Episode 85 | Prepare: To Be Relevant

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-geu9i-bbd2cb

In this episode, Rev. Todd continues in the four-part series entitled, Prepare. This message, specifically entitled, “Prepare To Be Relevant”, is about what being relevant instead of resistant. This message is based on 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.

EPISODE NOTES:

God’s People, part 197: Dog

Read Mark 7:24-30

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But the voice spoke again: ‘Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.’”  (Acts 10:15, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

DogsPart 197: Dog. This is one of those moments when even the most unquestioning, unwavering Christian has to be wondering, “What gives?” In the Scripture reading for this devotion, we have an episode where Jesus seemingly dehumanized her and almost completely snubbed her. Of course, he did eventually acquiesced to her, so it was not a total snub, but still, “What gives?”

In this account, which is recorded in both Mark and Matthew, the woman was a Gentile. Mark describes her as a “Syrophoenician woman” and Matthew describes her as a Canaanite. While those two descriptions may seem different, they aren’t actually. Tyre, where Jesus found this woman, and Sidon were both cities that were built by the Canaanites and were a part of the land of Canaan. Thus, Syria and Phoenicia were actually Canaanite.

Thus, this woman was a non-Jew, and belonged to a country of people who were enemies of the Jews. She approached Jesus because her daughter was possessed and she was hoping he would heal her. Instead of healing the daughter, Jesus first dismissed the woman: “First I should feed the children—my own family, the Jews. It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs”  (Mark 7:27, NLT).

Sure, this woman was not a Jew and sure Jesus had come as the Jewish Messiah, but he was traveling in HER LAND. Why dismiss her like that. Worse yet, why call her a dog. How dehumanizing is that? I have heard a lot of people try to explain this away by saying, “Oh, Jesus was just testing her faith.” Sure, that is a possibility; however, couldn’t have done so in a less humiliating and degrading way than that?

I don’t think that Jesus was testing her faith at all. Clearly, she had faith in him if, as a Canaanite woman, she sought him out to exorcise her daughter. That would have taken a tremendous amount of faith and humility, quite honestly. What’s more, Jesus didn’t apply that same standard to the Roman centurion or any other non-Jew he interacted with.

I have always seen something else here at play. The religious leaders had been challenging Jesus at every turn and he was being rejected by his own people. This is so true that Jesus often found himself traveling with his disciples outside of Jewish territories. In fact, right before the interaction with this woman, the religious leaders were questioning Jesus on ritual and dietary purity. Jesus chastised them and proceeded to say that food is not what defiles someone. Mark then added the following commentary, “By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.” (Mark 7:19, NLT)

This would have been a big deal and, what’s more, dietary laws were one of the ways that Jews were differentiated from Gentiles such as the Canaanites. Thus, I do not think Jesus’ initial response to the woman was actually intended to be a slight against her; rather, I think he was echoing the unclean thoughts that defiled his own people. He treated her, initially, in a way that the religious leaders and other Jews thought of her.

But the account did not end there, did it? The woman acknowledged Jesus’ words and then retorted, “That’s true, Lord, but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children’s plates” (Mark 7:28, NLT). At that point, Jesus lightened up, commended her answer, and sent her home with these words, “the demon has left your daughter.”

What Jesus did there was further expose the hypocrisy and impurity of those who saw themselves as pure. This Canaanite, Syrophoenician, non-Jewish woman who ate swine and was generally deemed to be impure was, in actuality, the one who had faith and was clean in God’s sight. This should actually be a lesson for all of us who see ourselves as clean, or pure, or “saved”. Christians are just as culpable as the Jewish religious leaders in seeing themselves as above those who are non-Christian and “unsaved”.

The challenge for us as Christians is to humble ourselves and remember God is the one who deems who is clean and/or unclean, not us. We are not some how more valuable that those we look at as “dogs.” Whether they be immigrants, the poor, criminals, the “unchurched”, or whatever label we use to define and describe the other, Jesus can be found among them. When we exclude others, we end up excluding Christ along with them. The challenge for us is to drop our perception and pick up Christ’s.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Let us remember that while we may be “saved”, that is only because we are sinners in need of saving.

PRAYER
Lord, help me to humble myself so that I can see the sinner that I am and work on removing my own logs, rather than other people’s specs. Amen.

God’s People, part 196: The Sick

Read Mark 6:53-56

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“When Jesus heard this, he said, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.’”  (Matthew 9:12, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

SickPart 196: The Sick. “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”  Those words of Jesus’ ring true when we read today’s scripture passage. Anywhere and everywhere Jesus went, he was being bombarded by people who were seeking to get something out of him. Mark tells us that once people recognized who he was, “they ran about the whole area, carrying sick people on mats to wherever he was.”

Bombarded might actually be an understatement. Still, Jesus understood their needs and had compassion toward them. He healed as many of them as possible and continued to minister to those who were sick and healthy alike. No doubt all of this was draining, but the Spirit of God was upon Jesus and, as God’s Son, nothing was going to stop him from doing his Father’s work. Certainly not exhaustion.

With that said, who are the sick? This is one of those English words that doesn’t capture what is being conveyed in the original Greek. When we read the word sick in this and other passages of the Gospels, we have to understand that we are not dealing with people who have the common cold. “The sick” were were not people who had a cough and a fever and needed some rest to recover; rather, these were people who had been suffering terribly from a whole host of various maladies.

In Greek, the word for “sick” comes from the word astheneō (ἀσθενέω, pronounced as-then-eh’-o), which not only means weak or feeble, but can mean diseased. What’s more this word is also used to describe male impotence. With that in mind, “the sick” were those who were crippled, who were suffered from degenerative diseases, who suffered from other types of nasty diseases, men who were impotent, as well as people who fell ill or sick for other reasons.

In other words, “the sick” was a catch-all word that encompassed a whole host of different people with an enumerable variety of illnesses. Certainly, these people were experiencing social and spiritual isolation and rejection due to their illness. While most people would avoid contact with the sick, Jesus was doing the opposite of that. He was engaging them, laying hands on them, and healing them.

What we can learn from “the sick” stems with our reaction to them. Who are the sick in our communities? Perhaps they are physically sick, ill, or people who are differently abled. Perhaps they, are emotionally or psychologically sick. Perhaps they suffer from substance dependence or addiction. What’s our reaction to those who are sick? Do we judge them? Do we try to avoid them? Do we reject them?

The challenge for us is to begin to move in the direction of Christ. We should never shun, reject, avoid, or judge; rather, we should show compassion, we should work against stigma, and be a healing presence in the lives of those who suffer. Let us be a people who model ourselves after Christ and reject the ways of the world. Let us work to bring hope, healing, and wholeness into the lives of those who need it.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig a little to find it.” – Tori Amos

PRAYER
Lord, soften my heart and help me to grow in empathy toward others so that I might be used to bring your hope and healing to others. Amen.

Episode 84 | Prepare: To Change

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-dthkx-baf2d0

In this episode, Rev. Todd begins a new, four-part series entitled, Prepare. This message, specifically entitled, “Prepare To Change”, is about the inevitability of change and the importance of our response to that inevitability. This message is based on Isaiah 43:19-20 and Jeremiah 29:11-13.

EPISODE NOTES:

A LOOK BACK: The Beatitudes, part 9: Persecuted

Volunteer handsWhile I am out volunteering in community this week, I figured it would be a great time for us to LOOK BACK to a previous devotion. I trust you will find this devotion to be as relevant today as it was when I first wrote it. Click here to time jump back to that devotion.

I would also challenge you to find time to volunteer and serve others in your community. Whether that be in a soup kitchen, a food pantry, at your local library, at a church, or any such place where people can be served through volunteerism, it is good to be a part of something larger than yourself. After all, Christ  taught:

“You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many”  (Matthew 20:25-28, NLT).

God’s People, part 195: Salome

Read Mark 14:1-12

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The LORD is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations.”  (Numbers 14:18, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Salome_Baptist-HeadPart 195: Salome. In the Old Testament, there was a passage that I could never fully understand. In Exodus 20:5, in reference to idols God states, “You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.”  (Exodus 20:5, NLT)

What does God mean when he says, “I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me”? That makes God sound like a harsh and cruel God. It seems to counter the “Jesus Loves Me” personality of God that I was taught in Sunday School and in church growing up. How can the unconditionally loving, all-good, God do that to people? I mean, I can understand why one would suffer consequences for THEIR sins, but why their children or their children’s children? That hardly seems fair.

These questions are valid questions; however, people such as Salome provide cases of what God means in Exodus 20:5. Salome was the daughter of Herodias and Herod II, and she was the step-daughter of her uncle Herod Antipas. As was covered in the last devotion, Herodias divorced Herod II and married his brother Antipas.

The last couple of devotions also highlighted the corruption, power-grabbing, greedy and murderous family that Herod the Great raised up. No one or thing was sacred or safe within it. This was the environment that Herod II, Antipas, and Herodias grew up in and, sadly, this is also the environment that Salome grew up in. As such, Herod the Great’s children followed suit with him and their children did the same as well.

Again, Herodias was power-hungry and divorced her first husband to marry his more powerful younger half-brother, Antipas. Likewise, her daughter Salome was also power-hungry and wanted to eliminate any threat to the legitimacy of her mother’s marriage to Antipas. Though they were rulers over God’s people, the Herodians lacked humility and did not place God above themselves.

Sure, Herodias knew it was against God’s law willy-nilly divorce Herod II to marry his half-brother, but she did it anyway. Sure, Herod Antipas knew it was wrong too. What’s more, he knew that God would not approve lusting after his step-daughter, but he did that anyway. Salome knew that seducing her step-father was not in line with God’s will for her, but she did it anyway. Certainly she knew that murdering one of God’s prophets was not something God willed, but she demanded that Antipas murder John the Baptist.

The challenge here is to NOT view the Herodians as being different than us. They are no different. They were human beings who had dreams, hopes, ambitions, lusts, envy, and longed for control. So are we. We may not find ourselves on the same scale, but we struggle with those things too. All human beings do.

The challenge for us is to not be like Herod, Antipas, Herodias or Salome and to overlook God’s will for our life so that we can have what WE want; rather, we should be challenged to heed God’s will for us, as outlined in Scripture, and purge ourselves of the things that take us away from God. In other words, let’s humble ourselves and purge deceit, corruption, evil desires, jealousy, contempt for God’s way, lust, ambition, and the need for control from our lives. By God’s grace, through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, this can and will be done if you so choose.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” — Viktor E. Frankl

PRAYER
Lord, guide me through the space between stimulus and response and lead me to respond to you instead of my desires. Help me to ONLY desire you and your will for me. Amen.

Episode 84 | Don’t Be Nice: Be Loving

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-cwyqu-b9dd79

In this episode, Rev. Todd carries on the new, four-part series entitled, Don’t Be Nice. This message, specifically entitled, “Don’t Be Nice, Be Loving”, is about finding the true source and nature of Biblical love. This message is based on 1 Corinthians 13.

EPISODE NOTES:

Episode 15 | Children of the Night

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-24gma-b7b4cc

In this episode, fellow POJCasters, Sal and Todd share the mic with Reverend Leviathan who is both a goth and a Christian lay minister to the Goth subculture! Yes, whoa is right! Check out this most excellent episode and be forever changed by the Rev’s witness! Preach!

Party On Patrons: You can totally support us by subscribing to us on Patreon and, by doing so, you will be signing up for exclusive, bonus content. For instance, Sal, Todd and Evan recorded a separate Shithouse Theology Segment regarding another theologically floating out there in the cosmic toilet bowl! We have three tiers of support and each level bears more rewards. Lots of great reasons to join. Click here for more information.

Party On JohnCast Swag: Yes, we have our own most excellent swag and you ought to support us by buying some! But don’t take our word for it: “Y’all need to buy some” – Rev. Evan Rohrs-Dodge

Other ways to Support: If you love this podcast, please rate and review us on iTunes, Google Play Music, Spotify. The more we get rated and reviewed, the higher up on the giganto totem pole we get on those respective platforms.

Also, interact with us on our social media, on our Facebook Page and on Twitter.

EPISODE NOTES:

He Brews Segment

Sal

Todd

Reverend Leviathan

Most Excellent Music Segment

Children of the Night Segment

God’s People, part 194: Herodias

Read Mark 6:14-29

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Do not have sexual relations with your brother’s wife, for this would violate your brother.”  (Leviticus 18:16, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

1024px-Herodias_with_the_Head_of_St._John_the_Baptist_-_Paul_Delaroche_-_Wallraf-Richartz_Museum_-_Cologne_-_Germany_2017Part 194: Herodias. Herodias was a princess. She was the daughter of King Herod’s son, Aristobulus IV who was the heir of King Herod’s kingdom. In fact, Aristobulus IV grew up in Rome and was educated in the household of Caesar Augustus. When he became an adult and returned to Jerusalem with his brother Alexander, the crowds greeted them exuberantly.

Unfortunately for them, their older half-brother, Antipater II, was jealous of them and started informing the king of rumors that the two brothers were plotting against him. After failed attempts of reconciliation with his sons, Aristobulus IV and Alexander, he had them strangled on charges of treason and promoted Antipater II as his co-regent and heir.

Still, Aristobulus’ daughter, Herodias, found favor in her grandfather’s eyes. Herodias was a princess; however, she was no Disney princess. She grew up in a home that only knew conflict. She grew up in a home where no one could trust anyone else. She grew up in a divisive, politically charged home where everyone was vying for control and power.

Following the deaths of her father and her Uncle Alexander, she was engaged and married to her half-uncle Herod II; however, this was opposed by Antipater II. As such, in order to maintain peace, Herod demoted Herod II to second in line. Herod II was eventually dropped out of King Herod’s will altogether because his mother never attempted to stop a plot to poison the king, even though she knew the plot was in action. Fun family, right? This would make for a great reality television show or daytime soap opera.

Herod II and Herodias’ marriage produced a child, named Salome. With that said, the marriage seemed to have produced little more than that. For some reason or another, Herodias eventually divorced Herod II and married his brother, Herod Antipas. One could imagine that Herod II was a dead end with no upward mobility in sight; whereas, Antipas was ruling as the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. Given the power-grabbing nature of the Herodian family, it isn’t hard to imagine that is why Herodias divorced Herod II and married Herod Antipas. It was a political move.

Political or not, that move came with some consequences. It certainly would have rubbed devout Jewish people the wrong way. In fact, the Old Testament has some pretty sharp things to say against such marriages. In Leviticus 18:16, the law is written, “Do not have sexual relations with your brother’s wife, for this would violate your brother.” The fact that Herodias divorced her husband for no apparent reason would have been scandalous enough in the Jewish world; however, the fact that she subsequently married her ex-husband’s brother would have been seen as adultery and in complete defiance of Jewish religious and social law.

With that said, who is going to stand up to the Tetrarch and call him and his wife lecherous adulterers? John the Baptist, that’s who. And boy did he, so much so that Herodias was filled with hatred toward him. While most of the blame seems to be thrust on Herodias in the Gospel accounts, there can be little doubt that Herod Antipas was none the pleased by this prophet’s outbursts. Thus, Antipas had him arrested.

The rest is history. Antipas at some point held a party and hosted some distinguished guests. Herodias knew her husband lusted after his step-daughter, Salome, and she used that knowledge to her own advantage. She talked her daughter into dancing seductively for Antipas in front of all his guests at the party. Again, great family! When it came time for the tetrarch to fulfill his promise to her for dancing, Salome demanded exactly what her mom wanted, the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter.

Herodias is a prime example of what happens when we solely view the world as political theater. In that mindset, everyone is a pawn to be used in order to achieve particular ends. Thus, Herodias used her first husband, second husband and even her own daughter to get what she wanted. In our world today, we see more and more of this. Not just at the highest levels, but throughout all social and economic classes.

The challenge for us is to not view the world solely through our political leanings and/or stances. We should not approach our neighbors as a Republican or a Democrat. We should not label ourselves or others as “conservative” or “liberal” or “progressives”. We should view each person as children of God, beloved of God, created in God’s image. No one should be a means to an end, but the end unto themselves. This is what truly honors God, that we treat all of God’s creation with dignity and respect. Let us not fall into the trap that Herodias did, otherwise we might find ourselves perpetuating similar types of evil.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
People should never be used as a means to an end, but should be seen as the end unto themselves.

PRAYER
Lord, help me to see all people through your eyes and treat people the way I would like them to treat me. Amen.

Episode 83 | Don’t Be Nice: Be Joyful

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-a2unz-b93ece

In this episode, Rev. Todd carries on the new, four-part series entitled, Don’t Be Nice. This message, specifically entitled, “Don’t Be Nice, Be Peaceful”, is about finding the true source and nature of Biblical peace. This message is based on Philippians 4:4-9.

EPISODE NOTES:

A biweekly devotional