We’re In This One?

In Men in Black 3, the character, Griffin the Archanan, sees time as a “fifth dimensional being”, meaning he experiences all options of time simultaneously, but also as they coalesce into a single history. So, he’s constantly looking around and saying, “Oh no, we’re in this one?” as something random happens.

To an extent, we sort of do that as we experience our days, weeks, months, and years. Last year, we hoped the COVID-19 pandemic was ending. It didn’t. Instead we entered the variant stage with Delta and Omicron. Things improved, but remained unstable. 

Welcome to 2022. We’re in this one now. There is little rational support for approaching this year with a sense of peace. Little lends itself to a sense of hope. The circumstances of the humans on this planet seem kind of grim on all sorts of levels, from economic to health to social. What seems to be true is that rough times have come to all, regardless of social or economic standing. And, again, the virus has demonstrated the interconnectedness and interdependence of all humans on this planet.

So, while we’re in this one, here’s a suggestion: cling to Jesus. Wow, who would have thought, right? Forehead slap or slap on the back of the head? You probably want to slap the back of my head. Pretend you did.

I’ve been digging around in Proverbs lately, seeking to ponder riddles and difficult sayings. I ran across these two:

Came pride, and came humiliation; And with humble ones, wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)

Righteousness of upright ones saves them; And in a desire of ones acting faithless they will be caught. (Proverbs 11:6)

Those are my translations, and I chose to do it that way because I’m looking for what an ancient Hebrew person would have read and what they would have thought. On that track, they break down this way (at least to me):

Pride comes, in the form of the attitude to the reader, or a prideful person they know coming to visit. With the arrival of the pride (or prideful person) comes humiliation. Whether it’s entertaining the prideful person or being prideful, humiliation still comes along for the ride. The lesson I learn is to neither entertain prideful people, nor to entertain pride in myself. But there’s more!

When humility (or humble visitors) come, then we don’t gain exaltation or praise, we gain wisdom. Perhaps the reverse can be said, that if we seek wisdom we discover humility. Either way, entertaining humility (and humble visitors) brings wisdom to you as well.

This is all well and good, but what about the bleak outlook of 2022? How does that lesson help us face the new year? I would be very careful to avoid being prideful in your outlook, or entertaining those who are. The difference between pride and hope/faith can be seen in why someone is hopeful and what they have faith in. Which leads us to the second proverb.

Notice that both upright ones and faithless ones need saving. That pretty much sums up the bleak outlook of 2022. Notice that no skill, ability, knowledge, or possession saves either one. Instead, it’s about priorities. In their desire faithless people are caught. Both are pursued, but there is a desire that causes the faithless one to be caught.

The righteousness of the upright one saves. Well, we, as disciples of Jesus, know that our only claim to righteousness is Jesus, and His death, burial, and resurrection. Nothing else imparts righteousness than Him, His actions on our behalf, and His loving grace. Therefore, the only thing which will save those considered upright (“meeting the standard of Yahweh set through Scriptures”), is Jesus.

So, we can stop working so diligently at pretending everything is good. It’s not. On the other hand, Jesus makes our standing before Jesus firm and secure. If that’s our priority, then the important things are good.

Conversely, when our priorities are not on our Savior, when we desire something less than a right standing before our Creator, then that desire will cause us to be caught in the deluge of the world’s problems.

Like driving, you keep an eye on your speed, the temp, the battery, fuel, while you focus on the road. When you focus on the gauges and keep an eye on the road you will eventually crash into something.

Focus on Jesus, and keep an eye on what’s going on around you. You will discover wisdom, humility, and be saved from common failures.

You may notice those focused on desires so much they compromise faith and honesty, and fail, wallowing in selfish self-pity. Watch them from afar, setting firm boundaries with them. Perhaps they will watch you and change their focus.

May you and yours have a very blessed 2022!


Hope From The Hebrew Scriptures

In previous entries, I have examined examples of the translators of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek used the Greek word for hope. Those Greek translations were what the early churches across Europe and Asia used as their “Scriptures” as Paul and the other writers are writing what becomes the Christian Scriptures. So, how the translators used the Greek word for hope and how modern English translators use the English word are somewhat different.

For instance, where you find the word “hope” in an English translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Greek translation often has the word for “substance” (hupostasis). This creates a strange situation in translating Hebrews 11:1, where faith is typically understood as the “substance of things hoped for”. Because of the difference in understanding hope between our culture and the Greek culture, it would sound somewhat like it was saying “faith is hope of what is hoped for”.

Frankly, who cares about the difference between the way the Greek translators understood hope and how we see it through the lens of English translations today? Well, think about “love”. I can say that I “love” pizza, my dogs, and my Jeep. But I also use the word for my love for my daughter, which is distinctly different than my love for my wife, which is distinct from my love for my Savior. Yet, in English, it’s the same word. In Greek, they are much more precise about love, and that’s what I’m getting at. They are also more precise when it comes to hope.

A glaring exception to this is Job. Ironically, one of the most depressing books of the Bible led the translators of the Hebrew into Greek to use the Greek word for hope in many of the same places later English translators used it. A good example is in Job 4 where Job’s friend Eliphaz argues that if Job is suffering, then it must be because he sinned. He makes this statement:

“Your words have helped the tottering to stand, And you have strengthened feeble knees.
“But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; It touches you, and you are dismayed.
“Is not your fear of God your confidence, And the integrity of your ways your hope?
“Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright destroyed?

Job 4:4-7 NASB

The Hebrew word is “tiqvah”, which is commonly translated into English as “hope”. In the Greek text, though, it is either the word referenced above (hupostasis) or another word, “hupomone“. Yet, the translators consistently translated it as the typical Greek word for hope used later in the Christian Scriptures, “elpis“. In other words, this place, and most of the book of Job, is an agreement between the Greek culture and our own about hope.

Again, so what? Well, look at what Eliphaz claims. He claims that Job’s hope is his own integrity. In this, both the Greek and English agree with the translation. But when we look at Job’s reply in another place we find this:

“Be silent before me so that I may speak; Then let come on me what may.
“Why should I take my flesh in my teeth And put my life in my hands?
Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.
“This also will be my salvation, For a godless man may not come before His presence.

Job 13:13-16 NASB emphasis mine

Here, the translators differ. In Hebrew, we “yachal” (wait) and in Greek, “hupomone” (endure). In English, we have “hope”. The ground that will not crumble away, the foundation that will endure, and the only secure future we can look to is with our Creator and Savior. Call it hope, call it assurance, confidence, or expectation, whatever. All else may fail, all else may fall away and crumble around us (and eventually, it all will), we may lose every other relationship on earth, but we will never be lost from our Savior.

This isn’t an argument about whether salvation can be lost once gained. This is about the confidence we can have in the One having created us, who also made it possible for us to relate to Him. This is about confidence, not in ourselves or our own ability (which is pitiful), but confidence in He who is powerful, powerful to call stars into existence with a mere word. He who forms galaxies and quarks also secures our relationship with Him, and draws us into His presence, before His throne, and into His lap. The book of Job isn’t about the disaster that Job experiences, but about the secure hope we can have in our Powerful Savior.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation

Enabling All The Rest

I remember, as a kid, going to “camp”. It didn’t really matter what sort of camp, they all had one thing in common:  a list of what to bring. In a sense, we attempt to do the same thing with our relationship with our Creator, act like there was a list of what to bring. But there isn’t. Every bit of our righteousness is like dirty rags. Paul writes of “putting off the old man” and “putting on Christ Jesus”. Yet that’s a difficult concept to receive and live out.

But here’s why that is so crucial, if we bring anything with us in our relationship with Jesus, our hope is divided. We may hope in Jesus, but we also hope in whatever we bring. And hope is essential for faith and love. 

Now faith is the  assurance of things  hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1 NASB

How can faith be assurance of something we don’t have? And if we have it, but it isn’t entirely in Jesus, then how is our faith in Jesus alone?

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 NASB

Faith, hope, and love remain, or abide, or dwell, live together. The greatest is love, although they come as a set with the other two, and, as the previous verse makes clear, there’s no faith without hope. Hope is essential for faith, and, as it turns out, love.

Think about the idea of hope for a minute. Does it bother you? Is there a little fear, fear that it will not be fulfilled? That’s common, and the best indicator that our hope is mixed with Jesus and something else. But what does hope in Jesus look like?

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.

Hebrews 12:14-16 NASB

Hope in Jesus looks like disciples actively pursuing peace with all men, pursuing the process of being made holy to Jesus, working together to ensure we reach the grace of God together, ensuring roots of bitterness are removed even as they spring up, and not permitting godless or immoral activity among disciples as if it were simply part of our culture. Why? Because we are pursuing something not of this world:

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 11:13-16 NASB

Paul applies the call to follow the pattern of thinking in Jesus using himself as an example in Philippians 3:7-16. In Philippians 2:5-11, he lays out the pattern of Jesus, in 2:19-23, Paul uses Timothy as an example of Jesus’ servanthood. In 2:25-30, he uses Epaphroditus as an example of Jesus’ obedience to the point of death. But the emptying of Himself, for that element of Jesus’ pattern Paul uses himself as the example in 3:7-16.

It’s crucial for the disciple to grasp this, because it is the application of hope. That is the effect on us of having hope. And it is the antithesis of what we are seeing in our nation, in Hong Kong, in Indonesia, in India, and all throughout our world. People, without hope, will follow the pattern of the devil, stealing, killing, and destroying. Only Jesus came that we might have life, and have it to the full.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation

A Walk Through Scripture

One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?”  And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him.  But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened.  But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive.  Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.”  And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”  Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.  (Luke 24:18-27 NASB)

What if the worst of all possible outcomes, actually wasn’t all that bad?  What if what you thought was the end, wasn’t?  Do you still hope?  Can you?  Should you?  You could be disappointed again.  Do you really want to come crashing down again?  Hope is one of the more dangerous of emotional states.  And yet, for followers of Jesus, absolutely necessary to follow Him.

This challenge to have courage enough to hope once more is what Jesus addresses on the road to Emmaus.  It isn’t that they don’t get it, or weren’t told.  It’s not a problem solved by explaining.  They still didn’t get it after Jesus explained it.  They didn’t lack information, they lacked hope.  And without hope, there can be no faith.

Surely you’ve been there; that place where everything seems to have gone so wrong, here there is no possibility of restoration.  Perhaps in a marriage, a friendship, in another sort of relationship.  Maybe with your job, or church, or among fellow believers.  You look at it, and it’s hopeless.  There are no more good outcomes possible.  Those options have passed, and nothing more remains but to mourn what could have been.

It’s into that dark place this account of Jesus shines.  These guys had an opportunity to claim the hope back.  They opted not to.  It was too much, too expensive emotionally.  It was too crazy to hope in the face of such utter defeat, such crushing disappointment and disillusionment.  Ironically, it is their illusions that obscure the hope.

In your times of dark hopelessness, as you walk along in your life, a stranger walks up and asks, “What’s up?”  Your vision is obscured by hopelessness, and you’re prevented from recognizing the stranger.  And as you explain your hopeless situation, the stranger chuckles, and shakes his head.  And then, with gentleness, as you walk along together, he begins to re-frame your hopeless situation with the framework of your Creator.

Hope, illusive and dangerous, ignites in your soul.  You’re not sure, you’re not comfortable, and you hesitate to embrace it.  As you walk, as he speaks more about the power of God at work all around you.  As you nod, and things in your mind shift, memories rearrange, another picture emerges from the puzzle pieces.  You begin to grasp that you had them in the wrong place and intended picture was lost.

And then you’re at your destination, and the stranger continues, but you must hear more.  The picture still isn’t complete enough to calm your fears.  And he stays!  Hope flares more brightly!  He comes in and eats with you, and you suddenly realize Who has walked with you is He in Whom you lost hope.  The hope wakens fully to fill your soul with the warmth of light and life.  He disappears from your sight, but remains burned into your mind.  You must share, for others have lost hope as well.  So, you rise up, and run home.

Have you been on the Road to Emmaus, thinking you were headed into an episode of the Twilight Zone?  That sign post up ahead probably doesn’t say what you think it does.  As you go your way, remember to talk to strangers.  They often have something hopeful to share.

What’s your view through your knothole this morning?

Surprisingly Empty

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.  And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead?  He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”  And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.  (Luke 24:1-9 NASB)

The worst of a possible outcomes has come about.  The Master has been killed.  In mourning, spices have been prepared, and aromatics collected.  The Sabbath was less a day of rest, and more a day of deep sorrow and despair.  Joy has been turned to sadness, and hope to hopelessness.  The expectations of a small group of followers have been dashed, and the enemies of God sleep in peace.  It isn’t just a tomb that defines a hollow space in the earth.  Jesus’ followers feel one in their souls as well.

But the stone is rolled away.  It’s not just the cool morning air and mist.  The heavy stone is no longer before the door.  The problem they discussed on the way is found already solved.  But who?  Has someone come to do as they have come to do?  Or has something awful, on top of the unimaginable which has already happened, come about?  Has the worst of all possible outcomes just gotten unbearably worse?  They rush to the open tomb to find out.

They enter the open door.  It is, and isn’t as they expect.  While it’s true that His body is gone, the wrapping is still there.  Who would take the corpse without the linen?  And why isn’t it “unwrapped”?  It’s simply…empty.  Their hearts beat faster as their minds try to grasp what they see.  It makes no sense, and fears rise within them.

Then the semi-darkness of the tomb is suddenly lit by the presence of two “men”.  Their clothes shine as if they are clothed in light.  The details of the scene are brought into stark, sharp clarity.  But it’s too much for the women, already shocked by what they have seen.  They collapse, bowing toward these two terrifying figures, probably trembling, and crying in layers of fear.

But then the voice, deep and gentle, the sound of a smile in the tone and timbre, fills the tomb.  “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”  Now their minds race, and their pulses quicken. The hope, destroyed and scattered by witnessing their Master tortured to death, breathes deeply within them.  “He is not here, He has risen!”  No, but, please, yes!  It can’t be, but let it be.  The hope within them struggles through the gloomy shroud of death they have wrapped it in, struggles to be free and in the light once more.  “Remember…”

It comes flooding back; the confusion, the fear, the struggle to grapple with Jesus’ as Messiah, the Anointed, the Christ!  The Messiah doesn’t die!  Yet He did.  The Messiah can’t be hung on a tree, cursed!  Yet He was, they saw it happen.  But He had kept saying something like this would happen.  It was impossible then, shoved from their minds by the terror and incomprehensibility of what was happening this Passover.  The frame Jesus had built, in which to understand the Messiah of God, began to slip into place, shoving the frame, used by their culture and traditions for centuries, roughly to the side.

The old frame collapsed, crashing into a heap of trash, and joy ignited, lit by hope, now free from the shroud of despair.  They remembered His words.  Something new had come, much more brilliant than the two men’s clothes.  These women, wrapped in grief that morning, now emerged from the tomb, now more alive than they had ever been!  Their own resurrected lives began by running, ignominiously for such women, through the streets of Jerusalem, to tell the people who needed this hope the most!

My hope lives.  It hasn’t always.  Even as a “believer”, I have, at times, lost my hope.  I have taken my “eyes off Jesus”.  There have been times when my circumstances ruled my view, and all I could see was the defeat.  I’ve been there, as I said, even as a believer and follower of Jesus.

And, in those times, my Master calls to me, asking why I mourn what lives?  The shroud of despair around my hope is actually empty.  The tomb in the depths of my soul is not where my hope is found, that hole has nothing inside.  Why do I look for the living among the dead?  The question penetrates the fuzzy emotions of my depression.  Why am I looking here for my hope?

The old frame crumbles as Jesus’ new frame slides into place.  The new window is clear, the images I see crisp, and the truth floods in like light.  My hope is kept by my Master, and can never be found in holes in the ground.  I don’t define my hope, for my hope is a gift, a treasure, held in safekeeping by my Master.  Jesus, my King, holds my hope, and His Spirit is my redemption ticket.  I am forever connected to the One who has saved me.

Because the tomb is empty, I too live.  Because the grave could not hold Him, hopelessness cannot hold me.  What do I have to fear if death itself is dead?  I cannot die, since death is to be separate from my Master.  And now, nothing can separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus!

What do you learn from the empty tomb this morning?  What is your view through the knothole?


Calling The Traitors and Thieves!

 After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named  Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.”    And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. (Luke 5:27,28 NASB)

In my field of employment all my customers are tax and accounting professionals.  These people come from all walks of life, have different personalities (seriously, they do), and go through more moods than a teenager.  One thing we all agree on though, is that we dislike the IRS, agents, auditors, customer service, and website.  We hate all of it, lock, stock, and barrel.  It seems to be historically ingrained in people from every culture and time, we reserve our highest form of dislike for the revenue agent.  Except for Jesus.

Continue reading “Calling The Traitors and Thieves!”

The Magnificent Savior of the World

“He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble.
“HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; And sent away the rich empty-handed.
(Luke 1:52,53 NASB)

I really have never opted to spend much time in Mary’s song for a few reasons.  First off, as I was growing up, this song actually sounded out of place to me, like something Mary wouldn’t have actually said/sung.  I admit that was partly because of its similarity to a musical, and my prejudice against such entertainment.  But also because this song didn’t seem to relate to what was happening to Mary.  I couldn’t make the connection between the lofty viewpoint of the song, and a pregnant teenager with serious social trouble.

Continue reading “The Magnificent Savior of the World”