A Different Kind Of Annunciation

A Different Kind Of Annunciation

A Very Dangerous Bible Commentary on John 1:12–13

Several recent writings here have ended with a reference to John 1:12-13 without any real commentary. Perhaps if you’ve been following along you’ve wondered, “Where’s the very dangerous commentary?”

Well, this is it. For you, this may be a yawn and a click or swipe to the next item, and I get that. I really do. I’m not trying to convince anyone I’m right about anything. Here is the main idea of what I think this passage means to me.

Jesus entered my world the same way I entered His world…by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Remember this commentary is dangerous only for me. I’m not trying to convince anyone I’m right about anything. I only want to see what God’s Word is saying to me and what that means for me in my thoughts and actions. The dangerous part for me is giving up old ways.

Here is the text of John 1:12-13 in the King James.[1]

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)

The “Who” and “What People Did”

But as many as received him…even to them that believe on his name

It’s important to realize that the words “as many as received him” refers to the Jewish people while Jesus walked among them. (The preceding verses tell about how Jesus came to his own people.) This. Is also not the same “receive” as when we hear some use the wording “receive Jesus into your heart.” [2]

To me, this points to two groups: the Jews and the Gentiles. It’s very much like when the Israelites (the Jews) left captivity in Egypt. There was a mixed multitude (the Gentiles) following along with them. Some even officially joined the Israelites once the Law was given. So really what comes next applies to anyone: the Jewish people who would have received Him as one of their own or the Gentile people who would have believed on His name.

God is saying, “I don’t care if you were born into my old special group or did all of the requirements to join my old special group. Those things don’t matter any more.”

So I need to stop looking at where people came from and how they were born. I need to stop looking at whatever groups people were naturally born into (outside of their control). I need to stop looking at whatever groups people chose for themselves (within their control). There is going to be only one group that God sees any more.

Saying “I was born this way” doesn’t get you anything. Think about that when it comes to being straight or gay.

Saying “I made myself like these other favored people” doesn’t get you anything either. Think about that when it comes to being Catholic or Protestant, a Conservative Christian or a Progressive Christian…or regarding gay conversion therapy.

The “What God Did”

to them gave he power…to become the sons of God

Power is a great thing, and I appreciate that this power is not something that I have to generate myself. Once I read this as “power to become but only to become…you might mess it up if you aren’t careful.” That is looking at God’s power as it it was my power, but if it comes from God, then like everything else coming from God, it will be successful.

God is saying, “I’m going to give you power to become my children, and my power accomplishes what I want. What I want is for you to be My child. I’m making a new special group. They are going to be My Children, not the children of Abraham, not the children of Israel. My Children. There are no more Insiders. There are no more Outsiders. There are no more families or tribes or nations. There is only My Children.”

So I need to stop seeing divisions, don’t I? And maybe I need to realize God isn’t going to change everything about the people I disagree with just the same as He isn’t going to change everything about me?

The “How God Did NOT Do It”

Without these “NOT’s,” it can be easy to misunderstand what that whole “power to become” is all about.

not of blood

God is saying, “My Children aren’t going to be about what you’re like on the outside or what you’re like on the inside. Your DNA when you were physically born does not matter at all. It’s all in what I’m going to do. How you were born on the outside or the inside makes no difference to Me. I’m giving you My Spiritual DNA. When you see Me, you will say, ‘That’s My Daddy!’ because that’s a part of your spiritual DNA.”

nor of the will of the flesh

God is saying, “You can’t become one of My Children by making yourself one, no matter how hard you try. There are no special words you can say and no special acts you can perform to make yourself one of My Children. It’s all in what I am going to do. What you decide to make yourself or not make yourself makes no difference to me.”

nor of the will of man

God is saying, “You can’t become one of My Children because someone else made you one or forced you to say some special words or do some special acts. It’s all in what I am going to do. What someone else forces you to do makes no difference to me.”

I can’t boast about being part of any religious group with all of the right answers. (Is there is such a group?) I can’t boast about anything. Nothing I choose to be or not be, nothing I choose to do or not do makes a difference when it comes to being God’s Child.[3]

The “How God Did It”

Which were born…of God.

God is saying, “This is going to be My doing from beginning to end. This world is a womb for who you will become as my child. You have been conceived by my Spirit, just as Jesus was conceived by my Spirit. My Word is the seed. My word does not return to Me void. It will accomplish my will. My will is for you to be My Child. I will make you stand. I will complete the good I have started in you. I will relentlessly love you.”

What This Radical View Of Life Means To Me

Jesus was conceived into the physical world…by the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 1:18, Luke 1:35)

This is exactly the same way you were conceived into the spiritual word…by the Holy Spirit. (John 3:6-8)

Jesus was a creation of God within the womb of Mary. He moved from the spiritual world to the physical world by the power and working of the Holy Spirit. We are a creation of God within the womb of this world. We moved from the physical world to the spiritual world by the power and working of the Holy Spirit.

In Jesus and through the Cross Of Christ, both and all worlds meet.

A Different Kind Of Annunciation

Footnotes and other not necessarily important items…

[1] For many people, the King James Version seems outdated. I choose to use it here for one main reason: it is the version used most often…and wrongly…to clobber people.

[2] The concept of “asking Jesus into your heart” (or “inviting” or “receiving”) is one I’ve heard from an early age, yet I’m finding little to support this in the Bible. The concern I have is how these words make it appear that a person is in control of God’s actions in their own life.

[3] This includes those who would say “At least I’m not gay.” If someone was born straight, how is that something to brag about? We are not born with righteousness.

Because I’ve recently come to see the first portion of John’s Gospel (John 1:1–18) as a different kind of Annunciation passage, I have paired it with a contemporary painting of the Annunciation by John Collier.

If you are interesting in learning more about this painting from the artist himself, watch this video.

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Denominations And Sissies…Draft Dodgers and Hippies

Denominations And Sissies...Draft Dodgers and Hippies

When Life Is All Laid Out For You Like A Map

This post and the previous post have been prompted by a summer-time study we are doing as part of our Adult Forum at church titled “The Politics of God.” We have examined how our perspectives are formed rightly or wrongly. I’ve tried to write honestly, openly, and more from a child’s perspective.

This is how I remember the town where I grew up and read “Fun With Dick And Jane” in school.

The closer you were to the center of town the more important you were and the more your life looked like what we read about in the Dick and Jane books and the Sunday School lesson books. The farther away you lived, the less God liked you.

This was a lot like the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night with the children of Israel in the wilderness. This was also a lot like how the tabernacle was set up and later how the temple was set up.

Near the center of town, there was a Baptist Church and a Methodist Church and a Christian Church. The Baptist Church would dunk you. The Methodist Church would sprinkle you. No one really knew what the Christian Church did to you.

There was a Catholic Church out on the main highway. I have a feeling it was outside the town limits when it was originally built. Then as the town grew and new neighborhoods were added after World War II, the line was redrawn, and it became inside the town limits.

My best friends in elementary school were all Catholic, but I wasn’t. We all lived in one of those post-World War II neighborhoods along with the Jewish doctor’s family. This was not as good as living on the other side of the main highway near the center of town. But it was better than living outside of the town limits with the black families.

There was no Jewish temple or synagogue.

No one ever said these things to me, but this was my childhood perception of what God thought about people.

God didn’t know anything about the Jewish family. They were nice, but they stayed to themselves and God just didn’t see them.

God knew about the Catholic Church. He was there every other week when the priest visited or when He wanted to look at their medals and statues.

God probably never visited the Christian Church. They didn’t have any music.

God was definitely in the Methodist Church and the Baptist Church. That’s where most of the people were. The Methodist Church was brick, but the Baptist Church was just wood. The Methodist Church was probably a lot richer.

The smartest boy in my class went to the Methodist Church. He was nice to everyone and always got straight A’s on his report card. In school, he got to go home for lunch every day.

Most of the people I knew and the most important people in town went to the Baptist Church like me. My family moved to town right before I entered first grade. We were part of the “mixed multitude” that joined the Baptist Church, however I don’t think we were ever fully accepted.

It probably wasn’t by coincidence the Town Hall was right next to the Baptist Church. Those who were born into the Baptist Church were the leaders and decision-makers in town. Their children in my Sunday School class always had the best seats, the right answers, the special duties, and were always better than me. The other boys wore real ties, not clip-on ties like me.

Right next to the Methodist Church was the Town Cemetery. That made it important like the Baptist Church, just in a completely different way. Maybe when you died you became a Methodist. It was a mystery to me.

There was a Black Church outside of town. I don’t remember what denomination it was because it was always called “The Black Church” just like “Black” was another denomination. They got really dressed up and really noisy. Sometimes their Holy Ghost made them do things like “fall out.” (White people had the Holy Spirit, but black people had the Holy Ghost.)

The point is, just like for those people in Old Testament Israel, your life was all laid out for you, just like a map of my home town.

You were locked in before you were even born. You would need a lot of courage and willpower to change yourself into something else.

I guess if you moved to another town, you could say you were something else different from what you were born, but you’d be found out fairly quickly, even though you looked just like Dick and Jane and the people in the Sunday School books. Like the Israelites, every church had secret differences or peculiar ways.

You had to learn all of those things to fit in.

You also could not be a sissy, a hippie, a flower child, a draft dodger, or be a boy with long hair or a girl with short hair. Things like that could get you picked on, called names, beat up, or worse.

Of course you could do something about almost all of those things except for being a sissy. That was the worst thing to be, worse even than being black. When our schools got integrated, even the black kids could make fun of the white kids if they were sissies, and nobody did anything.

Yes, it was really easy to know who God loved and who God hated.

So a Gospel that has nothing to do with the way you were born had no more place in my small southern town of the 1960’s than it did in the first century occupied nation of Israel.

But a Gospel that has absolutely nothing to with the way you were born has everything to do with the Gospel of Jesus. (John 1:12-13)

Denominations And Sissies...Draft Dodgers and Hippies

The Gospel According To Dick And Jane

The Gospel According To Dick And Jane

Look, Dick! Look, Jane! Look At Your Wonderful Life!

This post and the following post have been prompted by a summer-time study we are doing as part of our Adult Forum at church titled “The Politics of God.” We have examined how our perspectives are formed rightly or wrongly. I’ve tried to write honestly, openly, and more from a child’s perspective.

In elementary school, I learned to read with the classic “Dick and Jane” books. They were bright and cheerful. Problems could always be fixed. Sally or Spot or Puff might have a mishap, but everyone was always smiling and happy in the end.

In my Sunday School Stories, the art style was much like the Dick and Jane reading books. So school and church were all pointing to the same wonderful life. It was the life I saw lived out all around me and which I was expected to live out as well.

It was the straight, white, middle class, conservative, evangelical, fundamentalist American life of the 1960’s in the Bible Belt South. [1]

But Dick and Jane hadn’t taught me all I needed to know when I left elementary school.

I didn’t know in the summer after I finished sixth grade there was something called the Stonewall Riots in New York City. It was June 28, 1969 when they started. Back then I didn’t realize not everyone would be Daddies and Mommies with Dicks and Janes who would grow up to be Daddies and Mommies with Dicks and Janes of their own. But I did realize being different could get somebody beaten up.

Then less than a month later the first man walked on the moon. It was all on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. That’s what being a boy like Dick or one of the boys in the Sunday School lesson books was all about, not getting beat up and getting to do fun stuff like being an astronaut.

I wasn’t totally naive to differences. I had understood the summer before how lucky I was to live inside the town limits and not in the neighborhood right on the other side of the town limits where no white people lived. I did not know the word “segregation” or that my small southern town practiced a system called “apartheid.” I just knew that inside my town everything looked a lot like where Dick and Jane and the Sunday School Story children lived.

I remember hearing grown up relatives talking about a Doctor King who was shot dead and how they all had known it would eventually happen because he wouldn’t keep his mouth shut. That was April 4, 1968.

He was black, but he wasn’t like Old Walter who had a mule and lived right outside the town limits. Every day except Sunday, Old Walter would ride his mule cart down the road in the morning to do some work somewhere. He would get paid, get close to passed-out drunk, and then his mule would bring him back home in the evening. His mule knew the way home all by itself. I often wondered what it was like to be Old Walter. He kept his mouth shut, but he had a mule. [2]

I didn’t realize that not all black people lived outside of their towns in run-down house and working only to buy alcohol and get drunk. I didn’t realize all black people weren’t quiet and stayed out of trouble. But I did realize being different could get you killed.

It’s not safe when you aren’t like Dick and Jane. Being like Dick and Jane isn’t something you can be taught. You just are. Or you aren’t.

Riots. Assassinations. Getting called names, beaten up, even killed.

The world was changing right before our eyes, not just for young people like me transitioning from elementary school to high school, but for the adults who had set up this Dick and Jane world and wanted it to continue forever.

The Gospel According To Dick and Jane is only Good News if you are born that way.

But there is another Gospel that has nothing to do with the way you are born. (John 1:12-13)

The Gospel According To Dick and Jane

Footnotes and other not necessarily important items…

[1] I do not intend to be critical of this time period. Instead I just want to understand how growing up when I did may have influenced how I view the world and people. Each generation, I want to believe, does the best it knows to bring up the next generation. We all have certain blindnesses too overcome.

[2] I don’t want to offend anyone by writing this. I do want to look at my childhood perceptions and see them for what they were. Perhaps we need to consider how our children today perceive others from Mexico and Latin America.

The Very Tight Box Of Christian Writing

The Very Tight Box Of Christian Writing

Shaking Off Conservative Evangelical Fundamentalism

I have been blogging off and on for the past six years using several different WordPress sites. Most of these have been about my Christian faith with each having its own different voice and tone. Each was a different attempt to fit into the box without really knowing how very tight the box was. Sometimes I would just start with an entirely new website address, and other times I would delete everything and start again with the same old website address.

With each fresh start I would tell myself not to get stressed out by stats for “follows” and “likes” and not to compare myself to others, but I inevitably did. [1]

I have tried to figure out why other Christian writers were more successful and then attempted to replicate their success. My posts changed in style and content. I soften statements and edit out content that would not be popular, content that does not fit into the very tight box of conservative evangelical thought.

When I edit out content, I am editing out a part of myself, and I am also editing out a part of God’s transforming love for a reader somewhere who needs to hear experience it. This truly concerns me.

Why am I so unsure of my writing and of the message I believe is the one I am to share?

I wonder if the fault is with me. It can’t be that there is a problem with “The Box.” Or can it?

Could it be regardless of all the writing I’ve done trying to fit into “The Box,” I’ve slowly broken away from the regimented brand of Conservative Evangelical Fundamentalism found so often in Christian writing? [2]

And if so…Is it just enough to write my own truth?

Jesus is not just for straight, white, middle class, conservative, evangelical, fundamentalist Americans.

Jesus Christ is for everyone. No prerequisites. No strings attached.

That may be a very unpopular and even dangerous message. If that is my message, more than how do I write it out, how do I live it out?

Thanks For Reading,

Gracie’s Dad

The Bery Tight Box Of Christian Writing

Footnotes and other not necessarily important items…

[1] Right now I really want to focus on my message without being swayed by the thoughts and opinions of others. I do appreciate dialogue, but right now I need to pay attention to my inner dialogue. I’m not sure how that will look, but if I don’t comment back or follow back or like back, please don’t be alarmed.

[2] This may sound like a criticism, but it is not intended to be. If anything, it is a criticism of myself. I can see how I try to write like what I’ve heard and what I’ve read. I think we internalize and then copy certain patterns without realizing it. This may be particularly true due to the striping influence of the Christian publishing business. I don’t want my writing to be guided by what is popular or what sells.

Why “Rethinking God’s Word For The Rest Of Us”?

Why "Rethinking God's Word For The Rest Of Us"?

Understanding Who This Is For

Although you almost have to have a tagline with WordPress, this is just another way of saying what I am trying to do here.

“Rethinking God’s Word” is carefully examining what I’ve been told that God’s Word says. (Sometimes people tell us wrong things.) It is also being aware that my mental processes and heartfelt beliefs may influence what I’ve told myself that God’s Word says. (Sometimes we tell ourselves wrong things.)

“For The Rest Of Us” is anyone who feels left out, who you might call “Outsiders.” Jesus has always reached out to the “Outsiders,” even though He was as much of an “Insider” as anyone could ever be! Just thinking about that makes me ridiculously joyful in being an “Outsider.”

This is an example of what I want to avoid.

We know that God does not listen to sinners, but he does listen to one who worships him and obeys his will. (John 9:31 NRSV)

Although the words “God does not listen to sinners” are indeed in the New Testament, if not understood properly, these words can be terribly misused to alienate and harm people. The entire Chapter 9 tells the whole wonderful story of the removal of blindness.

God does not hate you. You are not going to hell.

I hope that the words found here will help to remove my blindness and yours as well.

Thanks For Reading,

Gracie’s Dad

Why "Rethinking God's Word For The Rest Of Us"?

Why A “Very Dangerous” Bible Commentary?

Why A “Very Dangerous” Bible Commentary?

Understanding What This Is All About

This Bible Commentary is very dangerous for me because I feel compelled to bring my life in line with whatever I write. These words cause me to look more deeply into my heart. These words challenge me to make my words and actions more fully reflect my heart. This is my exercise in writing what I believe and how my beliefs should determine my actions.

You should not feel this same compulsion. None of this is written from the standpoint of “you must believe this”or “you must do this.” We are each responsible for our beliefs and actions, and so nothing that I write here should be taken as my saying to you, “This is the way. Walk in it.” [1]

Yet I would not be much of a writer if I did not speak with a certain amount of conviction, and you would become weary of an endless repetition of “in my opinion” and “it seems to me” and “to me.”

In no way do I intend “Very Dangerous” to mean anything close to hacking myself or anyone else to pieces with God’s Word. To do so would be a wrong interpretation of the two-edged sword metaphor. [2]

Thanks For Reading,

Gracie’s Dad

Why A “Very Dangerous” Bible Commentary?

Footnotes and other not necessarily important items…

[1] Isaiah 30:21 These words should be reserved for God, though perhaps something that you read here will be in accord with what He has been telling you already.

[2] Hebrews 4:12 There are some who believe if they assault someone with scripture, it will cause them to repent and turn to God. This type of attack rarely glorifies God by producing a changed life. The only real “fruit” (if you can call it that) is a heightened sense of self-righteousness. “I told them, so if they burn in Hell forever, it’s their own fault.” (I am speaking from personal experience as one who has been hacked and also done the hacking.)