Sunday, Dec. 4
I’ve been thinking lately about my relationship with God. Oh, I know I’m eternally saved and soon to be on my way to heaven. I’m referring to how I currently relate to Him. Is my relationship close and intimate as it is with a sound, loving marriage? Or is it a bit one sided, a totally faithful God and a half hearted partner—me? I cherish the truth that God will never divorce me. An analogy is in order here. Governmental systems determine the relationship between the government and the political entities within it—states, provinces, or ethnic groups. Great Britain copped out of the European Community, a federation. The founders of our country tried confederation, but because each colony was fiercely independent, it didn’t work. They then started over by choosing to form a union. From that time on, every state that joined the union were forever committed to it and could never secede. So the southern states were indeed rebels and the Civil War, as tragic as it was, was a natural result. When God formed plans for our redemption, He chose union. Accepting Christ as Savior and Lord is permanent. Our future is secure. Once born again, we can’t be unborn. Our relationship is not a confederation. I don’t have to fear a divorce when I sin, but there might be a bit of a “civil war” to get me back on track. But God chooses to use persuasion, not coercion. He punishes, but it is always in love and mercy. He wants to woo us back into an intimate relationship with Him. I want that, too.
Saturday, Dec. 3
I mentioned above that language is the best tool in communicating with others. But there are other tools—facial expression, other body language, and attitude, which we often try to hide—usually unsuccessfully. We can even communicate by maintaining silence. All of these can be used deliberately—for good or for bad—and they can also reveal our real feelings when our words send a different message. As Jer. 17:9 says, our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. Ideally, we would all be 100 % straight forward and all feelings would be couched in love. That won’t happen is this life, but it’s an absolute certainty in the next life. It will be nice to walk down the streets of the New Jerusalem and have no barriers between us and our fellow saints. Nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of, everything positive and honoring to God.
Friday, Dec. 2
The communication problem brings to mind the dialogue between Jesus and the rich young ruler. You will remember that this young man addressed Jesus as “good teacher.” Did he mean that Jesus did a good job transmitting truth? Was he agreeing with the content of Jesus’ teaching? Or was he saying that Jesus was good morally? Jesus, being God, knew what was on his mind. We don’t and I don’t think the record in Mk. 9:17-31 reveals that. But Jesus, knowing the man’s problem, went right to the issue, which was a moral or spiritual one. He pointed out that good is a divine trait, and that no one is perfectly good except God Himself. The implication has to do with Jesus being recognized as God, i.e., the Messiah. If this man really believed that, the obvious response would be to follow Jesus as the other disciples standing there were doing. In a short dialogue, Jesus got at the heart issue and the man was forced to make a choice. It was the wrong choice, but perhaps he came to Christ later. Just as with Nicodemus, there was not an immediate positive response, but please note that Jesus took time to explain things to this man just as he did with Nicodemus. And you all know that Nicodemus came through for Christ at the crucifixion scene. It’s speculation, but I like to think I will see this man in heaven.
Thursday, Dec. 1
Language is the best tool in communicating with one another. But spoken language has a lot of problems. A person asks me how I’m feeling. What does he mean? I have feelings of emotions–disgust, anxiety, calm, panic, ecstasy, etc. And I have feelings of pain. That’s physical, and has a lot of nuances—sharp pain, consistent pain, maybe a back ache, or a migraine headache. On top of all that, we mess up our own language. I might be asked if I’m feeling well. That has to do with my physical body. If I’m asked if I’m feeling good, that’s quite different. Good is the opposite of evil. But in context, the asker might be wondering about my spiritual condition, not my health. I have to decide what he’s asking before answering him. And languages are always changing. I hardly understand any of the teen jargon these days. And it might have a nasal intonation and might be spewed out so fast that I wouldn’t understand it even if the words were in my vocabulary. When in the U.S. southeast, I have trouble understanding some of that, too. It’s partly pronunciation and partly vocabulary. And it’s all English. And the tower of Babel didn’t help in this regard, either. If I were to go to Germany, communication would be nearly impossible for me except that many Germans speak English, albeit British English—with a German accent. I communicate all this to you to say that God communicating with man has its problems. God is not limited by His understanding; He’s limited by ours. He’s in a very different domain. It would be like trying to teach Calculus to a baby. But there is a silver lining. God made us in His image which is a huge advantage. Secondly, He is omniscient and therefore quite capable of communicating anything He likes. So we have the Bible, God’s revelation to man. It can’t or doesn’t express a lot of what there is to know about God and His domain. And even though it’s kindergarten stuff in God’s domain, we struggle to understand it. I just can’t get my mind around the idea of infinity. Nor can I really grasp the truth that something doesn’t have a beginning. I guess that’s why we will not be bored with eternity.
Wednesday, Nov. 30
Having already rejected Jesus as their Messiah, the Pharisees and chief Priests got their heads together to find a way to get Him arrested by the Romans. They came up with a very clever plan. Luke 20:19 ff. They sent out some spies posing as sincere seekers of truth to find a way to get Him into trouble with the Roman government. The Romans would take care, of Jesus. They found what they thought was an iron clad case—whether or not to pay tribute to Caesar. The Jews in captivity were normally taught by their leaders to pay taxes to their overlords, but recent events changed things a bit. When Herod the Great died in 4 B.C. the Romans replaced him with his three sons, each one to rule a district of Israel. Judea was ruled by Archelaus, but he was so ruthless that he was replaced. By 6 A.D. Judea was a province ruled by a Roman prefect. The Herods were Edomites, related to the Jews, and sympathetic to Jewish traditions. Now a hated Roman was the ruler. Intolerable! Paying taxes took on new meaning. This only applied to Judea. The other two areas were still under a Herod. And this special condition was tailor made to trap Jesus. Jews in Judea, living in their own promised land, had to pay tribute to a pagan Roman. The question, so ingenuously asked of Jesus: “Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” They had Him! If he said “yes” the people would be turned away from Him. If He said “no” they could report Him to the Romans and get Him charged with sedition. But they forgot who they were dealing with. I leave it to you to read the rest of the story. It’s not easy to trap God. Those conniving Jews didn’t have a chance!
Tuesday, Nov. 29
Aesop’s Fables are still popular after some 25 centuries! Aesop was apparently a slave and a marvelous story teller. He lived from about 620 to 564 B.C. But he didn’t invent fables. Fables are figures of speech, too. They deal with moral principles just as parables do. Their distinction is that animals and inanimate objects such as rocks and trees speak, think, and act like humans. There are only two fables recorded in the Bible. You might want to read them. One is in Judges 9:7-20. It is used by Jotham to criticize the people for accepting Abimelech as their king. The second is in 2 Kings 14:1-15. Johoash, king of Israel, used the fable to warn Amaziah, king of Judah, not to wage war against him Amaziah ignored the warning, attacked Israel and was soundly defeated. Johoash then destroyed part of the walls of Jerusalem and carted off gold and silver utensils from the Temple, and took a few captives home with him, too. All this took place 100 years or more before Aesop.
Monday, Nov. 28
Let me illustrate the importance of understanding culture by using the Parable of the Wedding Banquet. Mt. 22:1-14. Without any cultural background, it makes a nice story, although some dreadful things took place. There is a king and his loyal servants, invited guests to a wedding banquet who refused to attend, street people invited to the wedding, and even an imposter. Matthew records this parable without adding any explanations. It either was clearly understood by people without explanation or Matthew assumed that no further information was needed because of the wider context—a string of parables with virtually the same message. I probably don’t fully understand all the cultural nuances, but the gist is fairly clear. The banquet was the celebration of the marriage of the Lamb (Christ) and His bride (the Church). The king is God. His loyal servants are angels, or possibly evangelists. The indifferent people would be Jews who refused the gospel message even though they supposedly were loyal to the king. The substitutes from the streets were Gentile believers. The imposter, pretending to be an invited guest, was judged and sent to eternal damnation as indicated by the darkness and gnashing of teeth. Maybe Judas? Can you guess how those three audiences would respond to this parable? The Pharisees? “Gentiles replacing the Jews? Jesus is out of his mind.” The people? “Jesus doesn’t speak like the other Rabbis What will he say next?” The disciples? “How do we fit into this? Who is the imposter?”