Saturday, January 31, 2015

An Old Testament Theology of “God”

Goldingay2Volume 2 of Goldingay’s, Old Testament Theology, Israel’s Faith, discusses the theology of the OT in a more thematic way, trying to look at theology in the categories presented by the text itself. Where the first volume tended to focus on the narrative sections of the OT, this volume focuses more on the prophets and the wisdom sections. The second chapter of the book is entitled God, and focuses on the most important revelation of the OT: Who is God and what is He like. Appropriately this is by far the longest chapter in the volume and so I will comment on it in two parts here. I am continuing to post quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays. There will be a link to the blog posts on my Facebook page where you can comment.

The central idea of the Old Testament concerning God is that there is one real God and his name is Yhwh. He is revealed, not in an abstract way, but in a very practical, personal way from within his relationship with the nation of Israel…

Here, God is not a concept, but a person who can be personally known. Nor is God a person to be found at the depth of our being or as the ground of our being, but a person who lives outside of us and independently of us; the First Testament begins from God's act of self-revelation outside of us. The real God is the God who speaks and acts in Israel's history. 21

The first section, The God Yhwh, discusses the question; “what is this God like?” Goldingay sees the “most fundamental description of Yhwh” is holiness. Holiness expresses the transcendence of God, “Holiness points to Yhwh's metaphysical distinctiveness over against humanity.” (23) Yhwh is a God of majesty who projects his holiness to creation so that it will honor him. He is a living personal God…

Yhwh is "the living God" or the "God of life" ...The fact that the Scriptures speak thus of God resists our spiritualizing God. It is a basis for God's being the creator and savior of both body and soul, and for God's being able to act at all. 26-28

He speaks and acts within time and within creation and has a mission, program and plan within them. Yet he sits above all of this as the one and only God and creator and universal God. He is the eternal one, the Creator who is wholly other than his creation. He is the only, unique real God and there is nothing to which God can be compared.

The First Testament's take on the idea of God's eternity is not that God is outside time but that God is throughout time... God's experience of time is different from that of human beings, but it is still an experience of time in the sense that God knows about before and after, about shorter and longer time, about looking forward and looking back. God embraces and is present to all time. 34

The proper response to this God is worship, and God is passionate (jealous) that human beings fulfill what they were created to be by being worshippers of the one true God.

God's sovereignty and greatness do not depend on what happens in the Temple. But worship should correspond to the truths about God. 43

The second section, Yhwh’s Aides and Representatives and Rivals, deals with Yhwh’s relationship with “other gods,” Yhwh’s heavenly court and other supernatural beings.  The OT affirms the reality of these beings but insists that they are “Yhwh’s underlings.” Even the “adversary” (as were the gods of other nations) was part of the court of Yhwh who, though in rebellion, still will accomplish God’s plan. All of these entities will be judged in the end by Yhwh.

There is rather a variety of ways of speaking about supernatural entities other than God. There is the aide who mediates Yhwh's own presence and activity. There is the advocate or restorer who speaks on our behalf with Yhwh and the adversary who may speak against us. And there are the supernatural centers of power that can deliberately oppose Yhwh's purpose and Yhwh's people. 44

The gods form a body of mighty aides who do what Yhwh says, armies of ministers who put Yhwh's desires into effect (Ps. 103.20-21). They do not rule the world. God does that; they are nothing but servants. 45

The imagery of aides emphasizes the personal nature and authority of God's involvement in the world, though they distance Yhwh from this involvement. The imagery in the Psalms avoids this distancing and emphasizes the moral quality of this involvement. God's people really experience God's own light, truthfulness, good and commitment. 50

The adversary is not a supernatural being with power over against Yhwh. His authority is strictly circumscribed. He can accuse, but he cannot judge (Zech 3). He can tempt, but he cannot overwhelm; he requires human cooperation (1 Chron 21). He can test, but only within the boundaries that God allows (Job 1-2). 55

Section 3, Yhwh’s Leadership, explains the phrase “Yhwh is Lord (Adonai).” It means that he is absolutely sovereign. He can do, be or know anything. “When Yhwh chooses, nothing can escape his sovereignty, Yhwh’s reach or Yhwh’s awareness.” The best earthly analogy of this is kingship; Yhwh is king of all the earth and king of Israel. As the perfect king he exercises power and authority with perfect energy and knowledge. His power extends over the nations and the supernatural world; over everything that happens – even the bad things.

The two sides to kingship, sovereignty and commitment, find expression in the metaphor of shepherding. A king is his people's shepherd; as Israel's king, Yhwh is its shepherd... Like kingship, shepherding suggests on one hand absolute authority and the power of life and death, and on the other an obligation to see that the subjects of this authority and power are looked after properly. 63

The metaphor of judge does not have its locus in a theory of law. It lives, rather, in a world of desperate, practical appeal to those who have no other ground of appeal or hope and in a world of righteous rage among those who are appalled at exploitative brutality that must be called to accountability. 67

Job StructureGod is the only one in the universe that is truly completely free. Thus, God exercises flexibility in how he works with the universe. He may not handle similar situations in exactly the same way, as Job discovers. Though we can know God in relationship, much of what he does is incomprehensible to us.

The ultimate concern of the book of Job is not the personal welfare of Job's family and household, or that of Job himself, but an ultimate cosmic question about the basis of God's relationship with the world as a whole. It is our privilege as human beings to be part of a much bigger story than the story of our own lives. 81

Nevertheless, Section 4, Yhwh’s Wisdom and Word, shows that God does have a plan, purpose and goals, and runs the world in a wise way. God will accomplish his plan, but it is our responsibility to learn what he is doing and respond faithfully to work with him.

God's plan refers to the way God works out specific details of an overall vision as decades unfold, in interaction with human actions... It relates to the sequence of events whereby God implements the intention to bring about the world's deliverance. 85

Often our experience of God’s plan seems random. God is consistent in his character and will not change his goal to complete his creation. However, he is flexible in how he deals with people so that we need to be careful in our assumptions about God. We need to trust his character, not our knowledge of the plan.

God can have a change of heart about bringing calamity or about bringing blessing, but these are not possibilities of equal status. The order in which they come in Jeremiah 18 reflects the fact that the former is Yhwh's "true and proper" change of heart. It is God's nature to have a change of heart about bringing trouble. It is not God's nature to have a change of heart about bringing blessing, though God can do so if necessary. 92

More on chapter 2 in the next post.

Friday, January 30, 2015

TRACS Midterm Visit

TRACS1This week PIU received its midterm Quality Control Review visit from our TRACS representative Dr. Tanmay Pramanik. In 2009 PIU received its first 10 year accreditation term. Our first accreditation term was 5 years from 2004-9. The visit was preceded by an extensive QCR report that was complied by PIU admin, faculty and staff and then read by two evaluators from TRACS. Dr. Pramanik’s visit served to follow up and check on the evaluators’ recommendations. I think the visit went very well. We have some things to work on before our next reaffirmation of accreditation in 2020, but everything is quite do-able. The whole process is very helpful to us as we move forward to better serve the needs of our students. The PIU admin team did a great job getting us ready for the visit and I thank all of you who prayed for me and for PIU this week!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The “Ethiopian Eunuch” at PIU Chapel

SAMSUNG            I always enjoy it when our chapel speaker does something creative for the chapel message. We have come to expect that PIU prof Peter Knapp will not disappoint us in this area, and he certainly did not on Tuesday. SAMSUNG            He performed a dramatic sermon about the access (a PIU core value – accessibility) that Jesus provides to the presence of God to those who were formerly excluded as he dramatized the thoughts of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8) as he had his encounter with Philip and Jesus through the reading of the book of Isaiah. Drama is a very effective way to preach biblical narrative and I am a little surprised we don’t see more of it in the church today.

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Peter began chapel in more conventional dress (middle). Bill Wood (right) read the passage.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Chuuk #2–Preaching at Berea Church

SAMSUNG            On my final day in Chuuk on Sunday I spent most of the day with the people of Berea Church; in the Sunday morning worship service and then with some of the pastors at lunch afterward. SAMSUNGI saw many old friends there and, as always, enjoyed the congregational singing immensely. They lift the roof off the place with high volume multi-part melodies and harmonies that give familiar hymns a very unique sound. I also appreciate the way so many, including the kids, are involved in the service. I preached on Jeremiah 29.1-14 as one of the most misunderstood and misused passages in all of scripture in our modern churches. They asked me to post the outline and main points of the sermon so here it is below…

I titled the sermon “A prosperity theology for God’s people today.” The main point is that God rules and will bring about his eternal future prosperous kingdom (the shalom of God’s presence forever). To be part of that future prosperity you must conform to his plan for present prosperity, which is to “live as an exile” in this present world by being focused on sacrificially bringing God’s blessing to the community you live in. As Jesus said, when you do that (give up all to follow him), you will receive “prosperity,” but with persecution. We “prosper” now as we give over everything to the service of Christ by serving our community as an investment toward our prosperity in the future kingdom.

Jeremiah wrote the letter to the exiles in Babylon to tell them the exile would be long. God’s promises of return and blessing in Jerusalem would not happen in their lifetime. Thus, they should settle down in Babylon and bring God’s blessing (prayer) by serving the communities in Babylon. Their present prosperity would depend on how Babylon prospered. Future kingdom prosperity would come in God’s timing. God is the “God of armies” who controls all time and events and He will make it happen.

We prosper when we live in the world as exiles. Our focus must be on God’s kingdom business. Our job is to serve the communities in which God has placed us by prayer, witness and loving daily mundane acts of love. We, as walking, talking ambassadors of God’s kingdom, are to bring the presence of Christ into these communities in a holistic way (meet the needs). God will prosper us by giving us the resources we need to do this. (We prosper in order to give it away) In the midst of this we will be misunderstood and be persecuted. (see Daniel 1-6 for an example of how to wisely this way).

The ultimate kingdom will be brought about by God in his timing and His way. The judgment for entry into ultimate prosperity will be based on “did we follow Jesus” and “did we serve his people.” Just as God eventually restored exiled Israel, our exile will also end when we meet Jesus in death or at his return.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Weekend in Chuuk #1

SAMSUNG            This past weekend I had the opportunity to fly to Chuuk for a series of meetings with church leadership, government and educational leadership there (meeting with education officials and admin at Berea Christian School on the left), along with seeing how our PIU alumni are doing there. We are working to re-establish our teaching/distance education facilities there and I think this weekend’s meetings were very productive toward that end. We already have an agreement with our partner school, Faithwalk Christian College, to offer our courses there SAMSUNGand we are working on an agreement to get a space for our teaching facility at Berea Christian School on Weno up and running again. The target date for beginning classes in both places is May 15th. We have already entry tested about 100 students in Chuuk and are waiting for completed applications so we can proceed. I was encouraged to see the enthusiasm for restarting the classes there. Perhaps the most encouraging thing I heard all weekend came from an official in the Chuuk education department as she read through a list of PIU alumni working in Chuuk, “Very impressive, these are some of our best teachers.” (me with alumna Jaynee Sam, teacher at Berea Christian School, right)

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The food was pretty good too. On the left, I had the best of both worlds with a buffalo wings-sashimi combo at the Truk Stop Hotel. On the right reef fish with sashimi. Mmmmm!

Introduction to Goldingay Volume 2

Goldingay2In January I began reading volume 2 of Goldingay’s, Old Testament Theology, Israel’s Faith. I am continuing to post quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays, and will blog here as I finish each chapter. There will be a link to the blog post on my Facebook page where you can comment. Again, I appreciate the way Goldingay does not force the text into a pre-conceived systematic theology, but wrestles with the text as it is and I want to do that with him.

Chapter 1, is an Introduction, to the volume that explains the approach he will take. Goldingay notes in the first section of the introduction that the Bible uses both Narrative and Theology to accomplish the task of revealing and explaining who God is. Both testaments open with long narratives and then follow the narratives with more direct theological material. In volume 1 Goldingay focused on the narratives. In volume 2 he focuses more on the prophets and wisdom literature.

Each Testament opens with long narratives that help us understand God or Jesus by telling their story. These long narratives (Genesis to Esther and Matthew to Acts) help us see what they were seeking to achieve, and to portray them acting in and reacting to different situations. Each Testament then follows the narratives with material addressing people more directly with an account of who God and Jesus are and what their significance is for us. 15

In the second section of the introduction, Diversity and Unity in Old Testament Theology, Goldingay admits that, despite our affirmation of the authority and trustworthiness of the scriptures, scripture presents us with “ambiguities and antinomies” that force us to wrestle with all of scripture and live within its tensions.

We recognize that we perceive only the outskirts of God and of God's ways. 17

The final section of the introduction, Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, explains how Goldingay will integrate both Old and New Testament theology in the volume. His main point is that the two testaments are revealing the same God and saying the same thing. The New Testament “fills out the picture” and provides “new angles” but it not “a revolutionary new revelation;” it is new form of revelation as God has now spoken through his Son.

The First Testament already provided Israel, and even the world, with plenty of revelation. Israel's chief need, and the world's chief need, was not more revelation. Christ came to do something, not to reveal something. He came to implement God's rule in the world. 18-19

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Conclusion to Goldingay’s OT Theology 1st Volume

I began the school year with a commitment to read through John Goldingay’s 3 volume Old Testament Theology during the year. So far I am on schedule and finished the first volume, Israel’s Gospel at the end of December. I post quotes from Goldingay on my Facebook page on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and welcome, even relish, comments. I don’t always agree with him, but he always makes me think about the text because he truly wrestles with what the text actually says rather than trying to force it into a preconceived theological system as many do.

The final chapter of the first volume is entitled Postscript: Old Testament Theology and History. Here he tries to answer the question “what kind of story” is the Old Testament? It is good news about how God has acted in Israel’s story but what is the nature of the story?

In the first section Narrative and History, Goldingay emphasizes that the Old Testament is made up of many types, or genres, of literature. Often, within the narrative genre one can find multiple types of literature. Even the historical sections are not designed to “just tell the facts” but are designed to teach about God. Even the “history” is biased by modern standards because ancient history had a different goal. The goal of the Old Testament was to present a prophetic judgment of the prevailing worldviews of the ancient world and present the perspective of Yhwh the Creator. The goal was to reflect on Israel’s God and the mission he had given and teach and motivate his people to accomplish it.

The intellectuals whom God inspired to write these stories were writing for God and community. When the community made them part of their scriptures, they were not doing something that went against their nature. But like other history, they do constitute self-reflection on the part of a civilization. 861

The fact that these narratives give prominence to God's involvement in events does not imperil their right to be designated history. A civilization has the right to decide how to give an account of its past, and specifically whether to include God in its account. 861

So the historians who formulated Israel's account of the past were involved in reflection in the manner of Israel's sages, in formulating a vision in the manner of Israel's prophets and even in worship in the manner of Israel's psalmists. They were working out what God had been doing and who God was. They were formulating God's vision for Israel. 865

In the 2nd section, History and Criticism, Goldingay criticizes purely pre-modern, modern and postmodern readings and criticisms of the Old Testament. The texts need to be read critically in light of their cultural, historical and literary backgrounds. However, we often do not have the information to do that and Goldingay asserts that we do not need to prove the events historical (it is often impossible to prove or disprove them) to read the stories with theological authority. This does not mean the events did not happen and it is significant to faith that they did happen. I think Goldingay is right to say that what we have is theological reflection on history and not “just the facts, ma’am.”

I assume that if we needed information on the origin of the material in order to interpret the narratives theologically, God would have made sure that we have it. Actually, the communities that preserved the Scriptures not only declined to incorporate the kind of data that would have helped us locate the texts historically, but also removed such data when they were there because they believed doing that would help us in interpreting them. And they did this so well that the historical-critical task can never succeed. 867

The text...fulfills part of its theological function by being larger than life,in order to show us that reality is greater than these events, while reflected in them. The narrative gives us the truth and not merely the facts, and this is another reason to focus on the text and not merely the events that lie behind it. 871

Scripture is not just concerned with the faith (or doubts) of some dead Israelite men, which is the way criticism has read it. It is concerned with a faith in the sense of what may surely be believed. Biblical theology is about truth and about God. Our study of what the First Testament says about God must let it have its own say, and criticism helps us do that. 873

In the final section, Creation and History, he concludes that the Old Testament is true because it brings us information beyond history. It is true because it reveals God to us. Perhaps I would see more history in the OT than Goldingay. Perhaps not, he sees a great deal of accurate history in the OT. I do think we need to be careful to read the OT within the ancient genre in which it was written. If we believe the Bible is inspired, authoritative and truth we should also see its forms as equally inspired and read it according to the way it was intended when it was written (of course in light of God’s subsequent revelation which reaches its end in Jesus).

Israelites could wonder whether the world could be trusted. It sometimes threatened to betray their trust. They made their statements about creation to reassure themselves that the creator could be trusted and that therefore the world God created could be trusted. 877

Proverbs, Job, the Psalms and Genesis tell true stories about God, the world and humanity, and in some sense in order to be theologically true, they also have to be historically true. They are not "scientific" accounts of creation, but neither are they stories without historical reference. 880

The creation stories told people that God was like that and invited them to a leap of trust in such a God that was then vindicated by where it led. It made it possible to reaffirm the stories' picture of a process of creation that involved sovereignty and planning even if it works itself out immanently via something that looks like trial and error and involves life for some as well as death for others. 883

Happy Birthday Joyce

SAMSUNG            SAMSUNGAnother birthday has arrived for my lovely wife. She has made another journey around the sun. This would her XXXXXXXXth time around. The picture on the left was taken this afternoon so Serenity could show off the poisonous mushroom that she found. The picture on the right was taken on Joyce’s birthday last year before we went out to Tony Roma’s for dinner. This year we are saving our money for a couple weeks until we get to go to Hong Kong together and we will have our birthday dinners together there. (I am going as part of a TRACS accreditation team and she is going along for vacation and fun.) Happy birthday Joyce. Life with you just gets better and better!!!

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On the left is the birthday picture from 2013 and 2012 on the right

And 2011 with 2009 on the right

And here are a couple from birthdays in the further past

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Friday on Guam and at PIU

SAMSUNGFriday was pretty much a typical January day for us at PIU. The weather continues to be chilly, in the high 70’s, (see picture of the bundled up students on the left) as a weather system comes through the region. We had our first regular chapel of the semester at 11am. After a funSAMSUNG            time of music and worship I spoke from the book of Proverbs. After chapel Joyce and I took Titus to lunch at the Hilton Hotel. This is not something we do normally, but Titus won a fee lunch buffet for two at the Hilton at the Christmas celebration at Ipao Beach last month. We enjoyed lunch and taking some time to watch the wind and storm surge (right) at the beach there. Did I mention that we like living on Guam?

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Chapel was a good time of worship, fellowship and teaching

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Lunch was great too. I loved the fresh salad and Titus liked the noodles

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It was a good way to spend our lunch time

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Reading The New Testament with Goldingay

In Chapter 11 of Goldingay’s Old Testament Theology, volume 1, Israel’s Gospel he discusses how Jesus “fills or fills out or gives new significance” to the Old Testament scriptures. The chapter is entitled God Sent: The Coming of Jesus. He points out that the story of Jesus is a continuation of Israel’s story that picks up with Israel’s situation as returned exiles in the Second Temple Period who are becoming “people of the scroll,” who are focusing more and more on individual commitment and a future afterlife. It is into this very dispersed, oppressed Jewish environment that Jesus enters.

The first section, Jesus Herald of God’s Reign, focuses on Jesus’ good news that the kingdom of God is near, despite the fact the Jewish nation was in subservience to Rome without a Davidic king. Jesus’ miracles show that, despite the circumstances, God is acting as promised in Israel and his “Sovereign reign is coming.” Jesus comes as Yhwh and brings the Spirit with him. With Jewish opposition, “God’s intention is put on hold” and the church is ordained to proclaim the inaugurated sovereignty of Jesus. 

The difference Jesus makes is that he provides even more incontrovertible evidence that God is in a position to assert sovereignty when wishing to do so. God intends to rule sovereignly one day, and Jesus provides evidence that this day will come... That certainty opens up the possibility that the Jewish people (and others who join that community) can live a new life now, the kind of life Jesus portrays, a life lived in the light of that certainty. 793

The killing of Jesus has given a new expression to their sinfulness and points to a new focus for their repentance - and opens up a new understanding of the depth of God's grace (cf. Acts 2). God has turned their sin into the means of their forgiveness by being unwilling to be overcome by their resistance. All the options are open again. 799

Section 2, Jesus: Prophet and Teacher, emphasize his role as a charismatic teacher, a prophet with an inspired interpretation of the Old Testament scriptures with new applications,  a prophet who calls people into a new work of God as symbolized by baptism, a healer and a martyr who calls disciples who are willing to take up their own cross and be broken as he was.

(Jesus') teaching builds on the scriptures... He fills out the meaning of their promises and warnings and is himself the confirmation of these. He fills out the meaning of their expectations and looks for an even deeper commitment to the Torah than the scholars and Pharisees prescribed and exemplified. If his hearers want to be people who have a natural place in a world where God reigns, they need to whole, like God. 801

If Jesus' healings are signs that the fulfillment of God's purpose is coming, that helps us see why some people get healed but most people do not. The healing of some people is a sign that the End is coming, but the nonhealing of most people is a sign that the End is not here. To expect none to be healed is to ask for no signs, but to expect all to be healed is to ask for the End now.  807

Section 3, His Followers, discusses the people that followed Jesus and compares the “crowds” with the deeper sense in which the disciples followed Jesus. Jesus’ challenge to follow him brings about a need for decision that will determine future condemnation or reward. There is always a “mixed pattern” of disciples’ commitment to the high cost of following Jesus. This community is also much wider than the original disciples would have expected as it included women, Samaritans and, ultimately, Gentiles.

References to "the crowd" or "the Jews" as people involved in Jesus' death reassures Jewish and Gentile readers that they are not the first to be persecuted for their faith, but also puts them on the spot as they have to decide what sort of people they themselves are. 809

The story of the men and women around Jesus explodes any suggestion that there is something about men that provides a positive qualification for their being the exclusive leaders of the renewed Israelite community, though it might suggest that men should be excluded from leadership. 814

The next section, Jesus: The Man Anointed as King, focuses on the nature of Jesus’ kingship. He did not fill that role in the way expected by the various leadership factions in Judea of his day. Matthew shows that he is the one who fulfills the Messianic prophecies by birth, calling and heroic action although, again, not in the way anyone would have expected. He is a king who redefined and widened the Jewish concept of kingship. The key text here is the “Son of Man” reference in Daniel 7. “Kingship” needed to be expanded to include this idea of a divine-human figure exalted to the right hand of God.

(Jesus) is the person God intends should rule Israel in succession to his ancestor David, but from the beginning God shows him that this will be a much more complicated matter than it sounds, and he also has to try to show his disciples that this is so. His exaltation as king will be a different process from what one might have expected. 814

A person who insisted on Jesus being a simple fulfillment of scriptural prophecies could easily be offended at his failure to correspond to them with precision, and Jesus declares a blessing on the person who resists that temptation (Mt. 11.6). People have to work backwards from the fulfillment to the promises as well as forward from the promises to the fulfillment. It will be fun to see this all recur at Jesus' final Appearing. 820

Section 5, Jesus: Word Embodied, emphasizes that Jesus is more than the sum of his words and his acts. These show him to be the supreme manifestation of God in bodily form. He acts as God, speaks as God and has the qualities of God because he is God’s only Son.

At the beginning of the First Testament story God thought and then spoke...The story of humanity is the story of God's thought and speech in the world... But the world did need to have the light explained and to have its resistance to that light overcome. So eventually, in an attempt to achieve that, God's insight and God's word became a human being, without ceasing to be God's insight and God's word. Thus, Jesus' human birth is not the beginning of his story. 827

As human beings we are called to be people who manifest mercy, grace, long temperedness, commitment, faithfulness and forgiveness, and also toughness with wrongdoing. God supremely manifested these, and Jesus mirrors God's manifestation of them. 830

Section 6, Divine Surrender, deals with the question of how a divine Jesus could submit to execution. Goldingay says that this is the logical extension of the way Yhwh worked in the OT as  “Yhwh has been bearing the cost of a relationship with Israel. Jesus’ execution is the logical conclusion to that story of paying the penalty and bearing the cost of the world’s restoration. (830). Jesus’ death was a “divine self-giving” in sacrifice for sin. God experiences the powerlessness and isolation of humanity who has abandoned him. In both death and resurrection Jesus acts as God.

Jesus' healing ministry has involved bearing people's pain in the sense of taking it away (Mt. 8.17). The talk of cup and baptism implies that he also bears it in the sense of sharing it with people and in the sense of bearing it in their stead. 833

The First Testament suggests that deity embraces power and commitment. These have characterized Jesus' ministry. They are eventually expressed in his double exaltation, the exaltation involved in his execution and that involved in his resurrection... When Thomas confesses Jesus as Lord and God, it is because he sees that Jesus embodies in himself both execution and resurrection, both power and commitment. 839

Section 7, The Community of the Risen Lord, talks about the new community created after Jesus’ exaltation, ruled by Jesus and filled with his Spirit. The church is to take up where Jesus left off. They start in the Jewish temple but quickly expand into the Gentile world and become something completely new. Though many are Jews their primary identification is in relationship with Jesus. Acts, especially sees the church as repeating the experiences of Jesus.

To act in someone's name implies acting on their behalf, as their legitimate representative; their authority lies behind what one does. Acting in/by Jesus' name presupposes that he is alive, and the apostles' proclamation presupposes that the risen Jesus is now the key to understanding God's purpose in the world. 842

The triumph of God's message and the suffering of its messengers go hand in hand. 850

The final section of the chapter, Jesus: Light of the World, discusses the mission of the church to spread the good news and be a “light to the Gentiles.” The divisions that separate the Jews from Gentiles are done away with and the Spirit is poured out to prepare the church for this multi-cultural mission. Jerusalem would be the starting point from which God would extend his kingdom to all the world.

The community that acknowledges the risen Jesus is commissioned to proclaim this Jesus to the nations, not just to the Jewish people. Judaism was always open to people coming to know its God, and on the completion of his ministry, in Jerusalem, Jesus bids his disciples to proclaim repentance and forgiveness to all nations. (Lk. 24.47-48) 851

The New Testament story... brings to a climax the process whereby God gives everything in order to carry the sin of the people of God and the sin of the world. It invites people to live in the assurance that God's reign will come and to behave as if it is here. It offers them the story of Israel, the story of Jesus and the story of the early church to inspire us to do so. 858

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Reading Through the Gospel of Luke #2 (13-24)

I am continuing to read through the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today,Luke Chart Color edited by John Stott, and post quotes from my NT reading 3 times per week on my Facebook page. I just finished reading through the Gospel of Luke last week, accompanied by the third volume in the series, The Message of Luke: The Saviour of the World, by Michael Wilcock (as always his quotes are in blue font below). In chapter 13 Jesus continues his teaching to prepare his disciples for the coming kingdom of God. He pictures it as a banquet and explains that the repentant, ready and committed will enter the kingdom banquet but those who reject the gracious invitation will be excluded and their invitations given to others (outcasts) who will respond.

(Jesus) comes to men even now, day by day, with the good news of the kingdom of God...Unspoken but implied is the urgent appeal to heed the lessons of the previous two sections, as to how man must come to seek God in penitence and emptiness, and how God will then come to meet man in salvation and blessing. Will those lessons be heeded, or not? This is the judgment. Luke 13.6-17, 141.

Any number of people today will talk about ‘One above’ whom they acknowledge but ignore, will claim to be ‘Christian’ while denying what Christ says they ought to be, and will rest content with ‘believing’ in a religion which they have neither the patience nor the courage to follow through to its conclusions. The man who wishes to pass through the narrow doorway of salvation will have to discard such half-baked religious notions before he can do so. Luke 14.1-6, 145.

It is only he who is prepared to ‘renounce all’ who will be able to enter through that narrow door. It is no use hoping for another chance, or for a less uncomfortable stripping, or for a less total yielding. You can only be a disciple if you discard all sloth, all pretensions, all reservations. That is what it means to be a disciple. Luke 14.33-35, 148.

Luke 15 is one of the best loved chapters in the Gospel. It describes how God’s love pursues sinners to bring them back into relationship with him. The outcast has value to Jesus because they are made in his image as his cherished children.

We see in this chapter, then, the great scheme of the trinitarian salvation, and, viewing each parable separately, the three Persons of the Trinity as they are engaged in it. Who is concerned with the salvation of man? It is the triune God himself. It is his ‘property’ which is precious but lost, his own sheep and his own silver and his own son, and it is he who longs to have it restored and rejoices when he has recovered it.  Luke 15, 153.

And thus 15:7 summarizes the whole lesson. It tells us who is concerned in the salvation of mankind: the principalities and powers of heaven, the triune God himself, none else and none less. It tells us why: because it is God’s joy and delight to save men from their sins. And it tells us how: by their drawing near to God as penitent, helpless sinners. For there is ‘joy in heaven over one sinner who repents’. Luke 15, 157.

In chapter 16 Jesus teaches that God gives us money to use as a tool to build relationships with God and our fellow human beings. We are accountable to God for how we use our wealth to build his kingdom. Real disciples value God and his priorities over worldly wealth. The choices we make now with our money will have eternal rewards or consequences.

Everything that we have here but shall not be able to take with us into the next life—your property, ability, time—belong to this life only, says Jesus, yet what will happen to you then, when you pass into that life, will depend on what you are doing with them here and now. Make sure that your use of them brings you into a fellowship of friends which will survive beyond death.  Luke 16.1-13, 160.

The story could equally well have featured a politician with his power, or an academic with his brains, or even a preacher with his eloquence—indeed anyone with any kind of resources or skills. Every man possesses something of the sort, be it no more than a heart and a hand and a span of life; and to every man is given some ‘Lazarus at the door’, a test case as to whether he will use those possessions rightly or wrongly, with love or with self-indulgence, bringing God’s will into the matter or leaving it out. Will he or will he not bring into time the considerations of eternity? That is the question. Luke 16.14-31, 162.

God operates the universe on the basis of grace. Thus we should live by grace demonstrated by forgiveness, faith, humble service and thankfulness. The smart way to live is to invest your life in the Messiah’s eternal kingdom now to reap the benefits of the coming consummation of the kingdom. 17-18

Having been privileged to receive all this teaching, which is Luke’s basic theme (the message of salvation for all men), we also face the challenge which is spelled out in the words of Jesus in this section, and illustrated by the story of one of his great deeds put into the centre of it. It is the challenge to be like the one, and not like the nine: actually to turn back, praising God with a loud voice, and to fall on our faces at Jesus’s feet, giving him thanks. Luke 17.1-19, 167.

For in another sense, the kingdom has come already: that is, God’s kingly power has been revealed in the person of Jesus himself... If they could not recognize the first coming of the kingdom when it was right under their noses, there was no point in telling them anything about its final coming. Luke 17.20-21, 163.

It is a mark of the disciples of Jesus that they practice constant contact with the God who they know always hears their prayer. His answer may not always be what they hope for; it may sometimes be ‘No’, it may often be ‘Wait’. But they learn by experience that, as often as they pray, so often will they be answered speedily. ‘His elect … cry to him day and night’, in fact, not because he does not listen, but precisely because he does. Luke 18.1-8, 165.

The children represent the attitude a person must have if he is to ‘receive the kingdom of God’ (18:17); conversely, a man preoccupied with his possessions will find it ‘hard … to enter the kingdom of God’ (18:24). The blind man at Jericho, as he hears the crowd passing, cries out to the ‘Son of David’, the descendant of Israel’s greatest king; and Jesus responds in the same spirit, halting the procession as with a royal word of command, having the suppliant brought into the royal presence, asking his request, and granting it then and there with royal bounty (18:38–43) Luke 18, 169–170.

Luke is saying that, whatever people may have understood by the kingdom, when it came to the most important facts of all ‘they did not grasp what was said’—their understanding of the whole was hopelessly awry if the cross was missing from it.  Luke 18.34, 172.

We receive salvation by responding to Jesus seeking us and we gain kingdom reward as we serve our
king by investing the resources God gives us in Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus presents himself to us as king, lord, God and savior. Our response should be obedience, sacrifice, praise and trust. 19

The description of Zacchaeus does give good hope that the other changes will follow in due course; the man is a capitalist—a collaborator—a crook—a notorious bad lot!—and when we witness the conversion of a person like that, there are two things we can hardly deny: its cause must be a power which can work miracles, and its effect will be repercussions all round in the society in which he lives. In other words, his world will begin to change. But it will be only because his heart has been changed first.  Luke 19.1-10, 173.

It is ‘the thunder of the Lord’s appearing’, the return of the King, which will bring our age to its close. Should we then change our ways as that day seems to be approaching, either to withdraw from the affairs of ordinary life into an increasingly inactive piety, or to plunge into ‘Christian work’ with increasingly fervent activity? No, we should not need to; the same steady faithful service is what he will be looking for, whether he returns soon or late. Luke 19.11-27, 174.

For Luke’s grasp of the message of the kingdom has from the beginning made him stress the universality of it. Jesus is King; but the earthly Jerusalem is too small and mean to contain his majesty. All nations are to be his. He is the Saviour of the world. So the destruction of that city and people, though in one sense a tragedy, is in another sense a challenge to take seriously the call to worldwide evangelism. The kingdom is for every city, every people, that the church can reach and touch with the message of salvation. Luke 19.39-44, 175.

Israel’s judgment will come because they did not recognize the coming of their king and rejected
Him, and will last until He comes again. Instead of trusting their Messiah they challenged his authority and he, with sadness, pronounced judgment on them and their religious system. 20-21

The ‘I know best’ attitude is the result not of education, nor of intellect, nor of commonsense, nor of intuition (although any of these may foster it), but simply of the basic pride of the human heart. This kind of religion must be swept right out. We cannot afford a man-centred ‘I’-centred faith. We must ‘respect him’ (20:13), for the temple from which the chief corner-stone is ‘rejected’ (20:17) cannot be far from collapse. He must always have the central place and the last word. Luke 20.1-18, 183.

His (Jesus') kind of religion is one which embraces all of life, the secular as well as the sacred, and has something to say about every part of it. Luke 20.19-26, 183.

A thoughtless religion is as unworthy of the temple as any of the distorted kinds we have seen hitherto. It is no use accepting truth without thinking it through—swallowing it without digesting it. Luke 20.41-44, 185.

Like those who saw Jerusalem besieged, those who see the Son of man coming in glory will know that judgment is not simply on its way, but has actually arrived. These, and these only, are the end-signs. All other signs indicate, not the end we look towards, but the age we live in... The disciples are told ‘to reject the usual apocalyptic interpretation of political distress. It is a sign of the age, not of the end.’ ‘This will be a time for you’, not to calculate the nearness of the Lord’s return, but ‘to bear testimony’ (21:13). Luke 21.20-28, 187–188.

Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension show that He truly was the God-Man who so completely identified Himself with sinful humanity that He suffered the consequences of sin, defeated the dark forces of sin, satan and death, and now offers forgiveness to all nations. The Son of Man is the Passover lamb whose blood begins the New Covenant and new kingdom. He submitted to the will of the Father to die, though He did not deserve it, to becomes the means of forgiveness for sinners and hope for eternal life. His resurrection shows that the glorified Son of Man can provide salvation for all nations and we are commissioned to take this message of forgiveness and universal kingdom access to all of the world. 22-24

‘Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the passover” ’ (22:8). The strange thing was that as they went they found the way had already been prepared for them (22:10–13). And what happened with the preparations for the meal was happening also on the broader scale. A divine plan was being unfolded, as a counter-plot to that of Satan. Luke 22.7-13, 191.

First he shows how the Passover fits in... But now it is to be filled with its full meaning, and from this year onwards will signify to the people of God a deliverance of the profoundest kind, from sin and death into eternal life. Moses’ exodus will be fulfilled in Jesus’s exodus. Luke 22.14-20, 192.

But for the rest of you, although Simon is going to deny me, yet I can restore even one who sinks as low as that, and through him I shall restore all of you. So much for Satan’s power! He has met his match. When the Son prays to the Father, a power is released which checks all Satan’s demands. Luke 22.31-34, 192.

From now on it is Jesus who will occupy the throne of judgment. By rejecting God’s Christ, they forfeit their right to be leaders of God’s people. In the act of judging him, they themselves are judged by him. From this point onwards the old Israel is replaced by the new, whose rightful ruler he shall be for evermore. Luke 22.63-71, 194.

The most diabolical of all the schemes of Satan was not only countered at every point by a superior plan of God’s devising. It was actually woven into that plan, and made to serve its ends. And if that was what God could do with the master-plot of hell, then there can be no evil which he cannot in the end turn to blessing. Luke 23.1-25, 197.

Let no reader imagine that he has begun to understand the Christ of the gospel—or indeed the gospel of the Christ—unless the cross has come to dominate his horizon also. Only when he has sought it, and reached it, and let it fill his vision, as it filled the vision of the Lord and of his evangelist, can he say that he is beginning to see what the Christian faith is about. Luke 23.26-56, 200.

But for the rest—for the thief, for the soldiers, for the friends, for the bystanders, even for Joseph (member of the Jewish Sanhedrin though he was!)—the offer of salvation stands open. It is for all who are not fatally determined to make their own way without Jesus. Luke 23.26-56, 204.

No deed of Jesus, and certainly not this last and greatest, has been without its accompanying word. No event has been left unexplained. Nor has any part of God’s creation or man’s life. The disciples know the words of Jesus, and need to be reminded of them. The world at large has the words of Jesus available to it, and needs the church to preach them and apply them to us condition. Yet both church and world are often quite unnecessarily ignorant of these words, a system of faith which takes everything into account and interprets all of life as one connected and meaningful whole. Luke 24.1-12, 207–208.

What we believe and what we proclaim must be only those truths which we are authorized to believe and proclaim by the teaching of the twelve...We are not at liberty to say that we feel ‘led by the Spirit’ along paths which have not been mapped by the twelve. To learn of Jesus, and so of his way forward for his church, we look to their witness alongside the witness of the Spirit: neither without the other. Luke 24.33-53, 213.

What has been achieved in the course of the gospel story is that a new way has been opened by which man and God can be reunited. There is a new temple. So it is in the temple that Luke not only begins but also ends his Gospel; the important thing now, however, is not the old building, which is doomed to destruction, but the community of Jesus’s people gathered there. Henceforth it is they who ‘are God’s temple’, and among them God is to be met with. For them, and for them alone, life is a meaningful thing, God’s word is a living reality, and the proclamation of the good news is a consuming passion. They know the Saviour, and they want the world to know him too. Luke 24:53, 215.

Spring Semester Begins at PIU

2015-01-13 11.06.53This week marked the beginning of the Spring 2015 semester at PIU. The students began arriving last week for student leadership training and for registration. Late registration runs through Friday.SAMSUNG There are still openings in the dormitory for late-coming students and space in the classrooms. In addition, I would encourage anyone in ministry to think about taking our seminary Introduction to Counseling course. The course will be taught on line and in 3 intensive Saturday sessions on the 7th, 14th and 21st. Auditors are also welcome for that course. The community is also welcome to come and check out PIU classes in liberal studies, seminary and Bible this semester. I am teaching Old Testament Survey on Tuesday afternoons at 4pm this semester. We are excited to have the students here and ask for your prayers for a good semester.

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The campus started filling up during registration last Thursday and Friday

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Nino introduced the faculty and staff at the first chapel yesterday.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

One Last Christmas Vacation Post

We asked the grandchildren where they wanted to go on their last night together on Guam and they said, “Chuck E. Cheese.” So we made a compromise. We went to Chuck E. Cheese and played games for a couple hours and then headed over to Ruby Tuesday’s for dinner. We enjoyed both. It was a lot of fun to have Matt, Kristin, Milo and Ahni with us for Christmas and New Years. We were sad to see them go last weekend. It is back to school now but here are a few more pictures of our last night of vacation.

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Although we had fun just hanging around at the house…

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We all had fun playing the games at Chuck E Cheese

Serenity and Ahni shared the merry-go-round

And did some recreational driving

And dancing