A few years ago I stumbled across Scot McKnight. I don’t know how but since then I try to read all his books. You may not always agree with him but he writes with great clarity, depth, simplicity, and insight. He is in my top three favorite authors. I have just started reading his most famous book The Jesus Creed. Every page I have highlighted some thought, carefully crafted phrase, or insight he shares. On pages 29-30 he gives this amazing insight on the all too familiar story of the prodigal son.
Some Bible scholars observe a Jewish custom between the lines: when a son disgraces his father through sinful behaviors, runs away from him, and then later returns, the elders of the city take the young man to the village center and break a pot at his feet. The broken pot is a legal act of banishment. These scholars also think, in this parable, the Abba (his father not the singing group) runs to his son so that he can prevent the really awful event he fears: others banning him from the community if they reach him first. So, the Abba sprints to the son and announces, “Quick! Bring the best robe”.
I love this. Think about how this impacts the story. The father is looking for the son day after day because he longs for him to be with him. As the son is on his way home if he is spotted and recognized people will come to take him into custody and ban him from the community. The broken and repentant son will now be cut off from everyone. The father loves his son and wants to save him from this doom. When he sees him, the father is in a race between him and any who may want to condemn the boy. When he arrives he immediately does what it takes to forgive and bestow upon him son-ship. He doesn’t even let his son apologize because he must restore his son to his place in the family and community before others can cast him away and ban him.
This is an amazing story of love and this little extra piece of cultural history helps it become even more amazing. As an added bonus f you love knowing the story behind the story one of the best I know at this is J. Duncan M. Derrett.
I have been thinking about how God views sin in light of the Law and Jesus. To me it seems that there are three categories of sins that God sees as worse than others. We all know that all sin is wrong, it separates us from God, and deserves a punishment but it seems that there are three categories of sins that are more severe and could carry a heavier punishment if any degree of hell isn’t bad enough.
Sins that Cannot be Undone
Some sins can be corrected. If I tell a lie then I can tell the truth. If I steal from you I can give you back what I took. In the Law if you stole you were to pay back 5 times the amount stolen. The eye for the eye law was to replace or make amends for whatever you damaged, destroyed, or injured. But there are some sins that cannot be undone. Murder, rape, adultery, perjury in capital punishment cases (lying to convict), kidnapping. These sins required the death penalty because you took something from someone that could not be replaces: life, purity, emotional security, etc. Due to the nature of these sins God required the death penalty.
Sins Against God
The second category of sins that required death was sin involving worshiping God. Blasphemy, witchcraft, idolatry, or breaking a worship law. God wanted his people to respect him and understand that not worshiping and honor God as the only and one true God was not acceptable and death was the price for not honoring him.
Sinning When We Know Better
This category did not call for death but is one introduced by Jesus. Jesus said many times that the people who know the truth but who sin anyway will face a more severe punishment. That is a scary thought for all Christians as we should know the truth and our rebellion or apathy will be factored into judgment.
We often think of God in the Old Testament as one of wrath but in truth one was killed unless they committed a sin that couldn’t be undone or they sinned against God. I walk away from this thinking that God loves us and tries to help us value others by installing the death penalty for some sins against men. He also wants a relationship with us and doesn’t want anyone or thing to come between us. It also makes me think about our attitude toward God. We are to be in awe of him but not fearful of him. I think we have done a good job of helping people not be afraid of God but not so good at helping people be in awe of God and show him the respect he deserves.
This is a great little note from John Woodall’s blog
Why did Jesus fold the linen burial cloth after His resurrection?
I never noticed this….
The Gospel of John (20:7) tells us that the napkin, which was placed over the face of Jesus, was not just thrown aside like the grave clothes. The Bible takes an entire verse to tell us that the napkin was neatly folded, and was placed at the head of that stony coffin.
John 20:6 Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.
Was that important? Absolutely!
Is it really significant? Yes!
In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, you have to understand a little bit about Hebrew tradition of that day. The folded napkin had to do with the Master and Servant, and every Jewish boy knew this tradition. When the servant set the dinner table for the master, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it. The table was furnished perfectly, and then the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating, and the servant would not dare touch that table, until the master was finished.
Now if the master were done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and clean his beard, and would wad up that napkin and toss it onto the table. The servant would then know to clear the table. For in those days, the wadded napkin meant, ‘I’m done’.
But if the master got up from the table, and folded his napkin, and laid it beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because…The folded napkin meant… ‘I’m coming back!’
I am sooooo glad Jesus is coming back.
Every Sunday morning I go to church and put on my Sunday best. I have always wanted to know what makes Sunday morning so special that we have to wear a coat, tie, dress, or the like. What is it about that magical hour that makes us all dress up? Why is it that 7 hours later we can worship God wearing jeans? I have been trying to discover the theological reasons for this. I know it must be scriptural for it transcends denominational lines.
1. It is the reverse of sack cloth and ashes. In the Old Testament to show signs of repentance you would tear your clothes and put on sack cloth and ashes. But being New Testament Christians we must do the reverse. So we put on skirts, dresses, ties, coats, etc. Sunday is the first day of the new week so we put on our best clothes to show God how holy we want to become that week. We feel fresh, revived, and ready to be the perfect Christian. 7 hours later we have had a fight with our wife over being late for church, watched football and enjoyed the beer commercials, took a nap instead of visiting the hospital. In just 7 hours we basically realize that we have sinned and that God knows we are not holy so we wear jeans and pray for grace.
2. Soiled Garments. Every self respecting Christian eats out on Sunday. You go to church, give mom the day off, and go out to eat. You enjoy a good meal, condemn the waiter for working on Sunday, and then you spill salsa on your clothes and you can’t wear them again that night. So we throw on our jeans and polo.
3. The Angels Dressed Up. Luke 24:4 …two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. You see this was on a Sunday morning. So here is the Biblical example. They dressed up in dazzling robes not dingy ones. Now later on in Luke 24 we find 2 men traveling and they meet and ate with Jesus. Everyone knows that you don’t travel in your Sunday best so the Sunday night meeting with Jesus must have been informal. They were likely wearing there every day robes not there dazzling robes.
I just got through watching Prince Caspian and it was a great movie! There was so much action and my heart raced through so much of the movie. It also had so many biblical themes and I am going to take the next few blogs to write about the ones that impacted me.
When Prince Caspian first meets King Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy he is shocked that they are children and says that he was expecting grown up kings and queens. How many times do we find that God uses the unexpected to do great things. Think about all the people of the Bible who were young when God did great things with them (David, Jeremiah, John, Mark, ..).
At the end of the movie Lucy says that she wished she was able to be more like the older one and have more courage and fight. She has a little dagger as her weapon while the others have swords and a bow and arrow. But she is the only one who sees Aslan and has faith that he is there and can help them.
God constantly reminds us that age is not a factor in serving him and age is not a factor in him using you to do great and powerful things. Many times we let our own doubts and logic get in the way of letting God use us and sometimes as an excuse not to do things for God.
1 Timothy 4:12 was one of those verses I hated growing up I think it was because it was theme of every camp and youth rally or any speaker who thought he would dedicate a sermon to the youth. But I have gotten over my bitterness for it and grown to appreciate the fact that Paul is telling Timothy two great messages.
1. God has given him a great gift and is ready to use him to do great things. He is to live up to God’s standards and lead people who are much older than he is.
2. He can’t use age as an excuse or a fear not to do what God is calling him to do.
If God’s kingdom (Narnia) is to survive and thrive it needs young people (another term I hate but don’t know a better way to say it) to step up and use the gifts that God has given them. We can’t let age hold us back, back us fearful, or use as an excuse to wait.
(A Take off of Stuff Christians Like)
We have all been in a Bible discussion when a scripture war breaks out. We trade verses that prove our points in hope that we will somehow prove the other person wrong and that they will convert to our way of thinking. The problem is that at the end there is no defined winner. It is like the presidential debates both sides return to their corners and they think and spin how they won. So we need a scoring system to help us be able to declare a winner. So the following is my proposed scoring system:
Old Testament Verses +3pts
New Testament Verses +2pts
Bonus points for:
Quoting it from the KJV or ASV +2pt
Levitical Law +2pts
Minor Prophet excluding Jonah +2pts
Giving book chapter and verse +2pts
Proof texting to prove your point +2pts
Red letter verses +3pts
Verses quoted in New Testament +3pts
From God +3pts
Referring to the Holy Spirit +3pts
Verses from Revelation +3pts
Verses that you can illustrate or explain with a scene from a movie +3pts
Verses that refer to some obscure practice that now brings out the junior high reaction in all of us (Examples: Ezekiel 23:19-20 and Deuteronomy 23:1) +5pts
List of all the things that will send you to hell +5pts
Penalty points for:
Verses from VBS stories -3pts
Verses found on a sign at a football game, a Thomas Kincaid picture, a coffee mug, etc -3pts
Quoting it from the Message -2pts
Quoting an evil person -3pts
Being caught proof texting to prove your point -4pts
Verses that are a common song -5pts
Thinking it was in the Bible but its not (cleanliness is next to godliness) -10pts
So no you know the rules and have a way to know if you won or lost your latest Bible discussion.
Fasting was done for many reasons religious and not. It was a way to show that something in life had been altered (death, plans, etc) or something needed to change (your life, your relationship with God, etc). Over a period of time the Pharisees made fasting a badge of honor and taught that every good Jew would fast on Monday and Thursday. To them fasting equaled godliness and the more you did it the more godly you were and you wanted to make sure that others recognized how godly you were so you made sure people could know when you fasted.
The original religious purpose of fasting was to give up something that you believed you had to have (food) and when you took it away you would realize that you could live without it but what you couldn’t live without was God. When Jesus was traveling through Samaria in John 4 the disciples went to get food and when they returned they found Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman who brought the whole town out to meet Jesus. They offered him food because he hadn’t had any and he told them that he had food they didn’t know about (4:31) and that it was doing God’s will.
My schedule is pack full of going from one task to the next and filled with so many distractions from reading blogs, facebook, text messaging, talk radio ( I love ESPN radio), and tv at home. Many times I loose my focus on God due to these things. Over the weekend I didn’t watch tv or have the internet because I was at my parents and I was going crazy not checking my messages. But it also allowed me to go out by the creek and set on the dock and meditate and pray. I wouldn’t have done it if they had tv or the net.
We need to return to the practice of fasting. Maybe not the tradition of not eating food but maybe turning off the phone and computer for a day or two. The purpose of fasting is to help us regain control of our life from the things that dominate us. It allows us to realize that the things we think we need are not all that important. It allows us to spend more time with God. The purpose was to help us hunger and thirst for righteousness. Sometimes we spend more time texting than reading the Bible and praying. Sometimes we read blogs, post messages on facebook, and the like and forget to meditate on scripture.
So let me challenge you to unplug for a day and spend the extra time with God and reconnect and remember what it is like to be free of distractions and focused on God.