Saturday, September 23, 2017

Contentment and Happy Fall (or is it Merry Autumn?)

20170922_085345 (960x1280)I have learned the secret of being content in whatever situation I am in. Umm, that is not me speaking. That is Paul in Philippians. I would need to change the tense to a progressive present: I am learning to be content in whatever situation I find myself. Joyce and I were having one of those late night talks a couple nights ago where you share the things you are really thinking or concerned about. I was talking about my fears and concerns about the upcoming medical issues we will be facing and my big concern that I might not be taking full advantage of the situation I am in by learning what God is trying to teach me through this situation. (Theological point: I don’t blame God for my cancer. It happened because we live in a fallen world. But God walks with us through these situations and uses them to grow us into His image.) I asked her what she thinks I am learning. She laughed and said, “you are learning to be content. I thought you’d be a terrible patient and mad at your situation, but you have done very well.” I thought, “well there’s not much I can do about it, so I just had to trust God through the process.” Then I thought, “but that is contentment. Wow, I have learned something.” I have a long way to go. I have been able to trust God through most of the cancer adventure, but I still find myself, weirdly, getting unreasonably angry when my reading glasses slide off the top of my head because I don’t have enough hair up there to hold them any more.

I listened to a sermon on contentment by Tim Keller a while back. One of his big points was that contentment must be learned by going through adversity and responding well to it. It is not a spiritual gift or talent. It is gained through experience. When we experience adversity we must respond in 3 ways: Think, Thank and Love. First, we have to think through the real cosmic situation which includes the biblical worldview, God’s promises to be with us and the truth that this life is preparation for the next one. This enables us to thank God that He is working through the situation. Finally, as we go through these experiences we learn to love God, because we also experience His presence. This is something that I have found to be true. Through cancer I have experienced God in ways I never I have before. I have also had a few dark nights of the soul, but those seem to go together with the former. I, definitely, cannot say “I have learned” like Paul, but I am learning and have been able to praise and thank God in the midst of it. Honestly, I am hoping to Iearn what I need to and can get off the bench and back into the game soon, but I know I need to keep living and ministering in the present, where I am right now.

20170916_142916 (960x1280)20170916_142935 (960x1280)So, Happy Fall and Merry Autumn! One side benefit of all this is the time I have had for family relationships. I am blessed to have my daughter Missy and granddaughter Leila living with us. We have some fun together and I enjoy being close to them. Seeing the world through the eyes of a very energetic five year old can be quite enlightening. These pictures were taken as Leila was getting ready to go to Placerville’s Oktoberfest. Yes, Placerville had their Oktoberfest in September. But it did include a wiener dog race. May God grant you contentment in His presence. Blessings!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Reading Through the Gospel of Matthew #3 (8-10)

Keener MatthewI am continuing reading through the Gospel of Matthew accompanied by Matthew, vol. 1, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Craig S. Keener. In chapters 8-9 Jesus begins His kingdom ministry of signs, healing and teaching. In chapter 10 he sends the 12 apostles out to do kingdom ministry to Israel in His name as an example of the way the church is to do ministry worldwide. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version (for some reason I cannot make the page numbers come up in the quotes) of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Chapter 8 begins a section recording Jesus' miracles. The miracles are an indication of Jesus' identity as creator and Messiah and that the promised kingdom has arrived, though not in its full and final expression. Matthew portrays Jesus' healings as a sign that the atonement of the kingdom predicted by Isaiah has arrived and sin and its effects (death, disease) are dealt with. Jesus provides access to God for the leper and prefigures the mission to the Gentiles in healing the centurion's servant. I agree with Keener that we have allowed modern rationalism to influence our thinking too much and we miss the healing that is available to us in the atonement now. We want to avoid having too much "already" in the "not yet" of the kingdom, but it is also important not to have too little "already" and miss out on what God has promised. The miracles at the end of the chapter, stilling the storm and exorcism, show Jesus as the Creator with power over nature and the ruler over the unseen realm of supernatural beings. In the middle of this chapter is the application. If Jesus is who his miracles suggest, then we owe him the highest allegiance and must make following Him the highest priority.

Jesus demonstrated his feeling toward our infirmities by bearing them with us and for us (8:17) and by healing all who sought his help (8:16). Matthew hardly expects us to suppose that Jesus has lost any of his power (28:18) or compassion since the resurrection. Unfortunately, many of us Western Christians today feel more at home with the Enlightenment rationalism in which we were trained than we do with the desperate faith of Christians who dare to believe God for miracles. Those in desperate need cannot afford to rationalize away God’s power and compassion. Matthew 8:1-17

Jesus does insist on honoring parents (Mt 15:4–6), yet he demands a greater affection toward himself. Jesus scandalously claims the supreme position of attention in his followers’ lives. If we devote ourselves to anyone or anything more than to him, our claim to be his followers becomes hollow, no matter how many “disciples” around us live the same way. Matthew 8:18-22

Just as Jesus demands that we express our love for God by trusting him for material provision (Mt 6:25–34), he demands that we trust him for safety. Our heavenly Father may not always protect us from earthly ills, but he will do with our lives what is best for us (10:29–31). Matthew 8:23-27

Chapter 9 continues the narrative about Jesus' miracles with an emphasis on his authority over sickness and death, and his ability to bring the outcast, the unclean and the gentile into the presence of God through forgiveness and cleansing. Jesus' ability to heal paralysis, bleeding, blindness and even death is evidence for his ability to overcome evil, sin and separation from God. This was something new which the religious establishment was not willing to accept. The one that the scriptures spoke about, who would take on the pain of the curse and defeat it, was there and it was time to embrace Him and leave behind unbiblical tradition and that which was no longer relevant. The king was there and true disciples would listen to and obey Him.

Although physical healing is secondary to forgiveness, such healing is often crucial not only for compassionately meeting some of our most pressing human needs (9:36) and empowering us for greater service to the Lord (20:34) but also for drawing attention to Jesus’ power to do other works. People who reason today that Jesus can heal either physically or spiritually but not both are like the radical critics who debate whether Jesus was a wisdom teacher or a prophet, a messiah or a healer. The question is forced-choice logic; why can he not be both, as the text teaches us? Matthew 9:1-8

Jesus came to call sinners—to invite them to God’s final banquet (Mt 22:3, 14), a foretaste of which the present table fellowship with them may have represented...That Jesus’ opponents agreed with his principle in theory yet invited his reprimand should force us who acknowledge his doctrine to survey our practice as well...some apparently worshipful and Bible-centered churches do not welcome such persons—suggesting that ultimately Jesus who ate with sinners might not truly be welcome there either. Matthew, 9:9-13

It is too easy, even for Christians, to use charlatans as an excuse to ignore the real workings of God. One can understand the sentiments of religious people in Jesus’ day; after all, they may have reasoned, if God were still doing miracles like those he had done through Elijah and Elisha, surely he would have been doing it through them. They, after all, were sure that they were the ones with correct doctrine. When we become so sure of our theological system that we cannot listen to anyone else no matter how cogent their evidence, we may risk repeating the kind of mistake many of Jesus’ contemporaries made. Matthew 9:27-38

Now, in chapter 10 Jesus sends out the 12 disciples, as His agents, to announce the coming of the kingdom to the nation of Israel. Keener emphasizes that both Matthew and Mark tailor their presentation of Jesus' instructions to their own audience showing that these instructions apply to our situation as we announce the kingdom today. First, Jesus calls his agents to live simply, trust God to supply their needs and devote their resources to kingdom work. They should expect opposition and persecution even from those closest to them, that could be lethal, but they should fear God alone and be willing to give their lives for the kingdom. Jesus assures the disciples that the rewards for this commitment and sacrifice are eternal and worth it. There is even great reward for those Christians who provide support and resources for those who are on the front lines of the kingdom. We, as a church, need to take these instructions more seriously and get out of our comfortable church buildings and take Jesus' kingdom actions and message out to those who need it. The effectiveness of a church should be evaluated by how they serve the needy of their own community and by how much of their resources go into sending missionaries out to make disciples of all nations.   

Both Jesus’ proclamation and practical acts of compassion go beyond what many Christians call ministry today. Our communities are ravaged by demonic forces, violence, injustice and all kinds of human pain, while the church often remains irrelevant except to the few who venture through our doors. To follow Jesus’ model of ministry, more Christians must stop simply going to church and learn rather to become the church among our communities in evangelism and ministry to social needs. Matthew, 10:1-4

The message of this text summons us to radically value our mission above all possessions and to live as simply as necessary to devote our resources to evangelism. Those who strive to “witness” to their neighbors by demonstrating that Christ can “bless” them with abundant possessions may unwittingly witness for a false gospel...Non-Christians often have the spiritual sense to recognize what much of the church ignores: tacking Jesus’ name onto worldly values does not sanctify those values, it just profanes Jesus’ name. Matthew 10:5-15

As people treat God’s prophet, so they treat the God who sent the prophet (1 Sam 8:7). Matthew repeatedly emphasizes that disciples as Jesus’ agents are his righteous ones and prophets, even greater than the prophets of old...Receiving Jesus’ representatives with a cup of cold water probably refers to accepting into one’s home missionaries who have abandoned their own homes and security to bring Christ’s message. Matthew 10:40-42

Reading The Unseen Realm by Michael Heiser #5

HeiserI am continuing to read through The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, by Michael S. Heiser. Chapters 10-11 continues the discussion about Eden, focused on the identity of the serpent, the nachashI have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below. I am using the Kindle version of the book.…

Part 3, Divine Transgressions begins with Chapter 10, Trouble in Paradise. This section deals with the rebellions of God's supernatural imagers and their effect on creation. Chapters 10-11 will discuss one of the main rebels, the nachash, or serpent, that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. Ancient readers would have understood that the story in Genesis 3 was not talking about a normal snake. This was a divine, supernatural being that was trying to mess up God's plan for humanity and creation. Heiser compares the description of Eden and the guardian cherub there in Ezekiel 28 with the Genesis snake to show that they are describing the same supernatural being. The exegesis within Ezekiel is disputed, but his conclusion makes the most sense with the context of other passages (Rev. 21:7-9).  

An Israelite would have known that the episode described interference in the human drama by a divine being, a malcontent from within Yahweh’s council...If it’s true that the enemy in the garden was a supernatural being, then he wasn’t a snake. 74

Ezekiel 28 browbeats the prince of Tyre using an ancient tale of divine arrogance in Eden, where a member of Yahweh’s council thought himself on par with the Most High. This divine throne guardian was expelled from Eden to the “ground” or underworld. 82

In chapter 11, Like the Most High?, Heiser compares the elements in the story of Eden with the description of Lucifer, helel ben-shachar, the “shining one, son of the dawn.” in Isaiah 14. The issue here is "to whom is the king of Babylon being compared?” (83). Heiser's answer is that he is being compared to the nachash in Eden. Heiser sees the clues in Genesis 3 that this must be more than just a mere snake in the word nachash, which can also carry the meaning, in adjectival form, of being "shiny." There is a little conjecture here with the word meaning, but the immediate and biblical context provides strong enough support for Heiser's point that the snake is surely a divine being. So the nachash tempts Eve and brings about the "Fall" necessitating God's judgment. The nachash is cast out of heaven and consigned to the realm of the dead, while the humans are forced to carry out their mission to subdue the earth with opposition, in drudgery, and without the contingent immortality they had in Eden.

The serpent (nachash) was an image commonly used in reference to a divine throne guardian. Given the context of Eden, that helps identify the villain as a divine being. The divine adversary dispenses divine information, using it to goad Eve. He gives her an oracle (or, an omen!): You won’t really die. God knows when you eat you will be like one of the elohim. Lastly, a shining appearance conveys a divine nature. All the meanings telegraph something important. They are also consistent with the imagery from Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. 88

After the fall, though humankind was estranged from God and no longer immortal, the plan of God was not extinguished. Genesis 3 tells us why we die, why we need redemption and salvation, and why we cannot save ourselves. It also tells us that God’s plan has only been delayed— not defeated— and that the human story will be both a tragic struggle and a miraculous, providential saga. 91

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Reading The Unseen Realm by Michael Heiser #4

HeiserI am continuing to read through The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, by Michael S. Heiser. Chapters 8-9 continues the discussion about Eden. The big point here is that, although God created a world in which evil is possible, He is not morally responsible for evil. Evil happened because of the free moral decisions of God’s supernatural and earthly imagers. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below. I am using the Kindle version of the book.…

In Chapter 8, Only God Is Perfect, Heiser discusses some overlooked elements in the story of the Fall in Genesis 3. First, the snake, the nachash, in the garden is not identified as the devil in the Old Testament. This comes later in Jewish writings and in the New Testament. In fact, in Job, the satan appears to be a working member of God's counsel. The snake is a rebellious elohim who does not agree with God's plan for Eden or for creation. God took a "risk" in Eden allowing free will beings, the elohim in the spiritual realm and humanity in the earthly realm, to administrate His creation. Both humans and elohim gained the experiential "knowledge of good and evil" as they exercised their God-given ability to choose to make a bad choice.  

The function of the office of the satan is why later Jewish writings began to adopt it as a proper name for the serpent figure from Genesis 3 who brought ruin to Eden. That figure opposed God’s choices for his human imagers. The dark figure of Genesis 3 was eventually thought of as the “mother of all adversaries,” and so the label satan got stuck to him. He deserves it. The point here is only that the Old Testament doesn’t use that term for the divine criminal of Eden. 57

Only God is perfect in the possession and exercise of his attributes. Every lesser being is imperfect. The only perfect Being is God. This is why things could, and did, go wrong in Eden...being in the presence of God is no guarantee that free-will beings will never stray or act out of self-will. 59

Heiser entitles Chapter 9 Peril and Providence because he discusses the relationship between God and evil, predestination and foreknowledge. His point is that God is not morally responsible for evil because free will decisions of His imagers made them morally responsible for their own disastrous decisions. God did foreknow that they would make these bad decisions, but that does not mean God predestined evil. Heiser gives an example from 1 Samuel 23 that God foreknows events that never happened. Foreknowledge does not necessitate predestination. God knew that evil would enter the world but he decided that would be preferable to never creating His imagers and He has made a plan to deal with the evil. "God does not need evil as a means to accomplish anything” (66).

Prior to knowing good and evil, Adam and Eve were innocent. They had never made a willing, conscious decision to disobey God. They had never seen an act of disobedience, either. When they fell, that changed. They did indeed know good and evil, just as God and the rest of his heavenly council members— including the nachash (“serpent”). 63

Evil does not flow from a first domino that God himself toppled. Rather, evil is the perversion of God’s good gift of free will. It arises from the choices made by imperfect imagers, not from God’s prompting or predestination. God does not need evil, but he has the power to take the evil that flows from free-will decisions— human or otherwise— and use it to produce good and his glory through the obedience of his loyal imagers, who are his hands and feet on the ground now. 66

Sunday, September 17, 2017

“Our Father”

20170914_094953 (1280x960)For several months I have been using the Lord’s prayer from Matthew 6 as the template for my evening prayers. It started in February when I was so sick and drugged up that all I could do was just recite the Lord’s prayer from memory and then go back to sleep. But it has developed into a long meditation on the implications of what Jesus was teaching in the prayer. One thing I have been thinking about lately is the word “Father.” Why do I want to call God father? First, it is an acknowledgement that I am a contingent, dependent being and God is my Creator. Everything I am and have comes from Him. He is “in Heaven” at the steering wheel of the control room of the universe. The Father has both the means and the desire to provide for me and for all His sons and daughters.

Second, God the Father is a gracious provider. I have worked hard to dispel the idea I see in the church that God the Father is a mean, wrathful judge who sits in heaven waiting to squash us when we mess up. The Exodus description of God begins with ”the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin,” and yes I know it ends with “punishment to the 3rd and 4th generation,” but even that is gracious as God lets us be free to experience the consequences of our behavior or receive the loving discipline He provides. He wants to give us what we need to flourish as His children, not just now but for all eternity. As Jesus said in the sermon on the mount, He knows what I need before I even ask Him and He is a loving Father who is willing to give it to us.

20170914_094911 (1280x960)Joyce and I have experienced this is in very practical ways since we have begun the cancer adventure. God has provided so many things, some that we didn’t even know we needed, like the free cancer camp. Jesus says that the Father knows our basic needs like housing, food and clothing and we have seen God supply these in abundance through His people. We came for Christmas vacation with no summer clothes and God’s people have provided for us. We came without the funds necessary for covering deductibles and co-pays, and God has provided above and beyond so that we could cover expenses we did not even know existed. God has provided homes for us to stay in (the beautiful place we are staying now is pictured above) and we are covered now through at least the end of 2017. God provided us with a 2004 Toyota Sienna van for $20 (right), in which Joyce has made a bed for me in the back for long trips to the doctor, and which she loves to drive. The list goes on and on. So right now, I am obeying the command to praise God for what He has done for His people. God has blessed us by meeting our needs throughout this whole experience. He really is “Our Father who art in heaven!”

Friday, September 15, 2017

Reading Through the Gospel of Matthew #2 (5-7)

Keener MatthewWe continue reading through the Gospel of Matthew accompanied by Matthew, vol. 1, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Craig S. Keener. This section is probably a summary of Jesus’ teaching and the content here was likely spoken by Jesus many times in many venues. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version (for some reason I cannot make the page numbers come up in the quotes) of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Keener sees Matthew 5-7 as a summary of Jesus' teaching, placed in a mountain setting to emphasize that Jesus is a "greater than Moses" means of God's revelation. He emphasizes the shocking nature of the teaching's requirements to be a kingdom disciple, but also emphasizes that the entire sermon must be understood in a context of grace. The introduction in 5.1-16 must be read holistically as the required character for a kingdom disciple. Basically, the main point is that the disciple of Jesus must live the kind of self-giving lifestyle that Jesus lived. We cannot live for ourselves or for our own personal agendas, but instead be focused on God's will and kingdom even if that brings persecution and death.

Jesus summons those who would be his followers to radical devotion and radical dependence on God. His followers must be meek, must not retaliate, must go beyond the letter’s law to its spirit, must do what is right when only God is looking, must depend on God for their needs and pursue his interests rather than their own, and must leave spiritual measurements of others’ hearts to God. In short, true people of the kingdom live for God, not for themselves. Matthew 5:1-16

If we truly repent in light of the coming kingdom, we will treat our neighbors rightly. No one who has humbled himself or herself before God can act with wanton self-interest in relationships. Those with the faith to await the vindication of the righteous in God’s kingdom can afford to be righteous, to relinquish the pursuit of their own rights, because they know the just judge will vindicate them as they seek his ways of justice. Matthew 5:3-9

Here Jesus takes his ethic of nonretaliation to its furthest possible length: not only must we refuse to strike back, but we are to rejoice when persecuted. The persecution itself confirms our trust in God’s promise of reward, because the prophets suffered likewise. The prophetic role of a disciple is analogous to and greater than that of an Old Testament prophet...But here Jesus summons us to a greater honor than being prophets; he summons us to bear the name—the honor—of Jesus.  Matthew 5:10-12

In the rest of chapter 5 Jesus challenges those who would be His disciples with some very hard, perhaps hyperbolic, teaching about our relationship to God's law. The point is that legalistic fulfilling of the letter of the law is not enough. God wants total transformation of our hearts, goals,and desires to match His character and that we value His kingdom above our own desires and even our own needs. It is not enough to agree with Jesus. We must imitate His actions here. Jesus gives six examples in the chapter of His very stringent application of the law. God eternally judges based on the motivation of the heart, not just the action. We may seem okay on the outside but the law judges unjust anger, lust or coveting, betrayal (divorce), integrity (oaths), what we really love (retribution or resistance) and what we really value (love for enemies). Jesus calls us to carefully consider, not just what we do, but our motivations for being and doing, and humbly commit to imitation of Christ in the power of the Spirit.

Jesus essentially says, “Look, if you thought the law was tough, wait till you see this. If you really want to be my disciples, give me your hearts without reservation.” This passage seems to suggest that an uncommitted Christian is not a Christian at all...After grabbing his hearers’ attention with such a statement, Jesus goes on to define God’s law not simply in terms of how people behave but in terms of who they really are. Matthew 5:21–48

Through a variety of terrible images, Jesus indicates that when we damage our relationships with others, we damage our relationship with God, leading to eternal punishment. A man who beats his wife, a woman who continually ridicules her husband, and a thousand other concrete examples could illustrate the principle. We must profess our faith with our lives as well as with our lips. Matthew 5:21-26

Jesus reads the humanly unenforceable tenth commandment as if it matters as much as the other, more humanly enforceable commandments. If you do not break the letter of the other commandments, but you want to do so in your heart, you are guilty. God judges a sinful heart, and hearts that desire what belongs to others are guilty. Matthew 5:27-30

We can appeal to no law to tell us that we are righteous enough—that would be legalism. Instead, we must desire God’s will so much that we seek to please him in every area of our lives—that is holiness. Jesus says that God’s law was never about mere rules; instead, God desires a complete righteousness of the heart, a total devotion to God’s purposes in this world. Matthew 5.21-48

Chapter 6 continues Jesus' teaching and focuses on the need for disciples to prioritize God's kingdom in everything we do. Personal piety should be practiced before God as an audience of one, not for a human audience (1-18) and God's kingdom work should be prioritized over personal wealth and possessions as evidenced by our generosity to the needy (19-34). Jesus uses 3 examples of personal religious practice, charity, prayer and fasting, to teach that grandstanding religion to impress people is useless. Instead our prayer and service should come from a heart devoted to God and His kingdom. Wealth is not a bad thing, but its use reflects our real devotion to God. Wealthy people should use their wealth, not to gain luxuries for themselves, but to serve God's kingdom by serving God's people. Less wealthy people should not worry about their needs and live their lives focused on getting rich, but should trust God to meet their needs. Keener rightly emphasizes that Jesus is speaking somewhat hyperbolically here, but this does not mean we can dismiss or try to get around what He is saying. We need regular self-examination of our motives for ministry and evaluation of how we use the resources God gives us.

Much of today’s church is divided between those who emphasize personal intimacy with God in prayer and those who emphasize justice for the true poor. Like the prophets of old, however, Jesus demanded both (6:2–13; Mk 12:40); he also recognized that without keeping God himself in view, we can pervert either form of piety. Matthew 6:2-18

Because prayer promises the hearing of an Advocate more powerful than any other, it goes without saying that those who spend little time in prayer do not in practice believe much in a God who answers prayer; but Jesus goes one step beyond this charge. Those who spend much time in prayer so they may impress others with their piety likewise lack faith in a God who rewards us by answering prayer or at the coming of his kingdom. Slicing through the veneer of human religion, Jesus exposes the functional atheism of our hearts. Matthew 6:5-15

Jesus exhorts us not to value possessions enough to seek them (6:19–24), quite in contrast to today’s prosperity preachers and most of Western society. Yet he also exhorts us not to value possessions enough to worry about them (vv. 25–34), a fault shared by most believers who rightly reject the prosperity teaching. Jesus’ words strike at the core of human selfishness, challenging both the well-to-do who have possessions to guard and the poor who wish they could acquire them. His words are so uncomfortable that even those of us who say we love him and fight to defend Scripture’s authority find ourselves looking for ways around what he says. Matthew, 6:19-34

Church buildings are valuable, but when they take precedence over caring for the poor or evangelism, our priorities appear to focus more on our comfort than on the world’s need—as if we desire padded pews more than new brothers and sisters filling the kingdom. Have we altogether forgotten the spiritual passion of the early church and nineteenth-century evangelicalism? Matthew 6:19-24

Chapter 7 concludes the "sermon on the mount" by gathering more of Jesus' regular teachings. The distinctive of this chapter is the authority of Jesus. He equates His word with that of torah and makes final judgment dependent on obedience to His words (24-29). On judging, Jesus urges thorough self-examination before we try to deal with issues in the lives of others. On prayer, Jesus talks about the Father's great willingness to answer the prayers of kingdom focused people and the great power their prayers have. On discerning our own hearts and recognizing false prophets, Jesus urges us to look at behavior and lifestyle, not giftedness. Do we and do our leaders live a life of obedience to Jesus' teachings? Growing obedience is the demonstration of real faith.

Just in case we have been too obtuse to grasp that Jesus addresses us rather than others in 5:3–6:34, Jesus renders the point explicit in 7:1–5. We are objects of God’s evaluation, and God evaluates most graciously the meek, who recognize God alone as judge...he is not warning us not to discern truth from error. Further, Jesus does not oppose offering correction, but only offering correction in the wrong spirit. Matthew 7:1-6

Jesus intends his words to jar us from complacency, to consider the genuineness of our commitment to him. One wonders how many members in our churches today assume that they are saved when in fact they treat Jesus’ teachings lightly—people who give no thought to their temper, their mental chastity, their integrity and so forth during the week then pretend to be religious or even spiritually gifted in church...Some texts in the Bible provide assurance to suffering Christians that the kingdom is theirs; this text challenges “cultural Christians,” those following only Christian tradition rather than Christ himself, to realize that they need conversion. Matthew 7:13-23

One cannot be content with calling Jesus a great teacher, for he taught that he was more than a mere teacher; one must either accept all his teachings, including those that demand we submit to his lordship, or reject him altogether. Jesus is not one way among many; he is the standard of judgment.  Matthew 7:24-29

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Fear of the Process

20170913_151713 (960x1280)This afternoon my reading was the Stanford Blood and Marrow Transplant Program. This is the 101 page handbook for the procedure, an autologous blood and marrow transplant, that I am planning to go through beginning September 27th. I am trying to absorb a whole ton of information now after carefully reading this thing. In Joyce’s words, “this is going to be a horrible experience” and yet, “this is going to be a hopeful experience that probably will save my life.” I know that I most likely will not experience all the listed side effects and possible “life threatening” situations. In fact my local oncologist said that people in my general health range usually do well with this procedure. Nevertheless, It is a bit unnerving to read about everything that could happen in the procedure. It is going to be a long 3-6 month procedure. I am thankful that Joyce is committed to being there throughout the process and, of course, for Jesus’ promise “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

Someone asked me the other day how I go through this process with so much positivity and lack of fear. I laughed a little because, when I think about it, I am terrified. First, as I always warn the nurses, I am a wimp when it comes to pain and I’m scared of that. Second, even though there is a detailed plan here, there is a huge unknown factor as well which can make one very nervous when dwelt upon. So there is not a lack of fear in my heart. I have been encouraged to talk about it and have felt better when I do. In fact, I feel better by writing this. I know this is what I need to do, so I am strapping on my helmet and will carry the ball into the line as hard as I can (Sorry I still think in sports analogies) no matter how big the opponents are. I also know that healing comes faster to positive people and so I have tried hard to take my thoughts into captivity and avoid the dark mind caves and holes. I have to say my prayer and meditation discipline has improved considerably with all this extra motivation. I am taking the “how” of going through the cancer process as my ministry right now and try to stay focused on that. I appreciate that many people are praying for me and I know that has been a major factor in being able to stay positive through all of this. Thank you!.