The Box

Take the lid off your box.

Did you know that Christianity is a box?  It’s a box we stuff God into and then we climb in and shut the lid.  We like being in the box because it’s a “safe” controlled environment.

“Oh God of TRUTH deliver us from the cowardice that shrinks from new truth, from the laziness that is content with half-truths, from the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth”                            …a philosopher’s prayer.

This is how we live in our box.  If we are presented with a new truth that doesn’t fit in our box, we slam down the lid and cower in fear that somehow even thinking about a new truth will cause us to lose our salvation.  Generally, we live quite contentedly in our box with the other two statements.

We are comfortable with half-truths and tradition because otherwise it would mean we would have to study and think for ourselves…it much easier to just listen to our spiritual leader and let him/her tell us what we should believe and do and…

We arrogantly, though unintentionally, think we know what we know.  As I’ve stated elsewhere, the hardest things to learn are the things we already know.

A wonderful and true quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel…

“A vibrant society does not dwell in the shadows of old ideas and viewpoints; in the realm of the spirit, only a pioneer can be a true heir.  The wages of spiritual plagiarism are the loss of integrity; self-aggrandizement is self-betrayal.  Authentic faith is more than an echo of a tradition.  It is a creative situation, an event.”

Which Way do We Go?

My mom and dad both had their pilot licenses. One of things I learned from them was that when plotting your course, if you are off by one degree in your calculations, you will miss your destination by many, many miles. In the Bible, God talks about “perpetual statutes throughout your generations.” Perpetual…a vanishing point without end. Those instructions and ordinances (Law) God gave to Moses and the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai…hey…God’s not a liar…when He said perpetual statutes throughout your generations…He meant it…He didn’t suddenly change His mind. We MUST change our paradigm…the way we filter scripture. We must stop looking at the scriptures through 21st century eyes. We must learn how to read and understand the Bible as it was originally written and understand the culture and people it was actually written to.

God does look upon the motivations of our heart but how do we show God we love him? By obeying His commands…I obey because I want to not because I have to and I don’t get to pick and choose which of the commandments I want to obey…yes, the LETTER of the Law kills if you think that is the way of salvation. When Paul said in Galatians 5:14 “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” He was doing what all Rabbis do…he was summing up all of Torah in one statement. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” is obeying all the ordinances and instructions of the Torah that pertain to you. You probably aren’t a Cohen (of the line of Aaron) and there is no temple standing in Jerusalem right now…so out of 613 or so instructions about 140 or so pertain to you as a man or a woman and we already keep about 120 or so anyway. God is not schizophrenic; He didn’t hand Moses a list of instructions that were impossible to keep! Why would anyone want to serve a God like that??? Again I’ll tell you that we must have a paradigm shift in our thinking.

Matthew 5:19
Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

I’m not proposing Judaism over Christianity. Paul tells us that there is now no Jew or Greek…BUT we are wild branches (Gentiles) grafted into a Jewish vine. That Jewish vine supports the branches not the other way around. Jesus was JEWISH…he was born Jewish, he lived Jewish and he died and rose again Jewish. The apostles were JEWISH even Luke and Timothy, though they were Greek, they lived as Jews…Paul was a Rabbi of Rabbi’s…they all went to synagogue… they all brought their offerings to the temple at the appropriate times, they all celebrated the commanded feast in their seasons. I hear all the time “I want to be like Jesus.” Really? Jesus obeyed Torah…ALWAYS. Jesus never ate pork…EVER. Jesus worship and rested on Sabbath, not Sunday. When the gospels talk about Jesus “fulfilling” the Law it doesn’t mean He changed it, it means He showed us how to do it…to the best of our ability and always in love.

Back to my original statement…we’ve drifted far from the truth. The deviation point began about the year 240 CE (see below.) It was a deliberate and calculated move away from the ancient paths. Gradually, over the past two millennia, lie upon lie, tradition upon tradition, have built up to the point that unless we DIG we accept TRADITION as truth. Remember…packed sand can be hard like bedrock but packed sand can’t support a house.

Jeremiah 16:19 O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the time of the affliction; Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth and shall say, surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things in which there is no profit.

Most church fathers were horrible anti-Semites…here’s a few quotes:

Justin Martyr:
“We too, would observe your circumcision of the flesh, your Sabbath days, and in a word, all your festivals, if we were not aware of the reason why they were imposed upon you, namely, because of your sins and the hardness of heart. The custom of circumcising the flesh, handed down from Abraham, was given to you as a distinguishing mark, to set you off from other nations and from us Christians. The purpose of this was that you and only you might suffer the afflictions that are now justly yours; that only your land be desolated, and your cities ruined by fire, that the fruits of you land be eaten by strangers before your very eyes; that not one of you be permitted to enter your city of Jerusalem. Your circumcision of the flesh is the only mark by which you can certainly be distinguished from other men…as I stated before it was by reason of your sins and the sins of your fathers that, among other precepts, God imposed upon you the observance of the Sabbath as a mark.”

John Chrysostom:
The synagogue is worse than a brothel…it is the den of scoundrels and the repair of wild beasts…the temple of demons devoted to idolatrous cults…the refuge of brigands and debauchees, and the cavern of devils. It is a criminal assembly of Jews…a place of meeting for the assassins of Christ… a house worse than a drinking shop…a den of thieves, a house of ill fame, a dwelling of iniquity, the refuge of devils, a gulf and an abyss of perdition.”…”I would say the same things about their souls… As for me, I hate the synagogue…I hate the Jews for the same reason.

Augustine:
How hateful to me are the enemies of your Scripture! How I wish that you would slay them (the Jews) with your two-edged sword, so that there should be none to oppose your word! Gladly would I have them die to themselves and live to you!

John Calvin:
Their [the Jews] rotten and unbending stiffneckedness deserves that they be oppressed unendingly and without measure or end and that they die in their misery without the pity of anyone.

Here’s the timeline and for brevity’s sake, I’ve only run it through to year 600…here’s where the “church” began…the “church” didn’t start with Jesus and the apostles…it started some 200-300 years after they all died.

Emperor Constantine

Laws passed by the church Anti-Jewish Church laws

This order is intended to keep Jews and Christians apart.
It forbade Christians to eat with or marry Jewish people, and
it forbade Jewish people to observe the Sabbath. (Council of
Elvira, circa A.D. 306)

Synagogues are outlawed. (Edict of Milan, A.D. 313)
the law. (Roman edict, A.D. 315)

Jews are excluded from holding high office or having military
careers. (Various laws)

It is decreed that all businesses be closed on Sunday. (Constantine,
A.D. 321)

Jews are forbidden to live in Jerusalem. (Constantine, A.D. 325)
Sunday is declared to be the Sabbath day of rest. (Council of
Nicea, A.D. 325)

It was forbidden to associate the celebration of Easter
with the Jewish Passover. Easter was ordered to be celebrated
on the first Sunday after the full moon following the spring
equinox. (Canon I of the Synod of Antioch, A.D. 341)

It becomes illegal to feast with Jewish people. (Synod of
Laodicea, circa A.D. 343)

The legal rights of Jewish people become greatly restricted. (Code
of Canons of the African Church, A.D. 419)

Jewish people are forbidden the right to bring legal accusations,
apart from suits against other Jews. (Canon CXXIX, A.D. 419)

Christians are forbidden to give their children in marriage to
Jewish people. (Council of Chalcedon, A.D. 451)

240
Origen of Alexandria writes that the Jews “have committed the most abominable of crimes” in conspiring against Christ, and for that reason “the Jewish nation was driven from its country, and another people was called by God to the blessed election”

248
St. Cyprian writes that the Jews have fallen under the heavy wrath of God, because they have departed from the Lord, and have followed idols

306
The Council of Elvira decrees that Christians and Jews cannot intermarry, have sexual intercourse, or eat together

325
Conversation and fellowship with Jews is forbidden to the clergy by the Council of Nicaea

4th century
Christian emperors of Rome decree that Christians converting to Judaism, and Jews obstructing the conversion of other Jews to Christianity, will incur the death penalty; Jews cannot marry Christians, or hold public office, or own slaves

380
St. Gregory of Nyssa refers to the Jews as “murderers of the Lord, assassins of the prophets, rebels and detesters of God,… companions of the devil, race of vipers, informers, calumniators, darkeners of the mind, pharisaic leaven, Sanhedrin of demons, accursed, detested,… enemies of all that is beautiful”

380
St. Ambrose calls the synagogue “a place of unbelief, a home of impiety, a refuge of insanity, damned by God Himself”

388
A mob of Christians, at the instigation of their bishop, looted and burned the synagogue in Callinicum, a town on the Euphrates. The Emperor Theodosius wants those responsible punished and the synagogue rebuilt at the expense of the bishop, but St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, pressures him to relent and condone the action

400
St. Augustine writes: “the Church admits and avows the Jewish people to be cursed, because after killing Christ they continue to till the ground of an earthly circumcision, an earthly Sabbath, an earthly Passover, while the hidden strength or virtue of making known Christ, which this tilling contains, is not yielded to the Jews while they continue in impiety and unbelief, for it is revealed in the New Testament. While they will not turn to God, the veil which is on their minds in reading the Old Testament is not taken away… the Jewish people, like Cain, continue tilling the ground, in the carnal observance of the law, which does not yield to them its strength, because they do not perceive in it the grace of Christ”

400
Calling the synagogue “brothel and theater” and “a cave of pirates and the lair of wild beasts,” St. John Chrysostom writes that “the Jews behave no better than hogs and goats in their lewd grossness and the excesses of their gluttony”

413
A group of monks sweep through Palestine, destroying synagogues and massacring Jews at the Western Wall

414
St. Cyril of Alexandria expels Jews from his city

425
Jews are required by law to observe Christian feasts and fasts and to listen to sermons designed to persuade them to convert

442
The synagogue in Constantinople is turned into a church

529-553
The Code of the emperor Justinian decrees that in Christian Byzantine society Jews cannot read their sacred books in Hebrew in their synagogues, and the Mishnah and other rabbinic interpretations are banned

538
The Third Synod of Orléans decrees that Jews cannot show themselves in the streets during Passover Week

591
Pope St. Gregory the Great decrees that Jews are not to be forced into baptism “lest they return to their former superstition and die the worse for having been born again”

600
Pope St. Gregory the Great decrees that Jews should not have excessive freedom, but also “in no way should they suffer a violation of their rights”

and the list goes on through history to modern day anti-Semitism.  A complete list can be found on Wikipedia: anti-Semitism timeline

The Power of the Paradigm

The Power of the Paradigm

Paradigm: a framework containing the basic assumptions, ways of thinking, and methodology that are commonly accepted by members of a community.

Paradigms…everyone has them.  It is the way we filter information and it shapes our everyday decisions and the way we live our lives.  Paradigms are powerful and not easily shifted because they are so well hidden within us…we use them without conscious thought.  We grow paradigms from our environment…we think in certain ways because our parents passed down to us their way of thinking, etc.  Paradigms affect all our senses.   It’s a broad, deep subject and I don’t want to examine all the varied aspects here but I had an event happen a couple of weeks ago that blatantly showed me, once again, of the power and therefore, the limitations of being unable to think outside the box and how it relates to how we think about God.

One of my job responsibilities is the issuing of marriage licenses.  I’ve done it for many years and, like all things that are repetitive, I do them without thinking.  Recently, a couple came in to apply for their marriage license.  After visiting for a few minutes, we started the process of filling in the necessary information.  I start by scanning their driver’s licenses, which then populates some of the fields in the application.  I scanned the bride’s (Sarah*) first.  The system put her information into the groom’s fields.  I thought, “that’s weird, why did it do that?”  Ah well, computers do strange things sometimes.  I backed out and began entering the information manually.  One of the questions required of the bride is “What is your maiden name?”  Sarah* looked at me kind of funny and said, in a deep voice, “My birth name was Edward Smith*.”  I remember thinking, again, “that’s weird”.  Folks, herein lays the power of the paradigm…

I DIDN’T GET IT!!!

My paradigm concerning gender was “a boy is a boy and a girl is a girl” and when presented with obvious information to the contrary, my brain lied to me and forced Sarah* through my “a girl is a girl” paradigm.  It wasn’t until after the couple left that I realized that I had just issued my first transgender marriage license**.

Whenever you read the words of God, you filter those words through your paradigm.  Christian, Jew, Islam, atheists, pagans…pick one.  Every religion and every denomination teach their own paradigms about the truth of God.

Colossians 1:9 “…ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding…”

Wisdom and understanding are limited when we refuse to allow the possibility that our thinking can be WRONG.  Learning truth is only possible when we keep an attitude of discovery.

Nothing can be added to a mind that is closed.

Now that my “gender” paradigm has been challenged I will forever think differently about “a boy is a boy and a girl is a girl” and the next time a couple comes in and applies for a marriage license, my brain won’t be able to lie to me.

Don’t allow the power of the paradigm to limit you.  Don’t be afraid to be challenged in your paradigms about God…He is greater than the way you think about Him.

*Names are fictitious.**The above story is about me and how my paradigm needed to change, not about any other people involved in the story.

Gleaning vs. Studying

Do you know why it is so very important to learn to study God’s word for yourself?  Because gleaning from others is a lazy way to learn.

For most of my adult life, my learning about God and His kingdom mostly consisted of gleaning from other teachers. There have been a handful of times when I have learned a truth about God that came directly from Him but all my foundation was built on what others told me. When I finally got desperate for truth, God chased me into the wilderness and He tore down my house that I had built on foundation stones of other people’s revelations and understanding. He dug up all those stones and slowly He and I have been replacing the foundation and begun rebuilding my house.

I got to thinking about the word “gleaning” and what it really means.

Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest. A practice described in the Hebrew Bible that became a legally enforced entitlement of the poor.

So, if my learning about God consists of gleaning from other people then I’m learning from their leftovers and that means I live in a state of poverty.

Studying for myself is hard work and like other areas in my life I automatically try to avoid the pain of working hard. But to be a productive member of the kingdom of God means I MUST WORK.

I want to encourage you to invest in your journey and learn for yourself the truth of the ways of God. Invest in the tools that will help. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. I just bought the Mishnah…a copy of the oral Law. Why? Because the oral Law is woven throughout the written Word of God. By gaining an understanding of the oral Law the written Word comes into sharper focus.