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The Humility Expectation

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On the backdrop of telling believers to behave as a “Gospel citizen” (like a foreigner who wants to represent his home-country well) Paul writes the Christians in Philippi, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, -- though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God th…

Boast in the Lord

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What are you proud of in your life? What do you identify with? Do you think your behavior will excuse or vindicate you? The people of Judah thought that their exterior religiosity insured them against punishment for their inward vileness. Can’t we be guilty of the same?  Through the prophetJeremiah, God laid forth his future punishment of Judah’s sins very clearly as a warning for the people to turn away from their sins. Chiefly they had abandoned God and had turned to worshipping the false gods of Ba’al, as if they had chosen water from a dirty and leaky cistern over a pure, fresh and clean water from a spring (Jeremiah 2). In addition, the Jews had been treating each other harshly with no concern for the needy, instead trusting in political alliances and their own inflated sense of righteousness to advance “goodness” in their country.

Little Faith or Mustard Seed Faith?

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The healing of the demoniac boy offers much enlightenment regarding the nature of faith. In the previous post I explored how faith (an action), though genuine, may come with a sense of doubt or unbelief (a verb). In this post we are going to explore the bewildering reason why the Apostles could not cast it out. To be very clear I have done a post before dedicated to exploring why the Apostles could not drive out the demon- while my previous study was right, I largely missed the point and neglected the more specific lessons on faith.
After the Apostles could not cast the demon out from the boy, they asked Jesus why they could not cast it out. Jesus gave two responses: “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (see Jesus Heals the Demon)  and  “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you”  This answer presen…

Unending Comfort: 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

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I was working on an article about Grace and came across this passage in Paul's second letter to the believers at Thessalonica.  It is about halfway through the letter. Here is my literal translation of the passage

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

So may Our Master Jesus the Messiah, Himself, and our God and Father, Who loved us and gave an everlasting comfort and a good hope with grace, comfort your hearts and strengthen you in every word and good work.

We all go through tough times. It was also true with the first generations of church members  when Roman tyrants ruled with an iron hand. It wasn't the government that threatened the believers in those days, but rather those teachers who didn't understand how God was working things out. Otherwise, things were going well. The letters to the Thessalonians were friendly reminders that God had not judged the church in secret. Bad times were yet to come (though Paul didn't know when). Before going on with these exhortations, the Apo…

Faith Amid Unbelief

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Can unbelief and faith coexist? At first glance, one would be inclined to say “Absolutely not!”. Afterall verses such as John 3:18 say,  “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” How then do we explain the remarkable proclamation of a man with a demon-possessed son in Mark 9,  “I believe; help my unbelief!” - Mark 9:24b Jesus had been on a mountain with three disciples, “transfiguring” himself to display his full glory. While this happened, Jesus left the remaining Apostles in Caesarea Philippi. During this time, a man approached the Apostles asking them to heal his son who had been possessed by a demon. The Apostles were unable to perform this healing, and this stirred up arguments within the crowd. When Jesus returned and asked about all the commotion the father approached him and explained how the Apostles were unable to heal his son. So Jesus called out their lack of fa…

Six Ways to Praise God (Psalm 105)

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Psalm 105 describes 6 ways to praiseGod:  Thank him (vs 1)“Call on his name” declare who God is to GodDeclare his works to everyone (vs 1b, 2b)Sing to GodSeek himRemember him (The six ways are based on general concepts that appear to be the same, not on verbal form). While all six of these elements are important, Psalm 105 is principally concerned about the sixth way - remembering what God has done. It is on the basis of remembering that the other five acts of worship are done. First, the Psalm remembers the covenant God made with Abraham that he then reaffirmed with Isaac (his son) and Jacob (Isaac’s son, Abraham’s grandson) (Ps 105:7-11). Then it proceeds to consider the wanderings of Abraham, Issac, Jacob and their families as they sought the promises of God’s covenant (Ps 105:12-15). Then the life of Joseph is summarized, being presented as an act of God’s faithfulness to prepare Jacob’s sons (future Israel) for the famine (Ps 105:16-22) (see Gen 37, 39-47). Next, the psalmist turns …

Citizens of....

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Citizenship in Rome and in Heaven "Only let your manner of life be worthy [act as citizens] of the Gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in on spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel"- Phillipians 1:27 ESV These words were from a man sitting in a prison cell (maybe house arrest) for crimes he didn't commit. His name was the Apostle Paul. Paul was writing a personal letter to all the Christians in the city of Philippi, giving them many practical encouragements as he waited for a trial before the Emperor of Rome (or his bureaucratic support).
As a citizen of the Roman Empire, Paul had many special legal privileges, among them the ability to request a trial in front of the Office of Caesar (Acts 25:11). In the Roman Empire, citizenship was a special privilege- among the peoples of Rome there were citizens, slaves and others. Millions of people did not have full legal c…

Central States Society of Biblical Literature 2020

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This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Central States Society of Biblical Literature meeting (again). This was my 2nd year volunteering/observing at the meeting and was able to get some exposure to the world of biblical scholarship (especially to Old Testament)- a field in which I plan to pursue as a vocation, God leading.
SBL involves professors, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to present early versions of their research papers on various topics of biblical studies with papers ranging from discussions of beheadings and homosexuality around the area of Sodom, to Jesus being a "living constitution" in the Book of Philippians. For both years I've attended, it has been hosted at the beautiful (though quite progressive) Eden Theological Seminary- a seminary of the United Church of Christ in a St. Louis suburb.

Being inexperienced in the field of biblical scholarship, I heard many new (and some familiar concepts)- some of which may not be the gr…

Word for Word: Episode 56

Our Home: The Earth
וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים יִקָּו֨וּ הַמַּ֜יִם מִתַּ֤חַת הַשָּׁמַ֙יִם֙ אֶל־ מָקֹ֣ום אֶחָ֔ד וְתֵרָאֶ֖ה הַיַּבָּשָׁ֑ה וַֽיְהִי־ כֵֽן׃ וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים לַיַּבָּשָׁה֙ אֶ֔רֶץ וּלְמִקְוֵ֥ה הַמַּ֖יִם קָרָ֣א יַמִּ֑ים וַיַּ֥רְא אֱלֹהִ֖ים כִּי־ טֹֽוב׃
And God said to the water under the sky, "Get together into one place, so that which is dry can be seen". And so, it happened. God called the dry stuff "land" and the gathered waters he called "seas". And God saw that it was good.  -- Genesis 1:9-10 (dynamic equivalent translation).
The narrative of the creation of the world we know is a bit simplistic to us in that God just seems to tell inanimate matter to act on its own accord. The translation "let [this happen]" to give room for natural laws to just go into affect and form stuff on its own. In the case of water and bedrock, this is quite literally what happens when a liquid flows into a solid basin, "seeki…

Word for Word: Episode 55

A place called "Heaven" וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים יְהִ֥י רָקִ֖יעַ בְּתֹ֣וךְ הַמָּ֑יִם וִיהִ֣י מַבְדִּ֔יל בֵּ֥ין מַ֖יִם לָמָֽיִם׃
וַיַּ֣עַשׂ אֱלֹהִים֮ אֶת־הָרָקִיעַ֒ וַיַּבְדֵּ֗ל בֵּ֤ין הַמַּ֨יִם֙ אֲשֶׁר֙ מִתַּ֣חַת לָרָקִ֔יעַ וּבֵ֣ין הַמַּ֔יִם אֲשֶׁ֖ר מֵעַ֣ל לָרָקִ֑יעַ וַֽיְהִי־כֵֽן׃
 וַיִּקְרָ֧א אֱלֹהִ֛ים לָֽרָקִ֖יעַ שָׁמָ֑יִם
And God said "Let a space be in between the waters to separate them." Then God formed a space between the lower waters and the upper waters. That's how it happened. So, God called space "Heaven". -- Genesis 1:6-8a (author's translation) Translators are sometimes forced to choose between interpretations in the use of the Hebrew word "Shamayim". I have followed the Hebrew in uses the most general term to reflect a basic understanding of the act of creation of this space. In order for an artist or an artisan to work, he must have plenty of space. Though the whole universe, as information, might fit neatly in a finite box i…

Sin Personified: Cain's Sin in Genesis 4:6-7

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The story of “Cain and Abel” is one of the most famous stories in the whole Bible. Abel gave the first of his flocks in his sacrifice to God, while Cain did not give the first-fruits of his crop- he gave the leftovers. When God rejected Cain’s sacrifice, he becomes angry. Here, God uses one of the most interesting descriptions of sin in the Bible- sin is personified as “crouching at the door”.

 “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is [for] you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:6-7
 But what does this really mean? Let’s take a look at what this means, what it doesn’t mean (you may be surprised) and how this applies to life today.
 Cain’s Sunken Face  “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?” Gen 4:6 
 Verse 5(b) of Genesis 4 describes how Cain’s “had fallen”,
"For Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell”…