Two Books

Yahara River


Fresh Read is about reading the Biblical Text freshly, looking and listening to take in what the text is saying.  I have recently started Two Book Retreats which has as its goal to explore the book of nature and the book of scripture through various art forms.  So if you are interested in that check out the web site and the Facebook Page

We are currently in the middle of a watercolor class that explores the Yahara river that runs along just across the street from my office.  The Text we will explore this week is Psalm 19.  This psalm transitions from the book of nature to the book of scripture and then to the response to the Lord by the psalmist.

Psalm 19

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

To the leader. A Psalm of David.

1 The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.

In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them;
and nothing is hid from its heat.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
and drippings of the honeycomb.

11 Moreover by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can detect their errors?
Clear me from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent;
do not let them have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Two Approaches to Romans 12:9-21

logoRomans 12 from verses 9 to 21 contains a large number of short admonitions.  The challenge is how to present these without getting lost in the details.  This past week I presented them by summarizing the first portion as advice for how to treat each other inside the circle of the fellowship.  There was a second sentence for the verses that had to do with treating outsiders.

That is one approach.  The next one would be to divide the section into daily phrases.  Perhaps this could be meditated on a phrase a day – it divides nicely into 31 distinct phrases.  I’d hate to only ever lean the summary.  Both appraches have merit.

Here is the text.  The backslashes (/) indicated daily reflection portions.

Romans 12:9-21 NIV

Love must be sincere./ Hate what is evil;/ cling to what is good. /10 Be devoted to one another in love/. Honor one another above yourselves./ 11 Never be lacking in zeal, /but keep your spiritual fervor,/ serving the Lord./ 12 Be joyful in hope, /patient in affliction,/ faithful in prayer./ 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need./ Practice hospitality./

14 Bless those who persecute you; /bless and do not curse. /15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; /mourn with those who mourn./ 16 Live in harmony with one another./ Do not be proud,/ but be willing to associate with people of low position./ Do not be conceited./

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil./ Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone./18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone./ 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath,/ for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord./ 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;/
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink./
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”/

21 Do not be overcome by evil,/ but overcome evil with good./

Here are the summary Sentences

     Inner Circle – v.9-13

Choose what is good

    •             by clinging to the love of God,
    •             by praying through trouble and
    •             by sharing what you have.

Outer Circle – v. 14-21

 Bless others

    •             by living at peace with everyone
    •             by fighting evil with goodness and
    •             by trusting the justice to God.



Submission in Ephesians 5 – More on Partnership

adam-and-eve-~-vmo0001Here is where we meet the fearful word “submit”.  Men for centuries looked at verse 21 and quoted to their wives, or sometimes to single women, “Wives submit to your husbands.”

I have two quick points.

1.  Submit is a general term.  The verb “to submit” is not found inverse 22, In the Greek language they would sometimes leave out word and you draw them down from the context.  The word submit is found in verse 21.  In the context of the Church as a whole, we are called to do some things, starting a verse 18.  Being filled with the spirit, speaking to each other in music, singing and making melody to God, giving thanks and submitting to one another…”

Submission is presented first as a general principle of Christian fellowship.  The church does not exist to submit to my needs and desires.  Copernicus in on the phone, and says that you are not the center of the universe!

In the church as a whole, submission is a way of life.  We look out for others and not just for ourselves.

2.  Submit is paired with Love.  Wives are called to submit to heir husbands, in the same way that submission is the expecting of Christian community at large.  Husbands are called to love their wives.

There are about 50 words in this passage addressed to Wives.  In Verse 22 she is called to “submit” which is the verse drawn from verse 21.  In verse 33, she is called to “respect”.  This word is actually in the text.

There are about 150 words in the s passage for Husbands.  Maybe it is because men are slow learners? Maybe it is because, if we understand this passage properly, men are being called to a greater sacrifice.  Wives are called to ‘respect” their husbands. Men are called to die for their wives.

I am a pastor. I tend to read the New Testament letters as pastoral words – word that are applied to real issues.  I think that women often have a hard time respecting their husbands – from what I sometimes hear women say in public, this remains an issue.  Men seem to have trouble with love – we do earning and watching sports, but love, real love is a challenge.

I have applied the word “Partner” to the marriage relationship.  If you are married, I encourage you to think of your spouse as a partner.  Respect him. Love her.  Work together.  Belong to each other.  Quit trying to win. If she wins then you do to. If he wins, you do too.


Helper in Genesis 2 – Partner or Go-fer?

adam-and-eve-~-vmo0001Genesis 1 is the wide angle lens.  Genesis 2 is the close up.  Here we learn more about the husband and wife relationship.  Read Genesis 2:18-25

             Helper.  All through Genesis 1 the Lord says, “It is good.”  When any part of the world is brought into functioning order, the lord says “It is good.”  At the creation of humanity, he says, it is very good.”  Yet here the Lord looks at Adam alone in the world and says, “It is not good.”

            The Lord is not alone in this opinion.  Man and women have been looking for a partner in life from the get go.  We don’t care much in grade school, and then something happens in middle school to high school and we are maybe even obsessed with trying to find a match.

            I like to say that I met my match and married her.

            Look at all the computer dating sites!  People are looking for someone to partner with.  Yet the word in Genesis 2 is “helper.”    

            In English “helper” sounds like an inferior.

            I was a carpenter’s helper in seminary for a summer.  I learned a lot. But you know I was not the equal of the carpenter.  He got paid more than me.  Whatever he paid me, he charged the customers double and paid himself half of that! 

            I was a UPS driver helper one Christmas.  That was real work and good pay. Now the driver organized packages in the truck and I delivered them to the door. This was in December in Montana – so who got to stay warm and who got cold?  No equality there.         

            Is Eve to be seen as Adam’s helper in that sense?  She is the Go-fer.  She gets the jobs that Adam does not want?

            The trouble with this is that the word Helper in Hebrew is also used of God.  If we say that Eve must be lesser because she is called a “helper” we have to say that the Lord is less than us because he is sometimes called our helper.  Consider just one example of many. Ps 33:20

            “We wait in home for the Lord;

            He is our help and our shield”

             It is the exact same word.  A study of this word shows that it does not contain the idea of being a lesser.  We bring that in because of what “helper ” means in English.  Rather the word simply indicates that one person is offer aid or help, strength or partnership to another.  Only the context indicates if there is some inherent difference.

             Poetry.  Adam composes a little love poem to Eve when he meets her.  He is fascinated. He met all the other creatures in Eden, but Eve, well she was something else.  She was like him, only different!  V. 23.  She will be called woman (ishah) for she was taken out of man (ish).  Man in Hebrew is “ish” – no jokes allowed!  To add a feminine ending in Hebrew you put an “h” at the end.  He is “ish” she is “ishah”, it is the same word with a different ending.  We know that men and women are the same and different.

            It has been pointed out that God did not take from Adam’s foot or head to create Even but from his side.  So she is beside him and near his heart.

             The marriage Verse.  V. 24 is quoted in many places as the foundational verse on marriage.  What does it say?

             There are three parts.  Leaving, cleaving and becoming one flesh. 

            The Man leaves his family to be joined to the wife – she does not become a servant of his household.  He leaves so they can start something new.

            He cleaves – this indicates being united as if they were glued together.

            He becomes one flesh with her – this also indicates unity.

             The emphasis here, as I read it, is that a man and a woman are jointed together not as boss and servant. But as two parts of one new unity.  Both belong to each other.  They are to be united in marriage, in the bond of love and in physical unity.


Wisdom Literature – bibliography

scribe.2I am posting this in response to a Face Book conversation about Proverbs.  I find Wisdom Literature to be scripture in another key signature, it tends to be observational, not doctrinal in the strict sense, inviting to outsiders  sometimes borrows from outsiders.  We can fall into making it kid stuff, or simplistic rules and regulations   It is best to realize that a proverb, “mashal” in Hebrew, means to lay one thing next to another and see what can be learned.  It is writing to help us notice, think and consider all things but most importantly the “fear of the Lord” before we act.

There are a number of posts on FRESH READ tagged with Wisdom.

Bibliographic Notes on Wisdom Literature

Partnership in Genesis 1 and 2

adam-and-eve-~-vmo0001There are two accounts of human creation.     Genesis 1 is like a photograph with a wide angle lens.  Genesis 2 is like a close up of the specifics.  We start with Genesis 1

Image and Likeness.  Every human being is made in the image and likeness of God.  This is what Genesis 1:26-27 says.  The Lord says, “let us make man (adam) in our image and after our likeness…”  The word for “man” is Adam. Sometimes it means “male” sometimes it means “human being”.

Some have said that only men were made in the image of God.  There are some obscure references to support that. However, in the first instance where this arises, in Genesis 1, it is clear to me that “adam” here means both male and female. I give you and immediate and a close reference.


Immediate: Genesis 1:27 

“So God created man (adam) in his own image

In the image of God he created him’

Male and female he created them.”

            The immediate context, verse 27, clearly states that both male and female are ‘adam’ and are created in the Image of God.  How could it be made clearer?  Not just men, not just adults, not just the healthy or the strong, but every human being is made in God’s image.  One reason we respect life – all life – is to show respect for the image of God in another.

Near: Genesis 5:1.  From time to time Genesis makes summary statements that show a transition from one major section to another.  One of these is Genesis 5:1

This is the account of Adam’s line. When god created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God.  He created them male and female and blessed them.  He named them “mankind” (adam) when they were created.”

This summary comment, just 3 chapter later seas the deal.  God created male and female both in the image and likeness of God.  He called them both “adam”. The NIV translates that word “Mankind” to show that it is both male and female.

Partnership.  Notice what the Lord says in Genesis 1:28

“And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves on the earth….”

Notice that the Lord did not speak to Adam. He spoke to Adam and Eve; he said to “them” that they are to do these things.

So it is clear in the original text on humanity that men and women were made for partnership.

Happy 7th

happy 7

I had lost track but Fresh Read has been around for 7 years now.  It is interesting what draws attention:  A Visit to the Ant Hill and Psalm 34 an  Acrostic are the two with the biggest readership.  Thanks to all the friends and readers.  But more important than my text, is the great text.

“She loved Psalm 23 – everyone does!”









I will be leading a memorial service for a woman who used to dress up to watch her church’s worship service on TV.  When i asked about favorite scriptures the answer was, “She loved Psalm 23. Everyone does!”

  • What is it about Psalm 23?
  • It is simple – only 117 words in the NKJV.
  • It is personal – notice all the 1st person pronouns.
  • It covers hard situations – the shadow of death.
  • It is present and eternal –  v. 6.
  • It means that the Lord will never let us slip out of his hands.

  The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord

Modern Sensitivites – Proverbs 6




In looking for a text for Mother’s day, which the author considers to be a conspiracy by card and flower companies, a text was found  – Proverbs 6:20ff.

20 My child, keep your father’s commandment,
    and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
21 Bind them upon your heart always;
    tie them around your neck.
22 When you walk, they will lead you;
    when you lie down, they will watch over you;
    and when you awake, they will talk with you.
23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light,
    and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life… (NRSV)

So far so good.  It would be nice if it mentioned flowers I suppose.

Then read on, it is a warning from mom and dad against prostitutes:

24 to preserve you from the wife of another,
    from the smooth tongue of the adulteress.
25 Do not desire her beauty in your heart,
    and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes;
26 for a prostitute’s fee is only a loaf of bread,
    but the wife of another stalks a man’s very life.
27 Can fire be carried in the bosom
    without burning one’s clothes?
28 Or can one walk on hot coals
    without scorching the feet?
29 So is he who sleeps with his neighbor’s wife;
    no one who touches her will go unpunished.
30 Thieves are not despised who steal only
    to satisfy their appetite when they are hungry.
31 Yet if they are caught, they will pay sevenfold;
    they will forfeit all the goods of their house.
32 But he who commits adultery has no sense;
    he who does it destroys himself.
33 He will get wounds and dishonor,
    and his disgrace will not be wiped away.
34 For jealousy arouses a husband’s fury,
    and he shows no restraint when he takes revenge.
35 He will accept no compensation,
    and refuses a bribe no matter how great.   (NRSV)

So there are interesting things here. The advice against adultery and prostitution has a practical feel – you will get burned!  Wisdom looks at consequences of choices, and here at least, does not quote the law’s prohibitions.

So will this work as a discussion on Mother’s day?  Well, probably not.  Not in the Midwest, among a people who like greeting cards and flower shops.

It does amuse the be jabbers out of me.