Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sunday Reading, A Fellowship of Differents #7



I am continuing to read through Scot McKnight’s new book A Fellowship of Differents: Showing The World God’s Design for Life Together. In this book McKnight makes the point that the church is not and is not to be a unity based on everyone being the same but a tasty dinner salad in which each ingredient contributes its unique flavor to the whole. The only way that this can work is through the power of the Spirit producing love in us for those who are not like us. The church is, thus, a place where people who wouldn’t normally be together, grow together into God’s image. I am going through the book one section at a time every Sunday, posting some quotes on my Facebook page and a summary here on my blog. I welcome comments on my Facebook page. Quotes from the book are in blue.
Part 5 of the book is on Newness. Paul says that “in Christ” we are a new creation. McKnight sees 4 new aspects to that newness: Freedom, Faithfulness, Guidance and Politics. All of these are placed in us by God’s working through the Holy Spirit as we respond with a “rugged commitment” to love God with all our being and love our neighbor (who is very different than us) as we love ourselves.
First, we have a new freedom. The bottom line on this freedom is that it comes from God, not from anything external and is a freedom to be what God has made us to be. It is a freedom to break out of social boundaries and love others. It is freedom from God’s judgment and enslavement to sin. It is a freedom to live within the only constraint which is to love. We are not bound by others’ reactions to us because we can love them not “for who they are now but for what God will make them in the kingdom.”

Yes, a life of freedom means exploring new ideas and new ways of living, which requires discernment. Discernment about how freedom means fellowship, godliness, holiness, love, justice, wisdom, and peace, and how it does not mean indulgence, greed, vindictiveness, and narcissism. 149

The second Newness that God gives us is A New Faithfulness. This is faith seen over the long-haul of life. God’s power for it is placed in us from the moment we know Jesus but it “is unleashed in us as we look to, lean on, and love God,” and “is the result of a lifetime of daily commitments.” It is mostly ordinary people making a daily decision to live the way Jesus would do.
We live ordinary lives, and faithfulness is about learning that being ordinary is okay. The ordinary Christian life of the ordinary Christian is faithfulness. How does it happen? God’s grace. 165

The third gift we receive from God is A New Guidance. McKnight characterizes God as a “charismatic Anglican” with a mix of routine and spontaneity that allowed this “fellowship of differents” to make God-led decisions together. It starts with being scripture-led which means being constrained by the clear principles of God’s Word. The church must also be Spirit-led as we hear from God how we are to apply His word to new situations and develop a mission which is biblically founded but meets the needs of where we are today. In other words, “we are to plan in light of God’s Scripture-soaked mission, but we must be open to the Spirit’s interruption. Here are four necessary words for that guidance: Scripture, Spirit, mission, and plans.”


From the first to the last breath of each day, Paul breathed Scripture-shaped, Spirit-directed mission air. His mission was to get Gentiles in the church at table with Jewish believers in the grand experiment of a cross-cultural, multiracial, multi-status, and dual-gendered body of Christ. 174

Finally, Christians have A New Politics. Our highest allegiance must be to King Jesus and the truth that he will rule the world (the “state” is only temporary). But, for us today, we like Jesus do not accomplish the kingdom by the sword but by the cross – he had “surrendered the way of coercion for the way of crucifixion because his ‘political theory’ was the gospel.” The church being the church, the way it is supposed to be is the strongest political statement we could make. The church’s job is to call people to follow Jesus.
The primary relation of the Christian to the state is to live under King Jesus in the church, the body of Christ, in such a way that we embody Christlikeness in a way that witnesses to the world. 187

Friday, May 29, 2015

Reading Through 1st Corinthians

I am continuing to read through the New Testament accompanied by the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today, edited by John R. W. Stott. The seventh volume of the series is The Message of 1 Corinthians: Life in the Local Church, authored by David Prior. Each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I post quotes from these commentaries on my Facebook page and periodic summaries of the commentary here on my blog. I welcome discussion on these post on my Facebook page. As always, quotes from the author are in blue font.

To me the message of First Corinthians is that the life we live in the present age needs to reflect our “taking up Jesus’ cross as we trust him and live out his example of a God-glorifying, Other–serving lifestyle in the power of the Holy Spirit. We do this by viewing our own life as serving others and the Gospel as an extension of Jesus Christ’s life in order to build up the people around us (the church) into what God wants them to be. The only way that this makes any sense is if we are motivated by the truth that we will be resurrected and rule with the ascended Christ in the age to come.

Paul’s “everything for the gospel” motivation is what makes the many seeming contradictions (I am totally free, yet slave of everyone) in his ministry logical and sensible. Sadly many in the Corinthian church did not understand this and were living lives focused on themselves and as if the cross was no longer a daily reality in their lives. 1 Corinthians was written to correct this. First, God has provided everything the church needs to be what He has called it to be. It has God’s gift of leadership, responsibility and all the gifted people it needs to accomplish what God has called it to do.
The practical implications of this ‘glorious hope’ in terms of our vision for the local church are relatively straightforward. It must surely mean that we are unreservedly committed to the church of God where he has placed us; that we are unhesitatingly confident about God’s desire and ability to make his church in that place like Jesus Christ; that we are uncompromisingly certain about the call for us to be holy, as he is holy. 1 Corinthians 1.8-9, 26–27.
However, the church must address the evils within it. It should reflect in its behavior who Christ made it to be. Division and disunity must be dealt with. Christ is the foundation of the church, not any human leader, and so the church should never divide based on devotion to certain leaders. Leaders will be judged based on how they kept focus on Christ. Prideful leaders who will not serve, but try to seize power, should be disciplined severely.
So-called ‘clashes of personality’ often, on analysis, are nothing much more than a failure, or even a refusal, to let God’s love change us in our attitudes to one another. We allow theological differences (instead of the love of God) to determine the quality, openness and depth of our relationships... We part company convinced that the real problem is theological, when in fact we have managed, by our very detachment, to prevent the love of God from bringing harmony and mutual acceptance. We then declare that theological differences are the cause of the schism between us.  1 Corinthians 1.10-17, 30–31.God is overthrowing one of the false standards of the world, i.e. the notion that those who matter to him are the wise, the well-bred, the articulate, the gifted, the wealthy, the wielders of power and influence. Such standards die very hard even in the Christian church. They were a powerful force at Corinth; they stifle the glory of God today. 1 Corinthians 1.26-31, 46.We must beware any tendency to sit back on our haunches and to feel that we have ‘arrived’. We must determine to love God with every fibre of our being. We must link closely with our fellow-believers in the body of Christ, because to have the mind of Christ is essentially a corporate experience: ‘we have the mind of Christ’ (16). As we pursue these priorities, the Spirit will unfold to us more and more of the wisdom of God in Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Lord. 1 Corinthians 2.1-16, 53–54.Division, rivalry, jealousy arise in the church because certain leaders lord it over the flock and God’s people often love to have it so; it is less demanding, less disturbing. Authority in the church, truly Christian authority, comes from those who lay down their lives for their brethren in service and availability. Any other authority is worldly authority and is to be rejected. 1 Corinthians 3.5-8, 57.These verses in 1 Corinthians 3 urge us to take with full seriousness both the certainty of eternal life and the scrutiny which the Lord will bring to our daily service as Christians. He is passionately concerned for the church, his building (9): it is his temple; his Spirit dwells in the church, in each local church (16). It is not surprising, therefore, that he is prepared to destroy anyone who uses his God-given talents to suck the life out of his church, to destroy God’s temple.  1 Corinthians 3.9-17, 60.We never reach our perfect bliss here: we shall not have perfect health, we shall not have instant guidance, we shall not be in constant, beautiful contact with the Lord. We are still human; we are still in the world; we are still mortal; we are still exposed to sin, the world, the flesh and the devil; we must still wrestle and watch and pray; we shall still fall and fail. There is victory; there is power; there is healing; there is guidance; there is salvation—but we have not yet arrived. We live in two worlds and there must therefore be tension. 1 Corinthians 4.8-13, 67.
The church needs to police itself for the sake of the gospel. Immorality in the church should be disciplined severely to provoke repentance. The church has a responsibility to judge properly those within it, not those outside the church. Believers should be willing to suffer loss before they would bring the name of Christ into disrepute by their behavior. It is better to absorb wrongs than shame the name of Christ with selfish exploitation of one another. Our changed position in Christ should be reflected by changed behavior. Thus, the idea that sexual immorality is immaterial is crazy because it destroys the body, joins Christ to sin and go against our calling and position.
Paul is not satisfied with a ‘lowest common denominator’ approach to his daily behaviour; he wants to ensure that what he does is genuinely helpful for his daily witness to unbelievers, for his work in the church and for his walk with Christ. Paul thus wants everything we do to have a positive result on our own lives and on the lives we touch day by day.  1 Corinthians 6.12-20, 96.The combination of asserting my rights and passing judgment on everyone else is one of the most insidious tendencies in the church of God. Both evils should have been transcended through the redemption which is ours in Jesus Christ. Rights have given way to reconciliation and mutual responsibility: passing judgment has been buried with Christ as one of the most destructive and loathsome characteristics of our unredeemed lower nature. 1 Corinthians 6.1-8, 107.
Issues in the church should be handled according to Christ and His Word rather than by worldly means, for example marriage. Paul says that while celibacy may be good for some people or for all people in temporary situations, marriage is good and honorable and its responsibilities should be honored.
Partners deprive each other in marriage by failing to give, especially to give what God wants us to give. Paul here nails any selfishness or inconsiderate excess in the physical aspects of marriage. This whole approach to equality and mutuality in the marriage-relationship was completely revolutionary in Paul’s day, remained so for many centuries afterwards, and continues to be so in virtually every modern culture... Throughout this passage Paul talks in terms of absolute equality within Christian marriage, which was not at all normal in his day. 1 Corinthians 7.3-4, 116.In Christ we are united, we are one. From now on, therefore, Christians must never allow any human category to divide them, especially when others try to bring them into bondage by enforcing such divisions. We all have one Master, one Teacher, one Saviour, one Lord: to him alone we owe our total allegiance. We have been bought with a price (23; the same phrase as in 6:20). With that allegiance we will each find a firm commitment to our present position, a growing flexibility about material things, and a liberating freedom from the countless distractions which confront us in our calling in the world. 1 Corinthians 7.17-24, 132.
We are free in Christ. But, we should use our freedom to love and serve God and others not for self-indulgence. Because love overrules knowledge we should limit our liberty with love for our weaker brothers to avoid leading them to do something for which their conscience would condemn them.        We should follow Paul's example of relinquishing personal rights for the Gospel so that we can be rewarded by God. We should not use our privileged position for selfish indulgence because we will be punished as Israel was. God has provided the way to defeat that temptation.
When a Christian’s character is controlled by love and is growing in true knowledge, he is no longer concerned so much with how well he knows God, as with being known by God. That actually is the proof of true love for God. Any true knowledge does not lead to pride in what we know, but to humility about what we do not know...We must, therefore, each strive to make our whole behaviour constructive by asking ourselves such questions as, ‘Are people brought closer to God? Are Christians strengthened in their faith? Are people glad to have met us?’ When a Christian’s knowledge is radiated and released by love, he is clearly demonstrating that he knows God and that God knows him, i.e. that there is a deepening personal relationship between the two. 1 Corinthians 8, 143–144.The overwhelming impression is of a man (Paul) so utterly dedicated to the gospel, that he was constantly worrying about this drawback and that hindrance. Barrett puts it powerfully: ‘The gospel, which turned upon the love and self-sacrifice of Jesus, could not fitly be presented by preachers who insisted on their rights, delighted in the exercise of authority, and made what profit they could out of the work of evangelism.’ 1 Corinthians 9.1-18, 156–157.Paul’s versatility in seeking to win men of all backgrounds to Christ challenges us to cross the culture-gap between the Christian sub-culture of cosy meetings and holy talk and the pagan culture of our local community. The task of identification with and incarnation into our contemporary paganism, of all kinds, is one of the biggest tasks confronting the church.  1 Corinthians 9.19-23, 162.The Lord is a jealous God, who brooks no rivals, no comparisons, no alternatives. There are dangers in presumptuousness and complacency, especially the danger of finding ourselves victims of the humiliating fall which inevitably follows all pride. But there is, if anything, even greater danger in compromise, because we smudge the issues and let in all kinds of spiritual counterfeits which confuse the truth as it is in Jesus, as well as being in obvious conflict with it.  1 Corinthians 10.14-22, 175.
We have freedom in our worship. But, worship should be done with propriety and order. The church should honor one another as a people whom Jesus died for when they come together for the Lord's Supper or they will experience the judgment of God for their sin.
That is Christian freedom: being free from ourselves to glorify God by being like Christ. 1 Corinthians 11.1, 177.Paul wants the women to dress normally and naturally in Christian worship. He wants such worship to give glory to God and to make it obvious that Christians have been set free to worship and to glorify God. So he urges the Corinthians: ‘Do not ignore the obvious pointers of creation or of nature. God made us like this. Do not flout all the dictates of common sense and decency in your worship. Let it be Christ-centred and God-glorifying.’ 1 Corinthians 11.3-16, 184–185.Such selectivity in Christian convictions amongst those submitted to the Lordship of Jesus is inevitable. But there is absolutely no need, let alone any propriety, for Christians to sunder fellowship on the basis of such distinctives. When such schism actually penetrates the public worship of the congregation, the situation is scandalous...When those who claim to be Christians love nothing better than empty and profitless arguments about theological niceties, that indicates their real spiritual condition. Such folk are not genuine (dokimoi), they have not passed the test, and their loud claims about theological ‘soundness’ will not impress the Lord on that crucial day when our Christian service is scrutinized. 1 Corinthians 11.17-22, 186–187
Spiritual gifts should be exercised in a way that takes up the cross of Christ. The diversity of spiritual gifts is an expression of the unity in the body of Christ, and should be exercised in loving ways to build up the church. All spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit so that the church can carry out the work of the Head, Jesus Christ. Each person is to use his/her gift for the benefit of the other members of the church. Love is the surest sign of the Spirit's presence and power because it is eternal and brings more profit to the body. Thus, the gifts are important, but only for building the church. This purpose should govern all use of spiritual gifts.
To be truly ‘spiritual’ drives a person neither to ecstasy nor to individualism nor to other-worldliness, but into the life of the local church as an expression of his personal commitment to Jesus as Lord and to his body here on earth. It is there that the implications of what it is to be ‘spiritual’, men and women of the Spirit, will be worked out...To distance ourselves from other Christians is to waver in our allegiance to Jesus as Lord: this is the unmistakable thrust of what Paul now proceeds to unfold in the ensuing three chapters. 1 Corinthians 12.1-3, 195.We need today to point one another with expectancy to Jesus the baptizer as the person who longs to take us all deeper and deeper into the reality of the Spirit’s power and presence. It is not a question of one special experience to be imposed upon all; but it is a reality to be experienced, and that experience can be continuous and daily. This expectant openness to experience the Spirit more and more on the part of every Christian will unite the body in eager dependence upon Jesus. 1 Corinthians 12.12-13, 212.In the love of God there is no place for asserting our rights, despising our gifts, envying our brothers and sisters, or treating them insensitively and boorishly. Such love, in any case, turns us outwards to look to the needs and the interests of others: when we notice that our behaviour or attitudes are damaging or offending another person, love propels us to deal with such inner darkness through the grace of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 13.4-5, 231Whatever Paul means in encouraging the gift of prophecy, he does not suggest that any Christian can be on a par with those original prophets as organs of divine revelation. Any subsequent manifestation of this gift must be submitted to the authoritative teaching of the original apostles and prophets, as contained in the Canon of Scripture1 Corinthians 14.1-5, 235This uncertainty about what God might do with us as his church need not move us, in the face of spiritual phenomena of various kinds, either into childish gullibility or into sceptical rationalism. It does almighty God no service to be constantly spotlighting what some regard as exceptional and extraordinary. Nor is it honouring to him to preclude any manifestation of his power and glory which we find it hard to explain or control...We believe that a supreme miracle happens in conversion and regeneration: why not thereafter? 1 Corinthians 14.37-40, 255
Living out the cross of Jesus makes sense because of resurrection: The resurrection is central to our faith and should motivate us to steadfast, sacrificial service because we know that our present corrupted bodies will be changed to eternal bodies at the return of Christ. It is central to the Gospel,  gives our faith meaning and significance, gives us hope, renews and changes us now. Christ's resurrection guarantees ours and someday we will exchange our fleshly corrupt bodies for eternal ones. This is why we can give up all those rights and freedoms give ourselves over to to God and his work.
Christianity is concerned, not with mere immortality, nor with sheer survival, nor with the transmigration of the soul, nor with reincarnation, but with resurrection from the dead. For Paul, as for all the New Testament writers, this necessarily meant the raising of the whole person from the dead, not just his soul or his body or even his personality. Resurrection is consistently seen in the New Testament as a demonstration of God’s power over death. 1 Corinthians 15.1-11, 258Faith is not created, sustained or increased by looking at ourselves or at others, but only by absorbing the reality and the implications of the resurrection of Jesus...If Jesus rose from the dead, God raised him. 1 Corinthians 15.14-15, 263–264Death … sin … the law—all have been broken wide open in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Even now we can experience victory over this trio, but the full fruits of the victory of God through our Lord Jesus Christ are only for the last day. As with all that God has done for us in Christ, this victory is a gift of his grace: thanks be to God, who gives us the victory, now and then. 1 Corinthians 15.51-57, 276
Our belief in Jesus and resurrection is most clearly seen when we care for one another financially and by meeting one another's needs in personal fellowship – Unity and Love!!!
Wherever the gospel is faithfully preached, it always challenges economic vested interests and will make many wealthy and influential people very nervous. The true church has always been opposed, not by the poor, but by the wealthy...The presence of opposition does not mean that we have moved out of the will of God. There were many in Corinth then, as indeed there are many today, who at least intimated that everything goes smoothly when we are properly in touch with the Lord. The New Testament teaches differently. 1 Corinthians 16, 282

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Happy 36th Anniversary


Today,on the Mainland anyway, marks the completion of the 36th year of marriage for Joyce and I. We were married on one of the hottest days of the year in Placerville California in 1979. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I would say to myself what the Old Knight said to Indiana Jones, “You chose…. wisely.”

Here are a couple of old family pictures. I would say the lower one  is about 1995 and the upper one would be 1998.



And 1978 to the present



Monday, May 25, 2015

More on the Weekend with the Grandkids

SAMSUNGHappy Memorial Day! We have been enjoying the past week with the grandkids. Mike and SAMSUNGSamantha came back from their vacation in Japan yesterday. But we had some fun with the kids before then on Saturday. I took them to the movies on Saturday afternoon so Joyce could have some quiet tree-cutting time. And what do you do when you have lots of wood in your yard? You roast hot dogs and marshmallows! So that is what we did Saturday night. Sunday morning we had a breakfast potluck at church and then picked up Mike and Sam at the airport. They came bearing gifts as you can see from the pictures. Joyce and I plan to have a quiet memorial day at home. Stay blessed!

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The marshmallows were great. Note all the downed trees in the background

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The downed tree provides play equipment for the kids. On the right they enjoy breakfast with their friends at church

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The girls got new kimonos from Japan

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I can’t resist posting some more cute kimono pictures

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And a couple action shots

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Reading–A Fellowship of Differents #6

41EvRIDnBvL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_I am continuing to read through Scot McKnight’s new book A Fellowship of Differents: Showing The World God’s Design for Life Together. In this book McKnight makes the point that the church is not and should not be a homogenous group of same-thinking people who are unified because they really have no differences. Instead the church shows the radical change made in our lives by the Spirit, as people from different cultural, ethnic, economic, and social backgrounds come together in unity that includes al the human variegated diversity. The value that binds this diverse group together is God’s love, which McKnight defines as a rugged commitment to be with you, to be for you and to walk toward God together with you. The church is, thus, a place where we grow together into God’s image (God’s image in humans involves relationship with one another since God is Trinity) and help each other move away from sin to what God made us to be. I am going through the book one section at a time every Sunday, posting some quotes on my Facebook page and a summary here on my blog. I welcome comments on my Facebook page. Quotes from the book are in blue.

The next, section of the book is on Holiness. Chapter 11 defines Holiness as Devotion to God. McKnight begins the chapter by saying, “The best way to ruin holiness is to turn it into a list of Don’ts.” Holiness is often defined as being “separated,” and this tends to get narrowed to “separation from sin.” The problem with this definition is that it is incomplete. The reason we separate from sin is because of devotion to God and relationship with Him. The way to holiness is not through human self-control but from being in the presence of God and allowing him to work in us. Then we do the “Do’s” and avoid the “Don’t’s” in the power of the Spirit.

Holiness is the work of God in us. So if we want our church to become holy, we need to learn to spend time in God’s presence, basking in the light of his holiness. 119

He wants those churches to be holy, but he knows that God’s work in them will lead them away from sins and toward the greatest virtues running through the Roman Empire — love, justice, peace, compassion, and forgiveness. 121

Chapter 12 deals with an area we often first think of when we talk about holiness, Sexual Bodies in a Church. McKnight begins the chapter by discussing the background in Roman culture to Paul’s instructions about sexuality. 1st century Roman culture (think Corinth) was probably more sexually indulgent than even our modern Western culture. Then and now, “Sexual redemption, holiness, and purity are part of the ongoing church life both then (and today).” Paul’s mission was “counter-cultural” in that what the Gentile Christians did in the past was forgiven (vs. Jewish view) and that sexual relations were designed by God for man and wife (contra Roman culture). McKnight applies this to people with same-sex attraction by calling the church to the same rugged commitment to grow together with them, “in holiness, love, and righteousness together.” We must realize that sanctification is a process and be “a community marked by the transparency of a loving commitment to one another and pursuing holiness together in a way we all flee sexual temptations.” He calls for a 3rd way that calls for neither rejection, nor toleration but “transformation toward redemption. It knows that it may wait until the kingdom for the kind of liberation redemption brings. The Third Way also believes the context for this redemption is the local fellowship, the church.”

Paul’s holiness mission, then, is to rescue notorious Roman sinners from the sinful life of the Roman world and to establish them in a life of sexual holiness among God’s new people, the church… Paul’s language here about what is “natural” is as wide as it can get: he sees all same-sex sexual relations as outside the divine, created order and inconsistent with life “in Christ.”  128

If we are called to love one another, we are called to be “with” gays and lesbians (this means physical presence over time), and we are called to be “for” in the sense that these folks will know they are loved, and we are summoned to walk with gays and lesbians toward the kingdom of God and toward sexual holiness. 130

Finally, chapter 13 emphasizes the importance of seeing Salvation as Process. We need to stop looking at salvation as a “one-and-done event but as “a story” of a “a mini-exodus leading God’s people to liberation.” Our exodus is from the domination of the kingdom of darkness and from death and from a life of sin into God’s kingdom (which for now is his church) and a life of devotion to God. But just as it took the Israelites a long time to enter the promised land, it will also be a long process for us to fully realize and live in our liberation. Thus, we need that rugged commitment to love as we move forward, fail, confess, and move forward again toward devotion to God.

At the heart of the apostle’s mission is God’s mission to rescue both Gentiles and Jews, males and females, slaves and the free — and the mini-exodus, or personal-exodus, for each leads them into a kind of “promised land” called the church. The church is a fellowship of liberated differents, a community that has gone through a mini-exodus designed to liberate its people. 138

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Grandkids Week

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SAMSUNGThis week Joyce and I have been watching the grandkids while Mike and Samantha are taking their vacation in Japan. When we agreed to do this we did not know it would begin the day after a category 2 typhoon hit the island and we would be in typhoon SAMSUNGrecovery mode. Nevertheless, things have worked out and it has been an enjoyable week with the kids. I have been taking Titus and Courage to school in the morning and then Joyce brings Serenity by PIU so she can go to work at the Japanese school. That means that Serenity and I have been going out to lunch a lot this week. The kids have been a “big help” as we clean up from the typhoon and we have done a couple other activities with them. The pictures are from a grocery shopping trip with Courage and Serenity. (Titus was busy with homework) Of course we had to stop for some frozen yogurt while we were out. Mike and Sam come back tomorrow afternoon.

Goldingay on Worship in the Old Testament

Goldingay3I am continuing to work through Volume 3 of Goldingay’s, Old Testament Theology, Israel’s Life. In this volume Goldingay is looking at how Israel was to live, “not the life Israel actually lived”, but “the life the First Testament reckons it should have been and should be.” I continue to post quotes from Volume 3 on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays. There will be a link to this blog post on my Facebook page where you can comment. Please comment there. I love Goldingay’s perspective, but don’t always agree with him. So I welcome a good discussion on Facebook.

In Chapter 2, Goldingay sees Israel’s worship as Submission and Celebration. It involves daily life and special rituals. It involves inward attitude and outward action. It involves commitment of heart, mind, body and life. As Goldingay says, “Neither outward obedience, not inner attitude is enough on its own; we are whole people and the relationship involves the whole person.” The first aspect of worship he looks at is Obeying Yhwh. God is in relationship with us but his role is king and we are the subjects. Thus we worship by deferring to His plan and will and acknowledging our dependence on Him. This involves a lifestyle (walking) and mindset (following) of commitment to God’s ways. This done because we know that God loves us, based on his acts of deliverance, and we love him in return. Thus, we heed his instruction (torah) and word (prophets) because we trust Him.

Yhwh is indeed relational and desires intimacy, but this is by no means the central feature of Genesis 1-3 or Exodus. Much more prominent is the awareness that Yhwh is the supreme and lordly God who lays down the law for humanity and needs to be taken seriously in this connection. 53-54

Israel's calling to be Godlike will then involve confronting and disciplining people when they are in the wrong, but in such a way they can find cleansing and restoration to their place in the community. 59

It is easy for Christian faith to be legalistic, and in this connection talk of obedience is dangerous. Alternatively, it is easy for Christian faith to assimilate to the culture...Either stance loses dynamic of covenant in which submission to God is our personal response to God reaching out to us. God's relationship to us is neither conditional or unconditional. It involves mutual commitment, like that of two friends or bride and groom or teacher and student or pastor and congregation. 65-66

Secondly, worship involves Revering Yhwh. This involves a “fear of Yhwh” that holds us back from unfaithfulness. It also involves a deep reverence and awe for who He is. This should lead to “wonder” and an “openness” to this awesome God who is in relationship with us and cares for us. We “honor” and “respect” God as we place both Him and ourselves in the proper order and position within the universe. Of course, we must place God in this position exclusively. When we do this we can have joy, confidence and comfort, and be free of worry and fear of others; not because nothing bad ever happens, but because we have “accepted Yhwh’s vision for our lives.” 

As 'slavery' was reconstrued by the Priestly tradents to denote the liberating integrity of 'servanthood,' the 'fear of Yahweh' marks for the sages an exodus of the will, from fear of the world to reverence of and obedience to Yahweh, a 'fear' that banishes all fear (Prov. 3.25). Thus to speak of "fearing Yhwh" is to speak of being a true believer, of worshipping Yhwh in the proper way, of recognizing Yhwh as real God (1 Kings 8.43). 76

The difference between God and us is that God never thinks he is us. 85

When Moses recalls the people's fear about entering the land, he makes explicit that fear (at least the paralyzing fear that issues in a refusal to take action) and confidence in Yhwh are mutually exclusive, and that confidence has bases: Yhwh has acted on the people's behalf in the past and can therefore be trusted for the future (Deut. 1.29-33). Fear and trust do not go together; the second replaces the first. 94

Thus naturally, fearing Yhwh, leads to Trusting Yhwh. “Fear is thus designed to give way to trust. Trust has special emphasis in the First Testament...The verb rather denotes an active self-commitment on the basis of an awareness that there is something there that can be trusted..."Faith" in Israel meant trusting someone. (99-100). We can trust God for both our present and future prosperity. The temptation is to trust other things, such as ourselves or place other things at the center of our lives as gods. We avoid by keeping mindful of God and his promises and focusing our hopes on Him. With this expectant mindset we can wait for God to act, take risks for God and approach life in a calm and confident way.

One side of sin is confidence in oneself, making oneself God, but its obverse is resignation or despair or hopelessness. "Humanness is pervasively hope-filled, not in the sense of a buoyant, unreflective optimism, but in the conviction that individual human destiny is powerfully presided over by this One who wills good and who works that good." Thus, Israel does not hope for something, but hopes in God. 108

Yhwh can be trusted to provide; that makes it possible to be enthusiastic about reliance on Yhwh (Ps 37)...A delighted trust in Yhwh that is confident in what Yhwh will do has the capacity to melt vexation. Looking with delight at Yhwh makes it possible to stop looking with vexation at other people. Or perhaps the abandonment of vexation makes it possible to being delighting in Yhwh. 113

A key way to worship Yhwh is by Serving Yhwh. This is what humanity was created for: to respond to Yhwh in expressions of worship. We serve Him when we bow before God as master and offer our worship. This can be done through ritual (these are very important reminders of who God is), symbol and sacrament. The Israelites approached God through the altar and in the sanctuary and festivals. The point was that they “come into God’s presence.” This is the essence of worship. It was important to worship without images because worship “portrays God,” and we need to regard him accurately. Our rituals must do this and provide an opportunity to listen to what God has done and then confess it back to Him.

For many Western Christians the criterion for evaluating worship is how good it makes them feel: whether they enjoy it, whether it gives them a sense of God's presence; whether they feel encouraged or built up by it. The First Testament takes for granted that worship means being in God's presence and that it involves joy, but insofar as it evaluates worship, it does so on the basis of whether it is offered for Yhwh's sake. If worship is service, whether it makes us feel good is totally irrelevant to its evaluation. 117

Hebrew has no word for "temple," and the word most commonly so translated (hekal) is the word for a royal palace. The model for the understanding of this worship is that of the presence of a king in his court, before whom people can appear to pay homage and seek help. It really is possible to come into the presence of God. 125-126

Worship involves both noise and attentiveness. Both are appropriate responses to what Yhwh has done. Listening without noise is not enough; noise without listening is not enough. 132-133

Worship also involves Giving to Yhwh. This is not just words of praise but a prayer or “an act of praise that is acted.” “Sacrifices and offerings are gifts to Yhwh that express commitment, develop fellowship, dissolve taboo and make up for shortcomings.” Sacrifices in the OT were linked to shouting, singing and vocal acts of confession and praise. The gifts recognize how much God has given to them. The different sacrifices highlighted different aspects of the relationship between God and Israel. Giving does not make us acceptable to Yhwh, it acknowledges that Yhwh has accepted us and recognizes that He has already given wonderful gifts to us.

Words (of praise, confession) are vitally important in their own right. While offerings are unacceptable when not linked to a life of self-offering to Yhwh and to other people, a converse is also true. There is something perverted about love for one's neighbor without love for God, and something inadequate about offerings without words. 137

Yhwh desires to be in the kind of fellowship with Israel that involves eating together, though people ate "before" Yhwh, not "with" Yhwh, and once again Leviticus hardly implies that Yhwh ate the sacrifice. 142

Yhwh does not make demands that wear people out. First Testament offerings have a token, symbolic nature. They do not pretend to make up for wrongdoing in a quantitative way. They do not cause Yhwh to accept people; the instinct to do so comes from inside Yhwh. Further, more important than these offerings is a turning around of the life that replaces rebellion and failure with mispat and hesed, commitment to other people expressed in decisive action toward them, and also a different stance in relation to God (Mic 6.8). 147-148

The Israelite worship festivals were placed throughout the year to highlight the truth that worship was an ongoing, daily thing that involved Sojourning with Yhwh. They were a reminder that the presence of Yhwh, His care and their obligations to Him were a constant reality.  Each festival of the yearly calendar was thus designed to highlight different aspects of daily life and God’s care for them. The “day in the courts” was to carry over into the “thousand elsewhere.” Ordinary life was to be lived in a way that was mindful of the festivals and reminded them that their daily lives were on a journey with God who was their “refuge from danger.”

When Christianity speaks of longing and thirsting for God, it often refers to an inner sense of God's reality and presence. When Israel speaks thus, it refers to a longing to get to the sanctuary, a longing that relates to the assurance that Yhwh is objectively present there. Yhwh is not elusive, and an assurance of being in Yhwh's presence is not dependent on a worshiper's inner feelings. Yhwh actually dwells in the sanctuary...This is not to imply that people's inner beings are not involved. Psalm 42 makes clear that relating to God involves the whole person, body and spirit, and it involves the individual but in relation to the community. 154

As the event (Passover) recurs it embraces the participants once again and takes them in their own experience from bondage to freedom. If they are actually living in some Egypt, its doing so is the more important, so that the real world in which service of the king gave way to service of Yhwh becomes again the world that shapes the lives of people who are tempted to live as if the world in which this does not take place is the truly real world. It is as if celebrating the Eucharist convinces people facing their own cross that carrying it will not be empty or futile. 162

Finally, worship also involves Praising Yhwh. We have a very serious commitment to God but, since we have a very capable master who loves us, it is a commitment that provokes joy, confidence and celebration. This celebration can be exuberant with shouting, singing, dancing, ululating and music. It should involve our body movements as well as our hearts and voices. Praise should be done as individuals and together with the assembly of believers. It should be an expression of our joy that God rules His creation, that he has delivered us in the past and promises to do so in the future. Praise should happen because, though we live in a threatening world, we have a king with a plan who will accomplish all of His agenda. 

First Testament worship involves praise that in its multifaceted nature expresses itself in posture, sound, words and music. It involves the body (waving and prostration), the heart (joy and grief), and the mind and voice (declaring who Yhwh is and what Yhwh has done...Sound is at the heart of praise, both noise and music, both singing and instruments. 173

We shout with enthusiasm because Yhwh is the great King over all the gods and the one to whom the whole cosmos belongs, as its maker. We then bow in prostration because this God is our God, our maker, our shepherd...The psalm's (95) logic suggests the thought-provoking notion that the prostration of the worshipers is the deeper because of the realization that the sovereign God is the one committed to us. 177

The Scriptures are the community's resource for the shaping of its praise, while also making it possible for the Holy Spirit and the human spirit to express fresh insights with the stimulus of these words. 183

In Israel the praise of Yhwh was often under threat. The danger was not that the Israelites might give up praise but that they might give their praise to another deity. In the everyday Christian world, we are more inclined to congratulate and praise one another than to praise the wrong deity... All these idiosyncrasies mean we surrender the capacity of praise to make a world. We no longer have the experience of affirming who God is and thereby seeing the world in a new way. 190

Friday, May 22, 2015

Thank You

SAMSUNGThank you to our friends, Pastor Curt Miller and New Hope Christian Fellowship for the gift of two, top of the line, chain saws to PIU to help in our typhoon recovery efforts on campus. SAMSUNGThese will also be welcome additions to the our maintenance tool inventory. We have beautiful trees all over our campus (even after the typhoon – and everything grows fast here) which means that a chain saw is always helpful. We appreciate your support and partnership in providing excellent Christian higher education to the people of Guam, Micronesia and the Pacific Islands. Is it possible that Joyce might be enjoying wielding that chainsaw a little too much? Smile

Monday, May 18, 2015

Typhoon Dolphin Clean-Up

SAMSUNGTyphoon Dolphin clean up and recovery continues. The Guam Power crews worked through the night and I am happy to report that we have power and internet at our house. (After typhoon Pongsona our house was without power for about 100 days) but our water pressure is very low. PIU has water but still has not received power. We had to cancel classes today (Monday) but are hoping we will be in full session tomorrow. We stayed at Mike and Sam’s house the last two nights but will move back in to our own house tonight. The grandkids also go back to their public elementary school in the morning. Here is a picture of part of the crew working at PIU today.

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Yesterday Joyce and Titus cleaned out the drains on our roof. The winds had blown leaves and debris into them so they needed to be cleared to drain this lake that was on our roof

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Here we pose with the tools

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A lot of tree cutting and debris removal. We will sure miss the trees in front of the classrooms

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday Reading–A Fellowship of Differents

41EvRIDnBvL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_I am continuing to tread through Scot McKnight’s new book A Fellowship of Differents: Showing The World God’s Design for Life Together. Normally I read through more than one chapter on a Sunday but, with the typhoon disrupting our lives here and the fact that this chapter was particularly convicting, I decided to read and post on only one chapter this Sunday.

Chapter 10 is entitled We Is Bigger Than Me. The main point of the chapter is that Americans have a tendency to think that the gospel is more about the individual than the group, so they do not need the church. In fact they feel they should not attend until they find the church that is perfect for them. This is the first of the “whispers” in the American church that challenge its importance. The first whisperer is Roger Williams (a particular hero in my background) who so tried to establish the perfect church that he pulled out of churches which he started and ended up as a church of one. The church has always been messy. “There never was a golden era when the church "did church" perfectly.” (107)

McKnight rightly criticizes those who want to be part of a church of “like-minded” people who will make a “pure church.” He quotes Bonhoeffer on the danger of this search for the perfect church.

Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial. 108

The second “whisperer” is Henry David Thoreau the American prophet of individualism. The American desire to follow the “different drummer” conflicts with Jesus’ emphasis on fellowship, community and love. As McKnight says, “The one who drinks the Me-beer of Thoreau will not find the We-wine of the Eucharist to his taste.” (109) This focus on the individual in American culture tends to turn the American church into a business which sells spirituality.

The church needs to be a place of sharing and community that is created by the Holy Spirit within a group of people that are not like each other. That is when the outside community will say “behold, how they love each other!” It is when the messy church is in fellowship that God is glorified, because only He could do that. As McKnight concludes…

When God's people live in fellowship with one another, when they "do life" together, the church embodies the gospel about King Jesus and people respond to the gospel about him. When they live in fellowship, the Me finds its joy in the We. It's messy, believe me, very messy, but no matter what the mess, the gospel is at work to turn messy people into holy people, even if it takes a lifetime (or more). 112

Immediate Aftermath of Typhoon Dolphin

Well, we made it through another typhoon. We were off-island for the two big typhoons in 2002 saftermath (31)o I am talking about Paka in 1997. If you want to see a Youtube video about that typhoon experience you can go here. This one was nowhere near as bad as that one, but it did bring back some bad memories. I was most worried about the roofs at PIU but they made it through ok. We are very glad we cut limbs off the big tree behind the PIU computer center because that tree cracked all the way down the trunk. We will need to take that one completely out. We lost a lot of our fruit trees at home but we are glad there was no damage to the house. We are still waiting for power and water to be restored to our house in Yigo. We hope soon. Here are a few pictures of the immediate aftermath of the typhoon at our house and at PIU.

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Pointed down our driveway (left) and toward the jungle (right)

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Our fichus tree got pulled up by the roots. Joyce’s lime tree also got flung into the mud

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No power so I brewed my coffee over a gas burner on the laundry porch

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Joyce’s 7 year old mango tree was pulled out by the roots and blown up to and over the back fence

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Lots of trees blown down at PIU too. But the roofs stayed on! Thank you for praying!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Latest Update on Typhoon Dolphin

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We are now in Typhoon Condition Of Readiness One here on Guam. This means that damaging winds are expected within 12 hours. Everything on island is shut down and nobody is supposed to venture outside until the typhoon has passed by and we get the all clear. The graphic above shows that the expected track has moved north and the eye will pass just north of Rota. This would lessen the winds on Guam but puts Rota, Tinian and Saipan in danger. Also these storms can become somewhat erratic when they get close to us, so there is no guarantee it won’t turn further south or north. Please keep praying for us and for the people in the Marianas Islands north of us.