Learn From the Rabbi Who Is the Author of All Scripture

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Learn From the Rabbi Who Is the Author of All Scripture

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:29

The three stages of education within Judaism during the time of Jesus were Bet Sefer, Bet Talmud, and Bet Midrash. Each stage included specific age groups of Jewish boys. Girls also participated in Bet Sefer.

Bet Sefer means “House of the Book.” Education usually took place in the synagogue where the focus was on readingwriting, and memorization of the Torah (Pentateuch): Bereshit/Genesis, Shemot/Exodus, Vayikra/Leviticus, Bamidbar/Numbers, Devarim/Deuteronomy. This is how many today use their devotional time. The individual reads a passage of Scripture, listens as specific words and phrases speak to them, and writes such verses into a journal. They then pray the verse.

Bet Talmud means “House of Learning.” Boys ten to twelve focused on studying the rest of the Jewish Scripture and the oral interpretations of the Torah. Students learned to answer a question with a question and to cite other passages to support their points. Today such study might involve examining Bible commentaries that examine the verse in its original language and review how certain words or phrases are used in other parts of Scripture.

Beth Midrash means “House of Study.” Boys studied under a famous rabbi. Rabbi’s selected their students and only those boys believed to show great potential were selected. The focus was on understanding and applying the Torah and oral tradition to daily life in a more intense way. The student, usually called a “talmid” (disciple), would attach himself to (be yoked with), and travel with, the rabbi as part of his education. His goal was to become like his rabbi and learn his “halakoth” (to walk, go) until he internalized it. This continued until he became a full-fledged rabbi or scribe at the age of thirty. Without training at the Beth Midrash, a man could not be recognized as formally educated. Though the first two stages (elementary schools) were probably affordable and accessible to the average Jewish boy, the third stage (higher schools/rabbinic academies) were probably for boys who were intelligent, talented and from well-to-do homes.

We can assume that Peter, James, John, and the rest of those Christ called to be his disciples failed to make the cut for Beth Midrash. No rabbi called them to be a talmid. So when Jesus says to those who failed to make the cut, “Take my yoke upon you,” he is offering all who will follow a chance to become a talmid disciple and learn his halakoth, his way of walking.

Imagine you were one of those young men who failed to make it past grade school and then one day, while you are mending your father’s fishing nets, you are called to follow a rabbi. Would you go? Would you abandon the family business? What would you tell your wife, your kids?

Imagine you were one of those young women who never had the chance to learn the finer points of Scripture, never learned to banter with a rabbi, never learned to walk in the way of a rabbi because you were sent back home to be trained as a wife, mother, and caretaker for a family. Would you walk away from your husband, children, and home in order to become a disciple?

“My coursework is only an hour or so a day,” says Jesus. “The study guides are easy. Learn from me. I am a gentle teacher. I am humble. I am here if you need help. My door is always open. When you study with me your soul will rest and be refreshed. Will you come and learn from me?”

 
This is the call of a disciple of Christ. May we learn from the rabbi who is the Author of all Scripture.

In One Generation a Church and Denomination Can Lose Its Way

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All who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. – 2 Timothy 1:15

Turning aside, turning away, turning towards a gospel that is no good news at all. Does your church stand with Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, or with men and women who have turned away from the sure foundation of the good news of Jesus?

Imagine opening a letter from the Apostle Paul and finding that you have been identified as one who turned away from Paul, away from Christ, away from God. This is the rebuke Paul gives to Phygelus and Hermogenes. Though we know almost nothing about these men or their differences with Paul, we have some insight into the outcome of their desertion.

Paul’s second letter is believed by many to be his last known writings, and one of Paul’s key points to Timothy was be not ashamed.

“Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord. Do not be ashamed of me, our Lord’s prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” (2 Timothy 1:8)

“I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)

“May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.” (2 Timothy 1:16)

Peter also calls us to stand firm in the gospel.

“If anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.” (1 Peter 4:16)

Christ calls us to be ashamed for turning aside, turning away, turning towards a gospel that removes the need for a savior. When sin is no longer sin, why would we repent and be saved?

“Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26)

There is no shame in standing with Christ, the Father, and those who wrote through the inspired words of the Holy Spirit. Though we may face ridicule, persecution, slander, and be falsely accused, we have no need to be ashamed.

So what became of Phygelus and Hermogenes and all in Asia who turned away from the gospel. Though they are not mentioned by name we know the influence they had. Some thirty years after Paul warned Timothy to stand with him and his teaching, Jesus himself wrote a letter to the church in Ephesus, and the news was not good.

“I know of your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”

The church Paul founded and Timothy pastored worked hard. Its members endured. Perhaps they soon planned to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. They refused to tolerate the wicked. Apparently their leadership team held to strick hiring practices. They endured a measure of persecution for holding to the name of Christ. And yet Christ was prepared to shut the doors and sell off the property because they had ceased to love him.

“I tell you, whoever has been forgiven little loves little. Whoever has been forgiven much loves much.” (Luke 7:47)

Paul, a man who knew God’s word from beginning to end, never got over the fact that Jesus forgave him.
Paul, a man who counted himself among the most righteous, never counted God’s mercy as trivial.
Paul, a man who thought he did not need a savior, never stopped loving his Lord and Savior.

If Paul kept the law and still needed Christ, how much more do we?
If Paul kept the law and still needed Christ, should we not also affirm God’s words, will, and call to repent?
If Paul kept the law and still needed Christ, how dare we turn away, turn aside, and turn to a strange gospel that denies our need to be saved from sin?

Thirty years after all in Asia turned away from Paul’s teaching the Church of Pergamum became The Church of Balaam with a new religion, new rituals, and new ways of worship.

Thirty years after all in Asia turned away from Paul’s teaching the Church in Thyatira tolerated a prostitute and false prophetess who, claiming to hear the Holy Spirit, taught secret doctrines.

Thirty years after all in Asia turned away from Paul’s teaching the Church in Sardis was dead.

Thirty years after all in Asia turned away from Paul’s teaching the rich, self-sufficient Church in Laodicea tolerated such shameful behavior that Christ threatened to vomit them out of his mouth.

In one generation a church and denomination can lose its way.

Be not ashamed of God.
Be not ashamed of Christ.
Be not ashamed of the inspired writers and writings preserved for our salvation.

For The Sake Of The Children Let Us Reflect The Character Of Jesus Both In Season (Session) And Out

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For The Sake Of The Children Let Us Reflect The Character Of Jesus Both In Season And Out

“Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” 1 Peter 2:1

Before the divorce comes the separation.

Before the separation comes the cold shoulders.

Before the cold shoulders comes the harsh words.

Too many of us reading UMC news stories and adding our comments are comfortably planted in the “harsh words” phase. Perhaps we have not realized divorce is inevitable. Maybe we retain hope that we will not separate. Could be we continue to rub shoulders with fellow members and hope, even pray, the marriage can be saved. Peter guides us on how we should address all brothers and sisters and those who are not our spiritual brothers and sisters.

Rid yourself of all malice.
Rid yourself of all deceit.
Rid yourself of all conceit.
Rid yourself of all hypocrisy.
Rid yourself of all envy.
Rid yourself of all slander.
Rid yourself of all boasting.
Rid yourself of all lying.
Rid yourself of all falsehood.
Rid yourself of all mocking.
Rid her self of all scoffing.

When making our points let us not spear others. God is watching. The press is watching. The lost are watching. For the sake of the children, let us reflect the character of Jesus both in season (session) and out.

Slavery and Methodism Today

Slavery and Methodism Today

An excerpt from “Slavery and the founders of Methodism

In 1774, John Wesley published his “Thoughts Upon Slavery.” The founder of the Methodist movement insisted that the concept of enslaving other people was based on “false foundations.” He described the horrific evils of the slave trade. He denied that it was acceptable for anyone to be excused from judgment on the grounds that one was not personally a slave owner. For Wesley, merely tolerating the existence of a system of enslavement was an accommodation with evil.

In 1780, the American Methodists required preachers to deliver sermons against the evils of slavery. Church leaders declared that the enslavement of other persons is “contrary to the laws of God.”

In 1785, the first Book of Discipline published by the Methodists included a piece of church legislation that any church member who buys or sells slaves is “immediately to be expelled” from membership, “unless they buy them on purpose to free them.”

In 1800, the General Conference issued a “Pastoral Letter on Slavery.” It said “the whole spirit of the New Testament militates in the strongest manner against the practice of slavery.”

That pastoral letter directed annual conferences to appeal to the legislatures in their respective states for the emancipation of slaves. And it called for “the universal extirpation of this crying sin.” So the documented history of Methodism makes clear that the founders of the church considered slavery to be “evil.”

Forty-four years after the General Conference enacted church laws to demand that Methodists free their slaves or leave the church and to insist that Methodists take public antislavery steps, the denomination decided to divide. Rather than require a slave-owning bishop to emancipate the people whom he considered his property, Methodists split into two denominations. Rather than politically mobilize to end the system of slavery in each state, Methodists split along the boundaries of states that affirmed enslavement.

This is the legacy of Methodism in the United States with regards to human slavery.

But what of slavery of a man or woman’s soul?

The irony of the pending UMC split is that a great many are focused on making atonement for the sin of slavery by others, while they themselves are promoting a form of slavery that leads to a never-ending darkness.

As the above article makes clear, John Wesley,”Denied that it was acceptable for anyone to be excused from judgment on the grounds that one was not personally a slave owner.” In our day, we might say, “Yes, she or he is a slave to sin, but what is that to me?” Worse, we call slavery, freedom.

If we do not believe sin leads to slavery and death, then we should love our neighbor as ourself and affirm our neighbor’s behavior.  Each of us must give an account to Christ for every word and act. The costs of our beliefs, whatever they may be, is great. 

Methodists split into two denominations. Rather than politically mobilize to end the system of slavery in each state, Methodists split along the boundaries of states that affirmed enslavement.

Methodists are on the verge of another split, this one along the boundaries of those who affirm the good and perfect law of our Lord (Psalm 19:7) and those who deny the liberating and transforming power of Christ.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:31-36)

Do we believe the perfect royal law of our Lord as found in Scripture (James 2:8) is of man or God? Slavery to sin and the author of Scripture marks the line of demarcation for the UMC split. 

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant — the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:27-28)

If we do not believe sin is slavery then we deny Christ, for it is because of sin that he came and died.

The legacy of Methodism today will last, not merely for a few centuries, but eternity. May God have mercy on us if we fail to feed the sheep of Christ with the words of his–and our–Father.