Let My People Go

The battle for inner courage and then for action was on display in the life of Moses. Given his instructions from I AM at the Burning Bush in Exodus 3, he set out to return to the Egyptian royal court and make his one simple, four word request: “Let my people go!”

This is the tension of human history between those who love, crave and have power over other people, and the masses who simply long to be free and live free without interference. This spirit of Pharoah the tyrant is rising again like a foul smell or a painful memory we all thought had gone away. But oh no, he is arbitrarily doubling down as Pharoah increased the work load and reduced the means by which to make it harder: More bricks, less straw. Or, work harder for less; face the lash of the whip more often; increase the sense of hopelessness and defeat and you’ve shown what a big man you are. This time last year they said we would be free. And we are still not free. Next Easter for freedom, or next year in Jerusalem, as faithful Jews pray. The worst part of three weeks to flatten the curve is always the first TWO years!

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Honoured

Mark 10:46-52  

Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus

Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.” And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road.

Sometimes our own reactions to the Gospel fall way short.  Blind Bartimaeus called out to Jesus. 

Sometimes the wrong type of people call out to Jesus and we, like Bartimaeus, are blind to them.  The poor guy was well known.  He had a dad they all knew, Timaeus.  Now why would Mark record that?  Because people knew him.  Timaeus and his embarrassing son, simply called Bar-Timaeus.  But that name is now fulfilled in this encounter.  It means “honoured” – Jesus will now honour the Son of the Honoured one. 

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Touching the Hem

A short devotional reading of Mark 6:53-56

They landed in Gennesaret – on the NW side of Sea of Galilee, just south of Capernaum.

This is the historic land allocation of the Tribe of Naphtali.

In Deuteronomy (33:23), the blessing of Moses to this tribe reads:

“And of Naphtali he said, ‘O Naphtali, sated/abounding with favour, and full of the blessing of the Lord, possess the lake/west and the south.

With this immense blessing, it is no wonder Gennesaret means:  Garden of the Prince.

The Garden recalls the fullness of Eden, sated with favour, full of blessing.

The Prince calls for the Messiah, the Saviour, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

This is a place where the King rules in fullness of majesty, possessing the earth in fullness of blessing.

So Jesus goes to Gennesaret.

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Summary of recent posts

We have attempted to begin with self-criticism, which for me meant a criticism of what I have called ‘traditionalism’. We focussed on four main problems with traditionalism:

(a) implicit parent-child models of authority,

(b) the de-relationalisation of biblical wisdom,

(c) the substitution of indoctrination for education, and

(d) the problem of disproportionate response.

Each of these problems manifested itself in several ways.

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Realities not prejudices

Proportionality and Restored Dignity vs. Hatred and Degradation

Second, God judges ‘each one according to his ways’, which means that justice is proportionate.

A firing squad is not appropriate for cheating on one tax return or even on several. Amputating limbs is not appropriate for stealing a loaf of bread or even several. Excommunication is not appropriate for buying a pornographic magazine or even several.

In other words, God’s judgement is always fair-minded, based on realities and not prejudices, based on real extent rather than the generalisations (and hence implicit false testimony) of rule-based religion. The law says, “if the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall make him lie down and have him flogged in his presence with the number of lashes his crime deserves, but he must not give him more than forty lashes. If he is flogged more than that, your brother will be degraded in your eyes” (Deut. 25:2-3).

In other words, to exceed certain limits in punishment, and certainly to exceed what a deed deserves, only serves to ‘degrade your brother’. The aim is to punish a sin so as to restore a loved one to dignified living, not to degrade them. Proportionate punishment knows where to draw the line: it aims to restore dignity out of love, not to remove it out of hate.

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How God judges

We may now turn to the final component of our critique of traditionalism. We have looked at the entailments of implicit parent-child models of church authority, of the ‘de-relationalisation’ of biblical wisdom, and of the substitution of indoctrination for education.

Now, we turn to consider the danger of grossly disproportionate responses to self-designated homosexuals. In Scripture we read, “I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD” (Ezekiel 18:30).

This brings two points to the foreground, as follows.

i) Considering the Particular Case vs. Fictional Judgements & False Testimony

First, God judges ‘each one according to his ways’, which means that God judges us individual by individual, with discernment, so that the proud person who doesn’t steal is not treated like a thief who has humbled himself after just one theft.

The thief who has humbled himself after his stumble will not be treated like the arrogant person who hasn’t stolen but who has maintained an arrogant stance. God will treat the humble thief much more leniently, since he repented, whereas a mighty hand will eventually crush the ongoingly arrogant person.

That is, God judges according to the objective realities of somebody’s behaviour, not according to false testimony, nor according to fictions about them, nor according to stigmatising labels, nor according to levels of social acceptability, but according to the truth about them individually.

Fallen human judges, however, tend to prefer to read their verdicts by a standard of false testimony, fictions, labels, and social norms. Why? Because if they tried to be objective, they would have to face their own sin.

To be on the receiving end of false judgements, though, is terrible, since it is to be judged by a Kangaroo court that ‘points the finger’ or ‘scapegoats’ to legitimate self-interest. But God detests acquitting the guilty and punishing the innocent: “Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty” (Exodus 23:7).

That is, those guilty of false judgement will not be acquitted, and, better to err on the side of lenience if in doubt since God will in any case see to it that the guilty person who escapes detection will not be acquitted. There is no excuse, however, for judgement that knowingly presupposes false testimony. Somebody who has ‘come out’ about homosexual desires, however, may be prematurely labelled, which is judgement by false testimony.

The trivialisation of prophecy

Entailment # 2: Trivialisation of the Prophetic Tradition   

Third, closely related to our points about the idolisation of tradition and the glorification of educational backwardness is what we may call the trivialisation of prophecy.

In his commentary on 1 Corinthians 11:4, Thiselton notes that “prophetic speech may include applied theological teaching, encouragement, and exhortation to build the church, not merely (if at all) ad hoc cries of an expressive, diagnostic, or tactical nature, delivered as ‘spontaneous’ mini-messages.

The latter debase and trivialise the great tradition of the term in the biblical writings as something altogether more serious, sustained, and reflective”. And yet, is it not the case, in so many churches today, that ‘spontaneous ad hoc tactical mini-messages’ have replaced ‘serious, sustained, reflective, applied theological teaching’?

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Spiritual adulthood

Entailment # 1: Glorification of Educational Backwardness

Second, these days it is cool to self-referentially point out one’s various ‘failures to understand’ from the front of church in order to generate chuckles of empathy and murmurings of ‘oh, isn’t he/she cute’, when biblically speaking it is irresponsible. For sure, we all fail in many ways, but this is not meant to be against the backdrop of a glorification of educational backwardness.

Hebrews 5:12 applies today: ‘though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again’. This is because, these days, 2 Timothy 4:3-4 is fulfilled: ‘for the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths’.

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Heart and Mind together

Substituting Indoctrination for Education: Idolatry, Silliness, & Pseudo-Prophecy

We may now turn to our third major danger warning for self-designated traditionalists: the danger of substituting indoctrination for education. We have already noted problems associated with a disguised ‘parent-child’ notion of authority, and with de-relationalisation. Our third area of concern flows out of the substitution of indoctrination for education, and breaks down into three closely related points, as follows.

i) Idolisation of Tradition over Growing in Biblical Understanding

Our first point relates to the idolisation of tradition over and above growing in biblical understanding. Biblically, of course, none of us yet thinks as Jesus thinks, and so we all need to keep being transformed by the renewing of our minds, such that our traditions of interpretation develop towards ‘biblical understanding’.

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