Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Tag

Christian Creatives in a Fallen World   1 comment

In case you can’t tell from the sudden drop-off of blog posts, my ordinary life got busy. I am also trying a few other things, just for variety. For example, I am posting over at Christian Creative Nexus, which this blog post comes from. I’m also thinking about asking my Facebook questions here on Aurorawater Alaska. And I’m now on MeWe. New territory helps to expand networks … I hope.

https://dyegirl1373.wixsite.com/website/single-post/2018/03/07/Lets-Talk-How-to-be-a-Christian-Creative-in-a-Fallen-World

 

I’m one of those Christian creatives who does not advertise my works as “Christian”. Historically, Christian creatives didn’t claim a territory and label themselves. We don’t think of Bach as a “Christian” musician, but rather a great composer who made his living as a church organist. Unless you’re a history geek like me, you might not know about his deep and abiding faith. Although we now think of CS Lewis as a “Christian” author, his fictional works weren’t advised as such when he was publishing because Christians of that era hadn’t decided to paint themselves into a box with a label. Back when I was a kid Elvis Presley (not an example of a “good” Christian, but a man with a church background) and Johnny Cash (by that time, a reprobate saved by Christ) were singing gospel tunes right along with their secular tunes on regular radio … and my non-believing parents didn’t find that the least bit odd.

I want modern Christian creatives to step out of the box labeled “weird” and “other” and place the products of our creativity where we can act as salt and light in the dark world around us. I think Christian creatives have a lot to give to the secular world if we’re willing. But how do we do that?

I think it starts with a conversation among Christian creatives about what it means for us and our creative works to be “in the world, but not of it.” There’s nothing wrong with being counter-cultural, but at least some of us should be speaking to the society around us without painting ourselves into a self-segregated box where our books end up in that lonely section at Barnes & Noble. The real trick is doing that while also paying respect to our Savior and the flawed human beings who follow Him.

Let’s explore that together.

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Remember I Love You   Leave a comment

Make room for us in your hearts;  we have wronged no onewe have ruined no onewe have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you, for I told you before that you are in our hearts so that we die together and live together with you. 2 Corinthians 7:2-3 

Image result for image of discipline of loveIt’s easy to forget that the church at Corinth was a troubled and young church. Paul wrote letters to them to address the various problems in the church, some of which were quite severe. The Corinthians were stiff-necked. They thought their church was doing well and they had expected Paul to praise them, not write to them in a strict manner.

Paul knew that the church members would discuss why he’d written such a letter. They’d have various explanations. Some of them probably complained about it. One popular idea was that Paul wanted to control their church. Probably many of the Corinthian Christians thought Paul no longer loved them. Like children sternly disciplined by a beloved parent, they might have felt bereft. It was hard to be a Christian in such an evil city as ancient Corinth was. Those Christians needed mature leaders like Paul to be tough with them when needed.

Knowing this, Paul mixed his rebukes with expressions of love and reminders of what he was about, as he does here. When he’d been in Corinth, he’d taught God’s message without trying to control anyone or use anyone for his advantage. The Corinthians knew that because they’d been there.

He wasn’t trying to accuse them. He wanted them to remember his love for them and to know, despite his absence of a few years, his love had not changed. He wrote those letters because he loved them and wanted them to sort out their problems for their own goods. Paul was trying to teach them how to serve God better.

Reality in the Middle East   Leave a comment

If you put your opinion out on social media, you’re bound to attract some people who disagree with you and this week, I’ve become velcro. Debating anyone on Twitter is … uh … challenging and I had this guy ask me to meet him in twitter DM for further discussion. My issue is that I would have to follow him to do that and his feed is full of anti-Trump, anti-American, we-don’t-care-about-the-Constitution posts and I’m not interested in supporting that with my follow.

So, for the record, this is what I sort of believe – subject to revision as new facts come in. The topic is Muslim persecution of Christians. Yeah, big topic … impossible at 140 characters.

The conversation started because I responded to a meme that said (I’m still looking for it, so this is a paraphrase) that Muslims have no right to demand entry into US when they come from countries that regularly persecute Christians under cover of law. The poster wanted to know if this was “fair”. I responded that it wasn’t fair, but that it made a point about the treatment of Christians in many Muslim countries. I specifically said “in many ME countries, the only rights Christians have is to die for their faith.”

He accused me of broadly condemning ALL Muslims. So, this is my attempt to make myself clear without the character limit.

My figures can be verified from Amnesty International, US State Department Research and Pew Research. These are not the strongest sources I am familiar with. I know Christians living in the Middle East who point to other websites, but since these are Christian in origin, this fellow would no doubt say they are biased. And, hey, if someone made it illegal for me to practice my faith, I might feel persecuted and be a bit biased against those who want me dead or silenced.

Apostasy and blasphemy may seem to many westerners like artifacts of history, but there still dozens of countries around the world where laws against apostasy and blasphemy remain on the books and often are still enforced.

You need examples of actual current persecution?

In December 2015, authorities in Sudan charged 25 men for apostasy – the act of abandoning one’s faith — including by converting to another religion. The men faced the death penalty for following a different interpretation of Islam than the one sanctioned by the government. I bring this up because Muslims even persecute other Muslims for converting to another type of Islam.

And, in Pakistan in summer 2016, police were pursuing a Christian accused of sending an allegedly blasphemous poem to a friend. Blasphemy – defined as speech or actions considered to be contemptuous of God or the divine – is a capital crime in Pakistan.

According to a 2014 Pew Research Center analysis, about a quarter of the world’s countries and territories had anti-blasphemy laws or policies, and that more than 1 in 10 nations had laws or policies penalizing apostasy. The legal punishments for such transgressions vary from fines to death.

Pew’s research was the basis of a major report on restrictions on religion around the world. The report examines both government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion, relying on 17 widely cited, publicly available sources from groups such as the U.S. State Department, the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Crisis Group.

Pew found that laws restricting apostasy and blasphemy are most common in the Middle East and North Africa, where 18 of the region’s 20 countries criminalize blasphemy and 14 criminalize apostasy. While apostasy laws exist in only two other regions of the world – Asia-Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa – blasphemy laws can be found in all regions, including Europe and the Americas.

Some blasphemy laws have been on the books for decades, through dramatic political and social changes. In Pakistan, blasphemy statutes have their origins in the country’s colonial past, when British rulers first introduced penalties for insulting any religious beliefs. These laws remained in effect after Pakistan’s independence in 1947 and have since increased in severity.

Pakistan is one of 12 of the 50 countries in the Asia-Pacific region that had blasphemy laws in 2014. Blasphemy laws are enforced in several of those 12 nations. In 2014, Burma (Myanmar) convicted a New Zealander and two Burmese men of blasphemy after using an advertisement depicting Buddha with headphones to promote a bar. The men were sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

Apostasy laws are less common worldwide – they are found in 25 countries, in only three regions of the world. By far the most countries with anti-apostasy measures were in the Middle East-North Africa region (14 out of 20).

Seven of the 50 countries (14%) in the Asia-Pacific region also had apostasy laws. In the Maldives, all citizens are required to be Muslim, and those who convert to another faith may lose their citizenship.

So, when I said that in “many Middle Eastern countries” Christians risk dying for their faith, I wasn’t over-stating the case. Pakistan still kills those who convert from Islam to Christianity. Afghanistan still has the death penalty on the books for this, but the US coalition has pressured the government to prevent recent executions. Brunei‘s Penal Code states that a Muslim who declares himself non-Muslim commits a crime that is punishable with death, or with up to 30 year imprisonment, depending on the type of evidence. Iran doesn’t list this in its Penal Code and historical Christian minorities are not directly persecuted, those who convert from Islam to Christianity are threatened, assaulted, detained without charges, and even executed. Jordan doesn’t kill Christians outright, but it monitors Christian evangelists and restricts the civil rights of former Muslims who have converted to Christianity. It also monitors Christian churches. Kuwait‘s constitution upholds the “absolute freedom” of belief, but Christians, particularly converts from Islam, face severe penalties in family courts and there is a law, frequently enforced, prohibiting non-Muslim evangelism among Muslims. In Oman, Christians are denied child custody rights and it is illegal to talk about your faith, but they don’t kill you. Qatar allowed private practice of non-Islamic faith, but there’s a 10-year sentence for talking about your faith if you’re not a Muslim. Saudi Arabia makes it illegal, punishable by flogging, imprisonment and the death penalty, but there haven’t been any recent reported executions, though supposedly, Christianity is growing secretly there. We have all heard what happens in Syria to Christians. That’s not the government, so much as ISIS. The Emirates make it illegal, but Christian churches are growing there publicly.

So that’s four ME countries where Christianity carries the death penalty and several more where it carries severe penalties. Let’s not deny reality. Some of these countries may not actually kill many Christians, but that’s mainly because there are so few there and they live mostly in secret. If they didn’t, the country would kill them.

For a broad view of this topic by a writer who has clearly done more research than I  have, check out this article.

That doesn’t make it right to “ban” Muslims from the US, but it should act as a caution that some Muslims are coming from countries where it is deemed all right to abuse and kill Christians and they bring that mindset with them. So, yes, more screening is needed. The Trump administration went about it ineptly, but there is ample evidence that the Obama administration was biased in the screening process for some immigrants. I know of Europeans who have never had a traffic violation who have had their citizenship application held up for five years and yet Muslim refugees, all through out the Obama administration, were fast-tracked into the country, often with rote acceptance of a UN waiver that turned out not to include what most Europeans or Americans would consider to be a very rigorous background check.

That system needs to be balanced and to the extent that it has not been, it should be restructured.

Worshipping God with Our Lifestyles   1 comment

Sometimes it makes sensse to just focus on a single verse and there’s a lot in 2 Corinthians 7:1.

Thereforesince we have these promisesdear friendslet us cleanse ourselves from everything that could defile the body and the spiritand thus accomplish holiness out of reverence for God. 2 Corinthians 7:1

Image result for image of baptismPaul had told the Corinthians that God would walk in His temple, and dwell in His people, be their God, and they His children, that He will receive them, and be their Father, and they His sons and daughters. They already possessed these promises. They weren’t just the hopes of Old Testament saints. With the resurrection of the Messiah, the New Testament saints actually possessed what had been promised through the means of salvation. They had communion with God Who had received, protected and preserved them through the power of grace.

The Corinthian Christians were of God, being His people, His sons and daughters, adopted, justified, called, and chosen by Him.

And because they had all these promises, there were things they should do to show their appreciation for what God had done for them … and, by extension, us.

The Bible doesn’t teach that the flesh is evil, but it does make it clear that the flesh is corrupted and corruptible. If flesh were evil, God couldn’t have stepped down into it since eveything about God is good. But that doesn’t mean our flesh is good. Not being evil is not the same thing as being good.

Because we are born into a corrupted world, our flesh is corruptible. When Paul exhorted the Corinthians to cleanse themselves from “everything that could defile the body”, he spoke of external pollution, defilement by outward actions committed in the body, that defile us — examples like impure words, filthiness, and foolish talking, rotten and corrupt communication. The tongue, James the brother of Jesus said, is a little member, but it can defile an entire body and corrupt the good manners of others. But filthy actions also include idolatry, adultery, fornication, incest, sodomy, murder, drunkenness, revellings and everything that makes up filthy living.

“That which defiles the spirit” means internal pollution such as evil thoughts, lusts, pride, malice, envy, covetousness. The Jews believed that when a man had taken care to avoid defilement of the body, he must be careful to also avoid defilement of the mind because an evil imagination was likely to drag the body into all sorts of sin.

We don’t have the power to cleanse ourselves from the pollution of our nature. We’re born corrupted and our subsequent actions are also beyond our ability for redemption. It is God’s work alone that can cleanse us from our disobedience, which is why Jesus shed His blood on our behalf, so we might receive the sanctifying influences of the Spirit, which creates a clean heart within us, thoroughly and continually washed of sin as we allow God to work in our hearts.

Although Christians must always focus on our inward faith over any outward form of religion, Paul appears to nod toward at least some external religion — to keep ourselves separate from sin and the behaviors of sinners, to abstain from the appearance of sin, to lay aside activities that are not pleasing to God.

We’re not trying to make ourselves “holy”, for only God can do that. But having our lives dedicated to be good examples of what God wants in His believers is part of the service we offer Him in return for the salvation He has freely offered.

We do these things out of reverence for God — not because we fear Him, but because we recognize that He is deserving of our service, because He is the author of the universe and the Savior of our souls. Consider how a child obeys his father because he loves his father not because his father will punish him if he doesn’t obey, though that may happen if the issue is of great enough importance.

Billy Graham Got An Upgrade   2 comments

Image result for billy grahamThis morning as I drove to work, the news was filled with the “tragedy” that Billy Graham, the evangelist, had died at 99 years of age. “Oh, so sad,” one commentator said.

No! Billy Graham got an upgrade. He’s no longer living in this messy world with pain and lies and evil. He’s with God — a relationship he worked to sustain partially for 85 years is now his fully.

Enjoy the next eternity of life, Billy. My husband and got to hear you preach once, in Anchorage, in 1984. The thing I remember about that crusade was a story you told about a man who said he was “just a pastor” and how you responded that there was “no such thing as just a pastor”. You went on to say that while you accepted your calling as an evangelist, one of the things you regretted was that it meant you couldn’t be a pastor, which you actually considered a higher calling. Since I hadn’t grown up listening to you and really didn’t know you all that well, I was amazed by your humility.

If there is a tragedy in you passing, it is that future generations will not get to hear you preach in person … this side of the veil anyway. We face a world that could use your wisdom. But you’re beyond that now, and I’m sure well-shed of this life.

 

Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.
My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.

Darkness & Light Are Incompatible   Leave a comment

Paul had just finished pleading for the affection of the Corinthian believers. Now he issued a command

Do not become partners with those who do not believe. (2 Corinthians 6:14)

A lot of people concentrate on the first part “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” (quoting from the KJV), but you miss a lot of what is said when you do that. For example, the Greek nuance here is very strong “STOP yoking yourselves to unbelievers.” The use of the present imperative shows that Paul wasn’t merely warning the Corinthians of some hypothetical potential danger, but instructing them to stop an action already in progress.

Image result for image of not being unequally yokedSome scholars feel this section is out of place, that maybe it came from another section and was just inserted here by a later scribe because nobody knew where it belonged. Paul was lobbying strenuously for the Corinthians’ affect and then he resumes his lobbying efforts in 7:2. So what’s with the segue?

The misplaced fragment theory is an easy solution to a complex problem that creates more complex problems. It’s easy to shift the “blame” to someone other than Paul, but it doesn’t really address the question. Why did Paul suddenly insert this phrase into the middle of another narrative. Some scholars think he may have been quoting a familiar sermons, a piece of traditional writing or even an Essene text that had been reworked to reflect a Christian point of view. I think that’s extrapolating an awful lot.

I’m going to suggest that the most obvious answer is the most obvious answer. Paul was perhaps responding to news just received from Titus about a continuing problem with pagan associations. Another possibility is that, having asked the Corinthians to “open wide” Paul was now cautioning them about what not to be open to. 1 Corinthians 10:1-22 shows they were clearly in need of such guidance. Perhaps Paul was engaging in a little structural diplomacy. Modern writers call it “gem setting.” By starting and ending with statements of affection, he attempted to cushion the force of his command. The likeliest explanation is that Paul was specifying the cause for the Corinthians’ constraint toward him: their ongoing partnerships with unbelievers. And, ultimately there need not be just one explanation. A number of things could have led Paul to tackle the problem at this point and in this fashion.

We need to remember that he didn’t have a word processor and paper and ink were precious in his day and time. Perhaps he would have rearranged the letter to put points together had he had the modern conveniences that we do today, but he didn’t. And so, there’s a segue in this section, but ultimately, it fits with Paul’s overall message.

What exactly was Paul prohibiting with his command? The range among translations shows that there is no easy answer to this question.

  • Do not try to work together as equals with unbelievers. (TEV)
  • Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. (NRSV)
  • Do not unite yourselves with unbelievers. (NEB)
  • Do not become partners with those who do not believe (NET)

I think we first have to decide who is “the unbeliever” and what does it mean to be “yoked together”. Fourteen out of sixteen Pauline uses of the term “unbeliever” (apistos) occur in 1st and 2nd Corinthians. The majority appear in 1 Corinthians 7 and distinguish those who have made a commitment to Christ from those who have not (7:12, 13, 14, 15). The only other occurrence in 2 Corinthians is used of those whose minds have been blinded by Satan to the light of the gospel (4:4). Here, in 2 Corinthians 6:14, it refers to those with whom there is a conflict of interest stemming from incompatible loyalties.

Paul certainly doesn’t mean to exclude all contact with unbelievers. He wront in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10, that the church couldn’t avoid immoral people because that would necessitate removing themselves from the world entirely. So, the command here is concerning a particular kind of contact with unbelievers. Paul’s quotation of Isaiah 52:11, where Israel is commanded to come out from them and be separate suggests contact of a compromising nature (v. 17). But what would constitute a compromising liaison? Would working with an unbeliever be forbidden?

Marriage between a believer and unbeliever would certainly be a legitimate application of the command, which accounts for it being the most common connection made in sermons, but is it the only one? It may not even be the primary application, since the focus throughout is on the church, not the individual believer. This is especially clear from the Old Testament passages Paul invoked to support his prohibition. In each case they deal with God’s covenantal relationship with Israel, which Paul reapplied to the church as the temple of the living God (vv. 16-18).

Image result for image of not being unequally yokedHere in my hometown, the local Food Bank is largely funded by a consortium of churches, but it also receives wide support from civil organizations and individuals. Would this command prohibit such collaborations?

The command is literally Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. The verb heterozygew is an agricultural term that refers to the practice of yoking two unequal kinds of animals (such as an ox and a donkey) to a plow. This would suggest that unequal associations between Christians and non-Christians are what Paul specifically had in mind. Paul was clearly thinking of associations that involve a partnership rather than a casual or occasional working relationship.

The specific kinds of partnerships are left unnamed. This may be because Paul dealt with specific instances in 1 Corinthians, so that the Corinthians understood what kinds of partnerships he meant.

  • He had reprimanded them for allowing their legal disputes with one another to be arbitrated by the secular courts (“in front of unbelievers,” 6:1-6).
  • He had admonished them for participating with pagans in their cultic meals (10:6-22).
  • He had rebuked them for approving of sexual unions with prostitutes (6:12-20) and for taking pride in the sexual liaison between a Christian and his stepmother (5:1-13).

Paul was concerned with the unequal partnerships believers form with secular society( unbelievers). Does this mean that it is not legitimate for the church to be active in society and its structures? Paul addressed this question by means of a series of five rhetorical questions that highlight recognized spheres of incompatibility between Christianity and the secular world. Each is introduced with the relative pronoun tis(what), each considers the partnership of acknowledged opposites (such as light and dark), and each expects the answer “No way.”

For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness, or what  fellowship does light have with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14b)

Image result for image of no fellowship between light and darknessThe believer and the unbeliever are driven by a different set of values, the one characterized by righteousness (dikaiosyne), the other by lawlessness (anomia). There are no shared values because the one follows God’s will and the other does not. So there can be no real partnership between them.

Light and darkness are common imagery to describe the way of the righteous and the wicked, found throughout the wisdom literature of the Old Testament (for example, “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble,” Proverbs 4:18-19). In Paul’s writings, light is Christ-centered. Darkness was over the whole universe until God created light. Darkness resided in the hearts and minds of humankind God shone the light of the glorious gospel about Christ in our hearts (4:4, 6). This light makes ethical demands on its recipients in the form of fruit that is “good and right and true” (Ephesians 5:9).

And what agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:15)

The second set of questions considered the partnership of personal opposites. It is widely thought that Belial (Greek Beliar) comes from the Hebrew term beliyya`al, meaning “worthless, good-for-nothing”. Belial as a name for the devil is found only here in the New Testament. Paul usually referred to the Christian’s archenemy as “Satan” (Romans 16:20; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 7:5; 2 Cor 2:11; 11:14; 12:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:18; 2 Thess 2:9; 1 Timothy 1:20; 5:15). In the Old Testament beliyya`al also designates the realm of the powers of chaos and so comes to mean destruction, wickedness and ruin (as in Deuteronomy 13:13[14]; Judges 19:22; 20:13; 1 Samuel 1:16; Psalms 18:4[5]; 41:8[9]; 101:3; Proverbs 16:27; 19:28; Nahum 1:11[2:1]. In the Qumran Scrolls beliyya`al is the name of the highest angel of darkness and the enemy of the prince of light, while in other Jewish materials Belial is the absolute enemy of God and chief of demons (Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs; Jubilees 1:20; The Lives of the Prophets 4:6, 20; 17:2; Sibylline Oracles 2.167; 3.64-74; Ascension of Isaiah 3-4). It is because the unbeliever’s mind has been blinded by the devil to the truths of the gospel (4:4) that the believer and unbeliever hold nothing in common.

And what mutual agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living Godjust as God said, “I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, andthey will be my people.” (2 Corinthians 6:16)

Paul’s final rhetorical question considered the partnership of religious opposites, which goes to the heart of the problem at Corinth. Turning from idols to serve the living God was a regular part of the message Paul preached to Gentiles (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; compare Acts 17:22-31). Corinth was home to many renowned temples — the temple of Aphrodite (the goddess of love, fertility and beauty) situated on the Acrocorinth, an 1,886-foot-high fortified mountain, and the sanctuary of Asclepius (god of healing). The pagan temples, which were under the patronage of a particular god or goddess, were a focal point of social activity. Invitations along the lines of “So and so invites you to dine at the temple of Serapis” were a regular social possibility for those living in a city like Corinth.

To a Christian, an idol is nothing in the world because there is no God but one (1 Corinthians 8:4). On the other hand, to continue to be involved in the pagan cults would suggest that an idol has value. Participation in cultic meals and temple worship would seriously call into question one’s loyalty to God. While the meat that has been sacrificed to an idol is itself indifferent, participation in the cultic meal is not. Such participation not only gives credibility to the idol but also forges a union with the patron god or goddess. Christian involvement leads others to think that there must be something to this after all. Moreover, while the idol itself may be nothing, there is a power behind the idol that is not to be overlooked. This is why Paul equated participation in cultic meals with becoming partners with demons (1 Corinthians 10:14-22).

Therefore “come out from their midst, and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch no unclean thing, and I will welcome youand I will be a father to youand you will be my sons and daughters,” says the All-Powerful Lord. (2 Corinthians 6:17-18)

It’s becoming increasingly common for Christian ministers, once great supporters of public schools, to now advocate for home schooling and private schools because they have come to recognize that public school curricular materials are increasingly in direct opposition to Christian values, calling into question whether Christians should be involved with the system.

Paul described the church (and the individual Christian) as the temple of the living God, or, better, the “sanctuary” (naos)–the most sacred part of the temple structure (v. 16). Paul’s choice of words is significant. The temple of the living God does not refer to a building. From the days of Solomon to the time of Christ, the temple was a physical structure where God made His presence known to Israel, but with Christ’s coming, God’s temple became the people gathered in Christ’s name. The first-person pronoun is placed at the head of the clause for emphasis–We are the temple of the living God (v. 16). I think most Christians today don’t sufficiently grasp this theological point. The evidence for that is that we talk about “going to church,” “the church building” and “entering the house of God”, which leads insider and outsider alike to think of the church as a physical structure rather than the people who gather there.

To be the temple of the living God is to belong exclusively to God and to forsake all associations that would be incompatible with God’s ownership. To drive home this point, Paul cited six Old Testament passages that spell out what it means to be God’s possession. In each case a text that deals with God’s covenantal relationship with Israel was reapplied to the church (vv. 16-18). Phrases from each passage are woven together in an almost unprecedented way, recalling the testimonial collections of the early church.

I will live with them most likely comes from Leviticus 26:11 (“I will put my dwelling place among you”), but Ezekiel 37:27 is also a possibility (“my dwelling place will be with them”). The verb translated live with (enoikeo) means to “inhabit” or “be at home.” The notion is active rather than passive. To be at home is to exercise one’s rights as the proprietor of the house. So for God to inhabit his church is for him to establish his rule there. Walk among them is taken from Leviticus 26:12, with the minor modification of changing the pronoun from second to third person. To walk among is actually to “walk in and around”. God does not merely exercise His rights as proprietor but moves with familiarity from one room to the next.

I will be their God and they will be my people is a recurring promise of Yahweh to Israel in the Old Testament. The first occurrence is in Leviticus 26:12, the most probable source of Paul’s quote–although it also appears in the familiar texts of Jeremiah 31:33, 32:38 and Ezekiel 37:27. The imagery shifts at this point from dwellings to treaties. The language is that of a sovereign to a vassal. Under the terms of the treaty that bound king and vassal together, the king agreed to protect the vassal, and the vassal promised sole allegiance and obedience. This is why worship of God and worship of idols are fundamentally incompatible. While we no longer relate to God as vassals to a sovereign, the essential principle of exclusive possession underlying the Mosaic covenant still holds true (3:14).

Therefore (v 17) introduces the practical implications of verses 14-16. The pledge of the sovereign’s presence and protection also carried with it certain moral mandates for the vassal. The mandate for Israel was that they were to come out from them and be separate. . . . Touch no unclean thing. Paul quoted from Isaiah 52:11, changing the order of the commands and adding the phrase says the Lord. In Isaiah 52:8-12 the Israelites were warned as they leave Babylon that they are not to take any material goods acquired in exile back with them; and those who carry the sacred temple vessels, which had been carefully preserved in exile, are first to purify themselves. Israel was to sever all ties with the idolatries, practices and impurities of their pagan captors. The same is true for the church. God always demands holy living from His people. Since He takes up lodging among us, we in turn are called to separate ourselves from everything incompatible with his holiness (Bruce 1971:215). The verbs are aorist imperatives (exelthate, aphoristhete), making immediate and decisive separation the appropriate course of action.

If the Corinthians do this, the pledge is that God will receive them and be a father to them. They, in turn, will be sons and daughters (vv. 17-18). I will receive you is probably drawn from Ezekiel 20:34. The second part of the pledge is taken from 2 Samuel 7:14 (2 Kingdoms 7:14): “I will be his father, and he will be my son.” Paul saw God’s promise to David that he will be a father to Solomon and Solomon will be a son to him fulfilled yet again in God’s relationship to the church. The singular son is changed to the plural sons, and the phrase and daughters is added, probably under the influence of Isaiah 43:6. There are to be a family likeness and family affection between God and his people.

The entire string of Old Testament quotations concludes with the phrase says the Lord Almighty. The phrase is a familiar one in the Bible. The term pantokrator, which translates the Hebrew seba’wt, is commonly rendered “almighty” but actually means “master” or “ruler of all”. With this phrase Paul emphasized the awesome truth that it is the One Who rules over all Who chooses to dwell among us and be our Father.

Paul concluded this block of verses with an exhortation to be pure and holy: Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God (7:1). The language and phraseology are not typically Pauline. He might have been quoting a familiar phrase or a well-known ethical injunction. In the sphere of agriculture, katharizo (“purify”) means to “prune away” or “clear” the ground of weeds–which may not be far off the mark here. The more usual way to construe the verb is to “wash” or “cleanse” of dirt or other filth. Paul’s use of the reflexive heautous would support this sense (“to cleanse yourselves“). The aorist tense suggests a decisive action of cleansing (katharisomen).Cleanliness as next to godliness fits well the religious mentality of Paul’s day. Both Greek religion and Judaism placed an emphasis on physical and ritual purity. Within Judaism this mentality was grounded on the presupposition that uncleanness and Yahweh were irreconcilable opposites. The Essenes, in particular, were well known for their rites of purification and daily immersion practices (Link and Schattenmann 1978:104-5).

From what were the Corinthians to cleanse themselves? According to Paul, it was from everything that contaminates body and spirit. Contaminates is actually a noun denoting that which stains, defiles or soils (molysmos). The noun is found only here in the New Testament, although the verb is used twice in Revelation (3:4; 14:4) and once in 1 Corinthians (8:7) of defiling the conscience through the indiscriminate eating of meat sacrificed to idols (compare Jerermiah 23:15). This brings us back full circle to Paul’s opening injunction to stop entering into unequal partnerships with unbelievers (6:14). The close association of molysmos with idolatry suggests that Paul was thinking especially of defilement that comes from dining in the local temples, membership in the pagan cults, ritual prostitution, active engagement in pagan worship and the like.

The defilement mentioned affected body and spirit. The Greek text is literally “flesh and spirit.” Paul could be using popular language to designate the material and immaterial elements of a person, but he used “flesh” and “spirit” interchangeably at 2:13 and 7:5, suggesting he was looking at the human being from two differing perspectives. This fits with Hebraic thinking, which did not compartmentalize the human being but viewed the whole person from different vantage points (such as physical, spiritual, mental).

The positive side of the exhortation is perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. Holiness becomes a reality as we purify ourselves from physical and spiritual pollutants. Purifying ourselves must be done out of reverence for God–that is, in deference and devotion toward Him to whom we owe everything.

That Christians would strive to live a holy life is a wholly appropriate response to the promises of God’s presence (v. 16), His welcome (v. 17) and His fatherhood (v. 18).

Stop Being Victims   Leave a comment

There are a lot of amazing jobs out there. I can imagine being a reporter for a media outlet that was well-respected for providing fair, full and truthful reporting. Brad’s dream job is to be able to invent stuff all day and just give it away to people who need it. Ah, if we only didn’t have to eat ….

Paul had an amazing job. He was an ambassador for Christ. As such, he saw himself  as Jesus’ coworker. They were partners. Jesus had given Paul (and all Christians) the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).

Now because we are fellow workerswe also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “I heard you at the acceptable time, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” Looknow is the acceptable time; looknow is the day of salvation! 2 Corinthians 6:1-2

Image result for image christian reconciliationIt’s not like God needed Paul’s help. He’s God. He doesn’t need our help either. But God wants us to work with Him because it’s good for us. Brad was often torn between letting the kids help him with home construction projects or asking them to go away so he could get the work done quickly. Our daughter loved to “help” in the kitchen, but her help frequently meant wasted food and dinner being slow to get on the table. But we both put up with this because we wanted to work with our kids so that they would learn how to do things for themselves. In a similar way, God allowed Paul and continues to allow us to work with Him so that we might benefit from the interaction. If you go back into Genesis 1, you realize that God’s plan for our lives never involved ease and indulgent inactivity. We were meant to be workers with God and now pet potatoes.

What does it mean to “receive the grace of God in vain”? It means to receive the goodness and favor of God, yet to hinder the work of grace in your life (1 Corinthians 15:10). Paul explained that even if he hadn’t worked as hard as he had, the grace of God would still have been given to him, but in some measure, it would have been given in vain. Grace is, by definition, given freely, but how we receive grace will help to determine how effective it will be in our lives. It’s not given because of any works (past, present or promised) and yet it encourages work. We are not meant to receive grace and grow passive. Paul knew that God gives His grace so that we might work hard and His work might be done.

Verse 2 is a little confusing. We had to turn to Bible commentaries to understand it. It’s a quotation from Isaiah 49:8 and it was meant to give the Corinthian Christians a sense of urgency. God has an acceptable time for us to work with His grace. The day of salvation will not last forever. Sitting down on the job and taking your ease is not in His plan.

We do not give anyone an occasion for taking an offense in anything, so that no fault may be found with our ministry. 2 Corinthians 6:3

Paul was willing to do almost anything to make sure he gave no offense in anything. He was willing to forego payment as a minister of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:3-15). He was willing to allow others to be more prominent. He was willing to work hard and endure hardship. He wasn’t afraid to offend anyone over the gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18-25), but he would not allow his style of ministry to offend anyone.

That didn’t prevent people from blaming and discrediting Paul’s ministry among the Corinthian church. What Paul meant was that his ministry could not be rightly blamed. Paul had no control over false accusations, except to live in such a way that fair-minded people would see accusations as false.

But as God’s servantswe have commended ourselves in every way, with great endurancein persecutions, in difficultiesin distresses, in beatingsin imprisonmentsin riotsin troublesin sleepless nights, in hunger, by purity, by knowledge, by patience, by benevolenceby the Holy Spirit, by genuine love, by truthful teaching, by the power of Godwith weapons of righteousness both for the right hand and for the left, through  glory and dishonorthrough slander and praise; regarded as  impostorsand yet true; as unknownand yet well-knownas dying and yet – see! – we continue to live; as those who are scourged and yet not executed; as sorrowful, but always rejoicing, as  poorbut making many richas having nothingand yet possessing everything.

2 Corinthians 6:4-10

Image result for image christian reconciliationPaul had an impressive resume, things with which he could commend himself. He’d been patient beyond ordinary example. The word in the New Testament “hupomone” carries a connotation of endurance rather than simply waiting. Patience is often perceived as a passive thing – just waiting around for stuff to happen. That’s not how Paul was using the word. He was writing about an active endurance, of bearing hardships in such a triumphant way that it transforms the enduring one.

Why did Paul need endurance? He was often stressed and under pressure, assailed by tribulations, needy and distressed. He’d been flogged, imprisoned, and assaulted by angry mobs. He’d worked hard, slept little and fasted a bunch. Paul had willingly chosen to be a coworker of Jesus, uncomplaining and enduring.

He was not without resources to bulwark against the troubles that came his way. God was with him, supporting him on all sides. The world might lie about him, but God gave him an excellent review.

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthiansour heart has been opened wide to youOur affection for you is not restricted, but you are restricted in your affections for us. Now as a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts to us also. 2 Corinthians 6:11-13

Paul had spent enough time laying down the principles before making a pointed appeal to the Corinthian Christians. He spoke truth in love. The Corinthians were playing “the victim”. Out of godly necessity, he had been firm with them on prior occasions. Now they were claiming they were restricted by Paul’s judgement. I can just imagine what they were saying — “Well, Paul, we’d love to reconcile with you, but we just can’t get over the hurt of what you said before.”

The real problem was that the Corinthian Christians were affecting a victim attitude. It wasn’t that Paul didn’t love them enough, but they loved themselves and the world too much and resented Paul calling them on their selfish attitudes. Paul wanted to see the same honest self-evaluation from them that he had just displayed to them. That was what was needed to bring about reconciliation.

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