Faith, Lies, Politics, Race, False Prophets and Reigniting Love After January 6th

I hadn’t mentioned it, and I normally wouldn’t do it here on a blog. However, I’m backing away from the social media type forums for a time. But, January 6th. The storming of the Capitol Building by supporters of President Trump. A day that will hopefully live in infamy. Hopefully, that is the worst of it. I haven’t written or said anything about it because I’ve really been struggling with how to express my thoughts and feelings on it. I’m still not totally sure how I want to say it. I may have to write more later, but for now, I feel I need to say something even if it’s just to try and work some stuff out in my own head and heart.

As A Conservative…

I’ll start by saying that I have long been a follower and supporter of the Conservative Movement. Ever since the first time I accidentally came across Glenn Beck and talk radio back in 2001, when I was going to Bible college, I’ve been connected to the message. Yet, for the past several years, even back as far as the late Bush years, I’ve had this sense that things aren’t getting done like they should and that maybe we should start moving to the middle. But of course, like many Conservatives I felt like, you know, there are people a lot smarter than me at the top that know things I don’t. They know what they’re doing certainly. Certainly? They have teams of people feeding them information. Surely? So, I’ve just gone with it. Unfortunately, and I hate to admit it, even the past four years I’ve had a bit of cognitive dissonance. I thought, “Well, look at all the good things he has done. I mean the media is just twisting these other stories…” “But are they?… Well, I mean perhaps the means justify the ends?”

The Means Justify the Ends…

The means justify the ends is probably the greatest sin of the Christian church throughout history. This whole thing has truly given me a moment of pause. In combat, during the fog of war, you will sometimes have these moments of time slowing down when bombs are falling all around and you all of a sudden a moment of clarity overtakes you, a moment where you ask, “What in the hell is all of this really about?” That’s what this has been for me. I’m not going to say that I’m shocked and appalled by the violence and ridiculous shenanigans at the Capitol. I am a Soldier and follower of history I have seen some pretty bad things in the world and throughout history. January 6th was actually relatively tame. It could have been much worse. Will it get worse? I don’t know. I don’t think so at this point. Hope that’s the case anyway. Now, I’m ashamed to say this, but at the time I was hearing of it. I was kind of hoping it would be worse. Not that I wanted to see more people die, but perhaps a more tense standoff maybe. It felt a bit anti-climactic at the moment. And perhaps that’s a good thing. Or it could be a very bad thing. I was just wanting for this tension that has been building for years now to just come to a head. I wanted something a little more defined so that we could all say, “Okay, it really is time for a change.” Again, I don’t know. I really hope now that it doesn’t get worse. I hope that it was just enough of a moment for people to stop and say, “Wait, what in the hell is this really all about?” I mean the fact that I am writing this now is hopefully a good sign that we are seeing clarity and a way forward.

But where is the middle?

As I said I have felt for quite some time now that people of all political persuasions need to move to the middle. But, I honestly didn’t even know what that truly meant or looked like because honestly, I don’t think we’ve actually seen anything like it since I began to become interested in politics in the early 2000s anyway. And even in my historical studies, I hadn’t seen many real examples of it in American political history. History in America tends toward reporting and recording the extremes and battles of party conflicts. But then by accident…. Well, with all honesty I feel God brought me across an audiobook recently while I was in isolation with COVID. Which, I went into isolation the day of the storming of the Capitol, meaning I had lots of time to contemplate and listen to audiobooks. It was during this time that I decided, for me, “Okay, it really is time for a change.” I had a thought that maybe I should challenge myself by reading and researching things from a different perspective. So, anyway, it was almost in that moment when I came across an audiobook by the former US Senator John Danforth, Faith, and Politics, on EBSCO audio. Danforth, a US Senator, lawyer, and Episcopal Priest,

“[] speaks out clearly against the religious right’s conflation of their political agenda with a religious agenda. He argues that no one should presume to embody God’s truth. He castigates the religious right for their focus on wedge issues that drive people apart and that create “tests” for religious orthodoxy. In fact, Danforth looks closely at many of the major wedge issues of our day: abortion, stem cell research, gay marriage, the Schiavo case, and public displays of religion. In Faith and Politics, Danforth provides a blueprint for moving forward that is based on years of hard-won political experience and a life of religious service by calling for Christians to look to the Bible and Christian teachings for ways in which they can practice their faith day today so as to inspire trust and focus on common ground, not fringe issues. As a respected former senator, ambassador to Sudan, priest, and especially here as an author who writes openly about political life, and ambition, humbly about his achievements, and above all with clarity and reason that both Republicans and Democrats hear all too little of, Senator Danforth is uniquely qualified to call for the change we so desperately need.”(1)

Danforth spoke to everything that I had been sensing in my heart for many years now but didn’t have words of insight on. I was blown away by how much of what he says was resonating within me. And please understand, he wrote this in 2006! So, obviously, I haven’t been the only one with these feelings. Unfortunately, voices were, and have continually been drowned out by all of the extremes. I don’t know why I hadn’t seen books like this. Perhaps my heart still wasn’t in the place to receive its message. I’m not going to go into every detail Mr. Danforth puts forward as a way ahead. He has some really great insights and I highly encourage everyone to get this book, especially if you proclaim to be a Conservative Christian. Christians always seem to have a really hard time accepting they may be on the wrong side, unknowingly or knowingly, probably even worse when it’s unknowingly.

That includes me. Fortunately, as a leader of Soldiers, I understand the necessity of absolute ownership when things have gone wrong. Therefore, I whole-heatedly raise my hand for my own knowing and unknowing culpability in the political state of this Nation. I may talk about some of the things Mr. Danforth puts forth at a later date. But my main point here is that I want everyone to know that there is a middle ground out there and there are middle ground leaders out there and there is a way to get to it. I will say though from my own formulations that it is all going to have to start with LOVE.

The Sin of Racial Injustice…

It’s really hard to say which is the bigger sin, the sin of ‘the means justify ends’ or the sin of racial injustice. Slavery and racial injustice were and are absolutely abhorrent, but at the same time, the implicitness of the means justifies the ends I feel is what lead to atrocities of slavery and racial injustice and has prolonged it until this day. That brings me to the next book I feel God showed me The Myth of Equality by Mike Chamberlain.

“Is privilege real or imagined? It’s clear that issues of race and equality have come to the forefront in our nation’s consciousness. Every week yet another incident involving racial tension splashes across headlines and dominates our news feeds. But it’s not easy to unpack the origins of their tensions, and perhaps we wonder whether any of these issues really has anything to do with us. Ken Wytsma, the founder of The Justice Conference, understands these questions. He has gone through his own journey of understanding the underpinnings of inequality and privilege. In this timely, insightful book Wytsma unpacks what we need to know to be grounded in conversations about today’s race-related issues. And he helps us come to a deeper understanding of both of the origins of these issues and of the reconciling role we are called to play as ministers of the gospel. Inequality and privilege are real. The Myth of Equality opens our eyes to realities we may have never realized were present in our society and world. And we will be changed for the better as a result.”(2)

Now, I’m just going to be honest, this book had some really big, hard pills for me to swallow. I have always prided myself on anti-racist views, on my views of never looking at anyone less than equal to me just because of the color of his or her skin. I have never thought of myself as racist, nor do I now. However, I see now that I have been more culpable than I even knew in enabling the continued propagation of racism through certain, what I thought were Christian, views, and ideas that I supported. Views that on the surface didn’t seem racist, however, upon seeing things from a different perspective. I see how those views do in-fact enable and support continued racial injustice.

For example, and I say this very shamefully now, but the BLM movement. Now, I supported the protesters and supporters of BLM. However, I had a problem with the organization because they state very clearly on their website that they hold to a Socialist world view. And for that reason, I backed away from it early on. Because you know, “How could I as a Conservative Christian support such an evil world view?” You know because “Democratic Capitalism is the best system and the only one with a real track record of working.” Again, I shamefully say this, I thought the organization was just using the police shootings as a way to dupe people into sympathizing with their organization to push a Socialist agenda to overthrow the US Democracy. Yeah, I know right they were the ones being duped.

I truly believed everything was set right after the civil rights movement of the 1960s. I didn’t understand the drug laws, the way they were set up, and why and by who. I didn’t understand the role of the real estate market. I didn’t understand the justice system and how many are being strong-armed into admitting crimes they didn’t commit in some areas because they couldn’t afford a lawyer since they weren’t entitled to one because they made more than $3000 dollars a year! I didn’t know they were set up knowing they would be directly affecting majority-black Americans! That’s only scratching the surface of the problems I didn’t understand! Please understand that this book was written by a white, Christian, male pastor. So, even though he is quite scathing in his criticism of the Churches complicitness and implicitness in matters of racial injustice in the US, he is still not a person of color. I’m sure the perspective of say a black, inner-city, non-Christian, single mother would be even harsher toward the Churches complicitness and implicitness.

Leave or Don’t Leave…

Okay, so if the party and the movement I have been affiliated with is so evil then why not leave? Well, what good would that do? The affiliation and the movement are not all evil. The problem with leaving would just mean the, what I call, evil prophets of the extreme fringe will just continue to grow stronger in credibility and numbers. Now, the problem is there is a small number of truly evil people, another small number of implicit ‘ends justifies the means’ people, and then there is a large number of well-meaning but ignorant majority. And to be honest the same goes for the other side, the Democratic, progressive, left. Just as there were a small number of protesters who turned into rioters that decided to storm the Capitol in hopes of the overthrow, all this year there were smaller numbers of protesters on the left who turned into rioters and looters.

The truth is both side has wedge issues they are standing on and continuing to hold onto. Wedge issues that are tearing this country apart. Wedge issues each side feels the other side is wrong about. Wedge issues that they would rather hold onto and let the country burn over than relent on. They would rather see a bond-fire rather than talk, rather than actually look at the issue reasonably, rather than look at it from another perspective, rather than say, “You know maybe I’m wrong, I’m sorry,” rather than LOVE!

So, no I can’t split ways with with my affiliation or movement, yet. I do still feel a multiple party system is better than a one party system. I still feel like there is a hope for reform in my affiliation and movement. I have hope that there is room for reform on the other side. I have hope that maybe after the past 30 to 50 to 70 year some odd years of building political division that this year may be the start of real reform. This maybe the year we start to heal. This maybe the year we start to LOVE!

So, What NOW???

The truth is if something doesn’t happen and doesn’t happen soon if there isn’t a change of heart in the culture of the US soon blood will continue to spill more and more. I know that for the sake of my family, for my kids, I’ve got some changes to make. I know for myself I have a lot deeper, self-actualizing to do, and self-educating to do. I know for me it’s going to require me using the leadership skills I have acquired as an NCO in the military to push for reform. It’s going to take preaching education, understanding, and fellowship. It’s going to take making a stand against the so-called ‘prophets’ who preach a relentlessness to wedge issues, so-called ‘prophets’ who accept the means to justify the end, so-called ‘prophets’ who are really not walking in love but in self exhortation. I know for myself I need to walk in greater and deeper amount of LOVE!

  1. https://www.christianbook.com/equality-uncovering-roots-injustice-privilege-ebook/ken-wytsma/9780830865307/pd/103741EB?event=ESRCG
  2. https://www.christianbook.com/faith-and-politics-ebook/john-danforth/9781101218761/pd/47425EB?event=ESRCN

Figuring Things Out: Ephesians 1:4

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Hello friends! Welcome! I want to thank you for stopping in for a read. We are continuing on with our study on Ephesians. For those of you new to the study this is my attempt at trying to figure these scriptures out, in order to get to the deep rich meaning in the words. And with that lets get to unpacking.

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.

Chose us in Him…

“He chose…” What does it mean when it says, He chose? The Greek word used here is eklegomai which is derived from the ek meaning out, out of, out from and lego meaning select, choose. The translation roughly meaning a smaller number selected out, singled out, or chosen out of from a larger majority. The first implication of this that jumps out to me is that the eklegomai are the minority(1). This is not the only place in the scriptures this term or idea is implied, as Christians being the elected few (Mark13:20, Luke6:13, Luke10:42, Luke 14:7, John6:70, John13:18, John15:16, Acts1:2, Acts1:24, James2:5, etc.) So, from my mind I see the idea that Christians should expect to be in the minority. Not that God has not made away for the entirity whole of humanity to be elected or chosen out of the kingdom of darkness. That goes against the idea of Jesus as the Messiah being the sacrificial lamb for all humankind. This has more to do with the idea that God knew before time immemorial who accept His gift of salvation.

Was this to be the case for time immemorial? I don’t think so. This is where contextualization comes in. These gospels, epistles, and personal letters were all written to a certain group of people at a certain time and place in history. At that time and in that place those early believers were the minority. However, that didn’t mean they were to stay in the minority by simply staying in their little group and not spreading the good news. No, they were to move out preach and and fight for their good news to be the majority. They were the early chosen of the faith, and they were chosen to spread the message.

Now, I have to ask myself, have we arrived at the majority yet? According to the latest figures the world population is around 7.8 billion people, and as of 2015 there were roughly 2.3 billion Christians. Another interesting figure according to the Pew Research Organization, at the same time it was estimated that there were 1.8 billion Muslims in the world, and by the year 2060 it’s estimated both religions will be balanced at 3 billion each(2). What does this imply? First, Christians are far from being the majority. Second, Christians seem to be slowing in growth as Islam rises. Third, this could lead to large scale tensions in the world, especially if Islam continues to keep to a militant militant war like orthodoxy. I’m sure you can figure out what I’m going to say next… Get out there and preach the love and good news of Christ Jesus.

Before the Foundation of the World

I’m not going to waste your time explaining ‘before,’ but I do want to talk about ‘foundation’ and ‘world.’ Foundation in this scripture is the Greek word katabole from the words kata meaning down and ballo meaning throw. This literally means throwing down or laying down. Thayer goes further by explaining the more metaphorical implications. This word also implies the depositing of virile semen in the womb, as well as, the seed of a plant or animal. So, you might also say that, “God chose us in Him before the injecting the world with the spark of life.”

Now, what about this word ‘world’ though? It comes form the Greek word kosmos as I’m sure you’ve already picked up that’s where we get the word ‘cosmos.’ Thayer describes it as:

  1. an apt and harmonious arrangement or constitution, order, government
  2. ornament, decoration, adornment, i.e. the arrangement of the stars, ‘the heavenly hosts’, as the ornament of the heavens. 1 Pet. 3:
  3. the world, the universe
  4. the circle of the earth, the earth
  5. the inhabitants of the earth, men, the human family
  6. the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ
  7. world affairs, the aggregate of things earthly
    1. the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc, which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ
  8. any aggregate or general collection of particulars of any sort
    1. the Gentiles as contrasted to the Jews (Rom. 11:12 etc)(3)

As you can see this definition is quite varied. However, a point to make here is the word used is kosmos not chaos, which is unformed matter. So, in context to to the author’s writing, this word is referring to the balanced and harmonious state of the universe prior to the fall of mankind.

Holy and without Blame

I want to turn to the words holy and blameless now. First ‘holy’ in the Greek is the word hagios which is the same word for ‘saint’ which I covered in a previous post. You can find the link below(4). But what about ‘blameless?’ It is the Greek word amomos which comes from the words a meaning ‘without’ and momos meaning spot, literally meaning without spot. In the Old Testament it is referring to a Temple sacrifice that was to be without defect. So what this passage is saying here is, “God chose us before the foundation of the world to be ‘set apart vessels’ ‘without spot or defect’”

Before Him in Love

I really like this word ‘before’ or katenopion in the Greek. It comes from the words kata meaning ‘down’ and en meaning in and ops meaning face or eye. So, this phrase ‘before Him’ means ‘right down in front of the eyes of God.’ That’s pretty amazing that we were chose to be set down right in the God’s own eyes!

But, what does this ‘in Love’ mean? Well love here comes from the Greek agape meaning the unconditional, sacrificial love, the quality (and quantity) of love which God Himself is and which He freely bestows in Christ(5). So, we are set right down in front of the eyes of God in unconditional, sacrificial love, or more precisely because of His unconditional. He sees us before Him through the lens of Love. God has no conditions on His love. He doesn’t, “I will only love you IF. I will only have mercy on you IF. I will only heal you IF. I will only give you grace IF.” He is unconditional! He proves this by His act of giving Jesus as the sacrifice.

Alright, now lets try to tie this whole thing back together. “God selected us out from the majority of humanity before the creation of the balanced, harmonious cosmos that we should be set apart and defect-less vessels that are set right down before His eyes as He looks on us with joy through the lens of perfect unconditional grace, peace, mercy, love.” Whewww! There really is so much deep richness in the language of these verses, way more than can be seen reading on the surface level. Well I hope you learned something!

Grace and Peace

  1. https://www.studylight.org/lexicons/eng/greek/1586.html
  2. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/04/01/the-countries-with-the-10-largest-christian-populations-and-the-10-largest-muslim-populations/#:~:text=Overall%2C%20there%20are%20about%202.3,and%20nearly%203%20billion%20Muslims.
  3. https://www.studylight.org/lexicons/eng/greek/2889.html
  4. https://zacharyreavis.home.blog/2021/01/09/figuring-things-out-ephesians-11/
  5. https://www.preceptaustin.org/ephesians_13-4

Figuring Things Out: Ephesians 1:3

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Hello again my friends! Thank you for stopping in for a read. Today I’ll start unpacking the verses of the doxology found in the beginning of Ephesians. As mentioned in my previous post I broke down the first sentence which goes from verse 3 through verse 6. I actually didn’t realize when I was breaking the sentence down that the complete thoughts were already broken down in the verse numbers. I intentionally took the numbers out of the text because I didn’t want them to influence my understanding of the section. So, I’ll basically be unpacking verse verse 3 today, then verse 4 next, then 5, etc. With that, let’s start unpacking.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

Blessed, blessing, bless, to bless, spiritual blessing… What does this word ‘bless’ even mean? Are they the same word in Greek? I know in my modern mind it’s a form of giving something to someone else that they may not have been expecting and that they may not have deserved. Let’s see how the actual Greek defines this word.

Blessed be

The first blessed is actually the Greek word eulogetos from eu meaning good and logos meaning word. This is where we get the English word eulogy which is a speech or writing that praises someone highly. This is an adjective describing the One Who is worthy of praise. In the New Testament it is used only of God and Jesus. In Mark 14:61 it is actually used as a name of God, “the Blessed One“(1). So, what Paul is saying, “Lift up in praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for He is the only one worthy of praise!”

Has Blessed

Well, that’s good to know, but is blessed be the same as has blessed or to bless? According to the Greek it is close, but not the same. This is of course the verb form of the word. Eulogeo also comes from eu meaning good and logos meaning word (1). As I said this is the verb form meaning to speak well of, to celebrate with praises, to praise. We see throughout scripture God blessing people with His favor or grace. Those people then in turn because of God’s unmerited grace bless God with their praise! You might say this symbiotic interaction is part of God’s plan for mankind. He blesses us and in return we bless Him. We also see in the scriptures people blessing one another, in the form of prayers.

Every Spiritual Blessing

Okay, since we know the definition, I want to reward this real quick, “Every spiritual good word.” So, God has blessed us with every spiritual good word. So, what does that mean? Let’s look at the Greek word spiritual, pneumatikos. I really love the Thayer’s definition of this word so I’m just going to drop it in here:

  1. relating to the human spirit, or rational soul, as part of the man which is akin to God and serves as his instrument or organ
    1. that which possesses the nature of the rational soul
  2. belonging to a spirit, or a being higher than man but inferior to God
  3. belonging to the Divine Spirit
    1. of God the Holy Spirit
    2. one who is filled with and governed by the Spirit of God
  4. pertaining to the wind or breath; windy, exposed to the wind, blowing

Heavenly Places In Christ

I don’t know about you, but heavenly places in Christ sounds pretty deep to me. Let’s see exactly what this means. The Greek word for heavenly is epouranios which is concept of the all encompassing unseen realm where God resides. But what does it mean to be in the heavenly places in Christ. To understand this it helps to think of it as having two addresses. We as Believers in Christ are in Him, in His Spirit, as a part of His body like a house or dwelling place, and Jesus is in the heavenly real at the right hand of God. So, how is this possible when we are here on earth? To understand this you have to accept the transcendent omnipotence of God. God transcends time and space. Just because we haven’t experienced our future yet doesn’t mean doesn’t exist. This doesn’t mean we are predestined in the sense that God chose some for heaven and some for hell or all for heaven. He predestined a plan for us to obtain immortality through the promise of adoption in Christ. So, even though we aren’t experiencing the presence of being in heaven yet in time, we are still there spatially in spirit through our spiritual connection in Christ.

Okay, now the fun part, trying to wrap all of this back up into a coherent reading. This is pretty think though, but I’ll do my best. “Lift up in praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for He is the only one worthy of praise! For He has spoken over us every good hope of the resurrection, the promises of immortality, the kingdom of heaven in reversion, and the dignity of adoption, which is from His unseen realm accessed through our own spirit’s connection with the Messiah.” Not too bad. I think that one turned out pretty well actually. Thank you for reading

Grace and Peace

  1. https://www.preceptaustin.org/ephesians_13-4
  2. https://www.studylight.org/lexicons/eng/greek/4152.html

Figuring Things Out: Ephesians 1:3-6 The Break Down

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Okay, so today is going to be a little different because the next section isn’t as simple as a single verse break down. The next section actually spans verse 3 through verse 14. In the Greek its actually one long run on sentence. The King James translators thankfully broke it up a little bit. However, there are still some rather long sentences that can be broken down even more. This section is what theologians consider a doxology. It’s what you’d call a liturgical formula of praise to God, or a short hymn or poem of praise to God. They’re typically presented at the end of a service. However, Paul puts this one at the beginning of his letter. Since there is no use of punctuation in the original letter, I can only imagine that Paul was intending for this to be a sort of stream of consciousness type song of praise. Because of this I’m hesitant to break it down. However, my brain just can’t grasp it in this form, so I’ve got to do something about it.

Since this is such a large section, and since it’s technically just one long run of sentence, I’m first going to break it down into more appropriate, manageable sentences. Then I’ll go ahead and unpack those smaller chunks. So, let’s first see how many new sentences we can break this down into. This will give us a better idea of how much unpacking we’ll need to do. I’m going to start with verses 3-6. And in the NKJV those verses comprise the first sentence. Oh, I probably should have mentioned this in my first post. I’ll mostly be using the NKJV. I know there are other versions that break this passage down better, but I still just like flow and language of this version best. I also should probably point out that theologians typically separate verses 3-14 into three subject areas. Verses 3-6 describe the will of the Father, while verses 5-12 describe the works of the Son, and verses 13-4 describe the witness of the Holy Spirit. Well, let’s get started.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

I know right! That is one sentence! Yes, I suppose you could say it is grammatically correct. But it’s also grammatically atrocious. I should probably interject here that I’m not an expert Grammarian or Linguist. I do have a degree English, with a creative studies focus, but it is still a totally separate field. English majors use grammar and linguistics, and I even had to take courses in those subjects. However, they are still their own field of study with their own experts. English majors are experts in using language to convey ideas. So lets just say I’ll be breaking this down so it presents a more clarified idea of what Paul is saying.

Now, as you can see where the translators attempted to show a break with commas. However, most could just as easily be made a period. As I said I’m just going rewrite the entire segment and then start unpacking. I’m probably going to start unpacking sentences in the next couple posts because of the weightiness of this passage. So, anyway, here we go.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.

He predestined us to adoption as sons(and daughters) by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.

This is to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

I’m sure you can see I did have to change up the wording slightly in order to make these grammatically correct complete thoughts. You have to realize that any translation of any text from any language is not going to have the same exact structure or meaning anyway. So, sometimes it’s okay to play around with the text of a translation. It’s up to the translator to do their best to form sentence structures in their own language which conveys the idea as closely as possible. But, then it’s up to the theologians and laypersons to do their best to understand interpret those ideas and then combine as a whole with the other ideas from the text and cannon as a whole. This is called hermeneutics.

Alright, well I think that is enough for today. I’m just going to let these new sentences brew and sink in a little more. I hope y’all learned something.

Grace and Peace

Figuring Things Out: Ephesians 1:2

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Alright, I got through one post yesterday. Let’s see how long I can keep this up now. So, on to verse two of chapter one of Ephesians. Like verse one this doesn’t seem like a very significant verse, but again like verse one it is packed with a deep depth of exhortation. This is Paul’s standard greeting in all of his letters, with the exception of 2Timothy and Titus where he adds mercy to the salutation. Okay, now lets start unpacking.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace comes from the Greek word charis which describes the undeserved, unmerited favor of God that He gives to us without expectation of any return(1). So, in verse one Paul introduced who he was an the authority by which he was writing. Now, immediately in verse two he is proclaiming a blessing over the people of Ephesus by that authority. He’s saying may the power of God through His undeserved, unmerited favor be upon you. This free gift of favor, which is power, enables people to overcome the entrapments of the flesh, the world, and unseen spiritual forces. He is pronouncing God’s power over them to overcome depression, sickness, addiction, and evil spiritual oppression. I don’t know about you, but I know I kinda take this term for granted all the time. It has always seemed like a fluff concept, I suppose you could say. Even in spite of the current ‘Grace Movement’ we’ve been experiencing the past decade or so, I still hadn’t really grasped it. However, based on the definition I see it is way more weighty than fluff. It is like a supernatural steroids that empower our spiritual muscles to overcome all elements that oppose us.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I come from a Word of Faith background. Now, in my training we talked a lot about accessing the power and gifts of God through faith. That is by accepting the stories of God’s power as our reality we are able to tap into that power. That is particularly, tapping in to the power which accesses spiritual gifts, healing, tongues, interpretation, prophecy, etc. I guess you might say it’s a level of power that must be sought. However, the power of charis is a little different. It doesn’t need to be sought after. It’s just there freely waiting to be received. These two concepts are still not too far apart though because Roman’s says we are, “Saved by grace through faith.” So, our eternal salvation, which is also the unmerited, undeserved favor of God must also be accessed through faith. Well, I think I’ve pontificated enough on this one. Moving on.

Peace from God

The Greek for peace is eirene. This definition actually kinda blew me away. It means to join or fasten together so as to reconnect that which has been broken or divided. It conveys the idea of setting at one again(1). Now, this definition sounds kind of awkward when you try to use it in conjunction with the phrase ‘from God.’ However, there are several other implications packed up in this word. For example in the in the English eirene is the root of serene which means clear and free of storms or unpleasant change. It stresses an unclouded and lofty tranquility. Added in that tranquility is health, well-being, and prosperity. But in the original secular Greek it was a reference to cessation or absence of war(1). Well before Jesus, Paul tells us in Romans 5:10 that mankind was an enemy of God. So, you might say humanity has been reunited in tranquility with with God. This unification came from God in the form of a gift the Lord Jesus Christ. Deep.

Father

Since I’m here I want to go ahead and talk about the noun Father as it applies to God. Being an English major I’ve had to I’ve had to study feminism and gender politics quite extensively. Okay, at least more than the average person. Father or pater in Greek has the same meaning as it does in English, the male parent of a child. However, the Greek definition is a little more precise. It calls the father the generator. Now, I’m sure lots of feminist may say this is patriarchal bull crap. That it takes two to generate life. Yes it does take the bio-mechanics of a man and a woman equally to create life. And I’m sure there are now other ways of better explaining this spiritual concept more precisely, philosophically and scientifically. However, scientifically it is from the seed of a man’s DNA that life is sparked in the embryonic egg of a woman. And at the time in which Paul wrote this letter he didn’t have any other better metaphor to explain the concept of being generated or begotten from God. This was also an existential concept used frequently throughout the Old Testament, but wasn’t until the dispensation of Jesus that the concept became more concrete. Jesus was literally begotten of God, given the spark of life by God. Just as Adam in the Old Testament was given the spark of life by God. In the same way all mankind can now be given the spark of spiritual life by God through Christ Jesus. Thus, adopting us as His and making us just as equal as the His begotten son Jesus. So, for y’all feminist this concept did not originate out of patriarchal hegemony. This was the most accurate and scientific metaphor they had to describe the spiritual concept of salvation by faith in Jesus.

Lord

Lord is another word that has always fascinated me. One of my favorite definitions for lord is the Old English definition which roughly means loaf protector. It implies someone of royalty or authority with the might to protect people to include the grains of their lands that grow the wheat which is made into the bread that sustains their life. The Greek word kurios is similar but not quiet as metaphorically colorful. It simply describes one who has absolute ownership and sovereign power and authority(1). It’s also worth noting that Jesus is only referred to as Savior about ten times, but He is referred to as Lord around seven hundred times.

Jesus

If you are reading this then I’m pretty sure you know who Jesus is by now, but you may not know that his name actually has a deeper meaning. The Greek Iesous comes from the Hebrew Yeshu’a which literally means Yahweh (God) is Salutation. So, Jesus is literally what his name implies, God’s Salvation.

Christ

The Greek for Christ is Christos. The verb form chrio means to rub or anoint, as with oil, for the consecration to an office. So, Christos or Anointed One is an implication to the Hebrew word Messiah. The Messiah, or Divine One, was prophesied in the Old Testament as the promised one who would be sent by God to set the world right again.

Okay, I think I’ve thoroughly dissected this passage enough for me to understand it, so let’s put it to back together. “Blessings! May God’s undeserved, unmerited favor and power be on you all! As a result may the unifying tranquil, health, wellness, and prosperity be manifested in your lives. For these things are from God the one who gave you the spark of spiritual salvation through the sovereign, powerful loaf protector Jesus, also known as God’s Salvation plan, the Divine and Anointed One who was promised and foretold about.” Well, I don’t think that turned out as well as the wrap up in the first post. It’s a little clunky when you try to put all of those deep concepts back together. I’m sure this probably won’t be the last one, but I still hope you were able to learn something.

Grace and Peace

1. https://www.preceptaustin.org/verse_by_verse

Figuring Things Out: Ephesians 1:1

Mosaic, Ruins, Ephesus, Ancient, Roman
Ephesus Floor Mosaic

Well, I’ve decided to start doing this thing where I read a passage from the Bible and try to figure it out and then write down what I learned about it or write to learn about it. I don’t some people might call it a Bible study or whatever. I’m just calling it, ‘figuring stuff out.’ I don’t know fully why I’ve decided to do this now. It’s been years since I’ve graduated college and even longer since I went to Bible college. I suppose it’s partly because I feel like I’m wasting my education by not writing something and by not telling people about the good news of Jesus. My BA is in English and my path of study in Bible college was Evangelistic ministry…. Pleas don’t judge my grammar and spelling, by the way. I am a bit rusty.

Anyway, I’ve decided to start with the Book of Ephesians. I’m not really sure why I decided to start here. I suppose because everyone says how great it is, but I know every time I’ve tried to read it my brain just floats off in the language. Okay, that might be for most of the books in the Bible, but Ephesians is that one that one where I’ve always felt like I’m really missing something.

And as usual, as soon as I got past the first two verses my brain shut off. So, at that point I realized I was going to have to stop and really dissect and analyze almost every word in order to grasp this letter. So, hold on folks this may take awhile. I don’t even know how many posts it’s going to take to get through it. I will do my best to keep it interesting. So, let’s get into it.

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus and faithful in Christ Jesus:

Eph1:1

Right away there are four words in this verse I had to stop and contemplate. What is an apostle? I mean I know from Bible school that it’s a missionary or a sent one. Now, he’s writing to the Ephesians, people he had spent roughly two and a half years with preaching, teaching, fellowshiping, and living. Why did he feel it necessary to mention this in his letter? Was he just being formal? If they new who he was why was it necessary? I don’t know there may have been some formality to it. However, I have a feeling when he was writing he wasn’t writing to his close personal friends in the church but probably to a larger audience, people he may have never even talked to or met, people who may have become converts since he left Ephesus. Some of them may have not ever even know that Paul was the one, the guy, the dude who brought the gospel to Ephesus. “Who’s Paul?” “You know, Paul, he’s the dude that’s the reason we’re sitting here listening to this letter.” “Oh right right right kool kool kool kool. Cary on.”

by the will of God

So, there’s a lot of talk in the Bible about ‘will’ God’s will, man’s will, free will, etc. But what does it mean. It actually comes form the Greek word Thelema and it is not a forceful word like an absolute decree, but more along the lines of a heart’s desire or a preferred disposition toward a specific matter. So, Paul isn’t saying here that God decreed him to be an apostle, like either he does it or dies. No, God gave Paul the opportunity to be his chosen messenger to the non-Jews. Could Paul have said, “No thanks I’m just going to stick with persecuting them.” Yeah, of course! He could have been like Jonah. Do I think God would have him swallowed up by a giant fish? No. It still probably wouldn’t have worked out so well for him. God probably would have been like, “Well, okay, you probably better get a cane and a seeing eye dog then.” No, that’s a joke. God just used the blindness to get his attention, to show him that he was walking around blind spiritually. God chose Saul/Paul for a reason. God knows our hearts. He knows them better than we do. He knew Paul would turn and he knew Paul’s personality, passion, fire, and intelligence were just what he needed for the job of reaching non-Jews with this crazy new Jewish religious belief. So, it was God’s heart desire and preferred disposition that Paul be a missionary of the gospel to non-Jews.

to the saints who are in Ephesus

Saint is a simple, yet often, misunderstood word. We here it all the time, “Oh she is a saint.” “He’s a saint!” “The Saints lost again.” Even though in the Bible calls all followers of Jesus Christ saints in several different places, Christians still think of the the word in terms of the Catholic veneration of saints. However, that is not the case. All Christians are saints. But what is a saint, what does it mean? The Greek word for Saint is hagios. The most simple definition is an individual who has been set apart as in one who is sanctified or one who is holy. It implies a consecrated devotion and service to God, wherein we will share in God’s purity from the worlds defilements that are contrary to his will and nature. So, Paul is saying that all Christians are set apart, are sanctified, are holy, and are pure. This was probably a pretty big deal for them to hear. They most likely came from various pagan religions and probably even some former Jews. They were not use to be told they were holy and pure. They probably only thought certain priests would be able to attain this, or maybe if they had donated enough money to a certain temple, or made a large enough sacrifice then they may be able to temporarily share in sainthood. Yet, Paul starts right in by assuring them that they are saints, that they are holy, that they are pure. Why does he do this? Simple because they needed to hear it. Because of the world they lived in they needed to hear it. We need to hear it. Christians now days need to hear it. Oh yeah, “We’re so much more advanced.” No, we are just as depressed, just as tired, just full of shame, just as full of guilt, just as beat down.

and faithful in Christ Jesus:

Faithful? Full of faith? Faith? What is faith? Oh boy! If you continue to follow me, you’re probably going to hear me talk about this definition a lot. The Bible college I went to was a Word of Faith school, so it’s kinda what we talked about the most. So, faith is a persuasion, a firm persuasion, a conviction based upon something one has heard, and acceptance of that thing heard as truth. I can’t remember all of the sources my instructors used to compile that definition, so don’t even ask. That is a definition I just remember by heart. Now, you need to understand a couple key terms in this definition. First is heard. What does heard refer to in this context? It refers to stories. Stories are extremely powerful. I don’t mean just novels or short stories. I mean all stories, narratives, meta narratives, poems, symbols. The American flag is a symbol with a story of a nation. As an English major a story is an idea with a beginning, a middle, and an end. So, what does that have to do with the definition? Which that brings us to the second term truth. Truth in the context of faith is very loaded. It ones accepted reality. So, one hears a story and they accept it or reject it as truth. They accept it or reject it as their reality. I’m sure some people aren’t going to to like hearing this. Even people I went to Bible college with because we didn’t typically venture this direction in class. Anyway, truth in this context is subjective. That’s not to say objective reality doesn’t exist. God is the ultimate objective reality. And, yet, people reject God everyday.

So lets tie this whole verse up. What Paul is saying, “Hi it’s me Paul! I know some of you may not remember me and some of you may have never seen me, but I’m the one God sent to tell y’all in Ephesus about my main man Jesus the Messiah of all mankind. God thought I’d be a pretty good candidate for the job, so it was His heart’s desire that I be the one to come on up there and tell y’all that story of Jesus. And I just want to exhort you a little here by reminding you that because you accepted the story of Jesus the Messiah as your reality that you are now set apart, holy, and share in God’s purity through the story.” I know that’s a lot of exposition for such a small and seemingly insignificant verse. But again this writing really more for me to figure this stuff out. And well that’s just kinda how my brain tends to over analyze details. Well, I at least hope you learned something.

10 Things to do this weekend.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

1. Read “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien.

2. Make a batch of Kimchi.

3. Go for a trail run with friends dressed as Mario Bros. characters.

4. Learn five Polish curse words and use them nonchalantly at a fast food drive through.

5. Carry around an egg all weekend, then sacrifice it Monday morning on the alter of a kitchen pan.

6. Go to a club, but don’t drink anything coffee and energy drinks and only talk like Buddy the Elf.

7. Paint a picture of a butterfly.

8. Write one Haiku every hour using at least one curse word.

9. Clean your garage and make a man/woman cave.

10. Spend a few hours practicing your rock throwing lethality, by hitting old glass jars.

“I painted you a picture of a butterfly..”

Buddha

16 Minute Scenes #3

My grandfather was my Buddha. Not God, but one who had contained a mythic enlightenment. He had not attained Nirvana I would later come to realize, but in my mind, as a child, he was my enlightenment.

We sat under a tree in the back yard of the farm, myself, James, Jonathan, and our grandpa. “Now a carbon blade is the best blade for a pocket knife boys. It sharpens to a finer edge. Don’t worry about a little rust on the blade. The patina gives it character.” I twiddled my stainless-steel Swiss Army knife.

I had always admired his pocket knives. They were beautiful tools in his hands. He picked up a broken piece of half inch scrap lumber. “Boys when you whittle you hold the knife backwards and slowly pull the knife to your thumb. You have to be careful and use control. Don’t worry you won’t cut yourself if you just use control.” We each picked up a piece of wood and began whittling as he had showed us.

Grandpa picked up another piece of wood, one with an old knot hole in it. “This here, boys, was your great grandpa’s favorite type of wood to whittle. He loved the curving glide of the blade around the hollowed-out knot.” His sharp little blade shaved the wood like slivers of cream.

He set back a moment to watch us and to look out over the fields. “Boys one day when you’re a little better I’ll show you how to whittle a ball in a cage.” That lesson never came around. Not long after grandpa started having heart problems, and things began to change.

My memories float in and out of those times with him, and I don’t regret never having learned certain lessons. In all it’s not always the lessons, but just the presence that had the most meaning.  

Fireflies

16 Minute Scenes #2

Fireflies broke the early evening’s dying light. We had been playing in the woods near the tracks almost every day for several weeks. We had been making spears, building forts, and smoking cigarettes we had snuck from our parents.

The Abshire’s had a nice big lot across the street from where we played near the tracks. They had a nice barn several, several horses, and a large satellite dish.

Jerry had pitched his 1800’s era campaign tent in the back yard. It was a large, white canvas tent, supported with an actual sapling cut frame. He was getting ready for another reenactment scheduled for a few days later.

Our sleeping bags were rolled out, our gear was stowed, and it was time to begin evening operations. Operations were halted however for a short time due to interference on the battle field. Fireflies had begun to invade the battle space. Enemy search and destroy missions would have to wait.

The glowing neon lights had mesmerized our attentions. Where were they going? How long would they be there? Can we catch them? We could, and we did. Do they bleed? They do. A neon yellow smear that would make glowing tiger stripes on our arms and tongues.

Then as mysteriously as they appeared, they were gone. I took up my spear, with the diamond engraved grips I had made to look like Grace Jones spear in Conan the Barbarian, and we continued on with our campaign.