Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Archive for the ‘Books by Me’ Category

Romans: Defense of the Mega Church

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In reading Romans I realized there was a similarity between what the church in Romans was experiencing, and our ‘mega-church’ problems.

In Romans we see Jewish believers who have grown up in the ‘church.’ They have been raised with rules and expectations regarding what it means to be ‘good.’ Some are saved, and others believe that they are believers even though they are merely rule followers. Both groups tend to believe the ‘rules’ are very important and their words and actions imply that the rules may even be more important than belief, even though they may deny this to be so.

We also see, in Romans, that there are a lot of Gentile believers. They did not grow up with the ‘rules’ and many of them have not bothered to study scripture. They have faith, but only a few know how to live as a believer. There are more ‘true Christians’ in this group, but their lives are often messier than those who have no faith, but live according to God’s law.

How to balance these groups is difficult. Those who grew up with the ‘rules’ and whose lives are a lot less messy will of course believe their ways are better, except the truth is that some of them are not saved- which is worse than having a messy life. Many with messy lives believe, but see the rule followers as judgmental. The lack of faith of some of the rule followers likely draws those who believe away from discovering the blessings associated with knowing and following God’s laws. It was a mess then, and is still a mess now. Combine that with the fact that those who really like the rules expect new believers to be completely perfect in actions upon salvation. These ‘old believers’ (who may not actually believe, but think faith is about works- like the Jews in Romans) will then criticize those who are actually trying to disciple people, which is a slow process (think about how resistant you are to change and conviction even though you are saved and then imagine if you had bigger hang ups such as addiction or family and/or close friends who were loved by you but not good influences). Paul was likely pulling his hair out when he wrote Romans (and every other letter…).

Mega-churches are getting people saved. They may not be doing it the way other churches are doing it, and not everyone may be truly ‘saved’ within the church, but the people are there worshipping God and praying. Mature believers need to figure out how to come along side to help these new believers with their messy lives and lack of Biblical knowledge rather than tearing down what their leaders are doing. They are introducing people to God. Small churches with few converts often resemble the Pharisees more than the early church, making them lovers of the ‘rules’ more than lovers of God. The early church was messy in many, many ways (hence the many different letters, all addressing different problems). Jump in, join the mess and welcome someone to life in Christ!

 

Veracity and Culture

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Notes and Ideas based on my reading of

Undesigned Coincidences in the Writings of Both the New and the Old Testaments, An Argument of Their Veracity by John James Blunt

(published by Robert Carter & Brothers, New York, 1851)

Ideas to Think About Regarding: Veracity and Culture

Biblical Veracity

Leviticus (everyone’s favorite book of the Bible) has an interesting test of veracity. First it claims that there are 603,550 males over the age of twenty, the Levites being excepted. It then claims that, a short time later, there are 603, 550 males, yet some men are unclean due to touching a dead body. If someone died, how then is the number unchanged?

A few possibilities exist.

First, there is an account of Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, who are smote by God for offering strange fire as high priests. Their bodies are taken care of by their cousins, Mishael and Elizaphan, which would make these men unclean for Passover. As Levites, these men would not have been counted in the census, therefore their deaths would not change the number of men over twenty years of age. This is the most likely solution.

Other possibilities include rounding of numbers and/or people turned twenty during this time in equal number to those who died. The birth/ death equivalency is unlikely though since the Jewish culture did not celebrate birthdays and considered any part of a year to be the equivalent of a year, so a Jewish person would never say my child is two and a half. If any part of the year had passed, it was counted as a year so their child was three years old. To further confuse things, the time in the womb was also counted as time alive, so our ‘two’ may be their ‘three’. Jewish people did however keep track of and celebrate loved one’s death days- hence we have Easter being celebrated early, but Christmas was established much later- though rising from the dead is a much bigger accomplishment than being born in the entire scheme of things, so….

Biblical Culture

Joseph: Joseph is second in command in Egypt yet does not have the ability to choose his own wife. He is given Asenath, the daughter of the Priest of On.

(On is a place, likely Heliopolis, which worships Ra, the sun God. Her father is a prophet. Pharaoh is likely marrying a prophet to a prophet in hopes of breeding more prophets. Since Egyptians worship many Gods, the daughter would be expected to shift her main alliance to the god of her husband, so she would be amenable to hearing about Joseph’s God and since her sons become leaders of two tribes of Israel, it is extremely likely she converted.)

Joseph is also unable to visit his father without permission, despite his lofty title and responsibilities. Our culture cannot fathom having that much power, and that little freedom, but it is something to keep in mind when examining Joseph’s decisions during this phase of his life.

 

Song of Songs (Introduction)

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Song Of Songs

This commentary is based on my notes after reading The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Song of Songs, by Tremper Longman III, 2001

This translation of Song of Songs was picked because it is more literal, and takes fewer liberties than most. I did not focus on the prophetic nature as much as the relational teachings.

The standard type is Longman’s translation. The italics is my gleanings from his notes. Some points are entirely mine, while others are my interpretation of his comments in the book. For the sake of brevity I did not differentiate.

One of my pet peeves is that we clean up scripture to the point that it is not understood. This translation of the Song of Songs allows us to learn what the Bible teaches about marital relationships.

If married, or planning on marriage, it would be good to discuss the Song of Songs and its teachings. It would also be good to examine Proverbs 31, how Boaz treats Ruth in the book of Ruth and how Esther behaves as a wife.

Contained in the Song of Songs are many wasfs- descriptive poems that the lovers recite to each other. Writing a wasf to your spouse may be a creative way to understand how the other sees you.

Song of Songs (Poem 23, Ch 8)

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Photo by Matija Barrett

This commentary is based on my notes after reading The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Song of Songs, by Tremper Longman III, 2001

Poem 23 (Ch 8)

(Let Others Know There is Love)

The Man

v 13 You who dwell in the gardens,

companions are listening,

let me hear your voice!

The Woman

v 14 Sneak away, my lover, and be like the gazelle,

or a young stag on the mountains of spices.

The man addresses the woman and acknowledges that her companions are listening, He wants her to express her wishes publically, to let others know that she loves him. She responds by again asking him to sneak away with her- quickly. Their love has not dulled and it is not to be hidden.

Song of Songs (Poem 22, Ch 8)

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This commentary is based on my notes after reading The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Song of Songs, by Tremper Longman III, 2001

Poem 22 (Ch 8)

(The Rest of the Wives…)

The Woman

v 11 Solomon had a vineyard in Baal-hamon;

he entrusted the vineyard to guards,

each one brings a thousand pieces of silver for his fruit.

v 12 My vineyard is mine alone;

the thousand is for you, Solomon,

and the two hundred for the ones who guard its fruit.

Here is a reference to Solomon’s harem. Obviously the woman is not happy that it exists and makes reference to the fact that she does not wish to share her vineyard. The two hundred are likely ‘wives’ he has not yet slept with. This woman lives apart from the rest of his woman. We know that his Egyptian wife, who was also his first wife, had her own palace so many guess that this is the identity of the woman of the poem. Remember, in this culture, polygamy is the norm. Here it is not portrayed in glowing terms. The woman does not like it. She implies that the someone has paid so that these women would bear Solomon’s offspring.

Song of Songs (Poem 21, Ch 8)

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This commentary is based on my notes after reading The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Song of Songs, by Tremper Longman III, 2001

Poem 21 (Ch 8)

(Caring for Each Other’s Family)

The Man

v 8 Our sister is small,

and she has no breasts,

What should we do for our sister

on the day she is spoken for?

v 9 If she is a wall, we will build a silver battlement for her.

But if she is a door, we will enclose her with a cedar board.

There is a sister. Since the woman was not properly cared for, it can be assumed that her sister is not either. The man is taking responsibility for her. If she is shy, lacking confidence, he will adorn her with strength. If she is permiscuous, naive, undiscerning- trusting and letting everyone in, he will keep guard her closely.

The Woman

v 10 I am a wall, and my breasts are like towers,

Thus I will be in his eyes like one who brings peace.

The woman’s presence in his life is one of strength, protection and peace. That she is a ‘wall’ indicates that she will not open herself to anyone but him.

Song of Songs (Poem 20, Ch 8)

This commentary is based on my notes after reading The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: Song of Songs, by Tremper Longman III, 2001IMG_2933

Poem 20 (Ch 8)

(The Character of Love)

The Women of Jerusalem

v 5 Who is this that comes up from the wilderness,

leaning on her lover?

The couple is publically affectionate. They are defying the norms.

The fact that they are leaning on each other indicates mutual dependency. It also implies that they were more affectionate in the wilderness. This couple spends frequent amounts of time away together.

The Woman

Under the apple tree, I aroused you.

There your mother conceived you,

There the one who gave you birth conceived you.

Apparently this is a popular trysting place, likely on family property, showing that they are not unusual in their love, but the norm. There is also a hint that she is hoping to have conceived herself.

v 6 Set me like a seal on your heart,

like a seal on your arm.

For stronger than death is love,

tenacious like the grave is jealousy.

Its flame is an intense fire,

a god-like flame.

Love is a powerful force. A seal on the arm is a sign to all that he belongs to her. A seal on the heart is a sign that he loves her. The jealousy she desires is a right jealousy, not wanting to share the intimacy they have with any other. True love is also intense, like a flame.

v 7 Many waters are not able to extinguish love,

nor rivers flood it.

Even if a person gave all the wealth of his house for love,

he would be completely despised.

Love should withstand all trials, but you cannot buy it. If you try to buy true love the right person will despise you for it. True love cannot be bought.

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