Month 3:15, Week 2:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5941:74 AM|
2Exodus 4/40, Omer Count - 7 x Shabbats + Day #7
Gregorian Calendar: Friday 9 June 2017
Centre of the Universe
Dietrich Bonhoeffer & the Cross
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and Mishpachah - grace and peace in Yah'shua our Messiah (Jesus Christ) to all the qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones).
So Many Preachers and Sermons
We are spoiled, are we not, by instant online access to any number of preachers and sermons? You would think with so much spiritual stuff available on the internet that's we'd all be hyperspiritual by now...assuming we listen to or read lots of that material. As I walked by the kitchen yesterday, I heard my wife listening to a Dan Mohler sermon. Between us in our family we listen to a lot of preachers and a lot of sermons! I guess they must be important because Paul said:
Foolishness of Preaching
"For since, in the wisdom of Elohim (God), the world through wisdom did not know Elohim (God), it pleased Elohim (God) through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe" (1 Cor.1:21, NKJV).
That's a little hard to wrap our minds around, perhaps, and I prefer N.T.Wright's paraphrase, so let me read that to you plus the verses immediately before and after so that you get the sense of what Paul is trying to say:
The Crux of the Matter
"Where is the wise person? Where is the educated person? Where is the debater of this present age? Don't you see that Elohim (God) has turned the world's wisdom into folly? This is how it's happened: in Elohim's (God's) wisdom, the world didn't know Elohim (God) through wisdom, so it gave Elohim (God) pleasure, through the folly of our proclamation, to save those who believe. Jews look for signs, you see, and Greeks search for wisdom; but we anounce the crucified Messiah, a scandal to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, the Messiah - Elohim's (God's) power and Elohim's (God's) wisdom. Elohim's (God's) folly is wiser than humans, you see, and Elohim's (God's) weakness is stronger than humans" (1 Cor.1:20-25, KNT).
You know, in English, we have an expression to indicate the central or main point of an argument or proposition - we call it the 'crux of the matter' - from the Latin crux meaning 'cross' from which we also get the English 'crucify' and 'crucifixion'. That phrase - the 'crux of the matter' is a very Christian - and specifically Pauline - concept indeed, because in saying that a central point of a matter is the 'cross of the matter' we are attesting, perhaps without realising it, that revelation which Paul received, namely, that the cross is the centre of everything! And yet the world says the very opposite. A couple of verses before Paul said:
Cross at the Centre of the Universe
"For the word of the cross (the crux) is folly to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved, it is the power of Elohim (God). For it is written, 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart'" (vv.18-19, ESV).
Did you know that what lies at the centre of our created universe is the Cross? The astronomical symbol of the earth is a circle with a cross on the top of it! Spiritually, planet earth is at the centre of the universe not because we're so wonderful, treasured through we are by Yahweh, but because this is where the Son of Elohim (God) was crucifued! What a strange idea!
Impolite and Contrary Thoughts
In the ancient world crucifixion was a method of execution considered so crude that it wasn't even mentioned in polite company! So what was Paul trying to tell those Corinthians, those immature, unruly and undisciplined new believers in Greece? These were Greeks, remember, and Greeks were fascinated with the rhetorical ability of philosophers and debaters. These converted Corinthians transferred this fascination with preaching skill to their ministers rather than to the message, and this demonstrated that they were living contrary to the power of the cross.
Miracles and Brilliant Preaching, Please!
The hostile Judean opponents of Yah'shua (Jesus) had kept on demanding that He do ever more miracles to consume upon their lusts (Mt.16:1-4; Mk.8:11-12; Lk.11:16; Jn.2:18-20; 4:48) and these Greeks were demanding ever greater preaching prowess. Interesting, is it not, that the reverse seems to be true today. The charismatics want miracles and signs like the ancient Judahites and the messianics want more and more Torah knowledge! Mind you, Yah'shua's (Jesus') opponents in Judea wanted more signs and wonders only to manipulate Him. How so? Because the signs and wonders He had already shown, He said, were already more than adequate to leave them without excuse for their unbelief (Jn.3:2; 12:9-11,37; 14:11). What was the Greek problem? They prided themselves in culture and wisdom (Ac.17:21; Rom.1:14). Now I'm an Oxford man, and as you known the 'people of the gown' there - the academics - pride themselves in their superior knowledge. To most academics, a crucified Messiah is as much nonsense as it was to those Corinthian Greeks 2,000 years ago.
The Things That Do Not Count for Saolvation
Yahweh doesn't do things our way as a rule. He works through a deeper wisdom than human beings are able to recognise unless Yahweh grants them emunah (faith). Those who regard the Cross as foolish are by Elohim (God) ajudged foolish by the same standard. The Besorah (Gospel) is for everyone, simpleton as well as academic, Greek as well as Judahite, because the bottom line is that our pedigree - spiritual or literal - is singularly unimpressive. Ancestry and breeding mean nothing. The connections you have in the world won't help you when it comes to salvation. Your accomplishments in any field count for nothing as far as the eternal destiny of your soul is concerned. Even your affiliation with this or that preacher, or this or that ministry, whether you're 'Christian' or 'Messianic', counts for nothing when it comes to the nitty gritty of salvation (1 Cor.1:21-22). There is nothing for you to parade save Messiah crucified!
Or to put it another way:
"But Elohim (God) chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; Elohim (God) chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. Elohim (God) chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of Elohim (God)" (1 Cor.1:27-29, ESV).
Boasting in Yahweh
"Who and what you now are is a gift from Elohim (God) in King Yah'shua (Jesus)..." (1 Cor.1:30a, KNT).
So what's left after all that is said? Simple:
The Dying Life of Thomas à Kempis
"Let the one who boasts, boast in Yahweh" (v.31, ESV; see Jer.9:23-24)
Now I haven't said any of this in order to make a clever theological point. I'm not looking for preaching brownie points. I have said all of this because of what it can, and should, personally mean to you in your search to know Elohim (God). If the Cross lies at the centre of the Universe, then that is where you are going to meet Elohim (God). The 'crux of the matter' is that to find Yahweh - to know Him by communing with Him - you won't find Him apart from the Cross. To cite the words of Thomas à Kempis:
"Know for certain that you must lead a dying life; and the more a man dies to himself, the more he begins to live for Elohim (God). No man is fit to comprehend heavenly things who has not resigned himself to bear adversities for Messiah (Christ). Nothing is more acceptable to Elohim (God), nothing wholesome for you in this world, than to suffer willingly for Messiah (Christ). And if you had to choose, you should prefer to suffer adversities for Messiah (Christ) rather than to be refreshed with many consolations: because you would be more like Messiah (Christ) and more conformed to all the qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones)" (On the Imitation of Christ, Book II, chapter 12, Of the Royal Road of the Holy Cross).
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor and theologian arrested in 1943 and executed 1½ years later by the nazis, just days before the Second World War ended, lived by such a precept and undoubtedly was acquainted with the work of his countryman, Thomas à Kempis (Thomas von Kempen), who over 400 years before him. In his famous book, The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer wrote:
Bonhoeffer in America
"Costly grace is the besorah (gospel) which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace (undeserved loving kindness) is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true chayim (life). It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost Elohim (God) the life of his Son: "Ye were bought at a price" (1 Cor.6:20; 7:23), and what has cost Elohim (God) much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because Elohim (God) did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of Elohim (God)."
Bonhoeffer was from Breslau in Prussian Silesia, got his doctorate from Berlin University and then went to New York where he had many life-changing experiences. There in the USA he met Frank Fisher, a black fellow-seminarian who introduced him to Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where Bonhoeffer taught Sunday school and formed a lifelong love for African-American spirituals. He heard Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., preach the Gospel of Social Justice, and became sensitive not only to social injustices experienced by minorities, but also the ineptitude of the church to bring about integration. Bonhoeffer began to see things 'from below' — from the perspective of those who suffer oppression. He observed:
From Theologian to Man of Faith
"Here one can truly speak and hear about sin and grace and the love of Elohim (God)...the Black Messiah (Christ) is preached with rapturous passion and vision."
Upon his return to Germany, he seems to have undergone something of a personal conversion from being a theologian primarily attracted to the intellectual side of Christianity to being a dedicated man of emunah (faith), resolved to carry out the teaching of Messiah as he found it revealed in the Gospels. On 15 November 1931 — at the age of 25 — he was ordained at the Old-Prussian United St. Matthew's Church (St. Matthäuskirche) in Berlin.
The Execution of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Bonhoeffer died as he had lived. Eberhard Bethge, a student and friend of his, writes of a man who saw the execution:
Knowing Yah'shua Better
"I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer... kneeling on the floor praying fervently to Elohim (God). I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that Elohim (God) heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of Elohim (God)." 
I want to know Yah'shua (Jesus) better and I am assuming that you do too. We can gain inspiration in particular from those who understood that the Cross lay at the centre of the Universe. Thomas à Kempis, having John 14:6 in mind, wrote:
The Threefold Passion
"Without the Way, there is no going,
Without the Truth, there is no knowing,
Without the Life, there is no living."
Are the Derech (Way), the Emet (Truth) and the Chayim (Life) your passion? Yah'shua (Jesus) said He was all three of these.
At the Centre of the Universe
"I am the Derech (Way) and the Emet (truth) and the Chayim (Life). No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you really knew Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him" (John 14:6-7, NIV).
To know Yahweh our Heavenly Father Father, is to know Yah'shua (Jesus), which is to pursue the Derech (Way), the Emet (Truth) and the Chayim (Life) with all desiring. And to know these is to know the Cross. And to know the Cross is to be at the centre of the Universe, at the centre of living and of eternity. Within it is hidden the mystery of everything.
Where to Find Yah'shua
And here is an even greater mystery. Thomas à Kempis said:
Come and Die
"If...you seek Yah'shua (Jesus) in all things, you will surely find Him."
And how are we to do that? Dietrich Bonhoeffer replies:
Brought to Completion Either Way
"When Messiah (Christ) calls a man, He bids him come and die."
At the centre of Elohim's (God's) Universe is the Cross where Self dies to the glory of Elohim (God) and is raised to eternal chayim (life). At the centre of Satan's universe is Self. Satanism is, as I have said so many times in the past, the worship of self. Devil-worship is Satanism brought to completion. Christianity is the worship of Elohim (God). The worship of Yahweh is the Christian life brought to completion.
Which Train are You On?
These are radical concepts, some might even call them extreme, but then so is both life and anti-life, and in reality there is nothing much inbetween. You're either alive in Messiah and dead to sin, or you're alive in Satan and self and dying in sin. So really life boils down to a choice between two realities - you're either on the train headed toward eternal chayim (life) or you're on the other train headed to eternal destruction. What you can't do, is pretend you're on one train when you're on the other. Bonhoeffer said:
"If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction."
You've got to get off the wrong train, go back, and get on the right one. But I fear all to many, realising they are heading for hell, only make a choice in their heads to get off the wrong one, and delude themselves in imagining they are getting off when all it is is a mental exercise. So what does getting off the wrong train actually entail?
What Conversion Looks Like in Practice
"When Messiah (Christ) calls a man, He bids him come and die [to self and self-will]."
That's when a soul really converts. Conversion is not imagining what you will do in your head. Conversion is actually dying to self and asking Yah'shua (Jesus) to become the locomotive of your life! "Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility," said Bonhoeffer.
What Do I Do Right Now?
To actually 'do' Christianity, to actually do the Besorah (Gospel), means accepting responsibility for your life by putting it on terra firma and saying: 'Here I am. This is reality. This is the tangible world I live in. Now I choose Yah'shua (Jesus). And I choose Him by turning away from my own plans and desires and saying, 'What do You want me to do with my life?' And then, be be specific, 'What do You want me to do today...right now'.
Enjoy the Journey
OK, so you don't know where you're going exactly. Nobody ever does because you're on a journey, and the journey - not the destination - is not the tangible thing. You can't experience the destination until you've arrived, and you won't arrive until you die. Bonhoeffer said that "there is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler". You see, the meaning of the journey is only finally understood at the destination. The main thing is the journey, just as the dancing is the main thing, not the terminus or end of the dance. Enjoy the journey, folks!
The Blessing of Music
I love music. Like Bonhoeffer, I am a huge fan of Beethoven. He once said:
How true. I have heard Beethoven's Emperor Piano Concerto dozens of times performed by so many different artists. Each performance is different. I enjoy every movement and every phrase of every movement. I never tire of it because it is a masterpiece that ignites my soul. It is pure joy. And at the end, I want to shout in rapture, 'Bravo! Bravo!' as concert-goers are wont to do. It's like the apex or summit of the musical journey and experience.
"Music... will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you."
Like Beethoven's Emperor Concerto
The end of the journey is like that. Each encounter with Yah'shua (Jesus) is like that and even though it's the same Besorah (Gospel), every encounter is qualitatively different and I know that the end of each enounter is going to be rapturous. That's what it is like living in, with and for Yah'shua (Jesus) each day, whatever it is you are doing.
Live Completely for Faith
Like your favourite piece of music. Bonhoeffer said:
Doing Your Duty
"I'm still discovering, right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have emunah (faith). I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing, we throw ourselves completely into the arms of Elohim (God)."
That's pragmatic religion for you, very down-to-earth, not trying to sift out the bad and the ugly from the good by pretending it's not there. What is your duty? Do it joyfully in Yahweh. The motto of the last Swedish king, Gustaf VI Adolf, was 'Plikten framför allt' or 'Ante omnia officium meum' which means, 'Duty before all else', a sound motto, a good principle to live by. Your duty consists of the tasks and actions that you are bound to perform for moral or legal reasons. Paul was able to look the Sanhedrin in the eye and say to them:
"I have fulfilled my duty to Elohim (God) in all good conscience to this day" (Acts 23:1, NIV).
which he explained to the Roman qadoshim (saints, set-apart ones), saying:
Doing the Little Things Well
"...because of the grace Elohim (God) gave me to be a minister of Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus) to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the Besorah (Gospel) of Elohim (God), so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to Elohim (God), sanctified by the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit)" (Rom 15:15-16, NIV).
So whatever your duty is, do it diligently, to and for Yahweh through Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). Part of that involves, as Bonhoffer said, dealing with daily problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. Life is not simple but it is meaningless unless lived. It doesn't have to be something grand, like being the CEO of a company. For most it is simple, and that is fine. Whatever is Yahweh's will is good, in whatever situation, just do it well. Bonhoeffer said:
The Attitude of the Cross
"We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts."
Big and small is all the same to Him. What counts is whether you do it in emunah (faith) and in ahavah (love). What counts is whether you are at the centre of the Universe where the cross lies, not whether you are on the top of a high mountain or on a mole hill or in a valley. High or low, what matters is whether you are in Messiah or not, and to be in Messiah is to have the attitude of the Cross. And to have that attitude, Bonhoeffer said, is to "be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by Elohim (God)" ... any time of the day or night, whether convenient or inconvenient. If you're willing for Him to interrupt you, well, there's another sign that you're following Him.
An Unending Struggle
Ah, but therein lies the problem. We don't want to be interrupted by Him when we're doing something we want to do. Self-will. Flesh. It means that the Adamic nature isn't dead yet.
'Here I Am, Master'
"When all is said and done, the life of emunah (faith) is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh."
There's an unpleasant emet (truth). All true seekers discover that. So you put the flesh to death and turn and face Yah'shua (Jesus) again and say, 'Here am I, Master'. Then you listen and do what He says. Then you have shalom (peace), simcha (joy) and His ahavah (love). Then you're at the centre of His Universe again, and not yours ... and Satan's. You're at the Cross. Which is where you and I are supposed to be because it's our home - whether in tribulation for His sake or in glory when the destination is arrived at.
Do You Seek Another Way?
Thomas à Kempis asks us:
His Glory Today, Ours Tomorrow
"Do you seek another way than this royal way, which is the way of the holy cross?"
If you do, then you're in for a rough journey that takes you round in circles with no promise of a glorious destiny. Our glory is not for today but for tomorrow. While we are here, it is His glory that we are to seek for. Oh, and one other thought, from Brother Thomas again:
"...the higher a man is advanced in ruach (spirit), the heavier crosses does he often meet with; because the pain of his exile increases in proportion to his ahavah (love)."
So here we are with every opportunity to draw close to Messiah by making a choice for the Cross which lies at the centre of the Universe. We do not at first know what dying to self is at the time we ask for it to be done - but when He calls for it in a particular sitution, you will know and feel it. Then the challenge is to remain single-minded, not turn back, but move on with determination. Watch Him part the seas when you do! And that is something the Remnant must learn to exercise emunah (faith) in. May you have a blessed week and enjoy the ongoing journey. Amen.
 Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography (1975), p. 927