Loving the Greek…..

I wrote this back in 2012. I thought it good enough to reblog.

faithfulwon

The New Testament was originally written in Greek since that was the “English” or “lingua Franca” of the the first century.  So I thought it would be a good idea to learn the NT or Koine Greek some years ago.  I must admit though that the vast range of English translations we have seem to capture most of the nuances of the Greek word meanings as far as I can tell.  But I am no expert.

There are a few things that the NT Greek does bring out:

1.  The simplicity of the language John uses compared with Paul.  It is really very easy to read John’s gospel and letters in the Greek especially in comparison to Paul’s.  It is a real and compelling miracle to see the depth of meaning and the deep subjects that John is able to explore with so few words.   I really don’t know…

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All things you ask believing

There are several statements that Jesus makes about asking in faith:

“And all things, whatever you ask in prayer believing you will receive.” (Matthew 21:22 see also Matthew 7:7-11, Mark 11:24, Luke 11:9-13, John 14:13, 15:7,16b)

The emphasis in these statements of Jesus is asking the Father in faith knowing who He is. Nothing is impossible for God. We want His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven – he will always answer our prayers if it is His will.

Jesus illustrates how this works by His prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:39, 42). There was absolutely no question that Jesus could receive all the faith required to ask and receive. However, even He didn’t receive what He asked for from His Father – that this cup be taken away from Him. Jesus gives the answer to why this was the case: “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39) and “Your will be done” (Matt. 26:42).

God works all things according to the counsel or purpose of His will (Eph. 1:11). It becomes important then to find out what that is when we are asking God for something. One of the surest ways we know we are praying according to His will is that we will receive the faith to see it happen when we do. We will “know” as John puts it in 1 John 5:14,15 (cf. Heb. 11:1). If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

I have come across many situations both in my own life and in the life of others where prayers are not answered with a yes. Too often our prayers are us telling God what we want rather than listening first to hear what He wants (Eccl. 5:1).

You can rest assured that only His will will be done. Our aim is to find that out and fulfill Jesus wonderful prayer “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matt. 6:10).

If we come to God with our will only in prayer without listening to what He wants we will only see random, sporadic answers to prayer – sometimes we will be in line with what God wants, often we won’t.

We may know the Scriptures concerning healing for instance (Psalm 103: 3b, Isaiah 53:5) and so know the general desire of God to heal but, as Jesus showed when He was at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-9) not every sick person is healed. Similarly, it is God’s desire that all should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4), however we know from Jesus statement about Judas (the son of perdition John 17:12) that not everyone is saved.

I believe we should be seeing more healing and at least some resurrections from the dead. Likewise God wants to save this country and every person in it. It is up to us all to start that conversation with God about individuals we know and find His answers.

Psalm 139

O Lord, You have searched me and known.

You know my sitting down and my rising up.

You understand my thoughts afar off.

You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.

For there is not a word on my tongue – behold O Lord, You know it altogether.

You have hedged me behind and before and laid Your hand upon me.

Knowledge too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot get it.

Be Quiet!

Proverbs is one of the Bible’s Wisdom books along with Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs.  One of its major themes is the consequences of actions and words.  According to the bible, discipline in what we speak, how we manage what goes into our bodies and what we do with our time all matter if we want to lead a godly life.  It is the root meaning of what it means to be a disciple.

One of the great disciplines of the Christian is stillness.  “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) is easier said than done for most of us.  It is essential though if we are to hear God.  If we don’t hear the Holy Spirit within us we cannot pray.

Inner stillness can be disturbed by many things.  What we eat can disturb our bowels  making us uncomfortable and unable to stay still.  What we have said to someone can disturb us, we may be aware that we have hurt someone with our words.  Proverbs is full of admonishments to restrain our lips (e.g. Prov. 21:23) so that our souls and lives can be preserved.

Inner turmoil is exposed as soon as we try to be still.  For that reason many people avoid trying to be still as much as possible.  Some will work all day (usually older people), others will play video games or continuously interact with their smartphones (usually younger people).  Continuously blaring music of all sorts is a very common way of avoiding being still for many of us.  Constantly having the TV on or the radio when travelling is another way of avoiding inner turmoil.

Inner turmoil can keep us awake at night.  Our aching bellies, unfulfilled desires, our troubled conscience, worries and fears are unavoidable at night when everything is quiet and still.

God’s answer to inner turmoil is for us to bring this bag of wind and tossing to His word and to be still before it.  That is why there is so much right emphasis in Christian circles on having a disciplined daily quiet time with God – usually before we do anything else in a day.  The word of God is living and active, it will cast a light over all that is going on within you and separate out what is of God and what isn’t (Hebrews 4:12).  As we are still we can pray and the Holy Spirit will teach you about how to live (John 14:26).

Be still.  Jesus commanded the wind and waves.  He can do that for you also.

The Rules of the Game

Recently my head has been swimming with ideas about dimensions beyond the four we live in (height, length, breath and time).  No more!  I’m going to play by the rules of the game God has set up in those four dimensions.  There is where sanity lies.

So what are the rules?  This is how I understand them:

  1. We all make mistakes, fail, sin, whatever you want to call it. Perfection in this game is impossible except for Jesus.  The rule is that when you sin you confess it, receive forgiveness, get up and go again (1 John 1:5 – 10).
  2. Love is the answer to everything.  As long as we keep on loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbours as ourselves we can’t go wrong (e.g. Matthew 22:37).
  3. Love starts and ends with God and particularly with an understanding that Jesus died a horrible death on the cross for us.  Keep remembering this and it cannot but produce love in you (e.g. 1 John 4:19).
  4. God’s means for remembering is what some denominations call “Breaking of Bread” and others “Holy Communion”.  Jesus wants us to meet together with others regularly and remember what He did together (e.g. 1 Corinthians 11: 23-25).
  5. The mechanisms that God uses to enable us to please Him are grace working through our faith in Him we don’t see (see Paul’s letters to the Ephesians and Romans).  So we believe and God in response gives us a whole pile of good things we don’t deserve including peace, health and (dare I say it) wealth primarily in our relationships.  The thing is not to take them for granted, we really don’t deserve all the blessings we receive. God blesses us so we can bless others who He also loves just as much as us.
  6. Faith is a gift of God which we receive when God first intervenes in our lives and grows as we continue to let Him intervene.  Some people call the first intervention the baptism of Christ, others the baptism of the Holy Spirit, others call it being born again.  The important thing is that you have it and continue to experience the reality of God’s presence in your life since it is He (the Living Word) that creates faith in you and without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).  Most Christians acknowledge that they have had this encounter by being baptised in water – an outward sign of an inward reality (1 Peter 3:21).

That’s it!  Simple really.

Forgiveness of Sins

It is a tragedy to watch Ireland abandon centuries of Christian tradition to become a bastion of anti-christian sentiment, atheism and humanism.

I believe that the main reason that this has happened is that the majority of the people of Ireland have rightly turned with horror from the abuses of the Roman Catholic churches hierarchy which have been laid bare in these last few years like rarely before.

However, we are throwing out the divine Baby with the bathwater.  Ireland needs to return to Christ and the Word of God as it was preached by Patrick when he first arrived in this country in 430 AD and not to return to the paganism that predated him.  And for that we need to remind ourselves of some basics:

“A pope or a bishop has no more power than the humblest priest where the remission of fault is in question. And even where there is no priest, each Christian, were they a woman or a child, can do the same thing. For if a simple Christian says to you, ‘God pardons sin in the name of Jesus Christ,’ and you receive the saying with firm faith, as if God himself had spoken, you are acquitted. If you believe not that your sins are pardoned, you make your God a liar, and declare that you put greater confidence in your vain thoughts than in God and his word. Under the Old Testament neither priest, nor king, nor prophet, had power to proclaim the forgiveness of sins; but under the New Testament every believer has this power.”

(From Martin Luther @1518 AD quoted in Volume 1, Book 3, Chapter 10 of the HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION by J. H. MERLE D’AUBIGNÉ. http://www.DelmarvaPublications.com. Kindle Edition.)

The point Luther was making is that the truth that Jesus Christ was crucified so that we could know forgiveness of sins stands independently of the means by which it is delivered.  It only takes faith in the hearer of the truth itself for it to be effective – and, as Paul says in Ephesians 2, that faith is itself a gift of God.

Luther goes on to say (from the same source):

“Repent, and do all the works that you can do; but let the faith which you have in the pardon of Jesus Christ stand in the front rank, and have sole command on the field of battle.”

This is the faith Patrick taught when he first arrived in Ireland @430 AD.  It was hundreds of years later that St. Anselm and others brought the errors of the Roman churches teachings on forgiveness to Ireland and enforced them on the people by Norman arms.  It was for control then that the Pope and the Roman Catholic hierarchy abrogated the power to forgive sins to themselves and it is for control over naïve people that they continue to do so.

We need to stop being children in our thinking and become men in our understanding (1 Corinthians 14:20).

Easy to Understand, Hard to DO

Jesus’ definition of a hypocrite was someone who did not practice what they taught (Matthew 23:3).  In my experience this is a surprisingly common phenomenon especially in my own life!

James also said this about the same type of thing:

22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror.24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. 

(James 1:22-25)

So, here are some things that are easy to understand but hard to do that are challenging me lately.  Perhaps you can identify with some of them:

  1. The cure to being overweight is to eat less.  In my case, if I simply cut out eating cakes and biscuits with my teas and coffees I would do all I need (taking into account point 2 below) to get to my best weight.  The trouble is I really like cakes and biscuits with my teas and coffees.
  2. The cure for flabbiness is more exercise (and point 1 above).  In my case a few exercises every morning for about 15 mins coupled with 30 mins walk or a 20 mins cycle will do the trick.  The trouble is I don’t like going out in the rain.
  3. The cure for impure thoughts is to catch them as they appear in my mind and bring them captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
  4. The cure for poverty is to live within my income, not to spend more than I earn.  The trouble is I want the “freedom” that comes with being able to buy something when I want it.

The reality is that we are all, by nature, hypocrites to some degree or another.  We can be no other way.  Paul talks about this phenomenon in Galatians 5:17 (see also Romans 7:22, 23):

17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 

He also tells us the cure:

“Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfil the desires of the flesh.”

That is the real challenge.

Out of the same spring

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”  Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.

21 From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.”23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”

Matthew 16:17-23

It seems to be in the nature of Peter that he was capable of being the very best and the very worst of men at the flick of a switch.  He walked out on the water in an unsurpassed show of faith one minute and then begins to doubt and sinks the next.  He professes that he will go to prison and death with Jesus and then soon after denies Him.  In the above passage he gets a revelation from God that Jesus says He will build His church on, and then goes on to try and prevent God working out His purposes by looking at things from a very human viewpoint.

James asks the question: “Can a spring produce both salt water and fresh?” (James 3:11).  He goes on to say that a salt spring cannot produce fresh water.  However, to take the analogy further, the Christian life seems to indicate that those who have the fresh springs of the Spirit in them are still capable of producing bitter waters at times.  Or at least Peter did in the above passage.  [Some people argue that that was before Pentecost – or even before Jesus breathed on him and the other disciples saying to receive the Holy Spirit but I don’t see that changing much in Peter’s life after Pentecost (e.g. see Galatians 2:11-14).]

So it seems we are all capable of doing this especially if we have the sudden, mercurial temperament of a Peter.  We can all say something completely in keeping with God’s will one minute and then, maybe in the same sentences, say something that in no way reflects His purposes.  It is to be noticed that, in the passage above, Peter is most wrong when he is saying something that seems most reasonable and loving from a human point of view.

As the hymn writer says: “I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.”

Following Jesus

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. 25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” John 12:24-26.

One of the noteworthy things about Jesus, as He is described in the synoptic gospels especially, is His indiscriminate healings of everyone who was sick around Him.  This was most obvious in the physical healings he did so often but Jesus also healed people from sin, guilt and shame.  He spoke words of healing that minister to us to this day and into eternity.

Healing ought to be a sign that He is in our churches also.  If Jesus is truly with us then one of the signs that this is so is that our church is a place of health and healing in all senses of that word.