Cardinal vine and rock

Jesus is the reason

Gardeners usually have a reason for the things they do. The laws of nature and of nature’s God leave little room for error. If the recipe for marinated Brussels sprouts inspired me to go out and plant them right now, I would be setting myself up for failure.

The irises are interplanted with the daylilies so that the varieties don’t grow together, and to extend the bloom time of the bed.

The cardinal vine was allowed to grow near the rocks, so that the star shaped red blooms of the fernlike Ipomoea plant could cover them.

Marigolds are planted by squash for two reasons. First, they look pretty. Second, they repel squash bugs. Yes, I know that first reason seems rather lame; but it works for me, and it’s true. My father had his own logic about flowers. He couldn’t eat them so he didn’t grow them. Continue reading

Buffet

Religion as you like it

“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers'” (Matthew 23:1-4Matthew 23:1-4
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23 1 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to his disciples, 2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees sat on Moses’ seat. 3 All things therefore whatever they tell you to observe, observe and do, but don’t do their works; for they say, and don’t do. 4 For they bind heavy burdens that are grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not lift a finger to help them.

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NKJV).

While on a trip to report to supporting churches, I was invited to attend a gathering hosted by the local Jewish Synagogue. The Rabbi explained that those present were mostly members of a society dedicated to promoting Judaism and self-awareness within their community. As a means of explaining their activities he stated, “We encourage people to engage Judaism a la carte, at whatever level of commitment and activity they choose.”

What a perfect description of the modern attitude towards religion, with particular relevance to Christianity. All of my life I have been encouraged to “join the church of my choice.” Today one may choose not only between denominations, but also between conservative, radical, moderate, or progressive (i.e. liberal) branches of any particular denomination. Continue reading

The Grounds of Israel’s Ethics and Ours

God calls on his people to act in accordance with his own character and nature. Often we read in the OT how the behavior of the Israelite was tied to his/her national story with God. For example: Before God gave the people the 10 Commandments and the 613 laws of the covenant, he grounded it all in the founding story.

Exodus 20:2Exodus 20:2
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2 “I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

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“I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” (KJV)

The central event of the Old Testament is the exodus from Egypt and Sinai. God’s deliverance of Israel from Egyptian slavery and the covenant formed at Mt. Sinai were the founding events and documents of the Nation of Israel. Through the exodus and at Sinai, they became a nation.

Notice such passages as:

Exodus 23:9Exodus 23:9
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9 “You shall not oppress an alien, for you know the heart of an alien, seeing you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

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“Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

Exodus 22:21-23Exodus 22:21-23
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21 “You shall not wrong an alien, neither shall you oppress him, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. 22 “You shall not take advantage of any widow or fatherless child. 23 If you take advantage of them at all, and they cry at all to me, I will surely hear their cry;

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“Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry;”

See also Leviticus 19:34Leviticus 19:34
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34 The stranger who lives as a foreigner with you shall be to you as the native-born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you lived as foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am Yahweh your God.

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; Deuteronomy 10:19Deuteronomy 10:19
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19 Therefore love the foreigner; for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.

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; and especially Deuteronomy 24:19-22Deuteronomy 24:19-22
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19 When you reap your harvest in your field, and have forgot a sheaf in the field, you shall not go again to get it: it shall be for the foreigner, for the fatherless, and for the widow; that Yahweh your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the foreigner, for the fatherless, and for the widow. 21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it after you: it shall be for the foreigner, for the fatherless, and for the widow. 22 You shall remember that you were a bondservant in the land of Egypt: therefore I command you to do this thing.

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In their national story they had been oppressed aliens and were made widows and orphans by Egypt. Theirs was to be a different morality, an ethic based upon their story as the oppressed. They were to practice justice, righteousness, mercy, and compassion, because they knew what it was to be the victims of injustice, unrighteousness, to live at the hands of the unmerciful and those lacking compassion. Their story as victims was to inform their refusal to be oppressors.

The Law moves from the level of moral ideals such as ‘For I am the LORD your God…and ye shall be holy; for I am holy’ (Lev 11:44Lev 11:44
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44 For I am Yahweh your God. Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy: neither shall you defile yourselves with any kind of creeping thing that moves on the earth.

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) into the concrete with commands such as, ‘You shall love the alien (with all the related rights and privileges that flow from that position) because I, your God loves the alien, and proved it by the historical act of delivering you from Egypt’.” (meditate a while on Leviticus 19:33-34Leviticus 19:33-34
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33 “‘If a stranger lives as a foreigner with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 The stranger who lives as a foreigner with you shall be to you as the native-born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you lived as foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am Yahweh your God.

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and Deuteronomy 10:19Deuteronomy 10:19
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19 Therefore love the foreigner; for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.

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ff.)

Read through the Old Testament and you’ll be impressed by the frequency with which their national story is repeated to remind / inform them of their obligations and expected daily life.

In the Cross and the Resurrection, God founded a community that was the ethical alternative to the sinful, the ungodly, unholy, and unrighteous aspects of the culture it found itself in – Roman – and so, in all other cultures down through time, including our own.

Today, Biblical Christianity is a counter-culture, in contrast to the ungodly things in our culture. For example:
– We live in opposition to our own consumer culture, instead of ‘take-take-take’ we ‘give-give-give’.
– Rather than ‘watching out for number one,’ we consider our neighbors better than ourselves.
– Rather than asserting our rights, rank and privilege we forfeit our liberties (Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8), in order to meet the needs of others.

And consider, too, what is our personal story? Roman 5:8man 5:8
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Izbrana zbirka WEB ne vsebuje vpisane knjigeMesto:

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“But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

While we were yet sinners Christ died for us to redeem us from the slavery of our sin. He became our personal Passover lamb, our Exodus, and our Sinai. He became our living, breathing, standard of ethical behavior.

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Jesus, the Son of God

“Now because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began persecuting him. So he told them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I too am working.’ For this reason the Jewish leaders were trying even harder to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was also calling God his own Father, thus making himself equal with God” (John 5:16-18John 5:16-18
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16 For this cause the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill him, because he did these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is still working, so I am working, too.” 18 For this cause therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath, but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

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Jesus was in Jerusalem because of a “feast of the Jews” (John 5:1John 5:1
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5 1 After these things, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

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). Although which feast is not specified in the text, most scholars take this to be Passover. If this is true, one year had now passed since the first Passover recorded in John 2, when Jesus cleared the temple. He would have two more Passovers, two more years, before his crucifixion. While in Jerusalem, Jesus did two things which angered the Jewish leaders. Continue reading

Athens 2004 - Opening Ceremony

Tragic moral choice

In ancient Greek theater, tragedies were quite popular, a common plot, or sub-plot, requiring the hero to defy or disobey one Greek god in order to obey another.

Life is not a Greek tragedy where obedience to one god may require disobedience to another. For the Bible believer, we have one lawgiver and judge (James 4:12James 4:12
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12 Only one is the lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge another?

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), and while it occasionally seems otherwise, his moral requirements do not put us where either way, whether we do or don’t, we stand condemned.

With the recent election still on our minds, we often hear of folk not liking either candidate (or party) say they voted for the “lesser of two evils.” It’d likely be more accurate to say they voted for the less objectionable of two less than ideal choices. Sometimes in life we get stuck with less than ideal choices (whether in politics or other areas of life), and the “lesser of two evils” kind of thinking seems to feed the idea we are sometimes forced to choose between two (or more) immoral alternatives. No matter which we choose, we are acting immorally and stand in transgression against God. We feel we can only choose the “lesser of two evils” or hope that our choice will “promote the greater good”, as there seems to us to be no moral solution. Continue reading

preacher

Gone to meddlin’

One of my elders used this familiar phrase Sunday – you know the one. “Preacher, you quit preachin’ and gone to meddlin’.” It’s a sad day when preaching meddles in our marriages, meddles in our work ethics, meddles in our use of money. Of course, that elder was kidding. But I like the phrase because it says something important. There is an idea out there, not quite said but believed nonetheless, that preaching isn’t supposed to actually demand lifestyle changes, commitment, or repentance.

It’s not supposed to suggest that some actions are morally wrong, or that if there are true teachings there must be false teachings, too. It’s not supposed to proclaim that there is a right way and a wrong way, or worse, that there is just one way, one truth, and one life (John 14:6John 14:6
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6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.

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).

That’s so exclusive! We need to include all kinds of lifestyles! Continue reading

Victory

Winning is everything

by Robert Goff, Jr.

In our efforts to teach our children how to prioritize their values, we often caution, “Winning isn’t everything.” Certainly, that is a true statement in most realms of our lives.

Winning a ball game is more fun than losing, but it isn’t everything. Winning a contest at school is important to young people (and their parents), but we all must understand that some of the most important lessons in life are learned when we don’t win. Continue reading

vegetarian23

Spiritual vegetarians

When a baby is born, they are fed milk or formula until they are able to handle solid food. As we grow, we have a greater say over our diet.

Some choose to become meat eaters while others become vegetarians. Neither is inherently right or wrong since you can find a host of experts and advocates on both sides.

Spiritually, though, we can be more certain. In the Bible, God uses diet to refer to spiritual maturity. New Christians can’t handle the advanced teaching that may be a normal meal for a mature Christian. Continue reading

jesus-christ-center

He’s core, so we think about him in everything we do

The people behind my email service started a series of posts recently, explaining how they work. The following sentence concluded today’s post, written by one of their head guys.

When you call yourself FastMail, you’re really signalling one of your core features in the name, and that means we have to always think about it in everything we do.

Now, put “Christian” in the place of “FastMail,” and see what that statement says about those of us who follow the Way. Continue reading

Pine_with_snow

To speak, or not to speak?

Horsetail rushes are the “corduroy” of the garden. My Dad used to call them fiddlesticks, because of the noise they make when they rub together. “Scree, scree, scree!”

Some of the sounds of the garden are not as harsh. The White Pines near the deck take the wind and turn it into soft whispers that can be imagined as words of comfort.

Then there is the constant chatter and song of the ever-present birds. Our previous residence was an apartment, and our bedroom window faced a parking lot. The first morning we awakened in our present house was heralded by the song of birds outside our window. The smile that crossed my face and embedded itself into my heart has never left. Continue reading