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Matthew 20 – Eyes Blinded & Opened

This parable about the vineyard seems to bug me.  So early in the day this man goes out and hires a bunch of people.  They start working and keep working all day.  As the day goes on, he goes out and hires more and more people.  As the day goes on he continues hiring people until, an hour before finishing time he hires the last group of people.  So then at the end of the day he pays the workers their wages… starting with the last first.  So now he’s paying the last, those that have only worked an hour, not only the same as those who have worked all day long, but also he pays them all the same.  Those who have worked all day long are kind of ticked off, they have families and lives that they need to get home to.  They are tired from working so hard, and these other guys not only get paid as much as they do, they have to wait to get paid until these others do.  I mean come on!  Give these guys a break!  But the owner doesn’t.  He responds to their frustration by saying, “This is what we agreed to, so why are you so upset about how I paid these others?”‘

I’m pretty sure that i understand the meaning behind the parable.  The workers are people.  Some have been serving God all their lives, others reject Him until not long before they die.  Yet they both get paid the same.  Why?  Because God wants to do it that way.  Being one that has served Him since i was young, i struggle with this one quite a bit.  I think that part of it is a pride thing, and part of it is an envy thing, and part of it is a blind thing.  I feel like I DESERVE more because I have worked SO HARD for SO LONG (pride).  I feel like as i see others doing the wrong things (what they want) for so long, yet they seem to have all that they want / need, and they will get the same payment at the end it just doesn’t seem fair (envy).  It’s also a blind thing.  I don’t know what i’ve been missing out on.  I can’t see 5 dimensionally.  I can’t see what could have happened if i had made a different choice, but i wonder.

In the parable, the owner of the vineyard says, “Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you.  Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’”  I have to be careful of how i react to these kinds of things.  Matthew 18:8-9 says, “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.”  I have to be careful.  If my envious eye is not brought under conviction and dealt with (removed), it can lead to my own downfall.

There is so much more to this topic that i don’t have time to go into, but i did want to touch on one more thing in this chapter.  At the end of the chapter, there are two blind men sitting.  They heard that Jesus was passing by and they cried out for mercy!  What had they done wrong to deserve blindness that they needed mercy for?  Christ asked them what they wanted Him to do (significant).  He had compassion and healed them.  When we are physically blind, or blinded by by pride and envy.  Only one can have mercy on us and bring healing to our eyes.  He is the one we serve, and who has served us.

Rev. John J. Camiolo

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Matthew 8 – Ministering

It’s amazing how even simple daily chores and tasks can be so very different day-by-day when we are connected to other people.  Our lives can have set schedules and predefined plans, but once you add in the “other person” factor, everything we plan and do suddenly changes.  Our “set schedule” suddenly becomes a possible plan or a good idea or a guarantee of what WON’T happen.  This is the case while Jesus is ministering as well.

Jesus ministers to a leaper, and all is normal… or as normal as they can be when you heal a leaper with a touch.  Then along comes a Centurion, a solider, many of whom dislike and mistreat the Jewish people.  Only this one is asking Jesus for help.  Not only does Jesus help him, but Jesus then turns around and says that He has not seen such faith in all of Israel!  Next we see people desiring to be His disciples, but then Jesus pushes them away.  What kind of teacher doesn’t want students?

After a long day, Jesus and His disciples head out in a boat and cross the sea.  Suddenly a tempest strikes and it looks like they will all drown.  When His disciples wake Him to help with the boat, He rebukes them.  Then He rebukes the storm and it immediately stops!

They all reach the other side only to run into a pair of men who are demon possessed and who have been driving people out of the region.  They free them from the demons only to be driven out of the region by the rest of the people BECAUSE they freed these men from being held captive by demons!  (I have my own theories as to why they kicked them out, but i’m not going to say them here and now.)

When you minister day by day directly with people, these are the kinds of unusual days and situations you are going to run into.  If you are in the ministry, and your schedule is well defined and set.  If you don’t have days where your plans and schedule are messed up by people, then i would wonder if you you are “ministering”, or if you are “doing the ministry”.  If you are doing the ministry I would challenge you to consider what your call and purpose is.

Jesus did not sit in an office all day.  He was hands on, and if we are to be like Him, we need to reconsider what it means to “minister” to the flock.

Rev. John J. Camiolo Jr.

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Matthew 1 – The People

It’s interesting to me to see not only the life and lives of the scriptures coming to life, but also the arguments and debates.

This first book of the New Testament is clearly written for Jewish people.  This is seen from the very beginning of the very first chapter.  Matthew 1 begins with a genealogy for Jesus the Messiah that sets up Joseph the husband of Mary as a direct descendant of David and Abraham.  This genealogy serves at least a dual purpose.  1) It shows that Jesus has every right and privilege of being King David’s direct descendant.  And, 2) It takes a step toward proving that Jesus is indeed the Messiah by showing the fulfillment of prophecy through this genealogy.  It is the history of a Jew for Jews.

One of the debates that comes up is about the genealogy itself.  According to Matthew’s depiction of the genealogy there are 14 generations defined from Abraham to David, 14 generations defined from David to the fall of, and 14 generations defined between the captivity and Jesus the Messiah.  It’s a great pictorial representation, but it’s not without its issues.  For instance, there appear to be discrepancies between this listing and the listing in the book of Luke, but my issues are more direct than that.   How can there be 14 generations between Abraham and David?

When i go through this genealogy I see “Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king.”  That’s 4 generations between the time of Moses and the time of David.  1) Salmon to Boaz  2) Boaz to Obed  3) Obed to Jesse 4) Jesse to David.  So according to this listing, all that happened between Moses bringing the people to the Jordan River in the end of Deuteronomy to David being anointed King by Samuel occurred within that 4 generation time span.   That includes all of the book of Joshua (very feasible as it would have been done within one generation), and all of Judges (not so feasible?).

That’s where i get a bit more skeptical.  Just looking at Judges 10 we see numerous minor Judges who served for a number of decades, died then another judge arose and judged Israel, and died and the people sinned again and are afflicted for decades again before we hear of another judge arising.  Then when Samuel is born, the word of the Lord appears to have been scarce for a long time and he serves as Judge and priest for a long time before ever anointing David.  That’s just a sampling of the issue.  There’s still Deborah & Barak, Sampson, Gideon, etc.  How could all of that fit into 4 generations?

Considering that all my life and experience with God / YHWH has shown me beyond a doubt that the scriptures truly are written by the inspiration of God and are infallible, how do i reconcile this and other difficult questions?  The answer to this and other quandaries is much more simple and elegant than we may think.  I have my answers / solutions to the puzzle, but what are yours?  😉

 

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Leviticus – Conclusion

After having gone through the book of Leviticus chapter by chapter, i see this book much as i did before.  It is YHWH’s rules and regulation for the nation of Israel.  It is a defining of His covenant with them.  God both issues directives to obey the rules and promises to help and allow the people to obey and prosper.

Leviticus is an important book in that it sets the tone and direction for the expectations for the nation of Israel.  It is the measuring rod by which  the actions and motive of the nation are defined.  Without Leviticus, there is no understanding of YHWH’s interactions with the nation of Israel.  Without understanding that there are rules and what the rules are, we have no ground by which to judge the sin or righteousness of man.  As such, we have no foundation for understanding sin and the need for salvation and a savior.  While rules and laws may seem constricting and confining at times, they are actually more boundaries that when understood and followed allow us freedom to live happy, healthy, and satisfying lives without fear and stress of the aftereffects of our actions.

I really like C.S. Lewis’ quote from The Pilgrim’s Regress “When everything you eat is more or less poison, you need very strict rules to stay healthy” (rough quote).  The point is that when sin abounds in the world, understanding where the rules and limitations are gives you the freedom to live life within those limitations and without fear of their destruction.

That is the beauty of Leviticus, or that should have been the beauty of Leviticus for the Israelite people.

Rev. John J. Camiolo Jr.

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Leviticus 14 – Cleansing

Leviticus 14 is another long chapter with almost 60 verses, but the subject matter is very important.  Chapter 13 was about leprosy and how to discern leprosy from not leprosy.  Meanwhile, this chapter is about cleansing.  It’s about overcoming the problems and being able to return to health and life.  It is about hope and the process of coming to cleansing.  Leprosy was considered to be one of the more incurable diseases of the time.  Once you had true leprosy, there was little hope of ever living a normal life again.  It was generally a death sentence.

But this chapter brings hope.  It brings the promise that a person can come out of it.  This is a chapter of cleansing.  In  this chapter the priests and people are given instructions on what to do when a person is shown to be clean.  What steps are necessary to allow them to return to the lives that they lost… their homes, their families.  It is a promise that there are no true lost causes.

When i look and think about this, i think about those who have been consumed by drug and alcohol abuse.  Those who lose their lives and purpose due to choices they have made over the years.  There is hope.  YHWH can bring cleansing and strength to those who need it.  But it’s not limited only to drug and alcohol abuse.  It is also for all other sins.

We are not without a way out.  God can make a way.  Not only can He, but He does time after time, day after day.  No situation… no life is hopeless.  We need simply to pursue Him.  He is the one who brings cleansing.

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Leviticus 4 – Guilt Offering

I find it interesting that the chapter on the peace (or thanksgiving) offering immediately precedes the unintentional sin (or guilt) offering.  It almost seems like the priority is the peace offering, and as a counter to that, we have the guilt offering.  I don’t know how much significance there is in this, but i’m sure someone can make it very significant.

The chapter is split up into four sections.  The first talks about the offering that is required if the priest sins unintentionally.  Secondly, is the offering that is required for when the congregation as a whole sins unintentionally.  In that case the leaders are responsible and they are the ones that lay their hands on the head of the bull as it is sacrificed.  The leaders are responsible for the actions of the people.  The third sacrifice is the sacrifice when a leader sins unintentionally.  He has a greater responsibility thus his sacrifice is separate from those of the common people.  Then finally, the sacrifice for the common people.  Each sacrifice is different in type or sex of the animal.

It’s very significant to me that the sacrifice for the leaders of the congregation is different and of greater value than the common people.  It says so much about the expectations and demands placed on the leaders.  Being a leader is a double edged sword.  It means you have more authority and power, but it also means that you hold more responsibility, including responsibility for the actions of those you are leading.  That is a common theme throughout the Bible.  When the people go astray, the leaders are to blame.  Do our leaders live up to those expectations?  Do we?

Do we take sin seriously?  God does!  Do we even bring our intentional sins before YHWH in repentance, or do we just brush them aside?  Even if we do that, do we bring our unintentional sins to Him as well?  Even for those who are willing to say “yes”  about the first (intentional sins), chances are we don’t say “yes” in response to the second (unintentional).  I know i tend not to even bring my intentional sins to Him, let alone my unintentional.  That is something that needs to change.

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Leviticus 1 – Offering

The establishment of religion clause.  That is what this government is all about.  It is government by YHWH for the people and for His glory.  After having come out of Exodus and understanding that one of the primary things that YHWH was giving the Israelite people was a means and way of finally being able to worship Him, we find the first chapter of Leviticus giving instructions on how to offer up an offering from  the flock or the herd.

This is the very base and foundation of offerings.  It is the very cornerstone of the sacrificial system.  The shedding of blood for the remission / covering of sins is what gives the people the ability to come before a holy God without being consumed by YHWH’s holiness in the form of fire.  Within the sacrificial system there are three primary sacrificial animals; the bull, the sheep, and the goat.  This chapter answers how to properly bring those sacrifices to the temple, priests, and YHWH.  Secondarily, it also answers to how to bring the sacrifice of a bird.

This sacrifice is the very core of the sacrificial system.  It is a necessary offering and it is complete… or about as complete as an imperfect sacrifice that only covers sin and does not remove them can be.  The true and perfect sacrifice… The fulfillment of the sacrificial system, Jesus the Christ, will not come for millenia yet.

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Exodus 22 – Holy Men

The legal code continues.  This (i want to call it a project because i am used to doing projects such as i am doing now) work that God is doing with the Israelite people was a relatively new thing.  God was personally setting up the government of a nation for that nation.  He was establishing the rules, laws, and regulations for a nation of 1,000,000+ people.  As a result there was a whole lot of ground to cover.  The nice thing is that there wasn’t a whole bunch of politics going on.  It was clear cut and straight forward.  God said it… it was so.

Here we focus on personal property and what happens when something is stolen, lost by another, or destroyed.  It also looks at various relationships and abuse.  There is a focus on lending and firstfruits to the LORD.

What i really like about this chapter are two verses, 28 & 31.  Verse 28 says; “You shall not curse God, nor curse a ruler of your people.”  It sets a precedent early on that says to treat not only YHWH but also the rulers of the people with respect.  I honestly believe that one of the big problems with our culture today is this mentality that it’s all about me.  Those in authority are here to serve ME, and i have every right to bash them publicly if they are doing something i don’t like.  I know that this is such a common thing that we don’t think twice about it.  I also know that we feel justified to do this because we are in a democratic republic, but that’s not what God says.  He says don’t “curse a ruler of your people“.  Can we disagree?  Absolutely!  Should we voice our opinion publicly?  To some extent.  Should we insult, ostracize, or otherwise denigrate our leaders?  Absolutely not!  Christ said to love those who hate you and pray for those who despitefully use you.  We are to stand up and bring them before God seeking YHWH’s will praying for guidance and direction for them.

All of this is summed up in the beginning of the end of the chapter; “You shall be holy men to Me“.  We are not to act like self-centered and self-focused men and women.  We are to be holy to God.  Set apart to do His good will.

 

John Camiolo

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Exodus 12-2 – Obedience

I split this chapter at the end of verse 27 due to the length of chapter overall.  Thus the first verse in today’s work was 28; “Then the sons of Israel went and did so; just as the LORD (YHWH) had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.”  (NASB)  Opening this section with this verse really struck me.  If there is one thing that i have learned about the Hebrew people through most of  the old testament, it’s that they didn’t like doing what they were told.  They tended to be very stubborn people who took a whole lot of convincing to get them to follow simple instructions sometimes.  Even when they did follow directions, many times it also involved grumbling and complaining.  This was especially true of this particular generation.  Once they go out into the wilderness, Moses has all kinds of problems with them.  So much so that, apart from two people, none of them is allowed to actually enter the promised land.

Yet here we see a simple statement of profound importance.  “Then the sons of Israel went and did so; just as the LORD (YHWH) had commanded…”  This and similar statements are made three times in this second half of Exodus 12 (vs. 28, 35, & 50).  Why is simple obedience such a difficult thing to do?  I know that the Hebrew people are not the only ones that have that difficulty.  Pharaoh had the same problem… and so do I.  I know that it would be better to do things God’s way.  I know that it would make my life better and easier.  I know that i can trust Him even when i don’t understand.  Yet time and time again the choice i make is the wrong one.  Then, i have the gall to get upset when things don’t go the way i expect them to.  I just don’t get it sometimes.

This section is where the exodus of the Hebrew people really begins.  The final miracle occurs; the firstborn of everyone from Pharaoh’s household to the prisoners in the dungeon lost their lives.  Pharaoh and the people of Egypt “urged” the Israelites to leave.  So exactly 430 years to the day after Israel and his family came to Egypt, the LORD (YHWH) brings them out again.

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Genesis 15 – Covenant

Everything changes… again.  God has taken the promise that He made to Abram and has taken it a step further.  This is not God’s first promise, nor even His last.  God has made many promises throughout the scriptures and in individual lives, and He always fulfills them.  But this is a bit different.

A promise is something that you make to someone.  It is a fact; “I will… to/for you.”  The honoree honors his promise because he made it.  It becomes valid due to the validity of the name and honor of the one who makes the promise.  If it is broken, it destroys the honor, name, and respect towards the one who made the promise.   Ultimately, a promise is a one-way street.  Two people may make promises to one another, but those promises are both one-way.

A covenant, on the other hand, is something you make WITH someone.  It is a relationship; “I desire… with you.”  The covenant maker honors his covenant because of the relationship.  It becomes valid due to the other person, and the validity of the relationship.  If it is broken, it destroys not only the honor, name, and respect towards the one who made the promise, but also the trust and relationship between the people and thereby the relationship with the self.  Ultimately, a covenant must be a two-way street.  A covenant broken not only destroys the relationship with the other, it also destroys the relationship with the self.

Covenant’s should never be made lightly, and the breaking of a covenant will always do as much (if not more) damage to the self as to the other.  At the same time, a covenant is the fulfillment of what it means to be a man (or woman).  We were formed and created for relationship.  We were designed for covenant.  In our very nature and purpose is a desire and need for covenant.  Covenant with God, but also with other people: “It is not good for man to be alone.”

Are we people of promise, or of covenant?  Do we exist for our relationships, or do our relationships exist for us?  God made covenant with Abram, and Abram with God.  We are a people of that covenant when we pursue (and are pursued by) God.  Have you pursued God today?

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