Friday, November 25, 2011

How Sincere Are We?

Look what I discovered today.
The New Testament Greek word that we translate as 'sincere' is 'heilikrines'. 
It comes from two Greek words - 'helio' meaning 'sun' and 'krino' meaning 'to judge'. 
So 'heilikrines' = sun-judged or sun-tested.

Likewise, our English word 'sincere' comes from two Latin words - 'sine' meaning 'without' and 'cere' meaning 'wax'.
So 'sincere' = without wax.

No, absolutely beautiful.

Early marble workers would fill cracks or mistakes in their art pieces with a mixture of marble dust and wax to present a "perfect" product to sell.
When exposed to the heat of the sun the wax would often melt and expose the blemishes, and their dishonesty.
Similarly porcelain workers would use a pearly white wax to fill the cracks that appeared in their pieces during the firing process. 
They looked OK in the shop, but the wax appeared as a dark seam in the white porcelain when held up to the sunlight.

Honest artists and craftsmen would mark their genuinely perfect pieces as 'sine cera' (without wax).

When we are sincere, we are without wax - open to God's penetrating light and found to be made of the right stuff all the way through.

I was blessed by that little gem and wanted to share it with you.
Have a great day.
Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Happy God

What is your picture of God?
Many people "see" him as an old man with a stern, unhappy face framed by grey hair and a long white beard.
Many of God's Old Covenant people considered him to be angry, unable to be pleased and judgmental.

Even Christians, who know that he loves them so much that he gave his son to die for them, often see God as one who is sitting waiting for them to do something wrong so he can pounce on them and squeeze a confession out of them before it is too late and he has to exclude them from their inheritance.
What a sad state of affairs!

Those of us who know God's plan to save the world through Jesus usually see God much better than that.
We see him as loving, kind, merciful to all, showering mankind with his amazingly, generous grace.

But let's go a bit further.
Have you noticed the difference in translation of the Beatitudes (recorded in Matthew 5) in different versions of the Bible?
The familiar "Blessed are ..... " statements are often replaced by "Happy are ..... " statements.
Let's consider both these translations.

"Blessed" means for one person to be given a compliment or a good recommendation or praise by another - "I was blessed by what he said."
So the "Blessed are ..... " translations are saying that the categories of people mentioned are praised by God, they are commended by him.
For example, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" means "Praised (or, to be praised) are the poor in spirit."

"Happy" means more like "having joyousness springing from within" - I felt so happy when I heard that.
So the "Happy are ..... " translations are saying that the various groups of people mentioned have joy welling up within them, they are (inwardly) joyous or content.
For example, "Happy are the meek" means "Inwardly joyous or content are the meek."

Now which translation option (blessed or happy) is to be preferred?
Clearly both are acceptable as we don't know which of those two meanings Jesus had in mind when he made these statements.
And because I don't know which he had in mind, I'll make my own choice.
I like "happy" better.  Blessed is a bit ethereal or nebulous for me, while happy is more earthy and real.

In any case, if you want to say blessed or commended, the Greeks have a separate word for saying it than the one used in the Beatitudes.
It is "eulogeo," which means to say-well of some one or thing, and looks very much like our English word "eulogise" which means to highly praise someone.
In the Beatitudes, however, "blessed" is a translation of the Greek word "makarion."
And "makarion" conveys the idea of happiness (inward joyfulness), as well as being fortunate or well off.

So I would prefer to leave all the blessing to "eulogeo" and all the happiness to "makarion."

One of the benefits of making this translation choice is found in 1 Timothy 1 : 11.
..... according to the Good News of the glory of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.

Now if we replace "blessed" by "happy," as do at least two literal translations I own, we have Paul telling us that what was committed to his trust was the good news of the glory of the happy God.
The good news which Paul was preaching came from the happy God - that's good news in itself.

That's a better picture than most people have of him - and picturing the happy God is easier for me to do than trying to picture the blessed God.
Seems more real in some way.
What do you think?
Are you worshipping and serving the happy God who has this wonderful plan of reconciliation for the whole world, and has called you to be a minister of it?

Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

And There's More ......No Timeframe (almost)

Another interesting thing about the Law of Redemption is that there is virtually no time-frame applicable to the people involved.
The law does not say that a person must be redeemed immediately by the close relative, or even within a set time of being sold. 
Any point within the period of bondage is an appropriate time for a person to be redeemed.

But there is one time factor that overrides everything else, supersedes all redemption laws.
It is the Law of Jubilee.
Count off seven sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years.
Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land.
Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan.
The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines.
For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields.
In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to their own property.
[ Lev 25 : 9 - 13  NIV ]
On this occasion, once every 49 years, all debts were cancelled and all people returned to their own land.
The application of this law prevented debts continuing for ever (which plagues modern society) and prevented everlasting punishment for sin.
This is God's grace in action - in the LAW!
And who said grace was only a New Testament concept?

And for the person sold to a foreign master and unable or unwilling to be redeemed?
Even if they are not redeemed in any of these ways, they and their children are to be released in the Year of Jubilee, for the Israelites belong to me as servants.
They are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.
[ Lev 25 : 54 -55  NIV ]
There are no debts and no debtors in the land after the Jubilee.
Everyone is free.

It shouldn't be hard to see the application of the Jubilee to the plight of the world - of those who can't or won't be redeemed by their close relative Jesus.
The creation's jubilee is coming.
Every thing and every one will be set free.
As Peter says
Heaven must receive him [Jesus] until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.
[  Acts 3 : 21  NIV ]
And Paul
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
[ 1 Cor 15 : 22  NIV ]
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
[ 1 Cor 15 : 26  NIV ]

and Jesus 
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
[ John 8 : 36  NIV ]
No-one remains a debtor to Satan at the Jubilee of God's creation.  Wow !!
G.R.A.C.E. is what I call it.

Blessings, Barry

More Leviticus Thoughts

Some more thoughts on the speck of gospel gold we found in Leviticus 25 : 47 - 55.

It seems that there were some choices available to the "players" in the redemption game.
The rich foreigner, the one sold and the close relative all had decisions to make.

The rich foreigner, or creditor, could choose whether to enslave his debtor or not, or whether he would just give him more time to pay his debt.
He does not have the option, however, to decide whether or not to allow the slave to be redeemed (provided that the proposed redeemer is a close relative and has the required payment.)

The one sold, or debtor, could choose whether to allow his close relative to free him or not.
He may think he is better off with the master he has, than working for an unpleasant or over-demanding or less generous relative.

The close relative, or redeemer, could choose (providing he had enough money) whether to redeem his kinsman or not.
Although the redeemed would be required to now work for him, he may decide that is not good value for the money he might invest.

All of them have choices they can make, but only within the limits imposed by a greater law, called the Law of Jubilee.
(We'll discuss this greater, over-arching law in the next posting.)
So each of them has "limited freewill" - a brilliant oxymoron I just love to toss into these discussions.

In the broader picture, the application of Israeli life is most interesting.
As Paul suggests, what happened to them is a model or example or pattern for what God is doing universally.

The rich foreigner is Satan who has placed all of mankind into bondage to himself.
He had the choice whether to do this or not, but clearly he chose to capture Adam and all of his "estate."
He also has no choice but to free those in bondage, when the close relative redeemer arrives and pays the price.

The debtor is mankind, some of whom have chosen to be redeemed by their brother, and others who cannot or will not be redeemed.
Those who have chosen to be redeemed are required to serve their redeemer instead of their task master, their creditor.

The close relative is Jesus, who did choose to redeem all who were in bondage to Satan.

The story of the Old Testament and New is much the same.
The same God of grace operates consistently through all the ages - which is a bit of a surprise for many people.

Blessings, Barry