Seeing the World of Rabbi Jesus with New Eyes

Do you ever read something in the Bible and think “what in the world does that mean”?

Do you ever read something in the Bible and think “that doesn’t sound right?”

Do you ever read something in the Bible and wonder “how does that fit in today’s society?”

Well – I have done all of the above.

Recently I read a book that really help shed light on why I do not always “get it” when I read God’s Word.

The book is called Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus.  Written by Lois Tverberg, I highly recommend it if you want to gain a better understanding of what you read in the Bible.  After earning a Ph.D in biology and teaching in college she started learning Hebrew and Greek, studying in the land of Israel and searching for more knowledge of the first-century Jewish world in which Jesus lived, died and rose again.

What she discovered was that not only are we thousands of years from the time the Bible was written but an even greater obstacle to our understanding is we are from a different culture.

She listed a few of the differences in our culture which I found very interesting and eye-opening.  (The following is copied from her book.)

Our world:  Thin is beautiful                                    Biblical world:  Fat is blessing, wealth

Our world:  Youth is attractive                                 Biblical world:  Age is wisdom

Our world:  Does God exist?                                     Biblical world:  Whose god is greatness?

Our world:  Me – personal goals                              Biblical world:  We – family legacy

Our world:  Sunshine – happiness                          Biblical world:  Rain – utter joy

Our world:  Logic and reason                                 Biblical world:  Parable and prophecy

She pointed out that Bible translators have found that many cultures today have less difficulty understanding the Bible when it is translated into their language than we in the Western world do.

often the cultural issues we have with the Bible are not a problem for people elsewhere in the world.  They’ve struggled with the Christian message as they’ve heard it filtered through the perspective of Western missionaries, but when it’s explained in its original non-Western setting, it makes much more sense to them.”

Perhaps the problem is not the number of years between us and the writers of the Bible as it is the number of miles between our Western culture and the Middle East culture.

I found a lot of her points in the list above to be true when I spent some time in the Philippines.  Over and over people I met would say “you are fat.”  (I am actually fat now but at the time no one in the USA would have considered me overweight.)   Until I understood their culture I felt insulted and that they were the rudest people I had ever met.  Only after living there a few months did I understand they meant that as a compliment.  Clearly by not being very thin I obviously had plenty of money to buy food and was therefore a successful person.

Tverberg also explains how many Jewish words have so much depth and multiple meanings than our English words.  Recognizing that really helps when we read things that tell us to “fear” God or when we forgive we must “forget.”

After reading this book, I am ready to do more studying on the Hebrews meaning of words and delving more into the Mid-Eastern culture.

Interested in learning more too?  I highly recommend this book and follow her on FB at Our Rabbi Jesus (Lois Tverberg) where she breaks down the meaning of many Hebrew words to help us get a better understanding of exactly what the Bible means.

Check it out!

 

 

 

 

Stand Firm – Love Well

My church has been doing a sermon series on the book of Daniel.  At first glance you might wonder how a book written thousands of years ago has any relevance to today.  As I listened to the messages each week I found it clearly spoke to our current culture today.

As a Christ follower I often find myself in total disagreement with the values all around me.  Much of society speaks and acts in ways so opposed to the words of Jesus Christ.  Everywhere I look – entertainment, fashion and especially politics I find much to disagree with and can often find myself feeling overwhelmed.

How should I respond to my culture when I am so many times in disagreement with it?

Probably each generation thinks they are the first ones to face this perplexing situation – when our own values and lifestyle seem so different from the lifestyles about us.

But we are not the first.

Looking at Daniel we see a young man taken by force from his own home and placed forcefully into a totally alien culture.  The food was different, the religion was different, the customs were different.  Even his name was changed from a name that meant “God is My Judge” to Belteshazzar which meant “Bel protects his life.”  His very identity as a believer in the God of Israel was challenged by this new name honoring an idol god of the Babylonians.

I struggle with the friction between speaking the truth, not backing down from the principles I strongly believe to be right and showing the love of God to those whose beliefs are different than mine.

How do we “stand firm” but “love well.”

Daniel is a good example of that.

He and his friend stood firm on their foundation of faith refusing to bow down to idols and continuing to speak to God when the king said they could pray to no one but himself.  They were willing to lose their lives for their belief in God.

However, if you read Daniel’s interaction with the king he was always respectful and never spoke in anger or showed irritation with the king.  He served within the Babylonian government and obviously worked for the good of the government disobeying only when his basic belief in God was challenged.

We need to follow his example.

Stand firm – never compromise our principles even when it may led to persecution or difficulty.

Love well – never treat those who disagree with us with disrespect or hatred.

My pastor ended Sunday’s sermon with a powerful question:  Do we truly love our enemies as Jesus told us to do.  We often say to “hate the sin, but love the sinner” but in truth do we love the sinner?

A great example of this today I feel is how so many famous Christian ministers are calling for the church to pray for Donald Trump.  We should do so.  The Bible clearly tells us to pray for those who are in authority over us.

But where is the call for pray for Nancy Pelosi or Adam Schiff?  The Bible clearly tells us to pray for those who persecuted us.

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum – which ever politician you would view as the enemy, I challenge you to pray for them.

Let us Stand firm but love well!

 

 

When is Enough Enough?

I recently read a book recommended by one of my daughters, “Affluence with Abundance,” by  James Suzman.  The author did an intensive study of the vanishing world of the bushmen in southern Africa.

Viewed by the western world as a society lacking all the great benefits of our modern culture, the author notes:

“...hunters-gatherers appeared to be content – in fact, to thrive…with a limited material culture.  Their approach to well-being…was based on having few material wants, and those few wants were easily met with limited technologies and not too much effort. “

So unlike our western culture where we seem to want more and more,

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he noted that

“…hunter-gatherers were content by the simple expedient of not desiring more than they already had….they were content because they did not hold themselves hostage to unattainable aspirations.”

What an idea!  To be content by not desiring more than we already have.  That seems to be a totally foreign idea to most of us.   Instead of not being held hostage by desiring things we really cannot afford, we use that magical plastic that gives us now what will take months, maybe years to pay for.  Many items we purchase on credit are out of fashion or used up before they are even paid for.

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As my husband and I have downsized in preparation to moving to a smaller home for our retirement years, I realize how much I have been guilty of that “more and more” mentality.  As I have given things away to family and friends and sold much on the web, I keep asking myself “why did I think I needed that?”

And, of course, for much of my “stuff” the answer is I did not “need” it, I just “wanted” it.

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While there is certainly nothing wrong with buying something just because I want it, I do think I went way over board in many areas.

I do ask myself what if I had bought less of what I wanted but did not need and gave that money to missions, to the local food pantry, to helping others about me more in need.

“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”   Matthew 19:19-21

Looking at my home, my possessions, my credit card statement, my check book I have to ask myself:

Where is my treaure?

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