This is the place for meditations on the journey. Comments and thoughts welcomed. Please be 'civil'!
- Written by Brian Harvey
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Mary of Magdala or Mary of Bethany
Nowhere in the literature do I read of the theories about Mary Magdalene that I am presenting in this article. Some have proposed that Mary of Magdala was either a prostitute or in some ways a sinner. One of the church fathers (Pope Gregory) used her as an example of one who had repented of the seven capital sins because of the seven demons that Jesus had cast out of her. He did, however, agree with me that Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany were the same person (known in some circles as the composite Mary). I developed what I am going to present here independently and then discovered some of the scholarly discussion concerning Mary. The reason I have studied this is because of the great love that existed between them because of forgiveness of sin. I believe this great love has been construed by many to be some form of sexual liaison because of doubt, unbelief, and a lack of understanding of the power of agape love.
From the references to the banquet where Lazarus attended; Martha served; and Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus’ feet men3tioned in the Gospel of John (John 12: 1 – 11) I set the scene. From the Gospel of Luke (Luke 10: 38 – 42) we discover evidence of the love relationship between Mary of Bethany and Jesus based on Jesus’ teachings and revelations while she sat at his feet. I am concluding that the event mentioned in Luke just mentioned occurred during the preparations for the banquet mentioned in John 12. In Mark (Mark 14: 1 – 11) we have a story of an unnamed woman who anointed Jesus feet at a banquet hosted by Simon the Leper. At this banquet the controversy arises about the waste of the expensive perfume. Notice that the host, Simon the Leper, is mentioned here but nothing more. Also note that here the perfume is poured on Jesus’ head. Also in Matthew (Matthew 26: 6 – 13) we have mention of an unnamed woman anointing Jesus’ head and the controversy about the waste of the expensive perfume.
Now we come to a passage in Luke (Luke 7: 36 – 50) where Jesus addresses the secret thought process of his host (a Pharisee specifically called Simon in Luke 7: 40, 43, and 44) regarding the sinfulness of the unnamed woman touching Jesus. Here the woman is mentioned as washing Jesus’ feet with her tears, drying Jesus’ feet with her hair, kissing Jesus’ feet, and anointing Jesus’ feet with the perfume. Jesus specifically mentions her great love because she has been forgiven much. Note that immediately following this story Luke mentions Mary Magdalene traveling with Jesus and being one of the women supporting Jesus and the disciples in their ministry. (Luke 8: 1 – 3)
You will not find my conclusions in any of the literature. I have taken the step of considering the role of Simon the Leper as the father of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus because of my experience in working with the addicted and the abused and the marginalized of society. The place of host at a banquet where Jesus was invited and Martha served and Lazarus attended and Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus’ feet and that took place in Bethany all bring me to the conclusion that Simon must have had a significant role in the lives of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. How Simon could be hosting the banquet as a leper brings me to another conclusion; his leprosy had been healed and he was now clean and allowed to appear in public. It is not mentioned anywhere; but I believe that Simon had been cleansed by Jesus. I conclude this partly because he was willing to host the banquet out of gratitude to Jesus.
It is because of my experience with those in society who have been marginalized that I can come to the conclusion that Simon could both be Mary’s father and consider her a sinner. Simon is also called a Pharisee. This would mean that he had a very strict attitude toward the Law and how one should behave in regards to the Law. How would I tell the story of Mary from my reading?
Growing up in the house of Simon would have been very restrictive; especially to an adventurous young woman. The story of the “Prodigal Son” may very well have been a reflection on what happened to Mary. Taking part of her inheritance she left her home in Bethany to get away from the religious strictures. What her lifestyle was we can only conjecture. I see from my experience that some of the unclean spirits cast out of Mary would have been such entities as rejection, rebellion, and religion. I believe that the story of Jesus traveling under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to the Gerasenes in order to deal with the man inflicted with Legion shows that Jesus could have gone to Magdala to rescue Mary. The rescue of Mary would then have been the connection Jesus had with the household of Simon the Leper including Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.
Why would these remarkable events, especially the raising of Lazarus from the dead, not be included in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke)? I believe the threat to kill Lazarus by the Jewish leaders kept the writers of the early gospels to not mention these events or to cloak them in terms that would not identify Lazarus.
My final conclusion and application to my life is that our love for Jesus because of the great forgiveness we have received should be the principle guiding factor in our relationship. We have been shown by Jesus that serving one another is the primary way in which we can show our love to Jesus.Write comment (0 Comments)
- Written by Brian Harvey
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Our Awesome God
I usually awake early in the morning and drink some coffee and pray a while and write this blog. Most times I find inspiration in the scripture or something that has happened recently comes to mind or there is something in the news that prompts me to write. The purpose of writing this blog is, after all, to provide some point of contact for those who want to continue on their life journey with God. This morning nothing came to mind after an hour or so. I could get no inspiration that I thought was what God wanted me to do. So I went back to bed for a while. After a little deep meditation; what I call a nap; I began to think about how awesome God has been in my life and generally in the cosmos.
I can find from my own life experience a testimony and a witness that God is awesome. I think that for me the most awesome characteristic about God is that He loves me. Not just that He loves me but that He sees me as lovely. God sees me as someone who is worth dying for. He gave His life for me.
How can I describe me? I wrote a little autobiography a few years ago called “The Farm Boy from Pennsylvania.” I was actually born on a farm in Pennsylvania within sight of the highest point in Pennsylvania, Mt. Pisgah. Mt. Pisgah was named, of course, from Deuteronomy 34: 1: “Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan . . .” It is certain that I did not know that at the time. My grandfather had collected farms from that area until he had 640 acres in one tract. It was on one of those farms that I was born and it was on those 640 acres I spent many of my summers. What a journey I have had!
Just the geography alone is astounding. I have visited Norway, England, islands in the Caribbean, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, and Africa. We will return to Kissi, Kenya, Africa this summer to continue building churches and working toward the establishment of a Bible School. I will go to Papua New Guinea this fall to participate in the Executive of Victorious Ministry through Christ as the Secretary. I have been sent by God all over the world to see His awesome creation.
I have witnessed healing in my own life and witness healing in the lives of those around me almost every day. The reading of the Bible has overflowed into my life and experience on a daily basis. I do not physically see into the spiritual realm. I have not had experiences like John as recorded in Revelation. I don’t actually feel that I need to have such experiences because I sense the spiritual realm as real and active all around me all the time. I know from personal experience that I am spirit. When I read the words of Jesus in the conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and the truth,” I know what that means.
In the very small church, Church on the Way, that my wife, Helen, and I lead in Bayfield, Ontario, Canada, we have seen people healed on a regular basis, financial events that can only be considered providential intervention, and a growing sense of becoming one in heart and mind that has made us truly reflective of the New Testament church described in Acts. Each week we hear testimony of the actions of God in all of our lives.
I am a ten year survivor of prostate cancer. When I went through that diagnosis, treatment, and recovery; it felt very much like I was not even involved. I was truly carried. I was a sheep in the arms of my Good Shepherd all through the events. Honestly, I was so carried that it would have made absolutely no difference whether I had lived or died. I don’t believe that there is any death in God. I will never experience death. I will only experience the ending of this physical existence and a more sharply defined spiritual existence that is already all around me.
Another way of looking at what I am experiencing on a daily basis is called, “walking in glory.” You see, God exists in glory. The few descriptions we have of the heavenly realm reveals God surrounded by unapproachable light. Those who try to describe it speak of fire, and astoundingly bright jewels, and rainbows. It is obvious that what is witnessed can’t really be described in language. Terms are always used that include the phrase, “like.” They are seeing something “like” something they can talk about; but it is really beyond description. When Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration his clothing became so bright that “no bleach could have made it so.” Well, that is what I live in. I live in the glory. The spiritual being I am lives in that glory. I actually already reside in heavenly realms. I live in the description Jesus gave in great detail in the Gospel of John chapters 13 through 17. Study it, contemplate it, see it as a reality in your life.
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- Written by Brian Harvey
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“They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (John 17: 16 – 19 NIV)
Sanctify – 1. Holiness of life and character; saintliness. 2. Sacredness; inviolability, religious binding force; as, the sanctity of an oath; pl., sacred obligations, rites, etc.
I am by-passing definitions based on Roman practices in this article. I am basing what I am saying in this article directly on the concepts put forth by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know that we have mentioned the Roman practice of invading a territory, occupying that territory, and transforming that territory into a semblance of Rome. The leader of that expedition was called an apostle; by definition, a sent one. We want to define this process more closely to bring it out of the context of Roman conquest of territory to what Jesus meant in His teaching and life example.
As quoted from the prayer of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of John; Jesus was not of this world. Before we take that thought too far and revert to Gnostic thinking that Jesus did not have material existence but was a spirit among us; we must make it perfectly clear that Jesus had bodily form, physical form, just like you and I. When Jesus says that He was not of the world He is referring to the system of the world run under the authority of the “prince of the world,” Satan. Jesus was not of the worldly kingdom and we, His followers, are not of the worldly kingdom.
We are of a different Spirit. We are of the Holy Spirit. We have a different Father. Jesus made reference to the fact that the “hypocrites and Pharisees” were of their “father” the devil:
“Jesus said to them, `If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8: 42 – 47 NIV)
We are a privileged people. We are the ones Jesus prayed for at the end; before He went to the cross. He sanctified himself for that task so that we, too, could be truly sanctified to the task He won for us. We are cleansed by His words. We are washed clean by the words He has given us. We were sinful. We now can stand with Jesus in the above quote as, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” We have been sanctified by the words of Jesus. We have been made holy and set aside for His use.
What is that use? We are set aside and made holy so that Jesus could send us into the world just as He was sent into the world. We are to occupy the world of the enemy and transform it into the kingdom of Jesus, Son of God. We are sent!
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Remain, Abide, Stand
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has not one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15: 9 – 17 NIV)
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6: 10, 11 NIV)
“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. `He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND
LORD OF LORD.”
(Revelation 19: 11 – 16 NIV)
These three passages of scripture may seem to not tell a story that is consistent. However, I believe that this is exactly what is happening today. The armies of heaven are being led forth by our Lord and Savior. We are being led forth loving each other. We are able to stand against the wiles of the devil and defeat the nations because we are clothed with the whole armor of God. We wear the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the shoes of the gospel of peace, and we carry the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. We are fully prepared to ride forth behind our King and our Lord and slay the nations.
But be aware what “slay the nations” means. When a “sinner is slain” she or he is converted to follow after our Lord and King. A “sinner slain” is a person who has repented of their sin and become a new believer. This happens by the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. Words are spirit and life. With words the gospel is proclaimed and those who opposed us join us because they see that we love each other.
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- Written by Brian Harvey
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One prominent Psalmist was Asaph. Although David wrote many of the Psalms he was not the only writer. Psalm 73 begins with a complaint as Asaph questions the prosperity of the wicked around him and the result of his observations in his own life. Are not these observations very real to us today as we observe the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer?
“Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
“But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Psalm 73: 1 – 3 NIV)
When we take our eyes off the Good Shepherd who is leading us we are prone to become envious of those around us who appear to prosper in spite of their wickedness and arrogance. Our footing become precarious in the spiritual sense when we contemplate the world rather than the ways of Christ.
Asaph goes on to describe the easy life of the wicked and arrogant:
“They have not struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, `How could God know? Does the Most High know anything?’ This is what the wicked are like—always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.” (Psalm 73: 4 – 12 NIV)
Asaph considers all of this and begins to apply it to his personal life until he recognizes the destruction to himself and those around him involved:
“Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.
“If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children. When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
As Asaph pauses in God’s sanctuary, the light of understanding comes and he begins to understand the true picture:
“Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly they are destroyed, completely swept away by terrors! They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.” (Psalm 73: 18 – 20 NIV)
Asaph realizes the personal destruction such contemplation of evil can bring:
“When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. (Psalm 73: 21, 22 NIV)
Finally, Asaph concludes the Psalm with recognition of our place in God and the final result of trusting in God:
“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
“Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” (Psalm 73: 23 – 28 NIV)
It is good to contemplate the Psalms from time to time and make applications to our own lives.Write comment (0 Comments)
- Written by Brian Harvey
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Message of the Kingdom
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time man will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24: 9 – 14 NIV)
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24: 32 – 35 NIV)
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master find him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.” (Matthew 24: 45 – 47 NIV)
I have quoted here from Matthew 24 because the words of Jesus, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come,” are included here. These same warnings and teachings about the end are also included in Mark 13 and Luke 21. Generally speaking the scene involves the disciples expressing to Jesus their awe over the temple and Jesus’ reaction that not one stone will be left upon another. While sitting later on the Mount of Olives the disciples asked Jesus about when all these things should happen. These discourses about the end are recorded in these three places in the gospel narrative with slightly different emphases. For this article I used the quote from Matthew because I want to make the emphasis that our current job as followers of Jesus is to continue to preach the gospel of the kingdom until He returns.
Part of the reason I make this emphasis is that I have just finished reading a biography of Bonhoeffer. As you might know Dietrich Bonhoeffer came of age during the time between the World War 1 and World War 2 during the rise to power of the Third Reich led by Adolph Hitler. Bonhoeffer was a brilliant rising theologian greatly influenced by Karl Barth but with outstanding independent thinking which led him to the conclusion that we are to actively live according to the teachings of Jesus; especially as those teachings were expressed in the Sermon on the Mount. The practical outcome of my reading of Bonhoeffer’s life and of my personal study of Scripture and of my contemplations brings me to the conclusion that we are actively engaged in living and preaching the kingdom of God or we are not living according to what Jesus taught.
Let me not be mistaken in what I am saying. There have been many attempts to bring about some semblance of an earthly, physical kingdom of God in the form of community living or political dominance. By political dominance I mean that from time to time those in power have sought to bring about a physical kingdom of God by doing the opposite of what Jesus actually taught, lording it over others and forcing others to submit to their vision of what should be.
There was a teaching popular for a time from the period of the enlightenment that was based on the belief that the world would get better and better, the kingdom of God would become more and more dominant and obvious, and then Jesus would come to rule and reign in this earthly kingdom of God. This way of thinking was spoiled by two world wars, the Cold War, and a continual series of conflicts around the world ever since.
Yet, at the same time, the kingdom of God is preached, hearts are individually changed, and the kingdom of God does what Jesus said it would do, continually, invisibly expands. What I believe God is directing me to do is take this message to Kissi, Kenya, Africa, and establish a Bible School there to equip the saints to go forth with the message of the kingdom. I believe this is the fulfillment of the words of Jesus, at least for me, as He talked with His disciples on the Mount of Olives.
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