Saturday, April 28, 2012

“SHE’S A GOOD HEARTED WOMAN …” - 2

The following is a guest post by Sherry in response to comments on my previous post:  “SHE’S A GOOD HEARTED WOMAN …”

Soooooooooooooooo many thoughts on this Dad
First being that given the political climate here, whew, brave!!
Second, I thought this post was gonna be about Mom ;-p
Third, you should have said BOTH parties have moved to the right ~ the republican god Reagan was a screaming liberal compared to either party now!  LOL I know that's not true in every aspect but definitely in taxation!

I think you're seeing exactly what Roger Williams feared when he proposed separation of church & state because the invasion of the state into the church had corrupted the teachings of the church. When evangelicals quote lines from politics as if they're gospel, it's very clear to me that the corruption is rampant.  When it's hard for a liberal to go to church for fear of judgment, it's clear that the church is not functioning as the body of Christ.

I would love to go on-and-on about how far the teachings of the republican party are from those of Christ (and I will do it a tiny bit later) but I don't believe people who have bought into it will really hear.

So now some comments on the comments:


Canadian Atheist ~
I think it's sad that an atheist knows more about what Jesus did than self-proclaimed evangelicals and that a Canadian knows more about what is happening in our country than we do.  There is far too much "sheepiness" going on in the church and in politics here.  Thank you for pointing it out.

Gary ~
You are so right about pride.  I know almost every sin I have ever committed was from pride.  Even when I get greedy it's because I think I deserve whatever it is I want.

The sins of pride and greed were condemned by Jesus & throughout the Bible but we don't hear much from the screaming preachers about them.  Why? It hits too close to home.  Much better to attack the sins of others.   Which is, in and of itself, a sin.

And last, my rant that really has nothing to do with the point of the post but about Ken's comments.


Ken ~
Whose fault is it that women are single mothers?  The men who don't stand by them?  (You should know that not every single mom got pregnant outside of marriage.)  Is it the asinine fear of mentioning contraceptives in this country?  The fact that Christians divorce at as high a rate as non-Christians?  Are they poor because there's little tolerance for the demands of motherhood in the workplace?  Because minimum wage won't cover daycare & rent?  Because their ex-husbands don't pay child support?  When an entire group (single moms) is castigated by the "over-simplifying" of your party, one can see why some would choose to abort rather than face society's views.  They're damned if they keep their kids and damned if they don't, and the republican party refuses to acknowledge that hypocrisy, let alone heed what Jesus said about stone casting.


As CA said, Jesus didn't ask the condition of those he helped.  If he'd been a republican he would have asked why on earth weren't those 5000 at work earning their bread & fishes instead of being lazy bums listening to him & getting hungry?


Not to mention how wrong your stat is about "working hardest" - the top .1% has accumulated 93% of the wealth increase since the recession with most of the remaining 7% going to the top 10% and some groups actually earning up to 6% less.  Do you really think they're working 13x or more harder than the rest of us?  The majority of the poor are working poor - many working more than one job.  And where are the opportunities the rich have created with this vast increase in wealth?


"Taking from some and giving to others by force" is an interesting way to view taxes.  Especially a tax that 72% of Americans support. I personally would much rather they take mine and give to poor people than fund the enormous war machine.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

“SHE’S A GOOD HEARTED WOMAN …”


I received the following comment from Canadian Atheist on a recent post:  Good piece, Bill. It brought to mind a piece I was thinking of working on. It's a bit off topic and political in nature but maybe it will give you an idea for another blog post. I've been wondering about the Republican Party there in the US and how they've been pretty much taken over by theocrats. The thing that bothers me is how they seem to favor things that would be distinctly against the things that Jesus supposedly taught, such as greed, power, the death penalty etc. Maybe you could give me your thoughts on that?”

The marriage of the Republican Party with “theocrats” bothers me as much as, or more than it does you.  My view, however, differs from yours.  What I see is more the other way around:  Theocrats have been taken over by the Republican Party.

In the more than half century since President Eisenhower, the Republican Party has moved steadily rightward, absorbing a diverse group of political views.  It now includes former southern Democrats, hawkish neoconservatives, libertarians and lately “Tea Partiers.”  Moderates have been steadily crowded out of the party.

During this same period, evangelical Christians have become more and more outspoken politically.  They have always, to some extent, been political, but it seems even more so during my lifetime.  At one time it was fear of Communism.  To some extent this was a legitimate fear, as Christians and Christian missions were often the targets of repression in Communist nations.  This of course, was blown out of proportion in America by McCarthyism and certain Communist-hating radio preachers.

Then it was fears of a Roman Catholic takeover when John F. Kennedy ran for president.  [Ironically a Roman Catholic running for the Republican candidacy for president in 2012 sounded more like the Catholic that President Kennedy was feared to be and yet received endorsements from many evangelical leaders.]

And then in the early 70s with the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion, the religious right came to the fore as a political movement.  The issue of abortion, along with greater freedoms granted to homosexuals, became the rationale for their existence.  And as “freedom of choice” and sexual liberty more and more came to be causes for the liberal left, their antitheses became causes for the right – the Republican Party.

And so, evangelical Christians became another addition to the Grand Old Party.  Some may see this as a marriage of convenience, but it appears to me more like a few marriages I’ve seen:  The well behaved, genteel young lady marries a rowdy young man who has little potential, thinking that somehow she can be a positive influence on him to change his rowdy ways.  Or as Willie and Waylon used to sing:  “She’s a good-hearted woman in love with her good-timin’ man!  She loves him in spite of his wicked ways that she don’t understand!”  She usually ends up excusing his behavior or becoming just like him.

And that’s what I think has happened.  Evangelical Christians have become so blinded to the faults of the Republican Party they’re married to, that they have adopted Republican “standards” as though they were biblical standards.

And now, what do we have?

A political party in which every member is bound by oath not to raise taxes; a party that wants to balance the budget by allowing the wealthy to get wealthier while taking away services from those who need them; a party whose main goal seems to be to assure that our current president fails; a political party where hate-mongers and conspiracy theories are not only tolerated by encouraged.

And religious leaders who go along with these pronouncements and policies, who almost seem ready to baptize them with a “Thus sayeth the Lord.”

Let me be clear.  I believe that abortion is sin; it is the deliberate taking of an innocent human life.  It needs to be addressed.  But there are other life issues that need to be addressed.  How many innocent people are put to death by wrongly applied capital punishment or by war as “collateral damage”?  These are issues that can be dealt with by government action.

And yes, the Bible clearly condemns homosexual sex as sin.  But it also condemns extramarital sex and premarital sex.  Why are we willing to overlook the affairs of our political leaders as long as they campaign against another kind of sexual sin?  Why do we think we can legislate sexual morality?

And isn’t our message a message of forgiveness, of redemption, not condemnation? 

And doesn’t the Bible condemn greed more often than these other sins?

My fear is not that the “theocrats” will take over this country.  Frightening as that may seem, it’s a long shot.  My fear is that by this marriage of the church to a political party, the message of the church is being compromised, that in our desire to change our country politically, we have become less and less relevant and soon no one will listen.

I am also concerned that there are may be those who will condemn me for speaking on this issue.  I’ve lost a few friends already.  But I’m not attempting to convert anyone to a political position.  What I am attempting is to urge my fellow evangelical believers into examining and rethinking their political prejudices in the light of the Scriptures.

And of course, to answer my friend’s question.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

POST #300

Another milepost.  I never suspected that when I began blogging in December, 2005 that I would have so much to write about.  I suppose some readers would contend that I actually didn’t have much to say, even in 300 posts.  And of course, much that I’ve said has been said already by others.  There are few original thoughts.  And I repeat myself.

My blog page tells me that I have 220 followers at this time and they are located all over the world.  However, I don’t know if they read my blog or are simply trying to see how many blogs they can follow.  Most never comment on my posts.  I’d really appreciate it, if you are a follower or regular reader, if you’d let me know.  I’d like to know your thoughts.  You may also contact me via e-mail on my profile page.

As I’ve said before (POST 201), I have attempted to write everything from within a Christian/biblical worldview, though I have not always succeeded.  And that desire has not changed, although my thinking on many subjects has.  If a worldview is the set of eyeglasses through which we view life, then I could say that I’ve had to have my prescription modified a few times.  I believe that these modifications have been to bring my thinking more in line with the worldview.  If you are a regular reader you may have detected these changes.

I’ve been around a long time – 75 years.  I have been a follower of Jesus for most of those years – ever since the age of 18.  And I want to keep thinking.  I do not want to become like some of my contemporaries, with my mind set in concrete.  I want to continue to think through current issues from a biblical perspective.  And there are always new issues to think on (although many are simply old ones clothed in new garments).  Blogging forces me to clarify my thoughts.

I want to thank the readers who challenge me, who send questions, who forward articles to me with a “What do you think?” attached, and those who disagree with me – some on the essentials.  Of course, I thank those who agree with me as well.  :^)

And of course, I pray that these posts will challenge the readers to rethink their views, to bring their thoughts into conformity – not with my thoughts, but with a genuine Christian/biblical worldview – into conformity with Christ.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

THE HIDDEN TREASURE AND THE PRECIOUS PEARL

In Matthew 13, we find a series of seven parables taught by Jesus, mostly having to do with the coming Kingdom.  According to verses 10 and 34, these parables were spoken to “the crowds,” while Jesus explained the meanings of some to His disciples.

The parables are:
·        The Sower and the Soils (verses 3-9); interpretation (verses 18-23).
·        The Weeds and the Wheat (verses 24-30); interpretation (verses 36-43).
·        The Mustard Seed (verses 31, 32).
·        The Leaven (verse 33).
·        The Hidden Treasure (verse 44).
·        The Precious Pearl (verses 45, 46).
·        The Net (verses 47, 48); interpretation (verses 49, 50).

Jesus only gives interpretations to three of these:  The Sower and the Soils, The Weeds and the Wheat and The Net; the others are left to the disciples and the readers to understand.

Of the seven, two (The Hidden Treasure and The Precious Pearl) are especially beautiful.  Yet strangely it is these two that are, I believe, most often misinterpreted.

“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and from joy over it, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44).

“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant man, seeking beautiful pearls.  And finding one extremely precious pearl, he went away and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45, 46).

These two are usually understood as a call to radical discipleship, such as Jesus demanded elsewhere in the gospels.  By this interpretation, the man who buys the field and the pearl-merchant represent the believer who commits his all to follow Jesus in His inauguration of the Kingdom.  He sells all to gain the treasure or the pearl.

In a variation of this interpretation, this person does this to gain the Kingdom or eternal life.  “Both parables make the point that a sinner who understands the priceless riches of the kingdom will gladly yield everything else he cherishes in order to obtain it.  The corresponding truth is also clear by implication:  those who cling to their earthly treasures forfeit the far greater wealth of the kingdom.”  (John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus, page 135.)

Though the interpretation of the parables as a call to discipleship is an old one (“classic” according to Mr. MacArthur), it ignores the context of the other parables.  And it certainly is not “the gospel” of eternal life.  Our salvation is gained by faith in Christ and His work, not by our “selling all.”

Some points to consider:
·        In the other parables, the initiator of the action is someone who represents “the Son of Man” (Jesus):  The “Sower” in the first two parables (verse 37), the “man” in the third and the “woman” in the fourth.  The “they” in the last parable are said to be angels (verses 48, 49).  It would seem reasonable to assume that the two initiators in verses 44-46 would also be the same.  None of the others speak of disciples or others as initiating the action.
·        Both “The Kingdom of Heaven” and its subjects are in the other parables represented by things, objects.  The only actual persons mentioned beside those representing Jesus are “the devil” (verse 39) and “the angels” (verse 49.  Why should these two parables be understood differently?
·        In verse 38, Jesus tells His disciples that “the field is the world.”  In verse 44, the treasure is hidden in “the field.”  There seems to be no good reason why this word would have a different meaning in both passages.

I believe a more accurate interpretation of these two parables gives us a beautiful picture of the work of Christ.  By this understanding, both the man who buys the field and the pearl-merchant represent Christ Himself.  As in the other parables, He initiates the action.

We then, His elect, His chosen ones, those who will believe in Him are the treasure in the field and the precious pearl.

We need to remember in interpreting a parable, an extended simile, that it is just that, not an allegory.  All the details need not correspond.  Therefore, we do not need to be concerned about the ethics of the man who re-hides the treasure to apparently scam the field’s current owner.

Nor do we need to be overly concerned about what may appear immodest claims about ourselves and our own intrinsic worth.  We are of value in Jesus’ sight, as those created in His image, as the objects of His love.

So here we have the beautiful picture of the love of God the Son Who “sold all that He had” to purchase us, or as Paul puts it, He
“… emptied Himself
taking the form of a slave
becoming in the likeness of man
and being found in appearance as man
He humbled Himself
becoming obedient right up to death
even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7, 8).

And, of course, the only reasonable reaction on our part is to respond by giving our all to Him.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

POLARIZED DISCIPLES?

The Holy Land where Jesus was born, in which He ministered and died – that little strip of land on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea – was a land of conflict.  It would be torn apart by war and depopulated within four decades of His death.  The people there were divided into parties, religious and political, which could or would not, coexist.

The Holy Land of the first century was roughly equivalent in size and area to the Israel of our Old Testament.  But it was a land that through the centuries had lost its glory.  It was, at that time, occupied by Rome, the latest in a long succession of oppressors.

Thought the situation in the Holy Land of the first century was unique, in many ways the “polarization” of the people of that land and time seems strangely parallel to that in our nation.

The religious establishment lived in a general truce with the Roman occupiers, although this truce itself did not always hold.  The religious were themselves divided theologically, as well as politically.  And of course, the irreligious or less religious were despised as “sinners.”

Then, of course, there were the economic divisions.  There were wealthy landowners, independent artisans and small businessmen, tenant farmers, day laborers and slaves.

Out of this varied and often polarized population were those who followed Jesus, men and women.  And out of this number Jesus chose His twelve apostles, those who would spend their time with Him being discipled and mentored, as well as being appointed to missions of preaching and healing.

We don’t know a lot about the backgrounds of these twelve men.  We do know that four of them were men who left the fishing business behind.  Two others stand out:  Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot.  These men were about as far apart as any two men could be, farther apart then our current Religious Right and Secular Left.

Matthew the tax-collector is mentioned in Matthew 9:9-12 and 10:3; Mark 2:14-17 and 3:18; Luke 5:27-32 and 6:15; Acts 1:13.  He is also called Levi in a few of these passages.  He was apparently a wealthy man, as it is noted that he hosted a feast for all his friends.  He was also a member of a group of people that was despised by almost all of his neighbors.

Taxes of many kinds were laid by the Romans on the people of the land, over and above their temple and religious taxes.  There were land taxes laid on those who owned and worked the land, as well as a head tax laid on every person counted in the census.  These taxes were collected by those in the Jewish establishment.  But the most despised taxes were the customs or tolls collected at ports and city gates on goods passing through.  These could be collected over and over.  Matthew was one of those who sat at the tax booth (Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27).

The tax-collector was one who paid for this authority to the Romans.  The job was let to the highest bidder so that Rome got its money in advance.  The tax-collector then collected what he could for his own benefit.  These people were despised for two reasons:  they were collaborators with the oppressors, and they were usually just plain crooks.  They were associated with “sinners” (Mark 2:15; Luke 15:1) and with “prostitutes” (Matthew 21:31, 32) in the New Testament.

Simon the Zealot is mentioned in Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13.  Matthew 10:4 and Mark 3:18 refer to him as Simon the Cananean, which is a transliteration of the Aramaic Qan’ana’, which also means zealot.

There were many extremist groups in the first century Holy Land, ranging from religious extremists to outright terrorists.  Many are mentioned in the New Testament:  false Messiahs (Matthew 24:23); bandits (lestas), two of whom were crucified alongside Jesus (Mark 15:27); assassins (sikarioi; Acts 21:38); revolutionaries of all sorts (Acts 5:36, 37); -- Barrabas was one of these.  Though John simply refers to him as a bandit (John 18:40), Luke tells us that he had been involved in an insurrection and murder (Luke 23:18, 19).

According to Josephus (Jewish wars, 4:3) the Zealot party formed later, during the conflicts that led to the revolt against Rome.  While they were not the principle leaders in the revolt, they were among those who chose to fight till the death.  While Josephus only mentions them as being much later than the time of Jesus, it is quite clear that many of those who made up the party were around already.

It seems doubtful that Simon would be nicknamed “the Zealot” simply because of his zeal.  It is more likely that he acquired the title because of his radical views (and actions?) before he became a disciple.

So we have two men (and only two) among the twelve who were labeled by their previous lives.  One, whose title signified greed and collaboration with an occupying foreign government, and the other whose title signified violence and hatred for that same government.  These facts raise a number of questions in my mind:
·        Why did Jesus choose such radically diverse men?
·        Why did they choose to follow Jesus?
·        Did their backgrounds in any way equip them for discipleship?
·        How much of their past thinking did they retain after becoming disciples?
·        Did their past affect the way they interpreted Jesus’ teachings on discipleship?
·        Did they ever clash with each other?

We don’t know the precise answers to these questions, though we do know that Jesus demanded total allegiance from the twelve.  He demanded a forsaking of and a radical break from the past.  From the stories related about Matthew, we can see that he did forsake all and that he used his wealth to introduce his friends to Jesus (Luke 5:27-29).  We can only assume the same about Simon.

Today in America we have the “Culture Wars.”  We see the followers of Christ divided along political and economic lines.  We divide over certain moral issues.  We have a “Christian Right” and a “Christian Left.”  We even question the reality of the faith of those who disagree with us.

I may be wrong, but I don’t think it was that way among the twelve.  I suspect Jesus would have quashed such talk as He did their other disagreements.  And these men, I believe, knew that they had a purpose, a mission.  They knew that He had chosen them to “disciple all the nations.”

I believe it is time for us Christians in America to recognize that we are called first of all to be disciples of Jesus Christ and to carry out His command to love our neighbors and His commission to win the nations to Him.  We may have differing views on many matters, but we need to “bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10::5b).