Mosaix Blogs Full Mosaix Blogs Full Respective post owners and feed distributors Wed, 11 Sep 2019 10:51:13 -0500 Feed Informer Should I Plant a Seed? David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:8daf45f9-021b-e115-585a-65972c81f775 Sat, 23 Oct 2021 10:19:10 -0500 (Watch the full message by scrolling to the bottom of the page) &#160; There is never a perfect time to plant a financial seed. Whether it’s an unexpected bill, the... <p class="mt-5 text-left wow fadeInUp text-extra-large alt-font text-extra-dark-gray font-weight-400 content-text"><em>(Watch the full message by scrolling to the bottom of the page)</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p class="mt-5 text-left wow fadeInUp text-extra-large alt-font text-extra-dark-gray font-weight-400 content-text">There is never a perfect time to plant a financial seed. Whether it’s an unexpected bill, the urge to buy the latest electronic gadget, or the economic uncertainty spawned by the global pandemic, the challenge of sowing a seed is always ill-timed.</p> <p>I get it. To a normal person the thought of planting a seed during tough times sounds preposterous. And the person daring to make this bold ask appears almost devilish. You want to get away from them. But before you do, there are three issues to ponder and pray about.</p> <p class="mt-5 text-left wow fadeInUp text-extra-large alt-font text-extra-dark-gray font-weight-400 content-text"><b>1. Planting is MY choice.</b></p> <p>Paul approached the Corinthians about giving financially towards the struggling believers in Jerusalem. His request to plant a seed appeared ill-timed because they were dealing with their own problems—sexual immorality, suing one another in public court, and even abuse of the sacred communion meal. Knowing that planting is a choice, the clever apostle knew it was not his place to issue the Corinthians’ <b>no</b> for them. Let them say “no” to the request, if they so choose.</p> <p>To help the Corinthians process the request, Paul cites the Macedonians’ response to the same request. Talking about an ill-timed ask, Paul wrote, “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 Corinthians 8:2, NIV). The Macedonians were facing a huge test. While the Bible is silent about the specifics of their difficulties, two things are certain: They were facing <i>extreme poverty and excessive persecution</i>.</p> <p>Instead of dismissing Paul’s request with a firm “no,” these poverty-stricken believers did something to show how rich they really were. They brought the matter to God in prayer (2 Corinthians 8:5).</p> <p class="mt-5 text-left wow fadeInUp text-extra-large alt-font text-extra-dark-gray font-weight-400 content-text"><b>2. Planting is MY opportunity.</b></p> <p>The Macedonians realized planting is an opportunity to access a harvest. The principle of sowing and reaping, also known as giving and receiving, is a divine law the Early Church practiced. Paul said, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6, NIV). Although planting is a choice, Paul highlighted that reaping follows sowing. Put another way: When you sow you should expect to reap.</p> <p>In essence, planting is an opportunity to reap a harvest. There are ethical and moral pitfalls to be avoided. If you are planting only with the selfish aim to reap a harvest, that’s not good. The Macedonians and Corinthians were urged to plant for the moral good of helping the destitute believers in Jerusalem. This was to be their primary aim and moral compass.</p> <p>Yet, our good is never devoid of personal benefits. This is precisely why Paul said, “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard-pressed, but that there might be equality” (2 Corinthians 8:13, NIV). Whenever you seize the opportunity to sow, God watches over the seed to ensure a harvest.</p> <p class="mt-5 text-left wow fadeInUp text-extra-large alt-font text-extra-dark-gray font-weight-400 content-text"><b>3. Planting requires MY faith.</b></p> <p>I feel a bit unspiritual after reading the Macedonians’ response to Paul’s request. Instead of rejecting the idea outright, they first prayed. In my earlier days as a Christian, I used to immediately reject the idea of planting a financial seed. As I matured, I realized the real issue driving my knee-jerk reaction was my faith—or should I say: my lack of faith. I used to disguise my faithlessness with the notion that the request was ill-timed. Or, the person making the ask is unrealistic, selfish, or needy.</p> <p>While that may be true of some leaders, in my case I was struggling with not knowing how to exercise faith. If faith is never exercised it will lay there dormant, only to lose value and potency. This is precisely why the Macedonians exercised their faith and why I urge you to read the entirety of 2 Corinthians 8. They did not let their circumstances dictate their actions. They first went to God. Next, they saw sowing as a bridge and not a barrier to their harvest. Finally, they connected sowing and reaping to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (2 Corinthians 8:9). A seed sown is akin to being dead and buried. When it germinates and grows it’s like being resurrected. It took faith on Jesus’ part to die for our sins believing God would raise Him. Planting requires faith, and His act of faith produced a harvest of countless sons and daughters!</p> <p class="mt-5 mb-5 text-left wow fadeInUp text-extra-large alt-font text-extra-dark-gray font-weight-400 content-text">Before you go, please answer this question: Should I plant a seed?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> Post Exilic Theology of Hope: Ezra 10:2-11 perSpectives 12 urn:uuid:317946d5-1f02-10fc-32f3-2fc9188f87ef Fri, 22 Oct 2021 19:37:25 -0500 Jan Paron, PhD &#124; October 22, 2021 With the intermarriage dilemma in focus, this essay aims to show how regathered &#8230;<p><a href="">Continue reading <span class="meta-nav">&#8594;</span></a></p> <p>Jan Paron, PhD | October 22, 2021</p> <p>With the intermarriage dilemma in focus, this essay aims to show how regathered Israel interpreted and responded to “yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this” from Ezr 10:2-11 in relation to Dt 6:4 during the rebuilding of the temple period as exhibited by the returnees’ actions in the book of Ezra. The intermarriages of the exiled golah from Babylon with those outside their community occurred during their post-exilic reformation upon resettling in the Yehud Persian province of Jerusalem and Judah. The exiled returned there without their cultural identity markers customarily associated with their independent statehood, land, temple, and king. Moffat noted this necessitated the golah reconstruct their identity.<a href="//6ADD2424-A046-4831-841D-E4069225D175#_ftn1"><sup>[1]</sup></a>&nbsp;Thus, they formed new social ones as assimilation influenced their cultural practices.&nbsp;</p> <p><img loading="lazy" data-attachment-id="6029" data-permalink="" data-orig-file="" data-orig-size="734,466" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{&quot;aperture&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;credit&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;camera&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;caption&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;created_timestamp&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;copyright&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;focal_length&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;iso&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;shutter_speed&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;title&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;orientation&quot;:&quot;1&quot;}" data-image-title="883feb9b-6f51-4739-b5a7-384f3be8117c_1_201_a" data-image-description="" data-image-caption="" data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" class="wp-image-6029 aligncenter" src="" alt="883feb9b-6f51-4739-b5a7-384f3be8117c_1_201_a" width="389" height="247" srcset=";h=247 389w,;h=95 150w,;h=190 300w, 734w" sizes="(max-width: 389px) 100vw, 389px"></p> <p>The returnees did carry over the ancestral lineage of their father’s house, as noted in the genealogical listings in chapters two and eight to the new community. The lineages highlighted their maintenance of Jewish heritage in keeping to the exclusion of foreign nations. Those relocating back to Israel from the first wave of exiled returnees had to prove their descendancy from Israel (Ezr 2:59). The names listed in chapters 1-6 provided genealogical tracings reminiscent of pre-exilic history. Like the genealogical descendent tracings from the early return, Ezra listed those who returned with him from Babylonia by their father’s house (8:1). Perhaps, in their identity reformation over the subsequent generations, they lost their original sense and purpose as God’s chosen during the resettlement process by not separating themselves from the people of the land through marriage. Though, the text does not specify the reason for intermarriage, we only can ascertain from a distant reader location that economics, politics, marriage partners, or assimilation influences resulted in them compromising the holy seed through outside marriages. While modern readers may view intermarriage as a discriminatory practice of exclusion,<a href="//6ADD2424-A046-4831-841D-E4069225D175#_ftn2"><sup>[2]</sup></a>&nbsp;the post-exiled perspective understood breaking covenant through intermarrying as separating the golah community from the Lord God would incur His wrath. Nonetheless, Christ followers can learn from Israel’s pagan joining about being “unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (1 Cor 6:14) and its effects upon spiritual growth and relationship with God.<a href="//6ADD2424-A046-4831-841D-E4069225D175#_ftn3"><sup>[3]</sup></a></p> <p>To comprehend the holy seed defilement in Ezr 10 and development of their theology of hope in this context requires a look at the golah departure from exile. Chronicling the history that led to the foreign marriage crisis among the returnees from exile in 10:2-11, events begin with their initial release. King Cyrus Persia issued a proclamation allowing the remnant of Israel, the golah captives from Babylon, to return to the Yehud to rebuild the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem (1:1-3). Cyrus’ action initiated a fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy for the completion of a seventy-year exile, and the remnant’s hoped for mercy from the Lord God for their restoration to the land (Jer 25:11-12).<a href="//6ADD2424-A046-4831-841D-E4069225D175#_ftn4"><sup>[4]</sup></a></p> <p>Several rulers and generations of the resettled golah later, King Artaxerxes of Persia in the seventh year of his reign, decreed Ezra should conduct an inquiry into the situation in Judah and Jerusalem based on God’s law (Ezr 7:14). Ezra also had directions to continue support for the temple as well as teach and implement the law of the God of heaven (7:21). The king described Ezra as a priest and teacher of the law (v. 14). In this capacity and under the king’s authority, Ezra left for Jerusalem with the second wave of exiled returnees (v. 13).</p> <p>&nbsp;With his authority in hand and God’s favor upon him,<strong>&nbsp;</strong>Ezra traveled to Jerusalem to&nbsp;teach the golah community the statutes and rules&nbsp;under the law of Moses&nbsp;(7:10). What did Ezra learn about the state of the resettled remnant in the period subsequent to their earlier return to the Yehud?&nbsp;<a href="//6ADD2424-A046-4831-841D-E4069225D175#_ftn5"><sup>[5]</sup></a>&nbsp;Leaders brought to his attention the people of Israel, including the priests and Levites, had not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands (9:2).<a href="//6ADD2424-A046-4831-841D-E4069225D175#_ftn6"><sup>[6]</sup></a>&nbsp;<a href="//6ADD2424-A046-4831-841D-E4069225D175#_ftn7"><sup>[7]</sup></a>&nbsp;Redditt referred to the peoples of the land as all residents of post-exilic Yehud who had not been in exile, including those who had “separated themselves from the unclean practices of their Gentile neighbors in order to seek the Lord, the God of Israel” (6:21).<a href="//6ADD2424-A046-4831-841D-E4069225D175#_ftn8"><sup>[8]</sup></a>Consequently, the parameters of the new community exclusively limited itself to those who had returned from exile.<a href="//6ADD2424-A046-4831-841D-E4069225D175#_ftn9"><sup>[9]</sup></a>&nbsp;A widespread problem occurred that more than likely involved generations of golah men marrying outside the holy seed community with inhabitants of the Yehud and surrounding nations (3:3; 4:4). Whether a singular or multiple abominations, it resulted in men from the first wave of returnees intermarrying with pagan women, thus mixing the holy seed with the peoples of the<em>&nbsp;</em>lands (v. 3). To compound their trespasses, the leaders and rulers led the way in their unfaithfulness to the God of Israel and the breaking of the law of Moses.<a href="//6ADD2424-A046-4831-841D-E4069225D175#_ftn10"><sup>[10]</sup></a>&nbsp;Further, it added to the remnants’ prior iniquities from the days of their ancestral fathers (9:7).</p> <p>The Lord God left Israel with commandments to guide them to successful possession of the land He would give them (Dt 4:1; 5:1; 6:4).&nbsp;The completion of His preparation of the golah community as a new creation led the way for the new creation of believers in Christ. It also served an eschatological purpose for the final, new creation’s habitation in the millennial kingdom. In this reshaping of His people to holiness, He left guideposts with the law.&nbsp;As such, the Deuteronomic Code prohibits marriage with the peoples of the land, reasoning that&nbsp;the foreign wives would lead the sons away from following Yahweh to serve other gods away from the premise of faithfulness to the Shema, “the Lord our God is one!” (Dt 6:4b; e.g., Exo 34:11-12, 16).<a href="//6ADD2424-A046-4831-841D-E4069225D175#_ftn11"><sup>[11]</sup></a>&nbsp;To intermarry would arouse the Lord’s anger suddenly to destroy them (Dt 7:3-4).<a href="//6ADD2424-A046-4831-841D-E4069225D175#_ftn12"><sup>[12]</sup></a></p> <p>Ezra’s prayer in 9:8 on behalf of Israel prepared the way for the returnees’ conviction to rise, with Ezr 10:2-11 providing the framework for the golah theology of hope with their self-initiated actions of change towards it. The theology develops espoused through their deeds and works. Nevertheless, unless the returnees embraced Ezra’s prayers, hope would go no farther. Upon realizing their trespasses, the people of Israel expressed repentant emotions towards their guilt, providing an initial step toward living out their hope. Faced with possible judgment, the gathering of people included men, women, and children who also wept bitterly with Ezra as he confessed, wept, and bowed down prostrate (10:1).</p> <p>The marriage crisis came to a head in 10:2, opening with the golah community reaction to Ezra’s public intercession.&nbsp;Shechaniah&nbsp;responded to the foreign marriages that threatened assimilation with those other than the holy seed.&nbsp;He&nbsp;addressed Ezra from among all those&nbsp;who wept very bitterly&nbsp;around Ezra as he prayed (10:1).<a href="//6ADD2424-A046-4831-841D-E4069225D175#_ftn13"><sup>[13]</sup></a>&nbsp;The large assembly felt the gravity, immensity, and widespread conviction over their actions with the hope that the Lord God would extend mercy upon them and bring them once again into covenant with Him through the upholding of the Shema (Dt. 4:1; 5:1; 6:4; v. 2). As a resolution,&nbsp;Shechaniah&nbsp;proposed&nbsp;covenant renewal with the Lord by putting away the foreign wives and children born to them according to the law (10:3). The law of the Lord transliterates to&nbsp;<em>tôrâ</em>&nbsp;in Hebrew, denoting instruction about life.<a href="//6ADD2424-A046-4831-841D-E4069225D175#_ftn14"><sup>[14]</sup></a>&nbsp;Thus, the law goes beyond statutes and rules, binding Israel in a faithful covenant to the Lord their God.<a href="//6ADD2424-A046-4831-841D-E4069225D175#_ftn15"><sup>[15]</sup></a>&nbsp;Further, the Shema of&nbsp;Dt 6:5 commands Israel to&nbsp;love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and strength as an obedient people with the right moral condition to possess the good land of which the LORD swore to their fathers (Dt 6:18; Ezr 9:12). We who belong to Christ also comprise Abraham’s seed as heirs to the promise (Gal 3:29).&nbsp;Thus, faithfulness to one Lord, our God in covenant by loving Him with all our heart, soul, and mind applies to us as well for righteous living (Mt 32:37; Mk 12:29-30).</p> <p>Shechaniah’s compelling plea set in motion the reformation of the community back into covenant and aligned to the Shema (Dt 6:4). In his address, he confessed to their trespasses against God in marrying foreign women (Ezr 10:2). Perhaps, the righteous Lord God of Israel of whom Ezra petitioned would hear their cries of repentance and forgive their iniquities of abominations with the peoples of the land. The hope for Israel subsequently would emanate from the community’s own corrective actions of putting away the wives from the peoples of the land in fulfilling the law of Moses (10:3). He urged them to get up and take ownership and responsibility for the matter to make things right (v. 4). Confession, reversal of the abomination, and adherence to law would lead to forgiveness from their iniquity from a righteous God who would bestow His grace upon the returned exiles.</p> <p>Once again, Ezra entered the picture, affirming Shechaniah’s covenant plea. Ezra&nbsp;demanded that the leaders, Levites, and all Israel swear an oath to put away their foreign wives and children from their marriage (v.5). All the people had to right the wrong to form a holy community. Afterwards, Ezra withdrew from the house of God and fasted mourning the guilt of the golah (v. 6). To put or send away indicates divorce. Marrying foreign women stood contrary to God’s law as illegal (Dt 7:3) by violating the endogamy of marrying within Israel and joining in exogamous marriage. The putting away of foreign wives and their children guarded the holy seed. Klingbeil called the exogamous marriages in Ezra “when not to tie the knot.” Though lighthearted, his reference helps the reader from a Western social location understand the issues from the fifth century BC Yehud through a 21st-century lens.<a href="//6ADD2424-A046-4831-841D-E4069225D175#_ftn16"><sup>[16]</sup></a></p> <p>In viewing initiation of the oath through a gender-oriented, female lens, it would affect many foreign women and children. It leaves the modern reader wondering about the rights and compensation for divorced, pagan women as recipients of such a drastic measure. Who took care of the women once they divorced? Did their ancestral family care for them, or did shame leave them to fend for themselves? Why did the children have to suffer from Israel’s actions? Johnson asserts we discount race and gender involved in the socially-constructed intermarriage issue, rather understand it in the context of the Achaemenid Empire emblematic of an identity issue resulting from exile.<a href="//6ADD2424-A046-4831-841D-E4069225D175#_ftn17"><sup>[17]</sup></a>&nbsp;To balance emotions involved in divorce, the interpreter has to separate loss of family and identity traumatized by exile against maintaining purity of the holy seed to allow God’s redemptive purpose for Israel to occur. As a minority population, the community had to guard their identity established by the Lord God of Israel against a land governed by polytheistic gods to avoid decimating the seed and land. Fensham supported their action bringing to the forefront the influence mothers brought to their children along with traditions of the foreign society. Thus, they presented a stumbling block to Israel.<a href="//6ADD2424-A046-4831-841D-E4069225D175#_ftn18"><sup>[18]</sup></a>&nbsp;While we may view it as harsh by modern standards, the measure had to occur to restore hope to Israel.</p> <p>Returning to the actions reflective in the golah theology of hope, the elders and leaders began fixing the wrong of their actions. They issued a proclamation&nbsp;to all descendants of captivity in the Yehud to gather in Jerusalem in three days (v. 7-8). They backed it up with harsh penalties for non-compliance with property confiscation and separation from the exilic community (v. 8). The imposition of a stringent penalty suggests opposition among the congregation of the exiles and the need to break a hardened will contrary to the one true God (Dt 6:4).&nbsp;We may look at the measures for anyone objecting to divorcing their foreign wives as too much to ask but reframing the scenario to recreate authentic covenant for a new creation with the God of Israel provides a different vantage point. Part of their theology of hope must show full obedience, not partial.</p> <p>Thus, within the fixed period, all the people gathered in the house of God’s open square in the heavy rain. They forged ahead trembling and distress despite rain and discomfort over the seriousness of the matter (Ezr 10:9). Once again, Ezra addressed the assemblage to confess their sin of intermarriage to foreign women adding to the guilt of Israel. In a stronger term, perhaps driving the point home more, the NIV states committed treason (10:10), implying a betrayal of God and all of Israel past and present. In this verse, it means having committed a terrible sin (NLT). Nevertheless, even this sin leaves room for God’s grace and forgiveness. The passage closes with those from captivity confessing to their sins in mass and agreeing to separate themselves from their pagan wives (v. 11). In addition to full obedience to God, this action suggests that the exiled must show a united confession enveloped in genuine submission and humility. Separation from the pagan wives, in their eyes, would separate them back to God. As Christians, our iniquities also separate us from God, requiring us to confess and turn from sin.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Upon reading the passage we see a people whom God had risen from dry bones in the valley and returned them once again to the land. As Covenant Maker and Keeper, the Lord God upholds His promises from Ez 37:6,13-14 as He begins the restoration process upon their return to the land. While golah begin united in the rebuilding process of the Temple in Jerusalem and they initiate worship practices, the returned exiled fall short in observing the marriage requirements of not separating themselves from the peoples of the land. Intermarriage leads to syncretic practices of idolatry, drawing them away from faithfulness to the Lord our God is one (Dt 6:4). Once again, they break covenant, and their abominations add to those of their fathers. We can see ourselves in this same position. Through new birth, Jesus makes us a new creation purified in Him. However, the redeemed often fall back to sin pulled by the influences of the world. The flesh takes over, opening the door to the return to old habits. Christ desires we live as a restored community intimately in covenant with Him. Nevertheless, the same theology of hope that the exiled realized finds itself in the New Covenant as well&#8211;one of continued grace, mercy, and forgiveness of sin to lead a reformed life. We can learn from their mistakes and apply them to our lives. Jesus as Yahweh, desires to bring us in covenant from creation to new creation in the eschaton perfected in His image.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The passage closed (Ezr 10:11) with the exiled community’s theology of hope based on decisive actions of putting their faith to work in word and deed premised upon forgiveness of sins from the God of grace. In brief, they communally confessed to iniquities admitting their trespasses and taking ownership of their abomination (10: 2). This led to the initiation of covenant renewal with the Lord taking steps to put away the foreign wives and children born to them according to the law (vv. 3-4). Then all Israel swore an oath to uphold the intermarriage divorces (v. 5). All would return in three days, backed up by strong measures for noncompliance. Right standing in covenant required full obedience (vv. 7-8). Finally, they confessed their transgressions once again in trembling and humility to the Lord God of their fathers to do His will and put away their pagan wives from the peoples of the land (vv. 9-11). Repentance must have the intent to follow through and turn from sin. In turn, from confession and ownership to right attitudes and actions in obedience, they established the hope for Israel for favor from the God of grace. They also took steps to bind themselves to observe the Lord’s command from the Shema of Dt 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” While we may look at the remedy for their abominations as harsh to the affected, the remnant had to take these measures to preserve the purity of the holy seed incurred by their rebellious syncretic practice of intermarriage. Their polluting the seed endangered the remnant and land, thus, placing themselves out of alignment to God’s redemptive purposes continuing into the <em>millennial kingdom</em>. We, too, must live our faith out in words and deeds. Our Christian walk individually and collectively must include the earnest and daily crucifying the flesh of that same sinful nature from the first Adam. However, we look to the second Adam who bore our sin on the cross, forgiving our sins. Jesus is that same God of mercy.  </p> <h3 style="text-align:center;"><span style="color:#b02727;">Bibliography</span></h3> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"></h3> <p>Ackroyd, Peter R.&nbsp;<em>Exile and Restoration: A Study of Hebrew Thought of the Sixth Century B. C.</em>&nbsp;Philadelphia: Westminster, 1986.</p> <p>Allen, Leslie C.&nbsp;<em>Ezekiel, Vol. 29</em>. Word Bible Commentary. Edited by John D. W. Watts and James W. Watts. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990.</p> <p>Blenkinsopp, Joseph.&nbsp;<em>Ezra-Nehemiah: A Commentary</em>. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 2015.</p> <p>__________.&nbsp;<em>Judaism, the First Phase: The Place of Ezra and Nehemiah in the Origins of Judaism</em>. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2009.</p> <p>Boadt, Lawrence. “Book of Ezra.” in&nbsp;<em>The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol D-G</em>. Edited by David N. Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992.</p> <p>__________.&nbsp;<em>Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction.</em>&nbsp;New York: Paulist Press, 2012.</p> <p>Bickerman, Elias Joseph. “The Edict of Cyrus in Ezra 1.”&nbsp;<em>Journal of Biblical Literature</em>&nbsp;65, no. 3 (1946): 249-275.&nbsp;</p> <p>Bimson, John J. “Book of Ezra.” In&nbsp;<em>Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible</em>, edited by Kevin J. Vanhoozer, 223-225. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.</p> <p>Brett, Mark G. ed.&nbsp;<em>Ethnicity and the Bible</em>. Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2002.</p> <p>Bryan, S. M. “The End of Exile: The Reception of Jeremiah’s Prediction of a Seventy-Year Exil 3 Ways to Build Character David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:398bd8d0-26f6-985e-1e54-926609eaa5f7 Fri, 22 Oct 2021 03:48:06 -0500 (Watch this powerful message by clicking play on the video at the bottom of this page) Character is so important, but it’s something we always struggle with. But, what exactly... <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">(Watch this powerful message by clicking play on the video at the bottom of this page)</span></i></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Character is so important, but it’s something we always struggle with. But, what exactly does character mean? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The great American evangelist D.L Moody once said, “Character is what you are in the dark.” In other words, nobody&#8217;s watching, nobody&#8217;s looking, you are as if it were hidden from everyone&#8217;s attention. At that moment, how will you function? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You can’t “will” character into being. You can&#8217;t muscle your way through it, but you must be intentional and you must be able to focus on it because that’s your responsibility.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Every one of us has character flaws. That&#8217;s normal and to be expected. Don&#8217;t beat yourself up just because you saw an area of your character that still needs to be honed. Every one of us has areas that still need to be honed and developed and shaped so we can be like our heavenly father in terms of our character. </span></p> <h3><b>The Three Building Blocks of Character</b></h3> <h4><b>First: Value your name</b></h4> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Your name is akin to your signature. It&#8217;s your resume. It&#8217;s your calling card. I&#8217;m not just talking about if your name is Fred or your name is Mary or it&#8217;s Hazel or Jessica or David. That&#8217;s not what I&#8217;m referring to. I&#8217;m talking about what Solomon says in Proverbs 22:1, “A good name (earned by honorable behavior, godly wisdom, moral courage, and personal integrity) is more desirable than great riches; And favor is better than silver and gold.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Solomon is counseling us that you need to value your name, in other words, labor to have a good name and value it. And when you value that, he says, when you give it great thought, a good name, it&#8217;s worth more than great riches. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A good name is about having godly wisdom. I&#8217;m not talking about wisdom where you can just solve problems, but wisdom that empowers you to maintain godliness and integrity. That&#8217;s what it means to have a good name. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Think about the whole idea of moral courage. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Moral courage may not be a party-line word and moral courage may not be something where you just go along with the group. When you say I have a good name, you make sure that you honor that and do it in a courageous way.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you want to build your character, it starts with valuing your name.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In Philippians 2:19-23, Paul says, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon. I will be happy to learn how you are. I have no one else like Timothy, who truly cares for you. Other people are interested only in their own lives, not in the work of Jesus Christ. You know the kind of person Timothy is. You know he has served with me in telling the Good News, as a son serves his father. I plan to send him to you quickly when I know what will happen to me.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Paul was writing this letter to the church at Philippi, from behind prison bars. And he says, I can&#8217;t come to you, but I&#8217;m sending Timothy to you.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And then Paul pulls back the curtain as if it were to say, let me tell you about the real Timothy. You may know him from the platform, from the stage, from being a speaker, but let me tell you, I know Timothy from behind the scenes. He&#8217;s the same as what you see in front of the stage as he is behind the stage. Timothy, he&#8217;s a godly man. Timothy has served with me like a son serves his father. And Paul continues to brag about him.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Has anyone ever bragged about you? Has anybody ever said, man, do you know so-and-so? And they just started to lavish your reputation and your character. And when those individuals met you, they had not a false reading or false interpretation. They valued your name. </span></p> <p><strong><i>Do you value your name?</i> </strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you do, then you need to recognize it&#8217;s a building block to godly character.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you&#8217;re going to build character, the first building block I offer you to use is value your name. </span></p> <h4><b>Second: Keep your word </b></h4> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Oftentimes what I admire most about others is the fact that they value and honor their word. They keep their word.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus did that. In Matthew 24:35, Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Jesus is telling us that he keeps his word. He honors His word. He places great value and importance on His word so much so that His word is like a calling card. His word is an extension of His person. When you want to know about Jesus&#8217; character, look at His words. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I want you to understand the value of what it means to keep your word. And so Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:7, “But let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these comes from the evil one.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What Jesus was saying is this, when you give your word, honor your word. And he&#8217;s saying if you say “Yes,” follow through. If you say “No,” follow through with that. Now he&#8217;s not suggesting you can&#8217;t change your mind. He&#8217;s just saying that when you do change your mind, be integrous about it, go back to the person, give a reason and be as supportive as possible to make as many adjustments as you need to.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus was saying in essence, you need to give some thought before you give an answer to a request. You need to be honest with people and don&#8217;t just quickly give a yes. And don&#8217;t just go and say no, just because you really didn&#8217;t mean it. Give some thought to what you&#8217;re going to say, because your word should be honored by you. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When your word does not align with your character, then you have to start adjusting your word. You&#8217;ll find that your character will follow suit. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Your word speaks of who you are. Now, none of us are perfect, but every one of us uses words. And what we try to do is to not only value and honor our word, but we keep our word and we make sure that our words reflect honesty. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Sometimes we glibly respond to people and say it because we speak prematurely or we&#8217;re afraid of their response, or we&#8217;re afraid, to be honest. We ought to always be honest, but sometimes people are not being honest because they&#8217;re afraid. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Our heavenly Father is our example of how we should keep our word. Psalm 89:34 says, “I won&#8217;t break my agreement or go back on my word.” That&#8217;s God speaking through the Psalmist. He&#8217;s saying, here&#8217;s how I roll. When I say yes, I mean, yes. When I say no, I mean no. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So we need to try to emulate, imitate, and mirror our heavenly Father and how He carries Himself. Here&#8217;s what Jesus said on that same note in Matthew 12:36-37, our Lord says, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words, you&#8217;ll be condemned.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus was telling us to keep our word because your words create life. When you give your word, it creates expectation and a sense of promise. People can bank on it or they should be able to. And when you find that you can’t keep your word, then you need to then begin to change that. You don’t want the word on the street about you to be, “They never keep their word.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So, how does this start in a very practical way? Value your name by keeping your word. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If I asked your family and friends, do you keep your word? What would they say? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If I said, do you keep your word? If they say no, don&#8217;t be angry. Make a shift. If they say yes, be excited and continue keeping your word. </span></p> <h4><b>Third: Guard your heart!</b></h4> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Your heart is the birthplace of your character. It&#8217;s the soil where character grows and develops. It&#8217;s that nutritious soil where godly character should be able to get all the nutrients necessary to grow no matter what the environment is externally. You can still grow godly in a broken and corrupt world.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Proverbs 11:3 says, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What Solomon was telling us is that your heart is the home of your integrity. That&#8217;s the foundation of your character. Guard your heart, your soul, the inner core of who you are, the essence of who you are as a man, the essence of who you are as a woman, as a young person, guard your heart. Because when you don&#8217;t guard your heart, it gets all filled up with junk and you can feel the duplicity and you can just sense the insincerity that comes out of people. And that&#8217;s a very dangerous thing. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Solomon is telling us because our heart is the seat of integrity.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So what does it mean to guard your heart? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Matthew 12:33 says, “A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, it&#8217;s fruit will be bad. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus made it very plain to us, a heart is the soil of godly character. If you don&#8217;t guard your heart, all kinds of things will come in. Bitterness, anger, hatred, duplicity. And when people ask you questions, you tell them what you think they want to hear and you&#8217;re not honest. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Initially, you may get away with it, but over time, what you&#8217;re doing is building a duplicitous character. When your character lacks integrity and your life is no longer integrated where your actions fit your attitudes, which fit your character, it&#8217;s out of alignment because you didn&#8217;t guard your heart. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Your heart is so precious and you must guard it. It&#8217;s the wellspring of your integrity. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And I always want to guard my heart so that it doesn&#8217;t become junked up. I don’t want to become someone that knows how to say the right thing, but doesn&#8217;t feel what I say or don&#8217;t say what I feel. I want to have alignment in the interior part of my life. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you think about building character, it&#8217;s not some elusive thing that&#8217;ll happen in the by-and-by, or because you hope it&#8217;ll happen or you will for it to happen.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It&#8217;s going to require you to intentionally use these building blocks:</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You value your name.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You keep your word.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You guard your heart.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And when you do that, you&#8217;ll find integrity and godly character begin to blossom out of your heart. And when people look at you, they&#8217;re going to inspect and taste the fruit from your life. And when they taste it, it won&#8217;t be sour. The fruit will be sweet. Why? Because a godly character produces good fruit. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The fruit is not for you, but the fruit is for others that are in your life, on your job, in your home, in your church, in your community, in your sphere of influence, that’s who eats from your life. And they&#8217;ll say, when I get around that individual, I feel good about myself because they’re such a great example to me, of someone who has a morally upright character, and godly character.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">We must constantly strive to keep our integrity intact. When wealth is lost, nothing is lost. When health is lost, something is lost. When character is lost, all is lost. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I want to encourage you. Let nothing cause you to lose your character. Guard your heart because it&#8217;s the home where character is developed. </span></p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> Four Tools For Shaping Your Character David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:2273a2a8-e831-7dc3-e1b8-98446df92f3a Sat, 09 Oct 2021 08:02:33 -0500 (Watch this message by clicking play on the video at the bottom of this page) Very few things are more important than character during this time in history?  The question... <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">(Watch this message by clicking play on the video at the bottom of this page)</span></i></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Very few things are more important than character during this time in history? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The question is, can character be shaped? If it can, how do you do it? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, the Apostle Paul answers that question in Philippians 1:6 where he says, “God is the one who began this good work in you. And I&#8217;m certain that he won&#8217;t stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So, can character be shaped? </span><b>Absolutely</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And the Bible says that God is deeply committed to helping us hone, shape, and develop our character. Not only for our benefit but that the world may see and witness the fact that we&#8217;ve been changed by his love. And we not only love our father, we actually look like our father in our character. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In Hebrews 12:1, the Scripture says, “Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won&#8217;t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And the Bible tells us that God is involved in shaping our character, but it also tells us in Hebrews chapter 12 that we must be involved in shaping our character. There&#8217;s a dual effort here. It&#8217;s as if God says I&#8217;ll work with you, but I want you to work with me. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I believe that when we hone, develop and shape our character to become more Christ-like, not only will doors swing open but relationships will thrive and we will feel better about ourselves. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Why? Because we will be like our heavenly father.</span></p> <h3><b>Four tools for shaping character</b></h3> <h4><b>Number One: Truth shapes character</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></h4> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">We tend to live according to what we believe to be true. In other words, if I believe that truth-telling is good, I&#8217;m going to live in that, in light of my beliefs. But we live in a world where we have become accustomed to people using this phrase, “my truth” or “your truth.” It&#8217;s as if we no longer have absolute truths, and truths can now become personalized. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, the Bible tells us that there are some gray areas, but by and large, most areas are very clear. There are stark and real absolutes. Absolutes don’t mean it&#8217;s constricting and it&#8217;s suffocating. Absolutes are a way for us to have a moral compass. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus made it very easy. He tells us in John 8:31, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ ”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">He erases the whole notion of your truth, my truth. And he says let&#8217;s scrap those personalized-perspective truths. Those are far lacking. He says, “I&#8217;m the truth.” He embodies truth. He&#8217;s the physical representation of truth and his teachings reflect truth. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And Jesus says, “If you want to see your character shaped, accept me as your truth.” And then your truth will indeed be the truth because it&#8217;ll hone, shape, adjust and chisel off of you things that need to be broken off.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So when I want to understand what truth is, I&#8217;m not going to look inward because that&#8217;s going to be misleading. I&#8217;m not even going to look at other people because that may be misleading. I&#8217;m going to look to the Scriptures to see what Jesus said and how he lived. And then more importantly, what he calls me to do and how he calls me to live. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And so positionally, Jesus becomes truth when I accept him as Savior and practically becomes truth when I follow him as a disciple.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Have you invited Jesus into your life to be your savior? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Because when you do, you&#8217;re going to learn what truth really is. It was many years ago, July 6, 1982, at 10:00 pm. I sat on the edge of my dormitory bed and I prayed this simple prayer.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I didn&#8217;t even know it was a prayer because I was an atheist prior to this prayer. I said, “Jesus if you are real, change me.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">At that moment, I was changed. Days afterward I recognized I had a problem. See, every other word out of my mouth was an expletive. I would just drop F-bombs. And I wouldn&#8217;t even think about it. I was just graduating from school and I didn&#8217;t know how I was going to fair. When I would go on interviews, the interviewer asked me the question, “Why do you want to work here as a mechanical engineer?” And I may drop some F-bombs as to the reason. I couldn&#8217;t help myself. But somehow when I accepted Christ, I recognized he is the truth. I didn&#8217;t know the Bible but I knew enough that Jesus would not be pleased if profanity was part of my speech.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I&#8217;m so thankful that God washed me. 36 years and no expletives since I&#8217;ve been walking with Jesus. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But I want you to know it didn&#8217;t happen by my own strength. I wasn&#8217;t even aware of how I could be set free, but the truth sets me free. I want you to understand the value of this. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">1 Peter 1:22 says, “Now that you have cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it. Your new life is not like your old life.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Truth liberates. Truth is freeing. </span></p> <h4><b>Number Two: Relationships shape character.</b></h4> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Character development happens within the crucible of a community. If the community is a wicked backstabbing community, then it&#8217;s normal for me to be wicked and backstabbing. But if my friendship base, my community is honest, full of integrity and morally based, then all of a sudden, I&#8217;m like a nurse at a doctor&#8217;s convention. I just feel like, uh, I don&#8217;t have the same qualifications as everybody else. I feel odd. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">First Corinthians 15:33, the Apostle Paul says, “Do not be fooled. Bad friends will ruin good habits.” So in other words, relationships shape you. It informs your character. It will add things to your character that are bad, morally bankrupt, and it doesn&#8217;t align with the Scripture or it could shape your character and become good. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Do you have friends in your life that can get in your face? And what do you do when they get in your face? Do you cut off the relationship? We live in a “cancel culture” world. We cut off the relationship, sometimes even in churches, and that is a tragedy.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul tells Timothy all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing people what is wrong in their lives, for correcting faults and for teaching us how to live right. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">One of the ways you know you’re in a healthy church and that your community is a safe community is when the Scriptures are being correctly taught and they get in your face and challenge you. And when that takes place, you know, you&#8217;re in a healthy church. </span></p> <h4><b>Number Three: Problems shape character.</b></h4> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Nobody likes problems, but there&#8217;s an upside to problems. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Romans 5:3 says, “We also have joy with our troubles because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope.” Paul is telling us that there&#8217;s an upside to trouble. That trouble essentially shapes character or produces character. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">‘Troubles’ is the Greek word that references pressure, anguish, persecution. In other words, its longstanding trouble. When facing trouble, you can either get bitter or better. You can either allow the trouble to chisel off of you, junk, sin, bad habits, bad perspectives and internal attitudes that are not like Christ. Or you can just get bitter and angry, and justify your actions by saying, “I&#8217;m going through something so I can snap and behave in a way that&#8217;s un-Godly.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The better choice is to use trouble as gasoline in your engine to move you closer to Christ. Trouble changes your perspective; trouble adjusts your philosophy. Trouble helps you to pace yourself and ask questions like, “How can I maintain my quest to become Christ-like while I&#8217;m in this longstanding trial”? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You don&#8217;t run away.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You don&#8217;t hide from the church. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You don&#8217;t hide from relationships where they can get in your face and ask you questions. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You don&#8217;t do that. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You let trouble become like jet fuel that causes you to just move forward. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you ease people&#8217;s troubles, at times, you are hurting them. That&#8217;s why when you are a helicopter parent and you want to rescue your kids from every difficulty, you raise what we call in our culture “snowflake kids.” They just melt in any condition and they can’t function as adults. Why? Because mommy or daddy rescued them. And I&#8217;m not saying that you need to just take the totally opposite approach and never help your child. What I am saying is that you have to know at times, troubles shape character. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">We must recognize the value that trouble brings to our lives. </span></p> <h4><b>Number Four: Coaching shapes character.</b></h4> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You don&#8217;t get where you want to go by yourself. The idea of becoming the kind of man or woman that you want to become in terms of your character and integrity requires times of specific and intentional help from a character coach. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul says to Timothy, “You should teach people whom you can trust the things you and many others have heard me say. Then they will be able to teach others.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Paul is telling Timothy, I coached you on some specific things, character, thinking, relationship with Jesus, how you deal with problems, how you deal with difficult people, and the list goes on. When you read first and second Timothy, you see a whole host of ways. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Paul was a coach to Timothy. And then Paul says, Timothy, I want you to take that play out of my playbook. And I want you to function as a multigenerational coach, to others in your life. I want you to look for people that fit certain criteria. In other words, they&#8217;ll value what you say to them and you&#8217;ll coach them and they, in turn, will coach others. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Don&#8217;t overlook the function of coaching to shape your character. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Think about this for a moment. The average NFL team has 15 coaches. They have all kinds of coaches from defensive to offensive coaches, to punting coaches, to fitness coaches. Even Tom Brady has a quarterback coach. Even when you look in the world of tennis, Serena Williams, arguably the best female tennis player in the world or in history, has a coach. When you think about acting, even the legendary actor Tom Hanks, has an acting coach. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You may find yourself thinking, I’m good. And yes, you may be good, but the purpose of a coach is not to keep you in that place where you qualify as good, but the coach is to help you get better and better to fulfill your potential. I&#8217;ve had coaches in my life, preaching coaches, diversity coaches, all kinds of coaches to help me grow in specific areas where I recognized I needed to grow. </span></p> <p><strong>Character counts. </strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">These are four things that you and I can practically use as tools to help develop and shape our character. Truth shapes character, relationships shape character, problems shape character, and coaching shapes character. If you don&#8217;t have a coach, find one, it could be a friend that you just appoint as your coach. Ask them to help spot things in your character, ask them to help you. They may offer you a book. They may offer you a YouTube link, whatever it is to help you become that powerful man or powerful woman of God.</span></p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> Ezekiel 37: Then You Shall Know that I Am the Lord perSpectives 12 urn:uuid:93514fa7-d559-5b03-7e06-c5aaa18112d1 Mon, 04 Oct 2021 08:52:23 -0500 Jan Paron &#124; October 4, 2021 “Then you shall know that I am the Lord” (Ez 37:6 NKJV). Perhaps, the &#8230;<p><a href="">Continue reading <span class="meta-nav">&#8594;</span></a></p> <p>Jan Paron | October 4, 2021</p> <p>“Then you shall know that I am the Lord” (Ez 37:6 NKJV). Perhaps, the central focus of the dry bones oracles of 37:1-14 and the book itself, rests with Israel’s knowledge of Yahweh. The identification formula occurs twice (vv. 6, 13) and ends with a similar clause in verse 14.<a href="//9A784ED4-3460-401C-B619-C1B089027802#_ftn1"><sup>[1]</sup></a> Through the three, self-naming clauses the Lord uncovers His relational identity to Israel. In turn, His self-revelation seeks to shape the very community of those whom He calls “my people&#8221; (v. 13b). In this manner, His self-identification reveals Him as omniscient Creator (v. 6); omnipotent, all-powerful God (v. 13); and Covenant Maker and Keeper.</p> <p><img loading="lazy" data-attachment-id="6000" data-permalink="" data-orig-file="" data-orig-size="854,477" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{&quot;aperture&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;credit&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;camera&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;caption&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;created_timestamp&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;copyright&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;focal_length&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;iso&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;shutter_speed&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;title&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;orientation&quot;:&quot;1&quot;}" data-image-title="1A31D63D-356C-439C-B032-CF19563CB28D_1_201_a" data-image-description="" data-image-caption="" data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" class="wp-image-6000 aligncenter" src="" alt="1A31D63D-356C-439C-B032-CF19563CB28D_1_201_a" width="553" height="309" srcset=";h=309 553w,;h=84 150w,;h=168 300w,;h=429 768w, 854w" sizes="(max-width: 553px) 100vw, 553px" /></p> <p>Examining the Lord’s self-revelation in verses one to fourteen, His nature progressively unfolds from Creator to Keeper to the one God who calls Israel to love Him with all their heart and soul (Dt 6:5). With this first, Ezekiel recognized Yahweh’s character as omniscient from Him knowing the very destiny of His people. In the prophet’s first oracle the Lord asked whether the dry bones representing the house of Israel could live to which Ezekiel replied, “O Lord God, You know” (v. 3). By His own word, God created man in His own image and likeness (Gn 1:26-27). The omniscient Yahweh in His unlimited understanding of the destiny for His chosen from His creation, once again spoke life by His word that He will breathe into them (Ez 37:5; cf. 36:27). The titles of Sovereign God&nbsp;contrasted against the son of man (v.3 NLT) displayed Yahweh’s sovereign divinity against humanity’s failed state.&nbsp;Only through His sovereign action would they live. His breath would transform them to His image of holiness purifying from their uncleanness (36:29; cf. Mt 1:21), thereby shaping His community to glorify the Name they profaned (36:21). The covenant Yahweh made with Israel in the Old Testament anticipated the better covenant in the New.<a href="//9A784ED4-3460-401C-B619-C1B089027802#_ftn2"><sup>[2]</sup></a>&nbsp;That same Yahweh incarnated in Jesus, the union of God and man, also manifests the same omniscient nature. As God, Jesus possesses all wisdom and knowledge hidden in Him (Col 2:3).<a href="//9A784ED4-3460-401C-B619-C1B089027802#_ftn3"><sup>[3]</sup></a>&nbsp;His all-knowing character (Jn 21:17) still shapes the community of those engrafted in the vine (Rom 11:31).&nbsp;</p> <p>His self-revelation as omniscient Creator (Ez 37:6) next uncovers Himself as the omnipotent, all-powerful God to Israel. In verse 12, Yahweh spoke to the exiled through Ezekiel saying, “O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel” (NKJV). To the captured who saw themselves as dried bones without hope in exile as a dead nation, Yahweh who calls Himself the Almighty throughout the Bible (i.e., Gn 17:1), has all power to restore them to their land. Further, He provided for them as their divine King by delivering them from bondage in Babylon. Second Chronicles 6:22-23 explains that the Lord stirred up King Cyrus to release the exiled back to Judah, also fulfilling Jeremiah’s 70-year timeline of their capture (Jer 29:10).&nbsp;</p> <p>Thus, the Lord God visibly showed Himself as their omnipotent, all-powerful God. The Shema in Dt 6:4 opens with “Hear, O Israel.” Nonetheless, hearing suggests obedience involving all the heart, soul, and strength for the whole of Israel to Yahweh. To carry out hearing, it requires doing as individuals and community in covenant with Yahweh. In time, Israel broke covenant with Him and repeated their sinful behavior. In the New Testament, Jesus repeated the greatest commandment of the law, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One (Mk 12:29), marrying it to the New Testament scriptures. The omnipotent Yahweh continues to manifest Himself in Jesus, whose Spirit tabernacles within the believer displaying His power in our lives. This requires those in Christ practice the Shema, hearing and living out our love for Him with all their heart, soul, and strength in covenant.&nbsp;<strong></strong></p> <p>In the last self-naming formula, Yahweh reveals Himself as a Covenant Maker and Covenant Keeper. People from the Ancient Near East (ANE) worshipped many gods. Israel followed suit and betrayed the marriage covenant with Yahweh practicing idolatry, abandoning Him prior to captivity. Impurity from idolatry may have been one of the most offensive to the Lord.<a href="//9A784ED4-3460-401C-B619-C1B089027802#_ftn4"><sup>[4]</sup></a>&nbsp;In Ez 6:9, He described their adulterous heart as crushing Him. Thus, Yahweh sent a divine judgment on Israel, but He kept His covenant with those He chose.&nbsp;As Covenant Maker and Keeper, He proves He is the Lord by His spoken word and accomplished deed to them. It also establishes an eschatological component to the fulfillment of Israel. Brueggemann called the regathered to Israel a generation of promise for that reason.<sup><a href="//9A784ED4-3460-401C-B619-C1B089027802#_ftn5">[5]</a></sup> Further, Yahweh also demonstrated the knowledge of His identity to surrounding nations by returning Israel to their land. Had God not kept His promise, it would have left generations to come without hope for redemption. Through the re-establishment of the house of Judah would come the Son of David, fulfilled in Jesus Christ.</p> <p>In summarizing His self-revelation, one sees His multiple natures from omniscient, omnipotent, and Covenant Keeper. In a missional capacity, the totality of His character represents the inherent purpose of grace in returning the disobedient nation to their land extended to humanity across the ages.</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Footnotes</span></h3> <p><a href="//9A784ED4-3460-401C-B619-C1B089027802#_ftnref1"><sup>[1]</sup></a>“‘Then you shall&nbsp;know&nbsp;that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,’ says the Lord&#8217;” (Ez 37:14).</p> <p><a href="//9A784ED4-3460-401C-B619-C1B089027802#_ftnref2"><sup>[2]</sup></a>David S. Norris, I Am:&nbsp;<em>A Oneness Pentecostal Theology</em>&nbsp;(Hazelwood: MO, 2009), 75.</p> <p><a href="//9A784ED4-3460-401C-B619-C1B089027802#_ftnref3"><sup>[3]</sup></a>David K.&nbsp;Bernard.&nbsp;<em>Oneness of God</em>&nbsp;(Hazelwood: (Kindle Locations 734-735). Word Aflame Press), 734-735.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="//9A784ED4-3460-401C-B619-C1B089027802#_ftnref4"><sup>[4]</sup></a>&nbsp;Moshe Greenberg, Ezekiel 21-37 (New Haven: Anchor Yale Press, 1997), 7237. See Greenberg for further details on defilement.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="//9A784ED4-3460-401C-B619-C1B089027802#_ftnref5"><sup>[5]</sup></a>&nbsp;Walter Brueggemann,&nbsp;<em>The Land: Place as Gift, Promise, and Challenge in Biblical Faith&nbsp;</em>(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977). 187.</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Bibliography</span></strong></h3> <p>Ackroyd, Peter R.&nbsp;<em>Exile and Restoration: A Study of Hebrew Thought of the Sixth Century B. C.</em>&nbsp;Philadelphia: Westminster, 1986.</p> <p>Allen, Leslie C.&nbsp;<em>Ezekiel, Vol. 29</em>. Word Bible Commentary. Edited by John D. W. Watts and James W. Watts. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990.</p> <p>Bender, A. P. “Beliefs, Rites, and Customs of the Jews, Connected with Death, Burial, and Mourning.”&nbsp;<em>The Jewish Quarterly Review</em>&nbsp;7, no. 2 January (Jan., 1995):&nbsp;&nbsp;259-269:</p> <p>Bimson, John J. “Book of Ezekiel.” in&nbsp;<em>The Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible</em>. Edited by Kevin J. Vanhoozer. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.</p> <p>Block, Daniel.&nbsp;<em>By the River Chebar: Historical, Literary, and Theological Studies in the Book of Ezekiel.</em>&nbsp;City: James Clarke &amp; Co 2014.</p> <p>Boadt, Lawrence. “Book of Ezekiel.” in&nbsp;<em>The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol D-G</em>. Edited by David N. Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992.</p> <p>__________.&nbsp;<em>Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction.</em>&nbsp;New York: Paulist Press, 2012.</p> <p>Brett, Mark G. ed.&nbsp;<em>Ethnicity and the Bible</em>. Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2002.</p> <p>Brueggemann, Walter.<em>&nbsp;The Land: Place as Gift, Promise, and Challenge in Biblical Faith</em>, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977,</p> <p><em>Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers</em>. 17th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017.</p> <p>Eichrodt, Walther&nbsp;<em>Theology of the Old Testament</em>. Translated by J. A. Baker. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961.</p> <p>Fox, Michael, V. “The Rhetoric of Ezekiel’s Vision of the Valley of the Bones.”<em>&nbsp;Hebrew Union College Annual</em>&nbsp;51, (1980): 1-15.</p> <p>Greenberg, Moshe.&nbsp;<em>Ezekiel 21-27.&nbsp;</em>Anchor Yale Bible. New York: Yale University Press, 2010.</p> <p>__________. The Design and Themes of Ezekiel’s Program of Restoration.”&nbsp;<em>Interpretation</em>&nbsp;58, no. 4 (2007): 585-625.</p> <p>Goldingay, John A. “Ezekiel.”&nbsp;<em>Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible</em>. Edited by James D. G. Dunn and John W. Rogerson. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003.</p> <p>Joyce, Paul M.&nbsp;<em>Ezekiel: A Commentary</em>. New York: T &amp; T Clark, 2007.<strong></strong></p> <p>Kamsen, Joel and Tihitshak Biwul. “The Restoration of the Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37:1-14: An Exegetical and Theological Analysis.”&nbsp;<em>Scriptura&nbsp;</em>118 (2019:1), pp. 1-10.</p> <p>LaSor, William Sandord, David Allan Hubbard, Frederic William Bush, and Leslie C. Allen.&nbsp;<em>Old Testament Survey: The Message Form, and Background of the Old Testament</em>. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, Co. 1996.&nbsp;</p> <p>Lee, Lydia.&nbsp;<em>Mapping Judah’s Fate in Ezekiel’s Oracles Against the Nations.</em>&nbsp;Atlanta: SBL Press, 2016. <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>.</p> <p>Longman III, Tremper.&nbsp;<em>The Message of the Prophets: A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament</em>. Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2010.</p> <p>Mein, Andrew.&nbsp;<em>Ezekiel and the Ethics of Exile.</em>&nbsp;Oxford Theological Monographs. Oxford: OUP Oxford, 2006.</p> <p>Miller, Maxwell J. and John H. Hayes.&nbsp;<em>A History of Ancient Israel and Judah</em>. 2nd ed. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006.</p> <p>Mendenhall, George. “Covenant.”&nbsp;<em>The Anchor Bible Dictionary</em>, Vol A-C. Edited by David Freeman. New York: Doubleday, 1992.</p> <p>Margaret S. Odell<strong>.&nbsp;</strong><em>Ezekiel (Smyth &amp; Helwys Bible Commentary).&nbsp;</em>Macon: Smyth &amp; Helwys, Inc., 2005.</p> <p>Olyan, Saul M. 1996. “Honor, Shame, and Covenant Relations in Ancient Israel and Its Environment.”&nbsp;<em>Journal of Biblical Literature</em>&nbsp;115, no. 2: 201.&nbsp;</p> <p>Pearce, Laurie E. “Identifying Judeans and Judean Identity in the Babylonian Evidence.” in&nbsp;<em>Exile and Return: The Babylonian Context,</em>&nbsp;edited by Jonathan Stökl, Caroline Waerzeggers, and Jonathan Stökl. Berlin: CPI Books, 2015.&nbsp;</p> <p>Qubt, Shadia. “Can These Bones Live? God, Only You Know.”&nbsp;<em>Review and Expositor</em>. 104, Summer, 2007.</p> <p>Schultz, Samuel J.&nbsp;<em>The Old Testament Speaks:</em>&nbsp;<em>A Complete Survey of Old Testament History and Literature.</em>&nbsp;New York: HarperOne, 2000.</p> <p>Serfontein, Johan and Wilhelm J. Wessels. “Communicating Amidst Reality: Ezekiel&#8217;s Communication as a Response to His Reality.”&nbsp;<em>Verbum Eccles&nbsp;</em>35, no. 1 (2014):&nbsp;</p> <p>Smith-Christopher, Daniel L.&nbsp;<em>A Biblical Theology of Exile</em>. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002.</p> <p>Staples, Jason A.&nbsp;<em>The Idea of Israel in Second Temple Judaism: A New Theory of People, Exile, and Israelite Identity.&nbsp;</em>New York: Cambridge University Press, 2021.</p> <p>Stökl, Jonathan, and Caroline Waerzeggers.&nbsp;<em>Exile and Return : The Babylonian Context</em>. (Beihefte Zur Zeitschrift Für Die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 2015): Volume 478. De Gruyter.&nbsp;</p> <p>Sweeney, Marvin.&nbsp;<em>Reading Ezekiel: A Literary and Theological Commentary</em>&nbsp;(Reading the Old Testament.) (p. 44). (Smyth &amp; Helwys Publishing, Inc.)</p> <p>Tiemeyer, L. D. “Book of Ezekiel.” in&nbsp;<em>The Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets</em>. Edited by Mark J. Boda and J. Gordon McConville. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2012.</p> <p>Walton, John H.&nbsp;<em>Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible</em>. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006.</p> <p>Zimmerli, Walther.&nbsp;<em>Ezekiel 2</em>. Hermeneia. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983.</p> <p>__________.&nbsp;<em>I Am Yehweh</em>. Eugene:Wipf &amp; Stock, 1982.</p> Why Character Matters David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:040c7bed-bba4-0dee-a058-28058cc3550c Thu, 30 Sep 2021 19:38:11 -0500 (Watch this powerful message by clicking play on the video at the bottom of this page) We&#8217;re living in a day and age where we hear very little about character... <p><em>(Watch this powerful message by clicking play on the video at the bottom of this page)</em></p> <p>We&#8217;re living in a day and age where we hear very little about character and the benefits of having a strong, solid, morally based character. It&#8217;s almost like a fleeting thought. In fact, it seems elusive. One person anonymously said, “Everyone tries to define this thing called character. It&#8217;s not hard. Character is doing what&#8217;s right when nobody&#8217;s looking.”</p> <p>Let me ask you this question.</p> <p>What doors would open wide for you if you spent time honing and developing your character? David, King of Israel, said this in Psalm 15:1, “God, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on the guest list? Walk straight, act right, tell the truth.”</p> <p>That&#8217;s the answer. In other words, there are huge benefits to having godly character. And David just highlighted the idea that God invites us into his place and builds relationships with us because God is holy. And he looks to establish a growing relationship with people who also want to grow in holiness.</p> <h2>Practical Steps to Developing Character</h2> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We must ask ourselves three very simple questions, which will yield godliness and good solid character.</p> <h3>Question One: Who am I?</h3> <p>You must ask yourself that question because it’s tied to your identity. Who are you on a deep cellular level? When I recognize who I am, it drives the way I behave. It drives the way I act. It drives my attitude.</p> <p>In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul says anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten and everything is new. Paul is telling us that when you accept Christ as your savior, you actually become a brand-new person. You actually change in who you are, in your identity.</p> <p>The New Testament scholar, Phillip Hughes, says, when he refers to the old things are passed, that the old represents distinctions, prejudices, misconceptions, enslavement of former unregenerate life. Paul says all have become new. New, in the technical grammar, means present tense.</p> <p>It&#8217;s that type of speech, which says that the old things became new and they continue to be new. The new life is not you having a new experience, it&#8217;s you becoming a new person and you keep on in that newness throughout your entire spiritual life.</p> <p>If you want the fruit of a godly character, it takes place in your identity. You have to identify with the one who is in charge of all characters, God himself. When you accept Christ as savior, your identity changes, the old person has gone. The new person has come. The idea is that when you look in the mirror, you&#8217;re supposed to see Jesus because we become more and more like Christ daily.</p> <p>Paul tells us in Romans 6:6, “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with. That we should no longer be slaves to sin because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”</p> <p>You&#8217;re no longer what you used to be.</p> <h3>Question Two: Who am I becoming?</h3> <p>Paul speaks to this. He lets us know that we&#8217;re changing. We&#8217;re going through a process; an ongoing metamorphosis every day, we&#8217;re becoming more and more like Jesus. He helps the church at Ephesus shape and hone the character of each individual that was worshiping at the church.</p> <p>In Ephesians 4:17, Paul begins by saying, “As a follower of the Lord, I order you to stop living like stupid godless people. Their minds are in the dark and they&#8217;re stubborn and ignorant. And I&#8217;ve missed out on the life that comes from God. They no longer have any feelings about what is right, and they are so greedy that they do all kinds of indecent things. But this isn&#8217;t what you were taught about Jesus Christ. He is the truth, and you heard about him and learned about him.”</p> <p>Paul is telling us that there should be a stark difference between your character and those who don&#8217;t know Christ. He says when they don&#8217;t have the wellspring of life inside of them, causing them to strive to be more like Christ and to live in a way that reflects God and godliness, they will do all kinds of crazy zany things.</p> <p>God is the anchor point, inflexible and unmoving, for morality. And when you don&#8217;t have a moral compass based on something that is inflexible and unmoving, you say good is bad and bad is good. And you just waffle back and forth because nothing is there as an anchor point.</p> <p>Your life must be able to reflect your beliefs. Who am I becoming financially in terms of my values? Who am I becoming in terms of my relationships? Are they healthy? Does it matter to me? Who am I becoming in my mental health? Who am I in the way of my sexuality? What am I becoming?</p> <p>Go through some self-examination; check out what you&#8217;re doing and what you&#8217;re saying and how you&#8217;re thinking. Is what you&#8217;re doing matching up?</p> <p>I always ask myself this question, what would Jesus do?</p> <p>When we ask ourselves that question it helps us to make a quick shift, quick adjustments and align our life or our attitude with what we believe Jesus would do.</p> <p>Self-regulation is also important. Self-regulation is a step after self-examination.</p> <p>Self-examination says I&#8217;m holding up my life to the mirror of God&#8217;s Word, and the Word is not wrong. It&#8217;s when my life doesn&#8217;t align with the Word, the values of the Word, the behavior of the Word and the attitude the Word calls me to. When my life is not aligned with the Word, that&#8217;s the self-examination part.</p> <p>The self-regulation part is when I make adjustments. Now, granted, there&#8217;s some things I don&#8217;t know how to adjust. That&#8217;s why I depend on the Holy Spirit. There&#8217;s some things I don&#8217;t know how to change, even though I know I need to make that change.</p> <p>We can&#8217;t rely in our own strength, regulate every aspect of our behavior. There must be a dependence on the Holy Spirit.</p> <h3>Question Three: What do I want to be?</h3> <p>Paul says in Ephesians 4:22, “You were told that your foolish desires will destroy you and that you must give up your old way of life with all its bad habits. Let the Spirit change your way of thinking and make you into a new person. You were created to be like God, and so you must please him and be truly holy.” Paul is saying that we have the capability to work on our character. It&#8217;s not magical. It&#8217;s not something that, oh, I hope I grow in my character. This is something that you intentionally, devotedly and strategically do.</p> <p>Who do you want to be?</p> <p>Paul says, here&#8217;s how you do it. You get rid of the old habits, get rid of the old lifestyle. Don&#8217;t sit there and salivate over what you used to be and how you used to do what you did. Don&#8217;t smile about it, it’s not joyous. It speaks of your broken state. Don&#8217;t gloat about it. Paul says to throw those foolish desires to the wayside and dismiss them.</p> <p>When we think about who do I want to be, we must have examples and role models. I hold up, certainly Jesus as the preeminent model. And Paul&#8217;s one of my guys. I just love the Apostle Paul.</p> <p>But then there must be earthly models and they can&#8217;t be the Hollywood people. It can&#8217;t be famous athletes. We can&#8217;t look at them and, and wealthy individuals per se, to let that be our role model. Because if that&#8217;s the case, you&#8217;re going to be watching shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills or Housewives of Atlanta, or God forbid, RuPaul&#8217;s Drag Race. And then you&#8217;re popping down in front of the TV and you&#8217;re just sitting there, looking at them and being fascinated by them.</p> <p>You can&#8217;t be lured into that. Don&#8217;t let that be your role models or don&#8217;t let that be the place where you relax, because if you&#8217;re relaxed in front of that, unbeknownst to you, unconsciously, it goes in and when it sinks in, it&#8217;ll come out.</p> <p>Paul is saying you have to fuel the new life with new desires and new habits so that the new you will be evident to all. He tells us in Ephesians 4:23-24, “Let the Spirit change your way of thinking and make you into a new person. You are created to be like God, and so you must please him and be truly holy.”</p> <p>Who do I want to be?</p> <p>I want to be like my heavenly father. It&#8217;s challenging, but it&#8217;s not condemning. It&#8217;s inviting but it&#8217;s not overwhelming. And the beauty is that Jesus walks with you. He doesn&#8217;t leave you isolated and he doesn&#8217;t put a gun over your head. He invites you into this journey daily, and you become more and more like Christ. And it&#8217;s an ongoing process.</p> <p>You were changed. You are changed. You will be changed. We&#8217;re constantly being changed.</p> <p>You can become like Christ.</p> <p>I love what Oswald Chambers, author, and Bible teacher, once said, “The expression of Christian character is not good doing, but God-likeness. If the spirit of God has transformed you within, you will exhibit divine characteristics in your life, not good human characteristics. God&#8217;s life in us expresses itself as God&#8217;s life, not as human life trying to be godly.”</p> <p><strong>When people see your life, they see God-likeness in you.</strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> How To Become a Peacemaker David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:f9f519ab-41c7-2f8a-949b-f403c553d40c Thu, 23 Sep 2021 06:19:03 -0500 (Watch this powerful message by clicking play on the video at the bottom of this page) We live in a day where it seems like we can’t escape unrest. Political,... <p><em>(Watch this powerful message by clicking play on the video at the bottom of this page)</em></p> <p>We live in a day where it seems like we can’t escape unrest. Political, racial, and economic unrest generate new headlines every day. Anxiety is consuming many people. And, maybe you yourself walk around feeling on edge because of everything swirling around you.</p> <p>Let me assure you, there is hope.</p> <p>I believe that God wants to visit you, your family, your church, and your community with peace. We serve the Prince of Peace. And, Jesus is in the business of giving His children peace and not just giving us peace, but helping us to become peacemakers.</p> <h3>Conflict Is a Normal Part of Life</h3> <p>Your family is not weird. You&#8217;re not weird. Your job&#8217;s not weird. Your school&#8217;s not weird. Your church is not weird. Our nation&#8217;s not even weird.</p> <p>Conflict is a normal part of life. The issue is not about you having a conflict-free life. None of us will ever have that. We will never live in a nation that is conflict-free. We will never have jobs that are conflict-free. As long as we walk this earth, we will encounter conflict.</p> <p>What we must learn is how we can become emotionally healthy, mentally healthy and not just be peace-loving people, but actually peace-making people.</p> <p>In Matthew 5:9 Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for, they will be called children of God.”</p> <p>Peacemakers are not people who simply want peace. Peacemakers are individuals that are working for God to help make sure that there is peace between God and humanity. Peacemakers are actively engaged in the process to ensure that there is peace.</p> <p>Peacemakers are individuals that help to bridge the gap to help create peace between humanity and God and peace between mankind with one another and also peace internally.</p> <p>Peacemakers value peace, it’s important, and a high priority to them. They think about it. They pray about it. They look for it. They live for it. They are actively engaged in peacemaking efforts.</p> <p>Peacemakers are reconcilers. They connect broken frail humanity with a loving, whole, emotionally caring God. Peacemakers are identified with God. Jesus says blessed are the poor peacemakers for, they shall be called children of God. In other words, God says to us in the person of His son, Jesus, are you involved in peacemaking?</p> <p>Peacemakers take no delight in division and strife and mayhem and chaos. They are involved in lobbying for peace so that we could be able to enjoy a much more peaceful country. Think of our nation as it is going through this real upheaval of political unrest and racial unrest. Think about the dynamics of the health unrest and the infighting around the best way to handle COVID and what&#8217;s not the best way. Our nation needs peacemakers.</p> <h3>What Peacemaking Is Not</h3> <p>In order to understand peacemaking. Let me show you what peacemaking is not.</p> <p>Peacemaking is not avoiding. When you say I don&#8217;t rock the boat. I sweep everything under the rug. That&#8217;s not peacemaking. That&#8217;s cowardice. Peacemaking is not appeasing.</p> <p>People who say I always give in, they always get their way, I believe in peace at any price. That&#8217;s not peacemaking, that’s codependency. When you find yourself saying those kinds of things, you&#8217;re running from conflict. That&#8217;s not peacemaking.</p> <p>Peacemaking is not denying. It’s not just accepting chaos and having the attitude of “It is what is.” Peacemakers understand how to give the appropriate response to conflict. Yes, they experience conflict, but they have an appropriate response to conflict and know how to settle the issue.</p> <p>Peacemakers use the appropriate response to bring their environment back to a peaceful state without avoiding conflict. They don&#8217;t appease. They don&#8217;t deny it because that&#8217;s not what peacemakers do.</p> <h3>Becoming a Peacemaker</h3> <p>First, you have to value peace. Do you value it?</p> <p>Jesus says in Luke 10:5-6, “As soon as you enter a home, say, God, bless this home with peace. If the people living there are peace-loving, your prayer for peace will bless them. But if they&#8217;re not peace-loving, your prayer will return to you.”</p> <p>What he&#8217;s saying is the peacemakers carry peace.</p> <p>The greeting in first-century Jewish communities is more than just a formality. What Jesus was pointing out was that if there are people in this home that love peace, and that are engaged in peacemaking efforts, you&#8217;re in a home where people value the presence of God.</p> <p>When you learn to carry peace, you know how to bring peace to your environment, even though others may be prone to chaos.</p> <p>In Jeremiah 29:7 the prophet said, “Also seek the peace and the prosperity of the city to which I&#8217;ve carried you into exile, pray to the Lord for it. Because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”</p> <p>Here’s the background and context for that verse. People are being brought into captivity as slaves against their judgment and desires. As this is happening, Jeremiah prophesies, the Lord says to seek the peace and the prosperity of the city, to which I carried you into exile.</p> <p>In other words, it doesn&#8217;t matter if you don&#8217;t like the job where you are. It doesn&#8217;t matter if everything in the home is not working out fine. It doesn&#8217;t matter if you don&#8217;t have enough money in the bank. It doesn&#8217;t matter if your health is not a hundred percent there. It doesn&#8217;t matter.</p> <p>There’s no denying that those things are important. But what the Bible is saying is this: If you&#8217;re going to become a carrier of peace, which peacemakers must do and must be, you must check your attitude because it&#8217;s not dependent on where you are and who you&#8217;re with and what&#8217;s going on, because the Scripture calls us to be peacemakers.</p> <p>Peacemakers value peace, peacemakers carry peace and we must recognize that.</p> <p>The early church was so mindful of the issue of peace that they used to greet one another with peace. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, said in chapter one, verse two, “grace and peace to you from God, the father and the Lord, Jesus Christ.”</p> <p>Paul said the same thing when he wrote his letter to the Corinthians when he wrote his letter to the Galatians when he wrote his letter to the Philippians when he wrote his first two letters to the Thessalonians and even one to Philemon. He says, grace and peace to you.</p> <p>Peace was a desire that the early church had. To carry it and to instill it.</p> <p>Peter even said in 1 Peter 5:14, “peace to all of you in Christ.”</p> <h3>Steps to Becoming a Peacemaker</h3> <p>Romans 14:19 says, “therefore, let us pursue the things which produce peace and the things that build up one another.”</p> <p>Peacemakers broker piece. They are involved in the work of executing, developing, lobbying, and making sure peace occurs. A peacemaker says I&#8217;m going to help navigate the murky waters of conflicts that are separating people or separating a business or a home in order to be able to broker peace.</p> <p>So, to broker peace, consider these things.</p> <h4>First, listen carefully.</h4> <p>You can&#8217;t broker peace unless you listen to both sides. As a pastoral counselor, I&#8217;ve never made decisions based on hearing one side. When I hear both sides, I&#8217;m listening carefully not to see who&#8217;s right and who&#8217;s wrong, but how I may bring reconciliation.</p> <h4>Second, validate feelings.</h4> <p>Feelings are real. And oftentimes feelings overpower logic, rationale and our analytical prowess. I know a lot of people do crazy things because of how they feel and they&#8217;re tired of feeling that way. Whether feeling abused or feeling taken advantage of, they&#8217;ll do nonsensical things, they&#8217;ll do self-destructive things or give themselves to drugs and alcohol or even to stealing or all kinds of things.</p> <p>As a peacemaker, I listen carefully to people and validate feelings. When they say, I feel hurt, I&#8217;m going to validate that to say, I&#8217;m sorry that you feel hurt. When they say, I feel lonely, I&#8217;m going to affirm that by saying, I&#8217;m sorry you feel lonely. And then I say, let&#8217;s figure out how we can change that. I don’t dismiss their feelings.</p> <h4>Third, work on a healthy compromise.</h4> <p>Compromise doesn&#8217;t mean you lose the argument.</p> <p>When I counsel married couples I might say, “Why would you sacrifice a marriage to win an argument?” Compromise gives you the opportunity to take a step toward your spouse and gives your spouse an opportunity to take a step towards you.</p> <p>There have been times when I&#8217;ve met with couples over the years, and they were at the door of divorce, and I said, let&#8217;s put a pause button on it. And I said, what I&#8217;d like for you to do is to give me a 60-day agreement. And I would draw up an agreement that shows within these 60 days, you will not contact an attorney. And I lay out the do&#8217;s and don&#8217;ts, and then there&#8217;s a point in that 60-day contract, where I ask them to give me five things that you want your spouse to do that&#8217;s going to help meet your expectations.</p> <p>Then I provide constructive ways to each of them to fulfill those five expectations. Whether it&#8217;s behavioral changes, whether it&#8217;s not doing certain things or to start doing certain things, whatever it may be, I&#8217;m looking at it as a way to try to help them meet a healthy compromise.</p> <p>If you&#8217;re going to become a peacemaker and broker peace, you must listen carefully, validate feelings, strive for healthy compromise and you must also model reconciliation. In other words, I can&#8217;t be a good peacemaker if my life has all of these broken relationships that are behind me.</p> <p>Our nation needs peacemakers.</p> <p><em>Will you be a peacemaker?</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> How God Speaks to His People Across the Ages perSpectives 12 urn:uuid:61fceb86-9325-ce73-05dc-d4c4b56ae5b3 Mon, 20 Sep 2021 09:33:57 -0500 Jan Paron, PhD &#124; 2014 Hesselgrave defined communication related to culture as &#8220;the transfer of meaning through the use of &#8230;<p><a href="">Continue reading <span class="meta-nav">&#8594;</span></a></p> <p>Jan Paron, PhD | 2014</p> <p>Hesselgrave defined communication related to culture as &#8220;the transfer of meaning through the use of symbols.&#8221;<span class="has-inline-color has-black-color">[1]</span> Then, for a person to internalize communication, the received message must be processed from the listener&#8217;s understanding. Whether verbal or nonverbal symbols, Nida proposed that symbols come from culturally-prescribed artifacts, words, phrases, gestures, or behaviors.<span class="has-inline-color has-black-color">[2]</span> If one culturally determines symbols from their location, then these symbols may influence interpreting God&#8217;s Word. </p> <p>Scripture shows God communicated to His people in the Old Testament using multiple means of expression so people would understand Him and make meaning of His message. He used verbal, visual, tactile, aural, and experiential modes relevant to the cultural context of individuals across the two testaments. In doing so, God varied His message indigent to the listener&#8217;s (or receiver of the message) beliefs, values, norms, social practices, surrounding circumstances, geographic location, and historical events. </p> <p>The listener must process a sent message through culturally determined symbols to understand and then internalize the given communication. Since a people group or individual determine symbols unique to their understanding, then these symbols may influence how a person or people interpret God&#8217;s Word in the communication modes.<span class="has-inline-color has-black-color">[3]</span> Though believers in Christ cannot replicate God&#8217;s divine communication means, they can look to them for guidance when speaking to others.</p> <p>The Adamic, Edenic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Palestinian, Davidic, and New Covenants each show examples of how God communicated His purpose and promise of salvation for humanity. God always has had a passion for communion and relationship with humanity desiring to transform them into His image as holy (Rom 8:29). The Creator does so through the covenantal language of redemption emanating from love for His creation. By examining each of the covenants, one sees instances of His expressional communication modes to individuals and collective bodies.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Edenic Covenant (Genesis 1:26–31)</span></strong></h3> <p>God made the Edenic Covenant with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before sin&#8217;s entrance. God revealed His purpose in Creation with this covenant (Gn 1:1; 2:25 ). Greene explained the Genesis author wrote the Creation account in the context of the ancient Israelites&#8217; language, using cultural symbols the original audience would understand.[4] During the Edenic Covenant, communication shows God&#8217;s verbal, visual, and aural communication with Adam and Eve.</p> <p>Set to the backdrop of the mist that went up from the earth, Genesis provides metaphorical language describing the perfection of God&#8217;s work (2:6–7). One reads in 1:26–31 how God created man in His image and likeness as the centerpiece of all He created. He formed Adam from the dust of the ground (2:7a), and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (v. 7b). Then, the first Adam became a living soul (v. 7c).&nbsp;</p> <p>As the Creation account continues in the Edenic Covenant, the author recorded God&#8217;s first words to humankind between the Lord and Adam. God stated His command to Adam in simple and direct terms: Freely eat of any tree in the Garden, but not from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or Adam would die (vv. 16–17). The statements, in fact, reflect the terms of the Edenic Covenant. The tree of life itself standing in the middle of the Garden represents a visual symbol of the covenantal seal.&nbsp;</p> <p>Through the unfolding covenant, one reads of close and intimate dialogue between God and Adam. God told Adam he needed a suitable “help meet” (2:18b) and then brought him all the animals and birds to search for his companion, only to find none suitable. Therefore, God created woman and fashioned a wife called Eve from Adam&#8217;s rib (v. 22). The serpent (symbolic of Satan) then comes on the scene (3:4) and successfully tempted her with fruit from the forbidden tree. She ate the fruit, and gave one to her husband (v. 6). Now disobedient, God&#8217;s next communication to His Creation was aural. The Amplified Version tells Adam and Eve heard the &#8220;sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day&#8221; (v. 8). Then God calls out to Adam, &#8220;Where are you?&#8221; (v. 9) and followed it with a series of reprimands. One might imagine God as the disappointed parent standing face-to-face with His unruly children. God&#8217;s communication ended as it began—simple and direct to make Himself clear.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Adamic Covenant (Genesis 3:14–19)</span></strong></h3> <p>While God made the Edenic Covenant with Adam and Eve before sin&#8217;s entrance, He established the Adamic after it. God revealed His purpose in redemption. Here, God communicated verbally and visually. When God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, the two moved eastward from it (3:24). Eastward represented prosperity that Adam and Eve lost from the Fall.[5] When Cain fled after murdering Abel, the nomadic son traveled further east to Nod and built the city of Enoch (4:16-17)signaling a greater loss of prosperity. If a picture portrays a thousand words, then God verbally painted a grim image of the land outside the Garden of Eden. He promised receiving judgments of cursed ground (3:17b), working land that would produce thistles and weeds (v. 18a); eating herbs of the field (v. 18b); sweating and toiling of the cursed earth until death; and returning to dust&nbsp; (v. 19a). To add to this visual imagery, after God expelled Adam from the Garden He placed &#8220;Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way&#8221; to keep and guard the tree of life (v. 24). Though Adam and Eve lost close fellowship with the Lord, God gave humankind the promise of redemption to restore them to a covenantal relationship. Along with the curse, God gave the seed promise (3:15a), bruising the serpent&#8217;s head—a messianic prophecy God would reveal progressively through the Old Covenants and fulfill with the New (cf. Mt 1:20; Lk 1:30–31; Gal 4:4; Heb 4:14–17; 1 Jn 3:8). God communicated a vivid picture of life to come for Adam and Eve because of their disobedience.</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Noahic Covenant (Genesis 8:20–9:6)</span></strong></h3> <p>God&#8217;s covenant with Noah after the flood involved all future generations of humankind and every creature on earth. Through it, He confirmed His purpose in redemption with a new beginning by replenishing all flesh by a covenant of grace. He spoke to Noah with instructions to follow in preparation for the Flood (Gn 6:13; 7:1; 8:15-17) and again to elaborate His covenant afterward (9:8-17). The Lord also displayed a rainbow to communicate the seal between Him and humankind in remembrance of His everlasting covenant (9:15; cf. v. 17).&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The Lord communicated to Noah in different forms such as visuals with the water and dove. Could one have been experiential, too? How did Noah know to build an ark that would save future generations from the Flood? Lee proposed God communicated non-audibly since the Garden of Eden, meaning not all conversations between God and His people in biblical accounts were in out loud vocal mode.He based this on the meaning of <em>&#8216;amar </em>(Hebrew: אָמַר) translated to English as the word said. Lee felt <em>&#8216;amar </em>can take on a range of meanings including &#8220;say in the heart.&#8221;<strong>[</strong>6] Further, he theorized Noah sensed or heard God&#8217;s voice in his heart and followed through by the condition of faith. His theory could be true since God chose Noah because he found grace in the Lord&#8217;s eyes (6:8). Further, the Scripture described him as perfect in his generations and one who walked with God (v. 9). Noah stood on faith when he carried out God&#8217;s command to build an ark to save him and his family along with specified species from a flood that would destroy every living thing of all flesh (7:4).&nbsp;</p> <p>God&#8217;s command to build an ark further showed social and geographical factors connected to His directives and Noah&#8217;s obedience. Within a social structure, Noah ranked as a patriarch.[7] The early patriarchs headed single-family units, having a special relationship with God.As a patriarch, Noah retained the responsibility of heeding the voice of God for direction. Geographically, the waterways from the Near East and Mesopotamian region where the early patriarchs resided more than likely could not have held a boat the proportion of the ark.[8] The ark size measured well beyond the size of a normal shipping transport. Taking into consideration the scope of the command, God&#8217;s possible inaudible voice, and social and geographical circumstances, this communication mode shows that faith plays a role in how God speaks to His beloved. Despite adaptations that give meaning to the promises of God, humankind must stand on God&#8217;s Word by faith. &#8220;For we live by believing and not by seeing&#8221; (2 Cor 5:7 NLT).&nbsp;</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-4)</span></strong></h3> <p>The Abrahamic Covenant concerned the nation of Israel, the seed Messiah, and believers of all nations. The people having been scattered across the earth and experiencing their language confounded as a result of disobedience at Babel (Gn 11:7-8), had developed families into nations at the time of Abraham (11:10–28). Abraham, much like Noah, had to walk in faith because of the words God spoke to him (Heb 11:8). How did God communicate with Abraham? God gave him direct verbal commands, such as departing from Haran to an unknown land with the promise of a great nation (11:31; 12:1), promise of the entire land of Canaan (13), promise of an heir (15:2; 18:10), and sacrifice of his son (22:2). Also, God appeared to Abraham in some type of divine manifestation when He said, &#8220;I will give this land to your posterity&#8221; (12:7 AMP), and a vision regarding the Lord as Abraham&#8217;s shield and great reward (15:1). He also spoke to Abraham through other people. A pharaoh asked Abraham, then Abram, to leave the country when God brought down plagues on the Egyptian and his household after he took in Sarai to his harem misled she was Abram’s sister (12:15). God additionally used imagery to make His message meaningful, comparing Abraham&#8217;s seed to the dust of the earth (13:16). In one last form of communication, God spoke to Abraham experientially through tests by living through famine (12:10), being asked to sacrifice his son (22:2) and surviving war (14:16). God did not limit the use of communication symbols to convey a message that Abraham would understand, all revolving around the Promised Land.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <div class="wp-block-image"><figure class="aligncenter"><img data-attachment-id="5958" data-permalink="" data-orig-file="" data-orig-size="309,412" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{&quot;aperture&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;credit&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;camera&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;caption&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;created_timestamp&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;copyright&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;focal_length&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;iso&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;shutter_speed&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;title&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;orientation&quot;:&quot;0&quot;}" data-image-title="50489166-BC17-4A21-8B7D-478B3990714F_4_5005_c" data-image-description="" data-image-caption="" data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" src="" alt="50489166-BC17-4A21-8B7D-478B3990714F_4_5005_c" class="wp-image-5958" /></figure></div> <p class="has-text-align-center">Burning Bush: ShareFaith</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 19–31)</span></strong></h3> <p>The Lord made the Mosaic covenant with the children of Israel after God delivered them from Egypt. This schoolmaster covenant was a shadow of better things to come for Israel in Jesus Christ. God spoke to Moses as well as Israelites in this covenant. People in this covenant experienced all forms of communication including verbal, visual, tactile, aural, and experiential. To bring back the wayward Israelites into relationship with Him from sin, God caught their attention. He came down in a cloud, which He announced with lightning, trumpet&#8217;s noise and a smoking mountain (Ex 19:16-19). This covenant records multiple conversations between God and Moses. It also shows God revealing Himself in the burning bush in a theophany (3:2). The Lord spoke to Moses &#8220;face to face, as one speaks to a friend&#8221; (33:11; Dt 5:4 NIV).&nbsp;</p> <p>In contrast to God&#8217;s arresting communication with lightning, trumpet&#8217;s noise, and a smoking mountain (Ex 19:16-19) that made the Israelites fearful of the Lord, Moses&#8217; conversation with the Lord demonstrated the intimacy that comes with friendship. Moses&#8217; encounter with God differed from everyone else&#8217;s. Only Moses had this direct access to God. The Lord’s communication during this covenant characterized wide-ranging symbols from the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night that signified His presence to the children of Israel in the departure from Egypt (13:21–22) &nbsp;to the intricacies of the Tabernacle of Moses. Even the ten plagues on the Egyptians and the starkness of the desert reflected God&#8217;s communication. Perhaps, God communicated in a demonstrative fashion to Moses and these first-generation children of Israel who provoked Him ten times and wandered in the desert to their death because of their disobedience (Nm 13–14:22).&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Palestinian Covenant (Deuteronomy 28–30)</span></strong></h3> <p>Whereas the Mosaic Covenant was between first-generation children of Israel, the Palestinian dealt with the second generation. It amplified the Mosaic Covenant with moral and civil codes as conditions for living in the Promised Land. This covenant pertains to the land. Much of the language relates to the land, mentioned about 180 times in the book of Deuteronomy<strong>.[</strong>9]<strong> </strong>The land showed a much different future. Rather than stark desert conditions, it promised milk and honey. These were visual symbols to the children of Israel of forthcoming prosperity. During this covenant, Moses spoke for God to the children of Israel. Moses himself conveyed the covenant (Dt 29:1; 29). God continued to dialogue with Moses. While He showed Moses the whole land, He would not allow him to cross over into it (34:1-4).&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, as the children of Israel went into Canaan to conquer the land under Joshua&#8217;s leadership, the Ark of the Covenant went before them (Josh. 1-3). It symbolized new beginnings. Howeve Ezekiel 37:1-14: Receptive Reading perSpectives 12 urn:uuid:28680df4-3991-1624-0f36-318878120306 Tue, 14 Sep 2021 08:49:55 -0500 Jan Paron, PhD &#124; September 14, 2021 The oracle of the dry bones represents the restoration of a future, united &#8230;<p><a href="">Continue reading <span class="meta-nav">&#8594;</span></a></p> <p>Jan Paron, PhD | September 14, 2021</p> <p>The oracle of the dry bones represents the restoration of a future, united Israel (Ez 37:1-14). Set in the context of the Babylonian exile (1:1-3), Ezekiel prophesied the oracles to the captured Judahites between approximately 585 BC and 573 BC.<a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftn1"><sup>[1]</sup></a>&nbsp;Through the word of the Lord, Ezekiel announced multiple prophecies for the exiled about their future (37:1-14) amid what appears as three main: “you shall live” (v. 6); “brought you up from your graves” (v. 13); and “place you in your own land” (v.14).<a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftn2"><sup>[2]</sup></a>&nbsp;The Lord made promises to the exiled that would change their captured state to one delivered from the Persians and then restored as a nation in their land. The clauses denote purpose that results in Israel knowing that “I am the Lord” (vv. 6, 13, 14).</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong>&nbsp;<span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">You Shall Live (Ez 37:6)</span></strong></h3> <p>Listening to Ezekiel’s initial recounting of the valley from Ez 37:6, the exiled may have envisioned a scene marked by death and impurity rather than one of restored life. The area contained a great many dried, scattered, and disjointed bones that had laid there awhile (v. 2).&nbsp;The Jews had specific purification customs for a corpse before its burial. Further, the corpse rendered anything touching it unclean.<a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftn3"><sup>[3]</sup></a>&nbsp;Therefore, the exiled possibly viewed the bones and land as desecrated.&nbsp;The unclean, dry bones might further represent a larger defilement between the Judahites and their failed relationship with the Lord (Ez 43:7).<a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftn4"><sup>[4]</sup></a></p> <p>Babylonia’s second deportation of Israel&nbsp;resulted in Jerusalem’s destruction and its temple’s razing&nbsp;(2 Kgs 24:10-16).<a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftn5"><sup>[5]</sup></a>&nbsp;If Ezekiel spoke the dry bones prophecy between 585 BC&nbsp;and 573 BC, then the first-wave deportees lived in exile for twelve years and the latter second wave two years at the time of the oracle.<a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftn6"><sup>[6]</sup></a>&nbsp;For the first-generation Judean exiles,&nbsp;no doubt bitterness and trauma existed.&nbsp;Indeed, they voiced the dried-out state that produced feelings of being&nbsp;cut off (Heb:&nbsp;<em>gāzar</em>)&nbsp;from their parts (Ez 37:11).&nbsp;The NLT indicates&nbsp;<em>gāzar&nbsp;</em>as a finished nation.<a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftn7"><sup>[7]</sup></a>&nbsp;The feelings of despair and desperation from hopelessness in a desecrated and dead condition (37:11) could have left them questioning God’s promise of&nbsp;“you shall live” (v. 6e).&nbsp;</p> <p><img loading="lazy" data-attachment-id="5921" data-permalink="" data-orig-file="" data-orig-size="488,608" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{&quot;aperture&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;credit&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;camera&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;caption&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;created_timestamp&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;copyright&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;focal_length&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;iso&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;shutter_speed&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;title&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;orientation&quot;:&quot;1&quot;}" data-image-title="773A8B9D-E2B4-4553-B379-8BCA27F6DA87_1_201_a" data-image-description="" data-image-caption="" data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" class=" wp-image-5921 aligncenter" src="" alt="773A8B9D-E2B4-4553-B379-8BCA27F6DA87_1_201_a" width="386" height="481" srcset=";h=481 386w,;h=150 120w,;h=300 241w, 488w" sizes="(max-width: 386px) 100vw, 386px"></p> <p class="has-text-align-center">The Vision of The Valley of The Dry Bones Engraving: Gustave Doré</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Brought You Up from Your Graves (Ez 37:13)</span></strong></h3> <p>The latter part of Ezekiel 37:13 refers to the Lord’s action of “brought you up from your graves.”&nbsp;His promise may speak to a physical and/or eschatological restoration for the house of Israel. Ezekiel 37:1-14 portrays the exiles&#8217; cultural state with the stripping of their identity reflected in a very (ESV) or great many (NIV) bones now scattered from their homeland in a severely deteriorated, dry state (37:2). The exiled experienced economic, political, and spiritual losses that left them feeling shame during capture.&nbsp;</p> <p>Since Israel broke covenant with God by continuing in sin, the Lord&nbsp;allowed two deportations to Babylon.<a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftn8"><sup>[8]</sup></a>&nbsp;The second-wave capture exiled most of the Judahites 1000 miles away to Mesopotamia.<a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftn9"><sup>[9]</sup></a>&nbsp;This dislocation deprived them economically. Loss of&nbsp;property left&nbsp;them without their possessions, and more importantly, the temple and land so closely connected to their social and religious identities.&nbsp;Consequently, political fallout ensued from a lesser standing among the surrounding nations,<a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftn10"><sup>[10]</sup></a>&nbsp;which&nbsp;laughed (Ez 25:3) and mocked (25: 8) the exiled Israel. In tandem, they further experienced a broken relationship with Yahweh. The Judahites expressed covenant through obedience, worship, rites, and sacrifice to God. Covenant loss more than likely additionally contributed to a sense of shame.</p> <p>Nonetheless, the Lord extended His assurance of hope to them. Despite Israel’s disobedience, the Lord addresses them as “O, my people” (v. 12).&nbsp;Quite possibly, their despair may have overridden the Lord’s promise to bring them up from their graves (37:14). However, Ez 37:13 could provide a clue suggesting cause and effect.&nbsp;When the Lord brings them out of their graves, then they will know He is the Lord.<a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftn11"><sup>[11]</sup></a></p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Place in Your Own Land (Ez 37:14)</span></strong></h3> <p>In the last verse in the passage (v. 14), the Lord mentions “place in your own land<strong>”&nbsp;</strong>(v. 14). The last verse also culminates the process of restoration to Israel encompassing sinews→flesh→skin→breath→live→land.&nbsp;As in the previous verse (v. 13), the last verse of the dry bones segment utilizes a cause and effect again as if to highlight knowing that He is the Lord (v. 14). However, in this instance, it predicates Him having spoken and performed his promises</p> <p>Well into captivity, the exiled more than likely saw the realities of their changed existence. Upon hearing Ezekiel’s oracles, they may have Dry even asked themselves, can these bones live? However, the Lord leaves them with reaffirmation as His people and promises of restoration and revival. From prior practices over concern for Israel’s own self-interests, it’s difficult from the dry bones narrative to ascertain whether they grasped the fullness of His promises. He desired to sanctify His name’s sake, which Israel profaned among the nations (cf. Ez 36:22-24).</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator" /> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Footnotes</span></h3> <p><sup><a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftnref1">[1]</a></sup> Lawrence Boadt in&nbsp;<em>Anchor Bible Dictionary,&nbsp;</em>Volume 2, D-G, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York, Doubleday, 1992).713.</p> <p><sup><a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftnref2">[2]</a></sup> Unless otherwise specified, this writing will quote scripture from the New King James Version.</p> <p><sup><a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftnref3">[3]</a></sup> A.P. Bender. “<em>Beliefs, Rites, and Customs of the Jews, Connected with Death, Burial, and Mourning</em>,&nbsp;<em>Connected with Death, Burial, and Mourning.</em>” The Jewish Quarterly Review 7, no. 2 (January 1995), 259-269. The Jews had specific customs for purification of a corpse prior to burial such as cleansing, dressing, and posturing it,&nbsp;&nbsp;which left anything touching it unclean as well.</p> <p><a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftnref4"><sup>[4]</sup></a>&nbsp;Marvin Sweeney,&nbsp;<em>Reading Ezekiel: A Literary and Theological Commentary</em>&nbsp;(Smyth &amp; Helwys, Publishing, Inc., 2012), 44.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftnref5"><sup>[5]</sup></a>&nbsp;L. D. Tiemeyer, L. D, “Book of Ezekiel.” in&nbsp;<em>The Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets</em>, ed. Mark J. Boda and J. Gordon McConville (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2012) 214.&nbsp;Ezekiel delivered the oracles in chronological order with Ez 37 following 35:1 to 36:15. While experiences from&nbsp;deportation remained more recent for the second-wave Judahites than the first, nevertheless, t.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftnref6"><sup>[6]</sup></a>&nbsp;Walther Zimmerli,&nbsp;<em>A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, Chapters 25-48</em>&nbsp;(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983), 234.</p> <p><a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftnref7"><sup>[7]</sup></a>&nbsp;Cut off may&nbsp;suggest multiple levels of separation: God, the nation, Jerusalem, and their temple. Possibly, it builds upon another word for cut off (Heb:&nbsp;<em>kāraṯ</em>) associated with punishment by death (Nm 9:13)</p> <p><a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftnref8"><sup>[8]</sup></a>&nbsp;When King Jehoiakim continued in the footsteps of Manasseh, the Lord sent other nations to destroy Judah for the sins of Manasseh (2 Kgs 24:3). Then, the Lord chastised Israel in the 12th year in exile (Ez 33:21) after Jerusalem’s fall for their continued sins.</p> <p><a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftnref9"><sup>[9]</sup></a>&nbsp;Paul M. Joyce,&nbsp;<em>Ezekiel: A Commentary</em>&nbsp;(New York: T &amp; T Clark, 2007), 7.</p> <p><a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftnref10"><sup>[10]</sup></a>&nbsp;Nebuchadnezzar reigned over Syria and Palestine from the Euphrates to the Egyptian frontier (2 Kgs 24:7), and Judah became a Babylonian province, weakening the standing of Israel in the eyes of surrounding nations.</p> <p><a href="//28B03CF9-2A95-4934-9717-D31E993FF6AA#_ftnref11"><sup>[11]</sup></a>&nbsp;Saul M. Olyan, “<em>Honor, Shame, and Covenant Relations in Ancient Israel and Its Environment.</em>” Journal of Biblical Literature 115, no. 2 (1996): 201.</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Bibliography</span></strong></h3> <p>Ackroyd, Peter R.&nbsp;<em>Exile and Restoration: A Study of Hebrew Thought of the Sixth Century B. C.</em>&nbsp;Philadelphia: Westminster, 1986.</p> <p>Allen, Leslie C.&nbsp;<em>Ezekiel, Vol. 29</em>. Word Bible Commentary. Edited by John D. W. Watts and James W. Watts. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990.</p> <p>Bender, A. P. “Beliefs, Rites, and Customs of the Jews, Connected with Death, Burial, and Mourning.”&nbsp;<em>The Jewish Quarterly Review</em>&nbsp;7, no. 2 January (Jan., 1995):&nbsp;&nbsp;259-269:</p> <p>Bimson, John J. “Book of Ezekiel.” in&nbsp;<em>The Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible</em>. Edited by Kevin J. Vanhoozer. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.</p> <p>Boadt, Lawrence. “Book of Ezekiel.” in&nbsp;<em>The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol D-G</em>. Edited by David N. Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992.</p> <p>__________.&nbsp;<em>Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction.</em>&nbsp;New York: Paulist Press, 2012.</p> <p>Brett, Mark G. ed.&nbsp;<em>Ethnicity and the Bible</em>. Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2002.</p> <p><em>Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers</em>. 17th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017.</p> <p>Eichrodt, Walther&nbsp;<em>Theology of the Old Testament</em>. Translated by J. A. Baker. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961.</p> <p>Fox, Michael, V. “The Rhetoric of Ezekiel’s Vision of the Valley of the Bones.”<em>&nbsp;Hebrew Union College Annual</em>&nbsp;51, (1980): 1-15.</p> <p>Greenberg, Moshe.&nbsp;<em>Ezekiel 21-27.&nbsp;</em>Anchor Yale Bible. New York: Yale University Press, 2010.</p> <p>__________. The Design and Themes of Ezekiel’s Program of Restoration.”&nbsp;<em>Interpretation</em>&nbsp;58, no. 4 (2007): 585-625.</p> <p>Goldingay, John A. “Ezekiel.”&nbsp;<em>Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible</em>. Edited by James D. G. Dunn and John W. Rogerson. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003.</p> <p>Joyce, Paul M.&nbsp;<em>Ezekiel: A Commentary</em>. New York: T &amp; T Clark, 2007.</p> <p>Kamsen, Joel and Tihitshak Biwul. “The Restoration of the Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37:1-14: An Exegetical and Theological Analysis.”&nbsp;<em>Scriptura&nbsp;</em>118 (2019:1), pp. 1-10.</p> <p>LaSor, William Sandord, David Allan Hubbard, Frederic William Bush, and Leslie C. Allen.&nbsp;<em>Old Testament Survey: The Message Form, and Background of the Old Testament</em>. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, Co. 1996.&nbsp;</p> <p>Lee, Lydia.&nbsp;<em>Mapping Judah’s Fate in Ezekiel’s Oracles Against the Nations.</em>&nbsp;Atlanta: SBL Press, 2016. <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>.</p> <p>Longman III, Tremper.&nbsp;<em>The Message of the Prophets: A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament</em>. Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2010.</p> <p>Mein, Andrew.&nbsp;<em>Ezekiel and the Ethics of Exile.</em>&nbsp;Oxford Theological Monographs. Oxford: OUP Oxford, 2006.</p> <p>Miller, Maxwell J. and John H. Hayes.&nbsp;<em>A History of Ancient Israel and Judah</em>. 2nd ed. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006.</p> <p>Mendenhall, George. “Covenant.”&nbsp;<em>The Anchor Bible Dictionary</em>, Vol A-C. Edited by David Freeman. New York: Doubleday, 1992.</p> <p>Margaret S. Odell<strong>.&nbsp;</strong><em>Ezekiel (Smyth &amp; Helwys Bible Commentary).</em></p> <p>Olyan, Saul M. 1996. “Honor, Shame, and Covenant Relations in Ancient Israel and Its Environment.”&nbsp;<em>Journal of Biblical Literature</em>&nbsp;115, no. 2: 201.&nbsp;</p> <p>Pearce, Laurie E. “Identifying Judeans and Judean Identity in the Babylonian Evidence.” in&nbsp;<em>Exile and Return: The Babylonian Context,</em>&nbsp;edited by Jonathan Stökl, Caroline Waerzeggers, and Jonathan Stökl. Berlin: CPI Books, 2015.&nbsp;</p> <p>Qubt, Shadia. “Can These Bones Live? God, Only You Know.”&nbsp;<em>Review and Expositor</em>. 104, Summer, 2007.</p> <p>Schultz, Samuel J.&nbsp;<em>The Old Testament Speaks:</em>&nbsp;<em>A Complete Survey of Old Testament History and Literature.</em>&nbsp;New York: HarperOne, 2000.</p> <p>Serfontein, Johan and Wilhelm J. Wessels. “Communicating Amidst Reality: Ezekiel&#8217;s Communication as a Response to His Reality.”&nbsp;<em>Verbum Eccles&nbsp;</em>35, no. 1 (2014):&nbsp;</p> <p>Smith-Christopher, Daniel L.&nbsp;<em>A Biblical Theology of Exile</em>. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002.</p> <p>Staples, Jason A.&nbsp;<em>The Idea of Israel in Second Temple Judaism: A New Theory of People, Exile, and Israelite Identity.&nbsp;</em>New York: Cambridge University Press, 2021.</p> <p>Stökl, Jonathan, and Caroline Waerzeggers.&nbsp;<em>Exile and Return : The Babylonian Context</em>. (Beihefte Zur Zeitschrift Für Die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 2015): Volume 478. De Gruyter.&nbsp;</p> <p>Sweeney, Marvin.&nbsp;<em>Reading Ezekiel: A Literary and Theological Commentary</em>&nbsp;(Reading the Old Testament.) (p. 44). (Smyth &amp; Helwys Publishing, Inc.)</p> <p>Tiemeyer, L. D. “Book of Ezekiel.” in&nbsp;<em>The Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets</em>. Edited by Mark J. Boda and J. Gordon McConville. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2012.</p> <p>Walton, John H.&nbsp;<em>Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible</em>. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006.</p> <p>Zimmerli, Walther.&nbsp;<em>Ezekiel 2</em>. Hermeneia. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983.</p> <p></p> How To Take Control Of Your Life David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:e05ce26a-c859-a443-a3f9-b1111bb6ab73 Mon, 13 Sep 2021 12:54:41 -0500 (View an expanded version of this blog post by watching the video at the bottom of the page) There are boundaries, restrictions, roadblocks, and challenges that we all face in... <p><span style="color: #000000;"><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">(View an expanded version of this blog post by watching the video at the bottom of the page)</span></i></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">There are boundaries, restrictions, roadblocks, and challenges that we all face in life. There are things that threaten our destiny but God gives us the strength and wisdom to thrive in the midst of those things. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">The Book of Daniel gives us the playbook to thriving. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">To set the stage, Daniel and his two friends have been taken captive by the king of Babylon. Against their will, they have been captured and ordered to serve the king. Everything in their life is being controlled by an outside force, from the food, they eat to their daily activity.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Daniel’s plan and vision for his life were suddenly disrupted and not as a result of anything he did.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">But there were three actions that Daniel took regardless of his restrictions. </span></p> <h3><span style="color: #000000;"><b>ACCEPT Reality!</b></span></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Daniel had a lot going for him. He rubbed shoulders with the elite, he was handsome and he was smart. He was in his prime and had his whole life ahead of him, full of dreams and goals, and then the rug was pulled from under his feet. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">What did Daniel do? He accepted reality.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">He recognized he was a prisoner of war. He recognized that against his judgment, he was enrolled into the royal academy for three years to study a language, customs, protocol and literature that he </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">never</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> signed up for. </span></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">But yet he realized, this was where he was and he was going to make the best of it. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">In order to accept reality, you need to ask yourself two questions: </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><b>Question one.</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> Is God omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (everywhere at once)? Your answer is going to drive your behavior. </span></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><b>Question two.</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> Do you have the authority and the ability to change your circumstances?</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">The answer to the first question is yes. That means God knows where you are. He knows what you are going through. He knows who you are going through it with. He knows what your restrictions are. And so if God knows all those things about you and has the ability to bring change but no change is taking place, then you must surrender yourself and let God be the one that sits in the driver&#8217;s seat of your life even though you are in a restricted place. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">If the answer to the second question is no, that means you need to settle down and realize that where you are and the restrictions that you&#8217;re experiencing all line up to reflect the will of God. That doesn’t mean God caused it or was the initiator or author if it. But it does mean that you surrender yourself and sit in the passenger seat of your life. You let God sit in the driver&#8217;s seat of your life, give him the steering wheel. </span></p> <h3><span style="color: #000000;"><b>REMAIN Disciplined!</b></span></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">There are no habits and practices that are out of your control. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">In Daniel 1:8-16, Daniel requested that he and his friends have the freedom to eat a different diet. He asked for just 10 days to show his caretaker that they would be better as a result. Their request was granted and at the end of the 10 days, they were stronger physically and mentally. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Given your restrictions and limitations, what can you do to keep yourself game ready? Daniel recognized that the discipline of good habits was under his control. Daniel realized that he wanted to be a steward of his life. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">One of the disciplines that you can practice is self-awareness. Daniel realized that he wasn’t feeling the best. He wasn’t in a good place mentally or even a dietary way. And as a prisoner of war, Daniel had restrictions. He couldn’t go where he wanted to go or do what he wanted to do. He had hard, fast limitations on his activities. And yet Daniel realized he could remain disciplined and be alert as to how he was feeling. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">To remain disciplined, Daniel practiced self-awareness. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Daniel also guarded his thought life.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">It&#8217;s easy to complain. One of the easiest things to do is to complain. Daniel could have said I hate this place and I don&#8217;t want to learn the Babylonian language. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">But Daniel wasn&#8217;t going to be this pessimist with a nasty attitude. Daniel was not going to sequester himself or get cornered into this trap where so many fall into where they start getting angry with God. God, why did you let this happen? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">He didn&#8217;t complain. And he didn&#8217;t allow his thought life to become so muddy and so disfigured that he would become someone who&#8217;s bitter. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">You remain disciplined by practicing self-awareness, guarding your thought life and guarding your attitude.</span></p> <h3><span style="color: #000000;"><b>Do Your BEST!</b></span></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Daniel 1:17-19 says, “God made the four young men smart and wise. They read a lot of books and became well educated. Daniel could also tell the meaning of dreams and visions. At the end of the three-year period set by King Nebuchadnezzar, his chief palace official brought all the young men to him. The king interviewed them and discovered that none of the others were as outstanding as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they were given positions in the royal court.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">They did their best. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">God is intimately involved in your learning. Whether you&#8217;re in a formal structured academic program or on your job, you&#8217;re trying to get to the next rung on the ladder in your professional or personal life, and God is intimately involved. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">God knows everything and the beauty about God&#8217;s omniscience is that He&#8217;s willing to share His knowledge. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Are you going to do your best? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Like Daniel of old, you can accept reality, remain disciplined, and do your best. </span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><span style="color: #000000;"> </span></p> The Road to Significance Blog - Bryan Loritts urn:uuid:a83ad5dc-753d-858c-c71b-56e3f9920b98 Fri, 10 Sep 2021 14:33:13 -0500 <blockquote><p class="">Matthew 20:20-28<br>“Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, ‘What do you want?’ She said to him, ‘Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We are able.’<strong> </strong>He said to them, ‘You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’ And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,<strong> </strong>and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,<strong> </strong>even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’”</p></blockquote><p class="">Some years ago when our family was living in NYC, a really close friend of mine called me up and offered me tickets to a new musical his wife was in. I turned him down and gently reminded him that I don’t do musicals. Like, I do concerts. And I do plays, but I don’t mix them together. Like, I’ll listen to a preacher, and I’ll listen to a worship leader, but I’m not into worship leaders who talk too much, or preachers who sing. Just me, but I digress. Well, thankfully, I remembered my wife loves musicals, and so I decided to die to self and take the tickets after all. I was glad I did, because it turned out to be <em>Hamilton</em>. I remember sitting there and being stunned by Hamilton, and not just the music, but by the sheer force of his life. Later on I would go and buy the biography that inspired the musical. Here’s a guy who was one of the founding fathers, served in the revolutionary war, became the architect of our financial system and served as our first Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton also was a prolific writer, writing over 50 of the Federalist Papers. Where did his drive come from? His biographer said it came from the shame of his past and how he hated his immigrant status. So Hamilton decided to forge a new identity based on achievement. I guess we could say that Hamilton was determined that he was not going to lose his shot. He was going to make a mark.</p><p class="">Believe it or not, that’s all of us right now. You and I have a drive to matter. We all want to leave our mark for our moment in time and beyond. While this isn’t wrong, what does become problematic is when our desire to leave our mark turns into our desire for status and fame- a desire Jesus takes on and corrects in our passage.</p><p class="">Our story opens up with a woman named Salome, who is the mother of James and John, aka, the sons of Zebedee, and also the sister of Jesus’ mother, Mary, coming up to Jesus with an urgent request. We know that it’s urgent because the text tells us that she came to Jesus kneeling. The word for <em>kneeling</em> means to worship. So she comes to Jesus in the right way, but asking the wrong thing- she wants her boys to be given the seats of prominence in the kingdom. No doubt, because she is Jesus’ aunt, she is trying to leverage her familial relations to curry favor with Him. Jesus tells her no.</p><p class="">Let me stop right here and send you a quick text message. We can come to Jesus the right way, and make the wrong request and hear him say no. This is important, because some of us think that because we are serving in ministry, giving generously of our money and sharing our faith, that God is somehow in our debt, so that when we ask him for things he has to give it to us. This text tells us that’s not true. In fact, this text teaches us that God will tell us no to things we really want, and it has nothing to do with our behavior, the fact that we’ve been a good boy or girl. God can say no.</p><p class=""><em>Connecting to our Culture<br></em>Notice with me Jesus never critiques their desire for significance, but he does take on their desire for status. This is important, because in verses 26-27 he talks about the idea of being great and being first, the idea of significance. He doesn’t say we should shy away from this desire, instead he offers us a whole new paradigm for how to achieve it. Jesus offers us the road to significance. Significance, wanting to leave our mark is not the problem, the desire for worldly status is. And what is status? <span>The dictionary defines status as the position of an individual in relationship to others. It’s the idea of fame</span>.</p><p class="">We live in a culture obsessed with worldly status and fame. In 1976 a survey was done which asked people to list their life goals and fame ranked 15th out of 16; but by the early 2000s, 51% of young people said fame was one of their top goals. In 2007, middle school girls were asked who they would most like to have dinner with. Jennifer Lopez ranked first, then Jesus Christ and Paris Hilton was third. Then these girls were asked what their dream job was? Nearly twice as many said being a celebrity’s assistant more than being the president of Harvard. David Brooks concludes, “As I looked around the popular culture I kept finding the same messages everywhere. You are special. Trust yourself. Be true to yourself. Movies from Pixar and Disney are constantly telling children how wonderful they are. Commencement speeches are larded with the same cliches: Follow your passion. Don’t accept limits. Chart your own course. You have a responsibility to do great things because you are great. This is the gospel of self-trust”- <em>David Brooks, The Road to Character</em>.</p><p class="">Listen, our text teaches us that this is not just a problem out in the culture, but it is also a problem in the church. The fact that you have the future leaders of the church jockeying for position and status, and the fact that the other ten get angry over their request, which reveals their hearts for status, shows us that this spirit of status runs rampant in the church of Jesus Christ. The natural gravitational pull of our hearts is not into servanthood, but into status. Jesus is going to show us the world’s paradigm for significance begins with: 1. Me; 2. Worldly Use of Power/Authority; 3. Status. The Kingdom paradigm for significance begins with: 1. Savior; 2. Suffering; 3. Servanthood. This is the true road to significance. Let’s jump in.</p><p class="">The Road to Significance: Suffering, Matthew 20:21-23<br>So here is Jesus’ aunt thinking she can leverage her DNA to get her boys in the VIP section of the kingdom. Jesus cuts in and says in so many words, “are you crazy,” and then he starts going on and on about whether they are able to drink the cup he has to drink. Now what does this mean? In the OT, the cup is oftentimes used to depict the wrath of God as a means of judgment on rebellious nations. So the cup is the idea of suffering. This is why in the garden of Gethsemane, right before Jesus dies, he asks God to remove the cup from him. What does this mean? The manner in which he was to suffer and die. So the cup is the idea of suffering. Jesus is saying, you don’t get status or significance in the kingdom without suffering. Then he goes onto say that James and John will drink from the cup, meaning they will suffer. James will be the first apostle to be martyred, killed by Herod. John will live to be 100 years of age, but much of that time was spent suffering in exile on the Island of Patmos.</p><p class="">What James and John teach us is that suffering looks different. Some of you will suffer like James- immediate and like catching on fire. Some of you may literally die for the cause of Christ. Yep. Some of you may have some debilitating disease, or lose a close loved one, or have a long fight with cancer. Others of you, your suffering will look different. Your suffering will be more like turning up the heat very slowly. You’ll suffer more like John, having to endure a life that is nowhere near the script you imagined. You’ll suffer with infertility. You’ll suffer economically. You’ll have to be like John and show up faithfully to a life (to a place you do not want to live) that’s nowhere near what you had hoped. But why? Because brokenness is a prerequisite for usefulness.</p><p class="">When I was a boy I used to love going to amusement parks, and my favorite thing to do was just as the sun was setting I’d buy one of those glowsticks. Now the way glowsticks work is there is a capsule inside of them that has chemicals which cause the light. But those chemicals won’t be released unless you bend the glowstick and break the capsule. In other words, that glowstick cannot live up to its purpose as light without first being broken!</p><p class="">Oh friends, the Bible abounds in examples of this. I would argue that every redemptive leader God has used has gone through suffering and brokenness. I call Joseph to the witness stand. At the start of the story Joseph is this arrogant, pompous kid who is bragging about how his brothers will bow down and serve him. No one wants to be around him. But at the end of the story we see a completely different man. He’s tender. He cries. He’s humble. His brothers end up moving from their country to his and enjoy his company. What changed him? I tell you, years of suffering and brokenness. Being lied on in Potiphar’s house. Sold into slavery. Forgotten about in jail. Suffering and brokenness made the difference.</p><p class="">Oh friends, I tell you, God is up to something in the pain. God is up to something in the disease. God is up to something in the termination. God is up to something in betrayal. We do not get to significance without suffering.</p><p class=""><em>Brokenness vs. Woundedness<br></em>Now let me say this and I’ll move on. Suffering knocks on all of our doors, and just because you’ve suffered doesn’t mean you’re ready for significance and usefulness. We all know of people who have suffered and didn’t come out better, but worse. So the issue is not suffering, it’s our response to suffering. And when suffering comes our way, we have one of two responses, either we will be wounded or we will be broken. Woundedness happens when we refuse to respond God’s way. There’s no forgiveness. There’s no faith or trusting in God. We hold onto our idols rather than releasing them. We’re bitter and not better. Broken people respond by leaning into God in suffering. We know that God is trying to break that thing in us that’s keeping us from being like him. And as painful as it may be, we choose to trust him. Wounded People: 1. Aloof; 2. Controlling (fear based); 3. Bitter. Broken People: 1. Empathetic; 2. Empowering (faith based); 3. Better. Are you broken or wounded?</p><p class="">The Road to Significance: Servant Leadership, Matthew 20:24-27<br>Now what happens when a person has status, a position, without suffering and brokenness? Their leadership is primed to be like the Gentiles. Look at how he describes their leadership. He describes it as being domineering (“lord it over them”) and manipulating (“exercising authority over them”). Now, power and authority is not wrong, how could they be? Jesus exercised power over demons and in the Great Commission said that all authority had been given to him. Furthermore, we’ve been called to use power and authority. But there’s a huge difference. Worldly leadership is marked by <em>unfettered</em> power and authority. This is the idea in the Greek.</p><p class="">It’s sort of like when you’re sick and the doctor gives you a prescription for some pretty strong medication. The first thing we will do is to look at the bottle and see what the dosage is. Why? Because we know in the right amount this powerful medicine can heal, but in the wrong amount it can harm. That’s power and authority. We need it, and we have to use it, just in the right dosage.</p><p class="">See, power means the ability to force or coerce someone to do your will, even if they would choose not to, because of your position and might. So, when Jaden was a little boy and he didn’t want to hold my hand crossing a busy street, I had to exercise power to coerce him to hold my hand for his own safety and good. But if my relationship is always marked by coercing him, by unfettered power, it harms and kills the relationship. Authority is the skill of getting people to willingly do your will because of your personal influence. This is a good thing. Power is positional, and authority is relational. I do this with my kids. Hey, knock it out in the classroom, you got a bonus coming. Get a job and save so much money you have a car coming. This is good in the right amount, but if I’m always cutting deals that’s not a relationship, that’s me raising Pavlov’s Dog, and setting them on a performance ethic where I become their Santa Claus. That’s manipulation.</p><p class="">So how do we make sure we are using power and authority in the right amount? Jesus tells us- servanthood. Servanthood is an others directed orientation to life, that desires to do what it takes to make them flourish. If you’ve ever watched NASCAR you’re watching power in check. These cars are powerful, but they don’t go as fast as they could, why? Because they have something called a restrictor plate, which puts a leash on their power. Why do they do this? For the good of the driver, the car and the other drivers. In the same way, servanthood is our restrictor plate, because servanthood says I want to do what is best not for myself, but for others.</p><p class="">We should see the restrictor plate of servanthood in marriage. Men, did you know that Ephesians 5 says that our wives should be able to look through the rearview mirror of their relationship with us and say they are better women because of our servanthood in their lives? We’ve stewarded the power and authority God has given us in marriage not to ingratiate ourselves but to better them. We see this in parenting. I can tell you that if your parenting is marked by unfettered power and authority, by control and manipulation that is a recipe for rebellious children. The older your kids get the less they need you to be a prophet and the more they need you to be a pastor. We also see this at play in the church. There are people in churches who like to flex and overwhelm people with power and authority. They see something they don’t like, they fire off the email, criticize and walk out the door with their money. This is the way of the world. The way of Jesus is the restrictor plate of servanthood where one says there’s a problem and instead of critiquing, how can I jump in and offer a solution?</p><p class="">The Road to Significance: The Savior, Matthew 20:28<br>So here is Jesus’ aunt, making this crazy request, and the other ten disciples are listening in and they are hot as fish grease! The nerve of these people, they think! Jesus says calm down, and explains to them the road to significance demands servanthood which is fed by suffering the right way, and at the foundation, the primary driver of it all is Jesus, the Savior. Now how do we know this? Jesus ends by saying that he, the Son of Man, came to give his life as a <em>ransom</em> for many. The Greek word for <em>ransom</em> is the same as redemption- it means to set free.</p><p class="">&nbsp;Now listen carefully, because in that one word, Jesus is saying two profound things. The first thing he is saying is that we are in bondage. You only free people who are in bondage. Prior to Jesus we all worked for bad leadership; it’s called Satan, sin and idolatry. Satan has an agenda for your life and it is to kill, steal and destroy. Peter says he goes about as a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. How does Satan do this? He wants to get us in bondage to sin, and enslaved to our idols. He wants us to believe that life is all about status, success, money, pleasure, having women, having men. Satan is not looking out for your interest. He’s not looking to be life-giving, but life-taking. But what does Jesus do? Philippians 2 says that Jesus comes as a servant, with our best interest in mind, and as the servant he comes to set us free. How does Jesus free us? He frees us through his suffering, his cup on the cross. Don’t you see? Jesus models for us this exact paradigm of kingdom service and significance.</p><p class="">Now here’s the second thing this word <em>ransom</em> implies. For a person to go to this kind of lengths to save and free and serve us, naturally inspires us to serve others. Imagine we go out for lunch and the bill comes and I say, “I got it”. How will you respond? You’ll probably say thanks and go on about how I didn’t have to do that and that’s the end of it. Now, imagine I come up to you and say, “My wife and I feel lead to pay your credit card bill,” how will you respond? I’ll probably get free babysitting out of you. But now imagine I knock on your door and say I want to pay your mortgage off, what’s your response? I’m guessing for the rest of your life you’ll find ways to thank me. Why? Servanthood begets servanthood. The greater the act of service, the greater the response.</p><p class="">Jesus paid all of our sins on the cross as the suffering servant. Show me a Christian who doesn’t serve and I’ll show you a Christian who doesn’t get the gospel.<br></p> Seek God David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:a8e3eb23-2cf5-6411-8623-d9a3c0b20289 Tue, 07 Sep 2021 19:12:45 -0500 (Scroll to the bottom to watch this message) In Acts chapter 9 we hear this phrase, seeking God. Have you ever wondered what it means?  Seeking God is about searching... <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><em>(Scroll to the bottom to watch this message)</em></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In Acts chapter 9 we hear this phrase, </span><b>seeking God</b><span style="font-weight: 400;">. Have you ever wondered what it means? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Seeking God is about searching for God. Why? Because the Bible tells us in Hebrews 11:6 that without faith, it is impossible to please God. For he who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He&#8217;s a rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In other words, when you seek God in prayer and fasting and worship, God tells you that He will reward you. A reward may be healing in your body. A reward may be a financial breakthrough. A reward may be the transformation of your circumstance. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Acts chapter 9 refers to Paul as Saul. Saul and Paul are one in the same person. Saul is his Hebrew name, Paul is his Greek name. Before becoming the great apostle, Paul was an angry, belligerent, devout Jewish man en route to try to incarcerate and have Christians thrown into prison, then judged and put to a death sentence. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">He was on his way to Damascus to get ahold of Christians, to put them in prison and bring them back to Jerusalem, so they can then be tried and eventually put to death. But something happened along the way. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Acts 9:3-12 says, “As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you&#8217;re persecuting.’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you&#8217;ll be told what you must do.’ The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound, but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’ ‘Yes, Lord.’ he answered. The Lord, told him, ‘Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he had seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.’ ”</span></p> <h3><b>Encountering Jesus Creates Radical Transformation</b></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Saul had no desire to serve Christ. In fact, he was just the opposite, he wanted to throw people in prison who served Christ. He thought serving Christ was wrong—theologically wrong, sociologically wrong; he thought serving Christ was wrong on every level.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And yet he had this encounter with God on his way to Damascus. When Jesus knocks him down, Paul has this vision and he hears Jesus tell him you&#8217;re persecuting Me. Paul is blinded by the intensity of that vision of Jesus and is led by the hand into Damascus to the home of a man named Judas. And for the next three days, Paul seeks God.</span></p> <h3><b>How Do You Seek God?</b></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Seeking God is a choice.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Paul had every reason to be there in Judas’ house complaining about being blind. He could have sat there questioning how a loving God could do this to him. </span></p> <p><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">But instead, Paul intentionally chose to seek God.</span></i></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Seeking God is your choice. What are you going to do about the needs that </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">you</span><span style="font-weight: 400;"> have?</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Paul&#8217;s biggest need was not to regain his sight. His biggest need was to hear God&#8217;s heart for his life. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you choose to seek God, you close off people, close off work activities, close off circumstances, close off distractions. You close everything out of your world for a moment or maybe hours or days to focus on seeking God.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As Paul was seeking God, the first thing that God lifted from his heart was shame and guilt. Paul had been a persecutor. He had been a blasphemer. He was a violent man. He was someone that was throwing people in prison, men and women. But as Paul cried out for those three days, God forgave him.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">During that three-day period as Paul is praying and seeking God, God received a young man that was in total submission to His will. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Paul learned that the beauty of serving God is wrapped up in one word—obedience. </span></p> <h3><b>Seeking God Is Hard Work</b></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The seeking God kind of praying. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The fervent kind of praying.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The passionate kind of praying. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The persuasive kind of praying. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The kind of praying that says, I have got to get ahold of God and won’t stop until God provides a breakthrough—that kind of praying is HARD WORK.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Years later, after his conversion, Paul wrote in Colossians 4:12, “Epaphras, who is one of you,</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">says hello. He&#8217;s a slave of Christ Jesus who always wrestles for you in prayers so that you will stand firm and be fully mature and complete in the entire will of God. I can vouch for him that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and Hierapolis.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This word wrestle is brought in from the Greco Roman world. It&#8217;s the kind of wrestling where it&#8217;s hand to hand, it&#8217;s tussling, pushing, and shoving. It&#8217;s almost like a judo type of wrestling where you&#8217;re trying to pin your opponent. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">That’s how Paul is describing the kind of prayers that are being prayed by Epaphras.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It’s easier to Netflix and chill, but you have to be willing to take that binge time and turn it into prayer time and wrestle. Why? Because we are wrestling for the purpose of God. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It doesn&#8217;t take you reading one little verse of Scripture and praying one nice song while you&#8217;re sipping your coffee, driving to work. That&#8217;s not prayer. That&#8217;s not seeking God.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Seeking God is hard work. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Prayerlessness is sin and lazy people don&#8217;t press in.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Lazy people don&#8217;t get anointed. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Lazy people are not a threat to the enemy. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Lazy people don&#8217;t see breakthroughs. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Lazy people stay spiritual babies for the entirety of their spiritual walk. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It doesn’t matter if you&#8217;ve been walking with Jesus for 30 years. If you have no life of prayer, you are spiritually lazy. We have to be men and women that give ourselves to prayer. </span></p> <h3><b>Seeking God Makes a Difference</b></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jeremiah 29:12-13 says, “When you call out to me and come to me in prayer, I will hear your prayers. When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you. If you seek me with all your heart and soul.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">That&#8217;s what Paul was doing, he was seeking God with all of his heart. He told Judas I can&#8217;t talk with the family. I can&#8217;t engage myself in the normal niceties of social conversation. He blocked out everyone. Not because he was rude, but because he was hungry for God.</span></p> <h3><b>God Will Do for You</b></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">God is not a respecter of persons. What he did for Paul, He can do for you.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But Paul didn&#8217;t sit around moaning about his circumstance of being blind. He made the choice of seeking God. He put in the work of seeking God and he saw the difference that seeking God makes. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Do the work—seek God!</span></p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> Valley of the Dry Bones: Contextual Background perSpectives 12 urn:uuid:385f9bba-3128-8a66-bbf9-b3add8b0be59 Sat, 04 Sep 2021 05:13:17 -0500 Jan Paron, PhD &#124; September 4, 2021 The vision of the valley of the dry bones (Ez 37:1-14) stands amid &#8230;<p><a href="">Continue reading <span class="meta-nav">&#8594;</span></a></p> <p>Jan Paron, PhD | September 4, 2021</p> <p>The vision of the valley of the dry bones (Ez 37:1-14) stands amid a collection of oracles from Ezekiel addressed to the exiled during the Babylonian captivity. Ezekiel transmitted the words of the Lord to the exiled as their watchman and prophet.<a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftn1"><sup>[1]</sup></a> In 37:1-14, he oracled renewal and restoration that included a united Israel (vv. 15-21) as part of the book’s primary purpose of judgment and salvation for Israel and the nations. What occurred in the background that tells the behind-the-scenes story of the exiled in Babylonia? An overview of the historical, cultural, geographic, and economic contexts provide an initial glimpse into their captivity.</p> <p>A historical overview of exile for the divided kingdoms reveals deportation for both but at different points. In 721 BC, before the Babylonian captivity, the Assyrians took the Northern Kingdom captive (2 Kgs 14-20). Babylonian captivity followed about 100 years later in two waves. The first wave in 597 BC resulted in the capture of King Jehoiachin and leading citizens of Judah including Ezekiel.<a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftn2"><sup>[2]</sup></a>&nbsp;The second occurred in 587 BC when Babylon razed Jerusalem and its temple after Jerusalem’s second rebellion. It forced Jerusalem’s surrender and deported its king and Judean notables to Babylon (2 Kgs 24:10-16).<a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftn3"><sup>[3]</sup></a></p> <div class="wp-block-image"><figure class="aligncenter"><img data-attachment-id="5894" data-permalink="" data-orig-file="" data-orig-size="900,542" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{&quot;aperture&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;credit&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;camera&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;caption&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;created_timestamp&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;copyright&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;focal_length&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;iso&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;shutter_speed&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;title&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;orientation&quot;:&quot;1&quot;}" data-image-title="09BAB718-1AFA-4788-B40C-1CDAA406199D_1_201_a" data-image-description="" data-image-caption="" data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" src="" alt="09BAB718-1AFA-4788-B40C-1CDAA406199D_1_201_a" class="wp-image-5894" /><figcaption>Image:</figcaption></figure></div> <p>To grasp the fullness of the dry bones prophecy, a glimpse at the circumstances before exile places the word of the Lord in perspective. Several events led up to the Babylonian exile. While King Josiah pleased the Lord during his 30-year reign by walking in the ways of David,<sup><a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftn4">[4]</a></sup> Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim marked a return to acts of evil in the Lord’s sight (23:37). After Jehoiakim rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the Lord sent bands of Chaldeans, Syrians, Moabites, and children of Ammonites to destroy Judah for the sins of Manasseh (24:3). Nebuchadnezzar then reigned over Syria and Palestine from the Euphrates to the Egyptian frontier (2 Kgs 24:7), and Judah became a Babylonian province. Finally, the Lord chastised the people in the twelfth year of Babylonian exile (Ez 33:21) after Jerusalem’s fall for their continued sins.<a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftn5"><sup>[5]</sup></a></p> <p>The Lord did not leave the exiled without His guidance. While in captivity, God called Ezekiel to the office of prophet.&nbsp;Among the deportees, Ezekiel recorded a series of visions from the Lord while exiled in Babylon during King Jehoiachin&#8217;s captivity in the diaspora community by the River Chebar (Ez 1:2). His oracles conveyed God’s redemptive plan for Israel and the nations about judgment and restoration.<a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftn6"><sup>[6]</sup></a>&nbsp;He specifically spoke to the Judeans and first-generation exiles after the fall of Jerusalem as a voice from the exiled.<a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftn7"><sup>[7]</sup></a></p> <p>He prophesied his first vision about the throne room in chapter one (1:4). The writer did not say whether it took place during its actual delivery versus writing at a later date.<a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftn8"><sup>[8]</sup></a>&nbsp;If he prophesied the first vision at the start of his captivity, then, as Boadt noted, it occurred in 623-622 BC when 30 years old (1:1).<a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftn9"><sup>[9]</sup></a>&nbsp;Tiemeyer concurred with a sixth-century BC dating since it supports Neo-Babylonian sources.<a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftn10"><sup>[10]</sup></a>Allen dated his prophetic call to 593 BC.<a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftn11"><sup>[11]</sup></a></p> <p>In terms of dating the Ez 37 prophecy, the preceding may give a clue as to the timeline. Zimmerli dated passages 35:1-36:15 to after 587 BC since it recalls the dispute between the Judahites who remained in Jerusalem with neighboring peoples over Jewish claims to the land.<a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftn12"><sup>[12]</sup></a>&nbsp;As Ezekiel ordered the oracles chronologically, this may imply that chapter 37 occurs later in the 70-year exilic period. Further, if Ezekiel delivered the dry bones prophecy around 585 BC, then the lesser first wave lived in exile for twelve years and the greater second wave two years.</p> <p>Ezekiel 37:1-14 portrays the cultural state of the exiled through symbolism reflected in the very many or very great many dry bones in the valley or open valley (37:2). In essence, Babylonian captivity stripped them of their identity and left a collective society now scattered from their homeland in a severely deteriorated, dry state.&nbsp;</p> <p>Since the Babylonians captured Ezekiel during the first wave, the prophet did not directly experience Jerusalem’s fall.<a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftn13"><sup>[13]</sup></a>&nbsp;Nevertheless, God chose him as His spokesperson to the exilic community living among the refugees in their trauma culture. The book of Lamentations records the very depth of their sorrow, suffering, and abandonment. They also experienced shame from exile. Ezekiel 25 records the surrounding nations laughing (25:3) and mocking (v. 8) the exiled house of Israel. In the wake of the exiled feeling of grief, the Lord’s message sought to give them hope in their captivity.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Exile geographically impacted the exiled as well. The Babylonians transported most of the Judahites 1000 miles to Mesopotamia during the second wave of capture.<a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftn14"><sup>[14]</sup></a>&nbsp;The exiled came from an urban environment in Jerusalem and relocated to what Joyce described as “ghetto-like settlements” such as Tel-abib described in Ez 3:15. The elders could gather with each other, though. (8:1; 14:1; 20:1).<a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftn15"><sup>[15]</sup></a>&nbsp;Ezekiel himself lived among the exiled in a community by the river Chebar in Tel-abib 100 miles south of Babylon (Ez 1:1; 3:15).&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Pearce&nbsp;noted that the term exile suggested movement away from a native land.<a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftn16"><sup>[16]</sup></a>&nbsp;Economically, that movement away from the homeland took a toll on the diaspora. Taking a closer look at the exile reveals the extent of the destruction by the captors on the captives. The Babylonians physically dislocated Judeans from their homeland, deprived them economically of their possessions, and left them spiritually depleted without their temple. To the Jews, the losses affected their identity closely tied to the promised land, the Davidic throne, Jerusalem, and Lord’s temple. Second Kings 25:1-21 describes in vivid detail the fall, capture, and destruction of Jerusalem: forced famine; murdered military officials, king’s associates, townspeople, and priests; burnt structures, and pillaged house of the Lord. The captors left only a small remnant of the very poor behind. The resettlement in Babylonia resulted in a starting over so to speak of the exiled.&nbsp;</p> <p>In all, perhaps at the very heart of God’s mission to His people lies the events that preceded exile and the losses they experienced. He would allow them to experience death in the valley, only to bring them life out of the valley. “Then you shall know that I&nbsp;<em>am</em>&nbsp;the LORD,” (Ez 37:6, 13, 14).</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Bibliography</span></strong></h3> <p>Ackroyd, Peter R.&nbsp;<em>Exile and Restoration: A Study of Hebrew Thought of the Sixth Century B. C.</em>&nbsp;Philadelphia: Westminster, 1986.</p> <p>Allen, Leslie C.&nbsp;<em>Ezekiel, Vol. 29</em>. Word Bible Commentary. Edited by John D. W. Watts and James W. Watts. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990.</p> <p>Bimson, John J. “Book of Ezekiel.” in&nbsp;<em>The Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible</em>. Edited by Kevin J. Vanhoozer. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.</p> <p>Boadt, Lawrence. “Book of Ezekiel.” in&nbsp;<em>The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol D-G</em>. Edited by David N. Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992.</p> <p>__________.&nbsp;<em>Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction.</em>&nbsp;New York: Paulist Press, 2012.</p> <p>Brett, Mark G. ed.&nbsp;<em>Ethnicity and the Bible</em>. Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2002.</p> <p><em>Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers</em>. 17th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017.</p> <p>Eichrodt, Walther&nbsp;<em>Theology of the Old Testament</em>. Translated by J. A. Baker. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961.</p> <p>Fox, Michael, V. “The Rhetoric of Ezekiel’s Vision of the Valley of the Bones.”<em>&nbsp;Hebrew Union College Annual</em>&nbsp;51, (1980): 1-15.</p> <p>Greenberg, Moshe.&nbsp;<em>Ezekiel 21-27.&nbsp;</em>Anchor Yale Bible. New York: Yale University Press, 2010.</p> <p>__________. The Design and Themes of Ezekiel’s Program of Restoration.”&nbsp;<em>Interpretation</em>&nbsp;58, no. 4 (2007): 585-625.</p> <p>Kamsen, Joel and Tihitshak Biwul. “The Restoration of the Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37:1-14: An Exegetical and Theological Analysis.”&nbsp;<em>Scriptura&nbsp;</em>118 (2019:1), pp. 1-10.</p> <p>LaSor, William Sandord, David Allan Hubbard, Frederic William Bush, and Leslie C. Allen.&nbsp;<em>Old Testament Survey: The Message Form, and Background of the Old Testament</em>. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, Co. 1996.&nbsp;</p> <p>Lee, Lydia.&nbsp;<em>Mapping Judah’s Fate in Ezekiel’s Oracles Against the Nations.</em>&nbsp;Atlanta: SBL Press, 2016. <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>.</p> <p>Mein, Andrew.&nbsp;<em>Ezekiel and the Ethics of Exile.</em>&nbsp;Oxford Theological Monographs. Oxford: OUP Oxford, 2006.</p> <p>Miller, Maxwell J. and John H. Hayes.&nbsp;<em>A History of Ancient Israel and Judah</em>. 2nd ed. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006.</p> <p>Pearce, Laurie E. “Identifying Judeans and Judean Identity in the Babylonian Evidence.” in&nbsp;<em>Exile and Return: The Babylonian Context,</em>&nbsp;edited by Jonathan Stökl, Caroline Waerzeggers, and Jonathan Stökl. Berlin: CPI Books, 2015.&nbsp;</p> <p>Qubt, Shadia. “Can These Bones Live? God, Only You Know.”&nbsp;<em>Review and Expositor</em>. 104, Summer, 2007.</p> <p>Serfontein, Johan and Wilhelm J. Wessels. “Communicating Amidst Reality: Ezekiel&#8217;s Communication as a Response to His Reality.”&nbsp;<em>Verbum Eccles&nbsp;</em>35, no. 1 (2014): <a href=";pid=S2074-77052014000100033" rel="nofollow">;pid=S2074-77052014000100033</a>.</p> <p>Smith-Christopher, Daniel L.&nbsp;<em>A Biblical Theology of Exile</em>. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002.</p> <p>Staples, Jason A.&nbsp;<em>The Idea of Israel in Second Temple Judaism: A New Theory of People, Exile, and Israelite Identity.&nbsp;</em>New York: Cambridge University Press, 2021.</p> <p>Stökl, Jonathan, and Caroline Waerzeggers.&nbsp;<em>Exile and Return : The Babylonian Context</em>. (Beihefte Zur Zeitschrift Für Die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 2015): Volume 478. De Gruyter. <a href=";AuthType=sso&#038;db=cat06729a&#038;AN=ebc.EBC2189973&#038;site=eds-live" rel="nofollow">;AuthType=sso&#038;db=cat06729a&#038;AN=ebc.EBC2189973&#038;site=eds-live</a>.</p> <p>Tiemeyer, L. D. “Book of Ezekiel.” in&nbsp;<em>The Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets</em>. Edited by Mark J. Boda and J. Gordon McConville. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2012.</p> <p>Walton, John H.&nbsp;<em>Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible</em>. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006.</p> <p>Zimmerli, Walther.&nbsp;<em>Ezekiel 2</em>. Hermeneia. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator" /> <p><a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftnref1"><sup>[1]</sup></a>&nbsp;Michael V.&nbsp;Fox, 1980. “The Rhetoric of Ezekiel’s Vision of the Valley of the Bones,”&nbsp;<em>Hebrew Union College Annual</em>&nbsp;51(1980):1.&nbsp;Fox described the prophet’s audience in 37:1-14 as first-wave deportees from his immediate location and generation.</p> <p><a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftnref2"><sup>[2]</sup></a>&nbsp;Daniel L Smith-Christopher,&nbsp;<em>A Biblical Theology of Exile</em>&nbsp;(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002).&nbsp;Historians differ in the Babylonian captivity dates. Daniel Smith-Christopher supports 597 BC for the first capture and 587 BC for the second. Paul M. Joyce,&nbsp;<em>Ezekiel: A Commentary</em>, 3 (New York: T &amp; T Clark, 2007), 5. .Joyce recorded Ez 1:2 as 593 BC and then onwards.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftnref3"><sup>[3]</sup></a>&nbsp;L. D. Tiemeyer, L. D, “Book of Ezekiel.” in&nbsp;<em>The Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets</em>, ed. Mark J. Boda and J. Gordon McConville (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2012) 214.</p> <p><a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftnref4"><sup>[4]</sup></a>&nbsp;King Josiah died in battle at Megiddo at the hand of the Egyptian Pharoahnechoh (2 Kgs 23:29). Jehoahaz then took his father’s place as king. His tenure marked a return to evil in the sight of the Lord. After a short reign, Pharoahnechoh put Jehoahaz in bonds at Riblah and replaced him with Jehoiakim (Josiah’s son Eliakim).&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftnref5"><sup>[5]</sup></a>&nbsp;“The Sovereign Lord commanded the prophet to tell the people “You eat meat with blood in it, you worship idols, and your murder the innocent. Do you really think the land should be yours?&nbsp;<sup>26&nbsp;</sup>Murderers! Idolaters! Should the land belong to you!” (33:25-26 NLT). Further,&nbsp;<sup>28 “</sup>I will completely destroy the land and demolish her pride.&nbsp;&nbsp;Her arrogant power will come to an end. The mountains of Israel will be so desolate that no one will even travel through them.&nbsp;<sup>29&nbsp;</sup>When I have completely destroyed the land because of their detestable sins, then they will know that I am the Lord” (vv.28-29).&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftnref6"><sup>[6]</sup></a>&nbsp;Lawrence Boadt in&nbsp;<em>Anchor Bible Dictionary,&nbsp;</em>Volume 2, D-G, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York, Doubleday, 1992).713.</p> <p><a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftnref7"><sup>[7]</sup></a>&nbsp;Leslie C. Allen,&nbsp;<em>Ezekiel 20-48</em>, vol. 29 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic), xx.</p> <p><a href="//2B39184E-E0D3-4487-9F03-E15B5C548BF4#_ftnref8"><sup>[8]</sup></a>&nbsp;The New International Version (NIV) prefaces the dating with “my” indicating the prophet’s age (v. 1a). Reading on, the next verse adds clarification as to the time in captivity as the fifth year of&nbsp;King Jehoiachin’s exile (v.2). If that the thirtieth year holds true, then it places the timeline at about 598 BC when King Nebuchadnezzar took Kainos Podcast (Coming Soon) Blog - Bryan Loritts urn:uuid:f32335f3-9da1-be01-03f4-9ca0bdde2370 Thu, 02 Sep 2021 09:23:58 -0500 <p class="">If you’re looking for a pastoral podcast that offers practical solutions infused with hope for how to build a multiethnic church then this is for you. Almost done recording season one. Stay tuned.</p> Who Should Say Sorry? David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:8b3f4754-4755-99e7-d943-69ee43b2d514 Wed, 01 Sep 2021 21:00:04 -0500 Forgiveness is a very complicated topic. As you read this, you may find your mind locking in on memories of when someone offended you and it may feel like all... <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Forgiveness is a very complicated topic. As you read this, you may find your mind locking in on memories of when someone offended you and it may feel like all of those things are being stirred up again. So before you stop reading, consider this story about a medical doctor who practiced in a farming community. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A farmer showed up at the doctor’s office with a forearm that was swollen twice the size. He had gotten into an accident while he was on his tractor and it cut his forearm. The farmer didn’t think much of it and he just stitched it up himself. But, unbeknownst to the farmer, when he stitched it up, he had locked in the toxins. And so his arm blew up twice the size. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So there he was in the doctor&#8217;s office. And the doctor said to him, I need to take my scalpel and cut an incision, right where the wound is. After making the incision and draining all the toxins, he put an antiseptic on it and re-sutured up the wound. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">That process is called refreshing the wound. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Within a couple of weeks, the farmer was good to go as his arm had totally healed. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So, as you read about forgiveness, you may feel as if you&#8217;re being wounded all over again. You&#8217;re not.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I&#8217;m refreshing the wound, taking out the toxins, and allowing the Holy Spirit to use the Word, to apply antiseptic to the wound so you may be healed. </span></p> <p><b>When Your Brothers Turn on You</b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Genesis chapter 50 captures the story of Joseph and the horrendous things he endured at the hands of his 10 brothers. He was just 17 years old. They put him into a pit to let him die. And then, they had a change of heart. Rather than letting him die, they decided to sell him. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And so they sold him to a bunch of Ishmaelite merchants who were traveling to Egypt. When the Ishmaelites got to Egypt, they resold Joseph to a gentleman named Potiphar, who was captain of Pharaoh&#8217;s guards. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Joseph had some incredible gifts. He had gifts of administration management. He understood how to lead people. He had a gift when it came to dreams and the interpretation of dreams. So he climbed the ladder quickly and became the household manager of Potiphar. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Well, Potiphar&#8217;s wife had a problem. She had her eye on Joseph sexually, and she attempted numerous times to seduce him. But Joseph was careful about his morality. He refused her each time but on one of those occasions, she lied and said, Joseph attempted to rape her. As a result, Joseph was thrown in prison. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Most scholars agree that Joseph was in prison for 10 years, from the age of 20 to the age of 30. While in prison at the age of 30, Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, has a dream that shakes him to the core. The dream forecast what was going to take place in Egypt. Pharaoh had no idea what the dream meant, but he knew it had significance, not only national impact but global impact. They heard about Joseph&#8217;s ability to interpret dreams so they brought him out of the prison. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Joseph interpreted Pharaoh&#8217;s dreams, telling him that a great famine is going to hit Egypt, but it&#8217;s going to be preceded by a great time of harvest. But when the famine comes, it will be so devastating that everything that happened during harvest will be overlooked. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Then Pharaoh says, this guy seems so sharp, I&#8217;m going to put him over the feeding program in Egypt. Joseph then became second in command in the entire nation of Egypt and distributed food during the days of famine. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Now, fast-forward and the famine has hit the whole world, not just Egypt. It hit Israel and as a result, Joseph&#8217;s brothers come to Egypt on two occasions. On the second occasion, Joseph revealed himself to them. At this time, Joseph was 39 years old. That means for 22 years, his brothers had lied about what had happened. They told their dad that Joseph was eaten by a wild animal and now they find out that their lie has backfired. </span></p> <p><b>When You Have Been Wounded</b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Not only did Joseph&#8217;s dad come and live in Egypt, along with Joseph’s brothers and their families, but Joseph&#8217;s dad lived there for some 17 years until he died. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Genesis 50:15-18 says, “When Joseph&#8217;s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?’ So they sent word to Joseph, saying, ‘Your father left these instructions before he died. This is what you&#8217;re to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father. When their message came to him, Joseph wept. His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. ‘We are your slaves,’ they said. But Joseph said to them, ‘Don&#8217;t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This passage of Scripture is one of the greatest examples of how you forgive people that have wounded you and wounded you deeply. I wonder who has wounded you, who&#8217;s really mishandled you.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The aim of my blog is to teach you that God is interested in healing you, and </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">forgiveness is a gift that you give to yourself. </span></p> <p><b>What Is Forgiveness? </b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Forgiveness is a powerful medicine. Joseph&#8217;s brothers knew that. And so what they recognized was that this medicine of forgiveness is able to cancel the feelings of revenge that Joseph may have had towards them if indeed he had them. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But the brothers that were very slick, they lied. Jacob never said what they claimed. Jacob never told them to go and ask their brother for forgiveness. He never said that. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">No one can manipulate you, push you, browbeat you into forgiving anybody else. Forgiveness is an intrapersonal experience. That means it happens within you. It&#8217;s not interpersonal between you and another. Forgiveness is a personal thing that happens within you. And Joseph&#8217;s brothers had a moderate understanding of what forgiveness is. In fact, verse 17 says, “now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God, of your father.” In other words, his brothers were saying to Joseph: Joseph, your relationship with God must have value to you so we want to connect your ability to forgive us based on the fact that you walk with God and we then are servants of God. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">His brothers were not good people, but we still have to answer the question. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Like most people, Joseph&#8217;s brothers did not fully understand what forgiveness is. And I want you to understand that. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">May I suggest then forgiveness means to set free, to let go, to release, to grant pardon? </span></p> <p><b>What Forgiveness Is Not</b><span style="font-weight: 400;"> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Forgiveness does not mean reconciliation. Reconciliation is a social word that means to come back together in a harmonious, socially tight way. When you forgive someone, it doesn&#8217;t mean the relationship is returned to that place. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you&#8217;re my friend and you broke into my garage at night and stole my car and I find out about it two weeks later, I&#8217;m not going to be friends with you. Will I forgive you? Absolutely. But we&#8217;re going to the police station. You&#8217;re getting locked up.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Don&#8217;t confuse forgiveness and reconciliation. It&#8217;s not the same. Forgiveness does not mean justice or the elimination of justice. Again, I have no struggle taking my friend or my former friend to the precinct or calling 9-1-1 on my friend, my former friend. Why? Because forgiveness is intrapersonal. I am setting them free. I am releasing them. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I&#8217;m not going to be tied to the past and the anguish of the past, but it doesn&#8217;t equate to justice or the elimination of justice. In other words, I still need justice to be exacted against my former friend to teach him a lesson. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The third thing we need to be conscious of is that forgiveness does not mean that you ignore healthy or remove healthy boundaries. A boundary is something that distinguishes where you end and where I begin. Trust is part of that. Trust is earned. It&#8217;s not given automatically because I forgive you. Just because I forgive you doesn&#8217;t mean that the boundaries are eliminated.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Don&#8217;t confuse the two; forgiveness does not mean ignoring my feelings of anger or resentment or disgust or other human emotions. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Will I be angry that my friend broke into my garage? Absolutely. Is it wrong for me to be angry? No. Is it wrong for me to have a sense of disgust? No, but I&#8217;m not going to mix the two. They&#8217;re two separate and entirely different things. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Yes, I forgive, but I can still be angry because of what happened. That&#8217;s why we confuse things sometimes. We think that forgiving means you forget. No, you don&#8217;t forget because you remember what happened to you.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Forgiveness releases you from the past. It frees you when you recognize you will be the bird in the cage unless you forgive. Forgiveness sets you free. It releases you from the past. Forgiveness cuts off the pain and resentment from the past. It drains that junk from your soul. That&#8217;s why you need to forgive. In fact, the root meaning of the word resentment is to feel again. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So when you forgive, resentment is washed from your soul, you start to feel again. And that&#8217;s why it&#8217;s so essential. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The world knows Oprah Winfrey as this billionaire TV mogul. But, did you know that when Oprah was 9 years old, she was raped? And she said the family member who raped me took me to an ice cream shop, with blood still running down my leg, and bought me ice cream. Winfrey then was sexually abused, not only by this family member but by a cousin, by an uncle, and by her mother&#8217;s boyfriend. Four different people from the age of nine to 14, sexually abused her. At 14, she became pregnant with a little boy, and moments after the boy was born, he passed. But you know what I so admire about Oprah is when she said this quote, “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It&#8217;s accepting the past for what it was and using this and this time to help yourself move forward.” I want you to see forgiveness is letting go of the past so you can move forward.</span></p> <p><b>Why Forgive? </b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are four main reasons why we should forgive. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are lots of empirical studies that have been done by psychologists and sociologists and analytical individuals, that have recognized there&#8217;s something to this forgiveness. It&#8217;s not just a “religious experience” or “religious teaching.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Empirical studies show that the benefits of forgiveness include the reduction of anxiety, the reducing of depression, anger lowers and it returns back to normal levels before the offense happened. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Forgiveness therapy has also been shown to enhance marital strength and quality. It prevents the development of psychiatric problems. Forgiveness therapy has been proven to increase competence to deal with conflict. Forgiveness therapy decreases negative feelings and increases positive changes in how you look at and how you process emotions. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It results in self-esteem that&#8217;s higher. It brings a higher level of hopefulness. All those things take place. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In fact, a study was done by Erasmus University in the Netherlands to see some of the physical impacts of forgiveness. So they brought in participants into a room and these individuals either gave or withheld forgiveness. And they asked them to jump five times as high as they could without bending their knees. The forgivers jumped higher—about 11.8 inches. On average, those who held the grudge were only able to jump 8.5 inches. In other words, forgiveness burdens you, and the impact is not just emotional and psychological—the impact even moves to physical. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">My question to you is: Have you forgiven those who have offended you?</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Some people only practice forgiveness when someone says to them, I&#8217;m sorry, my bad, my mistake, sorry for doing that. There&#8217;s repentance. Now there&#8217;s a Biblical foundation for that because Jesus said this in Luke 17:3. So be careful what you do. Correct any followers of mine who sin and forgive the ones who say, they&#8217;re sorry. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So Jesus is pointing out that there are going to be times when people offend you and they&#8217;re going to say, forgive me. And when they do, forgive them. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But remember what happens if the person or persons never apologize? See the passage in Genesis 50. When you go through the math of Joseph&#8217;s pain, he was 17 when his brothers, driven by jealousy and envy, sold him to the Ishmaelites, who then resold him to Potiphar. Then he got imprisoned for 10 years. And so he went through all of this. Now, when they&#8217;re in essence, asking for forgiveness and lying about it, Joseph was 56 years old. Thirty-nine years elapsed since he was 17 to 56. And during those 39 years, none of his 10 older brothers, even attempted to say I&#8217;m sorry. And Joseph did not wait for them to apologize.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Some people wait for an apology and they&#8217;ll accept an apology if it was a good one, and had good intentions. In other words, the person made a mistake. An example may be that they were coming home from work and they had worked a double shift and they fell asleep at the wheel and they hit your car and you got whiplash and your arm broke. And so you walk around angry. But when you found out it was a single mom and she has three children and she worked a double shift and she fell asleep at the wheel, then all of a sudden you realize, you know something, it was just a mistake. And so you forgive. That&#8217;s conditional forgiveness. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There was a study done and it was captured in the journal of behavioral medicine. They wanted to test the longevity of someone&#8217;s life based on the practice of forgiveness. There were two categories of people, one group that forgave based on conditions. You know, mishaps, something happened that was accidental. It was good intentions that a person had, but they just messed up. One category is conditional forgiveness and the other category, just forgive. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The individuals who fell into the category of conditional forgiveness died earlier than the ones who did not set forgiveness based on conditions. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You can be taking away valuable years of your own life if you don&#8217;t know how to forgive without waiting for specific conditions. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Some grant forgiveness because they realize I should forgive you because God forgave me. Jesus spoke to it in Matthew 6:14, when he said, “if you forgive others for the wrongs they do to you, your Father in heaven will forgive you. But if you don&#8217;t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Is there Biblical precedence for that? Absolutely. You just read the verse, but there&#8217;s a fourth kind of forgiveness. That&#8217;s the kind Joseph practiced and that&#8217;s the kind I want to practice. And that&#8217;s the kind, I want you to practice. It&#8217;s called lifestyle commitment. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">For some, forgiveness is a lifestyle. They&#8217;ve made a commitment to love and not to hate. And they&#8217;re not waiting for an apology. They&#8217;re not waiting for certain conditions. They&#8217;re not forgiving you because God will forgive them. It&#8217;s not based on that. And Jesus spoke to that in Luke 17:4 when He said, “even if one of them, one of my followers mistreats you seven times in one day and says, I&#8217;m sorry, you should still forgive that person.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So what we&#8217;re seeing is this lifestyle commitment. You can&#8217;t sit around waiting. Jesus doesn&#8217;t teach us to wait. He doesn&#8217;t teach us to just forgive because God forgave you. He teaches us to live a lifestyle of forgiveness. But you have to remember, forgiveness is not for the person who offended you. Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself. </span></p> <p><b>How Do I Forgive? </b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let&#8217;s go back to our foundational verse. Genesis 15:19 says, “Then Joseph said to them, don&#8217;t be afraid. Can I do what only God can do? You meant to hurt me, but God turned your evil into good to save the lives of many people, which is being done. So don&#8217;t be afraid. I will take care of you and your children. So Joseph comforted his brothers and spoke kind words to them.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There were four steps Joseph took to forgive. </span></p> <p><b>Step One: Assign Blame</b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Who hurt you? Joseph was very clear. He told his brothers that they meant to hurt him, but  God turned your evil into good to save the lives of many people, which is being done. Joseph pointed his finger and assigned blame to his older brothers. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Now I&#8217;m not suggesting that the Scripture is saying that you have to go to someone&#8217;s house and point the finger. No, remember, forgiveness, is an intrapersonal experience. You can be in your own home and you&#8217;ll say, this person hurt me. And you&#8217;re there in your own private living room and you&#8217;re praying and you&#8217;re getting ready to go through a process of forgiveness. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Or the person who wounded you may have been deceased for years. And you can say, my uncle molested me when I was 20 years old or when I was 15 or when I was five years old. And you can say, you know, I&#8217;m blaming my uncle. </span></p> <p><b>Step Two: Accept That Humans Are Flawed </b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Everyone&#8217;s broken, everyone&#8217;s complicated. Everyone is messed up in some way, shape or form. When you accept that, there&#8217;s an empathy that flows out of your life because when you really think about it, you&#8217;ve hurt someone and you probably will hurt someone, whether it&#8217;s conscious or unconscious, in the days that lie ahead. You may say, well, I didn&#8217;t do that and now you&#8217;re putting yourself in the place of God, measuring the level of infraction and the depth of pain. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You don&#8217;t know how people are going to process what you say to them or what you do to them. Whether it&#8217;s conscious or unconscious. All I&#8217;m saying is this, Joseph recognized that he accepted flaws. He said, you meant to hurt me, brothers, but God turned your evil into good. </span></p> <p><b>Step Three: Admit Surrender </b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Vengeance is mine says the Lord. Joseph was clear in verse 19. Don&#8217;t be afraid, he tells his brothers, “Can I do what only God can do?” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Joseph did not want to put himself in the place of God. That&#8217;s not who he was. </span></p> <p><b>Step Four: You Wish Them Well </b></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And again, you don&#8217;t have to go to the person&#8217;s house to do this. You can be in your own home. You can be sitting right where you&#8217;re sitting now and you can be able to say, I wish them well.</s Facing Your Giant David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:519c9031-0f60-5bd7-974b-376c3d6c7c82 Thu, 19 Aug 2021 05:33:37 -0500 WHAT IS A GIANT?  &#160; A giant is an imposing figure or thing. It&#8217;s trying to destroy some aspect of your life. It may be trying to devour your marriage... <h2><strong>WHAT IS A GIANT? </strong></h2> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">A giant is an imposing figure or thing. It&#8217;s trying to destroy some aspect of your life.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It may be trying to devour your marriage or threatening to rip apart your family or a health crisis that you&#8217;re facing. Or the giant may be threatening to cause your children to become wayward and godless.</span></p> <h2><b>YOU HAVE A CHOICE</b></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When we face giants, we have choices. Your choice is either to freeze, flee or fight. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I want you to learn how to fight when you face your giant. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let me set up the text from 1 Samuel 17:4 historically. At this point in the nation of Israel, Saul has been king for a number of years. He was displeasing to God because he cared only about his own plans, his own agenda, and not about God&#8217;s plans. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">David was prophesied over by Samuel, the prophet, that he would become king instead of Saul. Now, Saul didn&#8217;t know that, but David knew. David was just a teenager at the time. And David had seven older brothers, three of them were serving in the army of Israel. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesse, David&#8217;s father, gave him a care package and said, please take this care package to your brothers and let them know that we love them.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When David gets to the battle site, he&#8217;s surprised to see the Philistine army on one mountain and the Israelite army on another, with the Valley of Elah in the middle, and the armies are not doing anything or saying anything. </span></p> <p><strong>And then David, when he&#8217;s there, hears this: </strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">1 Samuel 17:4-11 “A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing 5,000 shekels; on his legs, he wore bronze greaves and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spare shaft was like a weaver&#8217;s rod and its iron point weighed 600 shekels. His shield-bearer went ahead of him. Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine? And are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects. If I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” Then the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel. Give me a man and let us fight each other.” On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Goliath is issuing a threat. He’s saying we don&#8217;t need to have both armies fight, just choose one of your men to fight me—one on one.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">None of the Israelites moved, they just froze. </span></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Saul even tried to incentivize his army. He says anyone who goes out to fight, I&#8217;ll make sure that your father&#8217;s household never has to pay taxes again in Israel, nobody moved. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Saul added more. Whoever fights this Philistine, I&#8217;ll give them my daughter&#8217;s hand in marriage, nobody moves.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As David came on the scene, he finds out the lay of the land and what&#8217;s going on. And all of a sudden he starts thinking about taking on Goliath. Now mind you, he&#8217;s just a teenager at the time, but I want you to see that we all face giants.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Some of you are facing a giant right now, and there&#8217;s never a perfect time to fight a giant. I mean you don&#8217;t say I want to fight giants when I&#8217;m on vacation when I have more time. Nobody wants to fight giants at any time, but you have to learn how to fight a giant if you want to be a giant slayer. </span></p> <h2><b>MAKING THE DECISION TO FIGHT</b></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">David decided to fight. At some point, you cannot keep ignoring the threats of the giant. Goliath challenged the Israelites to fight on his terms. He&#8217;s saying man against man. In fact, verse 16 reads Goliath came out and gave his challenge every morning and every evening for 40 days. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you have a giant in your life, you know it&#8217;s a giant because it keeps goading you. It keeps poking and prodding. It keeps antagonizing you. It&#8217;s there every single morning and evening.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I love the fact that the Bible is so exacting. It says that Goliath made his threat for 40 days and 40 nights. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Why 40? The number 40, when you read it in the Bible, from Genesis all the way to the book of revelation, that number 40 is lifted out of the texts. Forty days, there is a meaning behind that spiritually; 40 days represents a breakthrough. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It is a biblical number that means transformation. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Think about it for a moment. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Moses went to Mount Sinai and sought God for 40 days, 40 nights and at the end—breakthrough—he comes down the mountain with two stone tablets etched by the finger of God, bearing the Ten Commandments, consider it. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Jesus went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. And when he finished, that was the inauguration of his ministry. And the Scripture says in the gospel of Luke, that he preached with power. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There&#8217;s a breakthrough that happens when you go through a 40-day journey or 40-day pilgrimage. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Giants also threaten us because they&#8217;re psychologically intimidating. They threaten to destroy our homes and our family. They threaten to destroy our bodies and our financial status. And the threat creates worry. The threat creates fear. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">That&#8217;s why these Israelite soldiers were frozen. The psychological threat was so damaging. Think about it. You&#8217;re thinking about this: If I go out and fight that giant, think about what he&#8217;ll do to me. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">He&#8217;ll rip me limb to limb. He&#8217;ll pull my arms out of the socket. He&#8217;ll rip my head. I&#8217;m not fighting that guy. And you just work up in your mind all of the psychological intimidation. I want you to see it threatens. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And that&#8217;s why, when you think about the giant that you&#8217;re facing, it&#8217;s creating a whole lot of psychological intimidation and damage in your mind, so much so that you have even forgotten to pray. You may even be thinking that God can&#8217;t do anything. You think that there&#8217;s nothing you can do and are just paralyzed. Giants threaten us because of their imposing side. </span></p> <h2><b>YOUR ENEMY IS POWERFUL, BUT…</b></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You&#8217;re fighting a spiritual foe, Satan, who is very powerful, but you have to understand greater is He within you than he that&#8217;s in the world. We tend to forget that. We forget how powerful God is. We forget that God loves to fight.  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Bible gives us pictures of God, pictures that show God&#8217;s a father and we are his children. So we tend to pray the kinds of prayers, children pray to their father. The Bible gives us this metaphor. God&#8217;s a shepherd, we&#8217;re sheep. So we pray our sheep-like prayers. Jesus says that my father, in John 15, is a gardener. That means we are his garden. So we pray these plant-like prayers.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But sometimes we forget that in the book of Joshua we&#8217;re told that God is indeed a general. And so we must recognize God loves to fight. He does not run away from the battle. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So when you decide to fight, God says to you, I got your back. I want you to recognize the value of what it means when David decides to fight, he realized he&#8217;s not going on the battlefield by himself for himself. He&#8217;s going with God and, he&#8217;s going for God.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And where&#8217;s the battlefield? It’s in the valley. That&#8217;s where we fight giants—in the valleys.</span></p> <h2><b>CHOOSING YOUR WEAPON</b></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You must realize that you have to decide to fight. And then you must choose your weapon. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but they&#8217;re mighty through God. Paul says “to the pulling down of strongholds.” Sometimes we forget that we have weapons. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Goliath is a giant skilled in hand-to-hand combat. Don&#8217;t do that. Don&#8217;t fight the enemy on his terms. Goliath’s chest armor weighed 125 pounds. The tip of his spear weighed 15 pounds. And there was a Philistine soldier walking in front of him to carry his shield. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">David was not physically prepared to fight the giant, nor were any of the Israelite soldiers. See the giant wants us to fight him on his terms. Hand-to-hand combat. I&#8217;m not fighting a giant with hand-to-hand combat. That&#8217;s a no-brainer. I&#8217;m going to lose if I do that. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When Saul finds out, David wants to go and fight, he tells him he wants him to use his armor. So David tries on Saul&#8217;s armor, it&#8217;s way too big. So David said, I can’t wear that, it&#8217;s never been tested. David decides to use good old faithful. In terms of every time you fight the enemy, God uses natural things. And there&#8217;s a spiritual weapon and a natural weapon. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">David&#8217;s natural weapon was a slingshot. And if you look at 1 Samuel 17:40, it says, “then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd&#8217;s bag and with his sling in his hand approached the Philistine.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you take your slingshot and start swirling it around it picks up momentum. And when you let it go, that rock, the size of a baseball or a sizeable golf ball, can actually be going 90 miles per hour. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">David didn&#8217;t need to be close to Goliath to kill him. Goliath didn&#8217;t think that and didn&#8217;t recognize that. But David recognized it and you have to recognize it when you then choose your weapon. </span></p> <p><em><strong>David had faith in God.</strong></em></p> <p><em><strong>David had experience with God.</strong></em></p> <p><em><strong>David had prayer to God. </strong></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you mold those three together you understand you have this implicit confidence in God&#8217;s ability. God has used you and has been victorious in times gone by and you have a history with God. Think about all the things that God&#8217;s brought you out of in the past. When you enter into this new battle against this current giant, you&#8217;re not entering it without any history or without any experience under your belt. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You can’t forget all the victories that God has brought you through. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">David started to remember all the battles that God brought him through. He said that when a lion tried to devour the flock, God helped me to defeat the lion. When a bear tried to devour the flock, God helped me and slew the bear through me. So the God who used me to slay the lion and to slay the bear will also use me to slay this giant. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You have experience with God. Many times we get stuck though when we think about our spiritual lives. David&#8217;s character was a worshiper and a warrior. On one end, he&#8217;s worshiping as shepherds did under the nightlight. They&#8217;re playing their harp, they&#8217;re singing, making songs, but when it comes time to fight, they put the harp down, pick up their weapon, and fight. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And after they defeat their enemy, they go back and worship. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you have faith in God, it speaks of this implicit trust in the Lord. When you have experience with God, it now moves you to another level. Not just having confidence in God, but having conviction. Conviction is like courage on steroids. Conviction doesn&#8217;t require a group of people to agree with you. Conviction doesn&#8217;t require group consensus. </span></p> <p><em><strong>David had conviction. </strong></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">God is not looking for a million people. He&#8217;s looking for one person, one man, one woman that has conviction. One individual that&#8217;s sold out for Him. You have to say like Joshua of old, “as for me and my house.” God is looking for mighty soldiers, men and women that are kneeling warriors. Men and women that when they bend their knees, they have power. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You can face your giant on your knees. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">1 Samuel 17:45 say, “David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I&#8217;ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.’ ”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You have battles to fight. You have kingdoms to conquer. You have trophies to gain. You have giants to slay. You have to go into the valley and meet your giant there because you have business to do for God.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">1 Samuel 17:47 says, “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear. The Lord saves for the battle is the Lord&#8217;s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You need to recognize the power of prayer. If you&#8217;re fighting some giant, don&#8217;t fight him in the world&#8217;s way, in the methodology of this world and this world system, drag your giant into your prayer closet. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you want to see victory in the natural, get victory first in your prayer closet, in the spirit, it&#8217;s there we take the fight. Prayer is a weapon and we must use it. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You have to become comfortable in prayer. You have to become an expert in prayer. You have to become skilled in prayer. You have to become a warrior when it comes to prayer. And when you become a kneeling warrior in prayer, you&#8217;ll be so surprised because you’re not using natural means to try to defeat the enemy. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Do you think God is responding to pity? Do you think God feels sorry for you? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">God doesn&#8217;t respond to pity. He doesn&#8217;t respond to when you walk around feeling mopey and depressed, like when parents respond to kids when kids hang their head and walk real slow, and then we say, “What&#8217;s wrong, honey?” God doesn&#8217;t do that. </span></p> <p><em><strong>God responds to prayer. </strong></em></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The language that moves God is prayer. The way God responds is through prayer. He&#8217;s not moved through sympathy. He&#8217;s not moved through our depression. He is moved through our prayers. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So whenever you have to face your giant, you must decide to fight, you must choose your weapon and you must then enjoy the victory. </span></p> <h2><b>ENJOY THE VICTORY</b></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There&#8217;s a victory to be enjoyed and you can&#8217;t leave that alone. The Bible tells us in 1 Samuel 17:50, “So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand, he struck down the Philistine and killed him. David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with a sword. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.”</span></p> <h2><b>VICTORY OPENS THE DOOR TO YOUR DESTINY</b></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">This victory was David’s introduction, both nationally and internationally. I want you to see what victory does when you defeat your giant. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It aligns you with your destiny. It gets you ready for the things God’s got ready for you. If you don&#8217;t defeat your giant, you won&#8217;t sit on your throne. When David beat Goliath, he cut off Goliath’s head and the Scripture tells us that he took the head of Goliath, along with all of his weapons and he took them back to his tent. They were trophies of victory.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You must have trophies of your victory. What did the Lord do for you? What victories has God wrought for you? When David returned, all of a sudden, we see that Saul&#8217;s son, Jonathan, quickly becomes friends with David. How else can David learn how to carry himself like royalty, unless someone who&#8217;s of royal status befriends him and teaches him protocol. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And so that victory aligns him with strategic alliances. That victory motivated the others in Israel, the Israelites soldiers chase the Philistines and slaughter them, and then went to their camp and stole all of their things. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Your victory is a lynchpin to a series of other victories. And if you sit back and choose not to fight, then you sit there being a prisoner of hope, hoping that you&#8217;ll get victory without ever going to battle. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You&#8217;ll wonder why those around you are enjoying the spoils of war and you are not. It&#8217;s not because they&#8217;re more powerful than you. It&#8217;s not that because God loves them more than you. It&#8217;s simply because they chose to go into the battle. They chose the weapon of prayer and they&#8217;re enjoying the victory and you chose to freeze or flee and tell Satan don&#8217;t bother me and I won&#8217;t bother you. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But guess what? Satan is crazy. He&#8217;ll bother you. Even when you don&#8217;t want him to bother you. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">That&#8217;s why you have giants in your life right now. The only way to get rid of your giants is to meet them in the valley. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In your mind&#8217;s eye, choose one giant in your life you want to conquer. Just choose one. The most ferocious, the craziest one, the biggest one. The one that will be that linchpin towards your destiny towards your future. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Whatever it is, you&#8217;re going to need to have your battle face on. You have to start making adjustments in your life right now. Anytime you go on a journey, you prepare. The longer the journey, the more you prepare. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">What is the giant that you are going to be facing? The giant wants to sabotage your life, but you want to meet that giant in the valley of Elah. Get that giant in your mind right now and make this confession out loud:</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Please God, with your help, I&#8217;m going to face my giant. I need your input. I need your power to join me in the fight. Help me to enjoy a great victory. A victory that&#8217;ll build your kingdom and cause your name to have more fame. I&#8217;m expecting great things from you. Lord teach me how to be a great fighter and spiritual battler in Christ&#8217;s name. Amen.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> Should God Say Sorry? David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:afaec5d3-be74-e10c-50e3-bdeae41d7869 Thu, 12 Aug 2021 21:21:48 -0500 The title of this blog post doesn’t sound quite right, does it? I mean, could the Creator of the universe ever do anything that would require Him to apologize?  Forgiveness... <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The title of this blog post doesn’t sound quite right, does it? I mean, could the Creator of the universe ever do anything that would require Him to apologize? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Forgiveness is a very complicated and thorny issue. Many people have tried to figure out a way to get free from pain and offenses, whether someone else offended them or hurt them. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><img class="size-medium wp-image-7079 alignleft" src="" alt="Forgive" width="300" height="144" srcset=" 300w, 768w, 600w, 858w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />Forgiveness means to set free. It means to let go to release, to grant pardon. Forgiveness is not for the person who offended you. Forgiveness is for you.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">You are like that caged bird when you don&#8217;t practice forgiveness. When you do forgive, the door of the birdcage is opened and you get a chance to fly free because forgiveness is God&#8217;s wonderful gift to you. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The subject that we have at hand, however, is, should you forgive God? Should God say, sorry? Should He request your forgiveness? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And a lot of people harbor this ill will and anger towards God because they feel as though somehow God has let them down. God has allowed stuff to come their way, bad things, suffering, pain to come their way. And so they&#8217;re angry at God. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Bible is very sympathetic about your emotions. In fact, the Bible captures wonderful, powerful, godly people like Moses, who was angry with God, David angry with God, Job angry with God, Elijah angry with God. So God is not unsympathetic about how His actions may create pain in you because you had and have one perspective and one thought as to what God should do. And when He doesn&#8217;t do that, you&#8217;re disappointed. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In Habakkuk chapter one, you can see the prophet struggling with anger towards God. In verse two he says, “How long Lord must I call for help, but you do not listen. Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me. There&#8217;s strife and conflict abounds.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Notice that Habakkuk had a relationship with God where they could be honest with each other.  Habakkuk was angry, and he charged God with wrongdoing in four ways. </span></p> <p><strong>God ignored his prayers.</strong></p> <p><strong>God ignores violence. </strong></p> <p><strong>God makes him see injustice.</strong></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;"><strong> God tolerates wrongdoing.</strong> </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">And God didn&#8217;t kill him, he wasn’t angry because he shared with God, his anger. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Are you angry with God? Do you think that you can&#8217;t tell God that you&#8217;re angry and you&#8217;ve put God in this position where you feel as if God, should be charged with wrongdoing? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Do you feel God owes you an apology? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Bible gives us clear instructions on how we should process our feelings and how we should look at this circumstance. And ultimately answer the question, should God say, sorry?  </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">To answer this there are four things we need to understand. </span></p> <ol> <li style="font-weight: 400;" aria-level="1"><span style="font-weight: 400;">When I speak of God, I&#8217;m referring to the God that&#8217;s revealed only in the Bible: The God who was, the God who is, and the God who is to come. </span></li> <li style="font-weight: 400;" aria-level="1"><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you&#8217;re to forgive God of anything, it means that you must first be convinced that God is somehow wronged you willfully or through neglect. </span></li> <li style="font-weight: 400;" aria-level="1"><span style="font-weight: 400;">If you forgive God, it means that you&#8217;re willing to walk away from anger and resentment towards Him and totally let God off the hook.</span></li> <li style="font-weight: 400;" aria-level="1"><span style="font-weight: 400;">The solution to our dilemma is only found with God as revealed in the Bible.</span></li> </ol> <h2><span style="font-weight: 400;">The Five Reasons You Should Forgive God</span></h2> <h3><span style="font-weight: 400;">ONE: </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">God thinks differently than you. </span></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">God has a comprehensive view of the world. He&#8217;s omniscient. He sees everything at the same time. God had this comprehensive view of all the nations and He was telling Habakkuk, “I want you to understand that I think differently than you. You&#8217;re thinking about your family, your nation. I&#8217;m thinking about your family, your nation, and how your nation interacts with the nations of the world, and how those nations interact and interconnect with the welfare of your nation and your family.” So God has this comprehensive view. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Job was in a similar circumstance. When Job was just perturbed with God and the way God was dealing with things, Job didn&#8217;t like it. And then God interrupts Job’s thoughts and says, “I am the Lord all-powerful, but you have argued that I&#8217;m wrong. Now you must answer me.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I mean, in other words, when you accuse God of wrongdoing, God says, okay, you want to say that I&#8217;ve been wrong. I&#8217;ve wronged you. I&#8217;m going to ask you some questions now. And I want you to answer me, given your ‘pseudo-omniscience.’ God went on to say to Job, “Are you trying to prove that you are innocent?” God&#8217;s asking Job, are you trying to prove that you&#8217;re innocent by accusing me of injustice? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">God has no problem with you disagreeing with Him or being angry because He did something or did not do something that you thought He should do or thought He should not do. God had no problem and has no problem with you thinking that thought. But you all must realize that when you think that thought you don’t let that thought back you into a corner where you should say, I think God needs to say to me, sorry. </span></p> <h3><span style="font-weight: 400;">TWO: God acts differently than you. </span></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">God is sovereign, which means He&#8217;s independent. He&#8217;s self-governing, He&#8217;s all-powerful. He does what He wants to do when He wants to do it, and how He wants to do it. Here&#8217;s the fact that we have to understand about God. And I hate to sound as if I&#8217;m defending God, how can I, how can I defend God?</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I&#8217;m trying to explain God to you as best as I know it from Scripture and from my experience. I&#8217;ve been there a number of times over the years of walking with God while I was angry with God. But I had to succumb to the reality that God acts differently than me. And the issue is this—God is, as God is, because that&#8217;s the way God is. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">God’s ways are not your ways, neither are His thoughts, your thoughts. He acts differently than us. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Have you ever been angry at God? How do you pray when you&#8217;re angry with God? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I know when I&#8217;m angry with God, I find myself getting to the place where I’m wrestling with God. And then I have to say, God acts differently than me. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Are you angry towards God because somehow God&#8217;s disappointed you? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I want you to see that He thinks differently than you. Isaiah 55:9 says, “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">M</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">y ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">God acts differently than you, but the way He acts that&#8217;s different, it&#8217;s consistent. He doesn&#8217;t change and is consistent with His actions. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus never changes. He&#8217;s the same yesterday, today, and forever.” </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I&#8217;ve come to the reality, based on experience and walking with God, that God acts differently than me. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">God thinks differently than you. He acts differently than you. </span></p> <h3><span style="font-weight: 400;">THREE: God even has different goals than you. </span></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">His goal is for you to have free will. You were created with freedom of choice. You can use your body, your thoughts, your giftings, your ingenuity for good, or for evil or for nothing.  But His goal of creating us as human beings with a free will had a risk involved in it. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">So sometimes we can experience the pain of living in a society where freedom of choice exists because the God of the universe that created us gave us free will. And some people have chosen to use their free will to do evil and their evil victimizes us and creates pain for us. And sometimes when that happens, we cry out to God and say I&#8217;m angry with you because you allowed this to happen. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Before incriminating God, recognize God has different goals than you. In other words, sometimes suffering, difficulty and pain has some companion benefits that are very wholesome and healthy. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In 2 Corinthians 7:8 Paul says, “I&#8217;m no longer sorry that I sent that letter to you, though I was very sorry for a time realizing how painful it would be to you, but it hurt you only for a little while now. I&#8217;m glad I sent it. Not because it hurt you, but because the pain turned you to God.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It was a good kind of sorrow; the kind of sorrow God wants His people to have. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">We never wish harm or pain to anyone, but the pain oftentimes turns us to God. </span></p> <h3><span style="font-weight: 400;">FOUR: God has different traits than your traits. </span></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">It means attributes. In other words, there are certain peculiarities about God, the makeup of God, the essence of God, things that are unchangeable, just like there are certain attributes about me, about you that are unchangeable. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I can&#8217;t change my height though. I can&#8217;t change my skin color. I can&#8217;t change the color of my eyes unless I get colorized contact lenses. But there are certain traits about God that God can’t change. And sometimes we&#8217;re angry because the traits that God has are His attributes. For example, the Bible tells us in Malachi 3:6, “I the Lord do not change.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">God says I don&#8217;t change. God cannot lie. He&#8217;s not a liar. So He&#8217;ll never lie to you. He&#8217;ll never misrepresent himself. He can&#8217;t change. He can&#8217;t give a white light and shade the truth because God&#8217;s not a liar. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Scripture declares that God&#8217;s a God of justice. He can never be unjust. He can never be unethical. He could never be despotic and mean-spirited and abusive. Deuteronomy 32:4 says, “The Lord is a mighty rock and He never does wrong. God can always be trusted to bring justice.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When we&#8217;re asking the question, should God say, sorry, I want us to have these thoughts in mind. God has different traits than you. Psalms 145:8-9 says, “the Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all. He has compassion on all he has made.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">We have no business or right to incriminate the good name of the Lord because of our limited perspective, or even because of the difficult circumstances that we may find ourselves in. I want you to recognize the danger of accusing God of wrongdoing. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Are you accusing God of mishandling you? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Are you putting yourself in the place of judging the actions of God and then concluding that God has wronged you? Whether willfully or by neglect, when you do that, what you&#8217;re also saying is that you’re going to change God. </span></p> <h3><span style="font-weight: 400;">FIVE: God is different than you. </span></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">One of the things I&#8217;ve had to come to learn based on reading Scripture and based on living and walking with God is that God&#8217;s a bit peculiar. He puzzles me. I don&#8217;t get Him sometimes. In other words, He hides without warning.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Habakkuk 1:2 says, “How long Lord must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you,  “Violence!” but you do not save.”  The prophet was saying, look, I&#8217;m befuddled. Why do you act so odd? Why do you act so peculiar? Why do you hide? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">There are times you feel like God is hiding from you when you&#8217;re praying and crying out to him. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Suffering from confusion and pain occurs in the interim between where you are and where God wants to bring you. Habakkuk 1:5 says, “Look among the nations and watch, wonder and be amazed for doing a work in your days that you would not believe though it were told you.”</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">God is different than you. Sometimes he shows up at the 11th hour. You&#8217;re sitting there and asking why did God let me panic like that? And at one second before midnight, God shows up in that split second. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Why does he do that? He wants our relationship with Him to be built on faith and trust and not on just analytics and just the left brain thinking and pragmatism. There must be this relational piece that says, can you trust Me though you don&#8217;t see what I&#8217;m doing? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Can you walk with Me though you don&#8217;t understand a lot of things about me? Moses was told by God to go and tell Pharaoh to let My people go. Nothing happened for quite some time. Moses confronted Pharaoh, 10 miracles later, a devastated Egypt, a complaining Israel, a heartbroken Moses, and all of a sudden, suddenly God does it and lets the children of Israel leave Egypt and go towards Canaan land, the promised land. </span></p> <h2><span style="font-weight: 400;">Why did it take all of that?</span></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I don&#8217;t have an answer, but one thing I can say, God does what He does because of the way He is. He&#8217;s different than you and He&#8217;s unpredictable. But this unpredictable God can move through someone that is unexpected in order to help you come to a place of deliverance but don&#8217;t get stuck. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When you get stuck, walking around with unforgiveness in your heart towards God, you are stuck, it&#8217;s costly. It builds up, it affects your family. It affects your career. It affects your spiritual life. It affects people who are joined to you. It affects your ministry. It affects every aspect of you and you have to see it doesn&#8217;t affect God. It affects you. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I pray that this message gives you a push to say, God, I let you off the hook. You think differently than me. You act differently than me. You have different goals than I do. God, you are different than I am. You have different traits than me. God, I let you off the hook. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">I forgive you. And I do that because it&#8217;s the right thing to do. And it&#8217;s the only move I have to make. </span></p> <h2><span style="font-weight: 400;">Does God need to say to you, sorry?</span></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">No, he does not. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">But can you still forgive him? Yes. And when you do, you are able to move forward. Your life is able to be dislodged from being stuck and you can move forward.</span></p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> Finding a Christian Mental Health Coach urn:uuid:bcd6e3fa-2d47-1925-887c-0896fc2b20a1 Sat, 07 Aug 2021 17:09:09 -0500 <p>Talk with a Christian mental health coach to get support and resources for your recovery process with your mental health</p> <p>This article <a rel="nofollow" href="">Finding a Christian Mental Health Coach</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">@djchuang</a>.</p> Shema perSpectives 12 urn:uuid:2ec4deb5-0002-845d-13f4-88480e01aad6 Tue, 03 Aug 2021 07:38:36 -0500 Daryl M. Cox &#124; August 3, 2021 &#8220;Hear O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD&#8221; (Dt 6:4 KJV). &#8230;<p><a href="">Continue reading <span class="meta-nav">&#8594;</span></a></p> <p>Daryl M. Cox | August 3, 2021</p> <p>&#8220;Hear O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD&#8221; (Dt 6:4 KJV). Taken from the Torah, Jews called this verse the Shema.<a href="//0FE11A86-EF9A-4F07-8F08-EB8FD84B36CE#_ftn1"><sup>[1]</sup></a>&nbsp;A prayer and Judaism&#8217;s confession of faith, it proclaims belief in the one true God of Israel. Historically, Jewish rabbis based the Shema exclusively on verse four, but later rabbis came to include several other verses in this prayer which observant Jews cite twice daily, early morning and late evening (Dt 6:4-6; 11:13-21; Nm 15:37-41). In Jesus&#8217; day, Israel called the Shema the first commandment (v. 4). A young scribe asked Jesus to identify the first commandment. Jesus responded by quoting Dt 6:4. However, Jesus recognized a second commandment, a verse not found in the Shema, saying to love thy neighbor as thyself (Lv 19:18; Mk 12:31). The commands to love God and our neighbor reflect the whole of the inspired law, for they define humanity’s relationship to God and one another. In a corporate setting, observant Jews cite them as prayer during liturgical services.<sup>2</sup>&nbsp;All four passages encompassing the Shema address three areas of life: God, His word, and human relationships. By daily recitation, this act fulfills Moses’ command to teach and integrate its central truth into Jewish society (Dt 6:6-9). Jesus acknowledged in His day the Pharisees adorned themselves with phylacteries (small cases enclosing Scripture) on their arm. These cases contained scripts of Dt 6:4 as a reminder of Israel’s commitment to God (Mt 23:5).&nbsp;</p> <figure class="wp-block-gallery columns-1 is-cropped"><ul data-carousel-extra='{"blog_id":12269709,"permalink":"https:\/\/\/2021\/08\/03\/shema\/"}' class="blocks-gallery-grid"><li class="blocks-gallery-item"><figure><a href=""><img data-attachment-id="5747" data-permalink="" data-orig-file="" data-orig-size="1113,473" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{&quot;aperture&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;credit&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;camera&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;caption&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;created_timestamp&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;copyright&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;focal_length&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;iso&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;shutter_speed&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;title&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;orientation&quot;:&quot;0&quot;}" data-image-title="00DE4536-804A-4D38-9183-2B0DDB16F4C0" data-image-description="" data-image-caption="" data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" src="" alt="" data-id="5747" class="wp-image-5747" srcset=" 1024w, 150w, 300w, 768w, 1113w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></a></figure></li></ul></figure> <p>The word <em>shema</em>&nbsp;means to hear or listen with the intent to embrace and do. Observant Jews pray the Shema’s words daily as a reminder of their commitment to God and His truth. This prayer embodies the officially inspired statement of truth about God. When embraced, it leads one from false worship to recognition of the true God and obedience to His required truths. According to Jewish Targum, verse four recognizes the kingship of God.<sup>3</sup>&nbsp;He alone reigns as absolute sovereign over Israel and creation. If one embraces the Shema, they submit to God’s kingship over their life. Deuteronomy 6 presents a covenant confession: it declares one God exists whom an individual embraces as their God, the God of Abraham. This statement gives rise to another truth, the messianic kingship promised in Scripture, for this verse also looks forward to God’s coming kingdom on earth. Deuteronomy lists other shemas throughout, but this paper will focus on the one central to Judaism’s confession of faith.</p> <p>The Shema uses the Lord in place of the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) just as all passages of the Old Testament do. The Tetragrammaton comprises four consonants, YHWH, which forms the Old Testament name of God but without an exact pronunciation. Israel lost the exact pronunciation centuries ago believing the name too sacred to speak except by the high priest during Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). To regain its pronunciation, scholars combined vowels from the Hebrew <em>Adonai</em> (lord) with the four consonants. By combining the vowels of Adonai with the consonants of YHWH, the closest pronunciation becomes Yahweh. The Jewish world continues to reserve speaking the name of God out of reverence.</p> <p>Finally, in preparation for the Messiah’s coming, Dt 6:4-6 places emphasis on a monotheistic devotion to Yahweh, which excludes worship to all other gods laying the foundation for a life filled with spiritual growth and moral development. The Shema teaches the importance of love to God and man making these points the first two great commandments in Scripture (Mk 12:28-31). Moses commanded the Israelites to teach these words to their succeeding generations safeguarding them from idolatry and immorality.&nbsp;</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">A Fresh Perspective on Deut 6:4-6</span></strong></h3> <p>The Shema declares a monotheistic faith in the one God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and gives prophetic enlightenment concerning God’s incarnation in Christ, the son of King David. This provides the basis for the New Testament confession of Jesus as Lord. The Shema’s unique wording identifies the New Testament doctrine of the Incarnation of God in Christ, looking forward to His plan to come, redeem His creation from sin and death, and later establish His Kingdom on earth. Detailed considerations about the Shema led to a monotheistic incarnational view of Jesus Christ: First, Jesus’ own interpretation of Old Testament Scripture sets forth this perspective. Second, the meaning and use of the Hebrew&nbsp;<em>echad&nbsp;</em>identifies the incarnation in the Shema. Finally, the prophets, represented in Zechariah, reveal a prophetic kingship fulfillment of the Shema prior to the coming kingdom of God on Earth. These considerations establish conclusively that in addition to proclaiming Judaism’s historic monotheism, the Shema reveals the incarnational union of Yahweh the God of Israel in Jesus Christ.</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Jesus’ Interpretation of Old Testament Scripture</span></strong></h3> <p>Jesus&#8217; own words present an inspired perspective on how to view the Old Testament writings, which include the Shema. He gave an understanding concerning the Old Testament saying its Scriptures testify of Himself (Jn 5:39). Concerning Moses, who authored Deuteronomy, Jesus said He Himself is the chief subject of his writings (vv. 46-47). On the morning of His resurrection, Jesus expounded on the Law (the Shema), the Prophets, and the Psalms to His disciples saying they concerned Himself, (Lk 24:27,44). The whole of Old Testament theology defines Jesus and the Gospel.</p> <p>In Mark’s gospel, Jesus gave evidence of a greater truth in the Shema by His response to a young scribe leading to a greater understanding of God’s Oneness. After the young scribe summarizes the verses, Jesus responded saying, “thou art not far from the kingdom of God” (Mk 12:28-34).&nbsp;The scribe correctly stated his response, but Jesus’ implication says these verses give a greater understanding that leads to entrance into God’s kingdom: Yahweh stood before this young scribe as Jesus of Nazareth without recognition! Believing in Jesus as Lord and Christ enables a person to repent, experience remission of sins through baptism in Jesus’ name and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Jn 3:5; Acts 2:38). In essence, the Shema laid the foundation for the Israelites to recognize and receive Jesus as Messiah.</p> <p>More than just inspired stories and teachings, the Old Testament Scriptures give witness to Jesus Christ (Segraves, 1984). They testify of His identity and mission meaning the reader must view scriptural testimony from an incarnational perspective, which identifies both His deity and human life. This perspective states the incarnation as the union of God the Father and man in the person of Jesus Christ (Jn 10:30). The apostle John calls this union the Son of God (v. 36). Scripture also presents this union as both revelatory and redemptive in God’s purpose providing a complete picture of the Messiah (Col 1:12-16). In providing a foundational witness, Scripture gives students a principle to guide their study when reading both testaments. Readers will receive a clear understanding of the incarnation and its related teachings recorded by the apostles. This perspective comes from a spirit of wisdom and revelation revealing God and His purpose in the Messiah (Paron, 2020). The testimony of Jesus becomes the guiding principle for understanding the Shema.</p> <p>Peter said believers are currently established in the present truth of the New Covenant implying the themes of the Old Covenant stood prophetic as truth awaiting fulfillment (2 Pt 1:12). Without the Messiah, the Law remained an incomplete truth having an inferior confession and experience with God and not the fullness of grace Jesus provided for the New Covenant. Jesus also said He came to complete its revelation and establish a new relationship and experience between God and man (Mt 5:17). Although the Shema gives a great confession of the oneness of God, Jesus’ coming established the incarnation of God in Christ as its fulfilled truth (Jn 1:1,14; 14:6).&nbsp;</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Echad</span></strong></h3> <p>The Shema uses&nbsp;<em>echad</em>&nbsp;translated as one to declare faith in the one personal God revealed from a composed unity. Jesus’ teaching on the Old Testament gives further understanding on&nbsp;<em>echad</em>&nbsp;to reveal the incarnational unity of God in Christ.&nbsp;Echad&nbsp;translates as one in the following expressions one Yahweh or Yahweh is One<em>.&nbsp;</em>These expressions<em>&nbsp;</em>read from the Torah and King James Versions of Scripture.&nbsp;<em>Echad</em>&nbsp;means one in the numeral sense as well as to unite properly as one. The Shema’s official pronouncement declares God as one being.&nbsp;<em>Echad’s&nbsp;</em>former use exclusively rejects recognition of all other gods in favor of Yahweh while recognizing His distinct names stated in Scripture (Ex 6:3). He has a singular identity composing the sum of His revelation. Deuteronomy’s use of&nbsp;<em>echad</em>&nbsp;shows one God who gave a progressive revelation of Himself culminating in the person of His Son Jesus Christ.</p> <p>Moreover, the word recognizes a divine-human union in Yahweh pointing to the incarnation. Although Christ’s birth occurred centuries later, God foreordained His revelation and redemptive work in Him before creation (1 Pet 1:18-20). This union composes the image of God consisting of the Creator and the Seed of the woman who suffered death but bruises the serpent’s head by resurrection (Gn 1:26; 3:15). Paul, in the New Testament, calls the image of God Christ recognizing and establishing the unity of God defined by&nbsp;<em>echad</em>&nbsp;(2 Cor 4:4-6). The Shema calls the union of God and man Yahweh, an identity to be fulfilled in the coming Messiah-King (Ps 118:26-28; John 1:14). The Lord Jesus Christ stands as the fulfillment of the Shema for all New Testament believers.</p> <p>In making a monotheistic confession, the Shema combines God’s diverse revelation under one name. Moses recorded distinct names and titles for God throughout the Torah (first five books of Scripture) to reveal progressively God’s character in relationship to His people and creation (Ex 6:3). David also recognized this truth when he wrote that he will praise God for His truth and kindness “for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name (singular; Ps 132:2b). God’s singular identity unifies His distinct names recorded in Scripture. Genesis 1:26 unifies the subject-plural pronouns us and our with the image of God (Christ). Similarly,&nbsp;<em>echad</em>&nbsp;unifies God’s complete revelation as one. To insist&nbsp;<em>echad</em> defines God as a unity of distinct persons misleads the understanding. The term three distinct conscious persons gives room for a perspective suggesting God is a council of divine beings, a diversion from&nbsp;<em>echad’s</em>&nbsp;actual meaning and use in the Shema. Moses used&nbsp;<em>echad</em>&nbsp;to unify the Lord’s distinctive revelation as one, leading to His ultimate revelation in His Son Jesus who died for all.</p> <p>The Shema identifies the fullness of God’s revelation in the Messiah who was yet to come. Jesus identified Himself with <em>echad </em>using<em> </em>the Greek word <em>heis</em> for one saying “I and my Father are one” (Jn 10:30). Heis translates into the number one. The incarnational union of the Father and Son compose the one person of Jesus. <em>Echad</em> presents both an exclusive and composed meaning while <em>heis</em> focuses on the singular exclusive. Jesus draws priority focus to Himself as a man revealing an unprecedented unity with His Father, an Incarnational union. His use of I declares a singular identity of the Father and Son leading to recognition of God in Christ. For this reason, the Jews wanted to kill Him for in their minds, Jesus being a man made Himself God (v. 33). The Apostle John’s account of Jesus’ encounter with the Jews shows the Shema identifies the incarnational union of the Father and Son in the person of Jesus Christ. </p> <p>A study of the Shema and the incarnation requires an explanation of the biblical expressions Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in relation to&nbsp;<em>echad</em>. In addition to an exclusive one being,&nbsp;<em>Echad</em>’s meaning reveals a unified one. The use of these terms originates from Mt 28:19. However, other New Testament passages use them to show God’s activity towards humanity. The Apostle Paul described the Godhead as belonging to a singular being when he used the pronoun His in relation to God. He describes the Godhead as God the Father, eternal and powerful in His fullness, fully expressed in the person of Jesus Christ (Rom 1:20; 1 Cor 8:6; Col 2:9). It goes against Scripture to say the Godhead consists of three eternally distinct persons, for its fullness describes the Father as the Word and Holy Spirit. The expression Son of God involves a God-human union for divine visitation and redemption purposes. The terms do not speak of distinct persons in God’s nature, but they reveal three designations of the one God in relationship to humanity; furthermore, these expressions reveal the means by which God established salvation in the Earth (1 Pt 1:2).&nbsp;</p> <p>Matthew 28:19 reveals a singular name for the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. In verse 18, Jesus declares Himself Sovereign of heaven and Earth saying, “all power is given unto me in heaven and Earth.” This statement led to a Christo-centric understanding of the name in verse 19, for the apostles, beginning on the Day of Pentecost, baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:6). These designations describe Jesus as the singular name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, viewed scripturally from this perspective in light of the Incarnation. Scripture calls God the Father of the human nature of Christ (not His divine nature), the Father of creation, and the Father of New Covenant believers. Furthermore, it also calls God the Word who was made flesh as the Son of God, and finally, God actively exists as the Holy Ghost who continues to work throughout human history and now dwells and continues to work in His people (Eph 1:3; Jn 1:1, 14; 14:16).&nbsp;</p> <p>Interestingly, 1 Pt 1:2 presents the whole act of salvation, election and sanctification, as the exclusive work of God, the Father. God chose His elect before creation in Christ, then sanctified them through the outpouring of His Holy Spirit and the sprinkled blood of Jesus, God&#8211;the Father incarnate. God used the Incarnation and the subsequent shedding of Jesus’ blood followed by the outpouring of His Spirit to sanctify His elect. Three separate divine persons did not act on distinct occasions to establish deliverance for everyone. However, in each step of redemption, the same God Peter calls the Father acted to bring salvation to humanity. God has more designations than these three titles in Scripture, but they describe Him in relationship to humanity and their redemption. This passage and its interpretation stand consistent with the Shema’s confession concerning one God.</p> <p>When the Shema says one Lord, it sets a monotheistic incarnational focus upon Christ by calling Him Yahweh. God’s fullness of being has an ultimate expression, the person of Jesus Christ (Jn 1:14; Gal 3:20). On the day of Pentecost, Peter proclaimed to his Jewish audience Jesus of Nazareth, Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). Immediately afterwards, he defined Christ’s Lordship in terms of the Shema saying “For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (v. 39). The Lordship of Jesus, raised from the dead, identifies Him as the God of Israel the Lord our God in flesh. Peter’s anointed statement, which should have incited a violent response for seemingly violating Israel’s confession of faith, instead brought conviction and a radical conversion of about three thousand souls to Jesus Christ. This account shows the Acts 2 experience, the baptism of the Holy Ghost speaking in tongues, confirms the Lordship confession of Jesus Christ. It gives a divinely personal and public witness to a new confession. The new confession gives a renewed understanding of the Deuteronomy passage without denying its inspired truth. Using Scripture from Psalms, Peter called Jesus of Nazareth Lord and Christ. His identification of the incarnation shows how essential its acceptance is to reconciling&nbsp;<em>echad&#8217;s</em>&nbsp;use in the Shema.</p> <p>Peter gave further witness to Jesus’ Lordship confession fulfilling the Shema by calling Him “our God and Savior” (2 Pt 1:1-4 NKJV). He declared it to persecuted Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire. He exhorted they have in possession a precious faith that makes them partakers Christ’s divine nature through “exceedingly great and precious promises&#8221; (v. 4). In declaring their faith in the deity of Christ, Peter acknowledges a wisdom and “knowledge of God, and Jesus our Lord” leading to this profound confession (v. 2). Originating from the Holy Spirit, this knowledge reconciles the uniting of God and Jesus from an incarnational perspective without denying the inspired confession of the Mosaic Law. More than identifying Jesus as the God of Israel, Peter calls Him Lord, God, and Savior for believers of all nations. This confession moves biblical Christianity beyond the boundary of a Jewish faith to a universal monotheistic faith for all races. These statements further show New Testament Christianity continued to embrace the Shema’s core belief but in light of Jesus of Nazareth’s resurrection, ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost.&nbsp;<em>Echad</em>’s compound unity declares the God of the Old Covenant revealed in flesh as Jesus Christ and not as three distinct persons.&nbsp;</p> <p>The four gospels present the narrative of Jesus’ life from His birth throughout His ascension into heaven. They also identify His messiah ship and deity. The last gospel, written by John, not only presents a strong showing of Jesus’ as Son of God but the establishment of a new confession that includes the incarnation and recognizes the oneness of God declared by the Shema. Eight days following His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples with Thomas being present. The unbelieving apostle sees and experiences the resurrected Messiah and makes a profound confession that stands as the bedrock of Jesus being the Son of God. Thomas calls Jesus “My Lord and My God” (Jn 20:28 KJV). His confession, recorded by John concludes the presentation of Jesus in the gospels, leaving humanity with a decision to make.&nbsp;</p> <p>Thomas’ recognition of Jesus becomes the definitive hallmark of the New Covenant confession, Jesus is Lord. Jesus’ response to Thomas’ shows the superiority of the New Covenant to the Old. First, Thomas makes His confession in light of Christ’s resurrection and conquest over death. Second, Jesus&#8217; resurrection reveals He is not only human but the one Lord and God spoken of in the Shema. Third, in light of Thomas’ confession, Jesus pronounces a blessing to those who believe and e Exegeting the Salt Covenant perSpectives 12 urn:uuid:6d722c33-14b1-4b5b-bb6e-902e89044fc0 Mon, 26 Jul 2021 08:54:12 -0500 Jan Paron, PhD &#124; July 26, 2021 Though Scripture cites the word salt 31 times in the Old Testament, it &#8230;<p><a href="">Continue reading <span class="meta-nav">&#8594;</span></a></p> <p>Jan Paron, PhD | July 26, 2021</p> <p>Though Scripture cites the word salt 31 times in the Old Testament, it mentions salt covenant three (Lv 2:13; Nm 18:19; 2 Chr 13:5). The ancients considered salt a precious commodity because of its scarcity. (1) In terms of an agreement initiated by God, salt symbolized preservation of covenant with Him against corruption. The Bible links salt with the making of agreements or contracts. This essay exegetes the textual meaning of the salt covenant under the microscope of person, event, symbols, places, and prophecy looking at three occurrences in the Old Testament. It seeks to uncover its meaning and application </p> <figure class="wp-block-gallery columns-1 is-cropped"><ul data-carousel-extra='{"blog_id":12269709,"permalink":"https:\/\/\/2021\/07\/26\/exegeting-the-salt-covenant\/"}' class="blocks-gallery-grid"><li class="blocks-gallery-item"><figure><a href=""><img data-attachment-id="5724" data-permalink="" data-orig-file="" data-orig-size="1880,1253" data-comments-opened="1" data-image-meta="{&quot;aperture&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;credit&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;camera&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;caption&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;created_timestamp&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;copyright&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;focal_length&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;iso&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;shutter_speed&quot;:&quot;0&quot;,&quot;title&quot;:&quot;&quot;,&quot;orientation&quot;:&quot;0&quot;}" data-image-title="macro photography of crystal salt" data-image-description="" data-image-caption="&lt;p&gt;Photo by Castorly Stock on &lt;a href=&quot;; rel=&quot;nofollow&quot;&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p&gt; " data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" src="" alt="" data-id="5724" class="wp-image-5724" /></a></figure></li></ul></figure> <p class="has-text-align-center">Photo by Castorly Stock on <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a></p> <p>The notion of a salt covenant appears in Nm 18:19-32 as one of the three covenant methods for confirmation (cf. blood covenant, Gn 15:7-17; shoe covenant, Ru 4:7-9). This instance of the salt covenant contextually relates to the Aaronic call to the priesthood of the tabernacle (Nm 17). Aaron’s rod had budded, blossomed, and brought forth almonds signaling the Lord’s approval for him and his descendants’ rights to the tabernacle priesthood. In chapter 18, the Lord recounts to Aaron alone, the priesthood service rewards providing him and his descendant Aaronides a continual allotment from the Israelite offerings and sealing the provisions with “an everlasting covenant of salt”(18:19a KJV). Ancient Israelites always added salt to sacrificial offerings to the Lord as a preserving agent. </p> <p>“You shall season every grain offering with salt so that the salt (preservation) of the covenant of your God will not be missing from your grain offering. You shall offer salt with all your offerings (Lv 2:13 AMP). Salt in in Lv 2:13, stands for that which preserves against corruption, an essential ingredient in offerings made to God. It conveys the image of permanence and God’s eternal covenant with Israel. On the other hand, leaven symbolized the spread of sin and honey likewise fermentation of it. The mineral&#8217;s ability not only to ward off decay but also to preserve made it an excellent symbol to represent the perpetual agreement between God and his people.</p> <p>In 2 Chr 13:5, Scripture shows a second instance of the salt covenant: “Ought ye not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?” Similar to Lv 2:13, a covenant of salt conveys a descriptive image of a permanency because salt preserves. Since the Bible links salt to the making of agreements or contracts, it showed itself an ancient symbol of unbreakable friendships and enduring alliances.</p> <p>In like manner, the salt covenant in Nm 18:19 has characteristics of indissolubility indicating permanency and irreversibility. The allotment consisted of the holy gifts to the Lord, which He in turn gave to Aaron and His descendants as a God-commanded portion—His gift to them. Since the Aaronides had no property, they depended on God alone for their portion through His provisions. </p> <p>“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Mt 5:13). Refrigeration as a means of preserving large quantities of food did not begin to grow until the latter part of the 19th century. One of the most common ways of preserving food before this time (including the period of the Old Testament) was to use salt. This property of physical preservation led to this mineral being used in terms to symbolically represent preservation in general. </p> <p>Taken together, a &#8216;covenant of salt&#8217; means an agreement or contract between parties that endures regardless of the circumstances. Such agreements form a solid, unbreakable and everlasting bond.</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Endnotes</span></h3> <p>(1) Bullinger, 1999, p 207.</p> Some Helpful (and Quick) Thoughts on Travel Blog - Bryan Loritts urn:uuid:3ebdd0d2-db72-66db-e26d-a6871b7dab65 Sat, 24 Jul 2021 21:27:17 -0500 <p class="">I started preaching when I was seventeen, and when I was twenty-two, Dr. Maurice Watson was the first person to put me on a plane to come preach for him. Since that time, almost thirty years ago, I’ve learned some things from my travels, and I thought I’d share them with you:</p><ol data-rte-list="default"><li><p class="">Get the TripIt app. You’re welcome.</p></li><li><p class="">Boredom is not the friend of holiness (ask David). So keep a full schedule.</p></li><li><p class="">When it makes sense, take family with you.</p></li><li><p class="">Be mindful of your spouse’s capacity for your travel.</p></li><li><p class="">Don’t be a diva...or a jerk.</p></li><li><p class="">It’s a calling, not a gig.</p></li><li><p class="">At least once a year give the honorarium check back. You won’t miss it.</p></li><li><p class="">Rent your cars from National. You’re welcome.</p></li><li><p class="">Minister, don’t perform.</p></li><li><p class="">Once you say yes, don’t trade a “lesser” opportunity for a “greater” one. Be a person of integrity.</p></li><li><p class="">Call your spouse from the road often.</p></li><li><p class="">Minimize television. Maximize worship.</p></li><li><p class="">Maximize travel benefits. As much as you can, fly with one airline and enroll in their mileage program.</p></li><li><p class="">Never take the opportunity for granted. Show gratitude to your host publicly.</p></li><li><p class="">Whether to a handful or the masses, preach your heart out.</p></li><li><p class="">Workout.</p></li><li><p class="">Eat right.</p></li><li><p class="">No alone time with the opposite gender.</p></li><li><p class="">Don’t counsel the pastor's members. They’re not your sheep.</p></li><li><p class="">Preach shorter than the host pastor does.&nbsp;</p></li><li><p class="">Keep track of what you preach and where. It will save you embarrassment. Believe me, I know!</p></li><li><p class="">Be understated in your dress. The people are there to see God, not you.</p></li><li><p class="">Ministry begins with the intern, not the stage. You never know how a kind word of wisdom could change the life of the one assigned to assist you.</p></li><li><p class="">Wash your hands often. You’ll shake a lot of them.</p></li><li><p class="">As soon as you get back, take the trash out. The last few days you’ve been catered to, so you need to remind yourself you are a servant.</p></li></ol> Mental Health Therapists for People of Color urn:uuid:cedbbf63-fc36-104d-c0e8-e4061fc756ba Fri, 23 Jul 2021 16:51:49 -0500 <p>Let's make it easier to find mental health professionals, counselors, and therapists who are culturally competent for people of color and BIPOC. </p> <p>This article <a rel="nofollow" href="">Mental Health Therapists for People of Color</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">@djchuang</a>.</p> Distinctively Christian? An Additional Response to Reverend Kevin DeYoung The Front Porch urn:uuid:1465af96-031f-481e-bf38-50b43410fc8c Thu, 22 Jul 2021 09:19:06 -0500 <p>In our previous essay, “Sanctifying the Status Quo: A Response to Reverend Kevin DeYoung,” we examined the methodology that undergirds Kevin DeYoung’s critical review of our book, Reparations: A Christian...</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Distinctively Christian? An Additional Response to Reverend Kevin DeYoung</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <p>In our previous essay, “<a href="">Sanctifying the Status Quo: A Response to Reverend Kevin DeYoung</a>,” we examined the methodology that undergirds Kevin DeYoung’s <a href="">critical review</a> of our book, <a href=""><em>Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance and Repair</em></a>. The mode of theological reasoning that DeYoung deploys, we argued, shapes and at times distorts the very questions he raises. So, it seemed proper for us to seek to expose and critique this methodology prior to addressing the substantive issues.</p> <p>Some critics are now suggesting that we chose this particular approach because we—intimidated by the sheer force of his arguments—had no substantive response to offer. Readers may recall, however, that we predicted this reaction:</p> <blockquote>[O]ur intent is not to answer specific technical questions about reparations per se, but to expose and critique the method with which Reverend DeYoung approaches them. <u>As we do so, we understand that some of our critics may see this as a form of evasion, as an attempt to escape the force of probing examination.</u> But this is false. To the contrary, we engage these questions—and are engaged by them—every day.</p></blockquote> <p>Again, it’s false to assume that our methodological focus was borne of evasion, ignorance, or defeat. Rather, we regularly engage questions like those raised by DeYoung. They merit sustained reflection rather than frivolous reaction. And at this time, we would like to share some of the fruit of that reflection and study.</p> <p>What follows, then, are brief and provisional responses to some of DeYoung’s critical assessments. Importantly, these are offered against the backdrop of our previous essay and with deliberate appeal to resources from within our shared theological tradition. We continue to reflect on these questions and many others, and we invite you to do the same with curiosity and hope.</p> <p><strong>Unstable Moral Grounds </strong></p> <p><strong> </strong>DeYoung argues that our book offers “nebulous,” “amorphous,” and ultimately specious moral grounds for its call for restitution. This is especially notable, he believes, in its handling of “white supremacy” and the way it is related to principles of restitution. For example, when we describe reparations as “restitution for the thefts of White supremacy,” DeYoung interprets this phrasing to mean something vague and ill-defined like “restitution … based on skin color” or “restitution for ‘White supremacy’” or “restitution with the world.” But these renderings, which allegedly illustrate the incoherence of our case, actually misrepresent what we plainly argue in the book. Restitution—the return of ill-gotten goods to its rightful owners—is the biblical response to <em>theft </em>according to the 8th commandment (Chapter 5). And <em>theft</em>, we argue, is in fact the animating energy and demonstrable social effect of the cultural (dis)order called white supremacy (Chapter 2). Across history, this racist theft has found tragic and concrete expression in a variety of forms (Chapter 3)—not only as the theft of black <em>wealth </em>(as is often assumed in reparations conversations) but also the theft of <em>truth</em> (about black persons and history) and the theft of <em>power</em> (personal and political). If so, the key moral question is this: What is a biblical response to theft? One crucial answer from the Bible: Restitution. This is simply what we mean by “restitution for the thefts of White supremacy.” The redress of racist evils—namely, thefts that are relentlessly animated by the white supremacy.</p> <p>Another “unresolved ambiguity” that threatens the cogency of restitution, DeYoung argues, involves the passage of time. We acknowledge that time adds complexity to restitution’s application, and that it can, by God’s providence and mercy, dampen the damaging effects of past evils. But DeYoung goes further than this. He cites an excerpt of John Tillotson’s “Two Sermons of the Nature and Necessity of Restitution” (1707)—which states that the obligation to redress “injuries of a very ancient date” eventually “ceaseth and expires”—and he claims that this excerpt “undermines one of the central arguments of their book.” But does it?</p> <p>Consider this: Tillotson reveals the actual time-horizon he has in mind when, to illustrate his point, he refers to the conquests of the “Saxons, Danes, and Normans” on the British Isles. As <a href="">others have pointed out</a>, these historical injuries occurred fully 600 to 1,100 years prior to Tillotson’s own day. By comparison, “only” 150 years have elapsed since the abolition of slavery in the United States.</p> <p>Furthermore, the bishop’s outlook in this section of his sermon is informed by prudential and pragmatic considerations more so than by strictly moral ones. Yes, he states that the obligation to redress ancient wrongs eventually ceases because the pursuit of the “ancient right” to seek restitution would cause “endless Disturbances,” and prove to be “a great inconvenience” to a well-ordered society. Crucially, however, he goes on to concede that “time in it self doth not alter the Nature of things.” And in a section DeYoung omits from his block quotation, Tillotson qualifies his point with the following: “[C]onsidering a thing simply in itself, an Injury is so far from being lessened or null’d by tract of time … is increased, and the longer it continues, the greater it is.”</p> <p>Evidently, the bishop would have agreed with his contemporary Matthew Henry, who once wrote: “Time does not wear out the guilt of sin; nor can we build hopes of impunity upon the delay of judgments. There is no statute of limitation to be pleaded against God’s demands.” In other words, Tillotson does commend prudence and a “reasonable” handling of (very) ancient injuries, which at times may entail the relinquishing of rights of redress. Yet he is steadfast in his moral appraisal of those injuries—namely, when a theft, even a very old theft, is considered “simply in itself,” restitution is still warranted according to “the Nature of things.”</p> <p>One more example related to the problem of time: At one point, DeYoung acknowledges that “the obligation to make restitution may transfer to ancestors,” though he goes on to limit that transfer (somewhat arbitrarily) to <em>one</em> generation only. Very well. How, then, shall we respond to racial thefts that date back to the days of Jim Crow—thefts committed only<em> one</em> generation ago? Would DeYoung agree that the responsibility to redress them endures to this day? That they have not “expired” with so “brief” a passing of time?</p> <p>A third “unresolved ambiguity” that is concerning to DeYoung involves the parties responsible for making restitution. DeYoung is troubled by “the notion that restitution might be based on skin color.” Reparations loses its moral coherence, he argues, when “Whites like Thompson” are held responsible for past sins for no other reason than that they were committed “by people who look like you.” But our book doesn’t make the argument that White people writ large are responsible for reparations. Our attention is firmly fixed, rather, on the church.</p> <p>We argue that the Christian church—because of its social history (its historical role as perpetrators of, accomplices to, and negligent bystanders before the plunder of Black image-bearers and their communities), its ethical tradition, and its missional mandate—bears a singular responsibility to address this tragic history of theft (Chapter 4). Reparations is an enduring obligation of churches in America, not “by virtue of their corporate identity as Whites” (as DeYoung claims we argue) but by virtue of their corporate identity as followers of Christ. Perhaps this is why DeYoung finds it so puzzling that I (Duke), as an Asian American, see myself as implicated in the multigenerational thefts of white supremacy. What could be the basis for this? Not racial pigmentation but ecclesial, corporate identification.</p> <p>We’re aware that this point of correction may prove unsatisfactory for DeYoung and others. As we observe in our essay, after all, one element that is defining to their view of reparations is the impulse to evaluate and critique it through a narrowly individualistic lens. White people, churches—no difference, no matter. DeYoung is frustrated that we are not “absolved of guilt just because we were not personally the slave traders, the slave owners, or the Jim Crow era oppressors.” He denies the corporate dimensions of restitution almost entirely, repeatedly reducing its scope to the concerns of the individual.</p> <p>In doing so, however, he places himself at odds with our Christian (and Reformed) ethical tradition. Baxter, for example, spoke of restitution for the injuries of “whole nations, countries, or communities.” Hopkins and Calvin viewed the Israelites’ plundering of the Egyptians in Exodus 12 as mass compensation for 430 years of toil. And these and numerous other divines taught in their expositions of the Decalogue that the <em>descendants</em> of thieves—not just those who personally committed past thefts—are bound to make restitution. So are <em>accomplices, </em>they insisted, including even those not personally present at the scene of the crime.</p> <p>Alas, responsibility is never merely individual and personal; it is also, in many cases, corporate—shared. This is true of the Reformed tradition’s view of the biblical practice of restitution. And, as DeYoung knows well, this corporate dimension of ethical practice is a hallmark of our covenantal faith.</p> <p><strong>Absence of Moral Closure </strong></p> <p>Reverend DeYoung also argues that our book’s ethical claims are fatally undermined by an absence of any possibility of forgiveness or moral closure for those owing reparations. According to our account of reparations, he claims, one “can never in this life truly be forgiven of the debts they owe.” And on numerous occasions, he asks: “When and how can that debt be discharged?” DeYoung wants to be <em>done</em>.</p> <p>As stated explicitly in our book, we believe that divine forgiveness is manifestly available to even the most repugnant perpetrators of racist plunder. And we affirm, as DeYoung does, that the remission of sins lies at the heart of the Christian faith. But our theological tradition has more to say about forgiveness and restitution than just that. Notably, one’s stubborn refusal to make restitution is viewed as an emblem of unrepentance (“unjust possession is a continual and prolonged theft” —Hopkins). Thus, Augustine declares decisively: “No restitution, no remission.” Also emerging from this same ethical tradition: If you are overwhelmed by an unpayable debt, you must tirelessly strive to do all you can to satisfy it—even to the point of poverty (Bullinger). And if you still cannot, you may “crave forgiveness and cast yourself on the mercy of” your neighbor (Baxter)—and on the mercy of God.</p> <p>It is important to note that DeYoung is concerned about this alleged denial of forgiveness in part because of what he believes it <em>represents—</em>namely, the unqualified embrace of a secular metanarrative (popularized by the “woke”) that has much to say about complicity and confession and nothing to say about redemption. (More on this below.) He is also concerned about what the neglect of forgiveness <em>does—</em>namely, it deprives the guilty of any possibility of obtaining moral and psychological closure. This is one of DeYoung’s chief and most repeated concerns. His case for closure, however, is flawed in a few ways.</p> <p>First, he tends to overstate the specificity and finality with which restitutionary debts are discharged in scripture. One example: In DeYoung’s reading, Zacchaeus knew definitively “<em>how </em>he had sinned, <em>whom </em>he had sinned against, and <em>how </em>to make it right.” True enough, as far as the <em>how’s</em> are concerned. The <em>whom</em>? It’s far more historically plausible to assume that a tax collector could <em>not </em>have personally known or identified every one of the many travelers he had previously defrauded along the roads of Jericho. This is why one interpretative tradition understands Zacchaeus’ relinquishing of half his possessions to the poor not as a spontaneous act of charity, but as a fulfillment of Mosaic requirements in instances when repentant thieves are <em>completely unable to locate</em> those to whom they owe restitution (Num. 5:8).</p> <p>DeYoung’s need for absolute closure not only at times exceeds the text of scripture, it also exceeds historical Christian thought on restitution. For example, in a sermon entitled, “The Nature and Necessity of Restitution” (1711), William Beveridge poses the question: “What must they do, who are conscious to themselves that they have wronged many, but know not who they were?” He responds with boldness and clarity:</p> <blockquote><p>This is the case of many tradesmen, who by false weights, or measures, or other unjust dealing, defraud and cheat persons that come accidentally into their shops or warehouses, <u>whom they never saw before nor since, and perhaps could not know them again if they should see them; so that it is impossible for them ever to make restitution to the persons themselves, or to the families they have wronged; but they must of necessity live and die in debt to them: and it is very difficult, if not impossible for them, ever to extricate themselves out of that miserable condition which their own covetousness hath brought them into;</u> which should make all men very cautious how they deal in the world, lest for the sake of a little money, they contract that guilt which can never be wiped off. The best advice that I can give such is; first, to leave off such wicked courses, and then to compute as well as they can what they have gotten by such unjust dealings, and to make full restitution of whatsoever they have wronged those of whom they know, and to pay the overplus all to the poor.</p></blockquote> <p>Understand that when DeYoung critiques our view as too “nonspecific” and “impossible to ever fulfill,” his point isn’t merely that it’s too hard or unworthy of the effort. He knows that some of the most worthy endeavors in the Christian life are “not in this life to be accomplished” (Owen). His point, rather, is that a “nonspecific” and “impossible” restitution is ethically invalid. Not so, according to Beveridge. In Beveridge&#8217;s view, the impossibility of specifically identifying one’s victims or fully discharging one’s restitutionary debt—<em>even in an entire lifetime</em>—neither undermines the cogency of restitution nor releases one from the obligation to earnestly seek to fulfill it.</p> <p>There is yet another serious flaw to DeYoung’s case for closure that bears mentioning. As noted previously, he approaches the forgiveness of alleged thieves as an abstract principle almost entirely stripped of its original historical and moral context. And that context is, of course, generations of repeated and unrepented instances of diabolical abuse—broken teeth, cracked bones, ravaged bodies, trafficked children, and more. It is only against this moral backdrop that DeYoung’s interest in forgiveness can be properly evaluated. And it is against this backdrop that it becomes clear that DeYoung is expecting (even demanding) a preemptive offer of absolution by an abjectly and generationally abused party before the accused party admits that the sins to be forgiven have been committed in the first place.</p> <p>It remains unclear how long Reverend DeYoung <em>expects </em>it should take to address the unspeakable harms of millions of acts of theft that have been sheltered by millions of Christians and their churches across hundreds of years—an unfathomable and incalculable moral debt. Truly, how long? And how long must our Black brothers and sisters endure these agitated demands for forgiveness? These repeated interjections are reminiscent of the mindset of abusive spouses that we have pastored (and that DeYoung likely has too) over our years of ministry. Upon being confronted with their destructive, cyclical behavior, they prove to be far more furious that they are not <em>already</em> forgiven than they are penitently undone by the untold evils they have committed and the lives they have destroyed.</p> <p>In short, the relentless focus on moral closure for the perpetrator is terribly misplaced. The prioritization of exonerative relief for the guilty and the protection of White people from an “unjustified and unrelenting condemnation” represents an <em>audacious reversal</em> of the reparations conversation—the very aim of which is to seek healing, if not a kind of <em>closure</em>, for <em>Black </em>people in America and in our pews. What ever happened to unrelenting concern not for the swift and final <em>discharge</em> of our debt to African Americans but for the debt <em>itself</em>? Indeed, as we have already observed, the extent to which DeYoung centers the psychological and spiritual condition of White Americans to the utter neglect of Black Americans is not only stunning at times; it is revealing.</p> <p><strong>Incompatible with the Gospel </strong></p> <p>This brings us, finally, to DeYoung’s claim that the moral vision of our book, while sincere, dangerously traffics into the church a secular religion that is fundamentally incompatible with the Christian gospel and the redemptive narrative of scripture. We will comment only briefly here. Ours is a “religious vision,” he insists, that—apart from occasionally cherry picking from the Christian tradition and its scriptures—is “not clearly shaped by the gospel,” does not inherently depend on “Christian categories or the Christian story,” does not require a “Christian accounting of the world,” and is not, in the final analysis, “distinctively Christian.”</p> <p>At this point, we could offer a lengthy rejoinder detailing how our book does in fact rest upon a singularly Christian foundation of faith, hope, and love. But as many of our readers have already witnessed for themselves, it’s all there in the book—<em>the nature of racism as sin and corruption, the emancipatory power of true repentance, the possibility and promise of divine forgiveness, the radical cruciformity and supernatural source of neighbor love, the redemptive story that frames the work of reparations.</em> We won’t at this time tire you with our redundancy.</p> <p>We will, however, invite you to consider this with us: What precisely is this “distinctively Christian” vision that leaves not one moral inch of room for reparations? What articles of faith and what account of the world lead Reverend DeYoung to dismiss the arguments of our book so decisively? We argue in our previous essay that, while this “distinctively Christian” project is perceived to be exclusively scriptural and theological, it is actually more accurately described as a cultural project that merely justifies itself theologically.</p> <p>For this reason, we believe that had we answered all of these aforementioned questions (among others) satisfactorily—even flawlessly—DeYoung still would not change his mind on reparations. How do we know? He told us so in his concluding paragraph:</p> <blockquote><p>Suppose American history is as bad as Kwon and Thompson aver. Suppose our corporate guilt is everything they say it is. Suppose everything they want to see under the banner of reparations would be good for our country and good for our communities. The religious vision is still one that I find more in line with a community organizer’s dream for America than a distinctively Christian one.</p></blockquote> <p>A stunning admission, to be sure. Reverend DeYoung will refuse to loosen his grip on his predetermined assessment that reparations is insufficiently “distinctively Christian,” and will persist in rejecting—wholesale—the call to faithfully seek racial redress <em>even if </em>we were proven correct in our evaluation of America’s “bad” history, namely, that White supremacy is original to America, pervasive across its institutions, and enduring to the present day; <em>even if</em> we were proven correct that the animating energy and social effect of White supremacy on African American life was—and still is—a hellish, multi-dimensional, multi-generational theft, a mass and grotesque violation of the 8th commandment; <em>even if </em>we were proven correct that the church bears corporate responsibility for these thefts, having served as perpetrator, accomplice, and willfully silent bystander before the plunder of African Americans;<em> even if </em>our exegesis of scripture and our appeal to centuries of Christian reflection on the ethics of restitution and restoration we were proven sound; and <em>even if all this </em>proved to be not only true but also<em> good</em> for our nation—morally, spiritually, socially, materially—and our local Black communities, not to mention Christ’s church; <em>still </em>Reverend DeYoung will refuse to loosen his grip on the predetermined assessment that reparations is insufficiently “distinctively Christian.” <em>Still</em> he will persist in rejecting the call to its faithful engagement. He has told us so. We should believe him.</p> <p>Indeed, his is a <em>cultural </em>vision rather than (as he perceives it to be) an exclusively the Asian Americans with Bipolar Disorder urn:uuid:e3555073-62ef-38c9-5c7d-dcdfa0cf3ea2 Tue, 20 Jul 2021 19:39:32 -0500 <p>Asian-Americans are 3 times less likely than their white counterparts to seek treatment for their mental health concerns. </p> <p>This article <a rel="nofollow" href="">Asian Americans with Bipolar Disorder</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">@djchuang</a>.</p> Sanctifying the Status Quo: A Response to Reverend Kevin DeYoung The Front Porch urn:uuid:5cc5f557-4ba4-b841-3ae9-3adb1615d977 Mon, 19 Jul 2021 11:37:01 -0500 <p>“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro&#8217;s great stumbling...</p> <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Sanctifying the Status Quo: A Response to Reverend Kevin DeYoung</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">The Front Porch</a>.</p> <blockquote><p>“I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro&#8217;s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen&#8217;s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate … In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: ‘Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.’ And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.”</p> <p>— Martin Luther King Jr., 1963</p></blockquote> <p><strong>“I Have Been Gravely Disappointed”</strong></p> <p>On April 19th, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sat alone in a cell of the Birmingham Jail. He was more exhausted, discouraged, and afraid than he had ever been. The Birmingham Campaign, a campaign conceived to revive the beleaguered Civil Rights Movement, was faltering in the face of Bull Connor’s high-handed willingness to jail children and assault peaceful protestors with fire hoses and dogs. In the face of this faltering, King found himself in the center of a hurricane of recrimination. Local white authorities actively conspired against him. Local African American leaders expressed open resentment for him. Northern liberals in the Kennedy administration refused to support him. And, as ever, local Klansmen menaced him. In light of these things, the walls of his jail cell—dangerous though they were—provided him a brief, if complicated, respite.</p> <p>As he sat on the bed of his cell, listening to the cries of other prisoners and the laughter of guards, he made an unusual decision. He decided to write a response to his critics. This is something that King rarely, if ever, did. More unusual, however, was the particular subset of critics on whom King decided to focus. Ignoring the concerns of Southern white supremacists, local African American leaders, and Northern political elites, King turned his attention to those whom he considered to be the greatest threat to his work for justice: White clergymen. For years King, in spite of strong opposition from black nationalists, had made it a priority to build collaborative relationships across both racial and ecclesial lines. This, he believed, was not only politically expedient but also theologically just. After all, his goal was not only black liberation; it was also “Beloved Community.”</p> <p>And yet as he sat in that cell on that April afternoon, he decided that he—at risk both to himself and his movement—had a moral obligation to directly confront those who believed themselves to be his allies. His reason for this was that they—through their consistent centering of white theological voices, thoughtless minimization of black suffering, and unceasing prioritization of white comfort—not only obstructed the work of justice that they claimed to value, but also diminished the faith that they vowed to uphold. And so, as an expression of both personal weariness and brotherly faithfulness, King wrote the <em>Letter From a Birmingham Jail</em>.</p> <p>We begin with this history because we believe that it would be difficult to find a clearer contemporary illustration of the tragic tendencies to which King responded than <a href="">the recent review of our book, <em>Reparations: A Christian Call for Repentance and Repair</em></a>, written by the Reverend Kevin DeYoung. And while we confess that we ourselves have not known King’s suffering, do not have his insight, and do not in any way consider ourselves worthy of his mantle, we must also confess that in reading DeYoung’s review, we did share something of his disappointment. And it is out of this disappointment—the disappointment evoked by brotherly love—that we seek to respond.</p> <p><strong>The Essence of our Disagreement</strong></p> <p>To begin, we offer our sincere appreciation to Reverend DeYoung both for reading our book and for taking the time to offer public reflections on it. Some of our differences of conviction (“profound disagreements,” as he described them) are neither insignificant nor fleeting. Still, at a time when many blithely dismiss any serious discussion of reparations, DeYoung took the time to consider our arguments and respond to them. We do not take this for granted, and we wish publicly to honor him for it.</p> <p>Not only this, we also wish to affirm straightforwardly that DeYoung raises important questions about reparations. And we happily acknowledge that we have not fully resolved some of these questions—either in print or in private. He is right, for example, to ask for clarity about who exactly is culpable for reparations and on what grounds. He is also right to press for greater clarity about the nature of reparative obligation and about when that obligation is met. And he is right to wonder about the impact of time—the passing of generations—on the shape of reparative action. Indeed, we are ourselves in daily and ongoing conversation with practitioners around the world seeking to clarify these very matters. This is because, as we repeatedly affirm in the book, we think these questions are best answered not <em>a priori</em> and in the abstract, but through collaborative conversations in local communities. Even so, it is important for both our readers and his readers to understand that we openly share some of DeYoung’s questions and work daily toward their resolution.</p> <p>These questions, however—important as they are—do not yet capture the essence of our disagreement. In our view, our disagreement lies not in the questions themselves, but in the starkly differing ways in which we respectively relate to them. Namely, while DeYoung appears to view the “unresolved ambiguities” around reparations as the grounds for dismissing reparations altogether, we believe these same ambiguities to be an exciting occasion for the ongoing creative work of theological reflection. Here we ask the reader to pause and to ask why this is. <em>Why is it that when faced with the very same conceptual ambiguities DeYoung chooses to close the door on reparations while we seek to open it further?</em> This is a critical question. Indeed, it is in our judgment the critical question. And it is so because it suggests that the essence of our disagreement with DeYoung is not about the technical questions raised by reparations—again, questions that we share—but about how we <em>approach</em> those questions, about our respective dispositions toward them. In other words, the essence of our disagreement is not formally substantive, as Reverend DeYoung seems to believe it to be, but fundamentally <em>methodological</em>. And it is, in this respect, much more serious.</p> <p>Because of this, in what follows, our intent is not to answer specific technical questions about reparations <em>per se</em>, but to expose and critique the method with which Reverend DeYoung approaches them. As we do so, we understand that some of our critics may see this as a form of evasion, as an attempt to escape the force of probing examination. But this is false. To the contrary, we engage these questions—and are engaged by them—every day. The actual reason for our approach is this: We believe that the methodology Reverend DeYoung employs actually keeps him from taking these questions seriously as an occasion for true theological reflection. In fact, it guarantees that he cannot do so. And we believe that until this methodology—a methodology broadly employed in current evangelical conversations on race—is seen, understood, and renounced, the true answers to these important questions will never be found. Indeed, they will never be sought.</p> <p>Put most simply, our view is this: <em>While Reverend DeYoung’s subtitle indicates that he believes his review to be an expression of a theological project, we believe his review actually to be expressive of a cultural project that seeks perennially to justify itself on theological grounds.</em> And that cultural project is, in one inelegant and highly disturbing phrase, <em>white supremacy</em>.</p> <p>Here’s what we don’t mean. We don’t mean—in any way—that Reverend DeYoung, in his private views, personal relationships, or public ministry believes or behaves out of the conviction that “white” people are inherently superior or that “non-white” people are correlatively inferior. Indeed, in the review itself DeYoung explicitly declares his convictions to the contrary. We believe him to be a good and faithful man who resists such heresy and who powerfully proclaims the universal glory of the <em>Imago Dei</em> with integrity and truth.</p> <p>But here is what we do mean. Though we believe that he neither sees it nor intends it, Reverend DeYoung, in his review, methodologically centers whiteness at every turn. Like King’s opponents in 1963, he consistently privileges white theological voices, minimizes white supremacy’s tragic impact on the lives of “non-white” persons, and prioritizes the comfort of white people. And in this respect, while he does not argue for white supremacy, he nevertheless <em>performs</em> its most basic impulses. In so doing, he not only tacitly commends some of the most egregious blindspots and tendencies in our theological tradition, he also inadvertently lends his learned and powerful voice to the tragic work of sanctifying the cultural status quo. Viewed in this light, DeYoung’s review does much more than simply reject our book. It actually perpetuates the very social conditions that our book was written to address.</p> <p>Because we are not insensate to the potentially inflammatory impact of our words here—especially in our particular cultural moment—we wish to be as explicit as possible. Do we believe that Reverend DeYoung, in his personal beliefs and public ministry, is in any way sympathetic to the convictions of white supremacy? <em>We do not.</em> Do we believe that Reverend DeYoung is both heir to and practitioner of a mode of theological reasoning that, in both past and present, has been a crucial factor in sheltering and sustaining the cultural project of white supremacy? <em>We do</em>.</p> <p>In fairness, we do not believe that Reverend DeYoung is in any respect unique in this regard. To the contrary, we believe it to be endemic to much of the American church, especially in its evangelical and Reformed manifestations. Indeed, this is why we suspect his review felt familiar to many readers and found natural resonance with them. This is why, having been trained in the same ecclesial tradition, we anticipated what many of his concerns would be before we even read the review. And this is why we are taking the time to write this response. <em>For we believe that if the evangelical church is ever to play a constructive role in the critical work of healing our nation from the manifest and enduring ravages of white supremacy—a work we believe to be central to any integral missionary vocation in America—we will have to fully and finally reject the pernicious ways that the cultural impulses of white supremacy continue to exert methodological control over the theological life of the church</em>. And we believe that Reverend DeYoung—because of his integrity, his gifts, and his influence—ought to commit himself to that work.</p> <p>Because of this, in what follows we explore three examples of these methodological impulses in his review. We do so in hopes that he, and all who follow him, will both see them and renounce them.</p> <p><strong>1. Centering White Theology</strong></p> <p>Like the culture of white supremacy itself, the theological work that shelters it begins with the centering of white theological voices and the marginalizing of others. Indeed, a careful study of the American Reformed tradition, especially in its evangelical manifestations, shows this to be a core methodological impulse. While some may be tempted by the rejoinder that this impulse is driven by necessity, suggesting that there simply are no non-white Reformed theologians, this is, as a matter of historical fact, false. To the contrary, some of the most important theological actors in the American Reformed tradition—Francis Grimke, Henry Highland Garnet, and the brothers James and Thomas Ames among them—are African American. And not only this, there exists a host of Reformed and evangelical-adjacent African American theologians throughout American history whose ideas and practices are deeply important sources for sanctifying the American theological imagination. And yet with predictable regularity, in much of what now passes for theological work in American evangelicalism, these voices are not heard. Indeed, one suspects that in many circles they are not even known. The fruit of this is that one of the most easily discernible distinctives of American evangelical theology is its de facto centering of white theological voices.</p> <p>This inclination is one of the foundational features of Reverend DeYoung’s review. And, in keeping with the historic practices of his inherited tradition, this inclination expresses itself in two ways.</p> <p><strong><em>Excluding Black Voices</em></strong></p> <p>The first of these is the complete exclusion of any African American theological voices from his review. Indeed, apart from two ill-advised attempts to evoke Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. (ill-advised, because he enlists them in the service of a theological and cultural project that they explicitly and repeatedly disavow), there is no engagement with African American voices of any kind. Consider this for a moment: In reflecting on a topic whose primarily theological articulations have come from African Americans, and commenting upon a book whose primary sources are overwhelmingly African American intellectuals, Reverend DeYoung somehow manages to dismiss reparations without making a single substantive reference to an African American voice. This alone should give DeYoung’s readers serious pause.</p> <p><strong><em>Narrowing ‘the Gospel’</em></strong></p> <p>Predictably, this exclusion leads to the second and more pernicious way that he centers white voices; namely, his habitual identification of the narrow theological priorities of American Reformed evangelicalism (an overwhelmingly white community) with “the gospel.” This is a complex concern that bears elaboration, and so we ask for the reader’s patience.</p> <p>In order to understand this concern, one must see <em>the inescapably contextual nature of theology</em>. While God’s word is eternal and unchanging, the theological work of reflecting on and applying that word is a deeply and inescapably cultural act. Because of this, the distinctive theological concerns, emphases, and systematic formulations of a given moment—while they reflect something true—ought not to imagine themselves to be the normative concerns, emphases, and formulations for all Christian communities across time and context. One thinks, for example, of the fact that a controversy that dominated the church’s theological imagination for several hundred years—the Donatist controversy—is barely even understood, let alone engaged, in our current moment. Indeed, as even casual study of theological history makes plain, the truth is that the theological concerns, emphases, and systematizations of Christian communities vary widely, importantly, and continually. The implication of this is that when any theologian speaks, they must recognize that, while they may speak faithfully and truly in their particular time and context, they do not speak on behalf of the whole of the church or with anything like a comprehensive account of “the gospel.” We speak as limited creatures, always from the relatively narrow frame of our own contextual theological traditions.</p> <p>This insight leads us to recognize the prejudicial role that some of the distinctive theological emphases of Reverend DeYoung’s own tradition—American Reformed evangelicalism—play in his discussion of reparations. In particular, we wish to draw attention to three tendencies in this tradition—tendencies on prominent display in his review—that play an inordinate role in that tradition’s singular capacity to shelter white supremacy.</p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em>The Spiritualizing Tendency</em></p> <p>The first of these is what may be called a <em>spiritualizing tendency</em>—the cultural inclination to imagine that one can talk meaningfully about theology apart from any substantive reflection on politics, economics, or culture; acting as if theology is somehow independent of or sealed off from these more mundane realities. To be fair, we acknowledge that—insofar as disciplinary distinctions are fruitful—theology can and should be seen as its own discipline with its own methodologies, convictions, and goals. But we also acknowledge the plain fact that in American Reformed evangelical tradition this spiritualizing tendency is deployed in a way that allows Christians not only to artfully (if selectively) ignore matters of politics, economics, and culture when doing theology, but also to believe themselves to be somehow more methodologically pure in doing so. And, historically speaking, the undeniable social effect of this spiritualizing tendency has been to allow Christians to talk rhapsodically about the spiritual glories of the gospel even as they leave transparently unjust social conditions unaddressed.</p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em>The Forensic Tendency</em></p> <p>The second of these tendencies—a correlate of the first—is what may be called the <em>forensic tendency</em>. This refers to the tendency to reduce all matters of “the gospel” (again, selectively) not simply to the broadly spiritual but to the exclusively forensic concerns related to justification and substitutionary atonement. This tendency has both conceptual and pastoral horizons. Conceptually, this tendency leads its practitioners to hermeneutically and systematically prioritize matters related to forensic justification as the essence of Christian faith and practice. Pastorally, it leads to a disproportionately singular focus on perceived threats to justification and a relative inattention to (or ignorance of) other real offenses to the Christian faith.</p> <p style="padding-left: 40px;"><em>The Individualizing Tendency</em></p> <p>The last of these tendencies can be referred to as the <em>individualizing tendency</em>. This describes the cultural habit of reducing all theological concerns to their individual and private dimensions, and all ethical concerns to principles of personal responsibility—leaving little to no room for corporate or public considerations that are also manifestly present in scripture. Unsurprisingly, this tendency is intimately related to the others. Both the spiritualizing and forensic tendencies turn one’s gaze inward, away from social conditions (no matter how antichrist they may be) and exclusively toward the benefits of personal salvation. This individualizing tendency is readily seen across the evangelical tradition, which at times appears to uncritically prize and parrot the tenets of American individualism as inalienable Christian values. Tragically, churches embedded in the Reformed tradition—which historically has emphasized the essentially <em>covenantal</em> (and thus, corporate) character of Christian faith and practice—often fare no better. Indeed, this contradiction appears to be troubling evidence of the cultural captivity of these communities, as radical individualism regularly trumps covenantal community.</p> <p>Though American Reformed and evangelical Christians seem not to know it, the fusion of these three tendencies—while expressive of real biblical truths and reflective of deep themes in theological history—is nonetheless <em>culturally distinctive</em>. Specifically, it is distinctive of the kind of theology produced by white (and often Southern) American theologians from the 18th to 20th centuries. It is not, for example, representative of the theological emphases of the Patristic era in either the East or the West. It is not representative of either the Desert Tradition or of the monastic movement that grew from it to become the center of Western theological production for nearly 1,000 years. It is not representative of the founding theologians of the Protestant Reformation, who—in spite of their singularly powerful focus on forensic justification—also managed to write on politics and to do so as a theological act. It is not representative of the historic evangelical movement of the United Kingdom, which succeeded in integrating a strong appeal for personal salvation with a strong appeal for social action. It is not representative of the theology that emerged—and continues to emerge—in non-western Christian communities (the most populous on earth), including those established by immigrant churches in this country. And it is not, in any way, representative of the prophetic tradition of the Black church in America. This is not to say that these traditions did not talk about the spiritual dimensions of the Christian faith, personal responsibility, or forensic justification. They surely did. It is to say, however, that <em>the form of methodological narrowing that we describe above is distinctive of the theology produced in a ver