Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Rapture

So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." –Acts 1:6-8
The very last words Jesus uttered to his disciples represented a mandate and emphasis on being “witnesses” (a word which has its own fuzzy ideas today). His concern, as I understand, was for us to embody his truth in the way that we live day to day. They asked Jesus a question that would require him to provide details of what the completion of his reign would look like. He basically told them not to worry about it (“It is not for you to know…”). The irony of this event is what “two men dressed in white” say after they see the Lord becomes hidden from their sight: “ ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’ ”

“Come back in the same way” has become a model of specific MO for Jesus to simply shift gears into reverse and one day fulfill the sketchy details of 2 obscure passages sited to answer the question asked by the disciples that Jesus avoided answering.

There is a lot of talk among Christ followers today over end times and a curiosity called “The Rapture.” The derivation of the word comes from a Latin concept of “being caught up” – literally ascending into the air. The idea is based on 2 obscure passages of scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 and Matthew 24:29-31 (There are those who even split these 2 in dissecting eschatology, but I won’t follow this rabbit trail now).

How can so many hang their hat in regards to detail and characterization of eschatological matters on a handful of verses, when the whole issue of eschatology has such a multifaceted scheme throughout the rest of scripture? This is obviously a rhetorical question because it cannot be successfully answered.

If one took a per capita approach to detail with other passages, the “being caught-up” scenario of 1 Thess and the “gather/taken” of Matt. 24 would demand far less consideration. I’m not throwing that consideration out, but treating it in context with the characterization of other biblical scenarios. Unfortunately, such other passages (like 1 Cor 15:12-58) are crammed into the eisegetical plot created by biblical commentators beginning as recent as the 18th century and propelled in the 19th century by the likes of John Darby.

The rather lengthy theological train, left by Darby, continually hangs another hat on another passage (why should this scriptural potluck supper approach surprise me?) – namely 2 Tim. 2:15. Using the 1611 English translation used most often for this passage, it reads as follows: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (interesting how spell checker hiccupped on a couple of words here).

The rather clever and arrogant application of this has one taking all of God’s revelation and dissecting it into anatomical segments. The result is sort of like working a Rubik’s Cube where all the colors are mixed up but they actually belong neatly together. Just do an online search of “Dispensational Chart” and look at what is available out there. Print one out and see if you can discover the comprehensive clarity others have.

Sadly, this has resulted in many pulpiteers and Sunday School Quarterly readers – er I mean teachers, regurgitating this crafted contortion of God’s mysterious truth.

I decided to take a much closer look at this pivotal passage and have discovered that it is surprisingly closer to what Jesus really meant when he provided insight for his disciples in Acts 1.

“Rightly dividing” does not convey a segmenting of reveled truth but rather has a context which involves daily transformation. It has a progressive/procedural meaning from the Greek ὀρθοτομέω (orthotomeō). It has more to do with death to self and reigning with Christ, the context of which is provided in vv 11&12 and correlates with Heb 12:1-3 (Perseverance/fix).

“Study” does not have its academic/Western understanding. The word contains a meaning of diligence- perseverance – progressing. The same word is used in Gal 2:10 “Continue” (NIV; omitted in KJV) and in Eph 4:3 “Endeavor.”

Taking the concepts of the original language, we cannot come away with a Rubik’s Cube approach to God’s truth. In retranslating the verse, it should read: “Keep going to be an accurate representation as one who goes about the whole embodiment of truth without shame.”

I’m sure there are those who would have knee-jerk reactions to this exercise, but I truly believe that I have considered the context of Paul’s address to Timothy as well as the concepts conveyed in the words used in light of what Jesus teaches. Paul elsewhere addresses followers with these words from 2 Corinthians 3:1-3

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
How does this relate to the topic of focus? “The Rapture?” concept/dogma is a byproduct of taking the words of Paul to young Timothy as meaning a diligent academic focus combined with shuffling sections of God’s revealed Word over the ages into a constructed cube that dare not be disassembled – and then resting in the notion that God notarizes ones soul due to the effort. I believe that is the reason that you don’t see the same treatment of the complexity of I Cor 15. It would be like reducing a piece of paper past the 14th fold and cramming into the cube. It just won’t go, so it becomes a mere footnote, if anything.

Once again, I’m not discarding the possibility that the culmination of God’s Kingdom through the Messiah, Jesus, may result in a “caught up” scenario – and then again, it may not. I don’t know and I’m okay with that since Jesus said “…it is not for you to know…” Paul himself stated that we only know “in part” and that we will not fully know as we are now “fully known” until the culmination of all things.

It’s just that I believe that taking such an approach to God’s Word is the exercising of poor stewardship. If we isolate ourselves to highlight, copy and paste compliant passages to satisfy a constructed system, we neglect not only the essence of other passages of truth that don’t comply, but the salt and light principle the world needs to preserve its destiny.

Which takes us back to Jesus final words. His emphasis is on only living with the day to day opportunities we have as “witnesses.” Somewhere between putting a hand to the plow and not looking back – and – not worrying about tomorrow as each day has enough trouble of its own, is a thing called the present, otherwise known as “today.” Seems to me the increment of taking up the cross and following has a much similar frequency.

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. ~1 Cor 15:58

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mazel Tov!

The reality of the busy-ness of life delayed the anticipated arrival of the Conti Twin Star 2, but Christmas morning came yesterday afternoon at 2149 N Center St.

I kept watching for a proverbial pot to boil out the front door waiting for a semi to pull up with our new toy. All of the sudden, I hear a very loud banging on the back steel door about 100 feet away. It's a good thing I got my new hearing aid for my "good" ear last week since I actually detected the initial hand to door engagement.

I did a quick jog to the door and opened it. The man started to ask "Java Jo..." when I said "Yeah! You've got our espresso machine."

Rhett Mullinax (our new super volunteer) and Ben showed up in time to help me move it to a table (200+ lb) until we could move the old machine over. It took us about an hour to get it hooked up and powered up (in NC lingo: "cut on.") The boilers filled up and achieved proper temperature in about 25 minutes. After filling up the new grinder (which came with the package) and flushing the system a bit, we started pulling shots.

I had the first consumed latte from it (which is pictured above) and found it delightfully smooth. Not that the old machine did not produce a good flavor, but this one created a "new and improved" version.

Over the next few days, we will become familiarized with it and train our volunteers how to use it. It should not be much of a challenge since this one is easier to use than the old Conti machine. It's also faster and will help us expedite the making of espresso-based beverages during rush times (like Friday night live music).

We will use the old one for remote purposes since it is portable and uses 110v.

If you're local, come and check out our "new arrival."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Do We Really "Take Up the Cross?"

My ongoing search for "What did Jesus really - really mean?" abides.

“Mutiny on the Bounty” is a classic novel and movie about an historic conflict over power and authority. Many critics deem the book and film as inaccurately presenting the facts as history documents. When you dissect the epic, it breaks down to a struggle of power and influence. If you are familiar with the actual events that create the story, the final consequences reveal the inner heart of the parties involved. The Charles Laughton character ends up all the integrity and the Clark Cable character ends up surrounded by folly.

Every organization has a set of policies and procedures that are designed to give the organization guidance. Followers are expected to adhere. For some reason (which we all know to be the nature of humanity) organizations often end up with a disparity between those who create the policies and those expected to follow them.

The drive for creating standards comes from power and authority. The acquiring of power and authority is something most human beings desire. To be in control is to be able to administer your will or the will of those who are like-minded.

This is a universal paradigm which Jesus challenged in context to following him. I don't think this principle is implemented in our westernized culture.
Matt 20 20Then the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. 21"What is it you want?" he asked. She said, "Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom." 22"You don't know what you are asking," Jesus said to them. "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?" "We can," they answered. 23Jesus said to them, "You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father." 24When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

"Not so with you" contains a second person plural pronoun and serves as an antecedent to "whoever" (or literally "that one") in verses 26 & 27. So Jesus is not only addressing the disciples, He is setting forth a foundational criteria for all who desire to follow Him.

In our corporate employer/employee; management/workforce culture, we have created a disparity that does not really fall in line with this "Kingdom MO." Many who even espouse a "servant leadership" approach are not willing to sacrifice their position of authority. The power, no matter how humble one attempts to be, is enslaving.

One can only imagine what might take place for the cause and purpose of God's Kingdom in Christ Jesus, if we are really willing to act as servants and slaves.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Relevant Rendering

As English only has one word for love; it also only has one word for evil. We lose so much context by the limitations. Lk 11:13 has always been a challenging verse to me and others. I'm chiefly thankful that I took a chunk of my life doing school so I could learn how to break down the original language.

This is what the verse says. This is Jesus teaching.

"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Many are uncomfortable with Jesus saying that we are "evil" but that is created by our tiny understanding of what he really meant.

"Evil" in this passage comes from the word "poneros" (πονηρός). Its meaning suggests "hardship," "frustration," "annoyance." So how could we rephrase this to convey what is meant today? Here is what I suggest. Translate "poneros" with "pain in @$$." Now substitute "can be a..."  before it so that it reads: "If you then, though you can be a pain in the @$$, know how to give good gifts to your children..."

Now - doesn't that make more sense? It does to me, and I think it's a fair translation.

You're welcome to challenge me, but try not to be poneros.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Leonard Sweet's FB Postings

" 'You are righteous, O Lord; I cannot disagree; yet let me talk with You of Your judgments' Jer. 12:1. God is always right; but we can argue."

Then a follow up comment with a quotation:

" 'Levi-Yitzhak of Berditchev, who told God that unless he began to answer his prayers, he would refuse to say them any more. He warned God that if he did not improve, then God would be in for a tough time at the Last Judgment! And when people criticized him for ‘impious’ words, he said that, as a child of Israel, one may say anything.' Elie Wiesel, Souls on Fire, 111."

This may be part of the answer to my question: "Why were/are so many great comedians Jewish?"