That Judgment Thing 15 – “Lead Us”

“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 

Give us this day our daily bread. 

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6: 9-13)

People generally understand the “Lord’s Prayer” as one of petition. As in, perhaps if we repeat this often enough we’ll get these things?

Not me. This disciple sees the prayer as a simple outline of the Gospel—a contract even—to those who would take Jesus on, by faith. In his three year ministry, Jesus presented his Father to the world, revealed the kingdom of heaven and did his Father’s will as he was provided everything he needed. Jesus also forgave, resisted temptation and stayed away from evil.

That’s the prayer.

The pivotal and most demanding part of the prayer is right in the middle. Forgiveness. That was the point of first contact—his kindness toward me. But now because Jesus forgave, we’re pressured to forgive others. Cuts right to the heart, doesn’t it? (I think it’s meant to.) But I’ll take it as an object lesson.

Demonstrated in the Gospel, forgiveness isn’t a piecemeal operation—it’s absolute, once and for all. And in the prayer, it’s a bi-lateral agreement. But if God has forgiven me, and I have forgiven others, who is left to judge? Absent of such judgment, all I can have is faith—faith which in this case is an assurance and confidence in God, not in his promises or my expectations (Heb. 11). Jesus set the example of a faith that entrusts judgment of good and evil to “the one who judges justly” (1Pet. 2:23). Outright forgiveness is hard, but this I can do.

So forgiveness is really about who gets to judge. (Wasn’t that what the warning in the Garden was about? – Gen. 3)  But having turned over my rights to judgment (“your will be done”), God and I are going to be bonded together (Matt. 11:29). From now on.

Following this section, the prayer then says, “Lead us.” This is a disciple’s response to Jesus’ original request of, “Follow me” (Mark 1:17).  Now, where Jesus has gone already (see above), it’s my turn (Rom. 8:29). Understanding doesn’t come all at once, but he doesn’t rebuke (James 1:5). And bonded in this way with him, he explains his business as we go along (John 15:15). One-to-one.

The Law on Trial 1

The Democrats won’t let go of Russian collusion. And the Epstein death will be dragged into conspiracy by the Republicans.
But justice must be served. So virtue and guilt are endlessly debated.
“You know how to forecast the weather,” Jesus told the legal pretenders who were distracted by their own set of current events (Luke 13:1-5). “Why can’t you determine what is right?” he asked, advising settlement over a court case (see Luke 12:54-59).
News headlines, opinion shows, common gossip… they only make sport of the conflict. Maybe we should just put the cause of what’s right to a vote and finally be done with it!
So finding the captive innocent—but still at odds with the accusers—Pilate addressed the people one last time. Then he washed his hands in front of them… (Matt. 27)

The Question of Sin—Romans 7

“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.” (Rom. 7:21,22)

“Sin,” comes from a word meaning “to miss the mark”—an archery term. People think that sin, then, is “the failure to hit the mark.” But what does the archer aim for? So Paul describes the archer’s (sinner’s) situation in ch. 7:14, “For what I want to do I do not do…”

The Law of Moses was the perfect vehicle, to expose this dilemma. It also proves that attempting to improve the aim isn’t the solution.

Consequently, Jesus didn’t describe eternal life as “hitting the mark.” He described it as “knowing the one true God” (John 17:3). This takes us down an entirely different path than our righteousness-geared minds expected.

But when was the last time you heard sin described as “our attempt at righteousness?”

Now read all of Romans, and every time you see the word “sin,” plug in, “my attempt at righteousness.” It will change your understanding and clear up many questions about Paul’s reasoning.

Observations of a Pilgrim in His Own World – Taking the Burden Out of 1 Peter

I’ve worked at my job full-time for 25 years. When I was hired, my employers explained among other things, the pay schedule—which changed over the years from monthly to bi-monthly, to every other week. They delivered faithfully. Never once did it cross my mind that if could be any other way.

In Matt. 5: 19-34 Jesus talks about God supplying what we need from food to clothing. He builds the argument with pictures: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them;” and, “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you…?”

I naturally tend to worry about this or that. (Hate change to begin with.) As a result I have understood “Do not worry” to be just another commandment to be burdened with. In fact most sermons on the subject treat it as such—justifying Jesus’ discourse with his closing reasoning, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Any good psychologist could have told me that).

But the thrust of Jesus’ argument is, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

So like my paycheck, “Do not worry,” is about God’s faithful provision, and a conclusion—not a commandment.

And Jesus wasn’t talking about worry. He was talking about trust.

Peter uses the same tact in his first letter. Though it seems he is talking about marriage and employment behavior, he’s really talking about trust. Removing the apparent commandments to “do this,” or “be that” from the context in chapters 1-4 (the, “do not worry” phrases), it reads as an inspiring epistle of encouragement.

And his advice on servants, husbands and wives are applications of two thoughts: When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2: 23); and Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God 1 Peter 4: 1,2).

Like seeking first the kingdom of God, we “entrust” ourselves to God. to make any judgments. Not our job.

Observations of a Pilgrim in His Own World – Unexpected Perseverence

“The Boatman” – Winslow Homer

“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” – Job 42:5

James called it the “perseverance of faith” (Jas. 1:3). We often get the phrase wrong thinking we need to gut it out first. But perseverance begins with faith, not the other way around—then faith proves itself out.

Speaking frankly, I hate this wonderful world that God has made. It has let me down (see Ecclesiastes)—and continues to. But God never said there would be anything satisfying about it. In fact, all he promised is trouble (John 16:33).

Having realized that a few years back, I asked him, “Why?” Passionately (Matt. 5:8). And finally he got my full attention (Job 42:5}. That’s all he wanted. And that was all I needed.

Funny how this works: my feelings about the world haven’t changed, so I keep asking God the same question as I go about my business (Prov. 3: 5.6). I find there’s no theology, belief system or anything else to learn. And only him to know (Rom. 1:20, John 17:3). Oddly I think, how can it get any better?

For me there’s nothing to wait for. I have it all right now (Phil. 3:7, 8).

James was right.

Observations of a Pilgrim in His Own World – The Bread and Cup

“Last Supper” Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret (1852–1929)

“Then He took the cup, gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you.’” – Luke 26:27

Been thinking on food and how complete the imagery is of bread and wine.

Adam and his wife originally ate from trees (Gen 2:16). They reached up and picked fruit. After the “revelation” (Not a fall like Satan – Luke 10:18, their eyes were opened – Gen. 3:7), Adam was sentenced to eat from the “cursed” ground. He reaches down, now (Gen 3:17). The ground (the world) would be worked by him and is where he came from and would return. The world is the interaction and cycling of good and evil—compliments of: light/dark, hard/soft, beginnings/endings, wet/dry, etc. I like to call it “the marketplace of judgment.”

Some of the early field crops were grains from which was made bread. Flour is mixed with water and oil, ferments and bloats (yeasts in the grains trigger this), then baked. Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees (Matt. 16:6). This yeast is dead and just air pockets after baking.

But the bread Jesus identified with, is unleavened (Luke 22: 19). Christ is the “bread of life” (John 6:35), not of emptiness. This bread is also made from wheat, grown from the cursed ground..

But this flesh is broken and dies (Luke 22:19).

This is followed by wine from grapes. Grapes also have yeast—the grapes ferment and produce the drink. But this yeast is living in the wine as it ages, and is drunk, becoming a picture of the Spirit of God in the flesh (Matt. 13:13). The wine pictures Christ’s blood—and his life, not his death (Lev. 17:14).

Grapes are also a field crop with fruit picked from below. But in nature, the vines climb trees and the fruit is picked from above. The perfect image of the union of heaven and earth, Christ.

Well chosen imagery. Or like marriage (Genesis 2: 18/Ephesians. 5:22), were they made to tell the story?

(BTW clothing tells a similar story in imagery from fig leaves and skins to a wedding dress made of linen, a by-product of the threshing floor.)

Observations of a Pilgrim in His Own World – A Royal Allegory

Saul and David *oil on canvas *130 x 164.5 cm *circa 1651 - 1654 and circa 1655 - 1658
Saul and David – Rembrandt
(oil on canvas, 130 x 164.5 cm, circa 1651 – 1658)

“Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.” – 1 Samuel 8:7

(You’ll need to read the stories of Saul, David and Solomon to fully appreciate the following conclusions.)

In Israel’s first three kings I’m seeing this pattern of justice/mercy/faithfulness—where the latter is weightier than the former. (Jesus spells it out in Matt. 23:23.)

Saul was, at best, double-minded (James 1:8). On the receiving end of justice’s “live by the sword, die by the sword” (Matt. 26:52), he refused the grace of God that was repeatedly offered.

David, a “man after God’s own heart” was conflicted. He was a warrior of justice who was torn by the mercy he wanted to extend (Saul and Absalom). He was also the willing recipient of the mercy of God (Bathsheba and the census) that indeed triumphed over the judgment that was due (James 2:13).

Solomon rested in the faithfulness of God. The personification of James’ “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God,” he also basked in the excesses of the world. His kingdom, however, was destined to fall apart (1 Kings 11). And everything he did proved to be, “vanity” (see Ecclesiastes).

“What’s the point?” we might then ask—accomplish all things and it’s like spices losing their savor—I might as well have failed to begin with!

But satisfaction won’t be found in this world—the best we can do is break even (“For God will bring every deed into judgment – Ecc. 12:14).

So I tend to think of Solomon’s Song of Songs” as the allegorical answer to the futility of Ecclesiastes.  The yoking of the biblical bride and bridegroom.

This world isn’t about accomplishment or failure. It’s about knowing God (John 17:3). A hard lesson because it wrenches us away from the familiar. But only God has meaning as it turns out (only he is good – Matt. 19:17).

So Paul concludes at one point, “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8).

This isn’t piety. It’s just the truth.

That Judgment Thing 14 – The Kingdom of Heaven is Like a Do-Wop Song

Keyboard sepia

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” – Matt. 23:23


A posting about “aggressive, challenger/defender” personalities caught my attention—we know them/are them, but what’s really going on—and what to do?

A Season 2, Episode 2 of a Dr Blake mysteries inspired this blog entry. Start at minute 34:52 for the piano/parlor scene for a little rock and roll tutorial from 1959.

Think about it. Aren’t the challenger/defender personalities like the judgments of this world beating to a rhythm?

Do-wop music comes to mind.

Except in my example, the persistent beat of the piano percussion is interwoven with melody and harmonized with the poor man’s instruments, the “do-wop” vocals. Composed, each element remains distinctive, but they blend to create something pleasing.

Like the biblical weaving of justice, mercy and faith, for something pleasing to result, the latter two are the weightier considerations.


That Judgment Thing 13 – Making the World Right

Moses and the Ten Commandments. Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)
Moses and the Ten Commandments. Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)

“‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You pay tithes of mint, dill, and cumin, but you have disregarded the weightier matters of the Law: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.'” (Matt. 23;23)

What is it about us that upon receiving the mercy of God, we Christians want to right the world? And in doing so, we retreat back to the law to do the work. But wasn’t it the law that led us to mercy to begin with?

(I suppose as long as we realize what we’re doing…)

More than once, Jesus reprimanded the teachers of the law about righting the world. Referring to the accounting of spices given in tithes, he said don’t give up balancing the books. But, there are weightier matters—he named three: justice, mercy and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23). Of course tithing is a matter of justice—they were good at managing that, and to a fault (i.e. hypocrisy). But mercy and faithfulness, not so much.

“You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former,” Jesus told them.

Notice that mercy and acknowledgment of God take precedent over justice. Not the other way around.

Then were these law-keepers to “practice” the mercy of the God? And was God the one tasked to make the world right?

This would take some faith.

‘But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’ (Matt. 9:13)