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the Idol Cafe

Swimming in the waters of 1 Corinthians 8 this week. translate button
Here’s my latest MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version).
I enjoyed the flow of it…

Item number two on your list of hot topics: leftovers from pagan temple offerings – to eat or not to eat?

We all put such a high premium on philosophical discernment and theological understanding when it comes to such issues, don’t we? But typically all that does is make us hot windbags with overinflated egos! It’s love that gets us to the ground floor of this or any issue and then takes us where we need to go. So if you think you’re at the head of the class in this whole “I know” business, do everyone a favor and move to the back of the class because you’re flunking in the attitude department and you don’t know anything yet (at least not the way you should!). And you who are quietly, lovingly serving at the back of the class, move up to the front row because you’re on God’s honor roll – and that’s the only one that matters.

So now that we have our priorities straight, let’s move on to this whole business of eating leftovers from pagan sacrifices. What do we know?
(1) No idol in the world amounts to anything (it’s just a piece of wood or stone!), and
(2) There’s no God but One. End of story.

Yes our religious world is rife with tales and images of gods and goddesses, and our political and popular scene has plenty of human “idols” to go around too! All kinds of “gods” and all kinds of “lords” – take your pick! But for us there is only one choice: the one God, the Father – the Source of everything and everyone, and our very reason for being! – and one Lord large and in charge of everything – Jesus, the Chosen One, the Anointed Prophet/Priest/King – the Divine Hand in all creation, the Divine Hand forming, unfolding our very being.

Here’s the problem: We’re not all on the same page! For some people those empty idols cast a very long shadow indeed. It’s hard for them to see past the wood and stone faces, and so when they see the food, they sense the face, and even though their mind says it’s just a side of ribs, their heart keeps seeing the idol and they feel morally and spiritually compromised.

And here we sit on the other side of the table wondering, “What’s the problem?” Eating ribs isn’t going to affect our relationship with God one way or the other! This is silly! If we don’t eat we’re not missing out on some deep “God encounter” and if we do we’re not suddenly “enlightened” with the visions of God! It’s just a plate of food, people.

Fine. But here’s the heart of the matter: What for you is the ticket to a delectable moment of personal freedom can leave others who haven’t shared your freedom-empowering experiences choking to death on a bone. Don’t. Let. That. Happen.

Imagine this scenario:

There you are, your informed and empowered self sitting in the Idol Café ready to sink your informed teeth into that juicy Idol steak burger because, after all, it’s just a meal! And then passing by outside a fellow believer still struggling with idolatry and thinking about going in sees you pigging out inside and you thereby become his personal tipping point for another headlong fall into an idolatrous lifestyle, your informed liberty becoming the occasion of a brother’s moral ruin – a brother Christ died for as you sit there smacking your lips and wiping your mouth! That might just be food on your plate, but this is a crime against your brother! And when you flaunt your informed freedom like this you turn it into a bully club you then use to beat up on the sensitivities of siblings who aren’t on the same page as you, who don’t understand and aren’t ready to do what you are doing. And know this: when you beat on them, you’re beating on Christ – if you think you’re honoring your enlightened Savior with your informed faith, you’re not, you’re violating him by what you’re doing to them.

Conclusion: If what’s for dinner is tripping up my brother and throwing his spiritual life into reverse, it’s not another bite of meat for me until kingdom come! Never will I be the occasion of another’s headlong fall from God’s mercies. Never.

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Posted by on June 4, 2015 in MAV

 

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love is the strongest leg of them all

Was asked to read 1 Corinthians 13 in the MAV at a friend’s memorial.
MAV = Mike’s Amplified Version.
Used to say it’s my Authorized version, but it’s most definitely, totally unauthorized.

I didn’t actually have an MAV rendering of 1 Corinthians 13 and almost just settled for the Message as a standby, but then thought better of it. So I did – with an assist from Word on the Street to get me jump started – and I read it. And I saw Jerry’s face right before me in the reading.

Rest in peace, my friend.

If I possess supernatural talent to speak theologianese or even the most refined angel-ese,
but I’m rusty in the language of love
then I’m just clattering round like a broken drum kit.

If I’m brimming with prophetic insight into next month’s news,
or philosophy’s deepest conundrums,
if I know more than anyone,
if I can shift mountain ranges by the sheer weight of my towering intellect,
but forget how love fits into the picture,
then I may as well shut it and go home.

If I donate millions to charity, but my love-account’s in the red,
if I volunteer for extreme martyrdom, yielding my body to the flames,
but love’s flatlined in my life,
then it’s just a bonfire of vanities
and I’m wasted space.

What is love, anyway? Not the tripe you’ve been force-fed by popular culture.

No, love gives people time and space, it does people good.
It’s not jealous, loud-mouthed, big-headed or pig-headed.
It’s not vulgar or crass;
It doesn’t look out for Number One.
It’s not got a short fuse – it forgives, forgives, forgives.
Love doesn’t smile when the dark stuff hits the fan,
but it’s the first to throw the confetti when the light of truth bursts over the horizon.
It protects more than a blockbuster hero;
and trusts more than a toddler.
It’s not a perpetual Debbie-Downer, it looks up and hangs in there.
Love doesn’t run away, Love won’t let you down. Ever.

Brilliant prognostications will prove wide of the mark;
the fine elocutionists will be speechless;
our whole stockpile of knowledge of which we are oh so proud will all be hopelessly out of date.

Everything we know is but a fraction of what there is to know; in our deepest understanding of past and current events we only scratch the surface. But on the day everything comes to completion, on the day we all finally come home, we shan’t need our little bits of knowledge anymore.

Once upon a time I was a child. I babbled like a baby and was filled with childish thoughts and feelings. Ah, but now I’ve grown up into true childhood and have left those sophisticated childish ruts for good.

What we know now at best is but an enigma wrapped in a mystery – a blurred reflection in a dull piece of metal. One day we’ll see it all in IMAX 3D – better! – with 20/20 vision, face to face.
Now I fumble around the edges of reality trying to sort it all out, but with most of the pieces missing. One day the whole puzzle will be put together right before my eyes and I’ll finally GET it – the way GOD has gotten me all along.

Until then, we sit anchored on a stool with three solid legs that will never collapse under the weight of life or death:
deepening trust in God’s goodness
unshakeable hope in our prospects as his kids,
and unstoppable love.

And love? Ah. Love is the strongest leg of them all.

1_corinthians_13_4_8_by_yods-d4r0d51

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2014 in MAV

 

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i went. i washed. i see.

This week’s installment of the MAV – John 9:1-12…I want to stay with the former blind man, splashing my toes translation_4in the pool….

And as Jesus made good his escape from those encircling fists clenching stones, he paused upon seeing a blind man among many begging along the road – it became clear that this man had never seen a thing his whole life.

Realizing this, the disciples saw the opportunity to see Jesus solve an old theological puzzle, so they asked him, “Okay, Rabbi, whose sin is responsible for this man’s blindness? His own or his parents? Is this an inherited condition, or one he’s responsible for?”

But Jesus saw more than an opportunity to solve a riddle.

Not taking his eyes off the blind man for a moment, he told them,
“You’re missing the point. Neither. Not this one, and not them either. You’re asking the wrong questions. The question is how can the wonder-works of God be seen in such a man’s blindness? We’re not here to speculate or conjecture over such a man’s condition, we’re here to do something about it – we’re here to be workers of God-wonders – to do what the Great Sending God would have us do while there’s still light in which to do it. Night comes all too soon, and such wonder-working opportunities will slip right through our idle fingers and then we can’t do anything about it. But as long as I’m in this world, I am the light of the world –
and watch me shine…”

And with that he suddenly spat on the ground,
and then stooping down,
this time he didn’t doodle in the dirt,
he played with it,
making his own little mud pie with his own spit.

Then, scooping up the mud pie, he shared a fresh anointing with the unsuspecting blind man: he anointed his eyes with his muddy mixture, rubbing it into his eyes to the now loud protests of the blind man.

When Jesus had finished his muddy work, he told the protesting blind man, “Okay, go and wash out your eyes then. Rinse them in the pool of Siloam (footnote: Siloam = Mission Springs or Water With a Purpose).

So the man went. And then he washed all the mud out of his eyes. And then he came back, unaided. Seeing. (Jesus, of course, was nowhere to be seen.)

His fellow beggars and panhandlers couldn’t believe their eyes – or his!

Everyone who laid eyes on this now former blind beggar keep muttering to each other, “This isn’t the man who sat here and begged day in and day out, is it? It can’t be!” Others, dumbfounded, began blurting out, “Wait a minute, this is him!” Others retorted, “No way! This guy just looks like him!”

Amidst all of their rapidly escalating debate the blind man just stood there saying, incredulously, “No it is me! I am that guy!”

Then they started their own little inquiry: “How is that possible? How were your eyes opened? How do you now see!?” Still not believing what had just happened, the now former blind man slowed himself down and told the simple tale:“This guy named Jesus made mud, smeared it all over these eyes of mine, and then said to me, simply, ‘Go to Mission Springs. Rinse.’ And that’s what I did. I went, I washed, I watched.”

Everyone standing around him asked him, “So where is this guy?”

And he said he didn’t have a clue.

He’d never laid eyes on him yet.

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Posted by on March 8, 2014 in MAV

 

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whose your daddy?

This week’s MAV installment…John 8.31-59…I affectionately call it “Whose your daddy?”translation_4

Wanting to prod these local Judeans further, deeper in this turn towards trust in him many were experiencing, Jesus issued this challenge:

“It takes more than nodding your head and crossing your heart to make you one of my followers; you have to settle deep into my Message and make it your home. Then you’ll be a bona-fide follower – and then you’ll finally and fully begin to grasp the Big Picture of all Reality, and step into true freedom.”

The word “freedom” triggered some of them in the crowd politically and they bristled, “How dare you imply we need freedom! We are Abraham’s offspring, for crying out loud! We are free, our heads always held high – how can you say we will step into true freedom when that’s what we already are!?”

Jesus responded patiently,
“I’m going to say this twice and mean it: you’re hearing ‘political status’ and I’m talking ‘moral condition’ – and anyone stuck in endless repetitions of the same immoral ruts is clearly chained like a slave to those habits of heart and life. There’s no home and heritage there – only the exiled existence of a slave who’s here today and gone tomorrow; but a son has lasting roots in the family that only grow deeper over time. And if such a Son unshackles you from your own destructive ruts, then we’re talking real freedom, not just slogans about it slapped on your bumpers.”

“Let’s face facts. Yes, you are Abraham’s offspring – yet you seek to do me in because you can’t stomach what I have to say to you. And why not? I’m only feeding you what Abba is dishing up – so if you can’t stomach my words, it’s clear that you have another father who’s been touching your palate and shaping your appetite.”

Once again they bristled. “Abraham is the only father we have known or need!”

Jesus was unrelenting.

“If that were so, if you really were Abraham’s children, then we wouldn’t have a problem here because then you’d walk, talk, and look like Abraham. But that’s not Abraham’s face I see – contorted with murderous rage towards someone who has simply told you the Truth he has heard from God himself. No, that’s not Abraham’s way at all. You’re mimicking another parent altogether.”

Bristling to the breaking point, they howled, “We’re not illegitimate children (unlike someone else we could mention); our one true father is God himself!”

Jesus retorted,
“If that were so, you’d be embracing me with open arms and inviting me in because your Abba – God – is my Abba; you’d see and own that he’s the one behind my being here and we’d be on the same family page; I’m not some upstart Johnny-come-lately pretender. The God you lay claim to is the very one who sent me here to your doorstep. Why can’t you follow my drift? Simple.You don’t have the capacity to listen to what I have to say for the simple reason we don’t share the same Abba at all. We’re speaking different languages. Let me give it to you straight: Your father is the devil himself and it’s his agenda that you’re wedded to. He has been anti-life from the get-go, a real killer, with no grasp of Truth because there’s no room for truth in him. That’s not his game. Lying is his game. Whenever he opens his mouth, out pops another lie. Falsehood is his native tongue – and he’s the author of the language. Now I show up speaking the Truth, and you won’t believe or put up with it for a moment. ‘Does not compute!’ you shout. Well, show me where I’ve miscalculated! Show me where I’m wrong. And if you can’t pinpoint my error, then why can’t you embrace my answer – embrace me? God’s kids listen when God speaks. Which makes this all rather academic: you won’t have it – have me – because you don’t have God.

End of story.”

The opposition had had it. They snapped, “Aren’t we exactly right when we say that you are no better than a Samaritan half-breed and demon-possessed to boot?!”

Jesus stayed cool.
“I don’t have a demon. I honor God, and all you can do is dis me. I’m not tooting my own horn, promoting myself. Someone Else makes that call and does the promoting. So, again, I’ll say it twice and mean it, ‘If anyone goes beyond merely playing with my words to actually carrying out their full meaning and intent, no death for him! Not now. Not ever.”

The Judean in-crowd didn’t miss a beat. “That settles it. You have ‘satanic’ written all over you. Abraham is dead. The prophets are all dead – and yet you have the gall to say that if anyone who carries out the full meaning and import of your words won’t have to deal with death, not now, not ever! Who do you think you are? Greater than Abraham? Greater than the prophets? Handing out life while all they ultimately experienced was death? Who are you making yourself out to be?”

Jesus, not flinching in the least, told them,
“If I’m fashioning my own persona, it’s a PR campaign that will fall flat. There’s nothing to it! But God is my great Promoter – the One of whom you shout the claim, ‘He’s our God!’ The truth is, you don’t have a clue who he is. But I know him. And if I said that I didn’t know him to be more acceptable to all of you, then I’d be just as big a liar as you are. Oh, but I do know him – and I carefully carry out the meaning and import of what he says. You say Abraham is your father, right? Guess what? Abraham was doing cartwheels of joy at the prospect of seeing me, seeing my day come. And see it he did. And then he did his own little happy dance.”

The opposition couldn’t believe the nerve of this guy.
They scoffed at him,
“You’re not even fifty years old yet, and you’ve seen father Abraham. Right!”

Finishing the conversation he started, Jesus put it out there plain:
“I’ll say this twice and mean it: Before Abraham ever even existed, I AM, I was, I will be.”

That tore it.
They got his meaning.
Exactly.
They picked up stones to stone him to death for such arrogant irreverence.

But Jesus slipped right through their fingers – they looked up after picking up a rock to hurl at him, and he was gone, out of the temple and on his way.

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Posted by on March 1, 2014 in MAV

 

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we can enjoy the sun or spend the day arguing about where it came from…

This week’s installment of my finderpainting in the MAV…John 8:12-30…entitled, well, you just read the title, didn’t you…

And so once again, amid the endless speculation and controversy, bathed in the light of the huge lamp stand turn on the lightmenorahs in the temple courtyard as the Tentmaker celebration finished winding down, Jesus spoke up:

“I am the light of the world! The one who tracks with me through thick and thin will never, ever find himself stumbling around in the dark – no, they’ll be beaming with the light of life on their faces! (Move over, veiled Moses from the mount!)”

The Pharisees were quick with their comeback: “A lot of loud talk from your own big mouth proves nothing! Your self-testimonial is all hot air and no substance!”

Jesus was ready with his own comeback:

“Even if it is just my big mouth giving my own testimonial, it’s still bona-fide, solid truth – because I know full well where I’ve come from and I know exactly where I’m going.

But you, you don’t have a clue about either.

got a light?

got a light?

You are constantly trafficking in superficial judgments on everyone and everything; and I’m happy to leave it to you – I’m staying out of the judging business altogether. But, you know, if I do pass judgment on anything, it’s right on the mark because it’s not just me lowering the gavel – the gavel is in my Abba’s hand, and he’s the one who sent me here in the first place.

And doesn’t it say somewhere in that law of yours, you experts, that when it’s two people standing up to testify, now you have a solid, credible case? Well let’s count. I’m saying what’s what about myself, and my Abba who sent me adds his voice to mine. Sounds like two witnesses to me!”

Leaning in, the experts goaded him, “Where is this ‘Abba’ of yours?”

Jesus leaned in as well, “You have no clue who I am, and so it’s no wonder you’re in the dark about my Abba.
If you had the capacity to really get me, you’d wouldn’t be lost as to who my Abba is – you’d see him in my face.”

And he said this right there, on their turf, in the courtyard by the treasury of all places! making himself right at home teaching in the temple. And not one of them laid a finger on him – because that would be worked out on his own timetable.

Fast forward.
But just a little.
Still in the temple, now over towards Solomon’s Portico.
Still teaching.
Jesus picks up the dangling thread and finishes this verbal testimony tapestry:

“I’m leaving and you’ll look for me, but your search will lead you nowhere but to the dead end cul de sac of your

sitting down is progress

sitting down is progress

own stubborn rebellion, and there you’ll die. The end. Fin. You simply can’t go where I’m heading.”

The local religious trolls snarked to each other, “What? Is he going to kill himself and wake up in hell? Is that what he means by ‘You can’t go where I’m heading’?”

Jesus then spoke clearly through their snickering guffaws, “If anyone here is from the nether regions, it’s you. I’m from above. You’re right at home here in this world of yours, but not me. This world of yours is not my home. Which is why I told you, ‘you’re headed to the dead end cul de sac of your own stubborn rebellion and there you will die.’ Yes, if you can’t see and trust who I AM, you will shrivel and die, right there in the sins of your stubborn defiance.”

They shot back, “Why don’t you just tell us right now in plain Aramaic WHO ARE YOU???”

He shot right back, “What from the start I have been saying! Oy! So much I could say about you, so many judgments I could pass on you if that were my game! But what does it matter? The One who sent me is true through and through, and what passes from his mouth to my ear is what I will speak to you and to this world of yours.”

And yes, they were clueless. No idea what or who he was talking about – his Abba.

So Jesus, again, picking up the thread, wove a new picture for them:

that'll work

that’ll work

“Whenever you lift up the Son of Man – the ultimate Human Being – then you’ll finally get who I AM, and realize that I’m not the one calling the shots, carrying out my own game plan, but that I’m only carrying out and speaking out what my Abba gives me to say and do. And the One who sent me is with me, and he’s with me to stay, because what I do always meets with his big ‘thumbs up.’ Way up. Always.”

And while many were snarkily shaking their heads as he said all this, many began to experience a turn in themselves.

 

A turn towards faith.
A turn towards trust.
In him.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Gospel of John, MAV

 

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religious ruckus

This week’s installment of the MAV…John 7:53-8:11…a religious ruckus involving a disreputable woman in a disputed passage...

Meanwhile, Jesus made his way to the Mount of Olives outside the city.

But not for long.

Early the next morning he was right back at it in the temple. All the crowd flocked to him looking for more, and he obliged them. Having taken his seat, he began teaching them – until a major religious ruckus broke out, Scripture pundits and strict sect types showing up, a woman in tow, a woman caught red-handed in the act of adultery.

They sought no private audience with Jesus, they pushed her right into the center where Jesus was teaching, challenging him,

“Rabbi, this woman was caught red-handed in the very act of adultery! We know what Moses in the law says must be done to such a woman – death by stoning. But what do you say?”

And in case you hadn’t figured it out, this whole thing was a set up; they were just looking for ammunition to nail writingindirtJesus to the wall.

But Jesus didn’t bite or budge.

He just stooped down and started doodling in the dirt with his finger.

The religious lynch mob didn’t budge either.
They stood there and kept prodding him with their own pointed fingers of accusation.

Jesus finally looked up at them and said,

“The only one with a rock in his hand is the one with no sin in his heart.”

And then he was back to finger doodling in the dirt.

Stunned by what they heard, they began to clear out, one by one, from the oldest to the youngest of them, until she was left
all
alone –
just the woman,
right there in the center.

Looking up again, Jesus spoke to her.

“Woman, where did they all go?
What, no judge and jury to condemn you?”

She said, sheepishly, “Lord, none at all.”

“Well then, you won’t hear any condemnation from me either.
On your way – only, from now on,
how about avoiding the ruts of sin
and aiming higher.”

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2014 in Gospel of John, MAV, Mercy, Religion

 

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everybody’s talkin’ at me and I just want to buy them a drink

Mike’s Authorized Version…or Amplified Version. Translation finger-painting. I do it every week in whatever text translation_4the church is studying, just a way of processing text I’ve been living with for over three decades in English and Greek or Hebrew. It’s scattered through each daily reflection on my devotional blog

Funny, I often come to the end of the week, look at this wordhavering blog and think, “Gosh, I need to write something for this” when in reality I’m pouring my writer’s soul into the MAV and the reflections springing from it week after week. And sometimes I really like the result.

So perhaps I’ll start a weekly post here, bringing those scattered weekly readings together in one place.

Just because I can…

This is what ran this past week. John 7:25-53. I would call this one “Everybody’s talkin’ at me and I just want to buy them a drink”

Drink up me hearties…

Some of the local crowd now sat up and took notice.

“Hold on a minute! Isn’t this the guy they’re after, the one with the death warrant? And here he is openly speaking his mind in public with no one saying or doing anything about it. The authorities haven’t pegged him as the Messiah after all, have they? But how can that be? We know where this guy is from – no mystery there; but the Messiah – no one will see him coming…”

Hearing all this speculation, in the midst of his teaching session in the temple Jesus hollered,

“THAT’S RIGHT, YOU KNOW ME! And you know my humble point of origin! But none of this was my idea carried out on my own initiative. I’ve been sent! And the One who sent me is true through and through, and of His identity you have not a clue! Oh, but I know him. My very being is intimately connected with His, and He’s the one who commissioned me.”

Some of those in the crowd – from the authorities, no doubt – were chomping at the bit to confine, contain and control him on the spot, but no one laid a finger on him; it wasn’t time for that.

Yet.

Meanwhile many others in the crowd were totally sold on him. “Whenever the Messiah shows,” they would say over and over to each other, “will he have a more impressive resume of signs and wonders than this fellow does?”

When members of the strict sect heard the crowd muttering such things about him, they mustered their courage, priestly authority and strict sect types alike (they didn’t usually get along too well, but now they made an exception), and together sent underlings to set upon him and put a stop to this.

Seeing their maneuverings, Jesus said it plain:

“The clock is ticking, my time with you is just about up, and then I’m off to the one who Sent me to start with. Oh how you’ll look for me then – and you won’t be able to find a trace of me – you’ll never be able to track me to this destination!”

The local crowd of Judeans were puzzled. They asked each other (having no idea how much they were saying), “Just where does he think he’s going that we can’t find him? What? He’s not off to the scattered remnants of our people among the Greeks, is he? – and outsider Greeks won’t be his pupils, will they? What’s he talking about? ‘You’ll look for me, but you won’t be able to find a trace of me,’ and ‘you’ll never be able to track me to this destination’???”

Then it came.

The last day of the Tentmaker feast.

The grand finale closing ceremonies everyone was waiting for. During a pause in the water pouring ceremony, Jesus stood up and cried out at the top of his lungs, “If anyone is thirsty, come to me, and let every one who puts their trust in me drink up! Just as the old books have said all along: ‘Rivers! Rivers from deep internal reservoirs within him will gush and cascade – refreshing, living water!’”

Pause.

A heads up for those of you who are wondering. All this living water talk? It was all about the Spirit which those who put their trust in him were going to receive. Down the road, of course. All of this was yet future.

No Spirit.
No water.
Not yet.
It all awaited the glorious consummation of his mission.

Some of the crowd – obviously not the locals! – when they heard him cry this out with such passion, kept saying, “No doubt about it! This is the one, the Prophet!”

Others among them kept saying, the excitement building, “Prophet? This is the MESSIAH!”

But others chimed in, “Not so fast! The Messiah doesn’t spring from backwater Galilee, does he? No way! The old books clearly call it, don’t they? The Messiah isn’t some Galilean, but a Bethlehemite, in the family tree of David, from David’s home town.”

So the listening crowd was pretty well split all over the place about him. Some were still chomping at the bit to seize him, but no one laid a finger on him.

The underlings from the priestly and strict sect types returned – empty handed and speechless.

“Well, why didn’t you bring him?”

They stammered blankly, “None.Ever.Talked.Like.This. Ever.”

The strict sect party howled, “You haven’t been duped too, have you? Nobody who’s anybody believes a word of this – and certainly none of our highly educated members. Damned, ignorant, clueless, crowds! They’ll believe anything – and anyone!”

Nicodemus, one of their own, shoots back at them – knowing a thing or two more about this Jesus than they did, having just had his private interview with Jesus –

“Hold on here, this isn’t biblical, is it? This isn’t what the Law would have us do – judge and condemn someone without hearing firsthand from him what he has to say for himself and seeing just exactly what it is he’s doing – is it?

Nicodemus wasn’t scoring any points.

They shot right back at him, “What? Are you some ignorant Galilean too!? Check it out! You should know this! A prophet? Arising from the muck of Galilee? Preposterous! Never!”

And that was that.
Meeting adjourned.

Everyone went home.

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Posted by on February 8, 2014 in Gospel of John, MAV

 

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weekly MAV…dancing to Galatians

The weekly MAV. I so need an MAV logo. Note to self.translation_1

To the uninitiated, the MAV is “Mike’s Authorized/Amplified Version” – my own somewhat playful translation of assorted New Testament texts, right now Paul’s letter to the Galatians. The New Testament (particularly in the original Greek) has been my dance partner for the past 30 years. Or perhaps better, it’s provided the lyrical score of the through sing musical that is the Jesus experience for me.

Hopkins as PaulI want to say I think Paul gets a bad rap at times, but then, I can hear the better angel of his nature saying, “No, they’re probably right on that one.” As is true of each of us, I have no doubt Paul had the wondrous capacity to be a jerk. Which is another way of saying he was human, he was a man. (He can’t be all bad. Anthony Hopkins played him once.) But I love his stand for freedom that is Galatians. Freedom from imposed religious molds. Freedom from our insatiable human desire to compel conformity to our agendas; to make our acceptance as human beings before God dependent on anything other than the inner reality of quiet trust, of promise, of hope, of God. We can, have and do encrust Jesus with so many layers of our own religious secretions. Galatians is Paul’s loud rejection of all such layering, this week, in one of his journeys to Jerusalem…(Galatians 2:1-10)

And then, through 14 year’s time, again I journeyed up to Jerusalem, accompanied by Barnabas, that son of comfort, and let’s not forget Titus. This journey had a divine itinerary – his timing, not mine. Upon arrival I laid before them the Gospel, the gist and grist of my heart and message that I preach among the Gentile outsiders. But I’m not stupid. I did this first in private with those esteemed ever so highly by some, lest all my efforts, past and present, would have been for nothing. 

conformity_2And yet, Titus, standing right there with me the whole time in all of his Greekness, was not compelled to erase that Greekness by submitting to the religious rite of circumcision and become Jewish. No, he walked out of there with his “Greekness” fully intact – and no one in that room wanted it any other way. The only ones itching for such a status change – and surgery – was a pack of sneaky, scheming poser-brothers who slipped in under the door to spy out that precious freedom which is ours in Christ and to make us slaves to their religious agenda. We would have none of it – not for a moment! We did not entertain their motion or sit still for their agenda – so that the truth that is embodied in the only Good News that is good news might continue right on, unimpeded, with such Gentile “outsiders” as you.

conformity_3And as for those esteemed so very highly by some as the ultimate spiritual authorities – whatever they were makes no difference to me, God is never impressed by fancy resumes!  – I had no takeways from that “esteemed” group that changed anything. Far from it! On the contrary, they fully bought into the evidence right before their faces that I have been entrusted with genuine Good News to uncircumcised outsiders even as Peter has been to the circumcised insiders. It was undeniable! They couldn’t help but connect the dots and see that the same God who was at work in Peter as Jesus’ rep among circumcised insiders was also at work in me among Gentile outsiders. Jacob. Kefa. John. The big three esteemed so highly by some as pillars upon whom everything depends…gave to me and to Barnabas the right hand of full, recognized partnership – when they saw the undeniable proof of God’s grace demonstratively given, actively at work in and through me. Without reservation they agreed that we are on the same page, same mission, with the same message – only we among the “outsiders” and they among the “insiders.” They had but one proviso: “The Poor. Don’t forget the poor among us!” And I was already all over that.

conformity

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2013 in Galatians, MAV, New Testament

 

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weekly MAV

kjvtranslatorstoreadersTranslation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtain, that we may look into the most Holy place; that removeth the cover of the well, that we may come by the water, even as Jacob rolled away the stone from the mouth of the well, by which means the flocks of Laban were watered. Indeed without translation into the vulgar tongue, the unlearned are but like children at Jacob’s well (which was deep) without a bucket or something to draw with; or as that person mentioned by Isaiah, to whom when a sealed book was delivered, with this motion, Read this, I pray thee, he was fain to make this answer, I cannot, for it is sealed. 

If you’ve never read the full preface of the original 1611 King James Version entitled The Translators to the Reader, you would do well to. Well, if you’re a Bible geek, anyway. And wordy nerdy.

It’s a beautiful statement of every translator’s mandate: to open the door, break the shell, put aside the curtain, remove the cover. Translation is a vulgar task. I try to keep that in mind as I play in the MAV (Mike’s Authorized Version). The MAV must be vulgar indeed.

Here’s this week’s segment of Galatians in the MAV…

Dazzled by God_Galatians 1:11-24

Brothers, I’ll tell you plain – again – the truly good news conveyed by yours truly is not a human concoction or invention; I didn’t upload it from any human source, nor did I go to school for a “gospel” degree. This was a divine download, a divine revelation of and from Jesus Christ.

zealotLook, you’re not exactly in the dark about my background in the Jewish religion:

  1. I was a flaming, over-the-top, no-holds-barred persecutor/tormentor of the Jesus people – I was a man on a mission of religious rape, pillage, and plunder!
  2. I graduated first in the class in my brand of the Jewish religion – head and shoulders above everyone else on the roster; no one else even came close.
  3. I was the Zealot! No one was more passionate than I was as a defender of the old ways, the traditions of my fathers.

But God had other ideas.

God had a purpose and a call for me when I was still being shaped in my mother’s womb – a call he activated by his grace to reveal his Son in me, through me, so that I might shout his Name from the rooftops to all the Gentile outsider rejects. And once activated, I didn’t compare notes with flesh and blood seeking human input on this whole Jesus thing, neither did I make a quick pilgrimage to Jerusalem to Jesus’ personal reps there to hear their scoop on him. No way. I was off to the desert of Arabia for my own rendezvous  quite by myself, and then I returned to Damascus. Then after, count them, three years, I finally made my way up to Jerusalem to likecatch up a bit with Peter for all of, count them again, fifteen days. But there were no other interviews, no theological bull sessions with any other of the Master’s reps. Nada. None. Just the Lord’s brother, Jacob. Look, I have my right hand raised and I’ll swear to it: when it comes to all I write here, I am not lying – God’s truth! After that ever so brief visit to Jerusalem, I was off again, back to my home turf in the climes of Syria and Cilicia – and I still hadn’t really been “friended” by anyone back there in Judea among all the various thriving communities of Jesus people. They just saw the posting that “Our persecutor – the one chomping at the bit to kill us – is now the champion preaching the faith he once tried to obliterate!”
And they were posting “LIKE” on all their pages, glorifying God for what he had done in me.

the_tree_of_life_movie_image_slice_01

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2013 in Galatians, MAV, New Testament, Religion

 

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the nerve!

The MAV

Mike’s Authorized Version. Or perhaps Mike’s Amplified Version.

Whichever. Whatever. My own Mike’s Hard Lemonade on a page.
mike's hard lemonade

Sounds a bit presumptuous. The nerve!

I suppose it may sound arrogant to do your own translation of the Bible. But I’m just playing around with the Love of my Life. I have memorized, recited, regurgitated, and read, read, read, and reread again Galatians and the rest of the New Testament letters for the past thirty years. I’m no scholar. I only have BS — a bachelor of science in business administration from Cal State Northridge dating back to 1981. Three years before that I had started reading the New Testament in Greek. My holy playground. My dance partner. My desert. My En Gedi. My island paradise. My theme park. My high mountain.

Writing about Galatians this year, I’m doing my own translation as I go, as I dance with my old friend, in wondrous Greek, sucking on each verb, savoring each conjunction, each noun, each subtle verbal turn on the page, striving to hear Paul, longing to hear the Voice in the Dance of it all.

Grappling with what each agonizingly abstract English word we’ve used and read for years really mean, how they would really read for us — which is the ultimate goal of all good translation. I won’t claim that status for the MAV. But you get what you get.rod serling

Might be fun to post the results here, week by week…with a Rod Serlingesque “consider if you will…” (If you want the translation with my personal textual notes you can check here.)

Welcome to my holy playground…

Gobsmacked

Paul – personal rep with authority not derived from any man or by any human agency, but received directly (a) from Jesus Christ himself and thus (b) from God the Father who totally backed his act by raising him from the dead – and the rest of the family of faith here joins with me writing to you, the ecclesia, the thriving communities of Jesus across the region of Galatia:

Overflowing divine favor! Deep, healing wholeness!

– all of which flows to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself to fully deal with the sins of our past so he might open up the bright prospects of our future, plucking us right out of the clutches of this present, dead end evil age – a rescue in full accord with what our God and Father has planned all along. Pile on the praises to him, forever and ever and ever! Bank on it!

I. Am.GOBSMACKED! I can’t believe it! How quickly you’ve thrown everything away, turning your back on the One who invited you in, the one who lavished his amazing grace all over you – you’ve traded all of that, traded Him – for a cheap, knock-up wannabe “gospel” which, make no mistake about it, isn’t good news at all – it’s down and dirty bad news from troublemakers who have turned the good news, turned this message Christ gave us to preach – which is Christ himself, on its head.

But listen up: even if one of our own number, no, even if an angel right out of God’s sweet heaven!, presumed to share any other message of “good news” other than the “good news” of Christ – ‘anathema esto!’ a curse on him! I’ve said it once and now I’ll say it again: if anyone tries to “evangelize” you with a message other than what you’ve already received, a curse on him!

So tell me, does this sound like I’m trying to “win friends and influence people” now? – or am I playing to an audience of one – namely, God? Does this sound like I’m in the business of kissing up to mere men?

If pleasing mere men were still my game,
Christ’s devoted slave is the last thing I’d be.

Galatians 1:1-10 MAV

gobsmacked

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Doctrine & Heresies, Galatians, MAV, Religion

 

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