Wednesday, July 27, 2011

1 Thessalonians 1 5b-7

Pass it forward. We were an example to you, you became an example to others. That, in a nutshell, is the basic message of 1 Thessalonians 1:5b-7.

....You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit; so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedo'nia and in Acha'ia.   1 Thess 1:5-7 RSV

When Messiah chooses us, when we know that we have been purchased by his blood, we are wrong to say, "I have my ticket to heaven." Heaven is not a destination, it is new life from the moment you are born from on high. You will find that you are on a journey along a steep and narrow path but you are not alone. There are others who stepped on the path before you, and still more who will come after you.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 RSV The way of righteousness is how we are to live. A. Roth in his "Aramaic English New Testament" teaches that "turning to YHVH" is a very Jewish idea. In the English speaking world we would call this action "repentance". When we turn to YHVH or repent of sin, we find the path of righteousness. The path is a way to live. A life of righteousness is a very specific way to live. I find that it does not come natural or easily on this difficult path. Y'shua/Jesus came to show us the way. Those who followed Y'shua gave the pattern for those of us who would follow them on the path. We in turn are to be an example for those who come after us.

The beauty of this walk of faith is that we do not need to become Pharisees, judging one another, practicing ritual fasting or other pious acts to stay on the path. Make no mistake, judgement (that starts from within), fasting and pious acts all have a place upon this path we walk but they are not the path. I personally believe that the Pharisees did what they did because they wanted to be righteous before God. I think that they wanted to be worthy of being imitated. But I know that we have an element that they did not have which keeps the Way from being added to or watered down by those who go before us. We have the breath of YHVH, the Holy Spirit who gives us life in addition to his Word which gives us the way.

The Gospel comes to all of us in Word, but for the chosen it also comes with the power of the Holy Spirit, the life breath of God. You can have religion with the Word but unless you have life, religion is all you get. With the Life of the Spirit you gain a relationship with YHVH. The power to live.

Why than is it so important to be tested, proofed, and to live as an example? For me, I know my YHVH but I cannot see Him. He constantly puts before me people who are walking on the path, who show me that even when it seems difficult, we have power to overcome the difficulty and to continue on. There are those who come after me, who watch how I walk, how you walk, on this steep, narrow path. They are encouraged by our walk. There are even many on the wide path of destruction, who have slid from the path or have not yet come to faith, who watch us walk in righteousness and they are encouraged to turn to YHVH, to repent. It is important that we follow Messiah so that those who follow us can give the glory, not to us, but to Y'shua!

Press on fellow Pilgrims.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cedar Wax Wings

Photo by Ray, Pure delight came from God

Just in case you did not know, a Cedar Wax Wing is a small bird. They were abundant at Silver Lake where we had family camp again this year. The following video was shot on day 2 of camp. Usually Silver Lake is all about Canada Geese and what they leave behind. This year it seemed as if the beautiful Cedar Wax Wing was begging for attention..... with far less to NOT step in.

By the way, the great shot above is from Ray. Great job!

Friday, July 22, 2011

1 Thessalonians 1:4-5

For we know, brethren beloved by God, that he has chosen you;  for our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.   1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 RSV
YHVH has chosen you. Have you ever thought of that before? Do you believe it? He chose Paul who was busy killing and persecuting men and women of faith. If ever you have any doubt that you were good enough for God, then read Paul's testimony in the book of Acts, No one is good enough for God. It is the reason you needed Y'shua/Jesus (but that is the subject of another post). How do you  know if you were chosen? First He will make sure that the gospel comes to you. But it will not come  just with sound or words on a page. It will come with the full power of the breath of YHWH, the Holy Spirit. There is conviction of sin and finally, there is someone to disciple you.

but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.  John 10:2-4 rsv
Chosen: Y'shua said to an assembly of Pharisees, "many are called but few are chosen" Matthew 22:14. At that time he was speaking to the un-chosen, those who insisted that their religious choice and education were more to them than the Messiah in front of them. They saw the splendor of tradition and self-righteousness as far more precious than faith even though, as scholars of the Tanack (old testament) they must have known that righteous deeds, done in our own power, are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6, see end note). Here in 1 Thessalonians, Paul, Silvanus and Timothy are speaking to the chosen who have already shown that they are people of faith, love and hope (verse 3). Of the many who are called in Thessolin'ca, these were the chosen.

The Word: Paul, Silvanus and Timothy brought the Word, the logos (dabar in Hebrew) to the Synagogue in Thessolini'ca. They were not on a book tour, they had nothing to sell, nothing to promote but The Way, the gait, into the kingdom of light. They were here to invite the many in order for the few chosen to discover the gait that leads to life. Y'shua/Jesus is the Word of God, he is also the gait. All who would believe must come through him. Too many look at the Bible as a book of wisdom or a collection of myth with some insight for living scattered in. If this is your opinion of the Word of God, may I humbly suggest that you are not among the chosen? Ask God to show you for sure. The Word of God is alive and speaks to us. But you only know that when you are "born again", when your spirit is made alive.

The Holy Spirit: The chosen have the Spirit of God, his breath, living in them. I do not know how to explain this, I only know that it is true. Even Y'shua experienced a time of being filled with the Spirit of God.
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove;  Mark 1:9-10  RSV
When the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, lives in a believer than the Word of God becomes far more than a book. The Word becomes alive and speaks to us. Maybe it is better to say that we become alive in the Spirit and can now hear and understand the Word.

I remember the moment I became born from above at 21 years of age. No matter where I turned in the Bible, I gleaned fresh  understanding. I struggled to understand the Bible before my salvation. It is almost amusing to read my study notes from that time.

With full conviction: Full conviction comes before you are born again. Those who are chosen feel the weight of sin and despite the shame of it, long for freedom in Messiah. The whole world watched as Casey Anthony stood and listened to the charges against her. There was such tension on her young face. A new look washed over her as she listened to the verdict. Not guilty, not guilty, not guilty. I do not want you to get caught up with how you feel about Ms Anthony, but with your own sin. It is no different than hers in the eyes of God. We are condemned but for the mercy of God. We cannot lie our way out, we are unable to have time off for "good behavior" (good works). We are guilty and we know it if we have been chosen. Unlike Ms Anthony, we have not been pronounced "not guilty" but "guilty". But Y'shua/Jesus stepped up and paid the penalty of our sin.

Conviction will also comes after we are born again. It is one of the tools that guides us on the path of life. It will convict us of sin if need be, but it is more likely to speak to us about living instead of why we are in need of a Savior.

God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son. Why isn't the world at peace? I believe that it is because His love only rests on the chosen. If at this moment you do not believe, it is not because you are not chosen. God still sent his Son for you. Before you will experience the love of God you must come to Him. For those who believe, there is joy, evidence of God's love when it seems that there should only be despair in living. Keep reading Thessalonians. Joy in life becomes evident. Do we who believe cry? If my own pool of tears means anything, than yes, we cry, we feel the pain of life. But we have hope. And more than hope, we have the compassion of the hand of God that allows us to keep walking in hope.

Before Heaven:
Revelation 7:17  For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
And in heaven, where I wonder if I will cry for what was and those who refused to believe:
Revelation 21:3-4  and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them;  he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away."

note: filthy rags absorb menstrual flow. The self-righteous are like a woman longing to present a child to her husband  but without his power to produce a child, all she has to offer is the evidence of her fruitless life. No life (baby) just menstrual rags (pads).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

1 Thessalonians 1:3-4

remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  For we know, brethren beloved by God, that he has chosen you;  1 Thessalonians 1:3-4 RSV

Last night (July 10, 2011) I watered the garden by the light of a beautiful sunset. This morning, the summer day is overcast and rather dreary. It occurred to me that the clouds that made the evening sky so glorious were the very clouds now making the new day seem dull and dreary. Maybe ministry is like those clouds. When I first embrace ministry it is glorious, but the daily grind can wear me down and leave me wondering if I have bit off more than I can chew. How do I continue on?
Your work of faith: The word translated work is ergon (er'-gon) and is a noun. It gives a name to what we do. The ministry you are called to is your work of faith. The men who wrote this letter assured the believers of Thessalonians that they are, "...constantly remembering you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith..."
When the assembly of Thessaloni'ca first received the Gospel they experienced three weeks of jaw-dropping excitement. Even those who did not go on to believe must have felt some joy of discovery as they dove into the Scriptures to argue their answer. Even so, it is important to remember that they were not given the commendation of being noble for searching the Scripture to see if what Paul was saying was true (Acts 17:10-12).
Now when they had passed through Amphip'olis and Apollo'nia, they came to Thessaloni'ca, where there was a synagogue of the Jews.  And Paul went in, as was his custom, and for three weeks he argued with them from the scriptures,  explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ."  And some of them were persuaded, and joined Paul and Silas; as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women.  Acts 17:1-4 RSV
With a "great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women," SOME of the Jews in the assembly believed that Y'shua/Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting for. Why do I say that they have been waiting for the Messiah? Because God had entrusted them with the oracles of YHVH/God. (Romans 3:2). When YHVH spoke, it was the Hebrews he spoke to. They were the people whom YHVH instructed with his word, they were responsible to memorialize and obey it. I do not want to be too harsh on the Hebrews, I know the church of today has been instructed to watch for his soon return and to walk before him in faith, Too often we concern our selves with issues that are so petty that we forget to watch in faith. It happens. Those who believe receive the Word with joy. They accept not only the call to salvation, but the ministry, the work of faith, work that will define their earthly life.

Labor of love: When I first read this passage I wondered to myself, what is the difference between "work" and "labor"? Here in Thessalonians work is your ministry. I expected labor to be what I did to accomplish that ministry, but it is more than that. kopos (#2873 kop'-os) is toil, but this toil saps our strength and leaves us weary (Zodhiates' NT Word Study). At the end of the day, it leaves us unable to rest (No rest for the weary). The "work" embraced by faith results in "labor" sustained by love. Even if the bright clouds that prompted the work seem to become dull and heavy, we carry on because of love knowing that rest will one day come.
And I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth." "Blessed indeed," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!"  Revelation 14:13 RSV
Steadfastness of hope: hupomone (#5281 hoop-om-on-ay') this is not talking about people, it is about our endurance in the work we have been given to do. What keeps us going when someone else seems to have more interesting work or when we just want a break, a vacation to refresh our self? Steadfastness, remembering the faith and love that did not run from the cross. Y'shua knew times when the crowd made him weary. He knew times of temptation to be discouraged because they did not understand him. He must have felt tempted to slide out from under the yoke given to him by his Father. But he chose to endure, to be steadfast.

...let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.   Hebrews 12:1b-2 RSV
Jesus is my example. He remained "steadfast" for the joy, the "hope" that was before him. He asked God to show him if there was any other way to accomplish this work. There was no other way or the Father who loves him, who loves us, would have opened the way to an easier path. "...for the joy that was set before him endured ....despising the shame..."

Remember to pray, remember that others are praying for you, and you pray for them. There is work that is a privilege, glorious work embraced by faith, laborious work that must be continued in love, steadfast because of hope, the joy to come. I am in a dreary time but there are those who pray as I must also pray for them, for the love that keeps us going. One day there will be rest, on the other side of those clouds.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,  Hebrews 12:1  RSV

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 RSV

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bushwhacking on the Mountain Loop

I have had the WORST time putting this video up. It has sound for a while, than it goes mute on both facebook and on you tube. Gurrr! I ended up redoing it from scratch.

This was the first day of Rays Vacation. Ray's nephew Dennis joined us for what was supposed to be a day of easy geo caching but it turned out to be some tough hiking on an overgrown trail. Loved it! At one place we had to step over a HUGE pile of bear poop. That is always a little unsetteling, but the poo was not fresh so most of us did not worry too much. That was actually where my little dog, Rudy Valentine, started to worry when he could not keep Ray and I next to each other. He isn't usually whinny out hiking like he is in this video.

BTW, Dennis tells me that he was not hurt. PRAISE GOD!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer Reading; 1 Thessalonians

Years ago, while working at a local Christian school, I had two Greek students. Their home was Thessaloni'ca and they grew up speaking the language that I struggle to understand through books and commentaries. Talking with Dimitri about the meaning of words was joy. His sister Anthea was shy but charming. I think of them as I try to mentally enter the world of the Thessalonians, a place I have never seen.
Paul, Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.
Who are Paul, Silvanus and Timothy?
Paul and Silvanus are Jewish men who are also citizens of Rome.
But Paul said to them (the Phillipan jailer), "They (the big wigs of Philippi) have beaten us in public without trial, Men who are Romans, and have thrown us (Paul and Silvanus) into prison; and now are they sending us away secretly? No indeed! But let them come themselves and bring us out." And the policemen reported these words to the chief magistrates. And they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans,   Acts 16:37-38
Both of these men have a Roman name as well as a Jewish name. Saul/Paul and Silas/Silvanus.

Timothy is half Greek, half Jewish. He was raised by his Jewish mother and grandmother in the land of his Father. When Paul met him and realized what a quality young believer he was, he invited him to come with him on his journey.

How did they become acquainted with Thessaloni'ca?
Originally, everyone who was a believer in Y'shua (Jesus) were in Jerusalem. In the beginning believers were Jewish or had become worshippers of YHVH in the Synagogue. The Lord gave the Apostle Peter a vision that he would include gentiles in the kingdom of heaven, a difficult concept for life-long Jews. Peter was the first to witness the Spirit of God filling Gentile men in the same way that he had experienced. Paul was also called to bring the Word of Life to everyone, the Jew first and then to the Gentile. (a gentile is any person who is not a Jew). He and Barnabas set out to fulfil that mission. Other men felt the same call to spread the gospel. The problem was that Paul and Barnabas rightly understood that while we still enter into a covenant with YHVH, that covenant had a different administration than it did under Moses. Among the many changes in administration, such as a new high priest and a new, perfect sacrifice, the sign of the covenant, which is circumcision, was now of the heart, not done by the hands of men in the flesh. Jewish men came from Jerusalem to share the good news of the gospel with the world. Hallelujah! But they misunderstood that under the new administration of this covenant, men who believe no longer need to be circumcised in the flesh. Because these men were known as Judisers I assume that they believed that under Y'shua, all the world would become Jewish and live under the old administration of Moses. To solve this dilemma they all went back to Jerusalem where it all began, to discuss with the apostles and elders how to have unity. The result was the famous letter of Acts 15:23-29. Silas (Silvanus) and a man named Judas went with Paul and Barnabas back to their home church of Antioch where the letter was received with joy for the encouragement it gave to a unified body of believers.

To make a long story short, Paul and his new partner, Silas, set off on a journey to encourage the churches that Paul and Barnabas had established with the letter from Jerusalem. Along the way they brought the good news of Y'shua  for all men to Phillippi. While there they were beaten and imprisoned. Instead of moaning about their circumstances, they praised God in the dark. God set them free from prison by knocking down the prison. Salvation came to the house of the Warden (the jailer) but the city asked them to leave. Thus bruised and cut but strengthened in Y'shua, they came to Thessaloni'ca where they got right to the mission of sharing the good news in the local synagogue. People of all sorts responded. There is no evidence that they told the assembly about the drama in Phillippi and what God had done for them, only what the Scriptures said God would do for all who believe.

Jealousy is an ugly attribute. It slips up on a soul and does not introduce itself, everyone but the jealous person sees it for what it is. After three weeks of speaking in the Synagogue of Thessaloni'ca where a few Jews and even more God fearing men became believers in the Way, believers in Y'shua/Jesus  (according to FF Bruce, God-fearers are gentiles who worship YHVH by doing everything according to Torah EXCEPT being circumcised in the flesh). Acts 17:5 says that the Jews became jealous. The rest of Acts 17 tells the result of their jealousy ending with forcing Paul to leave the infant church. Apparently Silas and Timothy stayed behind for a short while to establish the church in Thessaloni'ca. Would the breath of YHVH, whom we call the Holy Spirit, be enough to sustain this infant assembly of believers in the midst of so much opposition? Could the church stand under the weight of jealousy? Would they still respect Paul and his companions?

The first letter to the Thessalonians will give the happy answer.