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Romans 8:9-14 (The Message)

9-11 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!

12-14 So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

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FoF#31

Luke/Acts

Day 24: Luke 24

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“I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭24:49‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

https://www.bible.com/113/luk.24.49.


Jesus is alive! The disciples couldn’t wrap their heads around it. They had seen him die, he was buried and here he was walking, talking, touching and eating. His new body is free of death and one day we will be the same. In that moment though the disciples did not understand it and Jesus needed to steer them through what had happened before he could talk about what would happen next.


Sin and death are linked, if we go our own way,away from God, we gradually lose our connection to him. If We stretch the connection too far and then it breaks completely, we would be cut off. As Jesus stepped in to take the consequence of sin onto himself, he died. If we choose to follow him we become tied to him and we can die to that side of ourselves that lives in rebellion towards God.


We can never be perfect like he was. The disciples were his closest friends yet they still messed up. Yet we don’t just die to that old way of living for self. As those tied to Jesus with an unbreakable bond we also will be raised with him incorruptible. What about now though? We die to death and we live to life just like Jesus. Jesus who went ahead of us, the pioneer of a new humanity.


This chapter marks the end of Luke but not of Luke’s account of the most momentous moments in history. Though Jesus had explained to his disciples what his death had achieved and how the whole of the scriptures had been building to it. They were still left with questions, what next? Now that Jesus was in his deathless body, surely now he would step up as King and rule the world? Yes but Jesus is not a dictator, he won’t force us to bend to his will. He has shown us what a life lived in connection with God and obeying his will all the time can look like. He offers us a taste of that life.


We’ve already established that we’re not perfect and we can’t be. How was Jesus going to carry on his mission to join us with God and make us like God? The answer comes in the next book of Luke’s account, Acts. First Jesus returns to heaven, perhaps people would be surprised that he would leave us just at his moment of victory. The reason is in order to rule he needed to be in heaven. As a man on Earth he could interact with a finite number of people. In heaven he could connect with an infinite number of people through the Holy Spirit.


That’s the answer: to become like God we must invite God into our inner being, the control centre of our body where we have our thoughts, feelings and where we make decisions. Here is where Jesus can rule, we can become better and better subjects of his Kingdom. The disciples had to wait for the gift of the Spirit but we can invite him to be with us right now and if we ask, we will receive. The Spirit will begin to give us a taste of how life is meant to be lived, to the fullest.

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FoF30

Luke/Acts

Day 24: Luke 23


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“There was a written notice above him, which read: This is the king of the Jews.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭23:38‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

https://www.bible.com/113/luk.23.38.nivuk


Jesus’ prediction came true. The officials handed him over to the Romans to be crucified, the Romans found him innocent of all charges. As far as Pontius Pilate, the then governor of Judea, was concerned the only reason they had Jesus brought before him was because of who he was claiming to be. He was the one God had promised from the beginning, the King who would save the world. Pilate felt no threat to his power as governor and this man clearly wasn’t leading a rebellion against Rome.


Pilate could see that they were riled up because Jesus was claiming to be in authority over them and they saw themselves as being in charge. Pilate personally felt claiming to be a King and the Son of a God he didn’t believe in, were not enough to be executed over but the leaders and the public were against him. We know the leaders were envious of Jesus but we have to wonder why the crowd who greeted him so enthusiastically earlier that week now bayed for his blood.


Perhaps it’s because they’d built up such high hopes. They wanted Jesus to be the leader of a rebellion and in a way he was but not how they expected it. They thought Jesus would rebel against the regime that oppressed them but Jesus instead led a revolution against the whole world gripped in the corruption of sin. In a world that is built on desire and greed. He came to love and to serve. It was indeed revolutionary and like many revolutionaries with wild ideas he was executed.


Were his ideas wild? No, we can see that no one could refute his teaching though his enemies tried to on many occasions. Though Pilate was misguided on a number of issues, I think he was right in one instance: Jesus was crucified because he claimed the title of King and the people rejected his right to rule. He died a criminal’s death and yet he was completely innocent. Of course he was, because he is, in his nature, God as well as being human.


God defines morality. He is where the very concept of goodness comes from. Jesus didn’t have to die, in fact he needn’t have left heaven at all in the first place, or created us at the very beginning. God is self sufficient. He existed before he created us enjoying perfect unity of three persons, Father, Son and Spirit. When Jesus offered himself up as a sacrifice taking the punishment for our sin, Imagine the unquantifiable anguish of being separated from God, Jesus experienced that so that we never have to experience separation from the source of life and everything good. All we have to do is accept that he died on our behalf and live a life thanking him for it.


In the end though, it does come down to this question: Who do you want ruling your life? Usually we’re pretty happy being in control of our own little worlds, especially if we live a rich country. Yet life will always throw us for a loop. There are always situations that remind us we are not in control and God is crying out for us to let him take charge, he’ll steer us on safe paths. Jesus left the safety of heaven to open up a way for us to be with him. We too can be part of the unity experienced by the trinity, Jesus paid the price to make it happen.

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Easter bumper issue- Out tomorrow!


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I’ll be posting issues 30 and 31 tomorrow an Easter double bill.


I’ve been taking it easy this week on my last days before I return to work at my school, so I’ve been leaving the blog post writing till later on in the day. It’s been nice to have longer to muse upon the chapters.


Also death and resurrection of Jesus is fundamental to our faith so I wanted to make the posts special.

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“I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit – just as it has taught you, remain in him.”

- 1 John 2:26-27 NIV

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How I became a born again believer in Jesus Christ ❤️


What feels different about my story is that, unlike most of the other testimonies I’ve read, I was not brought up in a church, nor was I raised in a Christian family, and I never identified with the faith.


As a child, I was never taught about God, Jesus Christ, or any religion for that matter. My parents were part of the new age movement – I grew up surrounded by tons of new-age imagery, symbols and statues, it had a very heavy influence in my home.


What I did find interesting, though, was that from a young age I was taught to pray/say Grace before eating, and we prayed in the name of “Christ our Lord” – even though at the time I never knew who He was, here I was praying to Him habitually!


Fast forward to high school, I remember spending most of the time being utterly convinced that I was a ‘good’ and ‘righteous’ person; I got good grades, had excellent reports and never got in any sort of trouble. Knowing I had built this ‘clean’ reputation for myself, I developed a horrible amount of pride…


2015 was the year that my false, ignorant and shameful way of thinking came to an end. During this time, it felt like everything in my life was falling apart, but it was equally the same year I discovered God and received Him into my life! To keep it short, it was a difficult year in many ways; things became terribly hard at home, I was struggling in my personal life, and I made some regrettable mistakes and committed sins I wish I hadn’t. I came to realise that I wasn’t a ‘good’ or ‘perfect’ person after all – and it’s not something that can be achieved by anyone on this earth. This same year, someone close to me told me all about Jesus Christ, what He did for us, the glorious Gospel, and I was given my very own Bible! I remember falling in love with the Bible, especially the gospel of John. I wish I’d been told about Jesus Christ sooner! I remember praying to Him for the very first time, Asking Him to guide me and bring me to Him. I was young at this time and was still learning how to serve Him!


By 2017 I had matured a lot more and was able to understand the Bible a lot better. I learnt how to become born-again. I had grown in my faith and took the step to become a new creature, cleansed from my old ways and forgiven for my past. I got on my knees, Cried unto God and His son Jesus Christ, repented of my countless sins, confessed my faith and belief in Jesus Christ being the son of God and raised from the dead, and I asked Him to save me! I also got baptised and have remained faithful to Him ever since. Jesus Christ paid for my debts, and, for that, I will forever be indebted to Him❤️

I have learnt so much through His precious word, and I’ve learnt how to love, forgive and live righteously! I’m a sinner undeserving of His grace, but, as the Bible says, I believe that His mercy endureth Forever❤️. Through believing in Jesus Christ, I have learnt what true and undying love is, I am forever grateful to be His child and joined to the body of Christ- my true family!

I would like to end my testimony with two precious verses:

“But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” ❤️. (Romans 5:8)

And a very important one that represents a large part of my story:

“I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke‬ ‭5:32‬)


Thank you for reading and God bless you! I pray that my testimony can encourage someone out there❤️.

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This morning I happened across an online preview of a book about the Biblical figure of Queen Esther (Wikipedia cites it and has a link to it) that describes her as a “post-feminist heroine.” This is in contrast to her predecessor, Queen Vashti, whom it describes as “feminist.”

Vashti overtly rebels against her husband’s authority and is ousted for it, whereas Esther plays the role of the obedient wife, endears herself to the king, and then uses his love for her to thwart injustice from inside the system.

I hope Biblical scholars will forgive me for the fact that I was instantly reminded of Elphaba and Glinda in Wicked.

Namely TVTropes’ “Family Unfriendly Aesop” entry about the musical, which points out that Elphaba’s rebellion against the Wizard leads her only to ruin, exile, and vilification as a “wicked witch” by the public, while Glinda is the one who changes Oz by siding with the Wizard and outwardly serving the status quo, then using her position to oust the oppressors.

I’ve always been slightly uncomfortable with TVTropes’ suggestion that Glinda’s approach is shown as “right” while Elphaba’s is “wrong,” since Glinda would never have made those inside-out political changes without Elphaba’s influence. Isn’t it part of the whole point that both of their approaches have advantages and flaws and that they need each other both to change for the better as people and to free Oz from oppression?

I’d already been thinking about this aspect of Wicked as it relates to feminism and gender roles as well as politics, for a thought piece I plan to eventually write not only about Elphaba and Glinda, but female foils in other well-known stories too. I just might have to add Esther and Vashti to that list now.

Esther and Vashti never even interact, but they’ve still been pitted against each other by centuries’ worth of commentators. Of course the traditional interpretation puts Esther on a pedestal as the epitome of virtuous Jewish womanhood, while Vashti is vilified as a vain, arrogant shrew who deserved to be banished and replaced. Thankfully, more recent interpretations have sympathized with Vashti, realized that “refusing to let her drunk husband display her like a doll to his friends” doesn’t inherently equal “wickedness,” and admired her spirit and self-respect. This new viewpoint sometimes comes at Esther’s expense, though, as feminists criticize her “passive obedience,” her reliance on her beauty and (implicitly) sexuality to influence the king, and the fact that her triumph comes at a terrible cost to Vashti. We definitely need more commentators (and fortunately already have some) who admire both queens, praise both Vashti’s overt rebellion and Esther’s quiet courage and intelligence, and point out that in a way, they ultimately help each other. Esther would never have gained her nation-saving power without Vashti’s disobedience setting the chain of events in motion, while Vashti is arguably vindicated, even in exile, by Esther finding her own way to subvert the king’s authority.

Really, we can find quite a few parallels between Wicked and the Megillah/Book of Esther. Glinda = Esther. Elphaba = both Vashti (as the rebellious, unfairly vilified female foil and romantic “rival” to Glinda) and Mordechai (as her closest companion, who rebels and becomes a persecuted outlaw while she rises to power, and who ultimately serves as her living conscience). Both the Wizard and Fiyero = King Ahasuerus, Madame Morrible = Haman, and the talking Animals = the Jews.

Now I’m sure there have already been Purim spiels that parody Wicked (if spiels exist that parody Grease and Willy Wonka, then Wicked has to be fair game too), but there should definitely be more! The script would practically write itself. And I wouldn’t mind seeing a straight adaptation of the Esther story that somehow kept Vashti present as a character even after her banishment and that let her become Esther’s friend.

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As for you, you were nekrous in your transgressions and hamartiais, in which you used to walk when you followed the aiona of this kosmou and the archonta of the authority of the air, the pneumatos now working in the children of disobedience. 

- Ephesians 2:1-2

I find this verse very interesting because it takes all the language typically used for God’s followers and slightly substitutes them. 

The Bible often talks about God’s kingdom and how God is King, or even King of Kings. When we follow God we say He is our Father and we are His children. And we use language that describes God in heaven (sometimes “the heavens” or “the sky”). Ephesians 2:1-2 takes those typical descriptions of God and substitutes the language as it describes what I assume to be the enemy. 

The verse uses the word “archonta”, often translated as prince. It is a ruler or chief, the one in charge, but NOT AS HIGH A STATUS AS A KING. 

It says this prince has authority of the air, which is like the heavens BUT IS EMPTY AND MEANINGLESS. Air slips through your fingers, it has no substance, just like the authority of the person being described. It describes him as “pneumatos” or spirit, which is certainly a word used for God and heavenly beings and maybe even our own souls, but again it suggests a lack of substance, something here today and gone tomorrow.

The verse ends by calling his followers the “children of disobedience”, using the same symbolism we may use to say “children of God”. When we were sinners we had Disobedience and Rebellion as our parents, but praise God that we’ve been emancipated and adopted as God’s children!

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Not entirely true: 

Slavery was a part of the culture of the Greeks and Romans as well as the Maya and Aztecs. Slavery had been going on in Arabia—culled from both inside and outside the Arabic world—since pre-Islamic times. Slavery was not uncommon throughout the early medieval world. Slaves were often the booty taken in war and conquest.

Aristotle spoke eloquently of slavery. He said humanity could be divided into two groups: slaves and non-slaves. Of course, he was in the non-slave category.

totaldog
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FoF#28

Luke/Acts

Day 21: Luke 21

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Luke/Acts part 2

Day 21: Luke 21

“For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭21:15‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

https://www.bible.com/113/luk.21.15.nivuk


In the week leading up to the Passover, Jesus would teach at the temple everyday. On one of his daily visits the disciples were admiring the temple’s beauty. Jesus might have appreciated its aesthetics too but in this moment he focuses on how the temple operates. Yesterday we looked at how passionate Jesus was about this issue. Jerusalem, by that point should have been a hub for the world to come and worship God, instead they’d become nationalistic and made it very difficult for foreigners to come to pray.


It’s with this in mind that Jesus points to the temple’s destruction. He knows that in AD70, the Roman Empire will break down the walls and burn the temple to the ground. The disciples must have been alarmed at this prediction, especially when they were in Jerusalem at Passover time where the City would have been extra busy. It would be hard to believe that in the span of 40 years it would be in ruins. They naturally want an early warning system, an alarm to let them know that this danger is approaching.


They ask Jesus what sign they should watch out for, Jesus doesn’t answer their question immediately. He builds up to it by first warning them about what will happen to them after his death. Then he says that the main sign that Jerusalem’s destruction is imminent will happen when foreign armies surround it. When you are surrounded and outnumbered by enemy forces, it’s clear that your chances of survival are slim.


This dire state of affairs won’t happen overnight though. It’s a slow rot that is already present in the way the ruling class of Jerusalem has turned its back on God. Those under their authority think they can seize back power through forceful rebellion. It is natural though to yearn for freedom from oppression but they were sadly looking in all the wrong places. Jesus tells them that many will claim they are the messiah or that they represent Jesus but he warns his followers not to follow them.


There are tough times for anyone who becomes part of God’s Kingdom because we are choosing to live at odds with the way the world works. Some will see the joy we find in being free of the corrupting influence of the world, others will become furious that we challenge their worldview. These early Jesus followers had the toughest job. They would have to build this new Kingdom community from scratch. Living as Citizens of Heaven and of Earth simultaneously.


In every generation since; the Church has wrestled with this duality. Our dual citizenship can lead us to feel we’re being pulled in two different directions but Jesus is clear: if it comes to a choice between the world and God, we should choose God every time. Living in this counter-cultural fashion will bring hostility, it will bring oppression but we have this promise, we don’t have to worry because Jesus will give us the words to say to defend ourselves.


We can’t feel arrogant about it because this knowledge isn’t ours. It comes as a result of knowing God, he is the source of the wisdom. He gets the credit, anyone who argues with us then is arguing with God who lives in us by his Spirit. They are arguing against undeniable truth. We have no reason to be afraid of opposition not as long as we stand with God. We can be assured that our place in his Kingdom is guaranteed for eternity and no arguments or opposition can take our place in heaven away from us.

References

Luke for everyone, a book by Tom Wright

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The Bible, Jeremiah
Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her; come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field, come to devour.
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FoF#27

Luke/Acts

Day 20: Luke 20

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Day 20: Luke 20

“Jesus looked directly at them and asked, ‘Then what is the meaning of that which is written: ‘ “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”?”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭20:17‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

https://www.bible.com/113/luk.20.17.nivuk


Jesus was teaching at the temple Courts. This was incredibly brave of him because one of the first things he did upon entering Jerusalem was to go into the temple and drive out the market sellers. He did this as a sign against the whole temple system. The temple in Jerusalem should have been the place the whole world could come to pray to the God of Abraham but Jesus labels it as a “den of robbers”.


Jesus had already provoked the religious leaders with his indictment of their practices. He returns to the scene to add more fuel to the fire. The Chief Priests, the teachers of the Law and the elders all assemble to plot how they might discredit him or get him to say something heretical so they can justify calling for his arrest. They cannot trap him in anything he says. Jesus is too smart. He responds to their scheming by speaking a parable against them.


It’s about a vineyard, the owner rents it to farmers to look after. If you own a business and you employ people, you expect that you will benefit from any profit they make, right? Even though these farmers don’t own the farm; they are trying to seize control of it by force. They assault the servants that the owner sends to check on their progress. In this situation I would imagine that I’d be calling the police but the owner has one last attempt at diplomacy. He sends his Son, he hopes that the farmers will respect him.


The farmers see that the Son is coming to check on the farm and they decide to murder him so that they will inherit the farm instead. Their plan backfires as the owner himself will come to take back control of the farm. After he has reclaimed the land, I would personally be cautious about who I hire. Perhaps keeping the farm within my close family but the owner is generous; even though his workers have rejected him. He does all he can to show that he wants to accept them.


Those listening to Jesus’s story were shocked. They knew that he had spoken this parable against not just the religious leaders but the nation of Israel. Jesus was warning them that many Israelites were living lives where they were missing out on God’s goodness even though it was readily available to them. I’m not saying that all of Israel would miss out, after all Jesus still had a large following and his loyal band of Disciples. They were getting an early taste of what the fullness of God’s Kingdom would be like.


Jesus responds to their shock with words taken from Psalm 118, the pilgrimage Psalm that they’d been using snatches of to hail him as King. He drew their attention to a more mysterious part of the Psalm.


“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭118:22-23‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

https://www.bible.com/113/psa.118.22-23.nivuk


The builders were trying to make a building. They put the bricks together to form their building but they forgot the most important one: a cornerstone. This stone holds two walls together. Their building will not stand without the right shaped cornerstone. They may have seen the stone at the beginning and rejected it thinking that it wasn’t going to be useful for the building they were imagining but it turned out that the stone is the most important one as it’s the stone you’re meant to start with. You lay all the other stones on top (or next to it!)


Jesus is the cornerstone. We can’t come to him with all our ideas of how best to run the Kingdom. He is the King, the highest authority, what he says goes. As we have already seen he has the position of King above all Kings because he is uniquely qualified for it. He has the wisdom to make all the right choices and the love that motivates him to implement his wise plans. He is the architect with the perfect design and in his Kingdom he is the first stone laid, the foundation of the whole building. I’ll finish today with an excerpt from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that explains it better than I can:


“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:19-22‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

https://www.bible.com/113/eph.2.19-22.nivuk

References

Luke for everyone, a book by Tom Wright

The Bible speaks today: The message of Psalms 73-150, a book by Michael Wilcock

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