Psalm 144:4 Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.

Monthly Archives: September 2009

A belly-full

Matthew 9:36
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Here is one example of the use of the word for compassion in the New Testament that appears 12 times. The word in the original is splagchnizomai, the translation of which misses a beautiful undercurrent that I have already discussed in a different context.
The literal meaning is “to be moved as to one’s bowels” which might at first seem a little odd until you consider it for a bit longer.
The bowels (& incidentally kidneys) were, in the time the passage was written, thought to be the seat of emotion, love, thought, feeling & experience. We don’t really think about them in this way these days, but if you can think back to the last time you had a shock, found out you’d made a mistake, got nervous or excited about something or ‘had a hunch’. What did you feel and where?

All in the guts right? Sometimes its butterflies, sometimes like a kick in the stomach, sometimes a dropping – sickening feeling.

It serves to accentuate the deep levels of intense, emotional commitment and visceral compassion that Jesus showed to the people he interacted with and by inference, a level we are expected to aspire to.

These are the passages in which the word is used.

Matthew 9:36
Matthew 14:14
Matthew 15:32
Matthew 18:27
Matthew 20:34
Mark 1:41
Mark 6:34
Mark 8:2
Mark 9:22
Luke 7:13
Luke 10:33
Luke 15:20

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What is Church?

“It’s a place of welcome and laughter, of healing and hope, of friends and family and justice and new life. It’s where the homeless drop in for a bowl of soup and the elderly stop by for a chat. It’s where one group is working to help drug addicts and another is campaigning for global justice. It’s where you’ll find people learning to pray, coming to faith, struggling with temptation, finding new purpose, and getting in touch with a new power to carry that purpose out. It’s were people bring their own small faith and discover, in getting together with others to worship the one true God, that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.”
N.T. Wright

I hope that reflects your church, we’re still growing (at least aspirationally if not more) largely, in that direction.

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This verse has been eating a lot of people up over the years:

John 14:6
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The cry is “Hey, that’s way too exclusive, all religions lead to God, just in different ways, to say Jesus is the only way is arrogant and exclusive.”

The passage takes on a whole different flavour when you turn it on its head. Instead of “No one comes to the Father except through me.” think of it as reading “Everyone can come to the Father through me”.

Now, the statement is the ultimate expression of inclusivity, it is an invitation to the whole world, Jew, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Bhuddist, Hindu, Atheist, Agnostic etc. etc.

Jesus is saying “I don’t care who you are, my invitation is for you, because what I have done is something nobody else in the history of the world has or could ever do.”

Peter (amongst other writers) emphasises this viewpoint in his second letter:

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

God is the God of all people and in Christ, he provides a way to Him.

In his death, Christ achieved an inhuman feat – that of living and dying without committing sin. For that reason, he could not have been kept dead, that would not have been fair of God, as by God’s own rules, if you haven’t sinned, you are not deserving of death: “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Christ won that ‘victory’ over sin (and death) so that by believing in him, we might share in that same reward – eternal life.

Romans 8:17
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Part of ‘sharing in his suffering’ is in believing in Christ and what he has done, and sharing bread and wine as symbols of his body and blood in celebration of his resurrection. The other part(s) of ‘sharing in his suffering’ will have to wait for another time.

1 Peter 1:3-5
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

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Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

God created a reality of perfection as outlined in Genesis 1 & 2. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good, it was bound to be, God had made everything perfect to place his new creation of man and woman into.

Genesis 3 documents what happened next: man/woman-kind created their own reality. In our arrogance (yes, I’m lumping the whole of the human race, living and dead into corporate responsibility because I don’t believe anyone would have acted any different to Adam and Eve) we decided that God’s way wasn’t good enough for us, so we created an alternative reality, one where we make the decisions, one where we take God’s place and say “Get in the back seat, I’m driving” to the creator of the universe.

And where has that got us?

We live in, not only the most God-less age, but also the least equal age in the history of humanity. I’m not condemning anyone for the way they live or what they have done, fortunately that’s not my job and I’m just as culpable as the next person, but I can’t see how anyone can ignore the inequality that exists. Marked by the super-rich ‘celebrities’ contrasted against the poverty of parts of Africa or India, none more so than cities where millionaires live side-by side with people in abject poverty http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=50816.

Will it ever get fixed?

Yes. But only when the whole world accepts that God needs to be in the driving seat, not ‘man’.

Only then can God recreate his original reality which will over-write the one we refresh and continue to buy into every day, despite our best efforts to bring the Kingdom of God now.

Revelation 21:3-5
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

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Fully Loaded

Galatians 5:2-5
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load. (NIV)

Here is another seemingly contradictory passage.
On the one hand it says carry each other’s burdens and on the other it says you must carry your own load!

Do we throw out the Bible for being inconsistent or conflicting? Or shall we try to understand and perhaps (as the current buzz-trend around here is) ‘harmonise’ the passage?!

Well, straight off the bat, a quick dig into the original Greek throws up two completely different words:

‘burdens’ is the Greek word baros which means heaviness, weight, burden, trouble.
‘load’ is the Greek word ergon which holds various meanings ranging thus:
1) business, employment, that which any one is occupied
a) that which one undertakes to do, enterprise, undertaking
2) any product whatever, any thing accomplished by hand, art, industry, or mind
3) an act, deed, thing done: the idea of working is emphasised in opp. to that which is less than work

To summarise that, the word for ‘burdens’ seems to relate more to troubles or heavy loads and the word for ‘load’ seems to be pointing at acts, deeds or works.

Yes, you can see where I’m going already!

It seems to me that the passage is encouraging the believer to be gracious in helping others unburden their troubles and weary hearts, whilst still ensuring they take seriously their incumbent responsibilities to do the job they are required to do (in the church community especially but also in the context of the rest of their sphere of influence and personal network).

Obviously, we all have different jobs that we are called to perform (1 Corinthians 12 amongst others) and the latter part of the Galatians passage is guiding us to disseminate these with the gifts we have been blessed with. I think that if we consider this verse first, then it can easily be applied to verse 2 – sharing each-others burdens. Some people are better equipped and more gifted in the counselling and encouragement of their community, but we all still have a responsibility to try to ease the burdens that our fellow believers are struggling with.

Which brings us neatly to verse 9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Which I have previously discussed here and talked about here with two slightly different angles on the passage.

The verses in the middle of the galatians passage will have to wait for another post.

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

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