What Does It Mean To Believe?

 

     The word believe has been studied intensely since the books in the New Testament were written. Why? Because from the second century forward, men have been trying to explain why all you have to do is believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16:31). I’m afraid the word believe has become so watered down that it has been taught that you don’t have to do anything to be saved except “know” or “think” the right things.

     To believe in the way first century writers used it does not refer to an intellectual process that indicates cognition or awareness that something is true or accurate. Irenaeus, a bishop in the second century, was one of the first great Christian theologians. He is credited with helping to lay out the orthodoxies of the Christian church.

“The Father has revealed the Son to this end, that He may be displayed to all through the Son, and that those who believe in him and are justified may be received into immortality and eternal refreshment.  Now to believe in him is to do his will.” (A reading from the Treatise of St. Irenaeus – Against the Heresies, Bk 4,6,3.5.6.7)

     To believe in Jesus is to do his will, to follow his example. Jesus did more than acknowledge God. He lived his life following through with what he believed was his Father’s will. He lived his life helping others. He believed in the truest sense of the word. He did something because of what he knew.

     You and I always act according to what we believe. If I believed the stock market was going to go up 300% next week, you can be sure I’d be borrowing every dollar I could to invest ASAP. If I only think it could happen, I won’t have the trust or confidence to risk everything and follow through on the information given me.

     The Latin term for “believe” is credo and was used by the Church’s early writers. The way these writers used credo would give it this meaning: “I place my heart.” In the Jewish tradition, the heart referred to one’s whole being, the self at its deepest level, and is made up of one’s thoughts, emotions, will, personality, intuition, and imagination. I dedicate my actions and intentions toward that which I believe to be true. If you give your heart to something, you’re going to do whatever it takes to make it happen.

     There are some synonyms for “believing that empowers action.” Those words are “committed, determined, resolved, resolute.” If you fully trust that what Jesus taught and did is the truth, you will make every effort to follow through with doing what he did.

     In the following verses, replace believe with new words that reflect more than mere possession and confession of certain knowledge. See if another perspective allows the Bible passage to expand in its meaning. Here are your options:

(a) think to be true, to be persuaded;

(b) to trust, place one’s full confidence;

(c) deeply convicted;

(d) give your whole being (heart) to;

(e) to be committed;

(f) to be determined, resolved, persistent.

So [Jesus] asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood.  And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you ________________, all things are possible to him who _________________.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I _________________; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:21-23 NRSV).

 “For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but _________________________ that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, _______________________ that you receive them, and you will have them.” (Mark 11:23-24 NKJV).

     In the first verse, the Greek word for unbelief refers to a lack of confidence, weakness of conviction, hesitation. Context is everything in selecting appropriate replacement words. I’m starting to lean toward replacement words for believe that imply complete confidence to the point of certain action.

     To believe in Jesus is having the conviction to live according to his example and his teachings. Not with words but with actions. If your or I don’t love our enemies, we do not believe in Jesus. If we repay evil with evil, we do not truly believe in Jesus. We deceive ourselves. To follow Jesus is to think what he taught was truly God’s will to the point of following his example and teachings. It’s actions that count, not merely words.

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Change the Way You Think About Repenting

 

          The title for this post could have been three words instead of seven: Repent About Repenting. But you might have thought I was suggesting you should be sorry for repenting. Sadly, the word repent in the New Testament is poorly translated. I should say that the other way around. The Greek word metanoia which was translated as “repent” is poorly or improperly translated.

          It’s not a mistake to think repent means “to be sorry, grieved, or remorseful.” That’s what it means. Using the word repent in the Old Testament is correct. The Hebrew word (nacham) means “to be sorry.” The English word repent means “to be sorry.” There’s no problem with those definitions.

          The problem is that translators for King James choose the wrong English word as a replacement for metanoia. There are two Greek words (lupeō or koptō) that New Testament writers could have used if they wanted you to understand that you are supposed to “be sorry.” Instead, the apostles and others used metanoia which means “to change your mind.”

          It doesn’t make sense that John the Baptist and Jesus would start preaching the good news saying “Be sorry, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Shouldn’t a person be happy if the kingdom of heaven is within his/her grasp? Before the kingdom of heaven can reign on earth, we have to change the way we think—about God, about ourselves, about other people, about our actions. Only then can the kingdom come and God’s will can be done on earth as it is in heaven.

          The next time you read the word “repent” or “repentance” in the New Testament, convert it to one of these phrases and you’ll understand the verse the way the writer intended it:

(a) to change one’s mind;

(b) to change the way one thinks;

(c) to turn around in one’s thinking;

(d) think differently.

Try it in these examples:

When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he _____________ and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders (Matt. 27:3).

 “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who ______________  than over ninety-nine righteous persons who don’t need to________________” (Luke 15:7).

          Maybe the reason why we’ve kept the wrong word “repent” where metanoia is found is because it makes sense that Judas was “sorry” for what he did. But being sorry doesn’t always lead to action that tries to rectify a wrong. Sinners are sorry for lots of things. But they keep doing the same things. They don’t always try to make right what they did wrong. Judas changed his mind and went back to try to rectify his poor choices.

          Being sorry isn’t good enough. It’s only when you have changed your mind completely about what you’ve done that you take action to repair the damage you’ve done. If a person is living a lifestyle that brings harm to self or others, or that disrupts harmony in self or others, being sorry doesn’t cut it.

          It’s metanoia, a complete turnaround in the way one thinks, rather than repentance, that will bring about a change in the way a person acts. And only then will the kingdom of heaven be at hand for that person.

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Permission To Think

 

I’m doing a lot of research on the definitions of Greek words in the New Testament for a Bible study book. At this point I’m calling it Dry Bones: Breathing New Life into Petrified Words in the Bible. I’m designing it to be both a self-study and group study that allows the student to insert available options for Greek words that have developed single meanings and gain some insight into what a translator goes through in making a choice. In biblical translation, many word replacements are subjective. They are often based upon what one has been conditioned to believe. We have been conditioned to believe the choices made by males in the fourth and sixteenth centuries are not open to debate. Few modern translations vary when it comes to anything of substance from the theologies of those eras.

It’s been shown that men think hierarchically. Autonomy, justice, and rights are what guide their thinking. On the other hand, women think non-hierarchically. Relationship, care, and responsibility guide their thinking. Of course, these are wide generalities. But combine this understanding of the differences in the ways men and women think with the patriarchal times in which the Greek testament was translated and interpreted, there might be some new ways of interpreting what was intended to be heard by the New Testament writers.

My interest in translation has opened my mind to the possibility that teachings in the New Testament apply more to life on earth and how to live it meaningfully rather than telling you what you must believe so you’ll have a better life when you are dead. It has led me to believe there are some possible mistranslations. I have not found anything in the Greek text that causes me to waiver in my trust that the message of the writers is profound and true. Unfortunately, I cannot say that for its translation into English.

I’ve also come to the conclusion that I can spend from now until eternity “telling” you what might be correct or not correct, but that won’t change what you think. Only by making some choices yourself, using your brain and giving yourself credit for being an intelligent being, will you begin to understand the subjective nature of translation.

Until now, the church and religious leaders have told you what to believe and think concerning the message of the Bible. They’ve said you have to believe certain things if you want to go to heaven when you die. They’ve stolen your confidence in your own ability to think and use your mind when it comes to reading the Bible.

Isn’t that an insult to you? To have anyone suggest you cannot believe anything different from what they tell you is true? Your only problem is that you don’t have specific details that may alter the way you think.

I’m here to tell you that God gave you a brain with the enormous capacity to analyze and make decisions based on information presented to you. I want you to feel empowered to trust that God has indeed written God’s instructions on your heart. For a thousand years, the male-dominated church kept the Scriptures from the average person. The common people had to trust those in authority. Martin Luther even wrote a volume of sermons for local priests to read to their congregations because many had little formal training in the Scriptures. You know what happens when you don’t have access to the rules of the game. The people in power tell you whatever truth they want you to believe.

I won’t disparage the early church fathers and translators too much. They believed they were doing right, and at least some of them were pure in spirit. Yet they were all men in a highly patriarchal society, subject to the religious conditioning of their tradition. The results of what you learn will be bittersweet. You will be both angry and joyous about what you discover.

I am confident in you. I am confident in your ability to make sense of words—maybe more so if you’re female and inclined to think in terms of relationship, care, and responsibility. That’s why I’m going to focus my future posts on words, verses, and teachings in the New Testament in a way that gives you the opportunity to think for yourself and make choices about how you would translate some of the texts.

I look forward to hearing your choices and responses. Until my next post, I hope you have a Happy New Year!

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The Lord’s Prayer ebook – FREE Dec.26-28

 

 

This is just a quick notice that my ebook version of The Lord’s Prayer: Finding New Meanings Within the Language Jesus Spoke can be downloaded FREE from Amazon from Monday through Wednesday, Dec. 26-28. Questions for Bible study are included at the end. Get your FREE copy today!

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Baptism or Compassion?

Matthew 3:1-12

I happen to be on vacation where it was 86 degrees today, but I wanted to submit a translation for the week. I’ve dealt with the kingdom of heaven before in a full length book and in several blogs, so you may remember that the KOH refers to life where everything is living together in harmony on this planet. I’ve also blogged a little about repentance not being sorry for doing something wrong, but instead, changing your mind or changing the way you think. And remember, I’ve taken all the fourth century religion out of it.

1 And in those days John the Baptist came publicly proclaiming in the wilderness of Judea, 2 saying, “Change the way you think, for the development of harmony is within your reach!” 3 For this is the one who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said:

“The voice of one shouting in the wilderness:       Prepare a way of thinking1 of the Lord;       Bring forth his upright ways.’”

4 Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then people from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him 6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan, openly confessing their failures to act with love.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Children of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming vengeance?  8 Produce fruits now appropriate to an amended life,  9 and do not presume to say amongst yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 Already the ax is lying at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear mature fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.2

11 Indeed, I wash you with water for the purpose of amending your life, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will immerse you in a spirit of reverence and purity, indeed a purifying fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor, and gather up his wheat into the barn; but he will burn up the outer husks with fire that will consume it completely.”

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1 ὁδός, a proceeding (cf. the Germ. Wandel); denotes a course of conduct, a way (i. e. manner) of thinking, feeling, deciding

fire, purifying fire – a reference to the consequences of sin that one is supposed to learn from.

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     The reference to fire and burning the husks is not about bad people getting sent to hell for eternity and good people going to heaven. You have to remember that each grain of wheat is made up of an outer shell and an inner shell. They belong to the same entity, not two separate entities. John is comparing the components of the grain to one person, not two different people. Every person is made up of good parts (good fruit/wheat) and husks (outer actions that are not worth anything). The fire of consequences is designed to eliminate our worthless actions.

The point of John the Baptist is this: Stop thinking God wants you to follow rules and if you don’t, you’ll have to face poisonous snakes, getting swallowed in earthquakes, or drowned in floods. God wants you to treat your neighbor the way you want to be treated by others. Do what is good and upright, just like a God who is good has always done.

Prepare the way of the Lord doesn’t necessarily mean prepare the way of Jesus. Nobody at that point in time ever thought of the “Lord” as the Messiah – if so, the writer might have written the “Christ” instead of the Lord.

This is the one” – did this refer to John or to Jesus? Jesus wasn’t even in the picture yet. Was John referring to himself when he quoted Isaiah as the one who would try to get people to change the way they think and act? John, like all the other prophets, had the law to encourage people to follow the upright ways of the Lord. Martin Luther compared the law to water in the story of Jesus turning water into wine. John immersed people in the law. Someone else would follow John with another kind of approach…a more effective approach than the law. Respect for each other. Love for each other.

Did Jesus “baptize” anyone with the Holy Spirit and with fire? Literally? Show me where that ever happens in the New Testament. What does that mean? Were you baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire when water was sprinkled on you? Did it change the way you were thinking or living? Can infants change like that?

If Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire, has that happened to you? Is this to be interpreted literally? If it’s not literal, then what does it mean? I wish I could give you better answers than I’ve been given. Sometimes I have more questions than answers.

Jesus came and showed us the example of how God wants us to live…with compassion that doesn’t depend on rules. Or rituals. Does religion save you? I think compassion, respect, and love are what bring you a better life and builds the kingdom of heaven on earth. Sometimes religion helps you to do that. Sometimes it just makes you feel bad when you break the law.

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Another Good Quotation from Martin Luther

 

Here’s another of my favorite quotations by Martin Luther. It comes from the sermons in his Church Postils. See other quotes here. Did you notice that my ebook of prayers based on Martin Luther’s Church Postils (sermons on the Gospels) is only 99 cents until Monday? Click on the ad in the right corner to check it out.

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Luke 23 retranslated

 

     It’s interesting how men with a religious agenda interpreted the Greek text. I’ve been working at removing religion from the New Testament to see if there are any significant variations. After all, Christianity wasn’t defined when the Gospels were written. I’m currently finishing a short book about the four texts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke on divorce and remarriage. You may be surprised. I was. But let me give you a taste of a few minor variations in the first part of Luke 23. First take a look at a traditional translation. I have underlined some parts to compare.

NKJV

Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.”

Then Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

He answered him and said, “It is as you say.”

So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no fault in this Man.”

But they were the more fierce, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place.”

My version:

So the entire assembly of them rose up and led him to Pilate. Then they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man corrupting our nation, both forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar and claiming himself to be an anointeda leader of the people.”

Therefore Pilate asked him, saying, “Are you a commanderb of the Jews?” So he answered him, declaring, “You are the one who gives the orders!”c

Then Pilate said to the chief priests and those gathered together, “I find no crime in this man.”

But they were infuriated, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching in opposition of all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.”

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Christ (christos) an anointed one; I wonder if it could refer to “an officially ordained” leader of the people?

Why would Pilate ask if Jesus was “king” of the Jews? He knew that Herod was their king. There had been no insurrection to overthrow Herod.

legō: literally means, “You command.”  Thayer suggests in one group of definitions “c. to exhort, advise; to command, direct.” In other words, “You are the one in command; you are the one giving orders.” Because Pilate’s response was that he could find no fault in Jesus, this was a respectful way for Jesus to say he wasn’t trying to usurp anyone’s civil authority.

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     Translation is not an exact science. That’s what makes it subjective rather than black and white. In verse 3, it appears that Jesus was not confirming Pilate and saying, “Yes, you’ve said it. I am king.” That never made sense to me the way it’s been translated. If Jesus had meant anything close to “yes, I am king,” Pilate would not have responded with a declaration of innocence. He would have crucified Jesus immediately…no more need for the chief priests to keep arguing. But they do keep arguing. And according to my interpretation, they said he was teaching in opposition to Jewish tradition, not simply teaching throughout all Judea. They kind of mean the same thing, however, the bulk of Christianity two thousand years later seems to think that Jesus believed he was a king and that everything written in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) was correct. No. Jesus was teaching in opposition to what the tradition was practicing.

     The New Testament paints a different picture of God than the Hebrew Scriptures paint. The NT describes a God who is not vindictive and punishing, but instead, tolerant and forgiving. Jesus might have come from that tradition but that does not mean he was in agreement with everything it did or said.

     Yes, there is great value and wisdom to be found in the Hebrew Scriptures. But I’ve received the word of the Lord in the same way the prophets did. Sometimes it was written on paper and sometimes it came (and continues to come) directly into my heart. I’m sure you have also.

     I believe there is wisdom we have not yet uncovered laying beneath its literal meanings. It’s clear there were many then who understood the deeper things of human consciousness. So there is much to learn from the OT, especially how it shows us what people are like until Christ is born in them. They are afraid of God and what God might do to them. Once they understand the total goodness and splendor of God, there’s no fear. Only love for the Unknowable, and the beginning of the kingdom of God. Until all have lost their fear of God, we still have to try to live together in peace.

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Do The Right Things

Luke 21=5-19  

     Every story in the Bible has its beginning in the story that precedes it. It sets the context for what is to come. The story that precedes this lesson is the one about a poor widow who gave two pennies for the betterment of the world. Two pennies compared to the five and ten dollar bills given by the rich. And Jesus said, “She gave the most because she gave all that she had.” I think there’s hope in that message for us. No matter how little we have, if we give what we have, we can make a difference and bring change the world we live in. We just have to be committed to doing the right things.

     It’s not up to one person in the White House, or the hundreds of millionaires in Congress, to change the world. It’s up to you and me to build the kingdom of heaven among us. We have to give of the best we have in our own backyards before unity can reign in our land and our world.

     With these thoughts in mind, there’s more hope in our Gospel than one might expect, given the negative tone that the early translators handed down to us. Take a look at the way I translate the Greek text:

     Likewise, some were speaking about the temple, how it had been adorned with beautiful stones and donations, he said, “As for these things that you are observing—the days will come in which no stone will be left upon a stone here; no, it will be destroyed.”Then they questioned him, saying, “Teacher, when will these things occur? And what will be a sign when these things are about to happen?”

     8 Therefore, he said: “Beware. For many will come claiming to represent mea saying, ‘I am the one you should listen to,’b and, ‘The end is near.’ Do not be deceived lest you follow after them. So whenever you hear disputes and commotions, do not be terrified; for it is necessary for these things to come first, but the fulfillment of my prophecyc is not coming immediately.”

     10 He went on to said to them, “Nation after nation will be awakened,d and country after country. 11 And there will be great upheavals; namely, hunger and pestilence will be an occasion for action; also there will be awesome sights and great miracles from heaven.e

     12 Nevertheless prior to all these things, they will lay their hands on you and harass you, delivering you up to gathered assemblies, and even prisons, being led before kings and governors   on account of all the things I stand for.f  13 It will turn into an opportunity of testimony for you. 14 Therefore determine in your hearts not to think about what you will answer beforehand; 15 for I will give you the words to say and indeed wisdom which everyone opposing you will not be able to resist or dispute. 16 But still, you will be betrayed by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 Likewise you will be hated by all because of all the things I stand for.f 18 And yet the hair on your head shall not perish. 19 In your steadfastness, safeguard your mind.g

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in my name; claiming to represent him.

I am. In other words, “I am the one you should listen to.” Today this speaks about those Christians who continue to proclaim that the end times are coming. Jesus was speaking about the destruction of the Temple that would occur in forty years (70 CE). End times claims are used to produce fear for the purpose of behavior manipulation. They are not good news.

my prophecy – that the Temple would be destroyed (see verse 6).

egeirō – to arise from sleep.

Most of the verbs and particles in this prediction have positive connotations – that’s why the attitude of a translator is so important. Jesus is predicting what will come from all their efforts – great good will come!

f because of all the things I stand for — “on account of my name.”  One’s name encompasses everything he or she stands for.

g psuche, vital force which animates the body and shows itself in breathing; the psyche, personality, mindset.

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     Jesus and John the Baptist came proclaiming that the kingdom of God is at hand. That means within your grasp. Things are going to turn around if you and I persist in sharing the message and mission of Jesus: bring good news to the poor, open the eyes of the blind, heal those who are sick, free the prisoners, declare the year of the Lord’s favor. We have a responsibility for building the kingdom for others. In doing so, we build it for ourselves.

     The year of the Lord’s favor refers to the Year of Jubilee when all things went back to their original owners, and everyone started from the same place. Every person had an equal chance to make it in the world. No one could have unfair influence over the affairs of others because they inherited money from their father/mother, who inherited it from their parents, who inherited it from their parents, etc.

     The Year of Jubilee was supposed to happen every fifty years. It probably had been a long time since the religious leaders of Judea and Israel enforced it. People with the power rarely like to give it up to become one of the common people again. It makes me think of the impossibility of term limits for politicians being approved by the people who would be voting to become common again, or fair taxes. People with lots of money and comforts rarely are willing to give it up. Yet Jesus called for a Year of Jubilee, a year of the Lord’s favor when all people would be equal.

     When you follow Jesus and do the things he did, you will be hated by those who don’t want their money going to help the poor, the sick, the disabled, and the marginalized in our society. But you will be bringing the kingdom to them. You will make them feel loved. You will bring peace and hope to them.

     What’s it going to take to bring equity to all? All that is considered beautiful in the eyes of the world is going to have to crumble. That’s a frightening thought. Not one stone left on another. A new kingdom in which every person is treated with dignity and respect will have to be built.

     Are you following Jesus? How many people hate you because of your efforts to help the poor and the sick and the prisoners?

     The poor widow who gave everything she had, even though it was minimal, was building the kingdom for someone else who possessed even less than she had. Her reward was the peace that passes all understanding in her heart and mind because she knew she was doing the right thing.

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God in You

Luke 20:27-38

When I was preaching, I believed one of my responsibilities was to encourage people to think about what they believed rather than to accept anything and everything someone said from a pulpit. René Descartes said, “I think; therefore, I AM.” (my capitalization) If you don’t think, then you are not I AM.

I wonder how many Christians truly believe the New Testament’s claim that God is within them? In my short book, How to Love the Lord Your God with All Your Heart, I gave these examples as evidence that the Bible suggests God is within you:

The Bible says you were created in the image of God. Someone in the early church said you were created in sin. It’s your choice to believe the Bible or some theologian. The image of God is not sin. It doesn’t mean you’ve perfected that image. It just means there are other reasons why you do things that disrupt harmony in your life and in the lives of others.

The apostle Paul wrote, “You are temples of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit dwells in you” (1 Cor. 3:16);

and “Do you not know that Christ is within you? (2 Cor. 13:5);

“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” (Col. 1:27);

and “Because you are sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Galatians 4:6, CEB);

and “I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:16-17);

Then the first letter of John says, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12).

     When you think about God or Christ living within you, you might have to accept that you are accountable to listen to the voice within you that guides you toward doing what brings harmony. The voice that guides toward love is God’s voice. Sometimes it’s the voice of Jesus. Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice and they follow me.”

Pondering the notion that God is within you may help you figure out how God knows everything you do—everything. You can’t get away with anything. Maybe God is part of that thing we call our “conscience.” Think about it, I AM!

So how does this line of thought relate to the text in Luke 20? I’ve already indicated in other blog posts that the doctrine of reincarnation isn’t as far-fetched as some in the later church decided. There are many references that indicate reincarnation was a viable doctrine at the time of Jesus. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, rising up, or reincarnation of the dead. You’ll have to be the judge of whether you think Jesus endorsed the doctrine (“I tell you, Elijah has returned”). And then look at what Jesus says to the Sadducees (my translation):

  34 Jesus answered and said to them, “The offspring of this system of thingsf marry and are given in marriage. 35 However, after being judged worthy to enjoy that age (the age we call Paradise), indeed a resurrection from the dead,g neither marry nor are they given in marriage; 36 nor are they able to dieh anymore, for they are like angels; yes, they are offspring of God, being offspring of resurrection. 37 Concerning (your denial that) the dead are being raised, Moses disclosed this secret at the bush, when he called Jehovah the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’i 38 Therefore he is not a God of the dead but of those living, for all are living for him.”j  39 Now having conceded, some of the scribesk said, “Teacher, you have spoken excellently.” 40 Therefore they were no longer so bold as to question him further.

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age. The way things are done in a certain period of time; the stage or system of the spirit being embodied in the flesh.

the deadness of living in the flesh, which is required for learning necessary lessons through pain and trials; it’s part of the spirit’s growth process. St. Paul said Jesus was the firstborn of the dead – having reached the fullness of Christ-consciousness, never to be incarnated into flesh (death) again.

reincarnate into the flesh of another body.

the Spirit of Oneness lives in, with, and through each of us, i.e,. we are living FOR God. The human body is a temple, as is everything in the natural world, of the pure Spirit.

inferring that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are still alive, not necessarily in Paradise, but reincarnated in another bodily form.

scribes, not Sadducees.

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     Most people don’t know enough details about reincarnation to  make sense of this but it’s a start that might help you start “thinking” about some new things. My main point in this blog post is the concept of God being within you. In verses 37-38, Jesus said, “Jehovah is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” He didn’t say “was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Jesus implies that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are alive. Does that mean they are reincarnated in other bodies? Maybe. Maybe not. In some doctrines of reincarnation (of which there are many, just like there are many Protestant doctrines that don’t agree), to enter into the flesh is “to die” or leave the wonderful life of the spirit world. Maybe Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have graduated from the “reincarnation into flesh age” and they are now angels and sons/offspring of God. They are of the living, in a new system of things.

You can be like the Sadducees and say this is all bunk. That’s okay. Or you can be like the scribes and Pharisees (and maybe Jesus) who believed in resurrection (or is that reincarnation?). It will definitely take more thinking on your part.

What does it mean to be a son, a daughter, or a child of God? Do you have some of God’s DNA? Are you made in God’s image? Or have you had water sprinkled on you and that did it? Think about your answer. I know the Lutheran mantra. But does a Buddhist, or Hindi, or Muslim, or Jew, or atheist not have God living within them because they haven’t been baptized?

Well, I hope I gave you some things to ponder. What greater benefit could there be than to have Love and Light dwelling in you, and then to recognize that Love and Light can be found in your neighbor? Believing God can be found in everyone will make it easier to love yourself and your neighbor.

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Salvation Is Always About Today

     Most Lutherans will focus on the Reformation this Sunday and that’s nice. I hope they talk about salvation as a present day reality instead of telling people they how much better off they will be when they are dead. Salvation in the Bible is always about being saved, rescued, or delivered from trouble or danger during life today.

     We are saved through faith (trust) in the teachings and example of Jesus. The conviction (faith) that we have for the truth of his teachings will cause us to act according to them. Peace of mind (salvation) always comes to us when we do what is good and right. We suffer negative consequences in this life if and when we fall into the desires of the flesh.

      At least, that’s what I understand when translating Luke 19:1-10:

     Now having entered Jericho, he was passing through.  And there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. Well, he wanted to see who Jesus was, but he could not on account of the crowd because he was a small man. So after running ahead, he climbed up into a sycomore tree so that he might see him, because [Jesus] was going to pass that way. Now when Jesus arrived at the place, he looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” Therefore he quickly came down, and welcomed him with joy. And having seen it, everyone was mumbling, saying that he went to lodge with a sinful man. But having been validated, Zacchaeus said to the Master, “Look, half of my goods, Lord, I am giving to the poor; and if I defrauded anyone, I am repaying fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today peace of minda has come to this house because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the son of man came to seek and to rescue from wrongdoingb those who have perished.”c

salvation. Honesty, generosity, and restoration of sins committed help one sleep well at night.

save. A person reaps what is sown. Negative consequences follow wrongdoing.

the lost. Literally, those who have perished or are perishing. To perish is to fall into the desires of the flesh and therefore suffer the present day consequences of sin.

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