EXCESSIVE EATING/DRINKING . . . Making the choice

“Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.” (Reference: Romans 13:13 )

You may not know it beloved, but I can be quite irreverent. Oh . . . you do know that . . . hm. Well then, you won’t be shocked if I say my very first response to this verse was, “does that mean that it is during/only during the night that people behave badly?”

I believe, beloved, you need to read this verse in context to understand it, and do avoid irreverent people such as myself from making comments.

“Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.” [NRSV Romans 13: 11-13]

The writer of Romans is equating the darkness of night to the lack of knowledge of Christian living; and the light of day as enlightenment and wisdom as to how to live a good Christian life. It is a well-used metaphor, but one that unfairly stigmatizes night and things that have natural dark coloring.

Historic Anabaptist, Pieter Pietersz, wrote “The Way to the City of Peace” in which he cites this verse from Romans chapter 13 but does not employ (much) the imagery of dark and light. He wrote “Therefore . . . let us constantly pray to God for a clear vision, that we may recognize these situations, with which the devil even tempted our Lord. Then there is also high living with the need for expensive clothing, and other unnecessary external glamor, with the lust of the eyes through which the poor person is led away from the love of the Father through carnal lust as drinking, indulging, impure works, as we have already discussed, Rom. 13:13. Many wants make people into slaves of sin in which they seek through false means and other practices to support their evil front and to carry out that which in the end leads to eternal damnation, Phil. 3:19. Therefore, let us gather courage in order to follow the crucified Christ for a little while, who is himself the light which shall lead us through all the struggle and temptations to the desired end in the spiritual Jerusalem, the perfect City of Peace . . .”

There are a good many things in this excerpt from his writing that I like; and since at times I have been critical of some historic Anabaptist writing I felt it only fair to say some positives. First, Pietersz acknowledges that Christ had temptations set before him – not that he gave in, but that in his human form there were attempts to pull into sin. Second, it is deliberate decisions that bring about sin, and desires beyond daily needs that are seen as sinful. Often in historic Anabaptist writing there is the sense that you cannot avoid sin. Here the sinner needs to make the choice. Third, Christ is seen as the light as opposed to activities done in the light or in the dark. And finally, that struggles and temptations come in this life despite our best intentions. It gives the sense of grace, mercy and forgiveness that is sometimes absent.

So you see beloved, I am not always irreverent!

May you beloved make good choices, and chose to follow the truest light which is Christ our Lord. Selah!

EXCESSIVE EATING/DRINKING . . . Living a balanced life

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Reference: Luke 21:34-36)

I had to look up “dissipation”. It means “the process of slowly disappearing or becoming less” or “the act of using all or a lot of money, time, etc., in a foolish way” or “behavior that shows you are interested only in pleasure, money, etc.” I don’t any of the three are something that it would be wise to do. We of course know that drunkenness is something that should be avoided. But this third item, “the anxieties of life” – the writer of Luke has Jesus advising his disciples not to be weighed down with the anxieties of life. It sounds to me like Jesus is telling his disciples to live a balance life. Not too much partying and loose living, but not too much worry and concern. Be aware of what goes on around you, but do not be caught up in the excesses that are in the world.

I could say more . . . maybe even much more, for this scripture passage has much to say. But I feel strongly that each person must find for his/her self balance in life. I cannot say for you what you should or should not do. I leave that to the Spirit to inspire and guide you. All I will say is that after a good day’s work should come some ease and comfort; and each person should spend time in communion with our Lord so that at the end of all things you might be known by our Lord God. Selah!

EXCESSIVE EATING/DRINKING . . . But how do you define “excess”?

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”
(Reference: Matthew 24:37-39 )

If one were to judge the historic Anabaptists by one representative (the one who wrote on this verse), one would say the historic Anabaptists did not hold much with eating and drinking, marrying and raising families. He wrote to his daughter, “Even as Noah had warned and preached, before the flood came, so Christ preached, and caused His apostles to preach, repentance, and still causes it to be done daily, by me, unworthy one, your beloved father, and by other servants of Christ. But what does it avail them? not many repent; they remain with the great multitude; we are lightly esteemed, for we are a plain, small and unlearned people. But Christ could well foresee the hardness of the people; hence He says in the Gospel: “As it was in the days, or times, of Noah; they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until Noah entered into the ark; so shall it also be in the coming of the Son of man,” that is, Jesus Christ. Matt. 24:37.”

Perhaps he meant that no one did, or does, take special not of living according to Christ’s teachings. And only concerns themselves with things of the flesh. (Shades of previous themes.) But Jesus, who the writer of Matthew is having speak, did not say this as condemnation, but as fact. Everyone was going about their ordinary lives never thinking that it would come to an abrupt end, and that judgment was swiftly coming to them. That is how it often is with life changing events. And often we do not even know they are life changing, or that they should be life changing! That is a sad thing about the Christian life – when people forget that in the midst of their eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage they should be doing it as Christians and authentic followers of God. Not that they, or we, should stop living; but that we should do it in such a manner that it reflects God’s mission for the world.

Five years ago Will Fitzgerald (the originator of this blog) posted a wonderful story based on the story of Noah. I do not know if he wrote it or found it elsewhere – my suspicion is that he did write it. It speaks to the very heart of living life and not knowing when it has changed unalterably. And it speaks to being prepared – not so much for our lives to continue as they were but to be prepared for the changes that come, and prepared for new life in the world to come. I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did when I first read it five years ago and when I rediscovered it this day. Selah!

It was a day like any other day, except for the rain. We’d never seen such rain.

I woke a little early because of the sound of the rain. It was a good thing, too, I thought; the rivulet that had been running through the chicken yard had turned into something more like a river, and the rushing water was eating away at the coop’s foundations. I think if I hadn’t got there when I did, the coop would have tipped over. By the time I had shored it up, I was hungry.

I’d taken to breaking fast with my neighbor, Seth, since both our wives had died. The bread was getting a bit moldy from all the dampness, but it was edible. Seth had just returned from attending the marriage ceremony of his second daughter’s oldest son; a number of his kin from that generation were of marriage age, so it was a season of weddings for Seth. Even all the rain couldn’t dampen his enthusiasm.

Seth told me a strange story: he’d heard that a man we knew when we were all children had built a large boat. He said the rain would continue until it drowned us all, and that he was planning to enter the boat with his family and ride out the storm. No one had ever seen such a boat, which was large enough for all kinds of animals. We decided to go to see it; it was a few hours walk away.

The way was somewhat more difficult because of the water. We had to ford several new creeks, and we found a couple of people who needed help, so we helped them out as best we could. By the time we got to the boat, it was nearing noon. We didn’t get a chance to talk to Noah, actually; we could see him entering the boat with his family from a distance. And here’s one strange thing: the door to the boat seemed to close on its own. When we arrived, we knocked at the door, but it appeared that it had been shut up with pitch. No matter how hard we knocked and shouted, no one heard us, apparently.

We then heard a kind of roar, and could see a flood of water rising towards us. We moved as quickly as we could to higher land, until we could look down at the rising waters and the large boat. The water eventually started to rise the boat, and it began to float. We again tried to shout down to the boat, but even if the sound of the rain hadn’t covered our voices, I think we would have been too far to have been heard.

We had to go even higher as the water increased. I thought about my chickens; they were probably gone.

We’ve made a camp at the top of this high hill. We don’t have much protection from the rain as it falls, and I don’t know if the water when the water will stop rising. We’ll be in trouble pretty soon. I wish I were on that boat of Noah’s.

It was a day like any other day, except for all the rain.

CONCERNING DESIRES OF THE FLESH . . . . The “Great Conundrum”

In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment.” (Reference: 2 Peter 2:3-4 )

Yesterday I cautioned all Christian believers to deal carefully and gently with those they feel are not living a good and wholesome Christian life. It is a conundrum to live in this world but not be bound by earthly agendas. It is something that many Christians struggle with – understanding and putting into action Christ’s teachings. In their struggle to live in this world as they feel Christ has taught, they make life difficult for others. Now clearly this is against what Christ taught and what his disciples wrote about. Yet it happens. And, keeping with the theme of the verses above, if God put erring angels into hell, what do you think the Lord would do with Christians who have judged and condemned others while not attending to their own sinfulness?

But this is not the only scripture passage for this day. In the book, Reading the Anabaptist Bible the historic Anabaptist quoted for today wrote on 2 Peter chapter one verses 3 to 4, but cited the chapter as chapter two. Therefore “Sip of Scripture” has as their daily reading 2 Peter chapter 2, which is not what Jerome Segers wrote on. I addressed this situation 5 years. [Beware of puzzlements] But with the passage of time I did not remember this “conundrum” – until I sat down to write again, and discovered the divergence of the two scripture references.

His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants in the divine nature.” (Reference 2 Peter 1: 3-4)

This second scripture passage from earlier in 2 Peter has a remedy for the situation I outlined above and yesterday – if you read it as I do.

God has given us everything that we need for life and godliness. Both instruction and grace. We have knowledge of God, for both righteousness and compassion. And through this knowledge we can escape corruption and sin, and become participants in the Divine Nature (I capitalized it). But if we are participants of the Divine Nature, does that give us the right to passage judgment on others? No.

If we think so, and do so, we have misunderstood what the Divine Nature is. The historic Anabaptist Jerome Segers makes this error (the second, the first being designating the correct chapter number) when he says, “Peter says that we shall be partakers of His divine nature; yea, we shall be where Christ Himself will be, and shall with Him judge all nations . . . ” You have read, beloved, enough of the historic Anabaptists to know that they were very judgmental. And they conceived of themselves being right, and everyone else being wrong. However, in his defense and defense of other historic Anabaptist believers, I think he did get this right; “yea, we shall follow the lamb whithersoever he goeth; yea, we shall sing the new song on Mount Sion, and we know assuredly that, if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, eternal in the heavens.”

I think he means our earthly bodies when he says “our earthly house”. Our earthly bodies are what they are. A miracle in design for housing our soul/spirit. Maybe not perfect and may be not as others think they should be. Science has discovered the mind and body are tightly intertwined. And if God’s power has given us ALL of what we need for life and godliness, we should not despair of and despise what God has given.

I encourage you to read what I wrote 5 years ago. Little did I know at that time how relevant my words would be in the years to come. As I said then, I say now [with some updating] – May you not be ensnared by faulty teachings, teachers and judgments; but may you be guided by God’s compassion and knowledge as participants in the Divine Nature. Selah!

CONCERNING DESIRES OF THE FLESH . . . . Remember that for better or worse, we are all flesh

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
(Reference: 1 Peter 2:11-12 )

[A paraphrase of sorts]

Dear Fellow Christians,

I urge you to remember that while you may live you life out differently from those around you, that does not mean you can label the way they live as “sinful” just because it does align to what your beliefs are. You may think that you are doing the correct thing, but your judgmental nature is warring against the law of love. And everyone is losing out because of it. Live such caring and compassionate lives amongst the rest of humanity so that though they might accuse you of not understanding, but they can never accuse you of not caring. Live such caring and compassionate lives that they might see the compassionate and accepting nature of God and Christ our Lord, and be drawn to God as you are drawn to God.

We may feel we are aliens and strangers in the world, but do not let that alienate you from others. And do not condemn as “too strange” what others feel is natural for them. We are the face and hands of God – let us also have God’s caring heart so that God is glorified by all of humanity. Selah!

CONCERNING DESIRES OF THE FLESH . . . . Versus the Savor of the Knowledge of God

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (Reference: 1 Peter 1:13-16 )

[This is an adaption of what I wrote 5 years ago. After yesterday’s diatribe I wanted to see how I dealt with that verse 5 years ago. Turns out it was mostly consistent with what I said yesterday. And since I was looking back, I decided to take a pick at what I said on this verse. I really like what I said, but I thought I could say it even better, so . . . ]

As Peter writes, one must strive to be holy because our God is holy. I do not know about you beloved, but it is not easy for me to be holy. Too often ignorance blind-sides me, and then desires – not evil ones mind you, but unwholesome nonetheless – tempt me. And before you know it, I have missed being holy again.And that jostles me.

It is more soothing to my spirit to read historic Anabaptist Pieter Bruynen when he says, ”Wherefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, watch in prayer, always giving thanks unto God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, for His abundant grace, and that He has made known unto us His will, manifested the savor of His knowledge, and given us the most glorious and precious promises . . ” [Emphasis mine; I will explain further on] It may seem odd that an Anabaptist who was persecuted for living as Christ commanded can make living for Christ an attractive thing – but I think he is on to something. Once one relinquishes a frantic hold on life, everything else seems negotiable. Tend to the fundamentals of Christian life and living, and the rest will follow. Too often we find value in those things that will not last from this world to the next. And that which will carry over from one world to the next we value little and would willing trade away for transitory pleasures.

May that is too a harsh commentary on some people. I know there are many good people who are prepared and have self-control. But there are also many people who value living life on their terms, indulging in practices that make the soul un-holy. But it is that very soul that is the only thing that will truly last. Bruynen knew that the only thing his persecutors could take from his was his life. But he felt beyond any doubt that he was living as God called him to, and by doing that he was insuring that his soul was worthy. And if living for God meant forfeiting his life, but preserving his soul, he would do it.

The writer of 1 Peter says that God says, “Be holy, because I am holy.” What is interesting is that some translations phrase this exhortation as not that our action must mirror God’s, but it is that God’s actions make us holy. That is, if we accept what God has done and who God is and live in our life according to that, then we will be holy.

As to the title of this commentary (and my emphasis in Brunynen’s excerpted writings), I like to think that following God and God’s wisdom is satisfying to our self and our souls. On a figurative and literal plane, God makes us ‘hunger’ for the Lord’s knowledge. And tasting that we will want more. It feeds our souls.

May you ‘feast’ on the Lord, and may your soul never be sated until we are all seated with the Lamb of God at the celebration feast in heaven. Selah!

CONCERNING DESIRES OF THE FLESH . . . Judge not lest . . .

But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.” (Reference: 1 Timothy 5:6 )

What kind of an excerpted verse is this?! And just how is supposed to relate to the theme of “Concerning Desires of the Flesh”? Only from the stylus of Paul I imagine!! The context is Paul’s (oh! I am not going to let him hide behind the misnomer of “the writer of 1 Timothy”!) instructions to comparatively young Timothy. Paul says, “The real widow, left alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day; but the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.”

So a wife and mother who has for decades dedicated her life to husband and family and is now finally alone and can have peace is denied that in her widowhood?! And just what sort of “pleasure” does Paul think she is having?! Baking for one? Sleeping in? Not being nagged about what is for the next meal? Being able to call body and soul her own? No! Paul has simply got this all wrong!

If a widowed woman is living as a “harlot” and/or is guilty of immoralities, call it that. But if she is needing to sell her body in order to live then, as Paul says later in this passage,provide for them if they are beyond a certain age. Let the standards that are set for proper behavior apply to all. But do not single out one group because of the way their life has unfolded!

The historic Anabaptist quoted for this day/this passage links the passage to more general comments about “this wicked generation, who live in pleasure, for they are dead while they live, as Paul says.” Evidently Hans van den Wege does not consider this an exhortation solely applicable to widows, which appeases my indignation somewhat.

I will off my soap box now and encourage you beloved to not only live wisely according to God’s precepts but to have compassion on others whose way in the world has been made more difficult because of life events. Selah!

CONCERNING DESIRES OF THE FLESH . . . Battling it life long

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
(Reference: Galatians 5:16-21 )

As I read this passage, I was reminded of a very important fact. The writer and his audience have only been living the Christian life for 5 to 10 years at the most. Not a lifetime! It explains for me, at least, why the expectations are so high for living such a perfect life! In addition, they did not believe that it would be a long time until Christ returned; and that soon, very soon, they would be taken up by Christ to live in perfection in heaven. In other words, these are not exhortations written for the long haul. That is not to say we can do and be all of those sinful things that the writer of Galatians wrote about. What it does mean is that if we “slip and fall” we have time to pick ourselves up, confess and repent, and then carry on living as we should.

It is easy to think about avoiding temptation if it is for a short time. But for the rest of our natural lives?! Again, not that we should give into to the desires and temptations of the flesh! But I can’t help but think that the writer of Galatians (yes, it was Paul!) might have come up with more coping strategies and oases of grace for the long haul.

Historic Anabaptist Pilgrim Marpeck wrote something very interesting in 1531. He said, “While the unbeliever is nothing more than flesh and death (Rom. 8:6; John 3), the true believer will not be able to slacken the struggle between Spirit and flesh. His flesh cannot bear the rule of the Spirit until it submits itself to the discipline of the Spirit. Then the struggle between flesh and Spirit begins (Gal. 5:17). Only then are all defects and infirmities revealed and recognized.” [Emphasis mine] Here then is grace! And from a “strict” source at that!

I don’t about you, beloved, but that makes me feel as if I can struggle one. May you struggle on too making Godly choices each day inspired and support by the Spirit. Selah!

CONCERNING DESIRES OF THE FLESH . . . Opposed to the Desires of God

“Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen.”
(Reference: Romans 1:22-25 )

I have sat with this verse for at least a whole day now – perhaps more.

Does humanity desire things of the flesh? Yes! In place of God? I am not sure.

And even if I “crafted” an accompanying “exhortation, it would just be an exercise in theological rhetoric. We know (at least I know and I assume you know) this verse is talking about making statues and idols, and trying to imbue them with significance and meaning beyond the materials they are made of and the things in our world they represent. And because the people the writer of Romans were foolish enough to do this, God let them go wild being immoral and impure, and degrading anything in their reach.

So the question becomes, beloved, have we exchanged the glory of God for the items and images in our lives and in our world? And interesting test would be to ask if you think God has given over the current society, leaving them/us to whatever sinful desires, impurities and immoralities we chose? Because if that is so, then maybe we have given up the glory of God and have taken on instead the fallible items of this world that rot and fade away.

Another interesting idea exchanging the truth of God for a lie. We (meaning global society aty large) have so many images and ideas of what God is and what the Divine wants that it is hard to discern who has the most authentic and truthful God in their faith beliefs. Can you, beloved, describe who the true God is? The tendency would be to say, “It is MY God because . . . “ Just as likely is to say, “It is OUR God because . . . “ But I suspect we are talking about our faith and not God.

May be the truth of God is that there IS a God. And this God has expectations of how the Lord’s people should live. We have a multitude of ways and theories of how we should live. But do we live as if there is a God? That is, another reality apart from the world we are in?

I seem to be making a strong argument for humanity desiring things of the flesh in place of God. It is easy to do because all of humanity is so fallible. But even in the face of my strong argument – that seems to write itself once you get on the correct soap box – I am not convinced that we are a mortal/bird/animal/reptile worshiping people. Our scientific knowledge precludes that. I do think, however, we push God aside to make room for the human things we think are important. I think too we degrade ourselves when we do that – instead of holding our relationship to God as the most important thing in our lives.

May you, beloved, keep all things in their proper place according to God’s order and plan. Selah!

CONCERNING FLESHLY AND SPIRITUAL WHORING . . . Being on the “correct” side of things! Part II

For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries. Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.” (Reference: Revelation 18:3-5 )

Did you read the first verse of this passage carefully beloved? The writer of Revelation says that all nations have became “Babylon” – or at least the overall trend of the nation. Barnes reminded me that this is a symbolic adultery meaning that the nations have been wooed away from spiritual purity, and have indulged and become dependent on luxuries and indulgences – both in terms of commerce and lifestyles.

What is concerning to be beloved is that word “all.” We have read enough warnings, admonitions, and exhortations to know to flee such things. But the word “all” is damning, because it means no city or nation, no people or generation are exempt. Barnes says of the warning “. . . so that you will not receive any of her plagues . . .” that “The judgment of God that was to come upon the guilty city would make no discrimination among those who were found there; and if they would escape these woes they must make their escape from her.”

Historic Anabaptist Walter of Stoelwijk also gives warning concerning this passage. He says, “Woe unto such perverse men, who depart from righteousness, from light to darkness, from life to death, and go from Jesus Christ to antichrist, seeking consolation from Satan, and not in God.”

But where can we go? How do we escape the symbolism that a nation has embraced? How do we live in purity and holiness in “Babylon”? If you thought I had a good and thought out answer, I am sorry to disappoint. I fear, beloved, the best way to do this is to live carefully day by day. Each choice we make has the potential of taking us one step closer to “Babylon.” Or, it can keep us ever removed from the adulteries and lifestyle. Our spiritual and faith practices keep us away from those “excessive luxuries” and from the “plagues” that our nations suffer from. I do not mean to imply though that we are in imminent peril. But neither should we become complacent about our daily lives. We know how we should live – let us do so!

May the God who calls the Lord’s people out of Babylon walk with you each day showing you the save places to journey. Selah!