Thursday, September 30, 2010

Curbing Hamas

Human history, our history is a history of violence. There has not been a time since our inception, except for a very brief moment in our inauguration that there has not been violence. From the first act of disobedience in paradise, to the first murder as a result of sibling rivalry, violence has plagued our existence.
I guess I am struck to my very being at how much our world is littered with such atrocities and violence. It is something I am aware of that our own country might be forgetting. I think maybe we become accustomed to, and also without realization, be involved in.
I am aware also of G-ds view on violence and the apathy towards its nature. We turn our heads as if to say;"I never saw anything, heard anything or did anything.". Such is the sin of my generation, and G-d responds loudly and clearly in the 11th Psalm verse 5:"The L-rd tests the righteous, but His soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence." To the leaders who do not justice He says in Ps. 58;"Do you indeed decree what is right, you mighty lords(gods)? Do you judge the children of men uprightly? No!, in your hearts you devise wrongs; your hands deal out violence."
One of the most frequently used words to describe violence in the Hebrew bible(O.T.) is the word 'hamas". It means wrong doing; unjust gain; cruelty; violence and injustice towards someone wrongly.
The unfortunate response of mankind has always been against the grain of G-ds plan and instruction, but G-ds mercy is good and patient and still calls out for man to bow to His desire. We have witnessed the testimony of times gone by as well as present times, the abuses of religious causes in the name of G-d and Christ to exact allegiance. We have the recorded history of non religious regimes of chaos devoted to the mass destruction of genocide for dominance. We would rightly carry the title of a planet titled "the planet of hamas."
So how can we learn to curb this insatiable thirst for blood and vengeance and greed which spells out death? Are there any established measures that would ensure proper behavior towards others?
The apostle Paul had some instruction for a young pastor living in a time similar to ours. The young man was Timothy, a disciple and companion of Pauls'. From the tone of the first letter of to Timothy, we can hear an urgency in Pauls' compulsion towards this young man. Timothy was a man on the brink of leaving his ministerial position because of pressures that surrounded him and his pastorate.
Paul however, a follower and imitator of his Messiah and Lord gave fantastic, practical and divine measures for living rightly in this world. These specific instructions which I want to concentrate on are given generally to all and then specifically to the men. "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intersessions, and thanksgivings, be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way."(1 Timothy 2:1-2)
The first key towards a peaceful life amidst the turmoil is prayer. Prayer can fee up the mid to concentrate on G-d, his people and His desire, while leaving selfish desires by the roadside. This form of active worship involves different aspect of prayer, such as petitioning, prostrating before a holy G-d; interceding on behalf of another and giving thanks. Imagine just concentrating on these aspects and the outcome of not ceasing to pray. We would only have time to fold our hands or lift them in prayer.
The second key to abdicating violent behavior among ourselves and worshiping is given in v. 8" I desire then that in very place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;....". Notice that this command is given to the men; why? Men by nature, are and have always been violent. Our hands have left a stain of blood that taints the color of our world. Paul commissions the men, who have such a strong tendency towards acting out in such ways to curb there appetite for quarreling and disputing towards the actions of men born of G-d.
Paul directs their hands away from clenching fists to hands that are "lifted up". These hands are ready for the purpose of distributing blessings, praises, and deeds of goodness.
The conduct of men born of the Spirit is only seen in lives of being in worship. This is a call to believing men to lift up in surrender, praise and adoration, reverence and recognition of G-ds holiness. These hands are empty, cleansed and ready for holy work.
Paul throws in a contrast between two different types of hands. He uses a very specific word for "holy" in connection with hands. It is the word "hoseous"; meaning that which is distinctly separated for G-ds ways from that which is either directly against G-ds ways or just the worldly ways. The opposite of "hoseous keiros"; holy hands is "keiros horgay"; hands of wrath. These hands set apart for holy work are hands that are without anger and quarreling. The normal idea of holy in the Hebrew is the word kodesh, and it is the separation of something or someone; the sacred from the mundane. Things, people and acts are set aside as holy and separate from something, but this Hoseous is a holiness set against something in contrast to something. Thus this act of hands in worship is a contrasting action, a kind of light against the darkness.
A beautiful picture of this way or practical outgrowth of a life given to The Master can be vividly seen in the morning sabbath service of the synagogue.
Toward the middle of the service men go up(if there is a minion), and open the ark in the front of the sanctuary. Once open a delegated person reaches inside to take out the scroll of the Torah. Both hands clasp the handles and rest it upon the right shoulder. Turned toward the congregation after raising it up in the air up to G-d Almighty, a blessing is spoken consecrating the moment for pure worship toward the only true G-d. Then a procession of the Torah goes around the congregation where any individual can touch the bible, or their hand and kiss it in reverence to the Holy Word of G-d.
If we can take the picture of this scene and imbue it to the instruction from Paul to Timothy, we can share in a kind of empty handed fellowship with hands not raised in rebellion but in reverence to G-d and devoted to His Shalom.
May we all be men, people, a worshiping community ready to spill out G-ds blessings upon people with hands made for peaceful worship and praise, in good standing with our Lord and with our neighbor as well.
May G-d bless the hands that bless His Holy Name and His Son Jesus the Messiah. Amen

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Missed Trains and Destinations

Minutes before boarding, the time is almost here.
To many belongings, and just to much baggage I fear.
I fumble through what I felt I needed most. So much stuff; where am I going?
Was it to see the sunset on the coast?
So confused, rather dazed; the final whistle is blowing, and I'm in a complete haze.
Hands on my head, pulling out my hair.
I'm going crazy, am I already there?
The conductor yells:"All Aboard!!". So many people trample forward, ready to go and belongings and fully adorned.
Yet here I am, alone with my packed bags.
No destination, only baggage claim tags.
What do I do?! The train starts to leave.
Everyone has gone, except my grief and me.
I fall to the ground amidst all my belongings.
All I have is heavy emotions and mismatched longings.
Just when I thought that I had been left behind.
A hand reaches down and a voice says it's all fine.
The train you were wanting was going east. It wasn't quite right for you
not to say the least.
I'll wait with you here, for the next train to arrive.
We can talk for a while and you can rest and revive.
Take comfort in my words, for my presence is near.
Now hold my hand, and let me wipe that tear.
Stand up now, and leave your bags here, you won't need them you'll see.
Don't be anxious about them, there's no fee.
Here it comes now, this train is the best!
It is not going east, this one is going west.
"All Aboard"

This is first and foremost for my beloved partner in life and then to all others
who may have thought that they had missed the train.
Jesus calls out to each of us to lay down what ever baggage we have and to come and rest in his embrace. After all, He is the Savior and the G-d of second chances.
Come now, for today is the day of salvation.

Monday, September 6, 2010

To call or not to call

This is it, this will be my last of this particular commentary on Romans 10(for now).
Looking at my notes and my explanations on this passage can be read in only a couple of minutes; kind of funny I suppose. My guess is that it might not have been this difficult for the ones it was written to to understand, but only to follow in application.
V.14-17 " How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written,"How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says,"Lord who has believed what he has heard from us?"So faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.".
There are three questions here in v.14, and the fourth comes in v.15. The first two questions laid out by Paul are really predicated off the third question;"...and how shall they hear without a preacher?". We have to tackle the identification of who "they' are. First off it's as it says in v.13 "whoever", which is the all inclusive calling. Second, it seems as though the "they" is directed back towards his concern and passion for Israel, in which he began this exhortation at the outset of chp.10. Although it is specific to Israel, I believe also the questions here can apply to the whoever as well.
Let's look at the first question posed;"How then shall they call in Him in whom they have not believed?". Paul is asking a very important question here, and it's the thought of how can Israel as a whole can "call" or attach themselves to their G-d or His messenger? Paul sees Jesus as not only the Messiah but as the voice of a prophet. So he asks, how is it that you call upon G-d when He's already answered and you did not respond, repent at the message or the messenger?
The second question deals with the idea of hearing and believing;" and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?". Is this question directed to the Jews that actually witnessed the life of Jesus and earthly existence? If so, that would make complete sense in light of what not only Jesus said in his words concerning the hearing of the prophets, but what the prophets said about hearing. (Without going into quotation overload, read Isaiah and Jeremiah to get a sense of this text and the disobedience).
How can someone in all honesty call upon one in whom they would not listen to or attach their names to? How could someone believe in someone that they did not hear?
The Hebrew word for hear is "Shamah", and it means to hear, listen, pay attention, perceive and obey. Isaiah 6:9-10 gives a negative example of this usage of the word;"He said(G-d) go and say to this people, surely you hear, but you do not understand, and surely you see, but you fail to know. This people is fattening its heart, hardening its ears, and sealing its eyes, lest they see with its eyes, hear with its ears and understand with its heart, so that it will repent and be healed.".
The people of Isaiahs day heard the words of the prophet, but refused to listen and adamantly refused to heed.
Jesus uses this same passage in Matthew 13 where he teaches in parables. These parables were clear to those who sere willing to hear, but to those who chose to not be responsive to G-ds call were left in judgment for their lack of hearing and not obeying. They seemed content in their ways and and self proclaimed religion and hypocrisies. Basically it is the lack of desire to want to change and being content in social standards that cause them(and us) to be inanimate towards this message; thus they did not hear and respond. So I think the:"they did not hear", means that although they may have witnessed Jesus life and calling they did not hear, or respond and thus not believe in whom they have heard.
The next question of "how shall they hear without a preacher?". So who's the preacher? The preacher or pro claimer is the one announcing a divine message. The importance of a pro claimer is the giving of guidance through special revelation. This revelation goes beyond natural revelation, such as creation, or even conscience, but reveals special attention to action that must be heeded. The preacher is the one announcing something that G-d has spoken and then reiterates the message. We can see from the beginning of creation, revelation comes in the form of both positive and negative commands(look at Genesis 1:28 for this example). From my observation of the scriptures is that there are varied specifics in regulations, G-d calls Jew and Gentile with varied forms of positives and negatives to adhere to. Some of these things are good and holy and somethings to have and some to abstain from. Some regulations from the divine decrees keep us from hurting each other and also to prevent damage to self.
Paul in his stated questions points out how important it is for even the Jew, who has been given the revelations of G-d, that they must also "hear" and "obey" the message by way of the messenger.
V.15 "And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written;"How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news of peace, who bring good news of good things.".
This is Pauls way of elevating the necessity of preaching truth, justice, G-ds light, and walking out G-ds ways. It's important for the message of repentance and proper walking to never cease. This is done by never negating the message or messengers of the proclamation to be sent out. The phrase, sent out comes from the Gk word, apostelo; meaning, one who was sent out, a person of merit sent as an envoy on behalf of a master in an administrative role. Paul relates this imperative of apostolic proclamation through the words of Isaiah 52:7. When Isaiah originally gave this oracle, he spoke of the beauty of the footsteps left behind when heralding G-ds promises. Even in the lovely prophecies given here by the prophet, the same mouth had called out to Israel to repent and to return.
If there was any worry on any ones mind if G-d would still send preachers, it seems clear that G-d has always sent his preachers and always will. The message was spoken, is spoken and will always be spoken, and how beautiful the feet that carry it.
V.16 "But they have not all obeyed the message. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?".
I think this is where I'm going to end this post for now, otherwise I will be here until 2011!
Just in the way of thinking back as to why I decided to post this commentary in the first place, I am coming to the conclusion that this passage gets kind of overused in the sense of missionary and evangelism to a lost world. The point Paul was making was for his concern for his people, heritage and religious background. That he was struggling with this reality as well. For any questions out there for those wondering about Israel and if G-d was still doing something through them and in them Paul went onto explain his theology and defense on behalf of the gospel and how they responded or remained despondent. He pointed out for those that wondered how they would here?, he commented on special revelation and how it had already been given. Paul spoke of natural revelation and how that also gave witness and testimony to them being without excuse.
Do I think that despite my reading of this passage and it not fitting in with the overuse of evangelism, that the world still needs missionaries and preachers? Yes of course I do, and before this was Jesus' commission to go out and reach, teach, baptize and make ready a world adorned as a bride for her husband.
With the truth of G-d in my/our hands and our lack of not doing, I fear more for G-ds messiah showing up and me/us being judged by not living up to the standard of truth that we were given.
G-d give us strength to carry this message of hope with validity. Amen.