To Mom

mom

October 22, is my mother’s seventy hmmm blah blah birthday. Not supposed to tell a woman’s age right? I and my family owe her a lot. Here are some wonderful things my mom has done for us.

  • Love of children. Mom just loves to play with kids. I do too. I think we are and will always be kids at heart. Maybe that’s why as a pastor I spent most of my time as a youth and children’s minister and now as a teacher I get to play with kids all day.
  • My mom stayed home with all of us kids. I think many kids today miss out on this. Instead of growing up with a parent they grow up with the people at the day care center. I’m glad that my mom stayed home with us even though I know we didn’t have all the latest things. We often got hand me down clothes etc… but to be home with mom is more than worth it. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.
  • Mom loved to cook. I love to eat so we make a good pair. When I went to college, she would fill me up with all the junk food a college boy could want and from time to time would send a resupply box just in case. When I moved away and visited home she would always send an ice chest or two back home with me, the poor bachelor that needed something to eat. I see that she does that for lots of the grandkids now. Just one way to show her love.
  • Prayer: Mom was always up early praying and reading the Bible. She never stops praying for her kids, nor grandkids or great grand kids. Nothing is more important than knowing that your parent prays for you. Again that is yet another way that mom shows her love for each and every one of her kids.
  • Family: For many years my mom snuck around to see her sister who had been banished from the family by my grandmother. Even in the face of banishment if caught, my mom knew that family was important and that doing what was right mattered more than the possible consequence. Maybe that’s why I don’t believe in cutting out people from my life. Because people are important.
  • Mom has no sense of direction, but she gets places. Yes, sometimes dad has to draw a map or take her there first, but she still tries. I married that same person. I have to do the same for my wife as well. Some people would hole up and not go anywhere, but not mom.
  • Mom loves. She dearly loves her family, more than anything in the world and would do anything for any one of us. The Bible says that “these three things remain, Faith, Hope and Love, but the greatest of these is Love” I think mom has all of these things but the greatest thing she has is love.

Understanding the Bible

Finally I can understand the Bible

Recently a friend of mine shared an article about 9 things every Christian should know to understand the Bible. It got me thinking so here is my list.  Whether you are a Christian, casual reader, or Atheist, these 11 simple ideas will help you understand what the Bible is really saying.  Understanding what it meant when it was written is essential to knowing how or if it can be related to today’s issues.

  • What is Jamnia? I went through Bible school and Jamnia was never brought up. Really? It wasn’t even in my text-book! I want my money back. (At least some of it.) Jamnia was the council in 90 CE that kicked the Christians out of Judaism. Up until then Christianity was simply some weird sect of Judaism. So if you read a book taking about church structure or leadership… It was written after Jamnia.
  • Know something about history. The New Testament was written during the early Roman Empire and this influences the authors. They have been through several horrible emperors like Nero, Caligula and Domitian. The philosophy of that era was Hellenism from the Greeks. Romans liked to steal ideas from cultures they conquered and make it their own.  The Old Testament was written in several different era’s. They are the Late Kingdom period, the captivity period, the new Temple period and the apocalyptic period. Learning about the times of the Old Testament is a bit harder because of this but not impossible.
  • Forget chapters. These books and letters were not originally with chapters and verses and many people tend to stop reading at the end of a chapter and believe a new thought is about to happen, when it isn’t. For instance, Genesis Chapters 18 and 19 are one story in which we are supposed to compare and contrast the actions of Abraham and his dealings with strangers and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah and they way they dealt with strangers. Instead they are taught as if they have nothing to do with one another.
  • Know the author. Forget tradition when it comes to authorship. Many traditions say that Moses wrote the Torah and disciples wrote much of the New Testament. The Torah was written by at least 4 or 5 separate people or schools of thought and none of the disciples could read or write. Only about five percent of the world could read and write at the time the New Testament was written and they were not fisherman. They were the wealthy and the elite. So just because 1 Peter says “This is from Peter” does not mean it is from Peter the disciple.
  • Know why the book was written. Each book or letter was written for a specific reason and the content of that reason is for that reason. For example, the book of Romans was written because certain members of the Romans church were complaining about “sins” of other Christians in Rome. They are listed in Romans 1. Oops forgot, get rid of chapters. Those sins are listed at the beginning of Romans. Then Paul basically says in the next section, but you also have sins and here they are. That is why later Paul says, “For all have sinned and fallen short…” Paul was saying, don’t judge them take care of yourself, or get that “plank out of your own eye” etc…
  • Who was it intended for? The books of Matthew and Mark were mostly intended for a Jewish audience so understanding the background of Judaism would be good. But much of the New Testament wasn’t. It was written to Gentiles and they had little knowledge of the Old Testament or ways of the Jews. The book of Leviticus was written to people of the late kingdom period or during the exile. Either way it is saying to be holy you must follow these rules and God will take care of you.
  • Learn the types of writings. Especially true of the Proverbs and Psalms. They are NOT to be taken literally. The Psalms are like taking our favorite Hymns or choruses and making a book out of them. They are our Casey Kasems Top 150! They are the authors’ feelings and thoughts about the struggles they are going through.   Nothing more. Proverbs are just that. Simple sayings that are most of the time true. So when we say “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” 22:6. It is not a promise it’s just that most of the time this will happen.
  • Prophetic books are not about the future! Prophecy has come to mean that there is something that is going to happen in the future. That is not what these books are about. They are about telling the people to get their act together. A Prophet is one who speaks the word of God. In other words they tell the people what God needs them to do to live a Godly life. They are not trying to tell a person about something that will happen at the end times. The book of Revelation is about the Roman Empire and it’s persecutions on Christians and how God will take care of those who are pure and have the “right to the tree of life”.
  • Understand the meaning of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.   In the late 60’s there was a Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire. In 70 CE the Romans destroyed Jerusalem laying waste to the city. The temple was torn down and destroyed. Up until that time the Christian thought was an imminent return of Christ. Then things changed. No Jerusalem to come to, no soon return. You start to get ideas of if Christ should wait 1000 years it’s ok, it’s like a day to god.
  • Understand the tension between the authors. Some authors love Grace and the equality of everyone. (Paul) Some authors want people to live by the rules that they are laying out. (Timothy’s and Titus) It’s the same tension today between the right and left wing of the church. Some want us to follow their rules to make it to heaven and some believe God’s taken care of that already, just love one another.
  • Question everything!  Jesus questioned the authorities and so should you.

Hope this will help you understand the Bible a little better.

Choose Love not Hate

love all

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  Gospel of John 13:34 & 35

 

June 29, 1964 a sweeping civil rights bill passed the United States Senate after 83 days of filibusters from its opponents. This was in the middle of the Black civil rights movement. The 19 senators from both parties were mostly from the south.
When the vote finally took place it was an over whelming vote of 73-27 in favor. So, 19 people with an agenda of hate stopped progress for nearly 3 months. Nothing could be voted on during that time that they stopped everything. That saddens me. What is even sadder is that that kind of hate is still around.
We still have a long way to go regarding civil rights. Yes it is better, but it has a long way to go. In the past few years there have been laws passed trying to stop the LBGT Civil Rights movement. Kids who are running to America for help are hated. Many want troops sent to the border.
In recent years states like Arizona, Missouri, and Tennessee have tried to pass laws trying to stop the LBGT movement. Laws like homosexuality being illegal to discuss in school or being able to not serve a customer if they are gay. Thankfully those laws have not passed.
This morning my pastor spoke on being nice to one another. Why can’t we be nice? That’s a good question. One thing he said is so very true. I can’t exactly quote him but here are the basics of what he said. “If you hear God telling you to hurt someone, to be mean to them, to do damage to them, it is not of God and you’d better see your doctor and get some medication.” If God is love, and I think God is love, then those that follow God can do no harm to others.
The saddest part of today’s Civil Rights movement is that the Church is one of the most vocal against people that it should love. It is not love to fight against a person’s rights. It’s just mean and selfish. It has nothing to do with God or the Bible. I almost want to say it’s Satanic but this isn’t Satan doing this. It’s people making a choice to hate instead of love.
President Johnson had a choice too. He was from the Deep South. Texas. He feared that passing this bill would hurt the democrats in the south. He feared his party would lose control of those areas. He was right. Many of those areas turned Republican. Johnson however knew it was the right thing to do.
I wish more people, not just out leaders thought like this. Doing what is right instead of what would benefit us the best. What if we started thinking of others first? If we put each other first we would not need an act of congress for Civil rights. It would simply be a normal part of life.
Next time you see someone different from you don’t think of them in negative terms. Think about what you could learn from them. Think about what their culture can bring to you. It will open up new and exciting times of growth that will benefit us all.

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/on-this-day–record-83-day-senate-filibuster-against-u-s–civil-rights-act-ends-165011753.html#vxAD9IM
http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2014/02/03/3241421/9-state-gay-propaganda-laws/

Let the children come……

children_on_border

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Statue of Liberty

June 22, happy birthday Emma Lazarus. Most of you have no idea who that is, but she wrote the poem above. A poem that so many Americans love and hold on to. How we welcome people from all over and take them in.
Lately many Americans don’t seem to believe that this should be true. There is a growing fight over what to do with the refugees crossing our southern border. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is planning on activating the National Guard to keep the illegal aliens out and America safe. Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick is working to find a place for 1,000 of the children that are crossing the border daily.
This seems to be our history. Anytime a large group tries to immigrate into America some people get all up in arms and try to ban them. Jon Stewart puts it this way. “Why would you not come to a place that great? In fact, it’s why all of our ancestors came to this country, and were themselves originally unwelcome. Because that’s the story of America. From Ben Franklin’s worry that Germans were ruining Pennsylvania, to our 19th century 60-year ban on the Chinese immigrants who had just finished building our rail system, to our very real and justifiable concerns about the Irish, and their insatiable “applying for jobs”.” (Note the last part is sarcasm. You can watch it at the link below)
Stewart puts it a lot better than I can. These are Children. They are not a threat, nor an invasion. They are running from poverty and danger. They have no parents in a strange land wanting help.
While I do understand that there is a problem with just allowing everyone into the country, I don’t think we can just throw these kids back to where they came from. Setting up camps to immunize them and give them places to live is the most humane thing we can do. Sending them back to where they came from will be death for some of them. Many of them will just try again, hoping that someone will care this time.
As a follower of Jesus I have to ask what we can do for the least of these? If all we can do is throw them back to the wolves then you don’t know what Christ taught. Many of you like to throw out verses from Leviticus so here is one. 19:33-34 “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”
Love them as yourself. I think Jesus said something about that too. That is one of the two great commands. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Maybe you might ask, “Who is my neighbor”. When you get down to it, it’s everyone you ever see, hear about, etc… Your neighbor is these kids. Start treating them with love. Take care of them and you will have your reward. “’Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
Time to start doing what Jesus asked us to do.

http://dailysignal.com/2014/07/19/6-cities-react-illegal-immigrants-communities/
http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865607317/Massachussetts-governor-offers-to-shelter-immigrant-children-Says-the-Bible-inspires-him-to-do-so.html
http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/21/politics/perry-national-guard-border/
http://www.compellingtruth.org/illegal-aliens-immigrants.html
http://www.tucsonweekly.com/TheRange/archives/2014/07/16/daily-shows-jon-stewart-tears-into-protesters-of-migrant-children-shelters

I know what Jesus Meant! So just follow me!

 I'M RIGHT

As I write this, yesterday was the anniversary of the start of the Council of Ephesus in 431 CE. The council was there to discuss whether Mary the mother of Jesus was the Christ bearer or the God bearer. At the end of the council the decision was in favor of the “God bearer” and those siding with the “Christ bearer” were kicked out of the church or left on their own. Those who left continued to worship Christ and God in their own way, establishing their own brand of Christianity.

I grew up part of the Wesleyan church. It was named after John and Charles Wesley who were kicked out of the Anglican Church which had left the Catholic Church. The Wesley’s then started the Methodist church. The Wesleyan church split from the Methodist church over how they chose their pastors and the slavery issue. For a while it was called the Wesleyan Methodist church but then merged with the Pilgrim Holiness church and formed the Wesleyan church. You will find some Wesleyan Methodist churches still around, because they left when the merger took place.

According to Wikipedia there are over 41,000 different denominations in the world. Did you get that? I thought we were supposed to be one. Anyway, this kind of got me thinking. How many times has the church had a schism and kicked someone out only for them to start a new brand of Christianity? Or how many times did a group leave because they didn’t see Christianity in the same way that they others did? And who really has the truth? How do we know that our brand of Christianity is the truth? It is only our brand because it was Spirit of God choosing it to be the victor. At least that’s what we are told. However most of these were simply church votes.

I’ve been to many church and denominational meetings about many different things and there is no real looking to the spirit to answer the questions before us. We vote for what we want and decide that is what God wants. How do we know that these councils were any different?

Then there is the Bible. How many of you actually know that there are several different books in other denominations around the world? The protestant bible in America has 66 books, the catholic bible has 73, the Greek orthodox has 76 etc… So who has the correct bible? All of us started as one and yet we can’t even agree on our text. What if there should be more books? What about fewer books? When the bible was first put together it wasn’t some divine intervention, it was several church councils.

So how can anyone say they really have the truth? We really only have what has been passed down to us by those in charge. It was that kind of person that Jesus yelled at repeatedly for abuse. How many times over the last 2000 years has our theology changed? A council in the early 300’s (Council of Nicaea) decided Jesus was indeed God; everyone else is free to leave. Another council 100 years later decided that the Spirit was also God. Several councils took this under consideration before it became orthodox. So it took the church 300 years to settle on that Jesus was actually God and another 100 years to create the Trinity. Those things that we hold so dearly today and without believing in them many would say that you could not be a Christian. What about those people in the first few centuries when that belief was not orthodox?

Anyway, for those that think they have it all together in their theology, maybe you really don’t. Maybe you shouldn’t be so quick to say “the Bible tells me so” or “the bible says it and that settles it”, because if anything the Bible hasn’t settled anything. In fact those who think they know the Bible seem to split the church apart. So being right in doctrine does not seem to work for the church. Maybe we should try to be right with each other instead. Jesus did say “love your neighbor” but I don’t remember him ever saying get your doctrine right.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Ephesus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Catholic_Church

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations

Memorial Day, Remember Peace

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“May God have mercy for my enemies because I won’t.”
― George S. Patton Jr.

 

I grew up in a family full of men in the service. A grandfather, three brothers, three uncles and at least one cousin served in the military. They served during peace time as well as wartime. None of them died in the service, but my grandfather was left for dead after being gassed in WWI. His Brother William died during the war due to the influenza outbreak. My wife’s great Uncle also served. I have also known many others who have served so willingly in our nation’s armed forces. I can’t count how many, but I do enjoy listening to them all.

I remember one person talking about riding in a tank in France during WWII and peeking out of the top to get a better view. He had his helmet shot off and never peeked out again. Another person I knew about the same time had a lot of cuss words for those in tanks because they drew the gun fire in their direction. Then there were others who just couldn’t talk about anything that happened. It was just too hard for them to do so.

I remember one of the stories of my grandfather while he was in France. He was out scouting the enemy and along a river he saw a German soldier getting a drink from the stream. The German soldier didn’t see my grandfather until he looked up and knew he was a goner. Yet my grandfather did not shoot. He waved to the German soldier and walked on. The German soldier repaid the kindness by walking in the other direction.

When I was growing up one of those brothers got me some army men and I played with them for hours on end. I read many, many books on WWII, the Civil war and the Revolutionary war. I really enjoyed reading the history of wars. I loved the strategy and even the ironic or funny things that happen during war. Did you know that the first British ship sunk in WWII was sunk by the British? There is some useless trivia for you.   I thought war could be so glorious. I looked up to the heroes of the wars. The leaders like Washington, Patton, Grant, etc…

Today I really want the end to war. There is no glory in war. My grandfather had no arguments with the Germans. It was the governments that couldn’t get along. I have no qualms with Muslims. I don’t want to fight them and for the most part, they don’t want to fight me. I don’t want to fight the Russians, or the Chinese, or the people in Somalia. There is no one in this world I want to fight, but unfortunately there are some that think fighting is the answer and against those we most likely will have to fight against.

Bertrand Russell once said, “War does not determine who is right – only who is left.” War is not the answer to this world’s problems and solves little. John Steinbeck also said “All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.” I feel it is just the playground bully on the world’s stage. Nobody stood up to them before so now we have to stand up to him with tanks and bombs.  I hope there is never war again.  I don’t want anyone else dying for my freedom, but I am not that optimistic when I look around the world, or even down the street.  There are just too many people who think that fighting is the way to get their way.

So, until there is no war, I’m glad we have men and women serving us across the world. I’m also glad that we have men and women who have fought for our freedom through the centuries. Those that have fought for freedom around the world and stand up against those world bullies that think fighting is something that OK. Thank you to all those out there who have sacrificed their time, energy and lives to doing what has to be done no matter how difficult it can be. May your lives be filled with peace and love.

“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”

John Lennon

My hand at Bible Translating

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There are so many versions or translations of the Bible out there that it is often hard to really know if one is any better than the next. I once counted mine and I had around 25 different versions in my house.  Each version or translation tries to bring into modern language what the Bible writers were trying to say. So each Bible has bias, good or bad, of the person or people translating it. What they understand and believe will come across in how it is translated. I could not come up with an exact number of translations there are but several sites said there were thousands. So we have thousands of people trying to tell us what they think the Bible writers were trying to tell us when actually they weren’t talking to us at all. They were talking to someone of their day.

What we have to discover is what they said in their time and see if any of it fits into our time. Lately I have been toying with that and have tried to make a few verses more real to people. Some have liked it and some not, but here are a few of what I have tried.

So with the idea of bringing the Bible to modern language, I gave my attempt at a few of the more famous scriptures.

 

When our time began God created the Big Bang. Genesis 1:1

Love mom and dad, so that you may have a good life wherever you live. Exodus 20:12

Jesus told him, “I am the path, the realness, and the full life. No one can come to the Father except doing what I have taught you.” John 14:6

There is neither American nor Russian, neither citizen nor alien, nor is there male and female, nor is there homosexual or straight for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3;28

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and the second is this, Love that dude that cut you off this morning, don’t complain about that bum begging for money, don’t put down that person with different political or religious views, and for Christ sake, don’t be mean on facebook!  Mark 12:30-31

Go and make followers of God, baptize them in the name of God, and teach them to love one another like I loved you and not to follow what church laws you grow up with just because that’s the way you’ve always done it. If you do this, my spirit will be with you always. Matthew 28:19 &20

 For by grace you have been saved through faith; it is the gift of God, and not by following all the rules of the church or what you think everyone ought to do, so stop telling everyone how righteous you are. Ephesians 2:8 & 9

The price of sin is a horrible and lonely life, but the gift of God is a rich spiritual life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

For all have messed up, and remember that includes you and fallen short of what God intended. Romans 3:23

Do not give your opinion about what others are doing, and others won’t go around talking about what you are doing. Do not attack others, and you will not be attacked. Instead forgive and show mercy to those that talk about you and attack you, and you will be forgiven as well. Luke 6:37

Hey everyone, love each other, because love begins from God. Everyone who loves, understands God and truly knows God. Those that say God hates others, or is mean to another in God’s name or is unfair to others using God’s word has no clue, because if God is anything God is LOVE! 1 John 4:7-8

 

So what do you think? Did I miss the mark completely or was I close? Feel free to give it a try for yourself. After all it’s all about trying to understand the authors meaning or meanings the best we can so we can live it today.

Here is a list of the translations available if you are interested. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_Bible_translations