!” “What a shame,” I said, “I so enjoyed the performance I saw when I went with you a couple of years ago.” My step-mother continued, “The producers must have overspent on the first performance, and had nothing left to spend on Madam Butterfly.”

Then she said “They spent all their money on hell, and had nothing left for anything else!”

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Compare and Contrast: Islam and Christianlty

I am posting a paper I turned in last week on some differences between Christianity and Islam... This topic is very complex and this short paper just cannot do it justice. So such as it is; here is my paper.



The question has been raised in current history of the differences in religious beliefs; that fundamentally they are all the same. So it is with the presentation of gender relations in Islam compared to the early Christian church are no better or worse than historical beliefs in any of the religions. So in the brief scope of this paper I will attempt to show the historical belief systems and their affect on gender relationships within both Christianity and Islam.

My first task then, is to present the core beliefs of Christianity; that is, what are the fundamental beliefs consistent with calling oneself a Christian. The central belief is first that Jesus the Messiah or Christ; is God’s incarnate son. He walked the earth to show God’s nature; and to save the fallen world, was crucified and died. He was raised from the dead and was seen alive, and in the presence of witnesses ascended to heaven. His words and actions were written down within 20 to 30 years of his ascension; and those words taught men and women to love and serve one another because of the grace given to them. That those who are leaders, according to Jesus’ own words, were those who would be servants to one another in Matthew 20: 25-28. This is the example that Jesus gave by his very life.

Early church records write of the martyrs; both women and men, suffering horribly at the hands of Roman and Jewish authorities in an effort to stamp out this religion. But in all this there are no records of any conquest by leadership of the early church for conversion. Belief was desired, and not forced; in fact the early converts faced almost certain death if found to be Christians. Men and woman were equally servants of God, and equally charged with spreading the “good news” and making disciples as written of Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 28:19.

Frances Schaeffer (1982) wrote that God's method of  communication “… is not exhaustive, because we are finite and we know nothing in an exhaustive way…but he tells us truly.” (p 79) God has given his guidelines in his word and the life and teaching of his son, recorded by secular history as well as the biblical record.

Islam is considered a fulfillment of all earlier religious teaching. Mohammad received the Qur’an from Allah from the angel Gabriel. The actual “mother of all books” which is the heavenly existing book of God; the Qur’an as dictated to Mohammad is a copy of that. The author Jaques Jomier (1959) writes of the Islamic believers idea of the Qur’an is this “To the Moslem, every sentence of the Koran [Qur’an] conveys a lesson which the believer must put into practice.” (p.77)

All of the messages received by the Prophet Mohammad were the actual words of Allah; and only certain Imams (or teacher) who knew the Prophet were allowed to teach or interpret the Qur’an. Winfried Corduan (2009) writes, “A great amount of the content of the Qur’an consists of demonstrating that Islam is better then any other religion, and the God, as portrayed in Islam, is greater than any other deity that human beings may have imagined.” (p.247) Allah is utterly transcendent and utterly sovereign; so different than us that he would never have a personal relationship with his servants (us). But Corduan points out that Allah created mankind better than the angles and evil spirits to rule over them. Man was given by Allah the reason and intellect to understand the rules as given by Allah and recited by the Prophet Mohammad; that it is man’s responsibility to follow, and he is responsible for his fate (paradise or hell).

So as I have read and understand from the Qur’an and Hadith is that all other religious text; the Torah of the Jews and the Gospel as taught by another “messenger” Jesus, is flawed by its transmission by man. The proclamation of Allah as given to the Prophet Mohammed, is the culmination of all other writings and supersedes all other teaching; for all other messages as given by the other “Prophets” ( Abraham, Noah and Jesus) were corrupted over time; the Qur’an is the perfect Word of Allah. According to Jomier, the Qur’an was finalized “less then two centuries after the death of the Prophet, everything had been fixed finally except some minor differences of reading which were collected carefully.” (p 4) And he goes on to explain that the Caliph Othman made an official “recension” (or examination of the textual reliability) less than 20 years after the death of Mohammad.

So, as an Islamic believer, there is now no other interpretation to do. Allah has given his word to his “Prophet” (alternately “Messenger” or lately translated “Apostle”) Mohammad, and the approved interpretations in the Hadith, and as Corduan writes,

"There is nothing left for us to do than to try our best to follow all of God’s commandments. There is no point in speculating on God’s will …Rather than search God’s purposes, we should accept whatever he sends our way…Our obligation is not to out-think Allah but to do his will.' (p. 267)

What does the Qur’an write? There are many Surah and Hadith concerning the fate of unbelievers and those who err against Allah. One example is this plea for forgiveness from a prayer book of Mohammad (n.d.):

Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget of err. Our Lord! Lay not on us such a burden as Thou didst lay on those who have been before us: neither impose upon us, O our Lord, ought which we have not the strength to bear; but forgive us, absolve us, and have mercy upon us. Thou art our Protector, Therefore give us victory over the disbelieving folk. (p.59)

The constant prayer I have found is plea's to prove one’s favor with Allah by giving the plaintiff victory over a battle.

The idea of conquest seems to be the over-riding consideration of Islam. The teachings of the Qur’an and the Hadith teach that one is born a believer in Islam and later due to the will of Allah are corrupted into other faiths. 

From the text Forty Hadith (1976) from Hadith 8:

I have been ordered to fight against people until they testify that there is one god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah and until they perform the prayers and pay the zakat,[protection monies] and if they do so they will have gained protection from me for their lives and property unless [they do acts that are punishable] in accordance with Islam, and their reckoning will be with Allah the Almighty.”(p. 46)

Of course at the bottom of the same page is a rather long footnote explaining that what the Holy Qur’an really means is that actually there is “no compulsion in religion” and you are to “reason with them in the better way” and that “waging of war is enjoined against certain categories of persons such as those who attack a Muslim country, those who prevent the preaching an spread of Islam by peaceful means and apostates.”

Yet in the actual writings of the Qur’an it states in Surah 60:1-3;
O ye who believe! Choose not My enemy and your enemy for friends. Do ye give them friendship when they disbelieve in that Truth which hath come unto you, driving out the messenger and you because ye believe in Allah, your Lord? If ye have come forth to strive in My way and seeking My good pleasure, (show them not friendship). Do ye show friendship unto them in secret, when I am best Aware of what ye hide and what ye proclaim?

This shows clearly the intent of serving Allah and the intent of Islam.
Now with that rather long explanation; what is the teaching on gender in Islam? This was to show that at the heart of Islam are the disparities between believers and non-believers. A woman who does not submit to her husband will not reach “Paradise.” Yet an interesting explanation by a Muslim woman (Waud 1999) and teacher of Islamic studies wrote of the descriptions of Paradise:

The mechanisms of communication (the terms and images) employed by the Qur’an reflect that audience. They had to be convinced to change their way of thinking and their manner of living. Specifically, the Qur’an attempted: 1. To convince them of the authenticity of the message; 2. To demonstrate its relevance and significance: 3. To indicate the shortcomings and weaknesses of the existing status quo: and 4. To persuade or entice them through offers and threats that appealed to their nature, understanding and experience. (p. 54 italics from the original)

The author makes a point of showing how the verses of the Qur’an are used to “unreasonably” confine women to the house where she writes of Surah 33.33 “…has been use to make the general rule that women are restricted from going out of their houses altogether instead of stressing the limitations of the ‘going out’ for the purpose of wanton display. Here is the quote in its proper complete context from Surah 33:30-34;

O ye wives of the Prophet! Whosoever of you committeth manifest lew[d]ness, the punishment for her will be doubled, and that is easy for Allah. And whosoever of you is submissive unto Allah and His messenger and doth right, we shall give her reward twice over, and we have prepared for her a rich provision. O ye wives of the Prophet! Ye are not like any other women. If ye keep your duty (to Allah)… utter customary speech. And stay in your houses. Bedizen not yourselves with the bedizenment of the Time of Ignorance. Be regular in prayer, and pay the poor-due, and obey Allah and his messenger. Allah’s wish is but to remove uncleanness far from you, O folk of the household, and cleans you with a thorough cleansing…”

It is plain in my study of the Qur’an and Hadith, there is a bias favoring men and against women.

From this short exposition, I have found that there is no personal relationship with Allah in Islam; only the unique relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ within the Christian faith allows us an intimate, loving relationship; with its service and submission to one another regardless of gender. Grace is unique to Christianity. The mindset of Islam is summed up by Corduan when he states: “…a negative mindset is the most common result among human beings who believe that their eternal destiny is based on keeping rules.” (p. 269) When the only incentive in a religion is keeping rules, the demeaning of gender and “others” tends to result.

It is clear to me after spending time studying the Qur’an and the writing of the Hadith, the uniqueness of Christianity is the grace given to us. This still seems to be an anathema to so many around the world. That God would give salvation away freely, by the belief in his son, our Lord and Savior Jesus. This is the freedom we have in Christianity that is lacking in Islam. All religions are not the same despite the implications in the world today.


References:
W. Corduan (2009). “A View From the Middle East” in J. Sire’s The Universe Next Door. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsty Press.

A. Farid (n.d.) Prayers of Muhammad. Karachi, Pakistan.

E. Ibrahim, D. Davies; translators (1976) Forty Hadith. Beirut, Lebanon: The Holy Koran Publishing House.

J. Jomier (1959). E. Arbez translator. The Bible and the Koran. New York, NY: Desclee Company

M. Pickthall. (1994) The Glorious Qur’an.10th ed. Des Plains, IL: Library of Islam

F. Schaeffer (1982) He is There and He is Not Silent. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publisher

A. Waud (1999) Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Something for Everyone"

Here in America, we do have it easy. We work from Monday to Friday, and most people have weekends off; unless putting in some overtime. We have air-conditioned houses, most people have at least one car, and we take our indoor plumbing and refrigeration for granted. You know, having cable television is nearly thought to be a right! And even with the heated debate over health care; with out question if you truly need a doctor, I guarantee you can find one in an emergency!

We are a blessed country; after all, we have a right to worship how we see fit…a multiplicity of denominations, “main-stream,” or “splinter groups,” and many with no affiliation at all. You can choose a traditional service, or contemporary, with musical instruments or without, rock-and-roll or a grand pipe organ. Services are led by special “worship teams” and there are multi-media displays to put the song lyrics on the screens for all to see, or just a person leading the songs on an old guitar.

We have available the Word of God in every conceivable translation for ease of understanding. Bibles are “rated” on a scale of conservative to liberal in their translation; “word for word” or “thought for thought.” And you can purchase lovely covers with lace for the girls or camo for the boys, or special leather bound editions complete with concordances inside. Children’s Bibles, youth Bibles, study Bibles…You get the idea.

Yes, in this great country of ours; Christianity has something for everyone. We have all the advantages…a veritable smorgasbord.

But I have just a few questions:

Were you in church this Sunday? Do you remember the sermon? Was the Bible preached? Did you go for the “warm fuzzies” or were you challenged? Have you prayed this week? Did you read your Bible? When was the last time you were “inconvenienced” for your faith? What are you willing to sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel? Have you ever shared the Gospel with anyone in your life, and do you know how? Do you understand Christianity; or is it merely a “mystery” and faith is just “knowing in your know-er.”

“If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” Luke 9:23-25

“Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” 1 John 2: 15-16


“If one feels no friction with a fallen world, one will never find traction in the Kingdom of God” Doug Groothuis

So how’s your footing?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"This Momentary Light Affliction..."

What makes a man suffering from heart disease continue to write a book, teach others, and to reach out to the lost; then hear him question why he doesn’t suffer as much as some others around him?

What makes a woman who is a mother of 9 and grandmother of 4, struggling to work and take care of her family give out of her grocery money to make sure another could eat and get to work?

What makes a professor push his students to study and read, only to have some of those same students scoff not only at him but at higher education; yet still continue to teach year after year?

What makes a single grandmother, continue education in the face of no support from family or church leaders in order to be able to teach at the college level knowing she will never be tenured?

Doesn’t that sound utterly ridiculous? Why would people do this? They must be mentally ill, wouldn’t you say?

Change the channel, there must be something more entertaining to watch.

But what if they are serving something besides their own needs? What if they are being lead by something else? Could it be in this pluralistic, postmodern, pass-the-buck society there are people suffering to serve God?

Maybe they actually did hear God’s voice.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but thought our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 16-18

Friday, July 16, 2010

"John Saw Duh Numbuh"

Music has always played a large part of my life, and I have been honored to be a recent member of the Canto Deo Festival Choir. Dr. Keith Wells of Denver Seminary (Bass 1 and choir board member) gave a most memorable devotional before the last pre-concert rehearsal. Revolving around the song “John Saw Duh Numbuh” he graciously gave me permission to post this devotional on “Insights from the Furnace” and I am sharing this with you all. The performance can be viewed here.


JOHN SAW DUH NUMBUH . . . Keith Wells

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” Rev. 7:9 (NIV)

“Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.” – Rev. 14:1-3 (NIV)


It has been my privilege to share with the board reflections on the biblical and theological foundation for the ministry of Canto Deo. It is my conviction that what we sing and how we sing it must be grounded solidly in the historic Christian faith. For we sing not just notes in a score of music but we communicate a message, the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The singing of the magnificent Parker / Shaw arrangement of the great spiritual, “John Saw Duh Numbuh”, for example, prompts the question, “Who are these 144,000 who have the name of the Lamb and the Father written on their foreheads and who alone sing the ‘new song’? Various Christian groups throughout the centuries have claimed this identity for themselves to the exclusion of other Christians who differed from them in some way. But a closer look at the text provides some insight as to the true identity of these 144,000.

A careful review of the nature of apocalyptic literature and the symbolic use of numbers in that genre builds a strong case that the number is to be taken as one of completeness or wholeness. That is, those included in the 144,000 (12 X 12 X 1,000), are all those who are redeemed throughout the course of salvation history. These are those who have the mark of allegiance, have committed themselves completely to the Lamb, and who have overcome by the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their testimony, and that they loved not their lives unto death. These are the overcomers upon whom the risen Christ has written his own new name.

And what of the ‘new song’ that they sing? Notice that these alone can learn the ‘new song’ because it has to do with who they are, not whether or not they can learn new music! I confess I take some comfort in that! That’s one song that I know I can learn!!

It is identity and not ability that John has in mind here. At the very essence of who we are as a sacred choir, Canto Deo, is our identity as Christians, brothers and sisters in Christ. That identity enables us to sing in a way that native musical ability can never do. So let us sing the ‘new song’ today, and for all eternity! May that be the ‘mark’ of Canto Deo! Praise be to God!!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Insights on Music

I was invited to attend a concert last night; the Colorado Music Festival at Chautauqua in Boulder (for additional information go here). Not knowing the program for the evening, I was delighted to learn that one of the pieces to be performed was a favorite of mine. This was a piece I had heard from my childhood and I was very familiar with it, even owning a CD of this work.

As the orchestra began to play, I was swept away with the depth of the music; the kind of experience you can only get while attending a live performance. There is a sense of your personal emotions—your individual feeling and thought pictures, yet you are a part of a whole; other people listening with you—some enjoying the experience as deeply as you, others seemingly distracted, paging through the program or whispering to one another.

Letting the music wash over me, the people around me seemed to fade and the measures of music so familiar to me filled the concert hall. The orchestra brought to the piece their own subtle style to the music; these musicians so practiced in playing, added an interpretation solely their own. With my familiarity with the music I found the passion and love of music and performing shining through as I listened to this wonderful performance.

While listening I wondered over my enjoyment of this performance; what made it special for me? After all, I have always been a music lover; anytime I get a chance at seeing a live musical performance is a special event. I realized that my very familiarity with the music, knowing the history, the musical “story” that was being told, and understanding the picture I was visualizing may have been similar to the one seen by the composer so many years ago…knowing all that just brought me to a place where I felt I was a true participant in the performance, not a mere spectator.

I can look at any musical score and read the notes, or awkwardly pick them out on a piano and understand the idea of the music.

If it is a vocal arrangement, I can spend time at home and learn the song, memorize it and enjoy singing it and begin to get a bit more depth of enjoyment; but still not have a very deep understanding of the music.

But if I truly take time to study the composer; the time he lived in, what he was trying to share in this composition, the picture he was trying to paint for his listeners, the lesson he was trying to teach; now that is the full, rich, deep, and meaningful enjoyment of music you can experience with care and study.

So…how do you study the Bible?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

For Independance Day: A Must Read




The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

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IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.


The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,


When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.


He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.


In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.


Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.


We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.



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