Poor Princes James 2:1-13

thePsalmist on January 20th, 2010

It’s quite possible that James didn’t have many friends, or at least not many of the sort of friends that everyone needs. If we’re honest there’s people who we like to have as friends, and then there’s people who we’re friendly towards because we feel we ought to be … but wouldn’t choose to hang out with. It quite possibly comes down to us wanting to be friends with people we aspire to be like and we are friendly towards those who we think should aspire to more like us.

Pathetic isn’t it.

And that’s what James is talking about in this passage, that horrible distinction we make between people because of what they look like on the outside, how they dress, the car they drive, the 2.4kids, the perfect marriage, the nice car, …the nice cars! The house, with the holiday home in the Maldives, the exciting portfolio of holiday destinations and important positions of resposibility … they’re the friends we want to have around us, or indeed they’re the people we would love to get more dinner invites from. But the divorcee who sees his kids at weekends and can’t make it to church, the single mum who we really think should have known better than to get herself pregnant (and what was she doing sleeping with someone before she was married anyway), the 14 year kids hanging around outside church causing a nuisance (their parents should do something surely!), and the lady who is just always moaning and moaning about everything and has yet another ailment to tell you about in glorious detail.

Oh yeah, James didn’t have many of the right sort of friends … because he wrote stuff like James 2:1-13.

James tells us to get over ourselves and our desire to be friends with the right people and to keep all others at arm’s length. He tells us to get a grip of the gospel and live our lives as though the gospel is the reality … because … well actually the gospel IS the reality.

Here’s where we need to take a check of what we believe – like, completely the whole of our faith – what’s it about? Is the Christian faith not the very same faith which says we are ALL made in the image of God? Is it not the faith which says that we have ALL sinned and fallen short of the glory of God? Isn’t our faith the one in which God sacrifices everything for His children, the creatures He has made in His image, who have been cut off from Him because of their sin and who He buys back through the blood of Jesus His Son? Isn’t that what we believe?

The next step in this realisation of faith is that we aren’t just ‘saved’ and that’s it – we carry on as though nothing has happened. That’s not it. The issue is that we have been saved from ‘something’, plucked out of disaster, and placed down in a new world, a new life, a second chance and a different identity. we are not just transformed when we receive Jesus, but transferred from being outside of God’s kingdom to a place firmly and securely inside God’s kingdom.

Look at these words in Galatians 4:4-7 for example:

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born gunder the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent jthe Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then kan heir through God.

It is a truth of the gospel that we are inheritors of God’s kingdom. But this isn’t the same as thinking we might get some old antique cast off as a welcome to Heaven sort of present, perhaps like inheriting your grandfathers pocket watch or great-grandmothers old sewing machine which no one else in the family wanted.  Being an heir of God’s kingdom means so much more than that.

In Romans 8:16-17 it says:

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

“Fellow heirs WITH Christ!” … that’s slightly more impressive than just getting a “welcome to Heaven” goody bag. If Jesus is the King of Kings, the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, then while we can’t claim to be kings too we are at least princes.

This is the gospel! …and yet we live our lives as though it means nothing! Our values have not caught up with the new reality we have been transferred into through the act of God’s gracious salvation.

So when that annoying person walks in through the door, when that single mum, divorced dad, old moaner, teenage oik, walks past and we’re too busy talking to the people we want to be seen with, the people we think we relate to or aspire to have as our friends … we miss out on being with an heir of God’s kingdom, a fellow heir of Christ – we drag into God’s perfect kingdom the imperfections of this world – it’s like we’re outside in the park, we tread in dog mess, and then come into someone’s plush cream carpeted home and walk the mess in. It’s a disaster! … and yet it is also so often how we behave.

And James doesn’t like it much! He says this differentiation between the rich and well to do, and the poor and more awkward members of the church is a terrible thing: James 2:4

have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

And he points out our folly too, in the next couple of verses he says this: James 2:5-6

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich faith and heirs of God’s kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonoured the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honourable name by which you were called?”

Powerful stuff huh.

He then sticks the boot in even further by reminding us of Jesus calling us to love our neighbours as ourselves and saying that when we choose between the rich and the poor, rather than treating all equally in the light of the reality of the gospel, us ALL being heirs of God’s kingdom, then we become sinners ourselves…and by our own standards who’s going to want to be a friend of us if we’re sinners? James takes our skewed values and makes a mockery of them.  The adulterer we didn’t want to love, the murderer we’ve got no time for, … he likens us to them both in James 2:11.

James probably had few friends, or at least few of the sorts of friends we like to have as friends because he challenged the values of the church in his day. His letter to us now must be just as unsettling and challenging if we are to live up to the high calling of being princes in God’s kingdom … and seeing in our humble brothers and sisters the greatest of their inheritence and their standing before God too.

Amen.

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James – Inside Out and Upside Down

thePsalmist on January 13th, 2010

To begin 2010 at St Thomas’ Church I’ve set us the task of preaching through the whole book of James, or rather the letter of James.

James is an awesome letter – but also downright horrid. James isn’t the sort of letter you get from your nan. James is the sort of letter you get from the bank when you’ve gone well over the limit … uncomfortable and slightly panic inducing! It makes you wonder whether there’s any way forward, and makes you wonder what on earth you’ve been living life like.

But ultimately James is the most wonderfully revitalising thing to read because it infuses new life, new values, new purpose into your everyday living. James is awesome!

The tagline for James is ‘Inside Out & Upside Down‘, … and for very good reason! Everything about James is topsy turvy for starters, but that’s not really the reason behind the tagline. But in terms of topsy turvyness at least just look at the second verse … “consider it pure joy…when you face many kinds of trials!” …oh great! Oh yeah, Praise the Lord, I’m utterly screwed! Thank you Lord, I’m in prison for my faith and I’ve just had my bones broken, my teeth smashed and my finger nails pulled out. I’m so happy to be a christian! … or for us in the comfy western world’s 2010: “Praise the Lord, I’m so chuffed to be stuck in a dead end job, mortgaged up to the hilt, in piles of debt with miserable kids and a stomach ulcer!”

Life is full of trials and even fuller of temptations. When they come and smack us in the face we’re meant to be pleased about it … according to James!

It’s topsy turvy! …but with very good reason!

More than that though, it’s very deliberately a call to base our lives on a set of values which are utterly Inside-Out and Upside-Down.

Inside-Out
James is a book which challenges us not just to read the word of God and insert it into our brain via a quiet read over a cup of tea, but to get off our backsides and actually live out what it says … and the rest of God’s word. It is a letter which challenges us out of our comfortable little world of idealised faith which sits neatly in our little heads making us feel smug about ourselves and sends us out into the world to actually live out what we believe in the everyday situations we find ourselves in. It takes our inner, invisible, silent faith and pushes it out onto our sleeves, into our words, our actions, our relationships, our jobs, our spending habits, our walk along the street, our every part of the lifestyle we live … it turns us Inside-Out.

“Do not merely read the word of God and so decieve yourselves … DO what it says!!”

It’s also Upside-Down in the most remarkable way. James calls us to bring the stuff of God, the stuff that’s normally thought of as being ‘Up’ there, down here into our everyday lives and the world we live in! Literally, the call by James, is to bring the Upside stuff of God DOWN here into the everyday pratical world in which we live.

It is inside-out & upside-down!

New Year … new resolve!

thePsalmist on December 31st, 2009

My apologies to both myself and my one reader! …ok, who am I kidding? Apologies to myself then!

The last six months have just been too hectic with too many other things to prioritize over my self-indulgent desire to blog.  I moved in September from planting a church in a very tough neighbourhood to running a vibrant and large church in a very nice neighbourhood.

All good stuff, but also all very busy stuff.  So I’m afraid the blog has fallen by the wayside.  Ho hum!

Now though I find myself in charge of this superb church with a team of preachers to oversee and lead. That gives me new reason to blog my heart out because something I now find myself doing a lot more of is strategically planning teaching series and guiding the teaching which is going on in this new church I’m at.

So the blog in 2010 can become less self-indulgent and more purposeful and practical. I’m hoping that I can blog through a lot more of God’s word than I can preach and outline here the teaching series which are coming up for the sake of the preaching team trying to understand the nonsense going on in my head!

Well, that’s the theory … we’ll see how well I do shall we! …Ahem! ;)

Happy New Year everyone! God bless you all through His word and His Spirit! Amen!

Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

thePsalmist on July 5th, 2009

Preached: Sunday 5th July 2009, Good Shepherd, WB

Mark 6: 1-6

This passage in Mark’s gospel is a tricky little number to get to grips with. Everything about it is just plain wrong, and at first glance should deeply unsettle us. In fact, as we gaze long and hard at it we should be unsettled more and more.

This passage tells us as a lot about Jesus, and even more about ourselves in our relationship with Him. If you’ve been struggling in your intimacy with Christ, then Mark 6:1-6 might just hold some answers for you.

The story is set in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. Nazareth is not a big place. It’s a tiny back end of nowhere sort of village. In fact when Nathanael (Bartholomew in the other Gospels) was called to follow Jesus, his response was “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). So you want to be thinking of quiet rural village where everyone knows everyone else’s business intimately across many generations, rather than a bustling metrolpolis. In this setting EVERYONE knew who Jesus was. They’d seen him grow up. They’d eaten meals with him, maybe he’d slept over at their houses as a kid. They’d watched him grow through childhood into adolescence, known his mum and dad, and more importantly, known the questions and the gossip surrounding his birth. “oooh, that Mary – she’s looking bigger than last month and she’s not even married. That Jospeh will never have anything to do with her now!” And then the continuing gossip surrounding them when they finally return from their trek to Bethlehem and excursion into Egypt. They return with a young boy called Jesus, Yeshua and try to settle into the community once again. People whispering , gossiping, wondering what went on.

Mary and Joseph treasuring the events around Jesus’ birth in their hearts (Luke 2:19) and perhaps not letting on just what had happened.

So in his home town Jesus was known for his questionable beginnings perhaps. It seems that by his middle childhood he was accepted because when he was lost to his parents after visiting the temple they had just naturally thought he was off somewhere with the rest of their community, among his friends and theirs (Luke 3:44).

The trouble is as he grew up Jesus was known too well … or at least his humanity was known too well.

For us, one of our problems in relating to Jesus is that we have a hard time knowing just who and what to relate to. Do we relate to Him as God – creator of the universe, awesome, almighty, majestic, …terrifyingly holy? Or do we relate to Him as man, humble, carpenter, servant, friend?

As humans I think most of us relate to Jesus more readily as the human Jesus, the one called Yeshua by his mum, “Oi, Yeshua, dinner’s ready – go wash your hands!”, “Yeshua, get down from that tree, you’ll fall and hurt yourself!”. We like that Jesus because we have a connection with him we can understand. He’s like us. He’s human. He’s normal. He’s a mate. We love him and He’s amazing, but He’s limited in who He is, because ultimately we’ve made Him in our image.

And so it is with the Nazarenes. They know Him as one of them. Yeshua is just Mary and Jospeh’s son, with a load of question mark’s around his birth.

So when Jesus begins His ministry He falls foul of their limited understanding and lack of perception. They can’t see beyond their own experiences of Him. They can’t see what is beyond, the much greater, fuller truth and so Jesus remains to them nothing more than the boy with the shadowy past.

In Mark 6 we see Jesus arriving back in Nazareth after having ministered around the Galliean villages, performing amazing miracles among people who didn’t know anything of His past, and nothing of His humanity – people who were expecting a Messiah and wondered if this might be Him. Their perception of who He was and what He might do was focussed more on the Son of God than the son of Mary. Their faith was greater than their gossip, their belief overruled their experience. Miracles happened.

So Jesus comes to Nazareth and they’ve heard of what He’s been up to. They know about the miracles, they know about the teaching, they want to hear for themselves, but yet, … but yet, “It just can’t be can it? How can it be? This is just Jesus – Mary’s son … remember? The shame of His birth – the questions, the running away to Egypt. No! This can not be the Messiah.” And so they focussed too much on his humanity and could not believe in His true identity as the Son of God, the Messiah.

They were amazed at His teaching (Mark 6:2) but questioned where his teaching came from (Mark 6:3) in the same way they questioned where He came from Himself! Note the nasty way they refer to Him in Mark 6:3

Isn’t this Mary’s son?

In Jesus’ day a son would be referred to in relation to his father, not his mother. This reference to Him being “Jesus, son of Mary” throws into question again who His father was. They muck raking deliberately because they can’t believe in anything other than the humanity of Jesus.

I wonder if we’re any different. But instead of knowing Jesus intimately like they did, and knowing his background, we know our own. In casting Jesus in our own image all too often we fall foul of our own humanity and brokenness. Jesus was never sinful, but we are. Jesus was never limited in His power, but we are. Jesus never fails in His love for us, but we fail in loving even ourselves at times.

So why would Jesus bother with us?

We read the stories of miracles and healings, but of course Jesus would never do that with us … would He?

We know the truth of who is as Messiah, but we’re not really sure we can handle anything more than Jesus as friend.

We believe He’s done amazing things elsewhere for other people, but of course He wouldn’t do that for us … would He?

Our own brokeness and questionable life leads us all too often to project onto Jesus our own limited faith. Of course Jesus CAN do amazing things we say, but will He? …No, He most likely won’t.

And then we wonder why He doesn’t.

And this is the most unsettling thing about this passage. We read it knowing full well that Jesus CAN do miracles, but in Nazareth He doesn’t. Ok, he heals a few people, as though that’s just as easy as taking out the rubbish, but He doesn’t do anything more than that! Why not?

Jesus blames it on the people’s lack of faith.

When we don’t see Jesus doing anything we dare not say it’s because of lack of faith, instead we blame Jesus. or rather we make excuses – really good theological ones probably, but ultimately the fault doesn’t lie with us does it. It’s just not in God’s will (and there’s probably a lot of truth in that). But EVERY time? Surely we do still believe that Jesus CAN perform miracles, and surely we still believe He WANTS to perform miracles. So the question is why DOESN’T He more often?

Maybe at the end of the day, we are just as guilty as His Nazarene friends and neighbours of focussing too much on His humanity and not accepting Him as God, as Lord, as Saviour, … as Messiah.

Who is Jesus to you today? Is He someone you have made in your own image, or will you allow Jesus to be the great “I am!” – the one who created you, loves you, and wants to reign in power in your life.

Yeshua – Son of God, born of Mary, God made man – crucified, buried, risen, glorified!

Amen

Let us not give up meeting together!

thePsalmist on June 20th, 2009

I just love it when verses in the Bible appear to have been written for a specific occassion in OUR lives, rather than the lives of people 2000 years ago. This week saw one of those occassions.

In our deanery (that’s a collection of local CofE churches) we’re having a celebration in a week or two’s time. The idea is that we’re going to draw together all the churches in our deanery and the neighbouring one for an evening of food, music and sharing our good news stories of the stuff God is doing in our midst.

Trouble is … people are often very reluctant to bother going! It’s incredibly frustrating to be honest, and you wonder why people grumble about nothing nice to do, and then when they’re offered with something really lovely they can’t be bothered to go. Very weird!

So I went along to our neighbouring deanery’s synod meeting and shared my enthusiasm for the event and shared these verses:

Hebrews 10:24-25 ”And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

In our tough times in which we live churches are struggling. Round here in one of the toughest areas of the UK we live, work and worship amongst vast areas of deprivation. The people in our churches are hard pressed on every side. Financially, emotionally, practically … we face and endure hardship constantly. We hear a lot of talk of the UK being one of the richest nations in the world … well, round here it really doesn’t feel like it.

In terms of sizes of congregations too, our churches are small and struggling. Couple the small numbers, and the low incomes, with often incredibly high maintenance bills to pay on old historic church buildings and you see a picture emerging of real struggle and pain amongst God’s people.

So an opportunity to enthuse, inspire, encourage and simply edify the body of Christ in these parts is essential.

Paul was writing this in his letter to the Hebrews. They too were hard pressed on every side. They had their list of struggles and difficulties. And he recognised that somehow in the being together there was joy and blessing.

It is odd then that at times of great difficulty we seem never to really learn the lesson of the ages past that sharing our lives with others is GOOD! We tend to retreat into our own private and personal space. Our natural instinct appears to go against our basic needs. When times are tough we NEED each other, but we tend to not want others involved.

Let Hebrews 10:24-25 serve as a timely reminder to you that God made us to live in community and relationship with others. When God is working in one community of faith, the blessing can be shared amongst others too … but only through relationships with each other.

So knock down the barriers, kick down the walls, and reach out and enjoy the fruitfulness of being in relationship with the other churches around you. God is there too you know!

New books have arrived

thePsalmist on April 4th, 2009

Since I decided a short while ago to start writing my long promised book (ok, that sounds too grand, the promise was to myself and I’ve been eagerly anticipating it for ages!!! ;-) ) I have ordered a couple of new commentaries. I have to confess that I have a bit of a thing for books … especially hardback, technical or academic tomes with crisp pages… better still if they’re full of funny symbols.

Anyway, my book will be about Genesis 1-3 so the books I’ve ordered are two new commentaries on Genesis. I’m not short of  a commentary or two on this area but these two commentaries had been long hankered after and now I had a good excuse.

The first is the Cornertsone Biblical Commentary on Genesis & Exodus by Allen Ross and John N. Oswalt, edited by Philip W. Comfort and published by Tyndale.

The base translation is the New Living Translation, which isn’t usually one of my favourites, but the commentary series is largely written by the same team who put the NLT together in the first place. It has a core belief in the Bible being the inspired Word of God, so that gives it credibility and substance. The layout is lovely, a pleasure to read, and a pleasure to hold (there’s really something magical about holding a brand new book and opening the pages for the first time!).

Despite my love for Logos, I still can’t get away from the intoxication of a new book! Ah well.

The other book I’ve got this week is an old favourite of mine – The New International Commentary Series. I just had to add The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17 (The New International Commentary on the Old Testament) to my library. Again, like the Cornerstone series, the NICOT series are beautiful books. Excellent layout inside to help you pour through the information you need quickly, but lovely to interact with physically too.

Of course, this is all very superficial stuff. ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ and all that! And indeed that’s right. I just wanted to share my joy at receiving these tomes this week and with them the greater excitement of sitting down to read them. I’ve made a start on them both but there’s a long way to go yet. You can be sure that they’ll be making regular appearances in the footnotes of this blog.

Blogging through Mark’s Gospel

thePsalmist on March 31st, 2009

I’ve recently been preaching through Mark’s Gospel.

It’s been a big thing for me to be honest, a really exciting and once in a lifetime opportunity. Why? Well, because the church I’ve been preaching it in is the church I started – a church which has only existed for 18 months. Over those 18 months we’ve done a lot of talks and we’ve worked through some series, but we’ve not tackled a single book and preached it from beginning to end. So tackling Mark’s Gospel is the first time in the life of this new church that we’ve preached through a whole book of the Bible.

Choosing Mark was a BIG decision, and a good decision! Here’s why…

Jesus centred
Like all the gospels Mark focusses on the life and times of Jesus. While all of Scripture is inspired by God equally, for a new church spending time teaching purely about Jesus can be no bad thing … and in fact no better thing that I can think of.

Short
Of the four gospels Mark is the shortest. Mark has done a careful editing job of piecing together crucial elements of Jesus’ teaching and the events which formed Jesus’ life and ministry. He’s been economic with the stories and in that we can thank him. There’s nothing missing which is needed for a new church to know about in the first instance, and what’s there is succint and to the point – making it a great book to start on when you’re dealing with people who’ve never read anything in the Bible before!

Written for Gentiles, not Jews
The last thing to know about Mark’s Gospel is that it was written outside of Israel and Judea in the Roman world at large, where the culture and history were very different and the people knew very little about the Old Testament history. So what Mark writes has to be understandable by people who are NOT familiar with the stories of old, the Jewish customs and history, or the messianic expectation. It had to stand on it’s own to be read by a first time reader … and in my context right now, working with totally unchurched people, that makes Mark’s Gospel absolutely perfect and almost as though it was written for us!

…but then of course, it was!!!

I will be blogging about Mark’s Gospel in the Mark’s Gospel category which will appear as soon as I’ve written out my first lot of notes from the first sermons I preached. They’ll be up shortly! Enjoy!

My Tattoo

thePsalmist on March 23rd, 2009

tattoosmall

A lot of people ask me about my tattoo – and to be honest I’m really pleased because when I was planning it I was thinking “I want to get something that people will ask me about so I can tell them about God”. So it seems fair to tell people about it.

My tattoo is on my left forearm and is orientated for me to read, rather than other people. It is a permanent reminder of my lifelong calling and my identity in Christ.

Here’s the story of what it means.

The central image is the most ancient of Christian symbols, the Triquetra. It is an interwoven continuous loop with three lobes, which stands for the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In orthodox Christian theology we believe that God is One in Three Persons – One God made up of three distinct entities or people – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This ancient symbol represents them, three distinct parts yet woven together as one, indivisably. It is an ancient celtic christian symbol with very murky roots as to when exactly it appeared or where.

Sadly it has also been picked up by occult practioners and holywood. You will often see this same symbol used for totally opposite meanings. There is a popular TV show called Charmed which follows the exploits of some teenage witches. This symbol is often referred to as ‘the charmed symbol’. I want to state for the record that MY symbol is nothing to do with that. I was aware of it before I got the tattoo, but I decided that despite the confusion which might ensue, I would take a stand for the fact that this symbol belongs first to Christians, whatever the enemy might want to do with it.

So the central image of my tattoo is God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is the centre of my life. Everything I am is centred on God, and not just one part of God, my favourite bit of God perhaps, but ALL of Him. I can’t choose whether I’m more into the Spirit or the Son or the Father – it doesn’t work like that. We need to seek for balance and respect all parts of the Holy Trinity equally. So the Trinity is the centre of my life. It is also worth mentioning that the symbol I’ve chosen is an ancient celtic symbol. Being part celt (my grandad was Welsh!) and very much liking the earliest forms of church which emerged through the celts in the british isles, it seemed somewhat fitting.

The Hebrew text above the triquetra is very very personal to me and my calling to be a minister. Elsewhere I will write my testimony, or the story of my calling into full time ministry. Cutting it short here let me just say that when I prayed and asked God what He wanted me to do with my life the answer eventually came back as a simple and clear word … “Preach!”.

For me a call to preach was the very last thing I wanted to hear. So I responded to God with the great wisdom that “I am far too young to preach and I’m rubbish at it anyway”.

This went on for most of the year. Every time I prayed to God what I should do with my life I got a calling to preach and I told God He was being stupid cos I was too young and rubbish at it.

Then one day I woke up with the reference “jeremiah 1″ pounding in my head. It wasn’t the words of Jeremiah 1, just the reference itself. Now, I had no idea what it said, so I sat on my bed with this reference pounding like the urge to have a wee before your bladder bursts, and there I was confronted with my own argument coming out of the lips of this young man called Jeremiah. God calls Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations and Jeremiah says “Ah! Lord… call someone else, for I am but a child and I do not know how to speak!”. That was almost word for word the argument I’d been using with God – I’m too young and I’m rubbish at preaching.

So I knew I had to choose and I chose to follow God’s will for my life. As I read on though, God said this to Jeremiah “Do not say ‘I am only a child’, you must go to whomever I send you to and speak whatever I command!” Jeremiah 1:7

And that is what I have chosen to mark my forearm with for evermore …”You must speak whatever I command!”. That’s my commitment to God’s word and God’s Holy Spirit. I will only preach what God has said. I seek to take God’s word literally, I KNOW it is utterly true and perfect in every way.

So the top bit above the Triquetra is a passage in Hebrew taken from Jeremiah and reminds me every day of my God given duty of speaking his truth and love out there in very very difficult circumstances.

The bottom text is greek and simply says “disciple of Jesus”.

The whole symbol together reminds me each day when I wake up that my life is to be centred of God, that my calling is to preach the words which God has spoken, and that I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is an awesome challenge each day.

As I said earlier, it is deigned for me and placed on my arm for me. I’m not really trying to prove anything to anyone else, rather I’m wanting to set myself a timely reminder each day to live up to what and who I’m called to be.

Bible verses on Psalm19

thePsalmist on March 8th, 2009

The eagle eyed among you will have spotted the nifty little thing that happens with Bible verses on this blog. Whenever I quote a Bible verse I will always give a reference to that verse so you can read it for yourself. But the neat thing is that if I write something like John 3:16 you get to simply hover your mouse over the Bible reference and a little popup shows you what it says! This is a nifty little service supplied again by me favourite company, Logos, which they call RefTagger. It’s dead simple and really rather brilliant.

There’s a few things to say about those pop ups to let you enjoy them to the full.

The first and most important point is that at the bottom of the popup is a little link which says “more>”. If you click on it you will be taken to a brilliant website called bible.logos.com. If you follow the link there you will see the whole chapter of the Bible that the verse I’m quoting comes from. Much better still though is that at the top right of the screen you will see a list of abbreviations “NIV ESV NLT MKJV KJV more”.

These abbreviations might seem like gibberish but they actually all stand for different english translations of the Bible. If you click on one you will be able to read the same passage of the Bible in a slightly different english translation. That’s really handy if you want to check how the different translations help you understand differences in the passage. So I encourage you to use it and explore.

The other thing to mention is the little ‘L’ in a box which appears after every reference. This won’t actually be of use to most of you. It is a link for Logos Bible Users. If you have Logos installed on your computer then clicking the ‘L’ will open up the reference in your copy of Logos for you. For the rest of you I’m afraid it doesn’t mean a sausage! Sorry!

The default version of the Bible currently is the NIV (New International Version) as the evangelical tome of choice, for me at least. I hope that RefTagger will support the Holman Christian Standard Bible which I’m fast falling in love with. If and when it does then the default version will become the HCSB.

About Hebrew and Greek in the Bible

thePsalmist on March 8th, 2009

Shock news: The Bible wasn’t originally written in English! I know, it’s amazing news isn’t it! *rolleyes*

The Old Testament was by and large written in Hebrew, the language of the Jews and of Israel. The New Testament was primarily written in Greek, the language of, er, well Greeks!

However, in both cases the forms of Hebrew and Greek used are more akin to our Shakespearean English than the modern day versions of either language. So if you were to learn how to speak Biblical Hebrew or Biblical Greek and went on holiday to either Israel or Greece, and tried out your new found linguistic skill, you might get a few funny looks.

I’m not a great linguistic scholar. In fact I’m not even really a mediocre one. I’m just a beginner, although I have been beginning for about 12 years now! However, the original languages of the Bible for me are something wonderful and beautiful – and also for serious Bible study something quite necessary. If all we use is our English translations then mostly that’s fine, but if you want to make absolutely sure that you’re thinking clearly about God’s word then it is often necessary to check back with the ancient languages a particular verse or passage was written in. It’s not something every Christian needs to do, but for some of us it is a joyful pursuit.

On this blog I will occassionally quote a Hebrew or Greek word or phrase if there’s something important there for us to think about. I’m not going to chuck Hebrew and Greek around willy nilly to impress you with my vast brilliance, for it would take you very little time to see right through that game. No, I will use them simply because I love the ancient languages and want to remind us all of the heritage of the Bible if nothing else. We do need to remember that God’s word is without error in the original language it was first written down in, not necessarily in the english translations which have since been created.

So what do Hebrew and Greek look like? Well, here’s the first verse of Psalm 19 in it’s original form. You read Hebrew from right to left (in other words, you start at the far end of the line and read backwards along the sentence to the left hand side of the page).

Psalm 19:1:

הַשָּׁמַיִם מְסַפְּרִים כְּבוֹד־אֵל וּמַעֲשֵׂה יָדָיו מַגִּיד הָרָקִיעַ:

And for greek I’ve chosen John 3:16. Greek you read in the same way as you read English, left to right:

John 3:16: Οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλʼ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

Anyway, a quick note to give credit to those who make this possible. I use Logos Bible software for all my Bible study work. In Logos I can quickly switch to a Hebrew or Greek version of the Bible and simply copy and paste from there. It makes life very easy for me and happily WordPress (the software I use for this blog) appears to accept the foreign language texts perfectly well.
So there’s very little magic involved, and I hope that you enjoy the inclusion of these ancient and beautiful languages throughout this blog. Don’t worry if you can’t read the text itself. I’ll always explain alongside, or provide a pop up link for an english translation (as on this page) courtesy of Logos Bible Software’s Reftagger plugin.
May God bless you as you read His word!