Literate and lost

The obscurity of a book's contents shows the daunting task of reading someone else's book
Life’s Book vs Court Verdict
Greetings that make you think

Can’t read your own book? Pity.  Lawyers screw up at law, pimps destroy prostitutes, politicians exploit populations. What can we expect to happen when we find ourselves in possession of a book and try to pass it off as our own? I do not recall ever being impressed with the fact that there might be a person who is better as disclosing the contents of my life. As you might imagine the, image that crowns this article came to me as a greeting. I think one asks a bit much to expect to find someone who can both read and understand someone else’s book. We might then conclude that our life’s “book” may be a collection of borrowed profiles and ambitions. I beg to be excused – banned even – from being identified with those searching for someone to read my life’s “book”.

Selling the current book or writing our own might be the best path.

  • Understanding ourselves takes a lifetime because we keep changing
  • Understanding what we own – book or life – might require a chat with the giver of life

Why have we not thought that reading the instructions that come with life will always be elusive? Reading without understanding is just fine when the book has no bearing on life beyond agriculture, biology, finance, and politics..

Nativity Lectures 2021 (3rd and final)

Trouble from day one

The arrival of Mary’s baby is not reported in Matthew’s gospel in the usual fashion.  The closest we get to the actual birth is Luke’s chapter six. Trouble and tensions are right out in the open, from the unexpected pregnancy to what follows the birth, and they show up in the reception of the king throughout his short life. The words of the late John Lewis, US Congressman, about the necessity of good trouble are apt. That message transcends age, gender and ethnicity, and it unites humanity in the struggle for something that makes the essential steps towards making the kingdom of God felt in this age. It is an understatement to say that Yeshua had a troubled life.

While they were there [in Bethlehem], the days were completed for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Luke 2:6-7

Matthew gives us his view of the critical events leading up to the baby’s delivery (18-25), then he passes to the visit of the magi.  The gospels were not written for storytelling sake.  Each evangelist presents a package as his personal assignment by the Holy Spirit and the evangelist’s experience dictate.  Matthew’s interest is not childbirth per se, but God’s arrival among men as their Saviour, king, and God.

The projection of the king

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,”

Matthew 2:1, NASB

The arrival is both delightfully surprising and exceedingly troubling. Remember the unexpected pregnancy, the couple’s anxiety, and the massive prospect of the people’s sins meeting their match in the life and death of a single person, and free of charge to the sinner.

The people’s salvation is from sin, not from Roman imperial power. It is not salvation from the passages of human life, and it is not a cyclical remembrance of them. This baby is destined to be a king who saves his people from the futility that has clung to humanity. We must think then of “his people” as all humans, in line with Abraham’s function as the father of innumerable descendants, and with Isaiah’s “Look to me, all you ends of the earth” (45:22), and Moses’ “Praise him all you Gentiles with his people (Deuteronomy 32:43). Matthew is projecting the king who troubles earthly kings (Matthew 2:1-3) and will subject them to his rule in due time. In the meantime, he has no answer to the questions of kings and heads of state. His kingdom is not of this order.

I-max picture

No brush with disappointment, no fear of disgrace, no inappropriate pride can dull the joy of knowing what Mary and Joseph came to know.  Despite raging storm of power-hungry men, careless and crooked leaders with their conspiratorial counsel against the Lord’s anointed, we know that God is with us. Despite our countless troubles, our own stumbles and falls, we know that sins are now remittable with a heavenly and permanent remedy. To stay close to Matthew’s agenda, we can put a cap on the birth story with our humility to accept that help of salvation from sins, unless,of course, we have no idea what a sin is.

Nativity Lectures 2021 [1]

The just and the innocent meet

This year’s lectures come from Matthew’s gospel and will focus attention on the behaviours of a just man and an innocent girl, two avenues of divine intervention, and the projection of the Saviour-king. I have decided to avoid the customary storytelling priority of combining the different narratives into one.

Virgin found pregnant

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.”

Matthew 1:18, NASB

The birth story here begins with an engagement gone crazy.  There is no midwife or prenatal care,  only the slightest hint of a dating life shows up here.  If you are looking for medical inspiration or a seasonal devotional boost, Matthew’s gospel is not the place.  You will especially not find a blow by blow of Mary’s or Joseph’s life and their relationships with their families, The nativity story in Matthew’s gospel begins with  a depressing disappointment and a severe challenge to a man in love.

No legal advice in sight

In a crisis of this sort a person living under the Sinai Covenant looks for an honourable answer to the question “What shall I do?” The other more particular question that presented itself was “How shall I end this”?  A man and a woman engaged to be married in Judea do not walk away in the dark of night.  An engagement has the same dignity and legal status as a marriage.  This is why Joseph thought of Mary and the public fallout that would certainly follow an official “putting away”.  Matthew uses the term apoluo, used also of divorce in Matthew 5:31, 19:3, 7, 8, 9)  He wanted to do just that: end the engagement secretly. The Sinai Covenant has no inroads here, but the prophets do.

Familiar Birth stories

The narrative of the birth of Jesus might be expected to have the issues of conception, a wedding, the preparations for his birth, insights into the wisdom of the ways of dealing with pregnancy over some portion of the nine months of gestation  It ought to have some something about the onset of fatherhood, something about labour, the delivery, the baby’s weight and stature.  Not this one.

Go on, marry your intended

Provocations, thoughtfulness,  and resolve emerge, and the answer comes in a dream, not from a scribal interpretation of the Law. The relief for both the just man and  the innocent virgin is beyond imagination.

Provocations, thoughtfulness, and justice without divorce emerge

GOD is with the just and the innocent.  The just, like the innocent and innocent, rely on their personal connection with Israel’s God.  Here are the signs that the people of New Testament times  may have had no benefit of a prophet, priest, or king advising them.  These two, Mary and Joseph,  are not face to face with God like Moses  and Joshua, but they face their life’s challenges with all the power of heaven

But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream

Matthew 1:20

 The dream comes after Joseph decides what to do, and after having thought about how to do it.  The term rendered considered signifies putting energy in (enthumeo).

A just man responding to a provocation of this kind by conceiving a wish is remarkable indeed.  The natural course is to seek to deal with the perpetrators: discover how the “damage” to one family plan occurred, assign blame, and punish the offenders.  Joseph, Matthew tells us, sets up his priorities around his love for Mary.  Perhaps in some worlds a righteous man rushes to judgment, carried by his rage and hurt.  Perhaps in other worlds, a righteous man only needs a couple of witness to mount a convincing case.  In other world a righteous man might go with what his eyes have seen; a virgin girl pregnant  A righteous might be satisfied with only a woman’s confession that she has missed a period.  A righteous man has the option of not throwing the book at alleged wrongdoing.  The just person in Jesus’ birth story is a man who decides secretly divorce his fiancee.  We dare to imagine that God cannot do the same!

The instruction package begins with ” do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife”, then it explains why the pregnancy has happened the way it has, without a male contributing to the conception.  Then the angel hands Joseph the most amazing announcement in family life, of the kind that an informed Israelite would be aware of and excited to be a part of.  Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Samson’s mother, Hannah, and Mary’s own cousin Elizabeth were barren until God changed their direction in life. Mary’s conception was a result of the Holy Spirit action, not infidelity.  It is quite certain that the husbands of these barren women were not exercised as Joseph was. 

More reason to marry than most could find

A descendant of David does not spend many days without being reminded of his relationship to the house that built the temple, and to whom an eternal throne was promised.  The grandeur of the Jewish tradition most certainly includes the remission of sins.  The temple and the tabernacle were designed to house God’s name and offer people access to the systems for the remission of sin and the restitution of any imbalance caused by human behaviour.  The news that Mary’s baby was the result of God’s Spirit and the revelation that the child was destined to save his people from their sins more than satisfied Joseph.  She will give birth and you will name the child.

“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:20-21, NASB

Instructed by a dream

From Matthew’s account we gather the assurance that where law and sacrifice – the grounds and processes of the levitical system – might have resulted in anguish, disappointment, and even death, God is with the innocent woman and he is with the just.  God plants his intervention direction into Joseph’s dreams, distinctly apart from the political and religious status quo.

(20) But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. (21) “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:20-21, NASB

This change of direction is a preview of Christ’s mission. Matthew is making the gospel his axis without polemic.  His narrative shows that grace was at work in glorious and mysterious ways.  God is with the couple, and yet the narrative is not without written authority.

Nativity Lectures 2021 (2)

Divine Intervention

Holy places, holy days and ordinary day-to-day items populate the Bible story. In fact, the people of Judea at the time of Jesus’ birth would probably like to be remembered as occupied with their custody of holy things. Although time was a sacred and familiar thing that is familiar to all the people, neither the hour, day, month or year appear in Matthew’s narrative. The alignment of Israel’s annual feasts with the great acts of God and the events of Jesus’ life and mission (Passover, Pentecost, Unleavened Bread, Tabernacles, and Harvest) seems incomplete when his coming into the world to be the saviour of the world has no counterpart to his departure on Passover or (Matthew 26:2, 17, 18, 19). A birthday was not on Matthew’s agenda. The writer brings us instead to the child’s holy pedigree, and the certainty of what the couple was experiencing. Who would have thought that the incredible story being told by Matthew about Mary and Joseph could have, perhaps at least, a prophetic framework?

The unprecedented holy child

“The conception is holy” must certainly mean that the operations were beyond the normal, beyond what we can expect. If the Child who has been conceived in Mary is of the Holy Spirit, then the mother and her husband are in grand company. It is no secret that childbirth is well-documented as straying away from the normal. The pregnancies of well-known women after what seemed like infertility are witness: among them are Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Samson’s mother, Hannah, and Elizabeth. Miracle babies are famous, but “holy child” suggests an entirely new horizon. Of course, all the miracle babies are special and unique, but this is the first time that the mother-to-be has never had sexual relations, and the expectant parents receive instruction about the child’s name. The fingerprint of grace and justice – targeted – at Mary – is unprecedented with the prospect of people’s sins being remitted apart from the animal sacrifice procedures, because a Davidide was not going to be serving as a priest in the system Mary and Joseph knew.


Joseph and Mary knew the baby was going to be male. They knew that the baby was going to have a name that tells what his function in the world would be.  Joseph could not feel the usual pride of having an heir as do Israelite men with an interest in the continuation of their name. Every male wants a male heir, even though inheritance of property and prestige was not restricted to males (See Numbers 36 for the innovation of women’s inheritance rights). Abraham obviously felt that pride when Isaac was born: he had an heir. This was not Joseph’s experience. His genes had nothing to do with this yet unborn baby called salvation, but it makes sense that “taking the pregnant betrothed Mary to be his wife” demonstrated Joseph’s opportunity to take up and put on one of the most complex instances of the paternal mantle. Furthermore, Scripture calls the couple “his parents” (Luke 2). Joseph’s parental role appears in that anxious moment when Yeshua, at age twelve, talks to Mary and Joseph about the temple as his father’s house” (Luke 2:49). Yeshua is to be pictured “in submission to” his parents.

“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:21

The facts as they occur, along with the dream instructions, give the couple confidence, but there is more on that score. At some point, Mary and Joseph are fully aware that a new era was dawning from her contact with John the Baptist’s mother Elizabeth. More reason to be thrilled at their distinction as caretakers of God’s anointed Saviour of his people from their sins comes from the prophetic legacy. Here was more evidence on which to proceed with caring for the child.

Still we have no birth story. Matthew reports the marriage of Yeshua’s mother as Joseph complies with the angel’s instructions in the dream, telling us  “Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife,” (Matthew 1:18-24, NASB)

The certainty of the events

Yeshua’s birth comes in a prophetic envelope. There are the already-mentioned women who had children after it was established that they were infertile, but all these developments are part of the fulfilment of predictions. Matthew presents two from Isaiah, (A) virgins have babies and B) a baby named “GOD-WITH-US”. Predictions have a way of outlasting the people who first hear it, and prophetic intervention is not always welcome. Take the experience of Moses, Jeremiah, Micah, Ezekiel, and John the Baptist, who all knew what it means not to receive the respect of their countrymen (Matthew 13:53, Mark 6:4, John 4:44).

22) Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: (  23) “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” 

Matthew 1:22-23

John the Baptist’s parents ran into questions about naming their child off the beaten trail. Naming a child “Salvation” and accepting his presence as God’s presence breaks new ground, the very ground that will lead to Golgotha, death, and resurrection. “A created being” cannot be God, was the rebuttal of the leaders of Judaism at the time. A man cannot be even “son of God”, and God cannot be the father of one human being, and a man cannot be the salvation of people. Israel’s ancient redemption is said to be paid for by the giving up of Egypt, Saba and Ethiopia. But the disciples of Yeshua would come to know that redemption is connected with the giving of a life (Colossians 1:14, Galatians 3:13).

One peek at Parliament Hill

There is no question that grade one business happens in Canada’s parliament, but the seated members need to stop the childish loser mentality and the pollyanna slogans about children and the future to bring it to a maturer footing. The speaker has the noble task of bridging the gap between the government and the “members opposite” and I can hardly wait to hear him but a boot on the neck of opposition heckling and posturing with lengthy preambles to ten-second questions.

The 44th Parliament is just concluding its first session and the charges are flying: misleading the house, there is no realistic tackling of Canada’s crises by the government. It is hard not to notice that the media covering Parliament Hill is swarming all over Quebec’s religious garb law hoping to feed on the opinions of politicians, without asking directly “Are provincial laws and their application above question and comment?” Boy, oh boy! It is going to be hard to take our eyes off the parade of the cowardly, the reckless, and the wise in January 2022.

Holy Voice

Divine utterance, hailstones, coals of fire, arrows, lightning flashes, and water channels seem like strange companions, but not so strange when we realize that humans have learned about divine reality and majesty from observing nature (the created world) (Romans 1:20)  We should therefore not be too hesitant to  admit that God reveals himself outside of human writings.  God’s voice is reasonably associated with words and messages, hence the Bible has become the finest place to experience divine communications.  The Bible may be the most popular (most printed) book, but it also ranks highly among the misunderstood books of all time.  If man had to look at nature to hear God speak there would be far less misunderstanding.   There would be no thriving sacred book business where the books contradict each other.  There would be little room for variations of interpretation.  But with our own eyes we can see and differentiate, along with the Scriptures, rain, sunshine, night and day.  The confusion over (1) God’s mission Psalm 18:16 (2) purposeful deliverance of people in trouble and Psalm 18:17 and (3) taking pleasure in humans is synthetic Psalm 18:19.  People were not confused about what thunder, lightning, and rain were or what they did.

Spin this with a little culture

A rain shower is a phenomenon we cannot spin.  A tree in the autumn whose leaves stay green is still a tree, and a tree whose leaves dry up, do not change colour and do not fall to the ground is not an evergreen.
Yahweh’s thundering in the sky is associated with El Elyon’s use of his voice.Noone seems to have received the gospel apart from human messengers, a point driven home by Paul (Romans 10:14).  The Incarnation seems to end the reliance on nature for saving information and set in motion what we can only call a beautiful human involvement in God’s most magnificent venture.  Those saved people who refuse to learn to read the text are like the meteorologists who know nothing about the direction of the wind, the temperatures aloft, and the moisture that a cloud may hold.

Say it again, Psalmist

For a second time, in Psalm 29, the songwriter associates thunder with God’s voice, and sets forth an explanation of natural phenomena as displaying God’s power and lordship and as accomplishing his purposes. He repeats “Yahweh’s voice” in verses 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9.  Even though he does not once say “I love you” should not such an array of God’s utterances have led the translators to see the facts of history and not turn the summary or conclusion into an uncertain future. Why choose “will give” from yitten? Why choose “will bless” from yĕbarek?  Is it not true that Yahweh kept giving strength to his people and kept blessing his people with peace? A holy speaker would know the difference and how important is was to give Yahweh credit for what he has been doing for Abraham’s descendants.

Christian money racket?

Jesus as Lord and Saviour in the mosques is either a demon-inspired lie or a cowardly capitalist venture.

Money is a necessary propellant to spiritual maturity.  Where did we first hear that?  I do not know, but a lot of church business in the 21st century is motivated by people who want to inspire another generation of semi-literate Creflos, saying nothing but hoping to cash in on the brisk business of selling Christian doctrine.  Shame on them?

You bet, shame from head to toe

Pleading for “partners”

Partnerships with American televangelists (some posing as teachers of both gospel and finance at the same time) constitutes the new mafia.  Capitalism lays slain, my friends, slain by tithing people, and fully exposed by colonialists and hateful bigots. They do not notice.  They go to Palestine and never seem to see the demise of capitalism. Thankfully, not as many people in North America are as gullible as the “moral majority” thinks.  Joining these people who are pumping out millions of pieces of literature enticing people to lust after hundredfold increases will end in disappointment and misery. 

Sending your money to Tom, Dick, and Harry and even giving tithes (and more) to anyone does not end in or guarantee one even begins the journey to spiritual maturity.  “Get your junk out of my Father’s house” has fallen on deaf ears.