The Cost of Freedom

Here in the USA as we celebrate the independence we enjoy, let us also consider the efforts of our forefathers and the ultimate price some paid for it.

May we also reflect on those in shackles—literal or figurative—in various ways, whether this is by unjust or even just jailing, through oppressive regimes or ideologies, etc. Let us remember and pray for all not yet free.

As Christians, let us also rejoice in the freedom we have—through God’s grace—in Christ. Let us remember and pray for those who have yet to experience their own freedom in Christ.

Let us never forget that freedom isn’t free. Let us never take for granted the price paid for eternal salvation. The price paid for all.

Redemption

From the hands it came down
From the side it came down
From the feet it came down
And ran to the ground
Between heaven and hell
A teardrop fell
In the deep crimson dew
The tree of life grew

And the blood gave life
To the branches of the tree
And the blood was the price
That set the captives free
And the numbers that came
Through the fire and the flood
Clung to the tree
And were redeemed by the blood

From the tree streamed a light
That started the fight
‘Round the tree grew a vine
On whose fruit I could dine
My old friend Lucifer came
Fought to keep me in chains
But I saw through the tricks
Of six-sixty-six

And the blood gave life
To the branches of the tree
And the blood was the price
That set the captives free
And the numbers that came
Through the fire and the flood
Clung to the tree
And were redeemed by the blood

From his hands it came down
From his side it came down
From the feet it came down
And ran to the ground
And a small inner voice
Said you do have a choice
The vine engrafted me
And I clung to the tree

————-

Written by John R. Cash
Published by Song of Cash, Inc. (ASCAP)
© 1994 American Recordings /℗ 1994 American Recordings. 2100 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404

 

Reading Scripture—and Modern Times—through an Honor/Shame Culture Perspective

Many times I will go to bed with local Christian radio on. Perhaps this accounts, at least in part, for my occasional feeling of sleep debt.

Last night—I realize now this was at 4 AM!—I caught part of a very engaging monologue by Abdu Murray from RZIM (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries). In my semi-conscious state, I knew I had to investigate this further, later in the morning when I would be more lucid. The title of this podcast is “Evangelism in an Honor and Shame Culture, Part 1”. Below is the audio. I cannot recommend it enough:

[Side note: I am saddened by the recent death of Ravi Zacharias; I really enjoy/ed listening to him.]

One of the points Murray argues is that this cultural norm of honor versus shame in the Middle East and the East is becoming more commonplace in the West. He is absolutely correct! This can be found in the “virtue signaling” and social media tirades against those who dare disagree with the Leftist position on a given subject. From this perspective, a person adhering to a particular belief which is at odds with Leftist ideology does not merely render said person guilty of wrong-belief on this subject, but one who is inherently bad! This wrong-thought then not only deems the entire person malevolent, but extends to anyone who defends this particular belief of said person. Thus, the social media mobs not only attack the one person who subscribes to said belief, but to anyone who defends this person’s belief in any shape or form—including their free speech right—regardless of the rest of the defender’s worldviews. One strike, you’re out. You’re ostracized. Cancelled. You’re inherently bad, too.

Murray uses the account of the man born blind and subsequently healed by Jesus in John 9 as a base text. One of the main points he makes centers on a very astute observation regarding John 9:19 (~15 minutes into the podcast). Murray rightly emphasizes the “you”—something I’d not found in any of the numerous commentaries I consulted on this matter. Though he does not explain his reasoning for why he views this as emphatic, below I will illustrate how Murray is correct in his expression of this particular passage.

First, I must add the following related comment. While searching the RZIM site for this podcast, I came across a brief article by Margaret Manning Shull titled, “A Face for the Faceless”. In it, she covers some of the same territory as Murray. The following section merits inclusion here (emphasis added):

The story of the man born blind in John’s gospel is a fitting example of a more collective honor and shame culture: “Who sinned,” the disciples asked Jesus, “This man or his parents that he was born blind?” Here, the belief that someone else’s sins could be borne by another is striking. After Jesus healed this man’s blindness, the religious leaders question the blind man’s parents. His parents didn’t want to speak on his behalf “for fear of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus as Messiah, he was to be put out of the synagogue” (See John 9:20-23). To be put out of the synagogue was to be excommunicated from God, family, and society—and to bear the burden of collective shame and dishonor. The son was already in a dishonorable state because of his blindness. One false move by the parents and they would suffer the same fate.

Note that it’s not merely individual but collective shame.

“…whom you say…”

This section will necessarily be a bit technical—though I don’t think it is too much so. For those with limited time and/or shortened attention spans (a byproduct of our “social media” culture)—though this section is not very lengthy—please go to the final section for my important closing comments. With this brief preface out of the way, I shall proceed.

In Greek, all finite verbs encode both person (1st, 2nd, or 3rd person) and number (singular or plural), though not gender. (Stay with me!) Given this, in Greek a complete sentence can be made with just one verb, as Jesus does with his final word on the Cross (John 19:30): Tetelestai. The verb here is a 3rd person singular, which, on the surface, could be either masculine (he is finished), feminine (she is finished), or neuter (it is finished). But by the context we can clearly discern that it should be the neuter it is finished. Thus, adding a pronoun (or noun) is unnecessary in the Greek. Now, certainly, the question of just what was finished is a big one; however, the point here is that it wasn’t a “she” or a “he” that was finished in the context of John 19:30.

If this seems a bit confusing, don’t let this detain you just yet. I think any confusion will be quickly cleared up as I explain the specific clause in John 9:19. Below is the Greek text, under that its transliteration (substituting English letters for the Greek), a rough translation is beneath that, which is followed by my translation. I placed brackets [ ] around the implied pronouns encoded in the two finite verbs below:

ὃν ὑμεῖς λέγετε ὅτι τυφλὸς ἐγεννήθη
hon hymeis legete hoti typhlos egennēthē
whom you [you-]say that blind [he-]was-born
whom you say {that} was born blind

Beginning our discussion with the last word, the verb “was-born” (egennēthē), the encoded person/number is 3rd person singular. Since the context makes it clear that the referent is the man born blind, we know that “he” is the implied pronoun, not “it” or “she”. Thus, adding a pronoun is unnecessary in the Greek. (And in English it would be improper to translate the implied “he”.)

The third word, the verb “say” (legete), has the 2nd person plural encoded. This is in reference to the parents of the now-healed man. Since the context makes the referent clear, then, once again, adding a pronoun is unnecessary in the Greek. (Of course this “you” must be translated into English in order to make sense of the passage.) However, the Greek text also includes the 2nd person plural pronoun hymeis (“you”), even though, as we just noted, this pronoun is unnecessary to convey what was meant. Thus, this is not a redundancy; this is to make the “you” emphatic.

So here [some of] “the Jews” (hoi Ioudaioi) were trying to shame the parents of the man born blind by implicitly accusing them of lying about the blindness of their son—since these Jews assumed the formerly-blind-but-now-healed man had been lying all this time about his own blindness. The other option—that Jesus, that “sinner”, healed him—was beyond the realm of possibility in their figuratively blinded eyes. But this was also a set-up. If the parents were to affirm his blindness from birth, then, in “the Jews” darkened eyes, they would also be an implied party to his “purported” healing by Jesus. This is why the parents claimed ignorance of just how their son was healed and then deferred to their son—to let him speak on his own, thus making him the sole one ‘guilty’ of this—so that they would not face expulsion from the synagogue. Better to let the son face the dishonor and shame by himself. They didn’t wish to share it with him.

Take a listen to the podcast to hear the other (explicit) points the speaker makes.

Concluding Near-Field Digression

I must end this blog post with somewhat of a digression, though not far at all from where I started. I count myself as blessed to live in a place—namely San Antonio, Texas—that has excellent programming (largely so, but discernment required) on Christian radio. This includes both KDRY (AM 1100) and KSLR (AM 630). Programs include both internationally recognized voices and local pastors/teachers. For those in the local area, I suggest you check them out. For non-locals, there may be programming available in your area. Moreover, I’m aware that KDRY can be listened to online or through a mobile app. For those with the financial wherewithal, donations are appreciated, of course.

It’s a New Year

I figure that since Christmas has passed, and that my most recent post pertains to Christmas, I should compose a new blog post.

As is usual for the new year, I’ve only made one resolution: to not make any resolutions. I suppose then I don’t have to concern myself with breaking a resolution. Seriously, though, I make resolutions throughout the year, rather than choosing one day to pledge to do things for the following year. Having said that, one of things I’d like to do is to post more. I’m always researching and writing, working on something, and some of those remain “in the works” for quite a while.

However, since it is a new year – 2017! – I’ll offer some words of wisdom, borrowing from the late Steve Lacy, jazz soprano saxophonist, who rarely composed lyrics, though he composed a good portion of the music he performed.

Never trouble trouble
Till trouble troubles you
You’ll only trouble trouble
And trouble others too

One aspect of this could be rephrased “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Along those lines, I’d been meaning to post something for a long time regarding the following. Years ago I began to suffer from what I believe to be gout, though it’s not been formally diagnosed. I’d get it in my ankle joints. BAD. To the point where on one particular occasion I could not leave my apartment for a week, as I just could not walk to my car. Trouble, for sure.

In any case, doing my best to eschew all pharmaceuticals, I endeavored to find a natural cure. I determined that it wasn’t so much what I was eating, but what I was not eating – enough vegetables and fruit. Since I’d never been much of a veggie eater, I figured I’d get one of those blenders that’ll chop up most anything and just throw a kitchen sink full of veggies and fruit in it, hold my nose, and gulp it down. Well, I actually discovered there were some veggies I could grow to like!

Here’s this morning’s concoction (I refrain from “smoothie”, as it sounds so, well, unmasculine – and just look at the color…):

concoction

Ingredients are:

Some raw almonds
A few brazil nuts
Juice from ½ lemon
1 carrot
About a cup of mixed greens, including spinach
A few slices of cucumber
About 10 frozen blueberries
About 10 blackberries
A few raspberries
½ banana
¼ granny smith apple
A few ice cubes
1 cup water (+ or -)
2 tsp cacao nibs
2 tsp chia seed

It’s pretty good! I usually add cinnamon, but forgot to this morning.

I initially had a drink like this twice a day – lunch was my ‘free’ meal. Once the gout flare-ups ceased, I went to once a day. Now I may go 3 or 4 times a week. But, I’ve generally been eating better over the past 3-4 years. No sodas. Ever. Only water. Well, OK, a very occasional red wine. And that’s a resolution I’ve had for years.

The Vessel

As winds of change battered the craft
Turbulence wrenched it from its path
Forcing matter over mind
With the anchor dragging behind*

But reliance upon The Highest
Brings strength and perspective afresh
To win this battle of the mind
And the vessel a new course finds

 

*this line with apologies to D. Boon Mike Watt.

Todd Bentley Needs Your Seed Money to Raise $20,000

Recently the Australian government denied Todd Bentley access resulting in the cancellation of the Fresh Fire scheduled tour of Australia.  Now Fresh Fire USA Ministries is in financial straits and looking for you to $ow a $eed for a$$istance. 

Our last minute delay in our planned tour to Australia was a huge disappointment of course. It was also a huge financial set back for our ministry. Our immediate expenses just in Airfare and travel was over 10,000…The need is still $20,000.

Would you pray with us and consider sowing a seed into our ministry today!  If each of you that have been blessed by our ministry over the years would consider a gift at this time we can more than enough recover our shortfall and move forward in 2012.  We know that this is a great year of the nations for us.

It’s rather curious that not one prophetic minister friend could foresee that Bentley would be refused entry into Australia thereby averting his financial woes in the first place.  Were these prophets all sleeping, in deep thought, busy, or travelling [cf. 1 Kings 18:27]?

It’s also curious that Bentley would need financial assistance given that, according to his friend Bill Johnson (as but one example), the teaching is such that salvation is a full restoration of “His original purpose” meaning no more sin, sickness, or poverty:

“…Jesus destroyed the power of sin, sickness, and poverty through His redemptive work on the cross.  In Adam and Eve’s commission to subdue the earth, they were without sickness, poverty, and sin.  Now that we are restored to His original purpose, should we expect anything less?  After all, this is the better covenant!” [When Heaven Invades Earth, 2003, Treasure House/Destiny Image, Shippensburg, PA; p 33]

Perhaps Bentley just does not yet have the requisite amount of faith. 

But I have an idea.  In reverse TBN fashion why not just email Todd and ask him to send $200 to you dear reader?  Given the purported principle of a 100-fold return, Bentley would subsequently receive his $20,000 with just this one donation!  Any takers?

By Whose Power Does Bill Johnson Perform Healings?

“What have I done? This guy thinks he hobbled in here…wait until he tries to walk out!”1

– Bill Johnson, 2009

Let me state from the outset that I’m not a cessationist.  God still does perform the miraculous in this day and age.  Frankly, I don’t see how anyone can take an honest look at 1st Corinthians 12-14 and deduce that somehow these gifts of the Spirit are not for today.  However, having stated this, I must admit in having difficulty with continuationism given all the excesses I’ve seen/read about.  I am in a sort of mediated position believing it’s the Spirit who gives to each one “just as He determines” [12:11; NIV 1984] on an individual and case by case basis.

God can heal through elders of a local church praying over and anointing with oil the afflicted individual [James 5:14-15].  He can heal through the fervent prayers of the saints.  He can heal through praise.  He can heal through the hand of the skilled (and, even the not-so-skilled) physician or surgeon.

But, does the enemy heal?  There are purported accounts of healing in the Eastern religions.  There are also claimed healings in Santeria and other religious traditions.  There have long been accounts of healing in Christian Science, New Thought and Unity.2

Bill Johnson on Healing: The Long and the Short of It

Bill Johnson, of Bethel Church in Redding, CA, in his 2009 book Release the Power of Jesus recounts a few instances of healing regarding legs that were purportedly either too long or too short compared to the other.  The first account involves a contractor who had broken his left leg 25 years prior resulting in the injured leg ‘healing’ and somehow remaining 1.5 inches longer than the other.  The gentleman asked Johnson if he’d ever seen a leg shrink.3

Recalling a purported prior healing of a pastor who was injured in a snowmobile accident in which the clergyman had a similar problem, Johnson responded to the contractor in the affirmative (it’s not specified whether it was the formerly broken or the presumably uninjured leg of the pastor that was shrunk).4

Johnson explains his resultant thought process at the time just prior to the attempted healing of the contractor:

…Then I paused for a moment and a thought occurred to me, “Should I shrink the long leg or lengthen the shorter leg?  Most people wouldn’t mind being a little bit taller.”  I caught him (and myself) completely off guard when I said, “Right leg, grow in Jesus’ name.”

The right leg began to grow out slowly.  Then all of a sudden it shot out past the other leg three or four inches and the guy screamed in pain!  It was as though years of growing pains were hitting him all at once.  On the outside I’m sure I looked very calm, but on the inside I was wondering, “What have I done!  This guy thinks he hobbled in here…wait until he tries to walk out!” 5

Recall that the ‘now-healed’, but formerly injured leg was already 1.5” too long (not sure how this could be understood as “healed”).  This means that Johnson’s initial attempt at healing resulted in a normal-sized leg increased to 4.5” to 5.5” beyond its normal length.

Notice all the “I” phrases: “Should I shrink the long leg,” “when I said,” “What have I done!”  Is Bill Johnson claiming this botched healing for himself?  Perhaps Johnson really meant it was he himself being used as a vehicle through which God worked?  Of course, Johnson did say “in Jesus’ name” – if that’s any indication.

There are a number of options I can think of regarding this ‘healing’:

1)      It truly was the Holy Spirit working through Johnson
2)      It was Johnson himself
3)      It was the enemy working through Johnson
4)      It was Johnson’s imagination
5)      Johnson was stretching the truth, as it were

Personally, I have a hard time with #1 as I find it very difficult to believe that God would inflict pain, especially to the point an individual would scream out as such, in the process of divine healing.  As to numbers 2 through 5, I’ll let the reader decide.

Continuing this account:

I began to search my heart to figure how to pray when I remembered studying the word shalom.  It means “peace.”…soundness of mind, health, prosperity…I thought, “This situation has to be covered in that word.”  So I prayed, “And now Lord, just let the shalom of Heaven, your peace, rest upon this man.”  His right leg then shrank back to perfectly match the other one…6

So, after the contractor screams in pain because of the previously non-broken right leg’s sudden burst in length in response to Johnson’s initial attempt at healing, the leg subsequently responds to Johnson’s “shalom” prayer and shrinks back to match the man’s left leg.  This would indicate that the normal-sized leg was now 1.5″ longer, resulting in the man now 1.5″ taller.  Was this second healing a true divine healing while the first attempt was not?  But, note this ‘healing’ didn’t involve doing anything to the ‘now-healed’ but formerly injured 1.5″ too long leg.  Also, the man purportedly specifically asked if Johnson had ever shrunk a leg.  But that’s not the end of this story.

After Bill Johnson’s account of the contractor’s ‘healing’, he recounts another leg length disparity healing which purportedly occurred six months after the contractor’s.  In this case, a 27 year old woman with back problems told of how she had a metal rod put in the place of a cancerous bone which was removed when she was 15.  The account does not specify whether it was the femur or the tibia/fibula.  The rod was made such that the leg would be one inch longer than the other one on the assumption that the unaffected leg would grow to the size of the one with the metal rod.  Unfortunately, the woman did not grow any taller.7  Johnson relates his methodology on this particular healing:

Because of my recent experience, for which God covered me, I took her leg and commanded the one with the metal rod to shrink.  It yielded to the command…8

Note his words, “for which God covered me.”  He is referring to the second ‘successful healing’ after his first attempt with the contractor.  Is Johnson admitting that the initial botched healing of the contractor was done by himself rather than God?  It would appear that way.  Given that it apparently was not God involved in the initial attempt at healing the contractor, which of the remaining options – numbers 2 through 5 above – do you think applies?  Or, is there yet another option I’ve just not considered?

[Note: some verbiage has been added for clarity on 07/13/13.]

1 Johnson, Bill. Release the Power of Jesus. 2009, Destiny Image “Speaking the Purposes of God for this Generation and the Generations to Come,” Shippensburg, PA; p 107.  Ellipse in original, emphasis added.
2 McConnell, D. R. A Different Gospel. 1988 (4th printing, 1991), Hendrickson, Peabody, MA; pp 30, 44-48
3 Johnson, pp 106-07
4 Johnson, pp 106-07
5 Johnson, p 107.  Ellipse in original; bolding added.
6 Johnson, p 107.  Bolding from italicized original.
7 Johnson, p 108
8 Johnson, p 108.  Bolding from italicized original.