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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lines of humor, oddity, and profundity


I have indicated that I have little money.  A few years ago, I heard that it was healthy to have a collection.  I decided to collect humorous phrases, but have to say that I also throw in some phrases that are just odd, or profound.  I keep writing them down and having them on a bunch of scrap papers.  Once in a while I post them to both share and organize them.

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One day a man went to an auction. While there, he bid on a parrot. He really wanted this bird, so he got caught up in the bidding. He kept on bidding, but kept getting outbid, so he bid higher and higher and higher. Finally, after he bid way more than he intended, he won the bid - the parrot was his at last! As he was paying for the parrot, he said to the auctioneer, "I sure hope this parrot can talk. I would hate to have paid this much for it, only to find out that he can't talk!" "Don't worry," said the auctioneer, "He can talk. Who do you think kept bidding against you?"
Posted by John Jaeger

Taking an 8 year old to a comedy club is like taking a blind friend to the Grand Canyon. He doesn't get it and everyone else feels uncomfortable. --comedian Dan Cummins


I have a book in the works: “Tolerating Insufferable Egomaniac Authors”.
--Chicago sports talk guy Tom Waddle, appearing on a tv
program with two others who just had books released

If ifs ands and buts were candy and nuts, then everyday would be Christmas.
--Sen. John Boehner

If you can't trust yourself to edit yourself, don't get on Twitter.
--political reporter Ramesh Ponnaru

Seduction, in sports, is spelled with an S with two lines through it.
--Kevin Blackistone

Q: Who is Robert James Ritchie?
A: stage name Kid Rock

The more I practice, the luckier I get. --Arnold Palmer

...there's more bluffing and lying going on here than a Pinocchio convention.
--tv poker commentator

I don't give my husband advice because he doesn't need it.
--Pat Nixon

The opposite of bravery is not cowardice, but conformity.
--Robert Anthony

1st person: In my humble opinion, (fill in this blank with anything).
2nd person: I would say, “in my humble opinion,” but that would be a boast.

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then misapplying the wrong remedies. --Groucho Marx

If you ain't losin' friends, you ain't growin' up. --Snoop Dogg
There's no better medicine than the next deal.
--collectable auto auctioneer Dana Mecum

Consider the possibilities and weigh them by the probabilities.
--Thomas Peterffy, founder of Interactive Brokers

The person who said, “If you love something, set it free” probably wasn't talking about dollars.
--from an eSurance commercial

If you look annoyed, people always think that you're busy.
--a line of George Costanza character in Seinfeld

Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. The more I perspire, the more of a genius I become.
--First half, unknown; second half, Dick Vitale

“Normal” is a word boring people use to make interesting people feel less special.
--a line from commercial for TV program “Rake”

When the stewardess says, “Fasten your seat belt,” she did not say, “Don your parachutes and assemble by the door.”

Beware of manipulating your givers through “emotional pornography”.

What's the point of talking, if you don't have something important to say?
--”Knight Rider” the car, in a commercial

I hat it when people think that, by raising their voice, they win the argument.
--Mike Greenberg

Thanksgiving with my family—it's popping Xanax like you're Orville Redenbacher.
--what's unreal about this statement is that this was said
to me by a person buying something I had on craigslist

The Wyoming State Bar does not certify any lawyer as a specialist or expert.
--from the fine print in a lawyer's commercial
Therefore, does that mean, to be an expert in Wyoming, don't be a lawyer?

Is there anything you have heard reported today that you believe to be incorrect?
--Rachael Maddow, 5/20/2013, to a number of persons interviewed about tornado in Moore, OK

Character: the power to refrain from doing what one might legally do.

Go make some great memories today.
--CNN's Crist Paul, sign off phrase

If you write something, and it doesn't move you, then throw it in the trash. It's not going to move anyone else.
--Brennan Manning

Too often other are helped by our gifts, but hindered by what we are.
--Watchman Nee, “What Shall This Man Do?”, p. 162

If people trust us, there is no need to explain; if people do not trust us, there is no use in explaining.
--Watchman Nee

Jesus did not give us a system to manage, but a Spirit to follow.
--someone in Australia

Sunday, January 19, 2014

On Isaiah 58 verse 9


This may sound a little bit wacky, but I'm beginning to use some of the national/international televised teaching ministries as a Bible study technique—take notes and then check to see if what was said, particularly the main point, is in correct literary, historical, and cultural context.
I bring this up in that one of the main errors in this regard is to quote something that is connected to the Old Testament Law, which, of course, was fulfilled by Jesus' death on the cross, and use it as if it is part of what is directed to believers today. I write this as what I studied went in a direction that I did not expect when I started. Today's speaker was attempting to make the point that it is correct to ask God in prayer and keep asking until it happens. I am aware, and assume you are (if you aren't, you are now) that there are all kinds of speakers that defend both sides of this issue. On one side, that God is all powerful, all knowing and hears your prayer the first time. Others, such as this man that, as usual, I am intentionally not naming, who maintains the opposite. In today's case, he uses the example of the Canaanite woman who is making a request directly to Jesus, and of whom Jesus' answer, at first, would come across as insulting and rude in our culture today, and of whom, on the fourth recorded request, has Jesus answer as she was asking by words.
The speaker then jumped to Philippians 4 verse 7, focusing on the word “petition”. I should note that this word in translated “request” in the NIV and NKJV, at the least. He builds on the idea that, equal to a modern petition being a list of names who agree with a statement, a “petition” in prayer is quoting a list of scriptures back to God. This rang a bell inside me, as one of the oldest misuses of scripture that I know of, going back to Old Covenant rabbis, is called “pearl stringing.” It is quoting a group of verses from various places to build a point. The problem with this is that is really easy to be quoting one (or probably more) out of context. Even if the average believer doesn't know this, and I didn't for a long time, if (and I use this in the logical sense of the word, not that I am doubting God) God is the creator of the universe, including guiding the many writers of scripture, then He perfectly guided the literary context of the words. This isn't empirically provable any more than God is, but we will believe this by faith, probably without even thinking about it. Connectedly, if we believe, we cannot take a piece of scripture and just throw it into whatever context we wish it to be in. Much error comes from doing this, usually without the person being aware of it. One problem, which only God knows the answer to, and applicable to leaders which are attempting to enlarge their influence with mass media, is whether they do this innocently and unaware, or are being intentionally deceptive, or some mix of both, possibly because someone they respect said that it was ok.
Anyway, after a cutaway for some of his organization's self-promotion, he came back to end his program with one scripture: Isaiah 58 verse 9 (he said, although it is only the first half of the verse, and, chapter and verse numbers are not part of scripture anyway)--”Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer: You shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.'” That certainly sounded lke that fit his message, but I immediately wondered whether that was quoted in context. Given that that was in the Old Covenant times, I feel that I had good reason.
The easy part to check was literary context. I saw that this was part of a prophetic word from God to the rebellious Old Covenant chosen people, especially including leaders, through Isaiah. The phrase that marks the beginning of this prophecy--”Thus says the Lord”--is back at Is. 56:1, and the end of it, “The mouth of the Lord has spoken”, is at Is. 58:14. So 58:9 is near the end of a long prophecy. This prophecy follows a previous prophecy that includes Is. 53, which clearly describes occurances in Jesus' life. Isaiah 56:1-2 mentions that a messiah is coming for those who obey the Law. I believe, although I might be wrong, whether in that day “obey the Law” would have been understood to mean generally devout persons in the chosen people, or the theologically technically correct persons who had never sinned. Verses 3 through 8 make it clear that this includes Gentile converts to following YHWH. Verses 56:9 through 57:13a state that there are “leaders” in Israel who are not obeying the Law and leading righteously, but instead are lusting after idols, with specific sexual imagry connected to their not following the Law. 57:13b-57-21 continues on the theme that God will bless the righteous and punish the wicked.
Some might argue, and may well be correct, that, to understand Isaiah 58:9 in literary context, we would only need to go back to Is. 58:1, or even 58:6. Maybe so, but going back further doesn't hurt anything. In Is. 58:1-5, God tells Isaiah what to do—tell the people they are praying and fasting, but not rightly. From what I find from other sources, in that day, the idea of fasting is something rare outside of what the Bible tells us, and what little it was done in other cultures would be connected to mourning (1). Then, in Is. 5:6-9a, in an interesting twist of thought, of which the quoted verse is part of, the people need to pray arightly by fasting from injustice towards others. 9Bto 14a, begin to conclude that if the wicked repent, they may live like the righteous. 14B concludes this prophecy with, “The Lord has spoken.”
Just as historical context, the people, for the most part, did not repent, nor did they repent after other prohecies of Isaiah and the other minor prophets, not did they repent from hearing John the Baptist or Jesus. Therefore, Jesus died for the sins of humanity, fulfilled the Old Covenant, and established a New Covenant with a new chosen peoplewhose hearts, spiritual, not literal, of course, have been circumcised and had His law of love placed in them by the Holy Spirit.
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1) Walton, Matthews, & Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary—Old Testament, on Isaiah 58:3-7, page 637.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

13 meanings of the word "church"

As I have said before, I have noted that I personally feel that the most important things I've written on this blog were what I wrote first, but what has been seen most is what I've posted lately.  Therefore, today, I repost something I originally posted a while ago.
Also, I would be willing to present this topic to your group in person in the southeast Virginia area (as a discussion, where persons can ask questions) or some other creative way if one is further.  I can be reached at 757-735-3639.
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     Almost everything that I have in this post is something I have included in a previous blog.  Nonetheless, I thought it good to put this information in the form of a speech.  Being in an organic church, speeches aren’t a whole lot of use, as people learn more from the more interactive approach of an open Bible study, but there are places for speeches, particularly as introductions to various concepts.  Therefore,

13 definitions of the word “church”:  as a speech.

            When I first wrote on this subject a couple of years ago as an entry on my blog, tevyebird.blogspot.com, it was entitled “8 definitions of the word “church”, but over time, I’ve found definition 9, then 10, 11, 12, and then 13.  If after hearing this, you notice another that I have missed, please, let me know.  It is very easy in the western form of Christian society for the impression to be made that the person speaking “knows everything,” even if such person overtly says that we are all together on this journey of growing in following Jesus, in part because the person speaking as recently studied through the subject to put together the speech, and, usually, the audience is unaware of what will be presented to them, and, even if they were aware, are not given an opportunity to interject additional information or ask questions or challenge statements made by the speaker, notably unlike how Jesus presented what He said to the world.  As you will see, though, what I am about to say, in a way, is saying something subversive to that cultural attitude.  I hope I do this in a manner that does honor to the Holy Spirit desiring to direct us to follow Jesus as He would wish.

            I should tell you a little about myself.  I grew up in the Midwest United States to parents who, if you asked, would have said that they were Christians, but never went to church except for social reasons—weddings, funerals, me being in the  Christmas play.  At about 8, they started dropping me off for Sunday School at a nearby church.  Between my freshman and sophomore years in high school, I came to faith in Jesus, as the Holy Spirit spoke into my spirit about the things I was seeing in the world.  After high school, I went to a state supported college, and was involved in an Inter-Varsity group, which subtly established in me a respect for what scripture said over and above what was the status quo attitude within whatever group of believers I was around.  I have, over the years, been involved, first, with churches in a Calvinistic denomination, later undenominational charismatic churches, and over the past few years, simple, organic churches.  I am sure what I am about to say reflects something out of all these parts of my walk in desiring to follow Jesus, but my desire is that what I say touches your spirit in bringing out some points of God’s Word that just may be underemphasized in our culture.  Some of what I will say might just be more obvious if we were in a culture that was more overtly oppressive to us believers, which, at least as I see it, is somewhat more the historical norm.

            As I said when I started, I have noticed 13 different definitions of the word “church” and its rough equivalent in the Koine Greek of the New Testament, ekklesia, with consideration for the cultures and languages it has passed through from then to now.  Of these 13, I would divide these definitions into two groups—1) definitions which are rightly definitions of the word that Jesus, when He said it to whomever He was speaking to, meant, and the apostles, as they wrote and spoke it to the early church, and 2) definitions that cultures, both within and outside the true church have, intentionally or not morphed, distorted, and changed the word to mean.  These are definitions that Jesus, the apostles Jesus sent out into the world, and the early church would not have recognized or had any thought of as being the meaning of that word.  Such definitions, read into scripture, distort the Word of God into something other than God’s Word without our realizing it.  Some of this has been done by well meaning brothers and sisters, but, that is no excuse for our living in that once the Spirit points it out to us.

            First, I will start with the second group, those definitions that, at least some, persons in our culture, both believers and non-, would recognize as a meaning of the word “church” that were not and could not be something Jesus and our early brothers and sisters in Him would have thought of as being what that word meant.  In all cases, these are definitions that did not begin to evolve into the word until early in the fourth century. These are changes whose beginnings are co-coordinated with politicians in the Roman Empire legalizing Christianity in the early 4th Century, with an eye to controlling it, possibly unintentionally, and then again, possibly intentionally for their own purposes.

            The first definition is the Roman Catholic Church.  I’m not trying to say anything overtly anti-Catholic, or pick on this tradition.  Others have done those things, sometimes malevolently.  It is just that, in this culture, approximately one-quarter of the people were born to families that consider themselves Catholic, and within that background, with some, just the word “church”, usually capitalized when in print, implies everything connected to that organization and tradition, whether said in a positive, negative or neutral manner.

            To vary only slightly, the second meaning I will mention is “denomination” of which one might argue that the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, in eastern Europe and Middle East, and Thoma, in India, are the originals, somehow forming by the sixth centuries, with many others coming later.  In modern business terminology, denomination is to a local church of that denomination as a business franchisor is to a franchise, a concept that the early church couldn’t have dreamed of being a meaning of the word.

            The third meaning is a certain building, or certain type of building.  As the early church was considered in the Roman Empire to be an illegal organization, once the Empire decided that it wasn’t part of Judaism, they couldn’t have had buildings if they wished to, because, to be legal, a belief had to be ancient.  As much as we know how Jesus existed back to eternity past, the Roman government saw it as beginning with Jesus on earth, and they had their own paperwork about his death on the cross.  From what the books of the Bible that describe the New Covenant era, Acts through the early part of Revelation, we see one meeting at the side of a synagogue, and other meetings in homes.  With that part of the church today that lives in areas in which it is illegal, we know that they meet in homes, in the woods, or wherever.  Jesus taught the church to be people, his followers, who met together.

            The fourth modern meaning of church is a local organization, which in a denomination, as referred above, is the equivalent of a franchise, or if not connected to a denomination, looking otherwise similar.  Usually that includes an owned or rented building, a name, such as XYZ Church, its formation as a not-for-profit corporation, in many countries tax-favored status for giving to it, and oftentimes a payroll and corporate officers.  For the same reasons I said earlier, none of that were things the early church associated with the New Testament word ekklesia.  These were things associated with most other beliefs the Roman Empire was familiar with, and helped give those to the Christian faith upon their legalization of Christianity.

            The fifth meaning is one aspect I just mentioned, the special tax-favored corporation.  This came from the Roman Empire.  In the days of the early church, the Empire had already given special tax status to the temples of Roman paganism, and special tax favored status to the pagan priests.  When the Empire legalized the Christian faith, they gave that same favored status to the church.  As the church didn’t have buildings, they got them, and to the degree that they didn’t have occupational leaders like the other beliefs that Rome saw, they got them, originally in the form of persons to be in charge of the buildings.  History shows that, when the Roman Empire created those jobs, many orators conveniently “converted” to accept a regular speaking position that went with the church coming to look like other beliefs.

            The sixth meaning is unique to the U.S., in that church can refer to the persons who set policies for a church corporation, insofar as the IRS will take certain of the benefits away from urorganizations that make certain policies, such as overtly recommending political candidates publicly within official meetings or performing certain types of protest activity, particularly referring to the activities of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, KS, the church that goes around protesting at funerals of deceased soldiers and homosexuals.  Since this is so current, it is obviously not a meaning of church like the early believers would recognize, or even believers today in many parts of the world.  One can recognize that, in everything I said above, there is not even a vague connection to any part of scripture.

            That covered, here are seven meanings of “church” that the early church would recognize.  I can make this statement because of the context in which they are referred to in scripture.  Number seven is all believers in history.  In the book of Hebrews, chapter 12 verses 1 and 2, the writer of this book wrote, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  While this passage does not use the word typically translated church in it, it describes all believers who have passed on before us as being a part of us, and relating to running the race of faith, a thing only us, the saved, do.

            Number eight is all believers in a city or area.  The first place we see this is in Romans chapter 1 verse 2, where Paul wrote, “To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Paul makes an equivalent greeting to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 1 verse 2 and 2 Corinthians 1 verse 1, and other books directed towards all the believers in a city.  In Galatians 1 verse 1 through 3, Paul wrote “Paul an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me, to the churches in Galatia:  Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”  In this case, Galatia is an area in what is now northern Turkey.  It is a point of note that Paul addressed his letters to all the believers, and not a specific leader, and that in his greeting to the church in Galatia, he specifically referred to himself as an apostle, and clarified that that came from God and not any man or group of men.  Corollary to that is that, if one is gifted to a ministry, you are gifted even if no man recognizes it, and you aren’t gifted even if some person or organization gives you a title referring to such a spiritual leadership gift.  Acts chapter 5 verse 12 is the one verse, mentioned earlier, in which we see the New Covenant church meeting at a religious building, Solomon’s Porch, an addendum to a synagogue, but the notable feature was miracles occurring in connection to the presence of the apostles, with a subsequent increase in believers and unbelievers respecting them, but not daring to join them, except upon belief.

           Definition number nine is, simply, a group of believers, as we see described in Acts chapter 2 verses 40 to 47, which says, “And with many other words he (Peter) exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’ Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.  Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.  Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.  So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”  This group of verses is one many traditional churches of our day are sometimes hesitant about quoting due to the statement in verse 45 about sharing all things in common.  You and I need to search the scriptures for oneself.   I see this as a quality mentioned just this once, but I see it as a quality that appears consistently in the true church when almost everyone is extremely poor and/or suffering from political or social oppression, which over history is far more common than what we who live in this culture can relate to.  For our culture, key words here are “received” and “believed.”  We live in a culture in which many so-called “Christian” organizations have administrators, professors, and so-called pastors who do not believe the historic faith Jesus delivered to the church.  By definition, an unbeliever is not part of any church. The church is believers as a group or groups.  We can respect an intellectually trained person’s human rights, intellect, abilities, and other positive human traits, but such a person is not, by scripture, part of the church, nor has received spiritual gifts for the benefit of the church.

            Number ten is a group of believers who comfort and edify, or build up, each other.  In 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 verses 9 through 11, Paul wrote, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who dies for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.  Therefore, comfort one another and edify one another, just as you are doing.”  Now, I could have quoted just verse 11, but it’s important to read any scripture in its context.  The sentences just before it help with that, in that Paul makes reference to the previously mentioned definition of all believers in history.  In verse 11, Paul tells us of the church doing two things—comforting one another and edifying, which means building up, one another.  Both these things can only happen when believers are interacting with one another, and caring for one another. A prerequisite for this is at least knowing one another.  This is probably little mentioned in our culture due to almost all traditional churches being structured such that people don’t really know each other and rituals are set up such that it isn’t possible for all believers to build up one another.  Let me point out that that isn’t the fault of most of our church leaders.  They were taught how to do things by the previous generation, who were taught by the previous generation, and in some cases are directed to do things a certain way by the denomination/franchisor.  On the converse side, many small group Bible studies, and even some traditional churches’ home or cell groups more closely meet this definition of church than our society’s traditional churches.  I’m attempting not to say this in condemnation of any particular group, but if one has found that the Holy Spirit has seemed to do the greatest things with regard to you and others you know growing in faith in meetings and situations outside traditional services, I would encourage you to consider that this may be the Holy Spirit also attempting to say something to us about what church is.  This idea also negates the traditional structure of that one person oftentimes referred to as a pastor being the one through which most to virtually all of the “edifying” goes through, in a manner that makes most others contributing nearly impossible, and that person believing that he/she is responsible for doing, or at least coordinating, it all.

            The eleventh definition of church comes from a teaching of Jesus to the disciples in Matthew chapter 18 verse 20.  As we know, the culture Jesus was walking in was far different than our own.  Why didn’t people think it strange that this group of twelve men followed Jesus around?  Because that was how a rabbi taught his group of students, and for that manner, how the Greek teachers taught their students.  The modern university concept began evolving around 1200 A.D.  Being taught in that manner, no one was going around attempting to check Jesus’ transcripts as to whether he was accredited by the rabbis in Jerusalem somewhere to do this; they saw Him walking around like a rabbi who was teaching a group of students.   Further, they were in a culture where the rabbis debated whether women counted as humans.  As such, they had made a rule, which cannot be found in the Old Testament, that to begin a synagogue, it took a minimum of ten men.  Now, we know that Jesus certainly indicated that women were equal to men before God, as indicated in John chapter 4, the story of the woman at the well, and Luke 10, the story which contains Mary sitting and listening to Jesus teach, which is something the rabbis of the day would not have allowed.  In this passage, it appears that Jesus was teaching the disciples without others around them at the time.  In Matthew 18 verses 19 and 20, Jesus says, “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”  We have heard it taught that this is telling us about the importance of believers agreeing in prayer.  Might I suggest that Jesus is also defining as few as two believers making up a church.  How do I get this?  Well, what is Jesus going to be doing in the midst of them?  He knew that the Holy Spirit was going to be sent to earth to indwell believers.  Paul tells us in Colossians 1 verse 18, “And He (Jesus) is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.”  Nowhere in scripture does it tell us that any human, even if we label him or her by a name like pastor or priest, is the head of the body. The word "priest" in a variety of religions around the world, ancient and modern, means a person who is an intercessor between God and man, but Revelation chapter 1 verse 6 tells us that all believers are kings and priests.  Pastor, as a title of a church leader, did not develop until after the Reformation, as it was obvious to the leaders of the Reformation that the title priest was theologically inappropriate to the Christian belief.  Jesus is and wishes to direct the church.  My understanding is that western traditional church leaders will maintain that they must do the leading, and that Jesus leads in some spiritual manner, but that implies that the Spirit doesn’t actually, in an everyday manner, direct us, and He does to the degree that we allow Him to. Now, I understand that in western culture, some brothers and sisters in Jesus who I know love Jesus and His church may subliminally or overtly feel threatened with regard to their paycheck by this.  Let me just say that this isn’t nearly as upsetting in the areas where there is official or societal opposition to believers in Jesus.  We will get to paychecks a little later.

            Definition number twelve is merely “group.”  In Acts chapter 19, we have the story of the idol makers’ guild in Ephesus organizing a protest against Paul’s presence in the city.  In that city, the religion was the temple of Diana (or Artemis).  This was a fertility cult.  It was a worship of sexuality, and that included cult prostitution.  It was a key part of that city’s religion, which had turned into a major moneymaker for the city.   In most cultures of the day, except Judaism and the small groups of believers in Jesus, sexual abstinence outside of marriage was unheard of, at least for men.  In Roman culture, married relatively late in life, and previously had a variety of sexual experiences (hetero- and homosexual).  In Jewish and almost all the other cultures, sexuality in women was controlled by their being married off between 12 and 16 years of age, just as a girl was beginning to have sexual feelings.  In Ephesus, an exception was made, in that women were expected, at least once, to be the object of a sexual sacrifice in the temple.  As Ephesus was a portage place, as it had been determined over time that ships sailing in that area were safer portaging at Ephasus, having the ship rolled over about a hundred yards of land, and put into the other side, as opposed to sailing through a narrow rocky channel, of which there was about a 10% chance of sinking the ship.  Sailors, never throughout history known to be a moral lot, were willing to contribute significant portions of their salary to the temple for the opportunity to “sacrifice.”  Ephesus, as a city, made big money from the portaging ships and via their temple, getting the sailors’ money, to the degree that, by 50 or 51 A. D., when the incident described in Acts 19 happened, the temple of Diana had 22 branch temples scattered around the Mediterranean region, making money for some people in Ephasus.   

The idol makers sold idols.  Because it isn’t easy to find in books, a question might be asked, “Were the idol makers making idols which we might consider pornographic?”  The answer is that, as of this time, archeologists have not found any idols made that can be definitively connected to these idol makers, so the official answer is, we don’t know.  We can say from what we know about similar groups in other parts of the world and persons of all cultures who have given themselves to immersing themselves into this type of life, probably.  Anyway, Paul was leading persons to faith in Jesus, and those persons turning from the cult of Diana was cutting into the idol makers’ profits.  They could claim that, in their protest, they were defending their city’s civic and cultural pride and the economic status of the city.  It is reasonable to say that they were looking out for their own pockets.  Either way, they organized a protest.  The Roman Empire didn’t much care what cities and areas outside Rome did, so long as they received their taxes and that there were no protests or rioting.  Organizing a protest threatened the city officials’ jobs, which explains the city officials’ actions in the chapter, which seems to us in our culture to be strangely inconsistent.

            Now, in Acts 19, this mob or protest in most English Bibles is referred to as a “gathering” or “assembly” in verses 32, 39, and 41.  In the original Greek, the word Luke used was “ekklesia”; the same word in all other places is translated “church.”  What this tells us is that ekklesia had a secular meaning, that an ekklesia was impermanent, and that it was a vague term, as there is no reason to believe that the mob ever met before or after—like our word, “group”.  The extra meanings we have added over the centuries are exactly that, added, and not what the writers of scripture were communicating.

            To this effect, the theologian Jon Zens has made the observation that, if we were translating the word ekklesia into English for the first time right now, the most exact word would be the phrase, “town meeting” which I mention as definition thirteen.  In the early church’s local bodies of believers, believers all knew each other, didn’t meet in a religious building, had as their only ritual baptism, which was the initial public sign of being a believer.  They shared with each other as there was need, and shared a simple meal, from which centuries later the ritual of communion was made out of.  Spiritual leadership came out of believing, maturity, and gifting.  The power of communion is, and is today, as believers shared their lives with each other while sharing food.  As they had no buildings or payroll, any money was collected as needed to help the poor, both within and outside the church, and to send mature believers to go where people had not heard the message of Jesus.  Even then, as now, one main example was Paul, who had a skill which would support him in missionary work without financial help from other places.  Worship was not a ritual, but how one lived one’s life. 

            If I have said some things that you have not heard before, I encourage you to not only check out scripture, but also what we know of the history of the day, which is significantly more than some would have us believe.  Also, I believe that it is a sign of the end of the age that we average everyday believers without portfolio have available the resources, which includes the Bible, but for this purpose, is also various historical documents, both by believers and unbelievers, to confirm what Jesus taught the disciples, who taught the early church, in both literary context of the Bible and the cultural context indicated by historical documents of the time, and how they practically lived out the direction of Jesus, through his apostles and other believers in the first few generations.

            As I said in the beginning, I have come to believe that we learn better from discussion than lecture, so are there any questions?     

------   

            All quotations of scripture are from NKJV.

            Much of this can be found in George Barna and Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity, Present Testimony Ministries/Tyndale/Barna Books.

            The reference on “town meeting” came from John Zens,  The Pastor Has No Clothes, Lincoln, NE: Ekklessia Press.

            The information about the idol makers of Ephesus comes from, www.vision.org/visionmedia/article.aspx?id=2268

www.formerthings.com/dianaephesians.htm

www.biblebb.com/files/mac/sg1928.htm

Monday, January 6, 2014

Thoughts on Christmas and New Year's Day


I wrote this on New Year's Day morning on a legal pad—I'm just getting around to retyping it.

It's been since October, 2011 since I've attempted to do a normal job. I just cannot work with the consistency that work in our society demand. Since then, the flea marketing that I have done for most of my adult life has evolved into my son's second job of selling via eBay, craigslist, and occassionally doing flea markets, with most of those being one's where a church (interestingly enough, in my area, usually sponsored by “liberal/progressive” churches affiliated with centuries old denominations). My son deals with the complexities of eBay selling smaller, higher priced items, and I dealing with large and inexpensive items, and getting purchases packaged and delivered to the various shipping companies. Even then, in my area, there are no worthwhile flea markets when it's really cold outside, and I can no longer consistently handle doing flea markets when it is really hot in the summer.
To that effect, life is somewhat more out of my control than at any time since I was a child. I depend on my son. From that, Christmas, oddly, was quite pleasant this year. For most years, I had an inward guilt about not being able to make it a sufficiently nice Christmas, or worse, having overspent enough to make the next few months a little bit more miserable. Now, that type of thing is just totally out of my control.
Last evening, somehow, I wound up watching a tv program on aging on one of the community access channels in my area. I didn't catch the name of the program in the beginning, but the content drew me into it, and, at the end, the credits told that it was produced by the University of Hawai'i at Manoa Center on Aging. Come to think of it, I don't remember them having the apostrophe between the two “i”'s as U. Of Hawai'i insists on being the correct spelling, but that's irrelevant. It some ways, it was kind of discouraging, seeing people in their 80's talk about taking walks and traveling, and having younger relatives question whether it was a good idea at their age. I say that as, while at this time I am “only” 60, walking and traveling are too painful to wish to do, except as necessary.
One off the wall statement in the program was that, in speaking to many older persons, when asked what they were proudest of in their life, there was a significant division by race. Whites indicated that they reached a point where they could travel or do what they wanted; blacks were proudest that they had survived. Now, it needs to be noted that what today would be an elderly black person lived a portion of their life when society in this country was overtly racist in many areas. I also realize that many blacks perceive society, even today, to be more antagonistic than I as a white person perceive it. To me, it wasn't clear whether this program and the interviews behind it were done nationally or in Hawai'i, where the subject of race is quite different than in the contiguous 48.
The program touched on belief in the sense that two of the people being interviewed were a non-orthodox Jewish rabbi and a Catholic monsignor. Additionally, a woman who was Jewish made a comment about, when she was a girl, she asked a question about Judaism to an older person and was told females didn't have to concern themselves with those things.
Further, the program asserted that older persons do not become more conservative politically with age. That should make me feel better, as I have moved from conservative to so radical no successful politician would want to talk to me, but, being a tv program, all it has time to do is assert, and give a short glimpse of the facts, which, of course, may be distorted. Of course, I live in Virginia Beach, whose history is highly affected by a woman who started as mayor as a liberal and left office decades later as so conservative some of the monied people were in a rush to have her out of office.
On Christmas, there was present opening first thing in the morning. Grandson is almost 8—an age where he can understand, anticipate, and get overly excited, but still control himself somewhat when told to. Later in the day, I watched some back-to-back episodes of a program on HGTV called, “Hawaii Life”--they didn't use the apostrophe. It really isn't what one might think the program is about.
The name of the program came from the name of a real estate agency, and the program was their agents showing persons looking to move there some houses—actually three in a half hour. Wow—did whoever owns the agency pay to have this program done, or do they get paid to do it? What advertising! I bet I can guess the reaction of their local competitors who have more normal real estate agency names.
As I said before, life has moved so that I help my son with a merchandising business. It has gone from flea market items to more of coins, jewelry, and vintage/antiques. I am writing this while sitting in the town hall of a small town about 1 1/2 hours from where I live. There is this auctioneer that has an auction in this town hall on New Year's Day and the 4th of July. I am guessing that this room seats about 125, given that about one fourth of the floor space is filled with tables of old stuff, as is the stage, except for where the auctioneer and the secretary are sitting. I am here at 9 in the morning. Auction will start at 10. It's going to be a long day, I'm sitting in a chair, my son is looking at items with a white glove, jeweler's loupe, and some little electronic thing that differentiates real jewels from glass. Last time he was here, he got some antique furniture. We've sold some, but still have quite a bit. I talked him out of bring a car hauling trailer with us, but we did come with a pickup instead of a car. I hope everything he gets is (physically) small. He's 31, and about the youngest person in the place acting like a buyer during the inspection time.
On the wall, one of the items is a round outdoor thermometer, which, in the middle, has the logo of Dr. Pepper, with the words underneath it, “Hot or Cold”. To me hot Dr. Pepper sounds disgusting, as I sip on a cold cola on a cold day.
If anyone is curious about what we are selling, my son's eBay store can be searched under the code name, “navygamer”. The items on norfolk.craigslist can be searched with “757-735-3639”. My son also has an online store “shop.savvythrify.com”.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Watching a preaching program this morning


Its 7am on Saturday, and I've just awakened. I turn on the tv, and, for whatever reason, stop at a preaching program by a “church” in the area. The person speaking indicates that this is a Bible study, which I must assume means that he is speaking at a midweek meeting. I'm not going to mention who is speaking, as there's many others who it could be. He says that they are about to “dialogue”, which I thought sounded curious, so I watched a little longer. His subject was knowing God's will, which has attracted me for years, as I have heard so much irrelevant information communicated in speeches on that subject. He jumps off my quoting Matthew 6:10, which is part of the Lord's Prayer which says, “Your will be done.” Of course, Jesus was teaching His disciples on prayer. The speaker, through halfway through his presentation (maybe more—on the tv program, at the halfway point of the half hour, it cuts off for him to speak about other things), didn't mention that the main subject of the passage, when looked at in context, is prayer. He jumps off by saying that some things are in the Bible, and we don't need to pray about them. He goes into a story about he and the elders of the church seeking God's will about opening another branch church in a city hours away. He goes into some of the odd stuff people have told him from their seeking God's will which clearly clashes with basic teaching of the Bible. He mentions in a cutesy way that there are times that the Holy Spirit and denomic forces can be speaking to us, and that the Spirit's at times is less logical. At this point, the cutoff in the program happens. Other than some people in the crowd yelling, “Amen”, I heard no dialogue. Other than the one scripture, and passing reference to a scripture that, from the context of his sentence, he spoke about a week ago, that was the only scripture mentioned, with no indication that anyone had studied anything in the Bible, other than the speaker preparing his speech.
What actual teaching content did I hear? The speaker said there are some directives in the Bible that are so basic and clear that we do not need to pray about them. He used being married to one person and staying faithful to that person as an example. Although that is obvious, it is a concept that spans many non-Christian societies. He said some things the believer needs to seek God's direction on, such as accepting a new job. He said that sometimes deception is more logical than the Spirit's guidance. He gave no specifics on how to clarify this situation. This isn't Bible study, this isn't dialogue, and it isn't much teaching. I will guess that quite possibly, even probably, if I knew this man he would be nice, and I don't question his faith. He is fitting into the the institutional status quo of what he is supposed to be doing, and as the broadcast mentions, he has three church building locations in cities probably 2 hour driving time from furthest to furthest, he is what would be considered “successful.” If I was there, there would be no appropriate forum for pointing out these inconsistencies, and recognize that that would come across, at least subliminally, as an attack upon his position, i.e. salary.
This is one more example of why I prefer a non-institutional setting, where one may actually study the Bible, and one may even open one's mouth and say the wrong thing, so that other believer's may lovingly correct one.