Saturday, September 24, 2016

Another Great Friday Chapel at PIU

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Friday23 Chapel (4)Friday23 Chapel (5)So far this year, the chapels have been well done. Yesterday was no exception. After a music time which featured some new songs, (Country-Western style is not my thing, but the above band did a good job of cowboying it up.) Our speaker was our Bible Chair, Rev. Iotaka Choram. He spoke from John 8.31 and talked about how Chuukese understand words like “free” and “truth.” He also talked about issues of “power” because the former words must be understood in terms of spiritual power. It was a fascinating message and I still have some questions. One big message is that when we talk to somebody, our words are not always communicating what we think they are communicating.

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A few more pictures from the chapel. We also sang Happy Birthday to Hicknerson (left). You can see that he is thrilled with this honor.

Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes–The Lord’s Prayer

38d2ea28-d0b8-4953-b962-1b9a41648f0b_1.521799f19899b1e8b6f68e4eef180b97We now move on to the third section of the book: Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels, by Kenneth E. Bailey. The main purpose of this book is to take a fresh look at the Gospels in the context of Middle Eastern culture. In this section, Bailey looks at the Lord's Prayer. He sees this prayer as having some similarities to the traditional prayers of the Jewish scriptures and culture, but also with important differences. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

First, he looks at the address of the prayer, "Our Father," or the Aramaic, "Abba" with which it is paired in several verses in the NT. He sees the use of the Aramaic as very significant because it was a break from the use of the traditional Hebrew and "religious language." Jesus was urging the use of simple prayers in the vernacular. This opened up the gospel to be adapted into, and transform, all cultures. He defines "Abba" as a word of respectful relationship. It is one of the first words a Middle Eastern child learns (97) and yet it shows respect to a person of rank. Of course, father is a metaphor and not all aspects of earthly fatherhood should be brought into our idea of God. Bailey sees the prodigal son parable as Jesus' way of defining what he meant when He called God "Father." It is a special word that defines the relationship between the worshipper and God and helps us to see that we all are brothers and sisters.

If there is no sacred language, there is no sacred culture. All of this is a natural outgrowth of the incarnation. If the Word is translated from the divine to the human and becomes flesh, then the door is opened for that Word to again be translated into other cultures and languages. Matthew 5.9, 95

Jesus did not describe God as an emperor exercising absolute sway over his possessions (some fathers and mothers act in this fashion). Rather, Jesus called God “Father” and defined this term in the parable of the prodigal son. This is the only legitimate understanding of “our Father,” and any other definition is a rejection of the teaching of Jesus and a betrayal of his person. Matthew 5.9, 99

The Abba of Christian prayer is indeed near and yet far away; he is in the heavens. The worshiping community is part of the created world. Abba is the Creator. The faithful are servants and Abba is the Master. Mortals are born and they die, while Abba is the eternal One. Abba, the loving Father, is approachable and yet dwells in awesome majesty in the heavens in all his glory. Matthew 5.9, 101–102

Bailey now turns to the six petitions in the Lord's Prayer and compares them with the central prayers of Judaism. He notes that Jesus' prayer "de-Zionizes" the Jewish tradition with no reference to Jerusalem in this formative prayer. He also notes that the 1st three requests are focused on the worldwide mission of God and the final three are focused on the needs of the community and its individuals. He then discusses the idea of God's Name and holiness in the first petition. The big point is that only God can "make holy His Name." The prayer is asking for God to show His holiness as He acts in the world. Ultimately God's holiness and love are demonstrated together by the cross as His love provides the solution to human unholiness.

Each of these six petitions involves an act of God, and each specifies or implies participation on the part of the believer. That is, each involves the sovereignty of God and the freedom and responsibility of the human person.  Matthew 6.9, 105

In its simplest expression the name of God is that point of approach to God where it is possible for humans to communicate with him...The name is also a summary of the essence of God. To know the name of God is to affirm that God is personal, that he can be known (Mt 28:19) and that revelation is always an act of God. Matthew 6.9, 108–109

God is holy love, and he faces unholy nature. Yet, in his holiness, God is able to reach out to love that unholy nature. Again Kuhn writes, “therefore the antithesis between God and man consists in the very love which overcomes it.” In the story of Jesus, the cross offers a more perfect resolution to this agony, where justice is served and ultimate, unqualified love is demonstrated. Matthew 6.9, 111–112

In chapter 9 Bailey moves to the final "thou petition" (God's kingdom and will being done on earth as in heaven) and the first "we petition," which he translates (based on the Old Syriac translation), "Give us today the bread that does not run out." The prayer for the kingdom assumes a view of history with a goal that gives our daily actions meaning and purpose. God's kingdom is a multi-faceted, spiritual-physical, already-not yet, in the world, but not of the world kingdom. This prayer request reminds us that God's kingdom depends on Him, but also commits us to our role as servants of the king.

This request for the coming of the kingdom has to do with a metanarrative that involves the entire world. The faithful who pray this prayer are not an inward-looking circle praying merely for their own needs. This section of the prayer widens the vision of the worshiper to see beyond individual and community needs and catch a vision for the world throughout human history. Matthew 6.10, 117

The defining phrase on earth as it is in heaven is critically important and often forgotten. This phrase obliges the disciple of Jesus to care about the earth and what happens to it and to the people who live on it. The Christian faith is not just a methodology for preparing disembodied souls for the next world. Matthew 6.10, 118

This first "we" request reminds us that we should be just as concerned about our neighbor's bread as our own. It reminds us that our good God gives good gifts and takes care of his children.

Bread is a gift. The one who prays this prayer affirms that all bread comes as a gift. It is not a right and we have not created it. Such gifts are in trust for the one who gives them. All material possessions are on loan from their owner; the God who created matter itself. This perspective on the material world is critical for the joyful life commended in the Gospels. Matthew 6.11, 123

The last chapter of the section deals with Jesus' petitions about forgiveness and trials/temptations. Forgiveness from God is tied to forgiveness of neighbors. It is a daily need to ask God for forgiveness for doing what we should not and failing to do what we should, and to forgive our neighbors for the same sins against us. The final request is that we will not be brought to the time of trial. This is a statement of trust that God will not lead us into a situation that he will not carry us through. He will give us strength and protect us against the "evil one."

This prayer asks the one who struggles for justice to forgive the person or persons against whom he or she struggles. Through forgiveness the bitterness, anger, hatred and desire for revenge are drained out of the struggle and the person contends with those for whom he or she may now be able to feel genuine compassion. This will influence enormously the style of the struggle. Matthew 6.12, 127

The phrase in the Lord’s Prayer expresses the confidence of an earthly pilgrim traveling with a divine guide. The journey requires the pilgrims to affirm daily, “Lord, we trust you to guide us, because you alone know the way that we must go.” This affirmation of the trusting traveler reflects the confidence of the community that prays this prayer. Matthew 6.13, 129

Christians must not think of forgiveness merely as a great dramatic act that occurs at the beginning of the pilgrimage of faith, but as a daily need. Each day the faithful need to ask God to pick up the broken pieces of their lives and restore to them the joy of their salvation. The one who prays this prayer asks for release from the guilt of unfulfilled responsibilities and for a lifting of the burden of wrongdoing. Matthew 6.12, 126

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Our Road Got “Fixed”

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Back in 1998-99 when we finished the construction of our house and moved in we were assured by the contractor and the mayor that we would get a road to our house. Back then the implication was that it was part of a planned neighborhood and there would be a paved road. As I have blogged about before, that never really happened, but the fact that there was never an actual road put into our house did make our neighborhood very quiet. Tuesday I came home from work and was surprised to find a coral surface for our road being spread and rolled by trucks from Public Works. We now have a pretty smooth driving surface to get to our house for the first time in 16 years. Thank you to the Yigo mayor and to the PIU alumna who works in the mayor’s office and may have suggested that our neighborhood would be a good place to do this.

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Here are the “before and after” pictures. The picture on the left was taken in 2009 from about 75 yards forward of the picture on the right

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I also snapped a couple pictures of the tractors doing the work

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Tuesday Chapel at PIU with M. James Sawyer

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20160920_111611 (768x1024)We have been blessed this month to have Jim Sawyer with us at PIU. Jim is our seminary dean and one of our seminary professors. Every year Jim is here for about two months doing the classroom portion of his seminary classes and then finishing them on line with video, video chats and on line assignments. Last year Jim became the Dean of our seminary, so this trip he participated in program reviews, curriculum meetings etc. Yesterday he was our chapel speaker and talked about the war between the kingdom of darkness and God’s kingdom, that began before time began and will continue until God resolves everything in the eternal kingdom of heaven on earth. We had a good discussion of a subject the students, and most of the church, don’t hear about very often. For a small school we have a very outstanding and very qualified faculty and Jim is a good example of that.

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We had a good time of fellowship and singing (left and middle). Charity introduced our chapel speaker. (right)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Reading Through Jeremiah #2 (Chapters 13-29)

31sWD6lEWeL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I am continuing to read through the book of Jeremiah accompanied by Jeremiah: A Commentary, The Old Testament Library, by Leslie C. Allen. This section of Jeremiah shows that Israel has failed to keep the Old Covenant and this exile is assured. There is hope after judgment in the future but only if they seek God and return to covenant. I am 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, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Chapter 13 presents two symbolic messages that announce exile and the reasons for it. Jeremiah takes a linen sash and hides it in a rock for a long time. When he returns it is rotted and useless. This pictures Israel as a privileged nation with a mission from God. They took their privileges and used them selfishly and so became useless to God. The second picture is of smashed wine jars. Once they are smashed they can't be fixed. The exile is coming. It will be complete and degrading as God removes the privilege of his power, wealth and protection from Israel and Judah.

Jeremiah 13:1–17 comprises an oracle of disaster. It accuses the people of forfeiting its covenant birthright by pagan worship and failing to listen to prophetic warnings. It forecasts exile, which would accomplish Yahweh’s twofold reprisal, the extinction of national prestige and the collapse of political and social solidarity. Jeremiah 13, 161

jeremiah 1-29 chartNow that the exile is inevitable chapters 14-17 explain the reasons for it so that the later exiles will listen to Jeremiah's prophecies and learn the lessons the exile was meant to teach. The section begins with a resounding "no" to a prayer for God to intervene in the crisis. The people have refused God and repentance and continue to follow false prophets. There will be no relief.

Jeremiah 14:1–16 sounds an emphatic no in response to the people’s prayers of hope, whether in the face of drought or military defeat. Nothing could avert their rightful fate, neither the cultic tradition of Yahweh’s promise of deliverance, which they had forfeited, nor a prophet’s intercession nor fasting nor sacrifice. And false prophets who could not excuse communal culpability are denounced as make-believe. Jeremiah 14.1-16, 171

In OT narratives the tradition of intercession is present in Exod 32:11–13; Num 14:13–19; 1 Sam 7:5, 8–9; 12:19, 23. Here, however, the people had no mediator to present their prayers and they presented them on their own behalf. Jeremiah himself is not compared with Moses and Samuel; there is no mention of his interceding. The mediatory role he is now assigned is ironically the opposite of intercession, to communicate the rejection of their appeal. Jeremiah 15.1-4, 175

Jeremiah begins to complain that his prophecies of disaster are causing his family and friends to ostracize him and make his life more difficult. God's response is a call to Jeremiah to repent and to commit more deeply to his calling. Jeremiah is commanded to  remove himself from the cultural social events and to refrain from marriage and becoming a father as a sign of the coming disaster. God promises to protect Jeremiah through this suffering and chapter 16 closes with a powerful promise of return from exile after removal of idolatry from the nation.

(Jeremiah) had to throw in his lot with Yahweh, instead of hankering after social normality—a normality that the redactor in vv. 13–14 had already characterized as doomed to end. Only such integrated commitment would permit Jeremiah to continue as a prophet. Jeremiah 15.19, 185

Jeremiah 16:1–21 celebrates Yahweh’s stand against pagan religion in Israel and the world at large...which plainly present Israel’s problem and Yahweh’s drastic solution of exile...first Judah’s pagan religion must be punished...That done, in vv. 19–21 Israel in exile turns back to Yahweh with fresh faith and with morale high enough to assert that the other nations who practiced the non-Yahwistic worship (v. 13) would put their own faith in the true God. Jeremiah 16, 194–195

Jeremiah 17 gives the reason that the exile is inevitable. The people's hearts have become hard and evil through generations of disobedience. This has produced the fruit of idolatry and disobedience. God was willing to lavish blessings on them if they would trust him and keep the covenant but they chose to go their own way and now would suffer the consequences of that way.

Here the self-sufficiency is simply contrasted with faith in Yahweh. A grim prognosis is supplied by the imagery of a shrub eking out a miserable existence in the desert...The road not taken is tantalizingly elaborated in lavish, positive terms. It would have provided a vital source of sustenance beyond the limitations of the human ecosystem, a source that would have stayed available in worst-case scenarios. Jeremiah 17.5-8, 199–200

Jeremiah 17:14–27 exposes the reprehensibility of the faith community in refusing to heed from the prophet “Yahweh’s message,” here illustrated with a torah-based message relating to the Sabbath. This refusal must usher in the collapse of Jerusalem and its valued traditions. Jeremiah 17.14-27, 209

Jeremiah 18-20 uses the symbols of the potter and his creations to show both God's sovereignty and Judah's responsibility for their destruction. In 18 Jeremiah watches the potter work with the soft clay and adjust to its imperfections to encourage Israel to do what is right and experience blessing. They won't do that so in chapter 19 Jeremiah smashes a clay pot to show that God has determined to exile the nation. There is no turning back. They have rejected God and his prophets and exile is inevitable. The section climaxes (20) with overt persecution of Jeremiah and his cry of pain at the rejection of God and His messenger by the people of Jerusalem.

Creation is not a static notion, but involves Yahweh’s lordship over the nations of the world...The new pot is interpreted as the new situation Yahweh creates in the history of a claylike nation. Jeremiah 18.7-10, 215–216

A coherent message emerges from the composition: Yahweh’s announcement of disaster for Judah for its religious defection had a further ominous reason, the community’s rejection of Yahweh’s prophetic messages, a rejection that found tragic illustration in the confessions of the rejected prophet...That disaster would consist of not only the siege and destruction of Jerusalem (19:7–9, 13), but of Jerusalem’s sacking and Judah’s exile to Babylon (20:4–6). Jeremiah 19, 224–225.

Passionate focus is laid on Jeremiah’s role as a rejected prophet, even while his prophetic vindication and Yahweh’s own eventual vindication in support of the prophet by wreaking disaster are affirmed. The rejection of the messenger of Yahweh’s destruction is reflected through the mirror of Jeremiah’s cry of despairing pain. Jeremiah 20, 234

21-24 begin a new oracle which now specifically name Babylon as God's tool of judgment on the nation. God is now  fighting for Jerusalem's enemies and the only hope for the nation is God's grace toward the exiles. Each king, after Josiah, is named and his doom is pronounced. The only for survival for the people of Jerusalem is defection to Babylon. The reasons given are that these kings tolerated idolatry in the nation and they refused their role as defender of the weak and poor. The lived above the people, rather than as their neighbors. The line of the current kings is rejected, but God will raise up a new king who will be identified as "the LORD our Righteousness." The only hope is that God will look in favor on the "good figs" (24) in exile and restore them to the land after the "bad figs" in Jerusalem are completely wiped out by the Babylonians.

Prophetic warnings that, taken seriously, could have prevented national tragedy had been disregarded. Economic prosperity and Babylonian noninterference muffled them. This skepticism is traced back to the preprophetic period, to a history of disregarding Yahweh’s earlier revelation, presumably the torah traditions. As earlier in the book, notably in 6:16–19, disregarding the double revelation is the prescription for sure disaster. Jeremiah 22.21, 252

The oracle offers hope by celebrating a new revelation of Yahweh in a second redemptive act that would eclipse the exodus and bring about a wonderful reversal of Israel’s punishment by the regaining of the land. The brief composition in 23:1–8 rounds off the previous two by summarizing their negative series of oracles in terms of bad kings who caused Judah’s exile and by adding promises of a capable monarchy in the future and the restoration of the banished community. Jeremiah 23.1-8, 260

None of the prophets can hide from the bad fate to which their bad behavior, all too visible to divine eyes, makes them liable...23:9–24 vehemently castigates Jeremiah’s prophetic rivals for their morally irresponsible lifestyle and message. It can only predict a bad end for them at the hands of a God whom they have misunderstood and misrepresented. Jeremiah 23.9-24, 268

The section ends with an explicit prophecy of judgment on Judah and then all nations. God will use Nebuchadnezzar as his tool of judgment. Jerusalem will be devastated and depopulated. The exile will last 70 years before anyone will return. All the nations in the region will be righteously judged by God through Nebuchadnezzar and "drink the cup" of his wrath.

The ultimate sin in the book of Jeremiah is a failure to heed the prophetic message...Behind the standards of good and bad and of exclusive, aniconic worship of Yahweh implicitly stands the torah, as chs. 7 and 11 made clear. Failure to maintain such standards was serious but forgivable, and the prophetic message permitted a second chance. But rejection of that message was a different matter; it spelled only doom. Jeremiah 25, 285

Chapter 26 begins a section in which Jeremiah and the false prophets battle over the prediction of a long exile. It begins with Jeremiah in the temple predicting its destruction. The people and priests seize Jeremiah and want him killed. He is saved with the intervention of Ahikam and the king but more opposition to God's word is coming.

Jeremiah 26:1–24 turns out to be good news for Jeremiah, but paints a bleak picture of Judah’s spiritual state in that Yahweh’s faithful representative becomes the butt of the people’s animosity. “Jeremiah survived; neither heeded like Micah nor martyred like Uriah, he survived to be ignored.” So Yahweh’s “bad fate” for Judah was confirmed; a divine change of mind was out of the question. Jeremiah 26, 302

The main opposition to Jeremiah comes from false prophets who say that the exile will last only two years and Jerusalem will not be destroyed. In 27-28 Jeremiah makes a symbolic prophecy by wearing a yoke and sending 5 yokes to the nations who were planning on rebelling against Babylon. The prophecy is that God has decreed the rule of Babylon over the region for the next 70 years. The only way their cities will survive is by surrendering. Hananiah the prophet breaks the yoke off of Jeremiah and proclaims that the exile will be short. Jeremiah counters with God's word that the exile will be long, Jerusalem will be destroyed, and Hananiah's death within the year would be the sign of it. Hananiah dies a few months later. Jeremiah's point is that the consistent theme of prophecy in Israel has been that judgment is coming and the people need to repent. Hananiah's "prosperity theology" is just as bad as idolatry.

The prophets were right about their eventual restoration, but wrong about the timing. “The true prophet must be able to distinguish whether the historical hour stands under the wrath or love of God." Jeremiah 27, 310
Again idolatry and a false view of Yahweh’s character and purposes are compared. Hananiah’s sin was as gross as idolatry; it warranted an exemplary death, as in Deuteronomy 13.
Jeremiah 28, 318

Chapter 29 closes with a letter that Jeremiah sends to the exiles and a second letter that deals with the opposition to the first one. The letter basically says that the false prophets are wrong and they will be in exile for three generations. Thus, they are to seek God's blessing by settling down in Babylon and seeking the peace and prosperity of the place where they are and praying for them. This is how their blessing would come. Daniel would be a good example of what Jeremiah is telling them to do. In the far future God would bring them back to the land and the exile would end. The first letter ends with a terrible prophecy of doom on Zedekiah and those in Jerusalem. Again there is resistance to Jeremiah's word and Jeremiah pronounces doom on another false prophet, Shemaiah. He and all his family will die in Babylon. The role of Israel in exile is much like the role of Christians in the present age as we live out our role as "ambassadors of reconciliation" while waiting for the consummation of the kingdom of Christ.

The community is told to accept and make the best of the divinely ordained situation, even to pray for Babylon (cf. Ezra 6:10; 1 Tim 2:1–2). Thus they would survive what was to be a prolonged situation, to endure as long as Babylon was the agent of Yahweh’s will. Jeremiah 29, 324

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Bible Translation Chapel at PIU

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Yesterday was our annual Bible Translation chapel featuring PIU professor and Isles of the Sea Bible translator Peter Knapp. Peter splits his time between training future (we hope) Bible translators at PIU and working with the translation on the Mokilese Bible. Peter shared some stories about his time working on a minority language Bible translation in central Russia in the 90’s and early 2000’s, and then talked about how he and his family came to Micronesia. He also shared with the students some opportunities in Bible translation at PIU.

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The students came into chapel (I was trying to get the baby riding into chapel in the center of the picture on the left but I was too slow) and Mayson opened the chapel in prayer (right)

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The dorm guys led the music and worship time. Then “grandpa” Steve Bradley (you can see him on the TV monitor) greeted us from South Carolina and prayed for the school. It was a blessing to hear his voice.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

PIU Receives a Donation From Atkins Kroll Inc.

Pacific Island University

Thank you Atkins Kroll for including PIU in your AK Community Matters program. We appreciate the donation very much! This will help us to continue to provide accessible, accredited Christian higher education to the people of the Pacific Islands, especially Guam and Micronesia.