Friday, November 30, 2012

The Mystery of Christian Witness

Witnessing to Jesus Christ means being a meaningful misfit; an intentionally marginal person; someone made unconventional by a commitment to the one odd god/man of truth, freedom, love, and vitality; a person committed to sharing the light, love, and life of Jesus with others without conditions.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

God's People Gone Conventional (Ezekiel 22:23-31)

Yahweh created us in his image. He created us as creatures capable of sharing a relationship of freedom, truth, love, and vitality with him, one another, and the rest of creation.

When Adam and Eve ruptured this relationship with Yahweh, we humans lost that image. We became victims of parasitical powers who forced us to model their image. The six false gods of Olympianity did this by threatening us with insecurity, misery, guilt, insignificance, and meaninglessness. They also did this by falsely promising us security, happiness, justification, importance, and meaning in exchange for our loyalty.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Truth and Life (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob (Deuteronomy 30:15-20, New Revised Standard Version).

Truth and Life (Ezekiel 18:1, 21-23, 30-32)

The word of the LORD came to me:
 …if the wicked turn away from all from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statutes and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against them; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live.
…I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise, iniquity will be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live (New Revised Standard Version).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Yahweh Brooding

In this blog, we give the name "Olympia" to a geographical area encompassing Europe, Southwest Asia, and North Africa. About 800 million people live there today.

Yahweh broods over this whole area and all these people. Every moment of each day, Yahweh actively seeks to nurture and protect each one of these 800,000,000 people. He never overlooks a single person for even an instant. He perpetually loves each one of us more than we can ask or even imagine.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Olympian Significance of November 11

Olympianity is the religion of power. It is the oldest, most popular, yet least recognized religion in the world today.

In the United States and Canada, everyone commonly uses what is called the civic calendar. This calendar is regarded as secular and therefore religiously neutral. It is, however, a religious calendar. Its major holidays are all Olympian holy days. Today we will look briefly at the meaning of November 11 and see how this is so.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Olympia: An Early Dark Age (1200-800 BC)

The eastern Mediterranean world entered a dark age, or period of significant decline and collapse, between 1200 and 800 BC. Causes of this decline included drought, famine, class conflict, political disorder, and external invasion. These resulted in widespread destruction of property, collapse of civilizations, and human death.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Yahweh: The Always Unexpectedly New

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:19, New Revised Standard Version, here and following).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Accurate Predictions (Isaiah 43:12-15)

In 612 BC, the Babylonians replaced the despised Assyrians as the imperial power in Mesopotamia. They experienced their greatest power under Nebuchadnezzar 2nd who ruled from 605 to 562 BC.

The Persian Empire (540-330 BC)

The Persians first settled the high hot plain between the Caspian Sea and what became known as the Persian Gulf around the year 1000 BC. In the centuries to come, the bulk of their empire would remain east of Olympia in Incognita.

Around 600 BC the neighboring Medes conquered the Persians. Soon enough, however, a Persian named Cyrus (r. 558-529) regained control of Persia, conquered the Medes, then led his army in conquests of other peoples in Olympia.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Babylon (1900-540 BC)

The geography of Mesopotamia encouraged warfare between rival rulers. Rich cities and fertile land made tempting targets. Flat terrain made them easy targets. Taking control of them meant enjoying impressive wealth but facing constant threats.

Around 1900 BC, a group of people known as Amorites migrated into central Mesopotamia. They built their own city on the Euphrates and called it Babylon. Hammurabi, an early ruler of Babylon, led his army against those of Akkad and Sumer and defeated them. He became ruler of the first Babylonian empire by 1790 BC.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Assyria (1100-600 BC)

About 1100 BC, a people called Assyrians established their control over the people and land surrounding their most important city of Nineveh. In Mesopotamia, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers start in the eastern mountains of Anatolia and flow southeast into the Persian Gulf. Assyrians built Nineveh on the eastern bank of the Tigris River in northwestern Mesopotamia.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hebrews, Israelites, and Jews (4004-520 BC)

The Old Testament is a remarkable but frustrating collection of books. On one hand, the stories are remarkably historical in detail. On the other, coming up with a simple and clear chronology is challenging. What follows is a summary of the biblical chronology established by James Ussher (Annals of the World, 1658) which is simple, clear, and accurate enough to serve our purposes.

The words Hebrews, Israelites, and Jews have overlapping meanings. The term “Hebrew” applies primarily to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and members of their families and secondarily to their descendants. The term “Israelite” applies primarily to descendants of Jacob, renamed Israel later in life, until the conquest of the kingdom of Judah in 587 BC. After that, the term “Jew” applies to all people loyal to the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or connected in some meaningful way to those who are, until Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Close Identification Brings Fullness of Life (Philippians 2:5-8)

Here’s an interesting passage about Jesus from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians:

            Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
            who, though he was in the form of God,
                        did not regard equality with God
                        as something to be exploited,

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sumer, Akkad, and Babylon (3500-1700 BC)

The Tigris and Euphrates rivers both begin in the mountains of Anatolia and flow southeast about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) before emptying into the Persian Gulf. Tradition refers to this area as “Mesopotamia” which simply means “Between Rivers.”

Phoenicia (1200-800 BC)

Early Greeks referred to the people living along the eastern Mediterranean coast of as Phoenicians. By the year 1200 BC, the Phoenicians had organized themselves into municipal states. The most important Phoenician cities were (from south to north) Tyre, Sidon, Beirut, and Byblos.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mycenean Civilization (2000-1100 BC)

The Minoans of Crete enjoyed their golden age between 1700 and 1500 BC. During this time people in southern Greece adopted Minoan culture. These included the Myceneans who migrated to that area around 2000 BC.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Loving God and Neighbor (Mark 12:28-34)

One day a scribe (lawyer, theologian) asks Jesus which commandment is the most important.

Jesus answers, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There are no other commandments greater than these” (12:29-31, New Revised Standard Version).

The first commandment, then, is to love God with abandon. Through these words, Jesus invites us, once again, to wholly commit our mind, will, emotions, and body to God.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Europa and Cadmus

Europa was a princess of Tyre. Jupiter tricked her, took her to Crete, then seduced her. She gave birth to Minos. The continent of Europe was named after her. Minoan civilization was named after her son.

All Saints' Day: Witnesses to Christ's Victory

Today we will reflect briefly on the daily lectionary passage from the book of Revelation (12:7-17) for All Saints' Day. All biblical quotes are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

The book of Revelation is difficult to understand. The symbolism is so vague that wildly diverse interpretations of it are equally plausible. One rule we may follow is this: no interpretation of vague symbolism in Revelation can contradict the much plainer witness to Jesus in the Gospels and the rest of the Bible.