All posts by Douglas Thomas

King James’ Men

In 1604, King James of England called on some of his employees to take all of the Scriptures from books and scrolls and translate them into English, and gather them into one volume. This was the third English translation, and was really prompted by complaints from Puritans about the inaccuracies of the earlier works.

Most editions of the “King James Version” of the Bible available today are really what was offered in 1769 as the “Authorized Version,” which had undergone several revisions. The edits included changing of the spelling of words in which i’s and j’s were interchanged and u’s and v’s were interchanged, and f’s and s’s were printed uniformly instead of having different forms in different words, which was common in 1611. Also, the Apocrypha was removed, even though it was part of what was presented to King James in 1611.

A letter from the translators to King James is commonly included, and their letter to all readers of the King James Version is commonly withheld from the readers. Here are a couple of quotes from the letter from the King’s translators to all who would read their work.

“Therefore blessed be they, and most honored be their name, that break the ice, and giveth onset upon that which helpeth forward to the saving of souls. Now what can be more available thereto, than to deliver God’s book unto God’s people in a tongue which they understand? Since of an hidden treasure, and of a fountain that is sealed, there is no profit, as Ptolome Philadelph wrote to the Rabbis or masters of the Jews, as witnesseth Epiphanius: and as S. Augustine saith; A man had rather be with his dog than with a stranger (whose tongue is strange unto him).” Here, the translators blessed anyone who would translate the Bible into languages understood by its readers. They quoted Augustine as having said that a man would rather be with his dog, who could not talk, than with a man who spoke another language.

“Now to the latter we answer; that we do not deny, nay we affirm and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession (for we have seen none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet), containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God.” Throughout the letter, the translators were answering specific insults and accusations made against them by various critics: the Church of Rome, Puritans, and specific individuals. Here, they shared their opinion that even the most poorly done translation of the word of God is, truly, the word of God.

King of the Magi

In the beginning of the second chapter of Matthew’s good news, he mentioned some “wise men” who appeared in Jerusalem and caused quite a stir by asking King Herod where his replacement was. “Herod” is a compound word that is a title, not a name. It describes its bearer as a “hero”.

This Herod was Herod the Great. He was a descendant of Esau – an Edomite, and had absolutely no genuine authority to rule over anything in Israel. He was a mercenary employee of the Roman government, chosen for his job because he was more likely to be loyal to Rome than Palestine in the event of a local controversy. When the wise men inquired about someone who had been “born” as King of the Jews, Herod sensed a great threat to his power. His response to the perceived threat was to try to destroy it by killing any child who could possibly be the bearer of such challenging power.

The wise men did some sort of work that may have been astronomy, astrology, scientific study, alchemy, medicine, magic, or witchcraft, and may have included a mixture of any or all of these possibilities. The word which is translated “magi” or “wise men” here is instead translated “sorcerer” when it was used by Luke in Acts 13:6-8 to refer to Elymas. The various descriptive terms used to describe him were sorcerer, false prophet, Jew, Bar-Jesus (“son of Yah’s salvation”), Elymas, child of the devil, and enemy of all righteousness. When describing him as a “sorcerer” (some translations “magician”), this
is the only other use of the word in the New Testament.

The magi were interesting characters. They received some revelation: that not only would a star be a sign that a King would be born in Israel Who would be worthy of worship, but that a star they had been observing was the particular star, and that the King was therefore birthed and available to be worshiped. They had extra-Biblical revelation that led them to find Jesus, and further revelation that led them to leave the country without returning to report the location of Jesus to Herod.

The revelation instructed them to search for a King, not a Savior. He is, of course, both King and Savior, but their instructions, which must have been from God or an angel sent from Him, were descriptive of a King. It is possible that some of Daniel’s writings as a leader in Babylon influenced them.

If you want to know how to introduce someone in a way that pleases them, listen to the way they introduce themselves. If they say, “Hello, my name is Joe,” then probably they would be bothered by you introducing them as “Joseph”, for example. Father introduced Jesus to the neighbors as “King Jesus” according to the narrative about the wise men from the east. That is likely, in my opinion, to have more importance than we have been giving it.

Don’t Forget to Worship

Next time you are busy being miserable because your money ran out, or your infection won’t heal, or your lying accusers are readily believed by the people you thought were your friends, or you got fired for not lying or stealing, or you are tired of warring and fighting,

Do not forget to worship your King.

It might sound like this –

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are idols,
But the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him;
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
I will ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
I will ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name
And worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.      (Psalm 96:4-8)

Raised From the Dead

Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations —  “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using — according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
(Colossians 2:20-3:11 NKJV)

Having a nice set of rules won’t make me righteous. It won’t improve my character. It might have some improvements on my behavior, but not my identity.

Like Ebenezer Scrooge after meeting the ghosts, or George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life” after his guardian angel shows him what others’ lives would have been like without his influence, we should be dancing through the streets, joyously celebrating having been freed from death and determined to embrace life as fully as possible with the second chance we have received.

Rules can’t fix what was wrong with us. Only death can help. Having received the grace to die and then be brought back to life in Jesus, we should be able to see the grand values of eternal things and live in and for them. We are still distracted by temporary, costly, wasteful things though.

You believe that you are dead to your former self and alive to Christ. Act like it. His strength is able to make that an invitation, not just a command!

 

Learning to Look

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls,  who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”    (Matthew 13:45-46, NKJV)

Some things you only find when you are looking for them. In the beginning of having a Life with Jesus, it is sometimes impossible to miss anything, because He is so frequently on our minds, and He so very much wants us to learn to walk in the Spirit. Later, He seems to want us to take responsibility for whether there is food in the cupboard or not.

Every event is an opportunity to become more like Him when we look carefully and faithfully at it. When we stop worrying about whether we are being dealt a hand we don’t deserve, or worrying about what we did wrong, or why someone hates us, and examine the clues He sometimes leaves in very easy to find places, we will see His hand and His intentions and respond with the character, the power, and the eternal wisdom of His Spirit as we listen to the whisper of His voice.

When we begin a response to an event with the question, “What are You doing here, Lord, and what should I do to co-labor with You, and agree with You?”, we will get wondersful answers. We will manifest Him. The more we co-operate with Him and manifest Him, the more we become one with Him, and the more people will experience a visit with Him because we were present.

One of the most powerful keys to this realm is making a decision to expect Him to do awesome things in our lives, and then living out that decision. That decision requires a matching decision to stop expecting our enemies to prevail over us.

Messiah’s Peace

What very good advice Paul wrote to the congregations in Colossae about being co-members of Jesus:

Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so also you must forgive. Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
(Colossians 3:12-17 from Holman Christian Standard Bible® Copyright © by Holman Bible Publishers.)

It bears reading slowly, like it is very valuable, and like you’ve never seen it before, so you don’t miss anything…

They’ll Know We’re Jesus People

We have spiritual gifts. Our ministries flow out of the gifts, influenced by our resources: who has parented us, what skills we have, who our neighbors are, and what other gifts are functioning around us.

If I am an evangelist, I will need to be around unbelievers to have effective ministry. If I am a pastor, I will need to be around believers to have effective ministry. If I am an evangelist and don’t know a pastor I trust, I may try to give pastoral ministry to the people who become believers around me. I won’t do it well.

You should look for gifts that differ from yours to be at work around you. It will make your ministry have greater impact when the total ministry people are receiving is through several manifestations of the person of Jesus. That may mean you have to be related to people from different congregations. It may mean that your most effective ministry is not related to any congregation at all, because the people you work with are each from different denominations.

A team of people working together with others who have different gifts will be most effective when they are gathering and building relationships at least as much as they are gathering to do ministry. The fellowship creates levels of trust and respect and love that build the Body up and make it strong and easy to lead by the Spirit of God.

Even unbelievers will be able to discern that we belong to Jesus by seeing genuine love in our relationships, not just by seeing power.

Befriending Jesus

A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for a difficult time. *

In a little village named Bethany, Jesus had 3 friends: Lazarus, Mary, & Martha. They welcomed Him. They even welcomed the people to whom He was a Friend – His disciples and followers. They served Him and His friends meals.

The trouble He brought with Him of having people He had befriended was probably a test to anyone who wanted to be a friend to Him. If someone was going to be a friend to Him, their friendship had to be strong enough to bear His love for the others.

Twined together, responsibility and authority and service become leadership. They become parenthood. When Jesus discerned that His disciples were arguing about whom among them was the greatest (Luke 9:46), He did not rebuke them for wanting to be great – He instructed them regarding the path to greatness: be the servant of all.

We should have a great desire to be a friend to Jesus. It is costly, though. It means that the resources we want to spend on Him are spent on those He has become a Friend to. If I welcome Jesus, I will welcome the least and the greatest, and, having given to them, I will have given to Him (Matthew 25:31).

It is a valuable accomplishment when I step over the line of no longer being jealous that what I want to give to Him is being consumed by people who don’t deserve it. It is a wondrous freedom when I step past looking at the people He gives me the privilege of blessing, who, when I give to them, they see His hand offering the blessing to them.

When you are a good friend to Him, you empower His friendship to be real-ized in the earth. You will feed and comfort and shelter Him as a valuable friend when you do those things for the least of the people whom He has beFriended…

*  (Proverbs 17:17 – from Holman Christian Standard Bible® Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005 by Holman Bible Publishers.)

Being Pregnant

When two people get married, the woman usually becomes pregnant soon. Normally, if she does not become pregnant, it is because they have done something to prevent it.

The design of humanity includes an intentional benefit of intimacy being reproduction. The design of the Church – the Bride of Christ – includes a similar benefit of intimacy. When our relationship with Jesus, our Husband, is proper, we will become reproductive as a congregation.

When we are more interested in our hobbies and possessions and activities and buildings and history and so on and so forth, anything but becoming intimate with our Lord, we will manage to avoid pregnancy with His purpose for an indefinite period of time.

His mercy may be able to get our attention focused back on our first Love, but not necessarily. Another possibility is that He would take the vineyard from us and rent it to a people who would tend it to fruitfulness. Our desire is that we would be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth with love of the Savior and with obedience to the King.

First Things First

If you want to build something, laying the foundation is always the first practical step. You can’t install a window or door without a wall to put it in, either.

If you need to build a team for a project, it will be a stronger team if you build the peoples’ relationships before you put them to work by assembling their skills.

In a congregation, if the people don’t feel their connections as a family, they are not likely to handle well their connections as an organization. Build a family, then give them opportunities to bless and be useful.

Believers need to be equipped as the Body of Christ before being empowered to build the Kingdom of Heaven. They need to be confident in their relationships with the Father in order to maintain their confidence in their relationships with the King. Especially if they make a mistake.

Most of our congregations are orphanages. One professional parent trying to juggle real relationships with the most troubled kids and hope the quiet ones are doing well. Most of our work is secular – something we picked out, not a calling in the Kingdom. The work contrast should not be religious / secular, but spiritual / carnal. No matter what work the King wants to set you in place for, it will take His Spirit to give you the power to do it well.

A generation is at hand who will refuse to settle for those limits of orphanages and powerless work. The Spirit is stirring Believers who will be moved to find relationships that are real, and work that brings Life.

If you are not in both of those places already, pray that you would be given the keys to those doors. You are called to an important seat at God’s table, and important work in His Kingdom.