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(This is a tad on the philosophical side, so if you’re into that kind of thing you might enjoy this. If not, here’s a link to funny cats.)

I’ve been musing a little over this issue for a while – if there is a God (and I believe there is), then why is this God good? Why is God ‘love’ as the apostle John wrote, and not ‘hate’, or just something neutral and in between?

Wouldn’t it make more sense for God to be neutral or indifferent? If God is the prime mover, the first cause, the great original being, then isn’t all of this (the universe, humanity, etc) just a great social experiment by a curious eternal consciousness?

Could God just be a neutral consciousness (just like a ‘language’ is neutral, but can express all sorts of polar extremes), and creation is the story of this consciousness’ exploration into the depths of love and hate, good and evil, joy and sorrow, light and darkness, life and death, etc? Perhaps the Consciousness has created earth and allowed mankind to fall into depravity, and provides a pathway to redemption, not because the Consciousness is Good and particularly loves us, but because it is expressing all extremes of experience.

I’ll get back to that.

The thought also struck me that ‘Naturalism’ (the idea that the universe and its operation are all the product of natural causes) is impossible, and it should be obvious to all of us. According to Naturalism, there shouldn’t be any universe in the first place! Ever. There should be nothing. The fact that there is something is just mind boggling. An empty room doesn’t fill itself without a force acting on it. The natural state of a piece of paper is blank, until written upon. The ‘natural’ state of all things should be that they don’t exist, until caused to exist. It doesn’t make any ‘Naturalistic’ sense that there is anything at all, because a fundamental principal of Naturalism should be that ‘Nothing’ is a more natural and basic state than ‘Something’, and we shouldn’t be here discussing all this in the first place, because nothing nowhere should have ever existed, ever.

And yet there is something. Which leads me to believe that ‘something’ is a more natural state than ‘nothing’. ‘Being’ is more fundamental than ‘not being’. The fact that a universe exists means that something exists, and nothing should exist, naturally.

I think this is related to God – God is. God is that which exists. He told Moses, “I am that I am,” (or something like that). God cannot be both ‘being’ and ‘not being’. In a sense, ‘not being’ doesn’t truly exist, as far as God is concerned. We know in nature that darkness doesn’t really exist, it is just the absence of light. It is a way to describe that absence. Cold doesn’t exist as a real, tangible, verifiable thing. It is merely the absence of heat/energy.

Therefore God is good, not because he chose good over bad, or likes good more, or could have been bad but preferred good, but because it is the truest form of ultimate reality. Perhaps God isn’t love because we lucked out and got a nice God, but because love is a true, real, fundamental positive essence, and all else is an illusion. Hate doesn’t coexist with love as an equal and opposing force – hate is, in a sense, the absence of love, in the same way the darkness is the absence of light. God cannot be ‘hate’ in the same sense that God cannot ‘exist’ and simultaneously ‘not exist’.

This should be encouraging to us, because it means we’re not created by a nice God who chose the better of many options, but created by a God who’s very nature of goodness and love etc., is absolutely fundamental.

God is light, and in him there is no darkness. God is good, and in him there is no bad. God is love, and in him there is no hate. God is ‘is’, and in him there is no ‘isn’t’. All else is a deception.

Now, we can’t really say to someone, “Your experience of being hated by someone is just an illusion, get over it.” Just as we can’t tell a child at night, “Stop crying, there is no darkness.” But think about it; what we’re actually saying by using terms like hate, darkness, bad, cold, is that there is an absence of something. Darkness isn’t the problem, it’s the light that we’re craving. Cold isn’t keeping ice frozen, it’s the lack of heat.

In the same way, we cannot have a neutral deity as the first cause of creation. There cannot be a God who is indifferent to love and hate and curious about good and evil, because we cannot have a God who is both real and not real, who kinda is and kinda isn’t.

The fundamental underlying principle of reality is that ‘being’ is true, and ‘not being’ is an illusion. The fact that we’re here demonstrates this. Descartes summed it up as, “I think, therefore I am.” And because I am, therefore something exists. And because something exists, existence must be positive, real and necessary. The fundamental, primary, initial, uncaused Consciousness that created us must exist, and cannot not-exist, must be love, and cannot be hate, must be good, and cannot be evil, and the darkness cannot overcome it. Either God is good, or there is no God and there is no us. But we are here. And God is good.

the God of this age is God

I have been mulling over this blog post for almost a year now, not sure how to write it, and not sure if I wanted to, but here goes.

The Background:

Last year Kelly was studying Isaiah and wrestling through this section:

He [God] said, “Go, and tell this people:
‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive;
Keep on looking, but do not understand.’
“Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull, and their eyes dim,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed” (Isaiah 6:9-10 NASB).

This passage almost sounds like God intentionally prevents people from ‘understanding’ lest they ‘be healed’.

And at the same time, I was studying 2 Corinthians, going through chapters 3 and 4 a lot, and praying for friends who were ‘lost’, and praying that Satan could no longer blind their minds:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:3-4 NIV).

Around that time Kelly and I were talking about the ‘lost’, and during one conversation Kelly said, “…it’s because Satan has blinded them.” Something went off inside my head, like an alarm, and I said, “What did you say?” and she repeated, “It’s because Satan has blinded them….” I replied, “No, that’s not Satan, that’s God!”

I wasn’t sure how or why I knew this, but I was confident that this passage was actually talking about God, and God being the one who blinded unbelievers, and I was puzzled as to why, so I started looking into it more, and here’s what I discovered.

Is Satan a god?

Nowhere else in Scripture is Satan ever referred to as ‘God’.[i] That’s not to say that it couldn’t be possible, but the context would have to be very clear that it’s referring to Satan, and nowhere in the surrounding context is Satan even alluded to. In fact, in the first seven verses of 2 Corinthians 4, the word ‘God’ is used seven times, and each time it is referring to the one true God.[ii]

The only reason for interpreting ‘the God of this age’ as a reference to Satan would have to be because the activity of ‘the God of this age’ could only be understood as the activity of Satan, since there are no other clues in any of the context that Paul might be referring to Satan.[iii]

Could blinding the minds of unbelievers be the activity of God? Doesn’t he want people to be saved?

That’s the problem! We automatically think that this passage is about Satan preventing people from getting saved, but it’s not.[iv] This passage, from about 3:7 to 4:7, is about the glory of God, which is veiled inside of us.

The veil

What is the purpose of a veil? This is important! A veil does not prevent the wearer from seeing out; it hides something within.

“Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed … And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing” (3:15-16,4:3 ESV).

When the glory of God shone in Moses’ face, he wore a veil so that people would not be able to see it. And now we, with unveiled faces, see the glory when we look in a mirror. What do you see in a mirror? Your reflection. The glory of God is in us! This is part of the good news of God’s Messiah and the mystery that was hidden from the ages – God’s glory is in us, all of us, Jews and Gentiles alike, but it is veiled, it is covered, until we turn to Christ. This is what Paul’s talking about in Colossians:

“…the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27 ESV).

Further, the gospel is not veiled to those who are perishing, but in those who are perishing, because God has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not radiate the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.[v]

Why would God blind unbelievers?

So why would God blind the minds of the unbelieving? To be honest, I don’t think Scripture is very clear on this, but here are my thoughts.

If people were to discover what was truly inside them, they would worship themselves. Essentially, we’d have unrepentant, unchanged, corrupt, individual demi-gods walking around craving and relishing what God has put in them without participating in the beauty of redemption, reconciliation, holiness, perfection, unity, and ultimately love, that come from a restored relationship with our heavenly Father, made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Just as Man’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden was an act of mercy lest we eat of the Tree of Life and live for eternity in sin, so I think the veil was put there by God[vi] as an act of mercy, so that we would understand our sin, be repentant, and experience the redemption that we have in Christ, and then, with the veil taken away, see that the glory of God is in us, and as such we would be an appropriate temple of the one true God.

There is so much more that I wish I could say on this. I’ve added more notes below that explain some of the points, and a running commentary at the end on 2 Corinthians 3:7-4:7 that some might find helpful in breaking it down.

This is a theme that permeates Scripture, especially the New Testament. We have this muddled view of the gospel, that if we do something for God – invite Jesus into our life, confess our sins, give our lives to Christ – then God will do something for us. But the good news is that God has already done it for us! Sin was dealt with on the cross, 2000 years ago.

Jesus does not die on the cross every time a sinner repents. He was the lamb of God who took away the sin of the world, a long time ago. He who believes in him is not judged; he who does not believe is already under judgement. All of us who are believers were at one time unbelievers, under judgement, even though Jesus had already redeemed us. How could someone who is redeemed still be under judgement? Unbelief.

Salvation is not like swimmers drowning in the ocean, and God plucks some out and not others. Salvation is like a jail full of prisoners, whose cells God unlocks and says, “You’re free!” but most just sit there because either they haven’t heard it yet or they don’t believe it could be true, and so they sit there living out a punishment that has already been paid.

This is why the gospel is so exciting! The enemy has been defeated! Proclaim freedom to the captives! Praise God for the glorious thing that he has done through his Messiah, Jesus Christ.[vii] Whosoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life. You have been freed! Do you believe?

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NOTES

[i] In John 12:31, 14:30 and 16:11 Jesus calls Satan ‘the ruler of the world’, and in Ephesians 2:2 Paul says that the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience is ‘the ruler of the authority of the air’. This is not the same as calling Satan ‘God’, and in each case it is clear to whom it is referring. Satan has many titles, but ‘God’ is not one of them, and it doesn’t make sense that Paul would call Satan ‘god’ without giving the reader some clue in the context. In 4:4 itself, Paul actually says, “The God of this age has blinded the minds … the glory of Christ, who is the image of the God.” ‘The God’ is mentioned twice in the one verse, and it’s obvious that both instances are referring to the one true God.

Further, if Isaiah 6:9-10 is saying that God is involved in bringing blindness and deafness to Isaiah’s audience, then it should be evident that this is the activity of God. It’s hard to determine what level of involvement God has in this, especially in the light of Jesus’ wording of Isaiah’s prophecy (“They have closed their eyes” (Matthew 13:15)). For this reason, I haven’t made a big point of this, but I think it’s sufficient to show that blinding people isn’t clearly an activity of Satan, and there’s no good reason to interpret ‘God of this age’ as Satan.

Also, 2 Corinthians 4:4 uses the word ‘age’ (AION), which is a different Greek word from ‘world’ (KOSMOS) and ‘air’ (AER). Because a number of major English translations use ‘the god of this world‘ (KJV, NASB, ESV, NLT), it is easy to see how the two phrases sound more similar than they should – ‘the god of this world’, ‘the ruler of this world’, must be the same, right? But that is not what the Bible says. Yahweh is the God of this age.

So why does Paul say ‘of this age’, that is, why doesn’t he say ‘of all ages’? I think he is emphasising that this is a work of God during this age on earth. He may be saying, “God has blinded the minds of unbelievers with reference to this age.” This would not be unusual wording for Paul, and although I’ve researched this, determining what ‘of this age’ means does not make or break the argument for this phrase referring to God. But just to show that mine isn’t a ‘new’ interpretation, here is a quote from St Augustine in his ‘Reply to Faustus':

“You [Faustus] often speak in your discourses of two gods, as indeed you acknowledge, though at first you denied it. And you give as a reason for thus speaking the words of the apostle: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of them that believe not.” Most of us punctuate this sentence differently, and explain it as meaning that the true God has blinded the minds of unbelievers. They put a stop [comma] after the word God, and read the following words together [“of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers”]. Or without this punctuation you may, for the sake of exposition, change the order of the words, and read, “In whom God has blinded the minds of unbelievers of this world,” which gives the same sense. The act of blinding the minds of unbelievers may in one sense be ascribed to God, as the effect not of malice, but of justice.”

[ii] Greek, the language of the New Testament, did not use capital and lower-case letters to distinguish ‘god’ from ‘God’. All words were written in the same case, with no spaces, therefore in Greek it would look something like, ‘THEGODOFTHISAGE’. Bible translators choose to write capital letters on certain nouns based on interpretive choices (e.g., he/He, spirit/Spirit, lamb/Lamb). The translators of the New Living Translation even went as far as to write, “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe.” Because they believe that this is a reference to Satan, they chose to clarify that by putting it into the translation. I am not criticising the practice of clarifying terms in a translation, but I am suggesting that they have incorrectly identified Satan as the God of this age.

[iii] Although interpreting ‘the God of this age’ as God and not Satan is not common in the last few centuries, I was very interested to learn that a good number of early church fathers, many of whom spoke and wrote in the Greek of the New Testament, affirmed that Paul is referring to God, not Satan. Among such early writers are Irenaeus (2nd century, learned from Polycarp who was the apostle John’s disciple), Tertullian (also 2nd century), Marcion (1st-2nd century), Archelaus (possibly 3rd century), Chrysostom (4th century), and St Augustine (4th century). Origen (2nd century) is the only pre-5th century writer that I’ve found who attributes this reference to Satan. Therefore, my interpretation is neither unique nor new, but stems back to the earliest writings in church history, but appears to be an interpretation that was either lost or abandoned somewhere along the way. We often approach Scripture wearing the lenses of preconceived ideas, rather than taking it for what it says. It’s very hard to shed these lenses, because we rely on preconceived ideas to give us quick context for understanding related ideas. At times it’s helpful; at other times it blinds us to the reality. This kind of misinterpretation of a passage is further compounded when the concept is repeated to the point of becoming unquestioned. Everyone else says it’s Satan, so it must be!

[iv] Similarly, Isaiah 6:9-10 is not talking about salvation either. When Jesus quotes this passage in Matthew 13:14-17, he tells his disciples that they are blessed because they see and hear, and that many prophets and righteous people wanted to see and hear, but they didn’t! Not even God’s holy prophets in the Old Testament clearly saw and understood the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. They wanted to; they probed and inquired. But God did not let them see. This is not just about preventing heathens or the unrepentant or gentiles from understanding, for God withheld this mystery from his prophets and righteous people, and has revealed it to us (beginning with Jesus’ disciples).

[v] I believe there are more problems with these verses than just interpreting the God of this age as Satan, but I didn’t want to make the post too long or technical, so I’ve put this information here for the interested reader. 2 Corinthians 4:3 says:

“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing” (NIV).

The Greek would be better translated, “it is veiled in those who are perishing.” Even though EN TOIS APOLLUMENOIS could be translated “to those who are perishing,” a more normal rendering of this phrase into English would be “in those who are perishing.” Translators have probably avoided ‘in’ because ‘to’ makes more sense to them, but I believe part of Paul’s whole point in 2 Corinthians 3 and 4 is that we all already have this treasure in jars of clay, but for those who don’t believe that Jesus is the saviour of the world, that treasure is covered by a veil. The gospel is in those who are perishing, but it is veiled. This may be hard for some to understand or accept, but I think this is very consistent with the whole scope of Scripture, especially Paul’s writings. For example, Ephesians 4:17, “They [gentiles/unbelievers] are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.”

They aren’t alienated from the life of God because God hasn’t done a redemptive work for them, but because they are ignorant of it – they do not believe it. “Whoever believes is not judged; whoever does not believe is already judged.” And in Galatians 1:15-16 Paul writes, “But when God … was pleased to reveal His Son in me…” This is the same Greek construction as “in those who are perishing.” God did not (just) reveal his son to Paul, but he revealed him in Paul. See also Colossians 1:25-28.

The next problem occurs in verse 4:

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

The word Paul uses for ‘see’ is the Greek word ‘AUGAZO’, and it is not the normal, common Greek word for ‘see’. This is the only time it is used in the New Testament. It is used seven times in the Septuagint (Koine Greek Old Testament), and enough times throughout ancient Greek literature to establish well its definition. It means ‘to shine’ or ‘to radiate’. This is further strengthened by the Latin translation of this word in the Vulgate, ‘fulgeat’, which also means ‘to shine’. I believe that Paul is saying, “God, of this age, has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot shine the light of the gospel of the glory of Messiah, who is the image of God.” This is why the gospel is veiled in them – without this veil, they would radiate the light of the good news of the glory of Messiah.

[vi] It’s also possible that the veil is not put there by God, but is itself a consequence (effect) of sin, and so the event of trusting in Jesus as the payment of our sin is what removes the veil. But I haven’t looked into that enough to make up my mind.

[vii] I believe this is what many of the world’s religions are looking for, especially those seeking some kind of ‘enlightenment’ – they have sensed something and tried to probe behind the veil. But Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NLT), and he prove his supremacy and authenticity by the works that he did and by being raised from the dead.

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Notes on 2 Corinthians 3:7-4:7 (NASB):

7        But if the ministry of death (the old covenant), in letters engraved on stones (10 commandments), came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was,

8        how will the ministry of the Spirit (the new covenant) fail to be even more with glory?

9        For if the ministry of condemnation has glory (glory that comes with the law), much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory.

10      For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it (ministry of reconciliation is far more glorious than ministry of condemnation, they are almost incomparable).

11      For if that which fades away was with glory (the old covenant), much more that which remains is in glory (the new covenant).

12      Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech,

13      and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away (so that they couldn’t see the fading glory of the old covenant in Moses’ face).

14      But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ (the veil over the glory remains unlifted when people try to approach God on the terms of the old covenant. The veil is not a blindfold, it hides something that is within. ‘The veil remains unlifted’ because it hides the glory, until, in Christ, it is removed and people see it).

15      But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart (to block what is in their heart);

16      but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away (when a person ‘turns to the Lord, the veil is removed, thereby revealing what was in their heart).

17      Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

18      But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord (we don’t have a veil on, so we shine God’s glory. We don’t see it like through a murky cloud, but we see it when we look in a mirror), are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory (I think this might be talking about the change from the glory of the first covenant to the glory of the second, but it’s not very clear), just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

4:1     Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart,

2        but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth (Paul declares what is already true, not what can be true if people would ‘ask Jesus into their hearts’ or something like that) commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

3        And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing (veiled in those who are perishing – the reason the glory of the gospel isn’t obvious to everyone is because in those who are perishing, the gospel is covered),

4        in whose case the god of this world (God, not Satan) has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (so that they might not shine the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ), who is the image of God.

5        For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord (in case anyone thinks that the glory is ours and originates with us), and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.

6        For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

7        But we have this treasure (what treasure? God’s glory?) in earthen vessels (we are the vessel, and we contain the glory of God!), so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves (again, so that people don’t think that the great power that is within them originates with them, but is from God).

They who have ears to hear, let them hear.

Did the New Testament abolish the Old Testament Law?

No.

Jesus made it very clear that he did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. How do you fulfill the Law? By keeping it perfectly!

Jesus said, “It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law” (Luke 16:17). The law is not going away. The next verse of that quote says, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” This is not a teaching about divorce per se, but a reinforcement that the Law is binding and you can’t just divorce yourself from it! That is equivalent to committing adultery.

So, if the Law still stands, should we follow it?

No.

“What?? How can you say that?!”

The Law stands, but you don’t. This is part of the mystery of the gospel that Paul revealed to us, and it’s brilliant!

In Romans 7 Paul explains that the law has authority over a man or woman only as long as they are alive. But when Christ was crucified, somehow, in some spiritual way, according to God, “you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another” (7:4).

The first part of the good news is that we died! Stop and ponder that. Oh, the relief! Because if we didn’t, we would still be bound to a Law that we could never fulfill. But we were crucified with Christ, and “the one who has died has been set free from sin” (Rom 6:7). Then we were raised a ‘new person’, which was “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24).

Obviously these things are not true about our physical bodies – we’re still mostly alive and kicking. But we are not just flesh and blood, but spirit, and this is true of us in spirit. This is why “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:8), because they are still ‘alive’ and in bondage to the Law. If you’re hanging onto the physical realm and are convinced that that’s all there is, then you will eventually die, and that’s it. If you, through faith, have God’s Spirit  dwelling in you, then you are a new creation, freed from the law by death, and are now living in the spirit. Oh the depths of his wisdom and knowledge!

In short, the Law still stands. You died and were freed from the Law and are now ‘married’ to another.

But some will ask, “If we’re not under the Law anymore, can we just do our own thing and keep sinning?” That’s exactly what Paul was asked (Rom 6:15), so if the gospel that we proclaim raises the same difficult questions, it means we’re on the right track. The short answer to that is that if you sin, you will be enslaved to sin. Who wants to be enslaved to sin?

“But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter” (Rom 7:6).

Remember, God is not withholding this from us until we do something – he already did this for us! That’s the good news! But if you are ignorant of it, you will just continue in your flesh, guilty of sin because the law stands, and you haven’t fulfilled it. By believing in God’s work through his son, you cross from flesh to spirit, from death to life, and in spirit you are perfect, holy and righteous. Praise God! The good news is that good.

Hebrews to music

Hebrews 3*UPDATE*

I finished the last 2 chapters in December 2014, so now the whole book is done! Hopefully I can find a way to get it all recorded, and then release it for others to use.

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This year I started putting the book of Hebrews to music as a memorisation aid. I’ve now done chapters 1-11 and only have 2 more chapters to go, and then the whole book will be put to music.

A few chapters into the process I started thinking that it would be really cool if other people could have access to the music so that they could either memorise it too, or just be blessed by listening to Scripture.

But since I’m in Tanzania and am a one-man band with just an acoustic guitar and a microphone, I need some help.

Does anyone out there know anyone who could help me record, produce and eventually distribute an album of Scripture put word-for-word to music? Any ideas at all? I don’t really know where to start.

I’ve attempted to record chapter 3 and do some mixing by myself, so here’s a taste.

For those who are curious about what translation I used, it is mostly my own. Before writing music for each chapter I went through the major English translations and made a few edits – mostly I was trying to make key terms a bit more consistent and make the translation a bit more transparent to the original Greek (I’m a Bible translator, I can’t help myself), so the result is a slightly more literal (and I think consistent) translation than something like the NIV. On principle, I did not make any changes to words for the sake of the music, so once the text was set I had to work with it as it was (which was sometimes quite a challenge – you try putting ‘Melchizedek’ to music!).

Here is the text:
Continue Reading »

Juvenile hawk

I saw this bird in our yard today. I think it’s a juvenile East African Yellow Billed Kite (a type of Black Hawk I think, but my more bird-brained friends would probably know more). I’m guessing that its parents just kicked it out of the nest and the swooping is part of that, but I’m not sure. It was walking around our yard all day because it can’t fly yet. Is that normal, or is there something wrong with it?

Mature EAYBKs are mostly brown, and their beaks are yellow. This one has a black beak, with yellow behind it. Perhaps the beak changes colour.

DSC01620 (Small) (2)DSC01613 (Small) DSC01614 (Small) DSC01612 (Small)

Broken arm

DSC_0265 (Large)We met this old man a few days ago. He said his arm had been broken when a motorcyclist hit him, then drove off. When I saw his arm it didn’t look good. His hand was really swollen, he couldn’t move his fingers much, and something was sticking out in an ugly way just below his wrist. He’d gone to the hospital and they said his arm was broken and they could re-set it for 100,000 shillings (about $60, or half a month’s pay).

I talked to him for a while about Jesus. He said he was catholic. I prayed for him and told him how much God loves him, and about 10 minutes later he was able to move his fingers. The swelling had gone down too. It was one of those things where you think, “Maybe it wasn’t so swollen before, because it doesn’t look that bad now.” By the time he left he could clench his fist.

This morning he showed up to say thanks (and to ask for a little more money to buy food). He had gone back to the hospital and they said, “Your arm’s not broken. Here’s some panadol.” There’s barely a bump now. Weird, I could’ve sworn there was a bone sticking out the other day….

2 + 2 = 4!

I was just reading the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, and something clicked for the first time, and I feel a little silly that I never saw this before. When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he waited two days before leaving the place where he was (the Jordan river). I’ve always thought that it was odd that he delayed, almost like he wanted Lazarus to die. Except when I just read it, I realised that when Jesus arrived in Bethany Lazarus had already been dead four days. The messengers who told Jesus probably left Bethany while Lazarus was alive, but sometime during their journey Lazarus died. If Jesus had left as soon as he heard the news that Lazarus was sick, Lazarus would still have been in the tomb for two days when Jesus got there. Jesus didn’t let Lazarus die. He let him stay in the tomb two days longer. Which is interesting in itself, and there’s probably more to it that I don’t understand.

In v15, after telling the disciples that Lazarus is dead, Jesus says to them, “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe.” Doesn’t this sound a bit strange? Why would Jesus be glad for their sakes? If Jesus had been in Bethany when Lazarus was sick, what would Jesus have done? I think he would have healed Lazarus from his sickness. He healed everyone that came to him in faith. But the disciples had seen Jesus heal hundreds (maybe thousands) of sick people. He was glad for the disciples sakes that they would be able to see God’s resurrection power working through Jesus to bring someone out of a 4-day sealed tomb. The Gospels are so interesting, and I see new things every time I read them…

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