Thursday, November 27, 2014

Throwback ThursdayThanksgiving 2008

(This was originally written in 2008.)

Today is Thanksgiving. This is not a Greek word meaning "sales tomorrow, football tonight". It is two words run together and should be a time of reflection as well as of family and/or friends.
Mr. Turkey is probably not so thankful that an oven will warm him today. We, ourselves, are thankful the temperature is going up to 48 degrees today (it is 35 right now, but I am grateful it is above freezing), because our heater went out yesterday and the repairperson won't be coming until tomorrow afternoon. But we are grateful we own a lot of blankets. 
Actually, my wife cooked the turkey yesterday. Usually we have my parents here for Thanksgiving. But my dad is 90 and my mom 88 and they didn't want to make the car trip here, especially since they would be going home after dark. They use to take us out to a restaurant on this day, but since my daughters generally work at the shelters on Thanksgiving (they volunteer so others can spend the day with their families) it makes it hard to schedule a reservation.
So to solve this, my wife suggested we take the dinner to them. So she and the kids have prepared the meal ahead and later today, when my daughters get home from taking care of the animals, we will pack up the car and head north, thankful that we all can get together once more. Thankful the kids will be home in time to do so. Thankful my parents at their age are independent and healthy.  Thankful my parent's home has heat. (Right: My parents in 2008)
I'm thankful, my friends, to have met you through this Internet and Blogging. 

We talk about the First Thanksgiving of the Pilgrims and the proclamation of Abraham Lincoln in 1863. (For a thorough history of Thanksgiving in America, go to Jeff Jenkins'  "Thoughts and Theology" Website) 
But giving thanks to God for our blessings goes back far before there was an United States. For instance, read these instructions for thanksgiving in the Law (Leviticus 7: 11-15)

" 'These are the regulations for the fellowship offering a person may present to the LORD :
" 'If he offers it as an expression of thankfulness, then along with this thank offering he is to offer cakes of bread made without yeast and mixed with oil, wafers made without yeast and spread with oil, and cakes of fine flour well-kneaded and mixed with oil. Along with his fellowship offering of thanksgiving he is to present an offering with cakes of bread made with yeast. He is to bring one of each kind as an offering, a contribution to the LORD; it belongs to the priest who sprinkles the blood of the fellowship offerings. The meat of his fellowship offering of thanksgiving must be eaten on the day it is offered; he must leave none of it till morning."

Now as to our meat today, I hope there is some left for the morning and I am thankful I may eat some the next day, for my son and I love cold turkey sandwiches.
In all seriousness, here are some passages to ponder today:
Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. Psalm 95: 1-3
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1-3

The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make music to our God on the harp. He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. Psalm 147: 6-8
"Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD." Jonah 2:8-9
(See, you can even give thanks in the stomach of a fish.)

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19-20

It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 4:1-15

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:5-7

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:16-17

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men –the testimony given in its proper time. 1 Timothy 2:1-6

They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. If you point these things out to the brothers, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, brought up in the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 1 Timothy 4:3-6

All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. 
   Amen!" Revelation 7:11-12

And may you all have a great Thanksgiving Day basking in the glow of all you have to be thankful for.  Amen?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

BIBLE AS A WHOLE: Rub-a-dub-dub, Three Men In a Tub & When Pigs Fly and Pigs Die

Rub-a-dub-dub, Three men in a Tub

Do you think that pig in the picture is thinking about flying right into that river and drowning itself?

Huh, what do flying suicidal pigs have to do with the Bible?
I'll get to that later.
I would hope, it's hard enough understanding that book without you confusing people further. I don't know what you see in that anthology of stories, myths, fables and poems.
That's because it isn't an anthology. It's one continuous history of God's relationship to man from the past creation of this world to the future end of this world.  If we accept that fact, We'll have a better understanding not only of the Bible, but of world events going on around us today.
Such as?
Such as not being scared by all the Global Warming hype when you understand what the Bible says is ahead. Such as not being fearful of threats from other countries when you see how the Bible says they will line up.  Kermit, The Thinking Frog said, "The only thing we have to fear is God Himself." He is absolutely right, for we have a Fearsome and Awesome God, who has let us in on His plan in the Bible so we need not fear anything else. 
Also, understanding the Bible as a whole clears up a lot of those little events in the Bible that seem mysterious. 
Oh Yeah, how is all that stuff in the Old Testament relevant to anything. A lot of you people find that mysterious enough to avoid.  All those "begats" and hard to pronounce names like Jebusites, Girgashites,  Arvadites, Zemarites and Hamathites. I bet most wouldn't know a Pathrusite from a Stalagmite. What's with all these ites, huh?
Well, except for Stalagmite,  they are groups of people named after some body's son, you know, the result of all those begats. Take the Girgashites...
Bless you.
Very funny. Girgashites, in fact, all those "ites" you named, were descendants of Ham. You remember Noah had three sons, Japheth, Shem and Ham. 
Ah, ha, your Rub-a-dub-dub Three men in a Tub silliness!
Where are the flying pigs?
We'll get to them. Anyway, Shem is the ancestor of the Jews. We get the term Semite from him, a corruption from the Greek or Latin because there is no H in those languages. Japheth's descendants went north after the flood. We of European blood descended from his tribes. Ham had a son whose name you probably know by the country he inhabited. His name was Canaan. 
Canaan begat Sidon, his firstborn, and he begat Hitt,  Jebu,  Amor and so forth. In fact his next begat was Girgash...
And Girgash formed a tribe called Girgashites.
Correct. And the Girgashites and those other tribes all lived in the land of milk and honey God intended for the Hebrews. God drove all those people out of Canaan because they weren't very nice. He took His time, but those peoples were driven out. 
Ha, took his time. Maybe your God isn't so powerful after all. Why didn't he just zap them, like Sodom and Gomorrah? Use up all his power turning Lot's wife into salt did he?
God wasn't too weak to "zap". He did it because the Hebrews weren't strong enough to subdue the country yet. If God had zapped those tribes, then the wild animals would have been left uncontrolled and overrun the place before the Hebrews could get a handle on them. God is pretty sparing with the zapping and the miracles. He likes to work his plan through people, only he knows why. But that's another story, just accept it for now that God always knows what he's doing.
Back to the point, the Girgashites ended up controlling a region southeast of the Sea of Galilee, know later as the Gadarenes or the Gerasenes. This is an area known for the Decapolis, or the ten cities. We have cities such as Gadara and Gerasa in this country. Near Gadara are a lot of tombs and on the east shore of Lake Tiberias (another name of the Sea of Galilee), at el-Kursi, near the Wadi es-Samak is a cliff. We have a story about Jesus involving tombs and a cliff in the region of the Gerasenes. Might not have been those specific tombs or that particular cliff, but these were things in the area so it wasn't unusual they were mentioned.
Okay, nice little history lesson, or is it a geography lesson. All this gobbly-gook about Girgashites, Gerasenes, Gerasa and Gadara and you still haven't said anything about pigs.
I mentioned Ham.
Oh, now who is being cute. 
Fine, old haunt, I'll get to the flying pigs, but first I want you to contemplate Isaiah 65:1-7
"I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, 'Here am I, here am I.'
All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations-a people who continually provoke me to my very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick; who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping secret vigil; 
who eat the flesh of pigs, 
and whose pots hold broth of unclean meat; who say, 'Keep away; don't come near me, for I am too sacred for you!' 
Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day.
"See, it stands written before me: 
I will not keep silent but will pay back in full; I will pay it back into their laps-both your sins and the sins of your fathers," 
says the LORD.

Then the next time you're roaming around, we’ll talk about this story put together from Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39.
They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. "What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?" When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He cried out and fell at his feet. He shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me! I beg you, don't torture me!" For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man, had said to him, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!" Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.
Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"
"My name is Legion," he replied, because many demons had gone into him."for we are many." And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.
Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, "If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs. Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them. " and He gave them permission. He said to them, "Go!" and so when they, the demons, the evil spirits, came out of the man, and they went into the pigs, and the whole herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned and died in the water.
When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off, went into the town and reported all this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons sitting there, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man, how the demon-possessed man had been cured. —and told about the pigs as well. And then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus, when they saw him, to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. The people, they began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
So He got into the boat and left. As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed, whom the demons had gone out, begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but Jesus sent him away but said, saying, "Go Return home to your family and tell them how much the Lord God has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." So the man went away and told all over town and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

When Pigs Fly and Pigs Die

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Say to the Israelites: 'Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat: You may eat any animal that has a split hoof completely divided and that chews the cud.
" 'There are some that only chew the cud or only have a split hoof, but you must not eat them. The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is ceremonially unclean for you. The coney, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you. The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you. And the pig, though it has a split hoof completely divided, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. Leviticus 11:1-7 NIV
So we're back on pigs again. What's with the photo, we can eat the cow in the foreground, but not the pig in the far background? We going to discuss Solomon's barbecue recipes today?
Forget the photo. Did you read what I left you with?
Ah, yes. Shocking, absolutely shocking. Poor little piggies, what'd they ever do to anyone? How can you think so highly of someone who'd do a thing like that?
What? Release a couple guys from the possession of Demons?
No, slaughter a bunch of pigs. And the people there didn't like it. He scared them so much they told him to go away. Probably afraid they were next to be sent over a cliff.
You do so have a way to twist things to suit the worldly view, don't you?
That's my job.
Let's go beyond what you say and think about this. Jesus and his disciples had been teaching to a lot of crowds in and around the Jewish side of Galilee. So why did he suddenly, unexpectedly, kind of out of the blue up and say one day, "Let's go over to the other side of the lake." What was on the other side of the lake?
The region of the Gerasenes or Gadarenes.
And who had settled this region?
Oh, no, are you getting back into that Girgashites gibberish again?
Yes, were the Girgashites Jewish?
No, they were enemies of the Jews; pretty mean ones that your God wanted wiped out.
Right, and so Jesus just on a whim decides to sail over and visit a non-Jewish territory.  It wasn't smooth sailing either, not like they just got to relax on the water awhile. They set off and a fierce storm hit their boat and rocked them badly, scared the Disciples badly. Almost seems as if someone didn't want Him to go.
Hey, don't look at me!
Couldn't have been Jesus felt compelled to go after the Girgasites. They seem to have disappeared from history before this trip. At least Titus Flavius Josephus, the great historian of the Jews couldn't find any trace of Girgashites left in this period.
No, Jesus just suddenly sails off with his disciples for Gentile territory. He's got disciples with Him who don't seem to get it and who show a real lack of faith on the way and when he gets back he is going to be rejected by the people in his hometown. He is also beginning to come under regular attack from the religious leaders among the Jews. Yet, he goes off to a Gentile country and exercises a couple of blokes who may not even have been Jewish and ticks off a whole town of people. Why?
Cause he heard there was a herd (heh heh, little play on words there) of pigs and His Father had it in for pigs?
Forget the pigs right now. There may have been several reasons. He may have wanted to teach his disciples a little more about faith. The Demons knew who he was; maybe he wanted his followers to hear that. And maybe he was pointing to both his purpose and to the future as prophesied in that passage from Isaiah 65:
"I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, 'Here am I, here am I.'
All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations-a people who continually provoke me to my very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick; who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping secret vigil; 
who eat the flesh of pigs, 
and whose pots hold broth of unclean meat; who say, 'Keep away; don't come near me, for I am too sacred for you!' 
Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day.
"See, it stands written before me: 
I will not keep silent but will pay back in full; I will pay it back into their laps-both your sins and the sins of your fathers," 
says the LORD.
What was going to happen? Jesus was going to preach His message to the Jews, that He was the Messiah and they were going to reject Him. He would then take his message to the Gentiles, those who didn't call on his name and who didn't seek him. Like the Demon-possessed men the nation of Israel was saying "stay away, don't come near us". The Jews, God's chosen people, the people he loved, were gorging themselves on the unclean things of the world. They were pigs hurtling themselves toward a cliff, possessed by sin, about to be drowned and perish.  The Jews had made themselves unclean by long practicing the ceremonies of the Gentiles. They were in a sense possessed by the world and had become unclean in the sight of God.
I believe this event was partly to point to that and party to demonstrate God's mercy to the gentiles who also needed Him.
So he killed a bunch of pigs and scared a bunch of people.
He didn't kill those pigs, the Demons did, because all Demons know to do is destruction. And did He really so scare those people they wanted him away? Or was there possibly another reason?
What do you mean?
I mean, why were those pig herds there? What was the purpose? Those pigs were doomed anyway, you know. They were going to be somebody's ham and eggs or pork chops and applesauce. Those were valuable animals. That loss of herd cost somebody big bucks. Yet, they came and asked Jesus to leave rather than arrest him and take him to court to make restitution.
Have you considered these people were running an illegal operation, a black market in pork being sold to the Jews across the Sea? Perhaps those herdsmen were even Jews themselves. Remember the Prodigal Son? He sank so low he was feeding swine. Where would he be feeding pigs in Israel? A Jew was unclean who handled pigs. Perhaps the Lord was picturing the Prodigal Son working over on the other side of the Sea of Galilee in this very field.   Nonetheless, if this was a black market operation, they were similar to a drug supplier in our world. The drug dealer isn't going to the authorities if you somehow destroy his product because he would be in trouble if he did. So it may have been with this town and they just sent Jesus away so as not to make trouble or get their business closed down.
Jesus allowed the Demons to go into the herd, he didn't order them there and the Demons destroyed the illegal product used by people in defiance of God's will. Remember, God's justice is as prevalent in his Word as His mercy.
One other thing I'd like to mention. You'll be especially interested in this.
I will? What?
What were the demons so worried about? Why did they ask to go into the pigs?
Is it hot in here or is it just me?  Think I'll step out for some air right now.
What did the Demons cry out? "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time? I beg you don't torture me. Swear to God you won't torture me! They begged Him repeatedly not to throw them into the Abyss."  
The Demons knew scripture. They knew they would be locked up and eventually thrown into Hell. They also knew this was to be in some future time. They feared this greatly and they knew very well that Jesus had the power to imprison them until Judgment day. They didn't want to be locked up. So they begged to go from the men into the pigs. Jesus gave them His permission to go into the pigs, he didn't send them into the herd. The Demons then just did what was their nature and destroyed the pigs. Don't know where the demons went after the pigs drowned, perhaps they possessed a school of sharks or something.
I am sure we could dig much more out of this occurrence, but this is enough to ponder for now. But I don't think any thing in scripture happens at random and I believe all of Scripture links together in one way or another. 

I want to give a nod to Dr. R. Brown, professor at Wilmington University, teacher of Pastors as a member of SEND International- World Missions, Sunday School teacher extraordinaire and author of Preparing for the Realities of Mission in a Changing World (2006) for pointing out the relationship of the Girgashites to the Gerasenes and his discussion of the black marketing of pigs. I have deep respect for Dr. Brown's scholarship and Biblical knowledge, and am grateful for the many times he has challenged my thinking.

That's Good. No, That's Bad. This is Short.

Here is a short commentary leading into what will be my next post, an essential preparation or groundwork, if you please. Are you familiar with a joke format called: That's Good, That's Bad or sometimes the reverse, That's Bad, That's Good. If not, here is a short example culled from The Simpsons: old man: Take this doll, but beware; it carries a terrible curse. Homer: Ooo, that's bad. Old man: But it comes with a free serving of frozen yogurt! Homer: That's good! Old man: The frozen yogurt is also cursed. Homer: That's bad. Old man: But it comes with your choice of toppings! Homer: That's good! Old man: The toppings contain potassium benzoate...Homer: (confused look) Old man: That's bad. Homer: Can I go now? 

Here is a short, more traditional one:

"Did ya hear I got married?"
"Oh, that's good."
"No, that's bad! She's ugly!"
"Oh, that's bad."
"No, that's good! She's rich."
"Oh, that's good!"
"No, that's bad! She won't give me a cent."
"Oh, that's bad."
"No, that's good! She bought me servants and a big house"
"Oh, that's good."
"No, that's bad! The house burnt down."
"Oh, that's bad."
"No, that's good! She was in it."

Probably could do a whole sermon on priorities, relationships and commitments among other issues based on that joke, but we won't. It is just here for illustration. If you chuckled at it... nevermind. Those jokes get me thinking about life and how events really fool us. Something happens that makes us happy and we believe that's good. Something else happens that makes us sad and we believe that's bad. But is that actually how life is. Are good things that happen to us always good and bad things always bad? When we are healthy and prosperous is that always good? And when we suffer sickness, loss or disaster, is that always bad? Something else to think about.