Archives For December 2008

Jubilee

December 31, 2008 — Leave a comment

With tomorrow being the beginning of yet another year I thought it would be appropriate to talk a little about the concept of Jubilee. Here is some info about Jubilee from Wikipedia.

a Jubilee year is mentioned to occur every fifty years, in which slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest.

Jubilee was an ancient Jewish tradition. It mainly mentioned in the Old Testament in Leviticus but Jesus referred to it as the year of the Lord’s favor in Luke 4

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jubilee is generally a very foreign concept in a capitalistic country such as ours but it was practiced often by the early Christians. Giving back is just not a part of capitalistic mentality. There are Christian organizations today that say we should celebrate Jubilee by cancelling the debt of poor nations. I tend to agree with them. It’s not always about money. Remember the old saying “it is better to give than to receive”; we all need to take that concept to heart.

Service Mentality

December 29, 2008 — Leave a comment

 

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Matt 20:26-27

Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave

Jesus certainly had the service mentality. The ultimate service was for him to take human form and come to earth for us. He showed service mentality numerous times throughout the gospels. The apostles did not understand this. But, I think maybe when he insisted on washing their feet they finally “got it” or at least a little of it. Of course a central aspect of service is humility. We Christians should never think more highly of ourselves than others around us. We are all sinners and worthy of God’s wrath. It’s just a matter of degree. God is perfect and demands perfection of us. Of course none of us will ever get to that state but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least try to do good while we are here.

I personally believe that a service mentality is at the very core of Christian belief. Another name for service is works. Here is what Martin Luther said about that in his preface to the book of Romans.

This it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate heat and light from the fire.

On this blog and in my life I try to learn the Lord’s message wherever I can find it. I am just not one to cling to one particular denominational line of thought. I found some inspiring words from Pop Benedicts Christmas message yesterday.

He said “wherever an increasingly uncertain future is regarded with apprehension, even in affluent nations.”

“In each of these places may the light of Christmas shine forth and encourage all people to do their part in a spirit of authentic solidarity,” “If people look only to their own interests, our world will certainly fall apart.”

About the only thing we have been hearing lately, besides President-elect Obama, is how bad the US and world economies are becoming. There just doesn’t seem to be much hope for the immediate future. Because of that people are withdrawing into themselves. At a result things are getting dire in much of the less affluent nations and even among charitable organization in the United States. In his message the Pope tells us we cannot just look at our own selfish interests but we have to, especially in these times, constantly be aware of “the least of these”. Christ spent so much of his time with the less fortunate in the land. We need to remember to follow his example not only during the Christmas season but throughout the year.

Happy Birthday Jesus

December 24, 2008 — Leave a comment


About Christmas

December 22, 2008 — Leave a comment

Most of the information about Christmas is found in the Gospel of Luke. Luke was probably a gentile by birth and was believe to be well educated in Greek culture. He was a physician and was probably a good friend to Paul. Luke’s account was believed to be the most accurate historically; it seems he took extra pains to be sure that everything was just right.

It would be interesting to learn where he got the Christmas information. Did he get it from on of the apostle’s lips, strictly from divine inspiration, or from verbal accounts of others? We will probably never know. Luke is the only writer to tell us that Jesus was born in a stable.

I don’t remember Jesus ever talking about his birth or childhood? I guess he left that to others. Anyway, let us all remember the true reason for the season. I thought I would close out this entry recognizing the prophetess Anna. She doesn’t get mentioned much in the Christmas texts today. I always find myself gravitating to those least recognized heroes of the past.

Luke 2:36-38

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Be Content

December 19, 2008 — Leave a comment

Today I am going to divert from the red letters to talk a little about St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Being content this is something we Americans never seem to be able to do! Being content means not worrying whether our neighbor has a newer car than you, or …

These words were spoken by St Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome. This is kind of an unusual letter as Paul’s letter seem to go. He basically just wrote it to thank the Philippians for a gift. But it does show us some more about what he considers good Christian living.

Phil 4:12-13

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

I have the ‘content’ thing down a little better than when I was younger but still have quite a ways to go to reach St. Paul’s definition. It seems that the more you have the more you want and that isn’t contentment. Paul goes on to tell the Philippians to do everything without complaining or arguing. We could certainly use that advice in today’s world. There just seems to be so much bitterness and discontent out there lately.

 
Here are the red letters for today.

Matt 13:53-58
When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

I know all you married people out there have a story to relate to Jesus’ words. Or maybe in your job you are a supervisor over many people or maybe you are considered an authority in your field of expertise. But, when you go home at night your family just sees you at that person who has troubles changing a light bulb. You just don’t seem to get any respect on the home front. Even President-Elect Obama, to his family, is probably that guy who forgets to pick up his socks when he goes to bed. We just can’t get any r-e-s-p-e-c-t. You would think the son of God would be an exception but these versus tell us otherwise. It is funny that after 2,000 years while some things are very different, some things just haven’t changed that much.

Do What I Say

December 15, 2008 — Leave a comment

Matt 7:24-27

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

These are some among the verses I label “Do what I Say”. There are a lot of them spread out among the Gospel text. I will be covering many of them in future blogs. It seems pretty clear that Jesus is saying if you do not at least try to do what I say then you are a foolish person who has built your salvation on a very weak foundation. All of these words fly in the face of some Christians today who say that Jesus only requires us to say the words that he is Lord and Savior; nothing else. To me this is akin to buying a fire insurance policy that you put on the shelf and pull out only when you need it. I don’t think Jesus is going to redeem those policies on the last day but, of course, I could be wrong. Some say that even saying the words can only happen if God allows it? That is the Calvinist critique. I’ll save that for another day. To sum this up I think that Jesus really does mean for us to do what he says. If that is not the case then much of what he said is wasted.

 In the last post I let my overactive imagination maybe get away from me about the end-times. This time I want to study some of the red letters that I think refer to the end times and bring up some personal questions about them. I have pulled out four sections of text that I want to discus.

Matt 24:36-37

 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,  but only the Father.

Matt 16:28-17:1

 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Mark 9:1

And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.”

Luke 9:27

I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

I hadn’t thought about some of this before but it sounds like Jesus thought the end-times would come while he was on this earth or soon thereafter. Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit being three in one but still one in three is a confusing concept that few, if any, really can fathom. From our limited standpoint it is hard to understand that Jesus really doesn’t know when the end-times will come?

The last three quotes seem to indicate that Jesus did know or at least was guessing.  Some take these words just to mean that the son of God will soon be sacrificed for mankind; but others think he was pointing to the end-times when God’s kingdom would come to earth. Some say Matthew 16:28 is referring to the transfiguration since it is recorded in the following verses, but I personally can’t understand how the transfiguration can be referred to as coming of his kingdom?

On previous posts I have commented that we Christians just can’t seem to agree on many things. But this post is one of those areas where confusion certainly seems warranted. If anyone reading this has a better understanding of these particular words of Jesus please share it with us.

Today I am feeling a little silly so I am going to give you my version of the end time. I’m not going to quote any Bible verses to back up what I am going to describe. I doubt I could find them even if I wanted. We all know there is quite a bit in the Bible about this topic in Matthew 24 but is seems to be pretty general and not attuned to our 21st century mind. Being “green” and a techie here is my version of the end times in a little more detail.

 <<< Eerie music playing in background >>>>>>>
The date is 2xxx and the earth’s ozone layer is gone so we have to limit our outside activities to night time. The final icecaps melted a few years ago and all the major cities along the coasts in the United States were completely flooded. Everyone that used to live in New York City now is taking up space in Ohio. The Philadelphia Phillies are now the Lexington Phillies and are limited to only night time games (see the above for explanation). China finally got tired of taking the IOUs from the United States and asked for some loan repayments. As a result the American economy collapsed. Of course, since everyone now has an atomic bomb and insist on using them, millions of acres of land are daily being put off limits for 1,000 years due to radioactive contamination. The earth is truly shrinking beyond its ability to support us. Everyone agrees these are indeed the end time, or at least hope they are.

Suddenly one day the sky turns bright or should I say infinitely brighter than usual. All those people who are still calling themselves Christians instantly disappear and 100% of those left are totally self-centered greedy egotists. They are all holed up in their individual caves trying to maintain ownership of all the “stuff” they have collected in their lifetime. Since there is nothing left but total greed there are no laws; everything is defined by whatever you care to call it. Many are calling it “hell”.

 <<< Very pleasant music (whatever you define that to be) playing >>>>
The people who “disappeared” were actually tele-transported to a new planet in another solar system. They call their new home “Kingdom 1”. It is totally pristine. There is absolutely not pollution. Farming and most other occupations are a true pleasure to do. Nobody is sick or in need of anything. Jesus Christ is a regular visitor to many on this new world and given the people’s past experiences they are now listening very carefully to what he says. One of the topics he covers is that he is giving us another chance to have God’s kingdom on earth, or should we say “Kingdom 1”. Given the revelations provided by Christ all the believers are indeed one in faith and fellowship. Many get together to praise God on a daily basis and pray that this time they will get it right.

  <<<<<< All the music stops as we are now back in the real world >>>>>>

Okay, okay, I know what you are saying, “boy RJ sure does have an active imagination!”. Of course you are right. No, I am not going on tour preaching this new end-time theology; we have too many of those kind of Christians now (ha). This story was just for fun. But, we do need something to shake us from our complacency. The sooner the better. After all not even Jesus knows when the end times are actually coming.