A Prostitute Teaches Me How To Worship

As Christians, we often spend a lot of time wondering what is wrong with us.

We hear of martyrs on foreign soil  laying down their lives for the gospel in bloody extravagant fashion. Church history testifies of men and women who stood against fierce political and social opposition and proclaimed boldly the foolishness of the cross. In our bible reading the fearless radical passion of the early church in the book of Acts is an indictment on our listless and dry spiritual estate.

Even reading a popular book calling us to “Radical” gospel commitments doesn’t necessarily bring the quick spiritual fix we long for.

It’s enough to make any solid sincere saint at the least question their own fruit, and at the most question their very salvation.

All of this begs the question.

Thankfully, as is always the case with the most important questions, the Bible is forthcoming with a more than adequate answer. It’s found in Luke 7:36-50:

When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Let’s stop there for now.

Where does such passion, boldness, and extravagant worship come from?

Party Like A Morning Star

In the verse right before this scene (Luke 7:34) Jesus speaks of eating with the “wrong people.” The Sinners and tax collectors were despised by the religious establishment. One of the Pharisees charges against Jesus was that he threw the best parties (“a drunkard”) and invited the lowest classes of a people.

They probably were jealous they weren’t invited.

Jesus turns that theory on its head in the very next scene.  Being no respecter of persons, Christ eats with the “right” person in v. 36. Pharisees were the creme de la creme of society, pillars of the first century Israeli religious system. The Pharisees were OCD in their religious zeal. They fasted frequently and even tithed out of their spice racks.

In v. 36 Simon the Pharisee invites Jesus to dinner. Dinner was a sign of intimate acquaintance in ancient Israel culture. A gesture of supreme respect towards the person invited.

Is it possible to pay outward respects to Christ and inwardly oppose him?

It takes no time for a broken vessel to rain on Simon’s party.

Party Foul Of Kanye West Proportions

In v.37 we have a very public “sinner” show up to the Pharisee’s house. The phrase “woman of the city” usually connotes sexual sin, which was probably committed as a prostitute. In that day, women were second class citizens on the level of children. For a woman to show up to a man’s dinner party uninvited was a serious party foul.

For a known prostitute to show up at a Pharisee’s dinner party uninvited was a colossal Kanye Westesque error.

The woman brings with her what is likely her most valuable possession, an alabaster flask of perfume. The expensive stone flask was probably used for her line of work. In a profound way, the jar contained her very livelihood. It was worth a healthy portion of her salary for the entire year.

Yet she pours it out in a reckless display of love.

Her only earthly security.

Her 401K Plan.

And then something even more stunning happens.

Because of our lack of historical context, the cultural significance of v. 38 is lost on us.

She washes Jesus’s feet with her glory

A woman’s hair had a weighty impact on her identity in Jewish culture.

In 1 Cor. 11:15 Paul calls a woman’s hair her “glory.”

The first century Jewish woman kept her hair up all her life. But on her wedding night when she was standing before her husband for the first time the man would reach up and take her hair down. Before the marriage was officially consummated the new husband would first see his wife’s long hair fall around her bare shoulders and back, and he would behold her there, standing in all her “glory.” Because of these implications it was scandalous for a woman to have her hair down before other men in public places.

But this woman does not care that she scandalizes the mind of mere men. She is on a solemn mission to serve at the feet of her tender Savior.

Her hair is down, she is vulnerable, she lays it all before the feet of the only man who will never use and abuse her.

And she uses her alabaster jar, her life savings plan, her only resource of earthly value and pours it on the feet of Jesus. The sandaled, dusty, unkempt feet of love. This was a slave’s job. She does it with tearful joy. Her tears were the soap that anointed the Savior’s feet.

Worship is a deeply emotional response to Christ. It is not just that, but it at least has that heartfelt component in it. Dignified stoicism is not a virtue lauded by Jesus.

This passion, boldness, and extravagant worship was a response she couldn’t hold back, no matter how her culture condemned her.

The gaze of the religious cut her to pieces. But she was pierced only by the gaze of One.

We’ll answer the original question at hand in the next post. The question(s) for now are:

What is holding me back from unhindered displays of worship for my Jesus?

What can this prostitute teach me about costly love?

Do I identify more with the Pharisee than the prostitute in this scene?

Peace and Grace til next time.

Bryan Daniels

Advertisements

Divine Moral Monster: Slavery In The Bible

Some people have little capacity for nuance (historical-contextual-grammatical) when reading Scripture.

This is detrimental especially when studying the hyper-sensitive and complex issue of slavery within the Bible. The word “slavery” in America has strong brutal race specific connotations attached to it. The whole ungodly “industry” of that regrettable time revolved around greed and abuse. If the Bible condones slavery like that, then we have good reason to do a double take with Scripture’s veracity.

But let’s be clear:

The Bible doesn’t condone slavery in that form at all.

Professor Paul Copan (excellent thinker on the subject) says:

We should compare Hebrew debt-servanthood (many translations render this “slavery”) more fairly to apprentice-like positions to pay off debts — much like the indentured servitude during America’s founding when people worked for approximately 7 years to pay off the debt for their passage to the New World. Then they became free.

The forced lifelong subjection of American slavery had little resemblance of Hebrew (OT)  servant hood in the bible. Masters could hire servants “from year to year” and were not to “rule over … [them] ruthlessly” (Leviticus 25:46,53). The Old Testament prohibited unavoidable lifelong servanthood — unless someone loved his master and wanted to attach himself to him (in many cases this happened!)  (Exodus 21:5).

Most servants in the Hebrew biblical context were to be treated as part of the family and were practically live in servants until their debt was paid. Even if they didn’t pay all their debts, Old Testament Law commanded the servants be released after every seventh year with all debts forgiven (Leviticus 25:35-43) This was wholly unlike (and radically progressive) the other Ancient Near Eastern slave laws of the day. J.A. Motyer says:

“Hebrew has no vocabulary of slavery, only of servanthood.”

The Old Testament also instituted anti-kidnapping laws that were absent in other ANE laws. One unique feature of the Mosaic Law is its condemnation of kidnapping a person to sell as a slave — an act which is punishable by death (Exodus 21:16; cp. Deuteronomy 24:7). Kidnapping is how slavery in the old South was nurtured; African kidnappers and traffickers got the ball rolling for the American plantation owners.

Other Old Testament provisions that were an improvement on other Ancient Near Eastern practices was release the of injured servants (Exodus 21:26,27). Also, Israel was to offer safe harbor to foreign runaway slaves (Deuteronomy 23:15,16) — a marked contrast to the Southern states’ Fugitive Slave Law.

Some may claim the Old Testament allows for lifelong servitude of “foreign slaves” in Leviticus 25:42-46. But some things to consider:

God was giving foreign runaway slaves protection within Israel’s borders so they would not have to be returned to their harsh masters. They would be house servants with rights in Israel and not mere property like in other lands (Deuteronomy 23:15,16)

Foreigners had no ability to own land in Israel (for obvious nation-preserving reasons). The safest most logical way for them to survive would be to attach themselves to a family as a household servant. Servants in Israel were considered part of the family.

Verse 47 shows these same foreign servants could purchase their own freedom if they had the means. The point: All servants in Israel, even foreign ones, had the potential to be released freemen.

Slavery in The New Testament

The New Testament era unfolded in a time when 85% of Roman population consisted of slaves in varying positions. The type practiced in Rome was of the more contemporary assumed “property” form of slavery. Roman slaves had decidedly less citizen rights than Hebrew servants (I wonder why that was?)

But the NT still has some important commentary on slavery in Roman context.

In Old South slavery (and in some ways Roman slavery), slaves were deemed less than human. On the other hand, Paul states slaves were morally responsible full fledged persons capable of living to the glory of God. (Colossians 3:22-25)

Slaves also were fellow image bearers of God, and granted equal human/spiritual status with all peoples (Galatians 3:28) Galatians 3:28 may have been the most radical human rights statement to ever fall on ancient Roman ears.

In Old South slavery, slave traders were greedy ruthless traffickers who treated humans as mere cargo. On the other hand, Paul condemns such slave traders and proclaims their practices as a violation of inherent human dignity (1 Tim 1:9,10).

If the slave owners of the South actually practiced the parameters of servanthood expounded in the Old and New Testament, that would have been the practical abolition of slavery as they knew it.

But they didn’t, greed ruled the day for them, and the blood of countless thousands of slaves and soldiers bear witness to this.

Some may lament that the Bible seems to only regulate the scope and type of servanthood allowed, and not overtly condemn it.

Well, God reserved the clearest condemnation of slavery for the lips of His own dear Son.

The Abolitionist Statement of Jesus

When God in the flesh initially came onto scene in His public ministry, He clearly opposed all forms of human oppression in His all-consuming mission statement (which was lifted from the Old Testament!):

“THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,
BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR.
HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES,
AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND,
TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,
TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.” (Luke 4:18-19 and Isaiah 61)

You see

Apart from Christ

We are all slaves to something.

Slaves to sin in need of a Perfect Master to grant us true freedom by His own precious blood.

As newly purchased and redeemed we are slaves to Christ, and much more than that, sons and daughters of the Most High King.

Bryan Daniels

Does The Final Prophet Or Snooki Have Your Ear?

The ever quotable AW Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us… Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.”

We can be very religious, but if we are not utterly fascinated with the person of Jesus Christ our worship is base. Scripture says the Glory of God is found in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). If we would be acquainted with God’s glory we must find it in the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Christ revealed Himself to be many things. One office He fulfilled was that of prophet; not just any prophet, but in an ultimate everlasting way THE FINAL PROPHET for all peoples and ages. Scripture communicates this in Hebrews 1:1-2:

1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.

Hebrews 1:1

In Hebrews 1:1 we find that God speaks-He is not silent. He reveals Himself. Only a person can speak. Only a person who wants to relate to other persons can speak and communicate.

God is a person, with a personality, with a heart to communicate to us. He is neither stoic nor neutral about communicating truth to us.

Before, in the Old Testament, He spoke through various prophets to Israel. Who was a prophet? Not a purple haired lady or some greasy haired charlatan in a three-piece suit who waxes, “Sow into our ministry and we’ll give you miracle water/prayer cloth/financial anointing!”

The OT prophets words were tough; Forget seeker sensitive, more like seeker abrasive. Their consummate message:

Don’t put your trust in the living God for coats and boats! Trust Him because His perfect wrath will fall on you if you don’t! 

Some prophets were subjected to utter rejection while carrying out strange and radical displays of obedience. (read about Hosea here)

John the Baptist, the forerunner prophet of Christ, was a wild man with an uncompromising message of repentance.

A prophet is one who simply speaks for God. They are, in the moment they are prophesying, the mouthpiece of God (2 Peter 1:21). God could have spoken with a thundering voice from the sky, but that would neglect the human incarnational component He was intimating. In an awe-inspiring way God chooses sinful men as His blessed ambassadors.

This speaking happened “in many ways.” (verse 1) Through creation, as Psalm 19 shows, nature speaks praises of her Creator. God speaks now through the recorded lives and words of Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Daniel, Samuel and David. God can even speak through the sacrificial system of Leviticus and endless genealogies of Numbers. Though the message is singular, God has diversified the means with which He would speak to man.

For us to say “God has not spoken to me,” is like covering our ears during a rock concert and saying “I can’t hear anything.” If we aren’t hearing it’s our fault. The problem isn’t with the decibel level of God’s voice, it is with the selective hearing of our own ears.

God’s creation, God’s prophets and Christ’s blood have spoken with clarity, and all who spurn their word will be condemned justly.

Hebrews 1:2

Verse 2 says He has spoken in these “Last days through the Son” Usually, in the NT, the “last days” refer to the advent of Christ into the world. I’m not convinced the disciples had a “Left Behind” dispensational understanding of the end times. The beginning of the “last days” started with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So in a real sense the disciples believed they were living in the last days. In the person of Christ, we find God’s final communication to humanity for these last days.

As CS Lewis stated “Christ is the self-expression of the father.” The Father had one thing to say to us, and He breathed out Christ into the world as the message in the flesh. As the final prophet, He is the living Word of God to humanity (John 1;1).

Have we heard God’s voice through the work and person of Jesus Christ? Has the magnitude and beauty of the cross ravaged us? Has the wonder and power of the empty grave captivated us?

Both the Old and the New Testament speak of Him, and thus the whole series of biblical literature testify to the Person, work, grace and glory of the Son of God. Christ said:

“You search the Scriptures because in them you seek eternal life. But these Scriptures testify of Me!”(John 5:39)

Our privilege is to see Christ in it all from Genesis to Maps. Jesus in every bible story, character, prophecy, praise, lament, everything.

He is the center of the story. His words do not reveal information, they reveal Him!

God’s word is “God –breathed” and He continues to speak to us through his word about Jesus. (2 Tim 3:16) The testimony of Christ is the spirit of prophecy. (Rev 19:10)

What is the final prophet saying to me? This is no ordinary man making unsubstantiated claims. This not just another Mohammed, Joseph Smith or Jim Jones. This is the “heir of all things.”  Christ owns it all, for through Him God made the universe (Hebrews 1:2) Yet this is still a person; through God’s word in the power of the Holy Spirit a word is being spoken to us. The Comforter has many things to say. There is a message that is being communicated right now. That is why Jesus and the prophets proclaim again and again,

“He who has an ear let him hear!”

Which begs a personal question:

Who has your ear?

Facebook, Fox News, Hollywood, ESPN, Twitter? (I’m wounding my own pride)

Some voices have no right to speak into your life.

You can listen to Snooki.

Or you can listen to the one who speaks for God.

This one Who speaks is very God of God.

Are you listening to Him?

He is speaking. In and through Christ.

Listen.

Bryan Daniels

J.S. Park

By K.P. Yohannan

Religion, I discovered, is a multi-billion dollar business in the United States. Entering churches, I was astonished at the carpeting, furnishings, air-conditioning and ornamentation. Many churches have gymnasiums and fellowships that cater to a busy schedule of activities having little or nothing to do with Christ. The orchestras, choirs, “special” music—and sometimes even the preaching—seemed to me more like entertainment than worship.

Many North American Christians live isolated from reality—not only from the needs of the poor overseas, but even from the poor in their own cities. Amidst all the affluence live millions of terribly poor people left behind as Christians have moved into the suburbs. I found that believers are ready to get involved in almost any activity that looks spiritual but allows them to escape their responsibility to the Gospel.

One morning, for example, I picked up a popular Christian magazine containing many interesting articles…

View original post 350 more words

The Hunger Games: Why Werewolves Won’t Like It But Ron Paul Will

I went on a field trip this last Friday.

The high school I teach at took a group of 150 ninth graders to a viewing of “The Hunger Games” at a local theater. The trip was paid out of pocket by students and not by taxpayer money I assure you. With the exception of two other math teachers in attendance, I was probably the only soul in the theater who had never read the book. I can’t comment on the literary validity of the book series (I don’t read much fiction) but I thought I’d share a few thoughts about the movie with my beloved readership.

The “Hunger Games”  film is becoming a record-setting blockbuster ($70 million in its opening DAY) and is a surefire successful Trilogy; As conscientious Christians who want Christ’s kingdom to permeate all levels of culture, it is good to at least be semi-informed about what popular culture obsesses over and values:

It’s Better Than Twilight

I know that is not saying much. But at least Hunger Games is not a contrived love story about a boring emo girl who must practically choose between necromancy and bestiality. I think the leading Heroine, Katniss, has some solid qualities that are actually worthy of teen girl emulation. She’s strong. She loves her family to a fault. She’s brave. She hates injustice. She takes responsibility for her actions. And maybe most importantly: She’s not mindlessly wrapped up in an all-consuming hormonal rage over a boy.

Woody

I’m a Woody Harrelson fan. He has always played the role of witty sleazy wino well (maybe his bartender role in Cheers gave him a jumpstart with that). He doesn’t disappoint in his role of Haymitch Abernathy, a former Hunger Games winner and current tutor to District 12 contestants. I’m used to generally poor acting quality when attempting to stomach teenage box office thrillers, but there were a couple pleasant surprises in this film. Elizabeth Banks is delightfully creepy as the plastic clownlike, “Effe”, who serves as a mayor/publicist for District 12 and its contestants.

The Violence is Not Mindless

I’ve heard the movie flirted with an R rating before its release. Some may think the child on child violence is too graphic. That may be true, so parents should be informed before allowing formative younger children to partake. But I do think much of the violence in the movie is purposeful. No one dies without a stirring consequence or somber tone from the on looking survivors. There is actually a touching impromptu funeral scene during the games, injecting humanity in an inhumane circumstance. When any child is killed during competition a harrowing gong resonates through the city and countryside, and their picture is hologrammed across the sky. Even in the twisted dystopia of Panem, the corrupt government intimidates its subjects by playing against their knowledge of the inherent value of human life. For example: If each year from each district the authorities require a boy and girl sacrifice for a rebellion that happened 70 years ago in one district, what horrific acts would they do to our children in a contemporary rebellion?

The Founders Might Have Enjoyed It

Really, Hunger Games revolves around a cautionary tale regarding government power run amok. By displaying in prophetic clarity the negative effects of a meddling political system, the movie propagates a limited government message that may even make Ron Paul crack a grin. It reminds us, because of our sinful human depravity, the early gladiator games of Rome are not necessarily an unrealistic relic of the past. The vague goal of “progress” needs to tapered with real absolute moral foundation (Bible). Katniss also models the virtues of personal responsibility and healthy authority questioning throughout, and in our current climate of big government influences on both sides, these are not bad attributes for a youth culture to be absorbing.

It’s far from a perfect film. There are some contrived points in the plot, where main characters “coincidentally” run into each other at strategic junctures or when they hear seemingly random divulged information at just the right time to preserve life. I wasn’t overly impressed with the quality of acting by many of the younger actors either. I hear later in the series the book toys with Nihilism, but I can’t comment on what I haven’t seen yet.

But the Hunger Games may be worth a watch for you. Clearly, there is not an overtly gospel message the movie attempts to set forth (brothers and sisters that is our calling!), but there are some apparent redemption themes and good character studies within the film.

As always, let’s take this cultural opportunity to speak the person and work of Christ as the only ONE worthy of our adulation and infatuation. He is the one who says to every soul hungry teeny bopper, parent, and cultural observer in between:

I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will never hunger (John 6:35)

Amen.

Bryan Daniels