Tag Archives: Beginning

Matthew 27 – 2 – The Beginning Ends

I have a hard time writing about this section.  I don’t know why.  It is such a rich section of the scripture with beauty, majesty, & strength.  I look at this section of scripture and it seems like time is slowing down and almost coming to a standstill.  Like if you could be there, you could almost see every drop of blood and hear the cry of every vulture.  It’s almost like every bit and piece of reality is slowed down and magnified.  Like all of life and time itself has been preparing for this moment and is now holding its breath in anxious anticipation of this, the very moment that it exists for.  Distantly, in the background, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” ringing through all of reality.  The flutter of the wings of a bird; the racing heartbeat of a little boy; the sound of the laughter of the roman soldiers slowing down as a moment is extended into five.  It is almost deep and primal, and then… it is done!

Jesus, the Christ, has died!  The heaven’s mourn.  The Father / YHWH tears His veil, as the priest had torn his robes only hours before.  The very earth and rocks cry out.  They expel the very bodies of the dead righteous, just as the blood of righteous Able called out to YHWH from the ground that had swallowed him up from the hands of Cain.

Nothing else matters in all of history and time, as what happens in that very moment when “Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.

… except maybe what happens on the third day

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Exodus – Introduction

It’s amazing to me  to consider that Genesis is done.  I have made a personal copy of one of the most powerful and influential books ever written.  All 50 chapters word-for-word.  Now we enter a new era.  It is a time of re-revelation; a time of hope, struggle, inspiration, and new life (revival).

Four-Hundred years have passed since the close of Genesis.  The Israelites have gone from blessed and honored guests to mistreated and abused slaves.  The Pharaoh who knew and loved Joseph and insisted that the Israelites had to stay there has long since died and been forgotten.  Since then the Egyptians have become concerned with how blessed the Israelites have been, and how quickly they are growing.

The Israelites are here residing on their land and overrunning them like rats in the sewer.  The Egyptians realize that if they don’t do something about this “Hebrew problem” soon, it’ll be too late.  So a “wise” Pharaoh decides that it’s time to turn the table on these Israelite invaders.  He begins by hiring them.  He uses them for cheap labor.  Pharaoh even goes down to help work in the trenches.  He takes his clean robe off and becomes one of the men; doing the work of the masses.

However, what has started out as hard work for a decent wage becomes sweatshop work, then eventually slavery under whips and cruel taskmasters.  The Israelites are toiling and dying under the abuse and under the expectation of their daily quota.  So, they begin crying out for help from the God of their fathers.

This is the God that they know only from their history; the stories passed down of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob / Israel and their covenants with Him.  The Israelites are surrounded by the many gods of the Egyptians, each one with a name, a face, and a purpose.  Yet their God seems to have none of those things.  Yet in order to worship Him properly, the Israelites need to know these things.  Is He one of the gods of the Egyptians?  How about one of the Baals from a neighboring nation?  Maybe he’s Moloch of the Ammonites?

How do you serve a God that you do not know?  How do you cry out to Him?  How do you appease Him when He is angry at you for some unknown transgression and therefore allowing you to be mistreated, beaten, and killed, and He doesn’t appear to be doing anything about it?  What do you do!?!

That’s the backdrop of this book.  The Israelites don’t realize that this is part of a plan much bigger than they are.  A plan with a story that is about to play out for all of history to see.  Their Exodus is about to begin…

In the meantime, what does this say about us?  How are we treating those who are sojourning in our land?  …those who have left their homes due to famine, troubles, and a desire for a better life?  Do we treat them with contempt because they don’t speak very good English?  Do we kick  them out and tell them “We don’t want your kind here”?  Do we put them into sweatshops, one step above slavery; sometimes not even a step above?  Do we fear  them like the Egyptians did, or do we embrace them?  What is God’s plan?

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Genesis 50 – Mourning & Hope

What is the difference between happiness and joy?  How about between mourning and dismay?  What keeps trials from becoming desperation, and sadness from depression?  There is one word; one concept or idea that divides these from each other.  That is hope.  Hope creates joy (long-term & deeply rooted) rather than happiness (short-term & fleeting).  Hope separates mourning (the natural response  to loss) from dismay (fear of facing the future resulting from loss).  This almost undefinable, nugget of life we call hope is a key and defining ingredient that separates sadness from depression.

Jacob is dead; he has died of old age.  The time of mourning is here, and Joseph and his brothers work to fulfill their responsibility to bury him in the cave of his fathers resting place.  There is a huge procession of Israelites and Egyptians that carries the body of Jacob to the burial mound.  All that is expected and more has been done.

With the passing of their father, Joseph’s older brothers begin to lose that hope.  Their past sin that has continued to haunt them their entire lives now comes to a head.  What will Joseph do to them?  What will he do to their families and children?  Will he enslave them as they did to him?  Will he treat them with cruelty and contempt?  Will he have Pharaoh and the Egyptians do it for him?  So many troubles caused by one choice.  They fear because of the seeds sown by their own actions so long ago.

What does Joseph do?  He relieves them of those full grown weeds; the result of those seeds planted so long ago.  He gives them hope.  He tells them that all that they did was part of the plan meant not for the destruction of his life, but for life for the Egyptians and themselves.  They have no need to fear.  They have no need to be troubled.  God has a plan bigger than they are, and all this trouble and fear is simply wasted life.

How about us?  Do we have a hope, or are we buried in our mourning and fear?  Does mourning turn to dismay and sadness become depression?  It’s time to let all of that go, and to seek the hope that has been freely offered and given.  The one who has created us has a plan.  He has a purpose that includes you and me.  We need to pursue Him… to find He who has been pursuing us.  Are you ready?

 

Rev. John Camiolo

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Genesis 49 – Jacob’s Last

Well, Genesis is almost done.  It is the beginning’s end.  I really liked copying this chapter down.  It was easy to process and write as there is a solid thought on each line (or in the least a solid chunk of a solid thought).  It makes the process, oh, so much easier!

Israel has some final words to say to each of his sons.  It is here that Jacob makes changes to the natural order of his progeny.  Reuben was the firstborn, but here he officially loses that honor and privilege due to his hasty actions of sleeping with his father’s concubine.  Yeah, now that was smart, Reuben </sarcasm>!  Simeon and Levi are next in line, but they both lose that honor due to their rash decision to annihilate the Hivites  (chapter 34)  whose prince raped their sister Dinah.  In fact, Simeon ended up receiving no natural inheritance at all when the Israelites reentered the land of Canaan.

So that left Judah to become heir apparent.  He received the lion’s share of the blessing and inheritance (and gave some to Simeon because it was too much for them).  Judah also received the blessing of having the Messiah, the Christ, come through his line.

It’s interesting to note that this is probably the last time that Joseph specifically gets named in the listing of the sons/tribes of Israel.  From now on, Joseph’s place is taken by the half-tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (Joseph’s two sons that Israel claimed as his own in chapter 48).

After charging his sons (i like the way this brings the word “charging” into a clearer understanding than the way we recognize it today) to bury him with his fathers in the cave at the end of the field bought from Ephron, Jacob finally breathes his last.

What do we do to ruin our inheritance?  Are we like Reuben, Simeon, and Levi allowing our rash, unthinking, and angry natures to destroy our blessings?  Is that even possible?  Think on these things.

Also of note, there are some interesting names of God that appear in this text: Abir Yacob (Mighty One of Jacob), Ra-ah (Shepherd), Eben Yisrael (Stone of Israel), Shaddai (Almighty), and of course El (God).

Rev. John

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Genesis 12 – Cost/Benefit

Well, this is where everything changes.  Abram takes his first steps into a broader world.  This promise that God makes with Abram is an amazing promise.  It requires that Abram simply go.  Go, leave your family, and your country, and your relatives.  Just go where God tells him.  Then because of that simple obedience God will bless him.  It is a huge blessing for not such as huge cost.  It all seems so unreal.

I’ve read this through many times before, but i’ve never really noticed the cost to benefit ratio before.  It’s simply, “Go.  Step out into the unknown.  I will tell you where to go, and I will bless you, and I will make you a great nation.  Just go.”  Now, to some extent, it’s just not that easy.  By going, Abram was making a huge faux pas.  In that time and day, family was everything.  You didn’t leave the nest, you made it bigger.  That’s how cities, nations, and civilizations were born.  There was security in being part of the group.  There was value in the group.  Leaving the larger family as a whole would have been considered foolhardy and dangerous in the least.  Yet, that’s what God asked of Abram.  More than that, that’s what God expected of him.  “Go, and I will bless you.”

We all know how this ends… or rather how this continues.  We all know that this is the first step and the the rest of the Bible is the fulfillment of that promise, but Abram didn’t.   How much more does God ask of us?  His Word (the Bible) is filled with the promises that He makes to us.  The benefit to cost ratio is astronomical!  He simply calls for us to give up our old and crummy life.  To remove the torn and ruined clothes of sin and our selfish desires, and to take on His new, festive clothing of His righteousness.  It’s really a very simple thing.  It’s not so simple to live out, but we aren’t doing it by ourselves.  The benefits we receive when we take the “risk” are astronomical in comparison to the cost.

And the nice things is, all we have to do is “Jump!”

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Genesis 9 – New

All things new.  It is a new land.  It is a new lineage.  It is a new life.  It is a new way of doing things.  It is new consequences.  It is a new covenant.  It is new purpose, hope, direction, foods, reactions, direction, and sin.  All things are new, but not all sins are gone.  The flood wiped away the old generations with their old sins and anger, but sin is still sin, and just because the old cancer was wiped out doesn’t mean that a new disease can’t arise.

I think that it’s interesting that after the flood, God changed the way that human beings both ate food and related to animals.  Imagine a world where animals had no fear of you.  All you had to do was call to them and they would come.  Not only that, but they had no reason to fear.  If you had the choice, would you rather not be able to have any meat of any kind and all the animals come at your beck, or would you rather be able to eat meat and the animals fear you?

I don’t know.  I would love to have the animals come at my beck and be able to not worry about what they did.  Then again, i really like my meat.  So it’s kind of a toss up on that one.  Not only is the food and animal system different, but so is the rest of the world around the them.  As a result there are new rules and a whole new covenant between God and the entirety of His world.  There is a new promise to never flood the earth with water again, complete with a new sign of that promise.

God still does new things in our lives even today.  He reaches out to us in new ways.  He helps us to see things in a new light.  He gives us new life, new hope, new strengths, new direction, new peace, new faith.  He helps us to see and understand who He is and how we are to respond to Him.  Yet He never changes!

What new thing is God doing in your life today?  Are we willing to allow Him to teach us and change us into new men/women, or are we too comfortable in what we have done and are doing right now to let Him make the changes necessary in our lives?  Are we too busy holding onto the old rules and ways of doing things to be willing to accept those changes?

Rev. John C.

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Genesis 7 – Loss

Well, i know that God is working in me through this project.  I have said previously that by going through the Bible this way i am getting a much more intimate picture.  The lives and people become more personal.  The situations and lives have gone from stories of history, to a history of people.  Well, that has not been more clear than here in chapter 7.

I started today waking up with the song “Take Me In” by Kutless running through my head.  So i was singing it as i went down to the basement to start working on chapter 7.  I opened my Bible and journal, looked at vs. 1, and started crying. “Then the Lord said to Noah, ‘Enter the ark, you and all your household…”  I knew what was coming, and i just couldn’t handle it.

Now to put this into perspective; I remember where i was the day that the Oklahoma city bombing occurred.  I was at a friend’s house.  It was someone i hadn’t seen in years.  His mom turned on the TV, and it was all over the news.  My reaction was, “Oh great, that means that this is going to be  all over the news all day.”  Not a tear shed; more annoyance about the life interruption than anything else.  I didn’t understand why everyone was getting so worked up about things.  And sure enough the drama went on for days and weeks.

Then September 11, 2001 occurred.  I was in class working towards my Masters in Counseling when the news hit.  It seemed like all these people all around me were crying and upset.  The loss of life affected them, but not the same way as with me.  I was shocked and upset about what was happening, but i was more fascinated with seeing the whole event unfold.  I kept wanting to see before and after comparison pictures to see the extent of the damage.  The loss of human life was not as much of an issue for me.

Now with that background, i come into this chapter.  I’ve read this chapter more times than i can remember.  I’ve heard the story in Sunday School and classes even more than that.  It has always been just a story to me.  …A story with important historical and theological implications.  Today though, it was something completely different.  It was no longer just some story.  Those people, those lives, have become important.  Seeing all the energy, all the effort, all the work that has gone into these lives.  Not just the people, but the animals and the plant-life.  Those people have become my people.  It’s like i’ve watched them grow up.  I’ve seen their dreams, joys, failures, children, and grandchildren.  I’ve seen them live, love, lose, and find redemption.  I’ve been there as man loses his home and he comforts his wife.  I’ve seen children born, destroy their lives, and continue feeding that through the generations.  I’ve seen new hope born.  I’ve seen generation after generation consume themselves more and more with their anger and selfishness.

I understand WHY it needs to happen, but i’m crushed that it DOES.  “Then the Lord said to Noah, ‘Enter the ark, you and all your household…”  I knew what was coming, and i just couldn’t handle it.  How must it have been for Noah and his family?  How hard was it for them knowing that all that they knew and cared for was about to be destroyed.  How much more for God, who had created and cared so lovingly for.  This wasn’t just some trivial matter.  This was a necessary revulsion of all of the corruption  that was acting as a cancer that was destroying the world.  It was all the hard work and effort.  It was all the hope dreams and lives, gone.  I started crying.  (You can ask my wife, that’s not something that happens very often.)

Then it’s almost like my eyes were drawn straight down to verse 16 “Those that entered,… entered as God had commanded him; and the Lord closed it behind him.”  At that point the crying turned into weeping and i had to turn away.  This is something that God HAD to do personally.  He HAD to set it into motion Himself.  The work of His hands, the man created in His image, the birds, the cattle, even the creeping things, all of it.  A necessary and total loss… except for that one hope that floated along in that little boat.

It took me about 10 minutes and some serious toughing up to get to the point where i could pick up my pen and start writing.  Needless to say, this project is completely changing the way i view the scriptures, and the world around me.

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