Leave the Work to Others?

download

In Matthew 9 we read: “35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Jesus calls on His disciples to ask God for help in reaching those in need.  This does not suggest, however, that they had no responsibility to go to work for the harvest themselves.  We see this later when Jesus charges the disciples with going into all the world to make disciples.

In the book of Judges we see a kind of parallel when Israel is under threat from Jabin king of Canaan.  The Judge Deborah calls for Israel to resist.  The result is a response from Zebulun and Naphtali.  The people of God are triumphant, but only two tribes met the challenge.  In chapter 5, “The Song of Deborah,” we see that the failure of the others to help was a flaw not in the leadership of Deborah and Barak, but of themselves:

“15b In the districts of Reuben there was much searching of heart. 16 Why did you stay among the sheep pens to hear the whistling for the flocks? In the districts of Reuben there was much searching of heart. Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan. And Dan, why did he linger by the ships? Asher remained on the coast and stayed in his coves. 18 The people of Zebulun risked their very lives; so did Naphtali on the terraced fields.”

It is interesting that there seems to be a self-serving by Reuben, Asher, the people of Gilead, and Dan.  Their lands were not directly at risk, and they seemed to have no drive to aid their brethern.  What goes around, comes around so they say, for later with the arrival of the Philistines (and others) they are picked off one by one [Reuben by Moab in 1315 BC, Asher by Hazor in 1277 BC, Gilead by Midian in 1217 BC, and Dan by the Philistines in 1122 BC].

As the work of the Lord beckons, let us not leave the work to others, for who knows when we may be the one’s in need of assistance?

Padre

 

“Just Say No”

crossbible

Titus 2 reads in part: “11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”

This is the ultimate “Just Say No” programme.  It isn’t just about drug; alcohol; or illicit sex.  It is about saying “No” to whatever stops someone from being conformed and transformed into the image of Christ.  Worldly passions, lack of self-control (including greed, anger, and malice) are swept away and a upright, loving, holy life fills the void left by a life of sin.

This does not mean we are sin free in the futyre, but that our lives take a new dirction in which the temptations of sin are less appealing, if not distasteful to us.  It is also easier in that, as the passage states, the grace of God empowers us.  This is ot just a gift to those who are “Goddie Two-shoes” or “Holy Joes,” but to all;  it: “offers salvation to all people.”

Each of us is a sinner.  No matter what the past road in our lives (pride, drugs, lust, or greed), we are now give the grace to overcome, grow and flurish. In short to become “a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.”

Padre

Folly or Prepared?

I recently was part of a theological discussion on the difference between the 5 wise and 5 foolish virgins of Matthew 25.

On one level they are the same.  Note they are all virgins, and all waiters for the bridegroom. In context they are all ten, those who wait on the advent of Christ. The difference between them is seen in both preparation and outcome.

Barnes’ Notes on this reads:

And five of them were wise – . The words “wise and foolish,” here, refer only to their conduct; in regard to the oil. The one part was “wise” in taking oil, the other “foolish” in neglecting it. The conduct of those who were “wise” refers to those who are “prepared” for the coming of Christ – prepared by possessing real piety, and not being merely his professed followers. The conduct of those “without” oil expresses the conduct of those who profess to love him, but are destitute of true grace, and are therefore unprepared to meet him. Nothing can be argued from the number here in regard to the proportion of sincere Christians among professors. circumstances in parables are not to be pressed literally.

The Pulpit Comentary notes:

All the virgins were outwardly the same, were provided with the same lamps, prepared to perform the same office; the difference in their characters is proved by the result. Their folly is seen in the fact that at the time of action they were unable to do the part which a little care and forethought would have enabled them to perform successfully.

The parable itself shows the differing factor to be this preparation, or the folly of not being prepared:

7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.” (NIV)

The difference in preparation is a lesson for us.  Do we keep ourselves ready for the coming, or our own departure?  Do we fall into a “lazy” faith of church attendance and little more?  Or are we dynamic in our anticpation of the “great day coming?” Are we fervent in our prayer, hospitable to our brethern, hungry for the word?  In short, do we have OUR lamps in order?

Padrebible

Glory of the Humble Olive

Olives at Gethsemane.JPG

In Hosea 14, God sends the message that if Israel repents and returns to Him, He will welcome then back.  In verse 5,  “God will be like the dew to Israel [perpetually blessing His people).” Most commentators agree that the rest of the verse shows the result. “; . . . he [Israel or God’s people] will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.”

Olive -Splendor?  The Hebrew word  is “hod,” which means “glory” or “majesty”. The humble olive in fact has all the aspects of the possible translations of hod (beauty, splendor, glory, and majesty.”  The olive tree is a plant of unequaled merit in the ancient world. It is beautifully evergreen.  It produces the edible fruit, and a fragent oil.  The oil can be used as food, for cooking, and for lighting. Its wood is a multi-shaded hardwood which can be highly polished and is useful to make furniture and utensils. The tree itself can produce fruit for hundreds of years. If the tree us cut or copiced, the sump will regrow.  The tree is also resistant to drought and fire.  This is a truly splendid tree.

It is significant then that those who turn to God will be like such a tree. You, and I are heirs to such a transformation.  An olive might not seem very splendid; nor you or I in our own estimations. But, God will make us, like that small roundish fruit, into a great tree.  We have the promise and the potential in Him, to be fruitful and useful to Him.

Padre

 

Hospitality

5271e9638e44b2918314f75dcb4c2cc5

Hospitality is a Christian virtue.  It was shown in Genesis when Abraham welcomed the three travellers offering them water for their feet, and bread for their stomachs. Later Lot showed the same kindness to the two (unknown to him) angels [Heb 13:2].  The idea of welcome, care, and compassion for those under your roof is a great fulfilling of the idea of “loving your neighbour as yourself.”

Yesterday, I was a beneficiary of such a Christian welcome.  My wife and I enjoyed good fellowship, excellent cake, and heartfelt prayers from our host and hostess.  We were indeed blessed by the experience.

In Romans 12 we read: “13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”  This was one of the great accomplishments of the early church as seen in Acts 2:  “46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke breadin their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”  practicing hospitality led to fellowship, and to “favour of the people.” The result was church growth – numerical and spiritual.  

When we are hospitable, we further the Lord’s aims.  But even more impowering is that we are following His model – “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14: 2-3).” Wow, what a welcome, and in the house of the Lord no less!

Lord, help me be as welcoming as your Son would have me be, and Lord bless Brother Joe and Sister Claire for their example.

Padre

Food for Thought

bread_wheat_greek_pita_crumb

I was teaching the symbolism of the Pesach seder to one of my classes recently, and many were impressed that food can be such a useful memory tool.  In the seder, salt water reminds the Jewish community of the tears of their ancestors while in slavery; and bitter herbs of the bitterness of captivity.  Matza that the exodus was so sudden that they had no time for their bread to rise before they departed.

Symbols of remembrance are fairly universal, whether it be poppies at Remembrance Day, or candles at Diwali or Hanukkah.  We are  drawn to symbols, they explain complicated ideas in simple forms, provide shortcuts and shorthand for us to focus upon.

Food however is special.  It is often shared communally, it is enjoyed, and it nourishes us. This is ultimately true of the communion or “Lord’s supper.”  On the night that Jesus was betrayed, He took the bread and broke it telling His disciples that it represented His body that would be broken for us; then he took the cup, and after giving thanks and praise, said that it was to be for us the blood He shed, to wash away our sins.  I Corinthians 11 reads: “24and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”  

We come together to share communally the emblems of His sacrifice.  We enjoy the blessings of salvation. We are nurished physically (though in tiny proportion), but more importantly spiritually.  As the Catholic mass words it, “It has become our spiritual [food] and drink.”

So as often as we partake of it, let us do it in remembrance. To think of Him, His sacrifice, and His love.  It is truly a “food for thought.”

Take Eat

images

Food continues as my them today, and it provides an interesting insight into the covenant we have with God.  In Ezekiel chapter 4, the prophet is told concerning his bread: “12 And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight. 13 And the Lord said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them. 14 Then said I, Ah Lord God! behold, my soul hath not been polluted: for from my youth up even till now have I not eaten of that which dieth of itself, or is torn in pieces; neither came there abominable flesh into my mouth. 15 Then he said unto me, Lo, I have given thee cow’s dung for man’s dung, and thou shalt prepare thy bread therewith.” When Ezekiah is commanded to consume a ritually unclean food he objects.  When his objection is shown as his concern for being consistant with the Law of Moses, God grants him an alternative.

Yet, in Acts chapter 10 we read, “On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour. 10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, 11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending upon him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: 12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. 14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. 15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.”  Peter is called to break Jewish dietary laws, and He like Ezekiel objects.  But here our stories diverge, for instead of being given an alternative, he is repremanded.  For in Hebrews 8: 13 it says By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete;and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.”  

The new covenant, the has replaced the old.  Ezekiel was supported for his faithfulness of the Moses Covenant, but Peter was shown the way of the New: The Covenant of Grace.

Padre

 

Of Grain and Pulse

images-2

I posted a few days ago on the creation of Adam from soil.  So, I found it very interesting in the testimonies of two of the great prophets, that they were called to fast on the fruit of the soil.

In Daniel 1 we read, “11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables [literally pulses] to eat and water to drink.13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.”14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.”

Then in Ezekiel 2 we find God commanding the prophet “Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself. You are to eat it during the 390 days you lie on your side. 10 Weigh out twenty shekelsof food to eat each day and eat it at set times. 11 Also measure out a sixth of a hin of water and drink it at set times.”

As a pesco-vegitarian, I find these calls to a pulse and grain fast intreging, as it gave essential health.  That said, it also gave spiritual strength.  As I pondered this, it seems that the men of God were called to return to the pre-Noahic covenant. Genesis 1 reads, “29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”  This was food of the soil, to the man of the fruitful soil “Adamah.”

On seeds and pulses the prophets were fed, and they were indeed fruitful soil themselves.

A cool thing to ponder.

Padre

Seek First

download (1)

Seek ye first . . . Fame? Fortune? Happiness?  Security? A hot partner? Today’s world is full on pressures to “have.”  People will humiliate themselves to have a brief moment on reality TV.   They will give their time and hard earned money in schemes to “get rich.” Why ? Because they feel they are missing something.

There are two related features here.  Although cliche it is nonetheless true that, each of us has a Christ shaped vacuum within us.  Those who do not know Him seek to fill it with things like money, power, sex, or alcohol.  They never fulfill for long, if at all.   This leads to the second feature of flitting from scheme to scheme, job to job, partner to partner in search of something better.  These two attempts to make “life better,” often lead to pain and frustration, and leave a trail of damaged others along the way.

But seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these others will be given to you.  Happiness – yes!  Security – the ultimate! Fame – personal fame is overrated, but you are associated with the ultimate celebrity and His glory lasts for eternity. Fortune – “consider the lilies of the field . . . ” All needs are provided – isn’t that fortune?

Seek the kingdom today!

Padre

Fruitful Soil

images

In Genesis 1 and 2 we have the creation account of the world, including of humans on the sixth day (chapter 1) and a reiteration and expansion of human creation in chapter two.  In chapter two we read, “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

Adam is made of Adamah, literally soil.  He is not formed of eretz, which means ground generally, nor of sadeh, which idiomatically can mean wilderness or waste ground.  Soil is fruitful.  In Genesis 1, “28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.””  Humans were given purpose: A) To reproduce (be adamah), and B) To have dominion.  But this is tempered with the words of Genesis 2: “15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”  Dominion, but with care – in short stewardship of God’ creation.

Fruitfulness in creation, and fruitfulness in purpose. Jesus mirrors this in His charge to His followers in Matthew 28: “19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Go be fruitful and multiply, and tend to my creation with all the words I have given you. Be stewards of “My Good News.”  

Let’s be adamah, not sadeh today!

Padre