Monday, September 14, 2009

Words of Encouragement

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" "Yes, Lord," they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith will it be done to you"; - Matthew 9:27-29

I What? We have in the scripture today two blind men following after Jesus asking him to have mercy on them, they are in need. They followed Jesus, but we do not see him responding initially. They follow him indoors and come to Him. Jesus ask them do they believe that I am able to do this. Jesus' response is, according to your faith will it be done to you. Jesus touches their eyes and they receive their sight.

What is interesting to me reading this scripture is the question Jesus ask. "Do you believe...". Today, we believe in many things. We believe in our own abilities and skills, until we find out that we are not able to overcome everything alone and in our own ability. We believe in our children or our relationships, until we are disappointed by their choices or decisions. Many believed Obama would be the "savior" for all that is wrong in our country. Yet, now the polls say he is losing the confidence of the people.

Jesus asked a very important question for all of humanity. Do you believe? But more than do you believe, his question was do you believe in me? Do you believe I can do what you are seeking from me? Do we believe that God is able to help us in those areas where we have been trusting others or other things? Obama can never be the savior for all that is wrong in this world or our country. He is simply a man trying to do what he thinks is best. Will he make all the right decisions? He's human, do I need to say more?

But there is one that is more than human, he is also Divine and he is the Son of God. Jesus is asking us in this time are you coming to seek from him and do you really believe he can do what needs to be done? Do you believe God can heal your blindness: blindness to his ways, blindness to spiritual things and blindness to your own purpose and worth in Christ?

Let us say as the blind men said, Yes Lord! And then watch God work. Experience the healing touch upon your blindness and receive your sight! I pray for us today, Lord we seek you just as the blind men did. We seek you to open our eyes to your ability, your will and your way. Open our eyes to see your calling on our lives. Lord help us to shout, LORD I BELIEVE. Lord today we affirm that we believe in you. We believe you are the Son of the most high God. We believe you are the true and only way to the Father and no man will see God unless he believe and trust in you. So today, Lord help us even in our unbelief so that we can draw closer to you and your power. Now Lord we all say this personally: Lord today, I believe in you. I trust you through every battle and every victory, I trust you through every joy and every disappointment, I trust you in my weakness and regardless of my strengths. This day, my heart says I believe and now I recieve my sight. I now receive from you my healing in the area where I need healing. This is my prayer, Amen.

The Image of God: Why Did God Create Me (part 4)?
Written by Minister Jewel D. Williams
December 11, 2008

God: His Purpose For Man

What is man, that thou art mindful of him? (Psalm 8:4-5)

Robert Pasnau in his article, Thomas Aquinas on Human Nature: A Philosophical Study of Summa Theologiae 1a, 75-89, writes what Thomas Aquinas believed man’s purpose was. He quotes Aquinas’ position as, “Far from supposing that God created the universe for our sake, Aquinas believes that we were created for God’s sake, as a manifestation of his goodness.”[1] Pasnau states in Aquina’s view it is misleading to say that God created human beings in order to make them happy in heaven. Pasnau also states, “But we serve a larger, more significant purpose, the manifestation of God’s goodness, and in that larger context we are simply the means to God’s end.”[2] He also states everything exist for the sake of God. Man’s creation was not to make him happy but to accomplish God’s own ultimate goal. With man’s ability to have a right relationship with God man’s purpose can be carried out. Pasnau poses, “we are not just a passive reflection of God: we seek him and come to love and understand him, and this means that we contribute to the perfection of the universe in a special way.”[3]

McConnell further clarifies when he states, “Since Jesus shows us exactly how those who are made in the image of God should live, he becomes our model . . .We should therefore live out God’s image as Jesus did.”[4] McConnell argues it is this restored relationship that helps man to care for the earth as God intended. He argues God placed Adam in the garden to tend or serve it. As the Son of God and second Adam, Jesus came to serve creation. McConnell’s stand is that children of God need to serve creation in the same way that Jesus did. For McConnell, one purpose of man is to have dominion over the earth in the way God intended. Sin marred man’s thinking and therefore man’s ability to understand his stewardship of God’s creation was also marred. Clark concludes his writing by stating, “Sin has caused its malfunction. Redemption will renew men in knowledge (righteousness and holiness) after the image of him that created him. Then in heaven we will not make mistakes even in arithmetic.”[5] Clark argues man’s thinking is restored through redemption. This leads one to the understanding that a restored mind helps the individual to have the “mind of Christ”.

The relationship between God and man is restored. This also means all relationships are restored, humans with other humans as well as man and creation. Evidence of this is shown in the book of Acts (1:14; 2:1; 2:46). After sin entered one was able to see the breaking of relationships. Cain’s murder of his brother Abel and Joseph’s brothers’ jealousy against him, just to name a few. However one can read in the book of Acts how the disciples were on one accord (in restored relationship) and the scripture says God added to the church daily. This is a New Testament reflection of the mandate to Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply.

Why was man created? What was to be his purpose? Man was created to be in fellowship with God. Man was created to worship, love and honor God. Man was also created to “be fruitful and multiply”. Yes, this means physical children but it also can be applied to bringing others into the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Man was created by God to be in a relationship with him and with others humans. This is why Jesus tells those listening to him what the two most important commandments are, to love God first and to love one another (John 13:33-35). Come back next week for the final installment.

[1] Robert Pasnau, “Thomas Aquinas on Human Nature: A Philosophical Study of Summa Theologiae 1a, 75-89.” New York: Cambridge University Press, (2002): 394-404. NetLibrary Online Reader, eBook: 9780511018961 (accessed December 3, 2008), 394.
[2] Ibid, 395.
[3] Pasnau, “Thomas Aquinas on Human Nature,” 401.
[4] McConnell, “In His Image,” 125.
[5] Clark, “The Image of God in Man,” 222.

The Week in Review

Study of the Synoptic Gospels - Matthew Survey
Written by Minister Jewel D. Williams (12/07)

Observations: My first thought is that Matthew wrote this Gospel to preserve what he knew about Jesus’ life and words. He wanted to make sure that the truth about Jesus was never lost. For Matthew to do that, he focused on those areas that he felt were the most important; this is one reason why he may have amended Mark’s Gospel.

Author and intent: The Apostle Matthew was the only author suggested for this book until recent times. Those that attest to Matthew as the author are: Irenaeus, Origen and Eusebius (early Church Fathers). The dispute among scholars today is that since Matthew never clearly stated that he was the author, the book is considered anonymous. Matthew’s intent for writing this Gospel was to show his audience that Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel of a coming Messiah and Redeemer. Matthew points to the fact that Jesus is also the savior of the whole world. Matthew shows that Jesus is the supreme authority, teacher, preacher and healer.

Structural: Chiastic Structure In this literary pattern, elements are related to each other in certain ways. (A-B; B’-A’). This is found in chapter 13 over the length of the chapter and is the center of the pattern (Nickle, 118-119). I was able to detect a small section in Chapter 7:6.

Give not…unto the dogs (A) - Neither cast…before swine (B)

Trample under foot (swine) (B) - Rend [rip] you (dogs) (A)

At first glance I did not see this until I read it again and separated these lines. It at first looks like the trample goes to the dog (A), but it would seem that it is more likely that a swine or pig would trample over you and a dog rip or bite you with its teeth. When I looked at it that way, I was able to see this “X” (ABBA) pattern.

This structural element of the scripture was not something I was familiar with, before so I looked it up to better understand its usage. Since I did not discover the bigger patterns myself, I will not take credit for them, but I was able to learn that there are several other places this is found, 8:1-9:34 (Signs of Kingdom), 10:1-42, 16:13-17:27 (vision of second coming), 17:22-20:19, 19:1-22:46, and 23:1-25:46.

Comparison is shown in Matthew in the area of the Parables. His main parable theme is the Kingdom is “like” and then he makes the comparison of good seed, mustard seed, and other items.

There are several promises listed in Matthew and then he tells of Jesus fulfilling them as said by the prophets. I am not sure if this is a style or simply something that is noteworthy about Matthew’s writing. Matthew uses this to show Jesus’ purpose and that he is the Messiah promised to them in their very own scriptures.

Chapter Titles:
Chapter 1:1 – 4:25: Jesus’ Beginning and Preparation

Chapter 5:1 – 7:29: A New Teaching
a. Those That Are Blessed (5:3-16)
b. Right Conduct (5:17-5:48)
c. Right Attitudes (6:1-6:34)
d. Concerning Judging and Hypocrisy (7:1-7:29)

Chapter 8:1 – 9:38: Miracles of Jesus
a. Leper Cleansed (8:2-4)
b. Centurion’s Servant Healed (8:5-13)
c. Peter’s Mother-in-law Healed (8:14-15)
d. Healed and cast out devils (8:16-17)
e. Calmed the Wind and Sea (8:24-26)
f. Man with Palsy healed (9:1-6)
g. Ruler’s daughter healed (9:18-19)
h. Women healed (9:20-22)
i. Blind give their sight (9:27-31)
j. Dumb man healed (9:33)
k. All sick and diseased (9:35)

Chapter 10:1 – 11:1: Disciples Empowered and Commissioned
a. Power over unclean Spirits (10:1)
b. Mandate to Go (10:5-15)
c. Perils of the Journey (10:16-39)
d. Who Receives Me (10:40-11:1)

Chapter 11:2-12:50 Teaching receives mixed reviews
a. Jesus Honors John (11:2-15)
b. This Generation “like” Children (11:16-19)
c. Jesus’ Yoke (11:28-30)
d. Greater than the Temple (12:1-9)
e. Right to do Good? (12:11-13)
f. Divided Kingdom (12:25- 37)
g. Sign of Jonah (12:39-41)
h. One Greater (12:42-45)

Chapter 13:1-13:53: The Parables
a. The Sower (13:1-23)
b. Kingdom “Like” Good Seed (13:24-30)
c. Kingdom “Like” Mustard Seed (13:31-32)
d. Kingdom “Like” Leaven (13:33-43)
e. Kingdom “Like” Hidden Treasure (13:44-46)
f. Kingdom “Like” a Net (13:47-51)

Chapter 13:54-16:12: Continuing through Opposition
a. Without Honor (13:54-58)
b. Herod worries (14:1-12)
c. Jesus Departs (14:13, 14:29, 15:21)
d. Miracle in the desert (14:15-21)
e. Walks on Water (14:22-27)
f. Peter steps out (14:28-31)
g. Heals the Multitude (14:32-36)
h. Pharisee’s and Scribe’s Complain (15:1-2)
i. Jesus rebukes (15:3-9, 16:2)

Chapter 16:13-18:35: Jesus, Son of God
a. Who Am I? (16:15-19)
b. Explains Things to Come (15:21)
c. Greatness in the Kingdom (18:1-11)
d. None Lost (18:12-14)
e. Power of Prayer (18:15)
f. Forgive Often (18-21)
Chapter 19:1-20:34: Final Period
a. No One Forbidden (19:13-15)
b. Count the Cost (19:16-26)
c. Promise to the faithful (19:27)
d. Warning of the coming time (20:17-19)

Chapter 21:1-16:
The Triumphant Entrance

Chapter 21:17-25:46: Christ Teaches the Kingdom

Chapter 26:1-27:66: The Finished Work
a. Prepared for Burial (26:6-13)
b. The Betrayal (26:14-25)
c. New Covenant (26:26-30)
d. Jesus’ Agony (26:46)
e. Jesus’ Arrest (26:47-56)
f. Jesus Accused (26:57-27:24)
g. Jesus Sentenced (27:25-30)
h. Jesus Crucified for the guilty (27:31-50)
i. Jesus Buried (27:51-66)

Chapter 28:1-20: Resurrection and Ascension
a. Presence of God (28:1-4)
b. Empty Tomb (28:5-8)
c. A witness to Truth (28:9-10)
d. Plot against the Truth (28:11-15)
e. Message to the World (28:16-20)

Thematic Study (Noting Proportion/Sensing Atmosphere):
The overarching Theme in the book of Matthew is “Jesus has compassion on the multitudes” or stated another way; Jesus cares for the needs of people. Matthew mentions Jesus’ interaction and compassion on the people (1:24-25, 8:1,16-17, 9:8, 12:15, 13:2, 14:14, 15:32) in several verses. He either mentions Jesus’ compassion on them before he heals them or he shows Jesus’ willingness to teach them the things of the kingdom. There are other themes as well, “Jesus as Supreme Authority”. Matthew show’s Jesus authority over people, disease, blindness, wind and water the temple, sin, demons and even his own mission. He shows Jesus as the teacher, preacher and healer as he interacts with the multitudes, his disciples and the individuals that come seeking a special touch from him.

Literary Type & Genre: The Gospels, Matthew included, were said to have come from Oral traditions. However, it is being suggested that these books also be looked upon as Biographies. Matthew’s Gospel is more than just a biography. Some believe that since each Gospel is different, they should be considered as expanded biographical sermons. Two general localities are said to possibly be the place of origin or destination for the writing, Syria or Antioch.

Who or what is this about? – This Gospel is about Jesus. It is Matthew’s way of telling that the Messiah had come. It tells about Jesus’ fulfillment of God’s intention, fulfillment of prophecy (1:22, 2:15, 17, 23; 4:14-16, 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 26:53-54; 27:9). This writing was also to establish Jesus as savior of Israel and the world as well as how Jesus prepares the church (through the disciples’ walk with him).

Why is this so important? – Why is this book written in this way? Matthew writes his Gospel in this way because he possibly felt it addressed more directly the Gospel than Mark’s Gospel did. Matthew wrote his book to substantiate the claims of Jesus. The other reason for writing this book was for the community. His Gospel helped Christians understand the Jewish origins of their faith.

What are the implications and assumptions one can take from this book? – One can assume that it was vital to Matthew that the Jewish people understood the nature of who Jesus was. He was their promised King sent to restore the kingdom. Matthew went to great lengths to explain Jesus’ fulfillment of the promises of their redeemer. I believe from my reading that Matthew was concerned with the Jewish people’s rejection of Jesus as the true Messiah. Secondly, Matthew was determined to keep the history of Jesus correct. Matthew lengthens Mark’s Gospel to highlight the points that he felt were important. Who Jesus was (and still is) was vital to Matthew’s message.

What is the setting and why is that important? – It was stated in our my reading that the church Matthew was writing to were Jewish Christians as well as the Gentiles that were hearing the message and coming into the Church. Matthew addressed growing Jewish population that rejected Jesus as the Messiah. If this was his motivation, then Matthew’s aim was to reach the Jewish people and persuade them that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. It was also to let the Gentiles know they were now the “true Israel”; grafted into the family tree by God’s saving work.

How does this now speak to me? – This serves both as a warning and an encouragement. It first warns me to be careful not to reject Jesus because he is the fulfillment of God’s purpose. Jesus was sent to be the savior of the world and he accomplished that. It also serves to encourage me. It encourages me because I know that when I was not part of the family, God took time to graft me into his “Spiritual Israel”. I am now part of the family of God because of Jesus’ saving grace. It also makes me think on those that had the promises first hand and rejected them. It cautions me to not look too lightly at the promises of God, for to reject them can lead to loss of his riches.