Thursday, March 22, 2018

Structure and Message of the Book of Jeremiah

Jeremiah Chart

Message of Jeremiah: Judah has failed to keep the covenant so righteous, faithful YHWH must punish them by sending them into exile in Babylon. But, because YHWH loves His people, He will restore them under a new, eternal covenant under the rule of the righteous Davidic king (ultimately Jesus) who will justly judge Israel and the nations.

Sometimes God is most clearly seen through our tears!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Leila’s Birthday Party


20180319_154141 (768x1024)28828911_10214164993506555_6060964953351760727_o (762x1024)We had a nice gathering of family and friends for Leila’s 6th birthday party on Monday. This is one of the advantages of living closer to family. As you can see, the theme this year was Pokémon.  Joyce and Missy did some amazing work with the cake (I know that icing that cake took about an hour) and I know Leila and her friend had a great time. We also enjoyed some good food and good fellowship. It was nice for me to be around people again. It was a fun time for all. Happy Birthday Leila!

20180319_163917 (1024x768)20180319_174746 (1024x768)20180319_175613 (1024x768)

Leila enjoyed the presents and the piñata. She smashed it pretty good and provided candy for all. She was also quite serious about getting those candles blown out.

Outline of Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost Acts 2.14-47

Acts 2.14-47 Chiastic Outline

This is from today’s “reading through Acts” post. I thought it important to highlight what Peter thought was important in presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ. The key is to focus on the story of Jesus and what he did. The disciples were focused on being witnesses of that story. We also need to keep that story in the forefront and then be witnesses of what he has done for us.

Reading Through the Acts of the Apostles #1 (Intro, 1-2)

Larkin ActsAs we continue reading through the New Testament this year, we begin our reading through the book of Acts accompanied by Acts, vol. 5, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by William J. Larkin Jr..Acts is the sequel to the Gospel of Luke and completes the story of what Jesus "began to do" in the incarnation by sending His Spirit to the church to complete his plan to preach "the message about repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all nations." (Luke 24:47) 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 of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

In Acts, the church begins with 120 disciples in Jerusalem and ends with Jesus communities planted and trained throughout most of the Roman empire. The message of Jesus Christ, empowered by his Spirit and lived out through his people, becomes an unstoppable force, despite opposition, to accomplish God's plan for these last days.

The twentieth century’s crimes against humanity and the future prospect of doom—whether by limited or not-so-limited nuclear war or by environmental pollution—has turned many postmodern persons into cynical pessimists. The postmodern does not think it’s possible to make sense out of history. But Acts has good news. God is at work in history. He brought his salvation near in Jesus Christ. Now in preparation for his return, he continues to do his work through the church, bringing the saving message to people to the ends of the earth. Acts Introduction,

With this stance the scope of the gospel message’s audience, “all nations,” Jew and Gentile alike, is affirmed, and the dynamic of the mission—“witnesses … to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)—continues until the King returns. By the time Theophilus reached Acts 28:31, he must surely have known that the gospel message is true and that it was indeed for him and his compatriots (Lk 1:1–4). That same sure knowledge should be ours as well. Acts Introduction

Acts 1 records the preparation of the church before the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost. The ascension of Jesus completes his work on earth and is necessary so that he can distribute the Spirit. Though the disciples thought he would immediately establish the final kingdom, he tells them they must wait for the Father's timing. In the meantime, their role would be to be witnesses of what Jesus had done throughout the entire world. The task of the church would be to spread the message of Jesus worldwide and make new disciples from all the peoples of the earth. The group that had been with Jesus throughout his entire ministry would be the base group from which all the church would grow. It was thus necessary to replace Judas as the 12th apostle. With Matthias chosen the church was ready to do its task to take the good news of Jesus to the Jewish nation and then to all the world.

The fact that the Great Commission is the last instruction of the risen, now ascended and imminently returning Lord gives it great weight. He is not mentioning an optional ministry activity for individuals with crosscultural interests and churches with surplus funds. The Great Commission is the primary task the Lord left his church. The church must always be a missionary church; the Christian must always be a world Christian. Acts 1.1-11

Luke concludes by noting that the full complement of the twelve apostles has been restored. By principle, Matthias’s election teaches us that restoration of integrity within the body of Christ is essential to preparation for revival. Wherever sin has created a breach and compromised the church’s integrity, discipline, repentance and restoration must be pursued. Acts 1:15-26

Just as Jesus promised, the present age of the kingdom was inaugurated with the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost. The Spirit comes with all the Old Testament picture of a theophany, a manifestation of God's presence. However, now the flame of fire is not a pillar, but tongues divided and resting upon each person, symbolizing the presence of God now residing in individuals instead of a temple structure. Also the Spirit is given to all without regard for social divisions. All (male-female, slave-free, old-young etc.) can live in God's presence and minister to bring others into his presence. Pentecost also undoes the confusion of languages at Babel as everyone can hear the good news in their own language. God will now retake rule over and redeem all the nations as intended in creation.

Peter's sermon focuses on the disciples' witness of the gospel events: the resurrection, ascension and the giving of the Spirit by Jesus. The gospel is the good news that Jesus is Lord as attested by these events. 

Chiastic Outline of Peter's Pentecost Sermon Acts 2.14-47

  • 1. Explanation of Pentecost 14-21
    • 2. Presentation of the Gospel and the Need for it 22-24
      • 3. Quote of Scriptural Proof of Jesus Resurrection from Psalm 16 25-28
        • 4. Scriptural Interpretation of Psalm 16 29-31
  • 5. Gospel Witness: We are witnesses of Jesus' resurrection, ascension and giving of the Spirit! 32-33
        • 4' Scriptural Interpretation of Psalm 101, 34
      • 3' Quote of Scriptural Proof from Psalm 101 34-35
    • 2' Presentation of the Proper Response to Gospel 36-39
  • 1' Response to the Gospel and Results of the Pentecost Event: Establishment of the Church 40-47

Peter emphasizes the need to respond to the gospel with repentance (trusting Jesus and no longer rejecting him) and identification with his people and community. This is exactly what happens as 3000 confess sin and show their allegiance (in what would be a hostile environment) by being baptized. The church is then established with its 4-fold mission of corporate worship, fellowship, care for one another and devotion to learning the teaching of the apostles. The early church was committed to spending time with one another in the presence of God in the power of the Spirit.

This multilingual witness coheres with the universal offer of salvation in the church’s message and its consequent worldwide mission. It also highlights the church’s multicultural character. God affirms people as cultural beings. As many a Bible translator knows, our native language and culture is natural, necessary and welcome to us as the air we breathe. Acts 2.1-13

Peter calls his listeners to know for certain that God has openly avowed Jesus to be Lord and Messiah. Jesus may now rightfully be declared Messiah, since he has done Messiah’s saving work and has been vindicated by God, who raised him from the dead. He may properly be proclaimed Lord in the highest sense of the word, as the respectful designation of the unpronounceable name of God (YHWH). For by his resurrection-exaltation he has demonstrated that he is the ever-living and life-giving God, whom death cannot hold and who pours out the Spirit. Acts 2.14-41

God’s plan is for churches to grow. The challenge for us is, “Will we meet the Scriptural conditions for growth: a dedication to be a learning, caring, fellowshipping, worshipping church?” Will we meet the one essential condition? “As empowering follows petition, so evangelism and Christian unity or community follow Pentecost. The empowering, moreover, is repeatable. So pray!” Acts 2:42-47

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Structure and Message of John 1.1-18

Basic Chiasm John 1.1-18

Message of John 1.1-18: Jesus Christ is the ultimate revelation of the One God who is the Creator of everything. As God in human flesh He calls all of us into a relationship with Him that demands “total buy-in” to His Kingdom program.

Basic Chiasm John 1.1-18 (2)

Jesus is the One who “was” before He “became” so we can “be” after we have “become”

Chiastic Structure John 1.1-2

Deity and Trinity

Chiastic Structure John 1.14-18

Chiastic John 1.14-18 fulfilment

Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God

Reading Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology by John H. Walton #2

Walton GenesisToday’s post begins my read through of Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, by John H. Walton. Chapter 4 discusses Genesis 1 and its relationship to the ancient Near Eastern worldview he has surveyed in chapters 2-3. 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 theology are in blue below. I am using the Logos version of the book.…

He begins with a detailed look at Genesis 1.1. He analyzes the literary relationship of the verse to rest of the  chapter and book of Genesis and does word studies on the word "beginning," "create" and its related word, "make," which is also used to describe God's creative work in other biblical texts. First, he concludes that 1.1 does not describe a separate creative act before the days of creation begin, but is a summary of the acts of the 7 days beginning in verse 3. I would tend to agree with Walton here because this understanding fits best with the grammar of the text, as it is in our traditional Hebrew Bible, and also fits better with the literary tôlĕdôt structure of the book of Genesis. If one wants to change the pointing (vowel markers of the text which were added sometime later) of verse 1, it could be a subordinate clause to verse 2 (in the beginning when God began...the earth was formless). I think that is possible but less likely. The verb bārāʾ, create, is only used in the OT with God as the subject, implying that it is only a divine activity. However, the objects it takes make it clear that it does not always deal with material creation. It can mean to organize, designate, animate or assign function to already existing material, as in the creation of humans from clay. The same is true of the Hebrew verb ʿāśâ, "make," which is a more general word for "doing." Walton's conclusion here is that Genesis 1.1 is a summary statement of the 7 days of creation which primarily describe God's ordering, organizing and assigning functions to material creation. I would agree with him that Genesis 1.1 is not talking about the original creation ex nihilo (other scriptures make this point), but would not rule out materials being created here. What we have in Genesis 1 is an organization of nonfunctional, unusable material into a world prepared for God's people. How God's original creation became "formless and empty" (or whether God created it that way) is not explained in the text here. 

The ‘beginning’ is a way of labeling the seven-day period of creation described in the remainder of Genesis 1 rather than a point in time prior to the seven days. As an independent clause, it offers no description of creative acts but provides a literary introduction to the period of creative activity that then flows into the tôlĕdôt sections that characterize the remainder of the book. 127

The verb only appears with deity as its subject in the approximately 50 times it occurs in the Hebrew Bible. This is an important observation: it has led to the common conclusion that the activity denoted by bārāʾ is a prerogative only of deity and not an activity that humans can undertake or even in which they can participate. 128

If we do not arrive at the text of Genesis 1 with the preconception that the focus is on the bringing into existence of the material world, the context itself would not lead us to think in predominantly material terms. In the initial period, God brought the cosmos into existence (by setting up an ordered system and giving everything its role within that system). In this proposal, the text is making no comment on material origins. It is more interested in indicating how God set up the cosmos to function for human beings in his image. 139

The next section describes the pre-creation situation as it is presented in Genesis 1.2. Walton again points out the similarities to the "cognitive backgrounds" of other ancient texts. The key concepts that are discussed here are tōhû and bōhû (usually translated formless and empty), Tĕhôm (the deep) and rûaḥ ʾĕlohîm (the spirit of God). The earth or land is described as tōhû and bōhû. Though many see "chaos" as proper translation for this phrase, Walton prefers non-functional based on Egyptian background. That is the earth is awaiting God's creation to assign it function and meaning. The earth is also described as Tĕhôm, deep waters. Israel did not see Tĕhôm as a god/monster to be defeated but as non-functional waters awaiting the hand of the Creator to give them order and purpose. He uses the tradition translation of rûaḥ ʾĕlohîm as "spirit of God" rather than "mighty wind" as suggested by some scholars. The presence of God is there and his word will be activated to create everything in the world to meet his specifications and purpose. A key point in Genesis 1 is that God is the Creator of all that exists. There was no “battle of the gods” to form the universe. Creation is done with God’s personal, purposeful design.

Gen 1:2 is the biblical text that describes the precosmic condition as it was understood in Israelite thought...Whether the topic is geographical areas, nations, cities, people, or idols, the term refers to that which is nonproductive, nonfunctional, and of no purpose. This conclusion is fully supported by the contexts in which tōhû is used and by the terms that are used parallel to it. 139, 141

The Israelite portrayal does not present the precreation state as negative or personal/personified; instead, it is a neutral, functionless ambiguity. 145

It is evident that the rûaḥ ʾĕlohîm is not only superintending the work of creation but in fact brings creation about through the word. The passage is emphasizing the actual powerful presence of God, who brings the spoken work into reality by the Spirit. Thus, the Spirit and the word work together to present the fact that the one God is responsible for all that is seen in the physical universe. quoting Wilf Hildebrandt, 150

Monday, March 19, 2018

Reading Through the Gospel of John #6 (18-21)

JohnIn this post we conclude our reading through the Gospel of John accompanied by John, vol. 4, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Rodney A. Whitacre.Chapters 18-21 conclude John’s Gospel with an account of Jesus’ passion, resurrection and  commissioning of the disciples. God’s glory is revealed through the incarnate Jesus and will be revealed through the church which ministers Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.  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 of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Chapter 18 begins the final section of John and provides the climax of the Gospel as Jesus reveals the Father most completely in his self-sacrificial death and renewal of creation made possible through the victory of his resurrection. In the arrest of Jesus, John portrays Jesus as being in control of the situation, as his powerful word knocks the arresting force to the ground and protects his followers. Jesus clearly lays down his own life. John then moves to the trial before Annas. Again, Jesus boldly confronts Annas as though he were the one on trial. John emphasizes Caiaphas' statement that it is better to for Jesus to die on behalf of the nation. John also contrasts Jesus' testimony with that of Peter. Peter fails because he does not stay close to Jesus.

In the half-light, separated from Jesus, Peter encounters temptation for which he does not have the resources to resist. The only hope for any of us in the time of temptation is to remain close to Jesus. John 18.1-18, 432

Jesus has completed his witness by word. There remains only the climax of all his ministry as he witnesses to the Father through his death, resurrection and ascension. It is now up to those who have heard him to bear witness to him. Such remains the case today. His abiding presence remains with believers, but those who abide in him are to bear witness to him before the world. John 18.19-27, 433

Next Jesus is taken before Pilate for trial (18.28-19.16) This section is an elaborate chiasm in which Jesus' kingship is emphasized. In the center of the chiasm the Roman soldiers mockingly crown Jesus king and pay homage to him.

  A Outside (18:28–32) The Jews demand Jesus’ death
     B Inside (18:33–38a) Pilate questions Jesus about kingship
       C Outside (18:38b–40) Pilate finds Jesus not guilty; Barabbas choice
          D Inside (19:1–3) Soldiers scourge Jesus
       C´ Outside (19:4–8) Pilate finds Jesus not guilty; “Behold the man”
     B´ Inside (19:9–11) Pilate talks with Jesus about power
   A´ Outside (19:12–16a) The Jews obtain Jesus’ death 435

The point is that both the Jews and Gentiles reject the king who came from God and is there to bring God's kingdom from heaven to earth with truth and love. Ironically, that very rejection will be used by God to bring in his kingdom, defeat sin and death and the powers of evil, and gather the community of Jesus who will spread the kingdom throughout the world. Some of those who are part of the rejection will become members of the kingdom (Acts 2). Jesus' bold, but loving, behavior before the Jewish leadership and before Pilate demonstrates the kind of kingdom Jesus brings and provides the example for believers who will be persecuted.

Jesus says that he came into the world not to be king of the Jews, but to testify to the truth. This language makes obvious the contrast between his identity and mission on the one hand and the falsehood of his opponents on the other. “He is the king of Truth, and He manifests His royal power not by force, but by the witness He bears to the Truth.” The truth he refers to is the truth of God. John 18.28-40, 442

Pilate’s fear is quite justified. He will be held accountable to God for how he exercises his authority. His sin may not be as great as someone else’s, but he is in fact sinning. Furthermore, this indictment of Pilate implies something about Jesus’ own identity and role, for he is claiming to know God and God’s will. Indeed, Jesus himself is the point of reference for sin in that to reject him is sin (16:9) and to receive him is to obey God. John 19.1-16, 452

19.16 begins John's "amazingly brief" account of Jesus' crucifixion. John continues to emphasize the revelation of God's glory through Jesus' self-giving death on the cross. He is the king who brings in the kingdom through his self-sacrifice to take on the full human experience of sin, death and evil and defeat it on behalf of the world. He is the righteous sufferer who willingly gives up his own life and fulfills scripture. In his death, He creates a new community that will follow his self-giving example.  

Jesus was forming a new community around himself...This community is the fruit of his death, for it will be the locus of the divine life on earth. The divine life is characterized by love and therefore requires a community to express itself. The life of the community derives from Jesus’ own giving of himself, and in turn such self-giving is to typify the community itself. Jesus’ death is both a revelation of the love of God and an example of such self-giving love. Such love is only really possible when sin has been taken away, since the essence of sin is a false self-love that prevents one from sharing in the life of God, which is love. John 19.16-30, 461–462

Jesus has no ancestral tomb but rather has begun a new family of those born from above who will never die (11:26). John 19.31-42, 468

John 20 begins the account of Jesus' resurrection appearances which provide the climax to his revelation of God's glory. There are 5 encounters with the resurrected Christ that enlarge the disciples' understanding of who Jesus is and increase their faith. These real experiences of the risen Christ will provide the basis for the gospel and the future faith of those who will come to Christ. In the first scene, Mary Magdalene and two disciples come to the tomb and see the stone rolled away and the empty grave clothes. They know something significant has happened but they do not fully understand. When Mary comes back to the tomb she appears and speaks to her. She is the first one sent out as "a disciple to the disciples" to tell the good news of the resurrection. Jesus next appears to a group of the disciples and announces to them the "shalom" and joy of the salvation that has come. He "breathes" (an act of new creation) the Spirit on them, empowering his commissioning of them to witness to what has happened. Finally, he appears to Thomas who makes the climactic confession of Jesus as "my Lord and my God." This confession is the goal of the church's witness and was John's purpose in writing the Gospel. 

In his resurrection appearances Jesus continues to reveal the glory of God by manifesting the grace and love that characterize God. This love is seen in the gentleness, care and humility with which he deals with his disciples. This section contains a series of encounters with Christ that show him overcoming a variety of barriers to faith, including ignorance, grief, fear and doubt. John 20, 471

The message Jesus gives Mary shows the christological basis of the new relationship. “Because God is Jesus’ Father, he is also their Father; because he is Jesus’ God, he is also their God. They are taken up into the fellowship that unites Jesus and the Father.” Jesus is the point of contact between the disciples and the Father. The Father is the Father of the disciples in this new intimacy precisely because he is Jesus’ Father, for the disciples are now Jesus’ brothers. John 20.11-18, 477–478

Thomas confesses Jesus as God when he sees that the crucified one is alive. It is in the crucifixion that God himself is made known, for he is love, and love is the laying down of one’s life (1 Jn 4:8; 3:16). But God is also life. In John, this God is revealed perfectly in the death of the Son, but this death would be nothing without the life. When Thomas finds death and life juxtaposed in Jesus he realizes who the one standing before him really is. John 20.24-31, 485–486

The final chapter of the Gospel of John records an appearance of the risen Jesus to a group of disciples at the Sea of Galilee. Jesus appears to them on the shore when they are in a boat fishing on the lake. They have caught nothing but Jesus tells them to cast their nets to the right of the boat and they get a huge catch of fish. Jesus then provides breakfast for them. It is again a picture of the abundance that Jesus provides and a reminder that they can do nothing without him. Jesus then talks with Peter to forgive and commission him. Jesus performs "painful, but necessary surgery" on Peter's pride to prepare him for the task of self-giving leadership that will model the character and actions of Jesus. The Gospel closes with a statement of the truth of the events related by the those who witnessed it. The glory of God has appeared on earth in human form in the person of Jesus Christ and this is truly good news to those who believe and commit themselves to him. 

Jesus now appears to another partial gathering of the group, an appearance that reveals the same key characteristics as were manifested throughout the ministry, namely his lordship, his servanthood, his character as gracious giver of abundance and his love. He has met his disciples at a point of failure and revealed himself as the awesome Lord of creation who cares for them. John 21.1-14, 493

Jesus himself is the Good Shepherd and now he commissions Peter to care for the flock that belongs to Jesus, for they are my lambs … my sheep. The community has already been established, and now Peter is given authority, though of a particular kind. The key qualification for this task, as this chapter indicates, is a love for Jesus that is characterized by humility, dependence and obedience. John 21.15-23, 496–497

Jesus is the very presence of God come into our midst. All authority has been given to him, and judgment is in his hands. He is quite strict regarding obedience, but he is full of mercy. He has revealed the Father, overcome the prince of this world and taken away the sin of the world. He also washed his disciples’ feet and served them breakfast. No human being has ever dreamed up such a God—we have a hard enough time remaining true to the witness he has left us through his servants, in particular, through John, the Beloved Disciple. John 21.24-25, 501