More Words, Words, Words
October 5, 2023
The Bible is not meant to be mysterious and unexplainable. It presents God’s nature, character, how to live wholesomely in His world and with one another, and what exactly is His good and satisfying will for Mankind. Its content is not intended to be something mystical, but is a straightforward, transparent, and unambiguous presentation. I would categorize the Bible’s genre; “Nonfiction — Meat and Potatoes/Warts and All,” but I know that’s not an actual classification in the Dewey Decimal System used by the Library of Congress.
Still, I have found that to be just its true aspect and reasonable demeanor.
Of course, there are a lot of opposing views from various sources. It astounds me that some people intentionally lie about what the Bible says, what God is like, and what Jesus’ purpose has been and still is… Many ordinary folks and some others who have basic religious proprieties innocently have got the meanings and applications of various Scripture passages wrong. From my experienced perspective, however, the main objections come from reasoning developed from misunderstandings… which come from unintended but scholarly misinterpretations… which form adamant inflexible predetermined perspectives… which form doctrines that have no sense of application in reality…
There’s an old saying that comes to mind: “That dog just don’t hunt.”
Learning the true meanings of words and phrases of ancient languages — that the Bible was originally written in — is an ongoing research project of the Bible Translators.
Still, it remains overall, the results are a muddied swimming hole… We definitely need some process for cleaning it up. We can begin by reading translations whose language is plain to us. My first Bible was a Cross Reference Bible which brought similar verses together. That can really help in this process. Above all, we need to ask God to help us understand.
Also, what are my credentials to take on this task? Why should you give any credence to my essays? After all, I am nobody special… My only claim is that I am a Born Again Christian — another misunderstood phrase… Make of it what you will, but nevertheless, my continuing purpose is to bring the reality of God, Jesus, and the Bible into the real world where people live… where you and I live… where Jesus lived.
Isn’t that what Jesus purposed and worked to achieve?
Sure it is!
John 10:10 reminds us that Jesus came so that we could have life and have abundant life. He came to remove all the roadblocks keeping us from reaching that goal. He came to unmuddy the waters, to decontaminate and purify them. And He offers all of it wrapped up as a gift… and gifts aren’t earned…
Cool, refreshing, pure waters! “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life.”
Now, for an example of an essential verse in the Bible that needs clarity, Mark 1:14–15 says, “From then on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.’” Understanding the word “repent” is not difficult, since it simply means “to turn” — and in its context, to turn away from our world and turn to God’s — even though we make that an especially difficult endeavor… It is so difficult for us, I think, because we are afraid of letting go of this world’s familiar embrace. We have to come to realize that our world’s embrace is a rather cold and uncaring one. Consider the thought of why we pursue so many paths that we hope will lead us to a warmer, friendlier climate.
Understanding what is meant by the phrase “the kingdom of heaven” is obscure, archaic, and otherworldly. The idea of “kingdom” in the modern world is remote and removed from daily life. It should be reserved for fairy tales like the beloved and popular Disney cartoons which enthrall our children. That’s where it belongs and where it makes the most sense. It should be encapsulated there and not part of our understanding of God, Jesus, and the Bible. You see, there is this other Bible verse which says, “You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.” — Luke 17:20–21.
So, allow me to suggest that we need to think of the word “kingdom” more like the word “domain” — the idea of “a sphere of influence.” This is a more relatable idea and might even clear our understanding. We might even realize the possibility of understanding why God gave Mankind dominion in the Creation He made for us in the first place… Yet, not a dominion that is controlling in a dominating way, but appreciating Nature and taking on the responsibilities of working in and for this natural world. This dominion is just as much a responsibility as it is a privilege. So, we have to turn away from acting like children, throwing and breaking toys, wasting all the gifts, these opportunities we’ve been given.
Genesis 2:15, NLT — “The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.” Referencing Strong’s Concordance, the Hebrew sense of the words are “to work or to serve,” and “to keep, watchover, preserve.”
Then, isn’t the purpose for our existence and the answer to the question “Why am I here?” to take the responsibility to watch out to protect the Earth, preserving its healthfulness? One might also add that our fellow human beings are part of the very same Creation. That’s where “Love your neighbor as yourself” begins. It is the very foundation for that… Besides, It’s a job people might actually learn to enjoy.
Furthermore, and moving to understanding another word in Luke 17:20–21, quoted above: Some translations say the kingdom is “within” you, some say “among you.” You see, there’s quite an agonizing debate about the proper translation to be used. That differentiation has caused some to make “a mountain out of a molehill.” Like so many other passages in the Bible, people busy themselves “straining out gnats and swallowing camels.” Nevertheless, the pivotal idea is axial to my explaining the need for understanding the word “kingdom.” The domain of God is where He “works and serves” on our behalf and “keeps, and watches over, and preserves” us.
Isn’t that an amazing thought? God created everything and yet, He serves us, tends to us, watches over us in love to preserve our lives!
However, as I see it, whether the Kingdom of God flows through us or we flow through it is incidental.
In the one context, Jesus is standing right there in front of His disciples, and, since He is the King, the kingdom was actually walking “among” them.
A second thought is that the Kingdom of Heaven is a continuing presence throughout our Born Again experience. God lives through the Holy Spirit’s continuing presence, working in our lives. It’s a presence we ought to be practicing through conversational, interactive, talking and listening for God — which ought to be our prayer life. So, in that context, “within” works quite well.
Please take note of this also… The duality of meaning is found often in the Bible, and that complexity doesn’t bother me a bit, as long as we reject any contradiction within our understanding. These two passages from the Bible may be enlightening:
- Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”
- “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
Finally, it should be noted that the Kingdom is also a future reality. People will actually enter into a new domain entirely — that is, if they have already turned away from the one that is here and now.
It’s just a matter of context. — the past, the present, or the future.
It’s just a matter of thought… or not… Your choice: consider or ignore.
Again let me emphasize and remind us that Jesus came so that we could have life and have abundant life ( John 10:10). He came to remove all the roadblocks keeping us from reaching that goal. He came to unmuddy the waters, to decontaminate and purify them. And He offers all of it wrapped up as a gift… and gifts aren’t earned… We only have to choose to leave familiar embraces and turn to Him for an embrace of God’s existential and eternal love.
Yet, we seem to keep tripping over the Rock. In your life, is Jesus the Cornerstone, or is He a Stumbling Block? Again, it is our choice what we make of it all.
Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Jesus came so everyone and anyone could have life, and have it in its fullness.