Couldn’t Make It Up 2

Today, I set a reporting task to one of my classes. I explained exactly how I wanted them to lay it out, then I repeated the instructions to make sure they were clear. I then asked if there were any questions on the assignment. No one responded, so I told them to get on with it. About five minutes later a hand went up and the student asked if she could do it – well, exactly as I had described how to do it. There are times when I serious wonder if some of my students aren’t just memes waiting to happen.



The rabbis tell us there are 613 commandments in the Torah. These include 365 “Don’ts” and 248 “dos.” There can be roughly categorised and summed up in the Ten Commandments of Sinai.

Exodus 20 :

1 And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

This list can be divided in a few ways, but it is generally accepted that the first four pertain to our relationship with God, and the remaining six with our relationship with other people. An interesting alternative view is that the fifth is a transitional command, as it can apply to our relationship with “the Father” or authority in general terms. This view then notes that the tenth is a consolidating command for the fifth through ninth commandments as if you do not covet possessions, you want be tempted to steal, or not coveting a neighbour’s spouse will remove the temptation to adultery, etc.

This division of the commands into “divine” and “human” is seen in Jesus’ further consolidation of the expectations. In Matthew 22, Jesus says the following about the greatest commandment of the law:

Jesus replied: “`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Here we see the “God – Man” divide again. Jesus is presenting the words of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6: 4-5) as the greatest command. The loving here is the Hebrew term “Ahavah” which means affection, but more than that was well. It unlike the Greek “love” which has many forms – agape, philos, etc., it can encompass all of them much as our English word “love” does. Our love of God is built on in Deuteronomy 10 where we are told it involves walking with Him, serving Him, and keeping His commands (see how this comes full circle). We can also deduce that we owe these “loves” to our fellows as well.

This obligation of Love of God and of man is recurrent in the New Testament. First Corinthians 13 tells us that of all the gifts we can receive from God, love is the greatest. Paul notes:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

He further notes that when all else passes away – love will endure.

John then takes this command or obligation to love, and very nicely:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 

So we complete our journey – 613 commands to 10. The 10 to two. The two the a central word: Love.

Let’s do as we are commanded.


The Cut

Daniel Taylor scanned the team list which was posted outside the locker room. He blinked twice and then read it again more slowly. There was no question about it; he had been cut from the squad.

He was determined to be the better man about, so sucked up his courage and went to see the coach.

“Coach Wilson,” Daniel said in a medium tone as he knocked on the frame of the open office door.

“Taylor, what can I do for you?”

“I just wanted to say that I appreciate the chance to have tried out, and wanted to ask if there is anything that I might do to improve and have a better chance next season.”

“Taylor, I appreciate your thanks, and as far as how to do better as a wide receiver in the future. . . . Um, have you ever considered badminton?”


The Summoning

The dark silhouette of a woman stood in the doorway, gestured for me to come forward, and whispered, “He’s in a right mood. Be careful.”

I entered into the elegantly appointed office and approached the desk.

“Have a seat,” the brooding figure behind the desk barked.

I took a seat and waited.

“Well?” he snapped.

“Well, what?”

“Well – let’s start with why do you think I’ve called you here.”

“I gather it has to do something with Christmas,” I replied.

“Exactly!” he roared.

“Do you have a particular complaint?” I asked.

“Why didn’t you give me a present?”

“Well, put simply – you were on my naughty list,” I replied.

“That’s a crock if I’ve ever heard one,” he challenged. “I did nothing wrong at Christmas.”

“And, it because of lies like that, and moments like this that you were on it.” Sometimes a Claus just has to make a stand, even if it is the Prime Minister you are dealing with.


Such A Time As This


Many people have looked down on the book of Esther, or even questioned its place in the canon of scripture. This rests on the fact that God is not directly named or even referenced in the text. But many rabbis over time have come to the book’s defence saying that “the fingerprints of God” are all over it.

Today’s piece will not be an exhaustive study of the book, but will focus on one of those finger prints.

In Chapter we find that Esther’s kinsman,  Mordecai, has discovered the minister Haman’s plan to have the Jews killed. He covers himself in sackcloth and ashes, and fasts and mourns the arrival of the edict’s enforcement. Esther, who has recently been elevated to the status of a Persian queen hears of Mordecai’s actions and sends to enquire about what it all means.

Her servant is told of the edict, and of a request from Mordecai for her to use her status to plead for mercy for the Jews of the land. In response Esther notes (verse 11) “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death . . . .”

Mordecai replies in verse 13, “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

The abbreviate the rest of the narrative, Esther after fasting and prayer takes the risk, and approaches the king. She is spared and indeed uses her influence, and some clever manoeuvring to achieve deliverance of the Jews, and to bring about the downfall of Haman.

You might have noticed that I have highlighted the “such a time as this” passage. It is an interesting parallel to a passage in the New Testament. The Jewish people are condemned to perish. There is little, if any hope for their rescue by any ordinary means. Yet, Mordecai calls into question the nature of Esther’s elevation. Is it a coincidence that Queen Vashti falls from Xerxe’s favour, and that Esther is selected to succeed her, just as this crisis arises for God’s people? Is not God’s fingerprint there?

The wording is also important: “such a time as this.” May I suggest that Esther is a type or parallel to the Messiah. All humanity was facing condemnation because of sin. We are condemned to perish. There is little, if any hope of rescue by any ordinary means. “But, when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4: 4-5).” We “in the fullness of time” (Such a time as this) were sent a deliverer, Jesus.

Esther’s deliverance of her people was a foreshadowing of humanities deliverance by Jesus. The book that bears her name is an important testimony of how God works. Sending salvation at an appointed time. Let’s not question this book, but marvel at God’s fingerprints instead.


Books and Covers

It isn’t at all what you think

Like that husband of mine has drove me to drink

It has nothing to do with him – though he’s a pain

So I can hardly suggest that he’s to blame

And it isn’t that I drink that much

Just a glass here and there – after meetings and such

So do not judge me when I nurse a glass

For I’m just letting a little time to pass

Before I have to get up and reality suspend

And type up my copy to the editor send

For I write for a paper spreading celebrity gossip

It is that and not the whiskey that’s really toxic

Yet people read it, forming judgements and opinions

Like sheep in a flock, the big media minions



With the Queen’s Jubilee just passed and Independence Day tomorrow, the idea of citizenship seemed a good fit for today.

In an interesting address, the Apostle Paul spoke of his citizenship of a not insignificant city.   This is a multi-layered statement coming from Paul.  Which city was he speaking of?


Citizen of no mean city: Acts 21: 39 Paul answered, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city. Please let me speak to the people.” 40 After receiving the commander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all silent, he said to them in Aramaic.

Paul was born in this city in Roman Cilicia.  As such he can make claim to it.  But while this was an important city of its time, could he have meant more by the statement?


22: 3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.

He builds on this in Philippians 3:

5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

Here Paul notes his Hebrew lineage and citizenship.  He was educated and came to some prominence in the city of God’s Temple.


22: 24 the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. 25 As they stretched him out to flog him, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?”26 When the centurion heard this, he went to the commander and reported it. “What are you going to do?” he asked. “This man is a Roman citizen.” 27 The commander went to Paul and asked, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”  “Yes, I am,” he answered. 28 Then the commander said, “I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship.” “But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied. 29 Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.

Today there are discussions of relative value of passports.  Where can it get you?  What protections can it provide.  Are you American, British, Irish?  Well, in the first century it was citizenship of Rome that was the one to have.  It is clear that Paul had citizenship by birth.  

But what did that mean?

Not everyone living in the First Century Roman Empire was a citizen.  There were slaves, freemen, people from client states, and citizens.

Slaves were everywhere.  Different types included civic specialist (often Greeks), gladiators, prisoners of war, house slaves, artisans, and the list goes on.  It should be noted that if the slave of a Roman citizen was freed, they themselves would become citizens.

Most citizens were Roman and Latin lower and middle classes.   Some of these Plebians were ex-auxiliary soldiers who were issued diplomas, others were wealthier or skilled freed slaves.  Others, those granted citizenship on their cities or tribes being absorbed into the Empire.

Above these were the Patricians including the Knights and Senators, Pilate was of the knight class.

There were rights and benefits associated with citizenship.  At Philippi in Acts 16: 37 we can see how Paul’s Roman  citizenship impacted his treatment. “But Paul said to the officers: ‘They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.” 38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city.’

And many of you may know Paul later used the right to have his case heard directly by Caesar. 

But I would like to suggest while all these citizenships were held by Paul, the greatest was as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Kingdom of God:

In Acts 28, we are told that Paul stayed in Rome two full years in his own rented house, welcoming all who came to visit him. 31 Boldly and freely he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, above all Paul was a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.  The Passport beyond all others and eternal.  

Matthew 13:44-46

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Matthew 19:14

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Jesus speaks of the kingdom being made up of souls that childlike turn to him.  It isn’t about being a Hebrew of Hebrews, but about an open willingness to follow, and to repent.  We are all welcomed into this kingdom not made by hands.

For those that embrace the invitation we can get our Heaven passport.  For there is neither jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female, for we are all one in Christ.

Jesus the Son of God:

For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son — the firstborn of faith, but He is ready for adoption as well!  John 1:12. 12 – “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Galatians 3:26 tells us “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”

For those that turn to God we are not only citizens of the Kingdom but members of the royal family for God allows us to call Him father. 

Look at the Lord’s Prayer – Jesus taught us to say: “Our Father” and as His kingdom comes (for which we are citizens) that His will be done.  For His Kingdom will be forever.

So, what is our citizenship?

1 John 3:1 “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”

No matter what your earthly passport says, this world is not our home.  We are only passing through. Our citizenship is in the Kingdom of God, and ultimately with the Father Himself.  Jesus said that in His father’s house there are many rooms, and he has gone to prepare one for you.


Based on today’s sermon.

Two Sugars

His attitude was generally flippant, often making light of serious or stressful situations.  For example, there was the job interview in which he was asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?” His response was, “Sitting where you are now while you bring me coffee with two sugars.”

Five years on, there he sat as the former interviewer asked if he would like some cookies with his coffee.  Sometimes humour pays off.


All A Matter of Perspective

Flatmates Dave and Tony had a simple agreement. Each Saturday Tony would buy a five pack of doughnuts on the way back from his run and put them in the kitchen. Dave was welcome to share them, with the only stipulation being that he leave the last one for Tony. This arrangement worked well enough for about a month. Then, one morning after earlier having two each, Tony went to make a cup of coffee and to have the last doughnut.

“Dave, did you eat the last doughnut?” he shouted irritably.

“No,” his roommate replied.

“Then where did it go?”

“You ate it,” Dave responded.


“This morning at breakfast,” Dave said.

“I never did!”

“Yes, you did. You see, when you brought them in and then went for your shower, I opened the box and reversed the order of the doughnuts. So, you ate the last one at breakfast, and I helped myself to the first one a little while ago. It’s all a matter of perspective.”