Friday, May 30, 2014

If you love me, you will keep my ...... connections John 14:15....

What is a mitzvah?  What are the many mitzvot?  What was the purpose of the mitzvot in regards to the process of redemption in the Old Testament?  What is the purpose of the mitzvot in regards to New Testament living?

Christians scholars regularly identify 'mitzvot' as Old Testament commandments, with most Christians in my world distancing themselves from those mitzvot as much as possible.

As for the mitzvot and today, II Timothy 3:16 relates directly, though I'm not sure exactly how directly and/or indirectly; when directly, and when indirectly.....:  "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness."

So you see, I still have some questions about those mitzvot......  And no, please don't throw those tomatoes this way  (would that fulfill the Jesus version of the shama anyway?).......  And yes, please remember that I said, "I have some questions...."  Okay?

For one thing, I'm trying to make sense of what Jesus meant by the word 'commandments' in John 14:15 when He said, "If you love me, keep my commandments......."

Now, I know we have been freed from the law of sin and of death.... (Romans 8:2, at least, we have been if we hold fast the word which has been preached to us, rather than having the seed sprout up and then die off..... I Cor 15:1-2, not that the work of sanctification is a work of the flesh, Galatians 3:2-5).

But is there any relationship between the commandments Jesus spoke of in John 14:15 and any of the mitzvot?  Are the only 'commandments' the Jesus version of the shama  (Mark 12:30-31):  the command to love, God, others, and ourselves with everything we have with which to love - which sums up all the other commandments?  Is the commandment just 'eternal life'?  John 12:50 says that His commandment is eternal life.......  I admit to feeling a bit silly thinking of God on His throne saying, "Live!  Live!  Live!"...... but it does seem that there is something at least vaguely akin to that in the essence of His commandment.....

As for the "scripture's original text's term for 'commandments'", at least in John 14:15, it is in the Greek language.   [Or so it has been thought for some time.  However, today, there are growing, well studied arguments that Jesus would have lived in a polyglot world in Israel, much like the polyglot world in the Israel of today.  In such a world, one would likely have spoken at least broken Latin in official settings, Aramaic in some trading situations, but still speak Hebrew in familial & social circles.  But most notably, they would likely have spoken Hebrew most particularly in religious circles (which is very similar to the practices of polyglot-lifestyles in Israel today).  Frankly, I've kind of suspected that for quite a while, after all, the precious Torah scrolls would have been pulled out in the synagogues and read in Hebrew often - even in Jesus day....., would they not? And the subsequent Jewish styled discussions of all the particulars that might be drawn from the Torah would have to be held in the Hebrew language for the most part, wouldn't they? Just sayin'....]

Those who argue for such a view of polyglotal linguistic inclinations in Jesus' day also argue that the 'original Greek' renderings of the New Testament will best be understood by considering what those texts would say in Hebrew, because Jesus probably spoke them in Hebrew.  If that is all true, then the gospels were probably first written in Hebrew, and there is even evidence of such an 'original text in Hebrew' if one looks at the Greek renderings and considers that, given the words used in the Koine Greek, they are highly likely literal translations from Hebrew.......  (or so say the scholars at the last link above)...

All that said, this debate is not going to be settled on this blog.  However, having read about these ponderings about a polyglot Israel in Jesus' day, the idea that the gospels were first written in Hebrew is a strong consideration in my heart and mind.

All of which might seem like meaningless dithering.... after all, while there are solid arguments that Jesus likely used the term 'mitzvot' in John 14:15, it is admitted that, for now, the only relatively early texts of John are in Greek.  So in what is often deemed to be 'the original texts', the term for 'commandments' is not, of course, the term 'mitzvot'.

So, knowing that *I* do not know yet what 'commandment' in the New Testament always means, and knowing from Romans 8:2 that we are free from the law of sin and of death, and knowing that all things are lawful for us but not all things are expedient......., it is time, at least for a moment, to move on from this unconfirmable series of questions.

The next pair of questions the arises then are:

Is there such a thing as 'sin' for an unbeliever?

If so, what does that mean about the New Testament use of the words 'commandment'/'commandments'?

In Romans 14:23 Paul says that 'and whatever is not from faith is sin' when he is talking about believers with strong and/or weak faith.

So we know something about 'sin' from that, but what of 'commandment'?

NT:  What is the New Testament era's understanding of 'commandment' and/or 'sin' to be?  It is interesting to note that even Wikipedia pointed out that, in the book of Mark as it comes down to us in the Koine Greek, there are no references to Greek or Roman literature, but only to Jewish scriptures, (though it seems that they were mostly referenced in their historically well known Greek form).  Therefore, one might conclude that the term 'commandment', while rendered in the Greek language, likely ought to be thought of in the context of the Old Testament, thus in the mindset of the Jewish meanings of the various scriptures.... Yes?  ..... No?   ...... Hmmmm......

OT:  As I make inquiries as to the meaning of the Old Testament term for commandment, it turns out that throughout the ages, the Jewish people also knew the mitzvot to have been an integral part of man's connection with God - a way of having a relationship with God.  But why did they think that?

From my limited glimpses into Jewish literature, Jewish scholars do seem to consistently teach that there is a very close relationship between the Jewish terms 'mitzvot' and 'tzavot': with the first term relating more to command, and the second, relating to the ideas of "relationship or of a joining."  Furthermore, they claim that 'tzavot' is the root word for 'mitzvot' (as evidenced on pg. 19, paragraph 4 in this text, _Truth for Today_ by Daniel Rendelman).  Since I am not a Hebrew scholar, and I don't even have a Hebrew etymological dictionary,  I cannot draw any connection between these two Hebrew words except to surmise that if one takes the 'a' out of 'tzavot', it could realistically and quite easily be a root word for 'mitzvot' - just in a contracted form (but then, when the vowel points are not used, how 'contracted' is it?).  But that is merely surmising on my part to date. All I am confident about is that there seems to be a consistent claim that these words are related, as per both Messianic friends and from online sources.  So, to date, I believe the claim to be valid.

Thus it seems to be that the Hebrew term for 'command' has its root in the word for 'relationship' or even 'to join' - with an understood inference in the Jewish-believing-community that the purpose of man is to be joined into a relationship with God........, and that the commandments help to clarify a great deal about how that 'joining into a relationship' can be accomplished (at least, in the Old Testament covenant).

There is even strong evidence that this 'joining into a relationship through the law' was quite intentional on the part of God if one considers the following quote:  "Together, the 613 commandments forge the ideal relationship where the two parties become one. Interestingly the numerical value of the phrase "kesher echad" (one unit, or one bond) between God and man, is 613 -- the total number of Torah commandments."
With that in mind, I have a new, changing paradigm from which to ask what Jesus meant when He said:

"If you love me, keep my commandments/means-of-connections/relationship-together...."  (John 14:15)

Jesus could not have meant 'Keep the law of sin and of death' referred to in Romans 8:2.  However, Romans 8:2 also tells us that it is the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus (that) has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

So, what is this 'law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus' which did the work of setting us free from the 'law of sin and of death'?

When I asked my now 18 year old son about this 'new' law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, he was quick on the trigger to ask, "Why do you think you can know that it is a 'new' law?" ......  Good observation!  If it is not a new law, was 'the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus' in any way applied to Abraham as a result of Abraham's faith?  (e.g. - Genesis 15:6)

*If* so, then it would be reasonable to ask from yet another angle:  Is this 'law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus' related in any way to the 'commandments' which Jesus told us we are to keep if we love Him?

To date, it is clear that there are conflicting opinions on the subject.  It is certain that we are not to 'continue in sin so that grace may increase' (Romans 6:1)

It is certain that without faith it is impossible to please God, and that anything without faith is sin.

But what does the term 'commandment' mean in the New Testament for NT believers?

While searching the scripture, looking for scriptural insight, it is very interesting to note the difference in the NAS and the CJB in the punctuation that follows this verse and leads on to the section that says....

"......and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another comforting Counselor like me, the Spirit of Truth, to be with you forever......"

There is certainly a different view of scripture seen between the Christian community and the Jewish community in many ways.


But the thing that most amazes me about what I have found to date about 'commandments' in the Old Testament and Jesus' version of the Shama in Mark 12:30-31, is summed up simply by this Jewish question and answer:

"Man is the paradoxical synthesis of two parts.  He has a physical body, within which pulsates a Heavenly soul.  How can these opposite forces unite?  The physical and spiritual connect in the performance of a mitzvah.  A mitzvah can be described as the action and force that expresses the spiritual world of God in the physical world of man....."

Does this 'connection' of the parts of us into an integral whole somehow relate to  how 'The law might be fulfilled in us' through faith in Christ (Romans 8:4)?

And while I might take issue with the term 'perform' in the quote above....., and while I might well state this somewhat differently myself, this tying together of that which is broken because of the sin of man?  This power to unite that which was most likely united prior to the fall of man anyway?  It seems to be an integral part of understanding the shama of Jesus:

"And He said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind."

After all, we cannot do that without the power of the spirit living in us..... without faith in 'The Way, The Truth, and The Life' empowering our new-living-spirit to work together with 'the mind of Christ' in us, and with His Spirit working in us 'to will and to do' according to His good pleasure, as well as working with (and healing when/how He deems fit) our new heart of flesh....

One God...... Triune.........

Mankind....... made in His image...... made whole through the cross...... through His love........

Through the connecting/relational-power of His commands perhaps as well???

Just askin'................

Monday, May 26, 2014

Godly Visualization vs. Humanistic Visualization

Many of those who teach 'visualization' today teach it in humanistic terms.  The humanistic applications are not built upon wisdom.  

Visualization as taught by humanists revolve mostly around goals, *plans*, hopes, dreams, aspirations, etc.

Planning *is* good....  Pressing on towards the fulfillment of a plan *can be* good (depending on the plan and etc.).  

Planning *does* involve visualization skills.

Any mind which has been inclined to at least consider humanistic teaching regarding visualization will recognize that planning is good and that planning does involve visualization skills.  It can be especially helpful for them to know what the big problem is.....

So what's the big problem?

Humanistic applications make one's own heart, mind, hopes, dreams, *pride*, plans, and/*or* etc. 'the idol(s)' of the day.

While plans are good, humanistic ideals are a dangerous road, idolatry being just one of the major pitfalls, pride being another one.  But that is not all.  There are a plethora of other slippery slopes and even downright blasphemy expressed by many humanistic applications of visualization.  I remember vaguely Mike Wernke, a Christian comedian, jesting about a well known humanist.  He said something like, '"Hey, Michael, come over here and check this one out."...., and they looked down from heaven to see this woman spinning around on a beach saying, "I am god.".... '

Like I said, this humanistic visualization thing can go to the extreme.  That one example of the woman on the beach is obvious, outright blasphemy.

But God does call us to plan, and planning does involve visualization skills (see verses below).

While God does call us to plan - and our plan seems like the 'default' plan to *us* along the way, He also calls us to defer to His plans and direction along the way - which actually reverses the order of the day:

As one wise homeschooling woman shared with newbies back when I was new to the Charlotte Mason mode of homeschooling (this is modified quote....), "Our plan is Plan 'Z', while His plan is Plan 'A'.  When we stubbornly press on with our Plan 'Z', we miss out on His perfect provision for us.  When we try to be sensitive to His leading, and we realize His plan is different than ours, moving from our plan to His should be our goal.  We should even realize that knowing His plan, and willingly changing to His plan at a moment's notice is our calling at any and all times.  If, while we are learning to adjust our plan, yes, while we find ourselves earnestly and diligently moving away from our Plan 'Z', and trying to implement his Plan 'A', we might only get as close as Plan 'B', or even Plan 'E'.  Perhaps that is not ideal, but it is a learning process in which we bear witness to the fact that His plan is always best.  His plan and wisdom is glorified when His plan is contrasted with our meager attempts at knowing what is best.  Furthermore, when we don't quite achieve His Plan A, but He is stretching us & increasing our faith in Him, His grace is magnified.  Through all of this, His ability to keep His promise, that He will work 'all things to the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose", is made clear before us, and thus, that the promise of His Word is also glorified.  In the meantime, it is useful and good for us to consider what our (homeschool) day should look like.  We should pray over it, have a general sense of what is right and wrong, what should *typically* be accomplished, search the scripture for general and even specific guidance (most of which is understood through visualization skills), make specific lists as needed, and ...... etc., but those things which we are set upon *even during prayer* are not the end goal.  Following His leading to adjust our plans to fit more fully with His plan IS the goal, because that brings glory to Him."

So, the ideal in this earth is that we make our plans (which are visualizations - either concrete or abstract visualizations, either specific or general, etc.), and then we alter from our plan to His plan in order to glorify Him.

In so doing, He contrasts our feeble efforts at making plans with His wisdom and foresight in establishing a righteous path.

When we fall short of His perfect will (and according to Romans 12, we are supposed to be able to discern His perfect will), His grace and creative force to use *everything* for good, is glorified.

Yes, our ability to visualize and plan is powerful in many ways - He designed us that way.  We are, after all, made in His image.

But, our ability to visualize a plan is not as powerful as His wisdom.  

A good steward will defer to God's plans, stopping or turning on a dime whenever called upon by God to do so.


Such are some of the lessons in comparing and contrasting the wisdom of man (humanistic visualizations) with the wisdom of God (God's intended purpose for our ability to visualize..... a gift He gave to us for our good and for His glory).


That said, those of us who are challenged in this area of visualization, and who also seek God for His solutions to our built-in, inherent weakness, are perhaps more inclined and even driven to understand visualization in terms of scripture.

Visualization/Planning/Goal-setting/*using-visual-skills* is not something which is often taught specifically from the pulpit, but it is something which, to those who take a closer look:

Contrasts God's *glory* via godly visualization/plans with man's *glory* via humanistic visualization/plans.


If you doubt whether plans & even hopes do naturally express themselves in the human mind using 'visualization skills', just ask any neuropsych and/or anyone who struggles with visualization skills.

Plans are a terrible struggle for those who do not naturally visualize (or who only naturally visualize a few kinds of things, which explains why some people, say, Asperger-minded-people, hyper-focus on one subject......: they hyper-focus on the main subject that they can visualize best for one reason or another.... and yes, there are many things which impact what someone can or cannot *naturally/easily* visualize.....).

More specifically, ask anyone who struggles with visualization skills how easy it is to follow a *plan* with multiple step directions without the capacity to visualize........... (and there are quite a few of us who have had to either learn to compensate for the lack of ability to visualize, *or* who have learned to visualize in spite of the way we are built).......

You think that simply making a list can take care of the struggle for everyone???  Well, I've seen lists be a great burden to the visually challenged.  

Visualization, 'making plans', 'setting goals', and even following such plans, IS a visual skill involving visualization.


Verses that come to mind regarding making plans:

"The mind of a man plans his steps, but the Lord directs his steps." Prov. 16:9 (NASB)  --------------  [it is right and good for man to plan his steps (think of a visual map, and outline, a list, etc...........)  it is important not to worship any man's plan........... again, it is important to switch our plan out for His. Such is the stewardship and purpose of man.  Many old chatachisms' first question is, "What is the purpose of man?" and the first answer in response is, "To glorify God."........ this process of making plans, but following His lead, showing forth His wisdom is one important way to glorify God and fulfill our purpose/stewardship......]

"For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace." Luke 14:28-33 (ESV)  [think of a visual, drawn out blueprint, a battleplan - either in the sand representing what is *seen*, or a more elaborate battleplan on a 3-D map with scale sized tanks, etc.; a written estimate, verbal/written covenents/contracts....., let alone lists being modified because the 'planner' has been busy envisioning various types of problems that might arise, such as weather delays, illness-injury of workers, unexpected inflation, etc. all of which a building-plan should take into account - and those who can visualize potentialities are best at this..., again, visualization is a powerful tool given to man by God....., God designed that capacity..., and those of us who struggle with that 'ideal design' understand how very, very valuable to power of 'visualization' is]

The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way (if one is walking out a path of stepping stones in the water, or even in life...... one does best by looking ahead), but the folly of fools is deceiving (oh, yeah, sure, *I* can handle that leap onto that slippery stone with my wet feet....., or...., "I don't need a witness to this transaction", ..... etc.). Prov. 14:8 (ESV)

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17 (ESV)  -----  [sometimes 'the right thing' is clear cut and can be described verbally - though there is a related 'picture', even if it is an abstraction; but sometimes, 'the right thing' is only clear if one looks ahead and 'counts the costs', and/or etc., to realize what types of issues are likely to arise as one proceeds down a specific path - - - - any good steward will be looking ahead....]

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Prov. 3:5 (ESV)  [which definitely directs us to understand that what we visualize, hope, desire, etc. is not to be our God]

More related verses can be found here:


But perhaps the most powerful verse in wrangling with the idea of future plans and visualization might have been given to us through the pen of Paul:

"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet, but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead......"  Phil 3:13 

We know what lies ahead in various ways:  promises of God, the calling of God (Great Commission, etc.), etc.

Some of those promises, callings, and etc. which we have received from God have been described in 'descriptive' language.

Descriptive language is designed to build a picture in our mind.

Scriptural promises are 'seen through a glass darkly', but they are still 'seen' through that glass.

Pressing on towards those visual pictures produced by the Word of God is actually one of the scripturally mandated ways of being led by God.  [So, upon further study of the Word of God which contrasts humanistic verses Godly visualization, growing in Godly visualization becomes a clearer objective for the believer, for stewards of the promises, for stewards of the Word of God, who are to keep it, and cherish it, and be directed by it.]

Some of those scriptural promises have been described in 'narrative' language.

That narrative language is also designed to build a picture in our mind - more of a moving picture, or a 'movie' - and yes, those 'visual pictures' are also 'seen through a glass darkly' as well.......  

Whether we see 'darkly' or not, it is still 'seen'...... 'seen through they eyes of faith, hope, and love.'

Again, pressing on towards those visual *moving* pictures produced by the Word of God is actually one of the scripturally mandated ways of being led by God.  And again, contrasting Godly visualization with humanistic visualization is a powerful way to compare and contrast God's ways with man's ways........, bringing glory and honor to Him again and again and again.


Ya know, some people are so in love with God, and so in love with His Word, and are so naturally inclined to visualize, that they do much of this without knowing it ..... all as a matter of faith, hope, and love.....

But then, some of us are not so naturally inclined to visualize, and we stumble along for lack of knowledge, until specific knowledge is brought to our attention.

Some people are more inclined to one type of sin than another......, where I am weak - the only solution is to rely on Him....... and then???....., He is made strong.  His strength is made evident ......... His strength is glorified.

Where someone else is weak, as they rely on Him, He is made strong.  His strength is made evident.  His strength is glorified. 


As for 'future' visions, various denominations interpret the following differently, so I'll not comment on its various interpretations, but I will still offer it for your prayerful consideration: 

"'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams."  Acts 2:17

Aside from denominational interpretations, one can still recognize that, at some times in history, in some places of the world, in some peoples' lives, God intends/ed for 'visions' and 'dreams' (both of which are 'visualizations') to have a marked, powerful, and good purpose.

Again, Godly applications of the natural skill of visualization contrasts dramatically with the humanistic ideals of visualization.


God's ideal design of man includes visualization skills.  He has built that ability into the 'neurologically typical mind' (sorry, 'NT' is a term used in circles where we try to grapple with life without 'NT' abilities - I hope and trust its meaning translates over well for you???).  

The ability to visualize and press on towards something that has been visualized is God established.

Any ability that we have should be used for His purposes and to further His glory.

[For anyone wishing to know more about the academic side of visualization skills, here is a brief overview:  Nanci Bell's, and/or less specifically but more richly and broadly, Charlotte Mason's approach to teaching visualization in both spelling and *reading comprehension* is hugely powerful for individuals who do not present with the natural ability to visualize.    If any of you are thinking in your own mind...., "Hmmmm, that sounds like myself and/or my spouse or a child I now and love, and you'd like to know more, contact me offlist."  --  Seeing the powerful changes in the lives of those who begin learning to visualize both academically, and in making plans (such as the verse about building a building) helps underscore the importance and power behind the *ability*, and *application* of both academic and *godly* visualization skills.]

One last example and I'll leave off:  

Many a young student who plans to go to college accidentally arrives there, and one can get there by faith alone; that said, most students should also visualize the path by which they can enter college.  All their efforts in achieving those goals will be greatly advanced....., 

.........but then again, he must not be led by his plan, but by His plan - or he risks the possibility that 'God will not know his ways', for God 'does not know the way of the ungodly' (Psalm 1).

May we seek to know Him and His way better and better each and every day.......