Mosaix Blogs Full Mosaix Blogs Full Respective post owners and feed distributors Wed, 11 Sep 2019 10:51:13 -0500 Feed Informer 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 Becoming an Ambassador of Racial Reconciliation David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:63b66edc-4852-b6ac-dd9b-4deb4ca40b6f Wed, 28 Jul 2021 21:35:57 -0500 You don’t have to look hard to see how people have been divided along racial, ethnic, cultural, economic, and political lines. All of these have been used to foster disunity... <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">You don’t have to look hard to see how people have been divided along racial, ethnic, cultural, economic, and political lines. All of these have been used to foster disunity and isolate people from one another. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">So, the question is, is it possible to get along with people who are different? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Can bridges be built so that others can be included in your social circle of life?</span></p> <h2><span style="color: #000000;"><b>God’s Word Provides the Answer</b></span></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">No matter what our race or ethnicity is or what our economic status is, or what our political leanings are, we are all loved equally by God. The heart of God is unity. The good news and promise from God’s words are that when we are fully devoted followers of Christ, unity can be achieved. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Acts 8:26-39 says this:</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he started out, and on his way, he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.” Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">so he did not open his mouth. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">In his humiliation, he was deprived of justice. </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">Who can speak of his descendants? </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">For his life was taken from the earth.”</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again but went on his way rejoicing.</span></p> <h2><span style="color: #000000;"><b>Have an Awareness of Others</b></span></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">This story opens a gateway for us so we can have an awareness of the other. There is no way you can include people in your life that are different from you unless you&#8217;re aware, and your awareness has to be on two levels. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">The first level is internal. You&#8217;ve got to be aware of who you are. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">The second level is being aware of who the other is. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">So let&#8217;s go back and really understand the text. The eunuch pulled his chariot right up to Jerusalem. He came all the way from Ethiopia, North Africa, which is roughly 1,500 miles, that’s a LONG journey.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">History teaches us that a man becomes a eunuch (a castrated male) in one of two ways: </span></p> <ol> <li style="font-weight: 400;" aria-level="1"><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">He was captured in war and brutalized.</span></li> <li style="font-weight: 400;" aria-level="1"><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Some major government ruler emasculates him. This was done so he could then guard the harem, the queen, or oversee some major arm of government in an undivided way. </span></li> </ol> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">It was the second with this particular eunuch because the Scripture tells us he was the treasurer for the queen of the Ethiopians. He was the minister of finance, overseeing all the finance in Ethiopia in a single-minded, single-focused way, devotion. </span></p> <h2><span style="color: #000000;"><b>Why Do I Exist? Do I Belong?</b></span></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">But there&#8217;s something about this eunuch that made him unique. He was a God-fearing eunuch and he wanted to have a question in his heart answered. He was looking for meaning in life. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">And one of the questions that he was struggling with was, do I matter? Do I have value? As a eunuch, he had no family of his own. And in the first century, people looked for their descendants to carry on their name, to tell stories of their existence when they passed away. They looked for the perpetuation of their legacy, their value. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">And even though this eunuch had success, he lacked significance. So he took the 1,500-mile journey to Jerusalem, that sacred city, that holy city, that city that was referred to as the city of God. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">In fact, Jeremiah in the Book of Jeremiah 31, verse 6 tells us that if anybody wanted to hear from God, they went to Jerusalem. If somebody wanted to have answers to meaningful, deep-probing questions that they struggle with, they went to Jerusalem. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">So this eunuch not only went to the city of Jerusalem but he went to the temple, the place to hear the voice of God. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Historians tell us the temple was placed on a mountain. This was the third construction of the temple, built by Herod for the Jews. Flavius Josephus, the great Jewish historian, recorded that there were 18,000 workers working on this temple that took 46 years to build. There were 17,000 craftsmen. There were a thousand Jewish priests trained to work with carpentry and various precious metals because the sanctuary could not be touched by Gentiles or non-Jews. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">It is here that the eunuch makes his way into the assembly, and sees the signs posted that tell him no Gentiles beyond this point. And on top of that, as recorded in Deuteronomy 23, verse one, no one who is emasculated or has his male organ cut off may enter the assembly of the Lord. The eunuch stops dead in his tracks. He couldn’t go into worship. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">The only thing he could do was watch the worshipers that paraded past him. He was shut out by the wall, the barrier. The sound of the sermon couldn’t reach his ears because of the barrier. There was no way to enter—he was shut out.</span></p> <h2><span style="color: #000000;"><b>When Someone Is Different</b></span></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">And as the worshipers walked by him, they knew he was different.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">His clothing told them that he was different. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">His skin color told them that he was different. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Everything about him spoke of difference. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">And so he was not included rather he was excluded because of differences. This eunuch provides us with insight and understanding of the people that are in our lives today. They&#8217;re close to us, but yet they&#8217;re far from us. They&#8217;re far from us because somehow we&#8217;ve not seen them. We&#8217;ve not recognized them. We&#8217;ve not realized that we&#8217;ve put up barriers that make them feel excluded from who we are. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">And it&#8217;s based on some of the markers of difference, maybe their race, maybe their ethnicity, maybe their color. And somehow we&#8217;ve ruled them out in our hearts for them to be in our social circle. I wonder how the eunuch must have felt excluded. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">At this point, he summons his driver. He gets back in the chariot and off they go back to Ethiopia. As they&#8217;re on this road the eunuch is reading the Book of Isaiah. It tells us something about this eunuch that tells us that he&#8217;s very educated. </span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">And it tells us he&#8217;s searching.</span><b> </b></span></p> <h2><span style="color: #000000;"><b>What Are You Searching For?</b></span></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Searching for meaning, searching for a sense of belonging, searching for family. And, he&#8217;s looking into Scripture to see if he can belong to God&#8217;s family. Does God have room for me? Do the people of God, can they make room for me? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">And so, as he&#8217;s reading, God is stirring the heart of one of his servants, Philip, the evangelist. Philip, this messianic believer, Philip, the one who goes about looking for people to talk to about Jesus. And as Philip is minding his own business an angel visits him. And then the Holy Spirit affirms the visitation by telling Philip to join himself next to that chariot. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Philip has to run to catch the chariot. And as he&#8217;s running by the chariot he hears the eunuch reading from the Book of Isaiah, the 53rd chapter. The eunuch is searching for meaning and searching for answers and searching for a sense of belonging and searching for a family to be a part of. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Just like this eunuch, there are people in your life that are searching.</span></p> <h2><span style="color: #000000;"><b>Do You Hold the Key for Others?</b></span></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">And God wants you to be a reconciler, He wants you to be able to give them access to who you are, to your heart, so that you can be able to answer not only their deep-searching questions, but so you can build a relationship, a bridge across difference into their lives.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">When I say included, it&#8217;s about including the other in your life. Philip then says while he&#8217;s running next to the chariot, do you understand what you&#8217;re reading? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Here’s why that question is so important and why we need to let it sink in.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">They knew the difference that each other had, the difference in skin color, the difference in attire, the difference in language, the difference in the fact that even though Philip was a Christ-follower, the eunuch was searching to become a follower of someone.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">And so when they looked at each other, they could visibly see the markers of difference, but they both had an awareness. I call that intercultural competence, their level of knowledge about what it means to have intercultural interactions was at a high point so they made room for difference.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Philip&#8217;s question was not condemning. It was not accusatory. It was not negative. It didn&#8217;t have bias. It wasn&#8217;t tainted with assumptions that made the eunuch feel bad. Neither did the eunuch look at Philip that way, they looked at each other with respect. And that&#8217;s what needs to take place when you build a lifestyle of bridges. </span></p> <h2><span style="color: #000000;"><b>Even Though We Are Different We Can Get Along</b></span></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">They are different from each other yet they&#8217;re sitting next to each other so they can both learn from one another. Philip understood the longing within the eunuch’s heart. He longed for belonging. He longed to be a part of a family. The eunuch mattered to Philip.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">If you&#8217;re going to be someone that is cross-cultural and effective, when it comes to developing intercultural competence, the ability to build healthy relationships with others, you must be able to be respectful towards people who are different from you. And they must see that respect. They must feel that respect. There must be an awareness that you convey to them that says I see you. You matter to me, and the eunuch demonstrated this when he said to Philip, please sit next to me. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">At this point, the eunuch asked, how can I understand? And there, Philip begins to speak about Jesus to the eunuch. Scholars affirm that Philip must have scrolled down in the scroll to Isaiah 56 and landed on verse three and read this part to the eunuch: </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">“No foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord should say, the Lord will exclude me from his people. And the eunuch should not say, look, I&#8217;m a dried-up tree. For the Lord says this: ‘For the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths and choose what pleases me, and hold firmly to my covenant, I will give them, in my house and within my walls, a memorial, and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give each of them an everlasting name that will never be cut off.’ “</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">The eunuch must have wondered if he was hearing properly. Does God have a bridge that gives me access to him and access to his people? Can I be on the inside of the wall, not on the outside any longer?</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">What do I need to do? </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">And Philip says, you must believe in your heart, the Lord Jesus. And then as a confirmation, you must be baptized. It&#8217;s an outward sign of an inward change. After hearing that the eunuch immediately ordered his driver, stop the chariot. And he says to Philip, here&#8217;s water. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">They both stepped out of the chariot. They walked across the road, walked into the water and there Philip baptized the eunuch in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And he brought them up out of the water. And the Scripture says the eunuch went home rejoicing. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Why? Because he was included. </span></p> <h2><span style="color: #000000;"><b>What Can You Do? </b></span></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">One of the greatest things you can do is to include people in your life who are different from you.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">This requires having an awareness of who you are and who they are. When I have self-awareness, it means that I know how I&#8217;m walking through the world. What role do my race, my ethnicity, my culture, and even my faith plays in how I&#8217;m being interpreted by others. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Sometimes those markers are compounded and create a negative interpretation from others towards me. Sometimes those markers are compounded and create a positive interpretation. But I have to be aware of who I am. The eunuch was aware. Philip was aware. And when these two men met each other, both having an exemplary level of self-awareness, their personal awareness as to who they are and their markers of difference did not make their rebuff. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">In fact, they welcomed each other. And as a result, the eunuch was transformed and he became one of the first Gentile believers of Jesus from north Africa. And he went on his way.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Are you ready and willing to do what it takes to be a reconciler? To build bridges? To include others?</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> 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 Cultural Landscape Mapping in Ministry perSpectives 12 urn:uuid:458a4a1c-4de9-a2a7-e9f6-7bfbaa657c74 Sat, 17 Jul 2021 12:05:15 -0500 Jan Paron, PhD &#124; July 17, 2021 Cultural Iceberg Model When an iceberg floats on water, ten percent rises above &#8230;<p><a href="">Continue reading <span class="meta-nav">&#8594;</span></a></p> <p>Jan Paron, PhD | July 17, 2021</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Cultural Iceberg Model</span></strong></h3> <p>When an iceberg floats on water, ten percent rises above the surface visible to the naked eye while the remaining ninety percent hides submerged below sea level. Without sonar equipment, the seafarer cannot realize the iceberg’s girth or understand its nature. Culture resembles an iceberg in appearance, dimension, and attributes. Edward Hall in his seminal work&nbsp;<em>Beyond Culture&nbsp;</em>(1976)<a href="//3399CBFF-9D4E-416F-B71A-C4BCB3F3E714#_ftn1"><sup>[1]</sup></a>&nbsp;likened a society’s culture to an iceberg with some aspects visible above the water and larger hidden beneath the surface. He called the external aspects of the cultural iceberg as surface culture and the internal as hidden culture (Figure 1.1). Based on the premises of Hall’s surface and hidden cultures, a cultural landscape map of a given population guides the ministry practitioner across the&nbsp;wide-ranging effects of the two composite cultures.</p> <p class="has-text-align-center"><strong>Figure 1.1</strong></p> <p class="has-text-align-center"><strong>Hall&#8217;s Cultural Landscape Model</strong></p> <div class="wp-block-image"><figure class="aligncenter size-large"><a href=""><img data-attachment-id="5675" data-permalink="" data-orig-file="" data-orig-size="696,251" 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="3094fe4a-d32d-4733-8dfd-048ff21cf946_4_5005_c" data-image-description="" data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" src="" alt="" class="wp-image-5675" srcset=" 696w, 150w, 300w" sizes="(max-width: 696px) 100vw, 696px" /></a></figure></div> <h3><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">External: Surface Culture</span></strong></h3> <p>The external or surface part of culture lies at the iceberg tip. When first engaging with a particular culture, one experiences only the surface ten percent of a given culture. These characteristics demonstrate the surface level behaviors a culture exhibits—the&nbsp;see, hear, and touch behaviors and rules group membership teach and reinforce in their culture. A given culture may change expectations for behavior over time, i.e., generation to generation. Further, a person may culture surf adapting to the culture at hand.)</p> <p>One acquires cultural behaviors and rules through explicit<a href="//3399CBFF-9D4E-416F-B71A-C4BCB3F3E714#_ftn2"><sup>[2]</sup></a>&nbsp;learning. Members of a given people group consciously learn rules and customs within the culture through experiences from others within the group. Surface-level behaviors consist of habitual patterns that manifest in a group’s daily culture (Kraft, 2008). Regardless of the societal culture, a person gains knowledge of surface culture consciously and purposely.&nbsp;</p> <p>People often misjudge a culture, whether an individual or collective, by making assumptions the visible ten percent defines the totality of a culture. However, the sum of a culture’s parts equals a more developed framework. To grasp a culture in totality, one also must investigate its hidden dimensions. Culture does not remain static nonetheless since individuals and people groups change, thereby culture continually fluxes. When cultures and societies interact, each mutually influences the other. Cultures leave their distinct flavor in a population, changing its overall dynamics. Thus, while a person gains a more holistic understanding by learning cultural surface and hidden dimensions, one constantly must interpret it through the lens of change.</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-left"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Internal: Hidden Culture (Also Called Deep)</span></strong></h3> <p>The internal culture (hidden or deep culture) lies below the surface of a society comprising ninety percent of culture. It undergirds external behaviors. These encompass norms for&nbsp;rituals, language, roles, ideologies, philosophies, values, tastes, attitudes, desires, assumptions, and myths. The most hidden dimension of culture comprises one’s worldview. Kraft (2008) defines&nbsp;<em>worldview</em>&nbsp;as “the totality of the culturally structured images and assumptions in terms of which a people both perceive and respond to reality.”<a href="//3399CBFF-9D4E-416F-B71A-C4BCB3F3E714#_ftn3"><sup>[3]</sup></a>&nbsp;Most important, worldview structures culture’s deepest level with presuppositions and mental images upon which people base their lives.&nbsp;Since cultural worldview remains hidden, one cannot observe it. Hidden dimensions of culture occur through implicit learning. Worldview forms&nbsp;unwritten, usually invisible norms for behavior that guide appropriate or inappropriate behaviors expected for that culture.</p> <p>Schein (2008) defined the mechanics of culture as the “shared basic assumptions learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptations and internal integration…to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems.&#8221;<a href="//3399CBFF-9D4E-416F-B71A-C4BCB3F3E714#_ftn4"><sup>[4]</sup></a>&nbsp;While cultures explicitly teach rules for engaging life, an individual’s personal hidden dimensions of culture determines how one integrates external adaptations with internal integration. The aggregate emotional components of hidden dimensions drive how one responds to a culture’s dos and don’ts. Internal culture found below the surface runs unconsciously on subjective knowledge.</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Cultural Landscape Mapping</span></strong></h3> <p>Cultural landscape mapping provides a neutral analysis of an intended population’s ethos (worldview, values, and external practices) by gathering cultural data for supporting discipleship across cultures. The map helps a ministry leader respond to culture based on the biblical disciple model adapted to human needs applying principles of grace-filled leadership.</p> <p>The process of cultural landscape mapping displays cultural patterns from both surface and hidden cultures of an individual as well as the collective body. It gives a working portrait of what motivates surface (external) and hidden (internal) of behaviors, feelings, judgments, and mental constructs from cultural learning and interactions with various group memberships. The leader must understand one’s own and team culture in comparison to the aggregate and individual cultures of ministry participants.&nbsp;</p> <p>As you approach cultural landscape mapping, keep in mind a few key thoughts from anthropological, missiological, and theological perspectives. Each carries a distinct focus, yet all converge to provide a comprehensive body of knowledge when approaching cultural landscape mapping. Anthropologists study culture from seen and unseen cultural patterns and experiences apparent in human culture; missiologists view culture from its interaction between God’s mission and humankind’s nature; and theologians look at culture through biblical lenses emphasizing ethics. Ministry heads combine all three perspectives as practitioners in grace-filled leadership with the goal of discipling across cultures.&nbsp;</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Three Levels of Cultural Landscape Mapping</span></strong></h3> <p>The cultural landscape map includes three levels of culture: level one culture (external&nbsp;practices), level two culture (unspoken rules), and level three culture (unconscious rules). The levels increase in complexity from external practices, to unspoken rules, and ending with unconscious rules associated with worldview. Although every level stands independent of the other, in turn, each also affects it (See Figure 1.2). One’s experiences and encounters with culture shape worldview in the level three culture of unconscious rules, which in turn, influences level two unspoken rules that comprise values and then drives level one culture visible in external practices.<a href="//3399CBFF-9D4E-416F-B71A-C4BCB3F3E714#_ftn5"><sup>[5]</sup></a>&nbsp;(Figure 1.3)&nbsp;</p> <p class="has-text-align-center"><strong>Figure 1.2</strong></p> <p class="has-text-align-center"><strong>Cultural Landscape Mapping Level Influences</strong></p> <div class="wp-block-image"><figure class="aligncenter size-large is-resized"><a href=""><img loading="lazy" data-attachment-id="5679" data-permalink="" data-orig-file="" data-orig-size="611,396" 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="9B9B54A4-A789-4617-BEEF-92F0FF0077AC_1_201_a" data-image-description="" data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" src="" alt="" class="wp-image-5679" width="481" height="312" srcset=" 481w, 150w, 300w, 611w" sizes="(max-width: 481px) 100vw, 481px" /></a></figure></div> <p class="has-text-align-center"><strong>(Based on Morris Opler, 1945)</strong></p> <h3><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Level One Culture (External Practices: </span></strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color"><strong>See, Hear, and Touch Behaviors</strong>)</span></h3> <p>This level orders a specific society through visible external practices of historical patterns, values, societal arrangements, manners, ideas, and ways of living. Members of a given culture know the rules that guide their external culture. Surface culture may include language, food, music, art, power distance, dance, dress/clothing, greetings, esthetics, etc.</p> <p>Level one culture has a relatively low emotional load. Therefore, if the source culturally miscommunicates a message or action with the receiver, one can correct it without extensive damage. For example, ministry leaders at the Lighthouse Church of All Nations, a multicultural church in the Chicago metro area, consistently greet newcomers with the love of Christ. Showing love through words (Praise the Lord!), gestures (handshake/hug), and other actions govern leadership behaviors that encompass the external or surface church culture at the church. If a leader gives a hearty welcome to a visitor unaccustomed to it, the gesture may make the person uncomfortable. With quick adjustments on the leader’s part with a different greeting, more than likely, one can turn around the cultural differences. Again, the emotional load carries low baggage.</p> <p>To create a cultural landscape map of the level one external practices requires careful observation and research of an aggregate people group to determine their cultural patterns. Do remember that people may code switch to adapt to various subcultures. For example, a person might converse with an informal vernacular among friends, but change to one more formal when interacting with colleagues in a work culture. So, what the observer sees in a given people’s encounter with a particular environment changes with another. Further, bear in mind visible external practices and invisible worldview assumptions connect. One’s underlying worldview often manifests itself in external practices. Thus, patterns in visible actions provide clues as to the way people think. Communication, in particular, helps one understand how people perceive life. Hiebert related the interrelationship between language and worldview “opens the door into the way people think because words are one of the primary ways in which people communicate their inner thoughts.”<a href="//3399CBFF-9D4E-416F-B71A-C4BCB3F3E714#_ftn6"><sup>[6]</sup></a>&nbsp;In other words, external practices demonstrate cultural signs of the deepest held beliefs about life contained in worldview.&nbsp;</p> <ul><li><strong>Language (Oral and written).</strong>&nbsp;The cultural influence on linguistics includes what you can hear or read such as dialect, speech patterns, jargon, tone of voice, pitch, silence, rate of speech, accent, pronunciation, punctuation, vocabulary, grammar, style, facial expressions, academic vocabulary, vocational vocabulary, religious vocabulary, family vocabulary, speech impediments, generational differences, text, E-mail, social media, cell, face-to-face, memory loss, phrases, first language, second language, prayer language (or no prayer), etc. To note, the United States does not have an official language, while 28 states named English as their designated languages including Hawaii identifying English and Hawaiian as its official.<a href="//3399CBFF-9D4E-416F-B71A-C4BCB3F3E714#_ftn7"><sup>[7]</sup></a></li><li><strong>Food.&nbsp;</strong>By observing the comprehensive aspects of food, one learns about culture reflected in different facets of life. Though taken for granted as a daily necessity, consider food’s multiple dimensions. Examples: time spent eating, dine in or out, eat with others or alone, dining times, food tastes, food preparation, diet, food to express emotions or celebrations, food determined by wealth, prestige foods, ethnic foods, clean/unclean rules, organizational food (church, family, business, etc.), healthy vs. unhealthy, hot vs. cold foods (Asian and Mediterranean), food cures for disease, prepared food vs. fresh food, availability of food, etc.&nbsp;</li><li><strong>Dress.</strong>&nbsp;External culture also encompasses dress, a personal expression of self or group identity or utilitarian fashion. Examples: style, generational differences, organizational affiliation, national culture, covered/covered, class, blend in/stand out, tattoos, formal/informal, color for men/color for women, color in general, work; etc.&nbsp;</li><li><strong>Music.</strong>&nbsp;What role does music play in culture? Humankind incorporates music into the fabric of life from mile markers to worship to entertainment. Examples: Taste, selections, church/secular, music as part of storytelling, extent played, leisure-time pursuit, way of life, lifestyle, worship, music as language; weddings and funerals; graduation; war; sports; dinner etc.</li><li><strong>Visual Arts.</strong>&nbsp;(Drama, fine art, and dance)&nbsp;Visual arts influence society throughout the ages such as chronicling history, illustrating social change, providing political commentaries, and communicating creative expression.&nbsp;Examples: color palette; podcasts, YouTube; storytelling through drama, mystery, or comedy; political cartoons; drawings in the bathroom, doodles on a napkin; religious art forms; praise dance; sermon illustrations; theater; house decorations; magazines, digital art; poetry, proverbs, etc.</li><li><strong>Literature.&nbsp;</strong>Literature serves different purposes in various cultures. Examples: types of literature read (Bible vs. Science), tracks/pamphlets, propaganda, literary level, oral storytelling vs. written narrative, folklore, reading in multiple languages, literary genres, literary vs non-literary text, social media, business languages, role of literature, and symbols associated with text, etc.&nbsp;</li><li><strong>Games.</strong>&nbsp;Entire scholarly journal exists exploring games and culture, most notably the social, economic and political aspects of their mutual interaction. Examples: interactive media, military games, cards, video games, sports, or toys (across generations)</li><li><strong>Celebrations or Rites.</strong>&nbsp;Cultural celebrations reflect rituals that contain specific meaning and sustain culture. Examples: birthday parties, Bar or Bat Mitzvah, Christmas, weddings, death rituals, cleansing, fasting, goal targets (Weight Watchers), family reunion, marks on a wall marking a child’s growth, etc.</li></ul> <h3><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Level Two Culture (Unspoken Rules: Values)</span></strong></h3> <p>The second level of culture comprises unspoken rules directly below the visible level of culture’s surface. This level has a higher emotional load than the previous focusing on values. While first level features the see, hear, and touch external practices, the second level encompasses values. Pludeddemann described values as “cultural ideals link abstract philosophy to concrete practices.”<a href="//3399CBFF-9D4E-416F-B71A-C4BCB3F3E714#_ftn8"><sup>[8]</sup></a>&nbsp;He furthers explained that values are subconscious assumptions about how people address power, time, personal space, individualism, and status.<a href="//3399CBFF-9D4E-416F-B71A-C4BCB3F3E714#_ftn9"><sup>[9]</sup></a>&nbsp;Values also include conversational patterns, rules of conduct, nonverbal communication, patterns of handling emotions, eye contact, concept of beauty, courtship practices, and notions of leadership. Misunderstandings in addressing culture at this level carry a high weight because it has a high emotional load. Thus, it can cause mix-ups and tensions.&nbsp;</p> <p>Actions include:</p> <ul><li><strong>Power Distance: Small Power vs. Large Power Distance.</strong>&nbsp;Hofstede defined power distance as “the extent to which the less powerful members of institutes and organizations within a country expect and accept power is distributed unequally.”<a href="//3399CBFF-9D4E-416F-B71A-C4BCB3F3E714#_ftn10"><sup>[10]</sup></a>&nbsp;People from cultures which function in small power distance relate to one another as equals regardless of position, have decision-making responsibilities, contribute and critique decision making of those in power, participate in consultative or democratic power relations, like rewards, and value a flat organizational culture.<a href="//3399CBFF-9D4E-416F-B71A-C4BCB3F3E714#_ftn11"><sup>[11]</sup></a>&nbsp;Those from cultures with a dominant large power distance show centralized authority, paternalistic management style, institutionalized inequalities, highly structured vertical organization, power and authority, and status and rank (Hofstede, 2005; 2013). Examples: (Large Power Distance) people who function well in a traditionally organized academic setting, prisons structure, factory settings as opposed to (Small Power Distance) technology industry, open classroom, collaborative communities, etc.&nbsp;</li><li><strong>Personal space (Proxemics)</strong>&nbsp;Personal space involves a group’s rule on use of space and its effects on behavior, communication, and social interaction.<a href="//3399CBFF-9D4E-416F-B71A-C4BCB3F3E714#_ftn12"><sup>[12]</sup></a>&nbsp;It includes subcategories of haptics (touch), kinesics (body movement), vocalics (paralanguage), and chronemics (structure of time). Hall emphasized the interrelationship between space and communication in culture.<a href="//3399CBFF-9D4E-416F-B71A-C4BCB3F3E714#_ftn13"><sup>[13]</sup></a>&nbsp;Examples:<strong>&nbsp;</strong>Preference of distance between people; working space; office size; living; social order; public spac; personal space; confinement; space location; geographical locale; space in moral, formal, and informal situations; sacred space; post modern view as fragmented, chaotic and disorder; modernity as ordered and structured; unity betw 3 Secrets to a Powerful Prayer Life David D Ireland, Ph.D. urn:uuid:c6ad7420-c146-9c15-ba81-2554613cafd8 Tue, 13 Jul 2021 21:10:00 -0500 Did you know that the Bible is actually a prayer playbook? It&#8217;s like a diary of characters in Scripture that taught us and tells us their secrets. The only difference... <h2><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Did you know that the Bible is actually a prayer playbook?</strong></span></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">It&#8217;s like a diary of characters in Scripture that taught us and tells us their secrets. The only difference is that this diary isn’t hidden in a secret place under lock and key. This diary is God’s Word, the Bible, and it’s available and free to anyone who wants to read it and access the “secrets” of prayer. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">In 1 Samuel 23, we get a glimpse into David’s prayer playbook. Starting with verse 4 here’s what we read:</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">&#8220;When David was told, &#8216;Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are looting the threshing floors,&#8217; he inquired of the Lord, saying, &#8216;Shall I go and attack these Philistines?&#8217; The Lord answered him, &#8216;Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.&#8217; But David&#8217;s men said to him, &#8216;Here in Judah, we&#8217;re afraid. How much more, then, if we go to Keilah against the Philistine forces?&#8217; Once again, David inquired of the Lord and the Lord answered him, &#8216;Go down to Keilah, for I&#8217;m going to give the Philistines into your hand.&#8217; So David and his men went to Keilah, fought the Philistines, and carried off their livestock. He inflicted heavy losses on the Philistines and saved the people of Keilah.&#8221; Verse 6 says, &#8220;Now, Abiathar, son of Ahimelek, had brought the ephod down with him when he fled to David at Keilah.</span></i></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">It&#8217;s important for us to understand some of the cultural requirements of the text. It was a king&#8217;s job to protect the people, but Saul could care less about the Israelites living at Keilah, in the area of Judah. </span><b>He could care less.</b></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Why? He was so envious of David. Driven by jealousy, all he could think about was killing David. Saul then went to Nob, a place where there were some 85 priests who lived there along with their families. When Saul found out that one of the priests had helped out David, Saul was so enraged that he then had all the priests killed. Only one priest escaped named Abiathar. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">As Abiathar escaped he took the linen ephod with him. It&#8217;s a garment, an outer garment, that the priest would wear. Then on top of the ephod will be a breastplate, and the breastplate would have the 12 stones representing the 12 tribes of Israel. In essence, when a priest would go into prayer, they don&#8217;t go in by themselves; they go in bringing the needs of the people to prayer before God. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">After Abiathar escaped, he ran to the cave of Adullam where David was because Saul was trying to kill him. When David found out what&#8217;s going on at Keilah and the Philistines there, he had somehow empathy for them and he goes into prayer.</span></p> <h2><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Prayer Play One: Pray Strategically</strong></span></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">The starting point of prayer is always a genuine concern for the needs of people in your sphere of influence. Now, no doubt, David had his own worries. Saul is trying to kill him. He&#8217;s hunting him down like a wild animal and he has an army with him. So though David was being hunted, he had this concern, this sense of compassion; the Philistines, they are raiding all of the food pantries of those living at Keilah and they&#8217;re fighting against these Israelite brothers, and Keilah was &#8230; the word Keilah means fortress. That means that they&#8217;re surrounded by mountains and they&#8217;re walled in, so to speak.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">So David&#8217;s &#8230; David&#8217;s so concerned about them. They&#8217;re being starved; no food left. They&#8217;re being fought against by the Philistines. David goes into prayer. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Most of us would say,  &#8220;Wait, I’ve got my own problems. Why am I going to pray about you? I need prayer. I need help.&#8221; But David strategically inquired of God. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Sometimes we&#8217;re so preoccupied with ourselves we don&#8217;t even realize that God has a plan for us. The interesting thing about God, and I must admit that I don&#8217;t like it, but it&#8217;s fact anyway, God, He tells you the things that He wants to do for you. He told David, &#8220;David, I&#8217;m going to make you king,&#8221; and that&#8217;s great. You would think “next stop, the throne.&#8221; No. Scholars say for about 10 years, Saul chased David up hills, down hills, in caves, out of caves. For some 10 years, Saul tried to kill David. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">So my question then to God would be, &#8220;God, you spoke through Samuel, the prophet. You gave a very clear prophetic word that David would be king. Why all this trouble? Why give him all these problems? Why have him run for his life for 10 years?&#8221; </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">They had the Bible as the answer. Troubles help us. You would never have a prayer life if you didn&#8217;t have trouble. You would never grow up if you didn&#8217;t have trouble. Come on, we can applaud the Lord. We all want a college degree, but we don&#8217;t want to pay tuition. I mean, you understand. We just want everything by osmosis. The same thing, we all want to have God&#8217;s blessings, but we don&#8217;t want to have a life of prayer. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">But it&#8217;s through the troubles and the fights that we find ourselves getting stronger.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Oftentimes, we&#8217;re not like David. David was very specific and he prayed strategically and we ought to do the same. When God said to him, &#8220;Go and fight the Philistines. Go and save Keilah,&#8221; he announced it to his 400 men. &#8220;Guys, we&#8217;re going to go and fight the Philistines and save Keilah.&#8221; The men said, &#8220;Oh no, we&#8217;re not going anywhere,&#8221; and they gave three plausible reasons. First, &#8220;We&#8217;re afraid right here in Judah. In other words, Saul&#8217;s trying to kill us. Right where we are, we&#8217;re afraid. Why are we going to go three miles away in this fortress area?&#8221; Second, &#8220;Keilah is a fortress. We&#8217;re not going to go in there because the moment we go in, all Saul has to do is block the entrance and we can&#8217;t come back out. We&#8217;re dead.” Third, “those Philistines, they&#8217;re crazy. We only have 400 men and why are we going to go and fight against Keilah that has nothing to do with us?”</span></p> <h2><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Prayer Play Two: Listen Carefully</strong></span></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">So they gave those three plausible reasons. David, he didn&#8217;t dismiss them. What he did was he went back to God in prayer. May I suggest now, as I pull this second principle from David&#8217;s Prayer Playbook, what I learned when I go into prayer is this: Listen carefully. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">David went in prayer to God: &#8216;Should I go after these Philistines and teach them a lesson?&#8217; God said, &#8216;Go, attack the Philistines and save Keilah.&#8217; But David&#8217;s men said, &#8216;We live in fear of our lives right here in Judah. How can you think of going to Keilah in the thick of the Philistines?’ So David went back to God in prayer. God said, &#8216;Get going. Head for Keilah. I&#8217;m placing the Philistines in your hands.&#8217; &#8220;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Now watch this. God never chastised or was angry with David because he inquired about the same thing a second time. Inquiring to God about the same thing multiple times is not an indicator of doubt necessarily. It&#8217;s an indication that you just want clarity, and God is very patient. He&#8217;s very kind. He&#8217;s very gentle. He&#8217;s very sensitive. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">So when David cried out to God, he gave space for God to respond. Never let selfishness or pride cause you to monopolize spiritual conversations with God. Don&#8217;t think that the amount and number of words you are using are going to somehow get God to respond faster.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Pause. Be quiet for a moment. Listen. Consider even going on a prayer walk, taking the Lord with you. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Prayer is a dialogue, not a monologue. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">God wants you to talk with Him and He also wants to talk to you. </span></p> <h2><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Prayer Play Three: Rescue People</strong></span></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Now we come to the point where, when David returns to his men and he tells them, &#8220;Guys, I went back to prayer and God told me the same thing He told me before. He said, &#8216;Go and fight the Philistines. Go and rescue Keilah.&#8217; &#8221; The men say, &#8220;Okay, cool, let&#8217;s do it.&#8221; They went and they pummeled the Philistines, and not only rescued Keilah but took the Philistine stuff. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">What would have happened had David not prayed on the front end? Thankfully, he prayed. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">So I ask the question, what would happen if you committed to praying every day? If you don’t, what promises of God would you have left on the table unfulfilled? What blessings would you have left in the camp of the enemy and that you have not retained? 1 Samuel 23:5 says, &#8220;David and his men went there,&#8221; that is, to Keilah, &#8220;and fiercely attacked the Philistines. They killed many of them, and then led away their cattle, and rescued the people of Keilah.&#8221;</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">Create a prayer plan and think about what goals you have in terms of prayer goals and prayer requests or objectives. Who needs to get delivered that&#8217;s bound? What marriages need to get rescued and healed that is faltering? What relationship needs to be just set free? What child or children or grandchildren that the enemy has just hoodwinked and fooled and they&#8217;re so wrapped in darkness, they don&#8217;t even know who they are, lost their mind, lost their mental faculties? Who needs to get delivered?</span></p> <h2><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Get Out of Your Own Way</strong></span></h2> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">David&#8217;s victory motivated others to conquer fear. David&#8217;s victory, motivated others to not be controlled by reason or logic. Sometimes our biggest enemy is reason and logic. We reason ourselves away. We&#8217;re intelligent people. Some of you have three, four master&#8217;s degrees. Some of you have not just one PhD. You have a couple of them. I&#8217;m scared of you. But the problem is you have no power. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">You&#8217;re smart analytically, foolish spiritually, and that is my biggest enemy. My educational accomplishments get in the way, often. The first thing that happened to me spiritually when I finished my Ph.D., that was back in 2002, God said to me, &#8220;David, give Me the degree.&#8221; What He&#8217;s saying in essence, &#8220;I still want you to depend on Me. Don&#8217;t let your intellect be the source of everything you do. You need to wait on Me. You need to understand,&#8221; and I&#8217;m saying the same thing for you. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">I&#8217;m not against education or degrees. I love education. But I realize that oftentimes when we reason through things with our natural intellect, it oftentimes makes us feel so independent of God.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">To recap, three lessons we can learn from David&#8217;s Prayer Playbook: pray strategically, listen carefully and rescue the people. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400; color: #000000;">If you can do these three things, you&#8217;re on your way to experiencing tremendous victory in God in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead of us.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><span style="font-weight: 400;">NOTE: We have put together two books that will help you jump-start your prayer life. They are </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">40-Day Journey: The Power of Prayer</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;"> and </span><i><span style="font-weight: 400;">Spiritual Warfare</span></i><span style="font-weight: 400;">. You can download them both by </span><span style="color: #003300;"><a style="color: #003300;" href=""><span style="font-weight: 400;">CLICKING HERE</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></span></span></p> <p>WATCH THE ENTIRE MESSAGE</p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> My Checklist to Preaching Blog - Bryan Loritts urn:uuid:40f996d0-935b-5724-f930-58b6c5fa788b Mon, 05 Jul 2021 16:22:40 -0500 <p class="">One of my greatest joys in life has been mentoring young preachers. Over the years I’ve been asked about my approach to preaching, and what I specifically think about whenever I put a message together? Specifically, there are seven questions I ask of every message I preach, and I thought I would share those seven questions with you.&nbsp;</p><p class=""><br><strong><em>Did I privilege the text?</em></strong><br>For some preachers the Bible is the diving board, while the pool becomes whatever waters they want to spend the next half-hour or so swimming in. I’m sure you’ve heard preachers like this, where the text is the launching point to the message, not the message. Effective, transformative preaching necessitates allowing the Bible to not only be the diving board, but the pool. After all, God’s promise is that his Word would not return void (Isaiah 55:11). This is why I am a big believer in expository preaching, which can be defined as allowing the text to set the agenda for the message. I know I’m privileging the text when I’m pointing people to the historical, grammatical and cultural context. The text is setting the agenda for the message when rich theological themes, and words are being examined and excavated. My cultural insights and catchy illustrations can and have returned void, but God’s Word will not.</p><p class=""><strong><em><br>Was the message simple, not shallow?</em></strong><br>The job of the preacher is not to overwhelm the people with word studies, where for a half-hour or so they simply say their version of, “It means. It means. It means,” and then sit down. Dr. Charles Ryrie once quipped that the mark of brilliance is the ability to make the complex simple. Jesus was simple but not shallow. He took deep concepts like the kingdom of heaven and the end times, and used stunning visual illustrations to keep his message simple. To help me with simplicity, I do two things. First, I write my sermons out word for word, not so I can memorize them, but so that I can internalize and gain much needed clarity. As H.B. Charles says, “Preachers, write yourself clear.” Secondly, I work to frame my points applicationally. My explanations answer the question, “What does it mean?” My applications answer the question, “What does it mean to me?” This goes a long way towards simplicity.</p><p class=""><br><strong><em>Did I articulate the universal felt need?<br></em></strong>Paul tells Timothy that all Scripture is profitable (II Timothy 3:16), which means it is useful. A major part of the usefulness of Scripture is that it deals with deep needs common to humanity. I believe every text deals with a felt need. When Paul tells the Corinthians that he is to be regarded as a servant of Christ (I Corinthians 4:1), he is dealing with the felt need of identity. Just about every passage in Solomon’s memoirs (Ecclesiastes) deals with the felt need of purpose. Job addresses the felt need of suffering and evil. Even more so, Paul models this when on Mars Hill he points to the altar dedicated to the unknown God, and preaches a sermon where he shows our felt need of worship (Acts 17).&nbsp;</p><p class="">There are several reasons why this is a key question to address. One is that not long into your sermon, every listener is asking themselves the question, “Why should I listen?” The sooner you can get to the universal felt need of the text, the more likely you are to compel them to listen to you. Secondly, just like Paul used the felt need of worship to appeal to non-believers, so identifying the felt need of humanity is a compelling way to engage and include non-Christians in your message.</p><p class=""><strong><em><br>Did I overwhelm them with law?<br></em></strong>John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church, had his basic framework for preaching. He always sought to begin with the love of God, overwhelm the people with the law of God, rendering them hopeless, and then conclude with the grace of God. If people leave my sermon feeling as if they can achieve the things I expounded in their own strength, I have not accurately preached the text. Husbands should not leave a message on Ephesians 5:22-33, feeling as if they can do those things on their own. A wife should not feel as if she can muster up the strength to submit to her husband on her own. And singles should feel it’s impossible to live a celibate lifestyle by simply applying more will power. Like a great movie, a great sermon should have some sad scenes, where people want to cry, devastated by their own inadequacies and sins.</p><p class=""><br><strong><em>Did I revive them with grace?<br></em></strong>But, like any great movie, there should be moments where people rejoice, feeling revived. This is what grace is in the sermon- stirring great relief and hope. This “scene” of grace should come after law. Helplessness should lead to hopefulness. Good Friday must point to Resurrection Sunday. This is the meta-narrative of Scripture, and should be the arc of the sermon. Why?</p><p class=""><strong><em>Did they see Jesus?<br></em></strong>Just like I believe the Bible points to Jesus, so I believe every text makes its way to Jesus. In some passages it’s simple and easy. In other passages one might have to do a little work, and apply some theologically accurate connective tissue, but all roads point to Jesus, just like Spurgeon said all roads in England can at some point get you to London. The great Brooklyn and worldwide preacher, Gardner Taylor, had a sign engraved on his pulpit for him and any preacher to notice. The sign simply said, “We would see Jesus.” I have not preached unless I’ve shown them Jesus.</p><p class="">The story of David and Goliath is not ultimately about conquering the giants in your life. Yeh, we may use that as a way secondary application (like waaaaaaay), but ultimately, it points to Israel’s need for a deliverer, and how that deliverer (David) came from an unlikely place. Jesus is of the house of David and conquered the giant of Satan and death on the cross. Our people need to see Jesus, and not just ourselves.&nbsp;</p><p class=""><br><strong><em>Did I inspire them?<br></em></strong>This is my final question, and please don’t take this to mean, “Did I make them feel good?” Here I’m thinking, did I move them to action? No, I can’t get them to change, but did I preach in such a way that they <em>want</em> to change? To settle for informing people without also inspiring people is lazy preaching. What helps me to inspire are things like preaching with passion, having conviction and giving compelling illustrations and stories to help them visualize the point.&nbsp;</p> Can we Live? The Cost of Respectability Politics The Witness urn:uuid:8a72c7dd-3ab3-eaf8-51de-ed80ca487446 Thu, 01 Jul 2021 10:00:00 -0500 Comedian and actress Mo&#8217;Nique recently posted an Instagram saying she was in an airport in ATL&#160; when she saw sistas [&#8230;] Jonah and Schein’s Three Levels of Culture perSpectives 12 urn:uuid:09f527a5-9395-5653-ecb2-c5d59747a3b9 Sun, 27 Jun 2021 19:08:35 -0500 Jan Paron, PhD&#124;June 27, 2021 The book of Jonah opens with the messenger formula “The word of the Lord came &#8230;<p><a href="">Continue reading <span class="meta-nav">&#8594;</span></a></p> <p>Jan Paron, PhD|June 27, 2021</p> <p>The book of Jonah opens with the messenger formula “The word of the Lord came to Jonah&#8221; to cry out against Nineveh (Jon 1:1).<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn1"><sup>[1]</sup></a>&nbsp;Though the passage does not name Jonah as a prophet, the formula verifies God&#8217;s appointment for him to prophesy to Nineveh (1:2). Second Kings does refer to Jonah as a prophet to King Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:25). Despite the word of the Lord, Jonah fled to Tarshish (Jon 1:3) seeking to escape his call. Later, Jonah submitted to God’s call, and He returned him to Nineveh to carry out the mission (3:3). Jonah prophesied to them, “forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (3:4 New American Standard Version).<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn2"><sup>[2]</sup></a>&nbsp;The Ninevites repented, and thus God spared the city (vv. 6-9). God’s mercy extended to Nineveh angered Jonah, and he asked to die (vv.1, 3). Jonah could not accept God’s action with the pagan nation; however, God justified His decision because of concern for the Ninevites&nbsp;(vv. 10-11).<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn3"><sup>[3]</sup></a></p> <p><img loading="lazy" data-attachment-id="5582" data-permalink="" data-orig-file="" data-orig-size="1242,685" 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="IMG_3732" data-image-description="" data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" class="alignnone size-full wp-image-5582" src="" alt="IMG_3732" width="1242" height="685" srcset=" 1242w,;h=83 150w,;h=165 300w,;h=424 768w,;h=565 1024w" sizes="(max-width: 1242px) 100vw, 1242px"></p> <p>Perhaps, Jonah reacted negatively towards Nineveh repenting because he did not want to see its pagan inhabitants turn from their sin,&nbsp;a city that would eventually destroy the Northern Kingdom. Since the author structured the book as a biographical sketch of Jonah,<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn4"><sup>[4]</sup></a>&nbsp;it allows for a cultural analysis of the prophet’s artifacts, values, and assumptions to provide insight into the whys behind his external behaviors. In particular, his actions gave rise to several queries to answer. How did Jonah’s contextually embedded factors<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn5"><sup>[5]</sup></a>&nbsp;affect his attitude towards Nineveh and readiness to accept their repentance? Further, how did Jonah’s roots grounded in a Hebraic social identity play a role in his outlook? This essay seeks to prove how Jonah’s worldview assumptions set within Israel’s broader cultural nationalism influence his attitude toward Nineveh and drive his resistance to change. In doing so, it uncovers Jonah’s internal values, beliefs, and underlying assumptions behind three of his external artifacts: disobedience, selfishness, and self-exile.</p> <p>Accordingly, this writing examines Jonah through Schein’s organizational culture theory to explain how Jonah&#8217;s cultural context affected his worldview about Nineveh and attitude toward change. The Schein model analyzes three categorical levels of culture: artifacts, espoused beliefs and values, and basic underlying assumptions.<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn6"><sup>[6]</sup></a>&nbsp;While the Schein three-tier model uncovers culture insofar as group dynamics to support strategies for organizational change, even called the onion model for that purpose,<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn7"><sup>[7]</sup></a>&nbsp;the framework adapts well to exposing layers of an individual’s culture within a larger people group’s context. Thus, it blueprints Jonah’s surface and hidden cultures that undergird his architectural framework. In turn, the blueprint provides an anthropological lens through which to view his macro and micro cultural layers allowing for a peeled-back glimpse into the inner workings of Jonah’s conflict and change that drove his responses to the prophecy for Nineveh (Jon 1:3).&nbsp;Thus, its macro culture represents Jonah’s intrinsically formed, nationalist views inherent to and embedded in pre-exilic Israel during the eighth century BC—Yahweh’s disobedient and impetuous wife breaking the covenant marriage vow to her desires and will.&nbsp;At the same time, the micro reflects his beliefs, values, norms, thought patterns, and myths that interact with yet remain separate from the macro.<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn8"><sup>[8]</sup></a></p> <p>In considering Jonah’s culture in the context of Israel, the date of which the Nineveh setting takes place holds significance as culture changes over time. Since Israel’s pre-exilic period has a wide date range, its social location and identity contribute to its worldview formation. The tensions and conflict surrounding Israel, including foreign interactions, may even create multiple.<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn9"><sup>[9]</sup></a>&nbsp;To understand Jonah’s motives, one must peel away the outer layers to expose the inner assumptions. It requires analyzing Jonah in the context of Israel with the proper social location. Thus, dating the narrative takes on significance. Having said this, the book of Second Kings gives a clue as to the time frame that provides at least a window within which to date Jonah insofar as his prophecy to Jeroboam II during the eighth century BC,&nbsp;before the Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrian Empire. Stuart lists other factors that support eighth century BC dating, such as Aramaisms in language, motifs from Jeremiah, verbs from Joel, and Nineveh as a possible alternate capital of the Assyrian Empire during the first half of the century.<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn10"><sup>[10]</sup></a>&nbsp;Matthews believes it occurred from 850–605 BC with the book’s composition during the post-exilic period, after 500.<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn11"><sup>[11]</sup></a>&nbsp;Richter projects the first half of the eighth century (800-745BC) when the Jeroboam-Uzziah alliance gave rise to wealth and influence, and Tiglath-pileser III ruled Assyria.<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn12"><sup>[12]</sup></a>&nbsp;For the sake of this essay, it will focus on pre-exilic Israel within approximately the 850-605 BC period, even though it encompasses a broad period.</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Disobedient Anti-Prophet</span></strong></h3> <p>Jonah’s disobedient approach to his prophetic commission to cry out against Nineveh surfaced immediately in the narrative’s onset (Jon 1:2-3), demonstrating one of Jonah’s first of the three critical external artifacts (disobedience, selfishness, and self-exile). Further, it previews actions to come fueled by the prophet’s beliefs, values, and assumptions related to the Ninevites.<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn13"><sup>[13]</sup></a>&nbsp;While the text does not describe Jonah as a prophet, Yahweh’s commission to Nineveh suggests it. Second Kings 14:25 confirms Jonah’s call as a prophet concerning his prophecy to King Jeroboam II. Jonah stands among the Twelve in the Old Testament, though not a standard prophet.<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn14"><sup>[14]</sup></a></p> <p>Prophets acted as spokespersons for God’s divine message to the people in Ancient Israel, though not exclusive to Israelites. They received and announced God’s divine will, intentions, purposes, or future from a prophetic utterance.<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn15"><sup>[15]</sup></a>Despite the responsibilities of the office, Jonah chose not to follow the Lord’s three commands: (1) ‘Arise,’ (2) ‘Go at once to Nineveh,’ and&nbsp;&nbsp;(3) ‘cry out against it’ (Jon 1:3). Instead, he acted contrarily with three, self-determined directions: he (1) ‘got up to flee to Tarshish’ (1:2), (2) ‘went down to Joppa,’ and (3 ‘found a ship that was going to Tarshish’ (v. 3). Although the narrative sets the scene for what follows, it does not establish why Jonah did not carry out the Lord’s message. However, the text immediately portrays him as disobedient to the word of the Lord in his prophetic office.</p> <p>Schellenberg fittingly describes Jonah as an anti-prophet<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn16"><sup>[16]</sup></a>&nbsp;pointing out his atypical stance as a prophet and its complexities in that role. Jonah almost shows a combination between open disobedience and subtle disengagement with Yahweh. When the Lord sent so great a wind it threatened to break up the ship and made the sailors each cry out to their god, Jonah went below and fell sound asleep (vv. 4-5). He did not call on God (v. 6); rather, he asked the shipmen to throw him overboard (v. 15). Once again, he showed avoidance of his call. His anti-prophet behavior runs through the story in different variations.</p> <p>The question remains as to what beliefs and values behind his disobedience caused a reaction so adverse to Nineveh that he would risk separation and subsequent punishment from God? The Lord commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh and cry out against it because of its wickedness (Jon 1:2). Matthews describes the Lord’s call as so strong that a prophet ultimately must address it, including preaching judgment as the Lord commanded Jonah. The prophet could try to flee from God and his commission but could not escape it. He could hide but not run.<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn17"><sup>[17]</sup></a>&nbsp;Jonah realized He had to fulfill the command to the Assyrian city of Nineveh (1:13–17).</p> <p>Given the prophet’s strong call to duty, why did Jonah not fulfill the Lord’s command immediately? It was not until a large fish swallowed him up that he realized his duty would not go away (2:1-9).&nbsp;Further, how did Jonah rationalize running from it? Tarshish (modern-day Spain) In his mind, the city may have represented the farthest point to flee, the ultimate hiding place.&nbsp;Physical distance resulting from his sin of disobedience suggests alienation from the presence of the Lord. The ideology from humanity’s sinful nature historically results in separation from God. Metaphorically speaking, it brought Jonah east of Eden like Adam and Eve (Gn 3:23–24) and Cain (4:16),<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn18"><sup>[18]</sup></a>&nbsp;instead hurled to the sea and then into the belly of a large fish appointed by the Lord (Jon 1:15-17). At this juncture, the text did not indicate why Jonah so aggressively avoided Nineveh but does show the effects of decisions that run contrary to God.&nbsp;</p> <p>Quite possibly, it may have had to do with the northern kingdom&#8217;s liminality upon entering a period of prosperity. In other words, Jonah looked out for Israel. In his eyes, he may have wanted to see continued prosperity. Isaiah (Is 7:17—8:28) and Hosea (Hos 9:3; 10:6; 11:5) both prophesied the Assyrian invasion of Israel. God told Jehu his sons would rule Israel for four generations, meaning until Jeroboam II (2 Kgs 10:30).&nbsp;During the era of Israel’s kings, Jeroboam ruled the northern kingdom while Uzziah reigned over Judah.<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn19"><sup>[19]</sup></a>&nbsp;King Jeroboam II had restored Israel’s boundaries to those under David by reconquering the Transjordan in 760 BC (14:23-29, Am 6:14). His reign from 786-746 BC reflected peace and expansion for Israel.<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn20"><sup>[20]</sup></a>&nbsp;Further, the annexation of Gilead, Lo-debar, and Karnaim enabled Israel to gain control over the major trade route connecting the Tigris-Euphrates to Egypt through the King’s Highway. Sole control over the trade route gave rise to Israel’s newfound wealth. Israel and Judah regarded Nineveh as its greatest enemy. Estelle added that Israel’s collective conscience could not view Assyria with neutrality because of recent memories associated with it.<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn21"><sup>[21]</sup></a>&nbsp;Did Jonah think he could stop the Assyrian invasion if he allowed God to destroy Nineveh?<strong></strong></p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Selfish Prophet</span></strong></h3> <p>In addition to being a prophet, albeit disobedient, 2 Kgs 14:25 describes Jonah as a servant of the Lord, the God of Israel. Servants serve, yet scripture shows another artifact of Jonah as selfish. Named as a servant of the Lord, he stood in the company of Old Testament patriarchs, prophets, kings, and the faithful of Israel.<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn22"><sup>[22]</sup></a>&nbsp;The Old Testament first mentions servant of the Lord in Gn 26:24b, referring to Abraham in the possessive form, “my servant.” They serve God, not the world (Gn 24:2). Nevertheless, God gave His servants a choice to obey his commands, decrees, and instructions (49:15). Paron emphasizes that a servant of the Lord carried out God’s requests “based on faith in God’s covenantal promises for Israel, generation to generation.”<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn23"><sup>[23]</sup></a>&nbsp;While scripture calls Jonah a servant in Second Kings, he elected not to follow the Lord’s command in the case of Nineveh. So, why did it refer to him as a servant of the Lord, the God of Israel (2 Kgs 14:25)? Jonah showed himself as selfish rather than selfless, running in opposition to God&#8217;s command. If Jonah had fled from his hometown Gath Hepher (14:25) to Tarshish, he would have traveled 3,000 miles to the westernmost point away from Nineveh to distance himself from God. In addition to a disobedient nature in his office of prophet, the text reveals him as selfish.<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn24"><sup>[24]</sup></a></p> <p>Nineveh’s wickedness&nbsp;may lend an understanding of Jonah&#8217;s beliefs leading to his disdain for Nineveh and subsequent decisions (Jon 1:2). Even though the book did not elaborate on wickedness, Jonah may have understood it without explanation. Nahum remarked about Nineveh’s endless cruelty after Jonah: “Who has ever escaped your endless cruelty” (Na 3:19 New Revised Standard Version). The passage suggests Israel knew of Nineveh’s oppressive severity. Unconsciously, Jonah may have had an ingrained belief that the Ninevites did not deserve a second chance from God.&nbsp;</p> <p>Grant-Henderson brings up the point related to Israel’s post-exilic view of outsiders as nations exclusive to God’s mercy. She posits a strong statement relative apropos to Jonah: “If a foreigner can repent so quickly and receive the compassion of God, then surely the Israelite nation that is God’s chosen one will be able to receive the same care no matter how far they strayed.”<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn25"><sup>[25]</sup></a>&nbsp;She tied this assertion to Israel’s self-centered view that the God of Israel only bestows grace to His people, from a collectivist perspective only to insiders, not outsiders. Judah may have viewed God granting mercy to a foreign nation as injustice when Israel itself experienced pain and hardship. An Exodus 32 redux?&nbsp;&nbsp;Though thenorthern kingdom&nbsp;prospered during the reign of Jeroboam II, the political engine distributed kingdom wealth disproportionately to the connected. Most people lived in poverty, not luxury.<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn26"><sup>[26]</sup></a>&nbsp;Judah did not fare as well as its northern neighbor. Therefore, the self-centered Israelite mindset that permeated their values propagated the underlying assumptions of forgetting God as sovereign. Even though Jonah referenced God as “gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in mercy” (Jon 4:2b), he may well have directed it only towards Israel, as the “Lord my God” (2:6), literally meaning the Lord God who belongs to Israel.</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Self-Exiled Prophet&nbsp;</span></strong></h3> <p>Nineveh’s willingness to repent presents an ironic contrast to Israel and Judah’s reluctance to do so the same.<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn27"><sup>[27]</sup></a>Upon Jonah’s recommissioning to Nineveh (3:1), he walked to the city from where the fish spit him out. Then,&nbsp;he cried out and said, “Forty more days, and Nineveh will be overthrown” (v. 4). From the least to the greatest, the Ninevites believed the word of the Lord. The king issued an edict that everyone must turn from their evil ways (v. 8). Jeremiah virtually preached this same message to Israel (Jer 25:5).</p> <p>Their repentance angered Jonah; thus, he placed himself in exile outside the city. Jonah figuratively went east of Eden away from the presence of God in self-imposed isolation out of anger when left to go east of Nineveh. “So now, Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life” (Jon 4:3). Once again, Jonah physically placed himself out of the Lord’s presence, demonstrating the antithesis of a prophet’s expected behavior,&nbsp;and experienced another punishment as God appointed a scorching east wind against him and heat of the sun beat down on him (4:8).&nbsp;</p> <p>While Nineveh hoped that God would change His mind and not destroy them, Jonah feared a gracious and merciful God&nbsp;(v. 2). He knew God’s character.<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn28"><sup>[28]</sup></a>&nbsp;The same mercy God showed Jonah throughout the story, He also would demonstrate to Nineveh. Just as Israel repeatedly operated in the mindset of covenant breakers with Yahweh, Jonah approached God much the same way when he placed himself in exile and pouted. The allusion to Israel’s exile bookends the story, beginning in his flight west to Tarshish and ending east outside Nineveh. Did Jonah, who rudely argued with God over sparing Nineveh forget God rescued him from the belly of the fish even though he did not repent of his disobedience? (v.9). As a type for Israel, Jonah likewise foreshadows the mercy God gave His chosen upon restoration from exilic Israel and again to eschatological Israel (Rom 9-11).</p> <h3 class="has-text-align-center"><strong><span class="has-inline-color has-vivid-red-color">Conclusion: Change and Conflict in Nineveh</span></strong></h3> <p>Poole and Van de Ven view organizational change as occurring in cycles driven by four forces of change related to goal implementation in an entity.<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn29"><sup>[29]</sup></a>&nbsp;The forces include life cycle, dialectical, teleological, and evolutionary. Each force, in turn, affects the implementation of the organizational mission. Of the four forces, teleological change comes to mind in the case of Jonah because God implemented part of His predetermined plan for redemption in Nineveh. He needed the city as part of Assyria to later invade the Northern Kingdom</p> <p>Teleological change involves intentional and purposeful goal implementation to drive change, dependent upon constituents working together for its fruition. However, like any change, it can provoke conflict. Indeed, Jonah having had to prophesy to Nineveh gave rise to conflict for him. The tension stemmed from the collective Hebrew community, which in turn influenced his social identity. Their broader social sphere included the political, economic, cultural, and religious mores of Israel’s society, of which Jonah had a membership.<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn30"><sup>[30]</sup></a>&nbsp;Therefore, he functioned as a prophet guided by espoused beliefs and ethical rules from his ethnic roots that formed boundaries for his behavior. God’s desire for Nineveh to repent triggered Jonah’s resistant behaviors that manifested in disobedience and selfishness to Yahweh and isolation from His presence.&nbsp;</p> <p>God’s nature does not change, remaining immutable: “For I, the Lord, do not change (Mal 3:6a; e.g., Num 23:19; Isa 46: 9-11; Jas 1:13).<a href="//014FC717-161B-41C1-AD2C-E1C14DBDCAA8#_ftn31"><sup>[31]</sup></a>&nbsp;Rather, how He deals with people does. He bestowed mercy upon Nineveh and later destroyed them because of their continued wickedness. However, God also demands change from His people. He challenged Jonah’s existing social standards. As the Creator of humankind and a sovereign God, He alone determines mercy. In this case, it pertain The Freedom of Identity Blog - Bryan Loritts urn:uuid:f513744b-9bd8-82a6-b74a-5d2fc0ed9709 Thu, 24 Jun 2021 09:11:46 -0500 <p class="">1 Corinthians 4:1-5</p><p class="">We’ve been in a series called, <em>This Verse Changed My Life</em>, and I want to take you to a verse in the Bible that when you and I really live into this reality, will completely revolutionize our lives and set us free from people-pleasing and the tyranny of judgment. It’s a verse tucked away in I Corinthians 4. Let’s go there.</p><p class=""><em>“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and&nbsp;stewards of the mysteries of God.&nbsp;Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.&nbsp;But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.&nbsp;For I am not aware of anything against myself,&nbsp;but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.&nbsp;Therefore&nbsp;do not pronounce judgment before the time,&nbsp;before the Lord comes,&nbsp;who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.&nbsp;Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” </em> -1 Corinthians 4:1-5</p><p class="">You and I understand what identity theft is: it’s when someone poses as you, and is able to open lines of credit, and make all kinds of purchases, while you get the bill. It’s a very real thing that has happened to good friends of mine, and so because of that, a few years ago, my wife and I decided to make sure our identities were secure by purchasing something called LifeLock. Whenever LifeLock suspects suspicious activity they will send Korie and I notifications. Now the essence of these notifications can be reduced to three words, “Is this you?” In short, they want to know if this is really who I am; if this is our true identity?</p><p class="">The question of identity is a core question of life. “Who Am I,” is the soundtrack to our souls, a question we can never escape. In fact, Dietrich Bonhoeffer—the great 20th century German theologian—wrestled with the question of identity deeply. Just a few days before he was executed by the Nazis for standing in opposition to them, Bonhoeffer wrote this poem: </p><p class="">“<em>Who Am I? This or the other? Am I one person today, and tomorrow another? Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others, and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling? Or is something within me still like a beaten army, fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved? Who am I? They mock me these lonely questions of mine. Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.” <br></em>-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, <em>Who Am I?</em></p><p class="">Oh friend, if we were to be really honest we would join the ranks of Bonhoeffer and confess that the question of identity stalks us daily. The recently retired athlete asks this question—Who am I? The parents who have spent years guiding their children, and are now staring down the empty nest, asks this question. The one who just lost their job asks the question. The successful businessperson who started the company, sold it for millions and has nothing but time on their hands now, asks this question. The recent college graduate filled with more dreams than success or money asks this question. The question of identity, of who am I, is the background elevator music of our minds. Answer the question of identity correctly and you will know freedom and contentment. But answer the question of identity incorrectly and you will know bondage and discontent. Yes, the question of identity is <em>the</em> question of life.</p><p data-rte-preserve-empty="true" class=""></p><p class="">The Only True Answer to Identity—I Corinthians 4:1-2<br>So what is the answer to identity? This is why Paul writes our passage. I Corinthians 4:1-5 is all about identity. The reason Paul is writing on this subject is that according to I Corinthians 1:10, he has gotten word from Chloe’s house that there are divisions in the church. One group says they are of Paul, another of Apollos, another of Peter and still another of Christ. Instead of one unified church, we have a church that is fractured and divided, with people placing their identities in men. By the way, division tends to happen when we settle for the lesser identities of this world. When people choose to put their identity in success, they will look down on the less successful. When people put their identities in their ethnicity, they will naturally experience division from another ethnicity. And when people choose to put their identity in a political agenda, they will find themselves at odds with people of a different agenda. Of course this is not to say we shouldn’t be successful, celebrate how God made us or have our political convictions, we should do these things. But doing and having them as an identity are two different things.</p><p class="">Now what’s interesting here is this: on the one hand, there was a group of people at Corinth who said they were of Paul, which is easy to understand, because when we talk about sheer influence, Paul is one of the top five leaders in world history. Easy. And Paul could have played into this, and built his brand around his success and celebrity. But this would have lead to an overinflated ego, and a nauseating pride. On the other hand, there were groups of people at the church of Corinth who not only refused to follow Paul, but actually ridiculed him for his unimpressive speaking. Paul could have let this perceived weakness of him define him, allowing it to become his identity. You and I know of plenty of people who have built their identities in being a victim. See the tension? Building our identity around our successes or weaknesses will never do.</p><p class="">Instead, Paul gives us a third option for building our identity. Look at verses 1-2. </p><p class=""><em>“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. </em><strong><em>2 </em></strong><em>Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.”</em></p><p class="">The Greek word for <em>servants</em> means an under-rower and was a reference to the large Roman ships where below deck there would be scores of rowers who moved at the command of the pilot. The word <em>steward</em> simply means the manager of the house. This was not the owner of the house, but the one who ran the house on behalf of the owner. What both these words have in common is a person who doesn’t exist for their own pleasure, but whose identity is inextricably tied to the one in authority over them. Likewise, Paul is saying that his identity is not in his successes or weaknesses, but in the one who is in authority over him: Christ. <span>When my identity is in Christ I am free to put gospel distance between my successes and weaknesses. Those things don’t define me. Jesus does</span>!</p><p class="">You and I have heard these stories. Yeh we have. A person got locked up decades ago for some violent crime, and it seemed as if all hope was lost. And then they discover that since being locked up they’ve developed this thing called DNA testing, which is all about identity. So they run the DNA test and find out that person didn’t do the crime and having figured out their identity there’s freedom. Oh friends, this is exactly Paul’s point. When we live into our true identity in Christ there’s freedom! Freedom from performance. Freedom from the opinions of others. Freedom from the snide remarks that come my way. Freedom from my own opinions of me. Once you live into the DNA you share with Christ you are free.</p><p data-rte-preserve-empty="true" class=""></p><p class="">Breaking Free—God is Our Judge. I Corinthians 4:4b-5<br>Yeh, but what exactly does this look like, and how do I practically live into this freedom on a daily basis? Paul answers all these questions. Now notice with me there’s a little word that keeps popping up- <em>judge</em>. It’s an important word that we have to understand to make sense of this text. The word judge doesn’t so much mean verdict, as it does the process that leads to the verdict. It’s the idea of one who is being evaluated and scrutinized. This is further illumined as Paul uses more legal language in verse three when he talks about the “human court.” If you’ve ever been a defendant in court, you understand that for the time leading up to the trial, and during the trial, you are under a tremendous amount of scrutiny and evaluation. Everything is being looked at, and opinions are being formed. Now notice, Paul says that’s what it’s like to some degree for his whole life. Study his ministry. Always under scrutiny. The Judaizers told the Galatians that they couldn’t trust Paul because he wasn’t a real apostle. The religious leaders attacked him and tried to kill him. Crowds in Lystra and other places got upset with him. He stood before King Agrippa in a human court to plead his case. Everywhere he turned he was facing constant evaluation and scrutiny. Paul was the Lebron James of his day.</p><p class="">And to some degree that happens to all of us daily. People are evaluating and forming their own opinions of us based on where we live, go to school, send our kids to school, what we drive, how we vacation, what we say, who we vote for, the whole nine. Everyday we get up it seems as if we are walking into human court after human court. And trying to live up to people’s evaluations is a miserable existence.</p><p class="">But Paul goes onto say that it is not just others who judge, it’s ourselves who judge (3b). </p><p class=""><em>“In fact, I do not even judge myself.” </em>-1 Corinthians 4:3b</p><p class="">We all have an inner lawyer who is constantly evaluating us. Charles Spurgeon was known to sulk on Sunday afternoons if he thought the sermon didn’t go well, to the point of melancholy, his inner lawyer working overtime. Who in here can relate? We leave a meeting or a time of hanging out and many of us brood over, did we say the right thing? Was I too harsh? Why didn’t I speak up? Did I talk too much? Did they like me? Or, maybe it’s your inner lawyer, who like the author Brennan Manning, describes as one who is constantly calling you an imposter and calling into question your faith. Doubt washes over you all the time. There’s a voice always saying you’re not good enough and you never will be. We all need to fire our inner lawyer. Paul did.</p><p class="">So how do we break free of this constant evaluation from others, and ourselves? Paul tells us. He actually says there’s a third source of judgment, and it’s God (5).</p><p class=""><em>“Therefore&nbsp;do not pronounce judgment before the time,&nbsp;before the Lord comes,&nbsp;who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.&nbsp;Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” </em>-1 Corinthians 4:5</p><p class="">God is the only real judge, because he is the only one who knows everything about us. While we make judgements on appearances, the Lord knows the heart. God is the one who knows me, and he is the one I will ultimately have to answer to. And when we understand that future reality, it should change how we live in the present!</p><p class="">In just a few weeks Korie and I will drop our second son off at college in California. From the time he was born, we envisioned this day, so we have been putting money aside. The future reality of him going to school, impacted our present daily lives. Friends, don’t you see. Because I know there is a future reality when I will stand before my one and only judge, that should impact how I live today.</p><p data-rte-preserve-empty="true" class=""></p><p class="">Breaking Free- People Are Small, God Is Big- I Corinthians 4:3a<br>Okay, so when my identity is in Christ there’s freedom. What does this look like? Well, I understand God is my only true judge and when I live that way it will free me from the judgments of others. But there’s more. Look at verse 3. </p><p class=""><em>“But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.”</em> -1 Corinthians 4:3</p><p class="">The Greek word for “small” is the superlative of micros. It means tiny, tiny, tiny! See what he’s saying? When I live in the light of God being the only true judge, people become small and God becomes big. It’s not that other people’s judgments are invisible, it’s just that they’re beyond microscopic.</p><p class="">This was something Paul lived. So Paul plants the churches in Galatia, seeing many Gentiles come to Christ. After he leaves, Jewish religious leaders known as the Judaizers come in and they start telling these new Gentiles that Paul can’t be trusted; that he’s not a genuine apostle. Just real nasty stuff. Paul gets word and writes the letter to the Galatians and notice what he says from jump street: <em>“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ,” </em>(Galatians 1:10). See it? Paul says if you spend your time people pleasing, your identity is not in Christ. But for the person whose identity is in Christ, people are small and God is big. This doesn’t mean people are insignificant, but it does mean that they’re not who I’m living for.</p><p class="">When Jaden was a little boy every time he made a shot he’d look up in the stands at me and smile. After the game he’d come up to me and ask me, “Hey dad, how did I do?” He never asked anyone else that in the stands. He didn’t ask his teammates that. And I never saw him ask his coaches that. It’s as if he knew, that if dad said I did good, that’s enough for me. That’s what Paul is saying. Play your life for the one person in the stands, and his name is God. Let him be big, and everyone else small. Do you know that freedom today? Or are you still in bondage to the tyranny of people and their judgments?</p><p data-rte-preserve-empty="true" class=""></p><p class="">Breaking Free—Performance Free-Living- I Corinthians 2:1-5<br>Now listen to me. When a person’s identity is not in Christ, but is found in the lesser identities of this world (work, money, success, etc), what happens? Well, then they are a slave to what others or themselves think, people have a disproportionate role in their lives, bigger than God, and they are on the treadmill of performance, always feeling like they have to prove themselves. Madonna felt this way. Listen to what she says in an article in Vogue: </p><p class=""><em>“My drive in life comes from a fear of being mediocre. That is always pushing me. I push past one spell of it and discover myself as a special human being but then I feel I am still mediocre and uninteresting unless I do something else. Because even though I have become somebody, I still have to prove that I am somebody. My struggle has never ended and I guess it never will”</em> -Madonna, Vogue Magazine. </p><p class="">And this is a millionaire celebrity adored the world over saying this! When your identity is in the lesser identities of this world, you will be a slave to performance.</p><p class="">But when our identity is in Jesus, the ultimate identity, now we are free. Remember, Paul is writing the Corinthians because many of them don’t like his speaking, they don’t feel as if he is performing up to par for them. They say Paul is not eloquent. Look at how Paul answers them, </p><p class=""><em>“And when I, I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”</em> -I Corinthians 2:1-5. </p><p class="">See the freedom here? Paul’s identity was so secured in Christ, he was freed from any notion that he had to live up to their expectations. (By the way, I wonder how many churches in world history fired their pastors because they didn’t have impressive speech?)</p><p class="">Gospel Conclusion<br>Paul didn’t have to labor in the human court of approval, because Jesus had already stepped into that court. Some two thousand years ago, Jesus stepped into the kangaroo court of this life. People had scrutinized him and cast their verdict. They demanded that he be crucified. On the cross, Jesus took humanity’s bad verdict, so that God, the only true judge could render the final good verdict on each of us. And you know what that final verdict is? RIGHTEOUS! So we don’t have to perform for his verdict, instead we labor from his verdict. We are free!</p> background check on a church’s reputation urn:uuid:091b8a9e-5889-d186-a27b-d0ff6df45b4f Tue, 22 Jun 2021 13:09:38 -0500 <p>I think it&#8217;s fair to say that good Christian ministries have their critics, and a few even run into legal action in the mix, which I&#8217;ll leave nameless. I wouldn&#8217;t want to get a &#8220;cease and desist&#8221; on my blog,&#46;&#46;&#46;</p> <p>This article <a rel="nofollow" href="">background check on a church&#8217;s reputation</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">@djchuang</a>.</p>