As I've come to learn, most assuredly this election season, is that most everything is taken out of context, most everything is twisted to say what wasn't said, or what someone wished was said, or what wasn't said but reported as said because someone said it was true and you know someone never lies why would they lie or why would someone believe what someone who lies said is true when you know someone lies.
How's that for a run on? Hmmmmmm?
The more I know, the less I know. The more I understand the more I realize there is more to understand than I will never be able to understand in my lifetime. Probably three or four lifetimes wouldn't even get me to where full understanding waits.
I could pick out a bunch of Bible passages and if you're not real knowledgeable, you may quickly agree that because this blog posted this passage stating a certain truth is backed up by a certain passage than it must be true.
But then along comes someone who is smarter than me or more knowledgeable or has more wisdom or has a degree that says they have the authority to understand it more clearly than either myself or my friend in the above paragraph.....
And that person would then point out why the first passage is not correct and why because that passage does not confirm an imagined and/or hoped for truth
...and then both me and my friend are left wiping egg off our faces.
So what is one to do? Who is the authority on where these cut and paste pieces of an ancient text can be glued into our fragmented and disjointed and disagreeable 21st century?
He's the one with the authority.
And He drives me crazy because He's all about saving people and loving people and freeing people and he puts up with a lot of misconceptions and lies and half truths about who he is and what he wants and what he expects and he lets us all just duke it out until we're SCREAMING AT EACH OTHER IN CAPITAL LETTERS or unfriending or unfollowing our own brothers and sisters in Christ or otherwise!
I mean really, Jesus, could we please just get some clarity? Please? The authoritative clarity only you seem to have.
So I like to find a word, any word, and see and read all the places it's used in the ancient text - or what we like to call, The BIBLE. I like to look up the original languages, see it used every place it's used in the Bible, and even read it in a several different translations so I know I am fairly clear on its meaning.
So the other day I was soaking in Revelation 21. (Kinda under the bleh feeling of, Lord give me some hope it's going to be better SOOOOONNNN!) If I had a super power my super power would be that I could read the WHOLE Bible in one sitting every time I sat down to read it. It would make it so much easier if I could read and know and understand the full context of a verse or a chapter or a book in relation to the whole book.
But.....alas, I am a mere aging woman, graying, shrinking, and widening, and no such super powers to boast.
So back to Revelation 21.
God has such a way with causing a word to jump off the page with me.
And if you've read Revelation 21 I'm sure you are trying to guess which word was the one that got my attention.
No, it wasn't the one on mourning,
or the seven angels,
or the light
or the lamp.
Nope, none of those.
It was one in this passage:
"But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars - their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur."
I'm guessing you think it might be.......LIARS?
I won't hold you in suspense, I know you have things to do.
the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars.....
Cowardly - afraid in a way that makes you unable to do what is right or expected; lacking courage
Cowardly is not last on the list nor is it in the middle. For some reason, John was led by the Spirit to put Cowardly front and top of the verse.
Now, I have to confess something. If I have a list, whether it is a grocery list, a list of tasks to complete, or any other list, whether I am making it or memorizing it, I usually ALWAYS remember the very first thing on the list (if I forget the paper my list is written on). It's usually because the first thing on a list is the most important thing on the list I need to buy, do or remember to buy or do and thinking of the most important thing to write down started an avalanche of other things to write down, but the most important thing stays at the top.
So I went ahead and looked for some other lists in the New Testament and I found a few more.
You can look them up if you would like: 1 Corinthians 5:9-12 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 4:29-5:7.
Now, I stayed in the New Testament because we are living in the New Testament, not the Old. And I know how some God mockers hate when the Old Testament is used as a basis for morality so I found it interesting that the New Testament held quite a list of "deal breakers" (if the words of Paul and John are considered a valid part of the truth package).
Did you find it interesting that Paul stated that these were all about people INSIDE the church, not outside? It wasn't about "sinners" and their end game, but it was a plea to the "saints" and their end game.
They are strong words, and it's a tough list so you may want to soak in them for a little bit before you come back to this post.
If you come back.
But when, and if you do, let me point out something:
Cowardly makes no other list but the list in Revelation.
The Greek word for it, deilos means to be cowardly, fearful, timid. It's used for the English words, cowardly and afraid.
It is an adjective that describes a person who loses their "moral gumption" that is needed to follow the Lord, because of an excess fear (dread) of losing, causing someone to be fainthearted (cowardly) hence, to fall short in following Christ the Lord.
Second on that Revelation list, is the word unbelieving (apistos) which means to be not faithful because he or she is unpersuaded, not convinced, or they are someone who rejects or refuses God's inbirthings of faith.
So, my lists usually have the most important things to buy or do at the top.
I wonder if that was what John intended. He got a great vision and as he tried to record it, I wonder, did the word cowardly and unbelieving jump off the corner of the vision and onto papyrus first because it was the most telling trait he saw?
I'll ask him when I meet him.
But for now, I'll ask you.....
Are you a coward? Are you unbelieving of what God can do? Has done? Could help you overcome?
If you follow the rest of the list you will see a lot of things that in other places of the Bible you may believe grace covers. Those sins that so many of us have laid aside because we trust and believe that grace, God's undeserved favor, has freed us from the guilt of them.
Or have we?
Do we listen to the liars who say we were made that way or that we are just doing what society or our culture accepts or has rejected as old fashioned? Do we throw our hands up in the air and say to the Potter, "You made me this way. You know I'm a 'sinner', what do you expect from me? Perfection?"
What say you, Jesus? Does grace cover this or not?
The best answer I think He gives is that it depends on the heart's motive.
If you and I cowardly believe God has no power over our sin and so we just continue living it, practicing it, running towards it, accepting it, believing we have been sentenced to a sinners' life....then we might be a little nervous at this point of this post.
But if we struggle with any of these and are continually asking God to help us overcome and conquer the struggles, going two steps forward and three steps back sometimes but always aiming for a forward path to victory, then these passages need not frighten us of death, just to confession and repentance.
It all depends on our hearts.
We either trust God to help us overcome or we don't.
We either submit ourselves to his escape plan from temptation or we cowardly give in to temptation.
Peter was afraid, but he wasn't cowardly. When Jesus told him to walk to him on the water, he was afraid. But Jesus didn't accuse him of being a coward.
Which are you?
Fearful or cowardly? The fight or flight is a natural physiological response. Cowardice takes thought. And mulling over. And considering of the cost.
Does your faith just need some exercising to be less fearful or is your fear of what you'll lose if you step out in faith driving you to shrink back and cower?
What is God calling you to be bold for? What is God compelling you to stand firm on?
It's ok to be afraid, but clearly, John thought it important enough to place it number one on his list...
what he saw did not give the ok to be a coward.
I think there is a call going out around the world for courageous believers to stand up, not shrink back. What that looks like for you may not look the same for me. But, if you're about standing up for an ancient text describing an everlasting Lover of men's and women's and children's souls, then now may be the day you walk into light and out of the darkness of your own fears.
The cowards are on the same list as the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, the magicians, the idolators and the liars.
Our fear and shrinking back doesn't look so innocent on that list, does it?
Paul told believers not to associate with a brother, (a believer) who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolator or a slanderer, a drunkard, or a swindler.
Why? Why Paul, why do we want to stay from those who claim to love Jesus but refuse to trust Jesus with conquering the sins that have entrapped them?
Why do you think Paul told us that? And, even more difficult to think, what does that look like?
I think we'll see a great divide if and when that day ever comes, where the cowards are set apart from the fearfully courageous.
Which side will you be on?
Do you trust him or don't you? Being willing to be made willing to trust him is more powerful then one who shrinks back and is afraid to be made willing.
Ugh. I hate when these kind of words rattle around in my brain.
1 Corinthians 7:23
Matthew 8:26 (afraid); Mark 4:40 (afraid); Revelation 21:8 (cowardly)
Matthew 17:17; Mark 9:19; Luke 9:41; 12:46; John 20:27; Acts 26:8 (incredible); 1 Corinthians 6:6; 7:12, 13,14,15; 10:27; 14:22,23,24; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 6:14,15; 1 Timothy 5:8, Titus 1:15; Revelation 21:8
chicken; chickenhearted, checken-livered, craven, dastardly, gutless, lily-livered, milk-livered, poltroon, pusillanimous, recreant, spineless, unheroic, yellow
brave, courageous, daring, dauntless, doughty, fearless, gallant, greathearted, gutsy, hardy, heroic, intrepid, lionhearted, stalwart, stout, stouthearted, valiant, valorous
It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.