Truth

Freedom of Speech & the Gospel

Photo by  Miguel Henriques  on  Unsplash

Photo by Miguel Henriques on Unsplash

Intro.

When Christ arrived it was at a time of post Greek influence of the known world.  How did God use this to spread the Gospel?  I have heard many Bible teachers state the benefit of the commonality of the Greek language that allowed the Gospel to be spoken to a multitude of cultures along with the roads of the Roman Empire that allowed ease of travel to those cultures.  But consider how the Greek culture belief in free speech  made way for the Gospel to be shared, listen to, engaged with and be accepted. 

Paul in Athens 

Acts 17:22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 “for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 “Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 “so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 “for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 “Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 “because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” 32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” 33 So Paul departed from among them. 34 However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

This open venue of sharing thought and giving your personal belief of truth was not a common freedom in all societies of the world.  It was a characteristic of the Greek world.

The ancient Greek word “parrhesia” means “free speech,” or “to speak candidly.” The term first appeared in Greek literature around the end of the fifth century B.C. During the classical period, parrhesia became a fundamental part of the democracy of Athens. Leaders, philosophers, playwrights and everyday Athenians were free to openly discuss politics and religion and to criticize the government in some settings.

With the expansion of the Greek culture and language by Alexander the Great so came parrhesia to the people and was carried over to the Roman Empire.  So when the Gospel was introduced by the apostle Paul at the Greek Areopagus he was welcome to share openly his message and the people were willing to hear and reason if it was true, even make their comments.  Even when his message was opposed violently in others parts of the Roman Empire, Paul was threatened not by government but by groups who’s religious beliefs were offended and threatened.  

Since the influence of the western world with its English language the world was again opened to the Gospel.  It was delivered also with the philosophy of parrhesia.  Missionaries went forth to share their beliefs opening, publicly and to bring the truth of Christ to the hearts of mankind.  It was well as offended those who hold to a particular religious belief.  

The Gospel encourages a freedom of speech to share and reason together with any that disagreement.  The Gospel never seeks to quench the unbelieving thoughts and philosophies but to respond in answer.  Jesus didn’t ban his accusers from his meetings and gatherings.  All were welcome to come and engage.  So lets exercise our parrhesia to share our faith while allowing others the same privilege.  

Blessings

pBob

Iron Sharpens Iron - Sparks that are Good

Photo credited to Charlie Kellog https://www.flickr.com/photos/papa_charliegeorge/

Photo credited to Charlie Kellog https://www.flickr.com/photos/papa_charliegeorge/

Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.

When hearing this proverb what may be envisioned are two swords clashing with sparks flying.  But the author likely was imagining the local farmer sharpening his tools.  It didn't cause sparks as that would heat the metal to much but there would be friction as the sharpening wheel turns and the tool is methodically and purposefully held against the sharpening wheel.

Why the need to be sharpened?  The tool has become dull, the edge is uneven or worse damaged.  This hinders the tool's ability to do its job well.  So the sharpening is favorable and for the benefit of the tool.  It is a slow caring process meant to improve the tool to be its best.  The final result is a tool ready for service and to fulfill its purpose.

So how does this pertain to you and I as believers, as members of the Body of Christ, as disciples of Christ?  When we engage with one another, get close to one another, joining arms in service with one another, it is inevitable that we will have opportunity and circumstances that will cause friction between one another.  Sound uncomfortable?  of course.  Is this a bad thing?  Not at all.  It is an needed thing?  Yes it is.  But is it for the better?  You bet ya.  For end result is a stronger character, a spiritual maturing, an improved servant and a more perfected tool for the Lord.

The sad thing I find is that many are afraid of experiencing sharpening. It's actually seen as a negative, something to avoid, even an offense. The love of the friend is somehow forgotten and an adverse response follows.  The result?  No strengthening of character, no growth in maturity and the servant goes no further in his service for the Lord.  There may occur a ending of the friendship.  Maybe even a resentment and turning from the faith.  I believe you can not strengthen, mature or better what isn't there in the first place. Just like the tool being flawed beyond repair or sharpening because the metal wasn't well made in the first place. So it is that the person who's life does not rest on the Lord, or his truth, or his spirit, will not respond well to the sharpening.

I have come to appreciate those who have been instruments of the Lord to sharpen me.  Those dear friends that have shown me grace like an ocean breeze but  have also played the sharpening wheel in my life to produce a better me.  Because I know their love an commitment to the Lord and to me I assured they intend good and not evil and know they are God's instrument.  May we receive the sharpening wheel of the Lord as easily and openly  as we receive his generous blessings and kind touch.  May we see its benefits and respond with anticipation of being better than we were and ready for service.

Blessings

pBob

 

Emerson Fittapaldi Man of Faith & a Champion

You may or may not know that I am an auto racing enthusiast.  Primarily open wheel like Formula 1 or Indy Car.  Emerson Fittapaldi is a 2 times Formula 1 champion and a 2 time Indy 500 winner.  Incredible driver to watch.  But what I love and admire about the man is not his being a winner on the race track or his having what it takes to drive all out  but more his sincere faith in Jesus Christ.  Here is a wonderful video and encouraging words to believe and follow Jesus.

Be encourage.

pBob

Christmas vs. Commercialism?

It is often expressed among Christians and pastors that the commercializing of Christmas is incompatible with Christmas.  As one pastor blogged: "Each year Americans spend billions of dollars on material items at Christmas. That is a pretty weird way to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who gave up all of his riches to save the world."

Terms

Now I am all about putting things in balance and setting my views on truth.  So let me first define some terms.  Commercialism is the emphasis on the maximizing of profit through sales and services.  This is the case whether you are the business owner or the employee.  Who isn't seeking to make a profitable return on their labor. This is just practical economics.  Materialism, however,  is more of a belief system with a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values.  In otherwords, it is a living to have possessions and a belief that having posessions brings comfort and peace.  Now this can lead to greed and even harm on others to fill that greed.

As you see these are two are differnt terms though I can see how a person might think they are one of the same.  But realize that we can not have a prospering society without commercialism.  No family, town, or country can advance economically and even in the areas of health and safety without the benefits of commercialism.  Comercialism was as much a part of the economy in Biblical times as it is today in our world. So there is no real conflict with scripture or our faith.  It is when it commercialism becomes materiaism and posssesions become more important than a faith in God and a compassion for others.  Bascially the Great Commandment of Matthew 22:35-40.

1Corinthians 8:9

So lets consider the blog quote shared in the first paragraph.  Is spending hard earned dollars during Christmas time contrary to the birth of Christ?  To answer this we must ask, "What riches did Jesus give up?"  The verse, I believe, that was eluded to in the blog quote was Paul writing in 2Corinthians 8:9.

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich."

The context of the verse is that Paul is encouraging the church of Corinth to give to the needs of Believers experiencing famine in Judea.  So first, the context is not about poor in general but about the Body of Christ ministering to its members who are hurting due to a shortage of food caused by a shortage of water.  Now I do not mean to say that we are not to consider or reach out to the poor for the teaching of Jesus clearly expresses our place to do so in Matthew 21:31-46.  But I am saying that the blogger did not do a proper exegesis of the verse and so used it out of context.

The what riches did Jesus give up?  Is Paul speaking about him become materialistically poor?  Unlikely since the pre-incarnate Christ had no earhly posesssions or risches before his coming.  Consider this as well.  If poor meant materially poor then our becoming rich would then means for us to become materially rich (So enter the prosperity message).  So Paul couldn't be speaking of poor in an earthly materialistic way.   How was Jesus rich before he came?  He was rich in that he was eternal, unattached to the frailty and weakness of man but was equal to God in glory and worthy of all honor and worship.  As Paul also teaches in Philippians 2:5-8, rather than coming as one deserving of being served he came as a humble servant.

"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."

So Jesus becoming poor was to be a humble servant, to do the will of the Father and be obedient even to the cross for the benefit of sinful man.  Paul then uses the Lord's example of servanthood to encourage the saints in Corinth to humbly serve their brothers in need.  But in his encouragement to the Corinthians he balanced his words with practical advice.  Return to 2Corinthians 8:12-14 with me.

"For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have. For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack--that there may be equality."

So Paul was not encouraging our becoming poor for the sake of others but to give from what he calls "your abundance."  However, he isn't promoting materialism either but to have a mind of charity and be ready to share what you have with those less fortunate and for those who have been helped to also help others when they are able.  He is not promoting equality in what you own but in equality of service to others.  

Commercialism needed

One other thing to consider.  What would happen if everyone said, "Forget this commercialism at Christmas, its sacrilegious and an insult to why Jesus came!" What would happen to our economy?  How many people would loose their jobs and become poor? How might it affect your job and then affect your abundance?  So is it really wrong or even immoral to use your abundance to purchase gifts on Christmas?  Or to show your love to family members or appreciation to co-workers with those gifts?  Is it un-Christ-like to purchase a feast for your family and friends to gather as one around the dinner table?  Not likely.  Also, consider that your bearing gifts is a wonderful way of showing the love of Jesus and on a day that we celebrate his birth, all the more.

But that materialism, now that is a wrong road to travel for the Christian and one we left when we came to believe in and trust in Jesus Christ.  

I pray that Christ blessed you and prosper you and lead you in your charity given from your abundance on His behalf, each and every day of the eyar and not just Christmas.

Blessings

pBob

Why Xmas is not a Bad thing.

There is a common view that Xmas is an attempt by secular critiques of the Christian faith to remove Christ from the Christmas holiday.  I have personally heard many Christians express this view over the years and then be surprised at the truth of the Christmas abreviation. 

Xmas is an accepted abreviation of Christmas with 'X' coming from the Greek latter "chi," that happens to be the first letter of the Greek word "Χριστός"  that is translated "Christ.  "Mas" comes from the Old English word Mass.  So Christ-mas.  

 There are simlar uses as in XP or Chi-Rho that was another sympol for Christ and one of the most early symbols used by Christians.

XP or Chi-Rho

So don't be offended by the use of Xmas but instead use it as a topic to witness you faith in Christ this Christmas.  

pBob