Monday, June 29, 2015

Reading Through Colossians

indexI am continuing to read through the New Testament accompanied by the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today, edited by John R. W. Stott. The twelfth volume of the series is Fullness & Freedom: The Message of Colossians & Philemon, written by R. C. Lucas. 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.

The letter to the Colossians was probably written to the 3 major churches of the Lycus Valley, Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis. Laodicea was the most prominent of the three cities. (Revelation 3:14-22) Paul had probably never visited Colossae (2:1). The church was probably founded by Paul’s convert, and ministry team member Epaphras.  Philemon and his slave Onesimus were also part of this church. Colossians was probably written from Rome during his imprisonment there, the same time as Ephesians and a little before Philippians and was carried by Tychicus and Onesimus, who likely was also carrying Philemon.

It was written to inform the Philippians that faith in the indwelling Christ ALONE is enough to move them to maturity, to combat false teachers who taught that to be truly mature one had to add Jewish law, “higher knowledge,” ecstatic visions or asceticism to the Gospel, and  to show that real spirituality is a new lifestyle, under Jesus‘ authority, lived out in human relationships. Paul wanted them to understand that the key to Christian maturity and to spirituality is to grow in your knowledge of Jesus and let Him live through you. Faith in Christ, without added human rules or ideas, is enough to move us on to spiritual maturity, which is seen in godly attitudes and actions lived out in daily relationships.

The way to maturity as a Christian is deepening relationship with Jesus. This comes through faith, not human rules or ideas. Faith in Christ is sufficient to grow the godly attitudes and actions of a successful Christian. Thus, we have all we are and everything we have because God lives in us and as we cooperate with God, who lives in us, we will grow to be and act like Christ. In Christ we are rescued, redeemed and forgiven.  (1.1-14)

The danger for the enthusiastic young convert comes from error within the churches, teaching that is largely, even emphatically, Christian, but which has been influenced more than it knows by the spirit of the age. Colossians 1.1-2, 21.

It is through great endurance that the servant of God commends himself. By it he learns to hold his position under attack, and quietly to persist in the paths of righteousness and truth. Through patience the Christian learns forbearance and self-restraint, especially with the people who test him; he also finds here the secret of steadiness when divine promises and hopes are deferred. Colossians 1.9-14, 40.

Jesus is able to make you into what God wants you to be because He is God and He has provided more than enough to make you what He wants you to be and to prepare you for eternal service to God. Our relationship with God depends solely on our relationship to Jesus Christ. He provides the resources for Christian growth within His body, the church. Jesus is ALL you need!

As in the Old Testament story, we in New Testament times can desire a king whom we can see and honour. When the church takes its mind and heart away from Christ and his words, human authority and tradition fills the vacuum. The ultimate consequences of this could be sterility rather than the constant increase and renewal of 2:19...The work of the teacher is to lead people to find their fullness in Christ alone: he does not possess anything beyond Christ to give to his people. Colossians 1.15-20, 52–53.

This is to say that people cannot know Christ better without knowing the Scriptures better. It is only through an expository ministry that the Word of God can be fully known: and it is only through the Word of God that Christ can be fully known. Colossians 1.24-29, 70.

The great apostle sees himself as having no authority to decide his message, his mission, or his methods of ministry. What God has given, that he teaches, neither more nor less. When God appoints him, he takes up his task. If God chooses to reveal Christ to the nations, there, to everyone, Paul goes. Above all, because the supreme activity of God is to disclose his Word of truth, Paul’s supreme activity is as a teacher of truth.  Colossians 1.24-29, 73.

There is a fresh responsibility laid on Christians to examine all teaching for the truthfulness of its content rather than the attractiveness of its packaging. There is a new call to be sceptical of exaggerated rhetoric, the tendentious anecdote, or the theatrical appeal, for nothing is so dangerous as feeble reasoning allied to fast talking. Colossians 2.1-4, 84.

So, Christian maturity comes through continuing faith in the Gospel, not human rules or ideas. We grow in Christ the same way you began in Christ, by trusting in His promises. Adding to the Gospel does not improve it. Instead, it dilutes it and makes it ineffective. Syncretism (adding human ideas to the Gospel) dilutes and weakens the Gospel. Legalism reduces gospel “life change” to outward rules and enslaves people. Mysticism creates false Christs and produces inferior worship. Asceticism is only external and actually increases the temptation it tries to overcome. 

To ‘receive Christ Jesus the Lord’, then, is to recognize as truth the marvellous news that, in Christ, the Lord who has power to redeem the world from error and misery has come. More than that, the words necessarily imply the appropriate submission to that Lord for personal deliverance. This means that ‘life in the Spirit’ is recognizable, according to Paul, by some genuine acknowledgment of Christ’s lordship. True conversion must imply a recognition of Christ’s right to be my Saviour (after all, most of us do not very much want to be saved from all our sins, only from their penalty). Colossians 2.6-7, 89.

Yet the apostle can dare to settle the matter by calling other traditions merely human, while his apostleship (and therefore his message) is ‘not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father.’ The issue that arises when ‘the traditions of men’ clash with ‘the word of God’ has been decided by our Lord once and for all. There is no way of healing disunity in the churches if we shuffle or evade that decision. Colossians 2.8-15, 97.

One day, divine power will lift them out of this realm of tears and tribulation to enjoy life beyond death. What they have now is life before death, the new life of the Spirit, the life of faith, above all the life of union and fellowship with the ascended Christ. How can anyone teach them that by faith in God, they may enjoy some greater blessing than that?  Col. 2.8-15, 104

False zeal is responsible for much spiritual misery. It not only denies Christians what God has not denied them, and commands of them what God has not required. It also promises Christians what God has not promised them. Colossians 2.16-17, 118.

First, each Christian has the responsibility to hold fast to Christ. This direct link between the individual believer and the heavenly Lord is one of the special glories of New Testament church life...Secondly, each Christian, linked to Christ in this vital way, has some essential nourishment to give the whole body. What the Christians at Colossae needed for growth and fullness, was not the visitors and their divisive nostrums, but each other!  Colossians 2.18-19, 125.

How burdensome the rules and traditions of men have proved to be in the history of the church! But in Christ the Colossians have been freed from all this. How then can they return to such sore bondage? It is not for them now to call anyone master when Christ is Lord. Colossians 2.20-23, 129.

The key to Christian growth is to understand who you are in Christ and live it out in the power of the Spirit. We must focus on Christ and His spiritual and eternal values including our union with Christ and His blessings as we submit to His authority, the eternal, not the temporary, because our present life is an investment for glory. We must kill the old lifestyle and habits. That is not who we are any more. We must put on the attitudes and actions of Jesus as we put in the truths that transform. We must put on the attitudes and actions that reflect who we really are in Christ. The power to live out who we are comes as the Spirit activates the Word of God in our lives. 3.1-17

The chief business of the Christian is to maintain his relationship with Christ. When this is unsatisfactory, the other relationships of life cannot succeed. Colossians 3.1-8, 133.

"Christ is all" means, simply, that Christ is all that matters...Paul is convinced of the power of Christ, not to bring people together while remaining just what they were before, but to change them so that a genuine meeting of mind and heart is achieved. Colossians 3.9-17, 147–148.

There is nothing inhuman in the nature of genuine Christian spirituality...Holiness is to be recognized not by religious achievements or by a spirituality that is superior to the normal human condition, but by the development of a genuine human-ness, by a freedom that is unafraid to be, in Christ, the person God made us. Colossians 3.9-17, 151.

True Christian love does not seek its own, least of all a more heavenly fellowship of the like-minded, but must give itself in humility to the very heterogeneous fellowship of believers, of all shapes and sizes, whom Christ had called his own at Colossae. Only with them can completeness be found; there can be no path to perfection without them. A powerful dissuasive, indeed, to hasty separation! Colossians 3.9-17, 153.

The evidence of Christian maturity is Christ-likeness lived out in our closest relationships. The real test of maturity is the right attitudes and actions in our closest relationships. Marriage should be characterized by mutual loving submission. Parent-Child relationships should be characterized by obedience to loving direction. Work and social relationships should be characterized by mutual accountability to God. Church relationships should be characterized by caring, thankful prayer for one another. To the world, we should be tactfully opportunistic as we witness with life and word. Paul‘s co-workers were examples of what mature Christians look like.

The apostle’s paramount concern is not man’s relationships with his fellows, but everyone’s relationship with God. Paul does not attempt to resolve these human problems between slave and master horizontally. It is clear that he assumes that it is only by learning to serve the Lord Christ that each can begin to come to proper terms with the other. Colossians 3.22-4.1, 169–170.

Effective evangelism begins with persevering prayer...Prayer can no more exist without praise than true praise without prayer: the one fuels the other. Colossians 4.2-4  171–172.

While the apostle looks for many opportunities for direct evangelism and teaching, the typical Christian in Colossae is to look for many opportunities for responsive evangelism...Now Paul’s advice to the Christians is not along the lines of possessing oneself of better techniques with which to approach people. Rather he turns the problem right around so that the Christians can see their responsibilities in a much more promising light. Their privilege, simply put, is to answer everyone. That is to say they are to respond to the questions of others rather than initiate conversations on leading topics; they are to accept openings rather than make them. Colossians 4.5-6, 173–174.

So, as Paul says farewell to us, we need remember his fetters no more, for they have long since rusted away. But we do remember his encouragement to us, that in Christ Jesus we may enjoy fullness of life and freedom, and his exhortation to us to fulfil any ministry that we may have received while there is time. Colossians 4.7-18, 179

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sunday Reading “The Lord and His Prayer” by NT Wright #2

Last week I began a new book for my Sunday reading, The Lord and His Prayer, by N. T. Wright. The book was a result of a series of sermons preached in 1995 for Advent and published in 1996. In this book Dr. Wright looks at the Lord’s prayer phrase by phrase in six chapters. Each week we will look at one chapter. My plan is to pray through the book as well, each Sunday focused on one phrase of the prayer. This week, we focus on the 2nd phrase in the prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!” I have already posted some quotes from this chapter on my Facebook page and there will continue to be a weekly chapter summary here on my blog. I welcome comments on my Facebook page. It would be cool to hear from you as you pray the prayer along with me. Quotes from the book are in blue.

With this Jesus before your eyes, pray again, Thy Kingdom Come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven! We are praying, as Jesus was praying and acting, for the redemption of the world; for the radical defeat and uprooting of evil; and for heaven and earth to be married at last, for God to be all in all. And if we pray this way, we must of course be prepared to live this way. 31.

This phrase in the prayer is both a plea with God to complete His kingdom plan for the world, begun at creation, decisively implemented by Jesus in his incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and resurrection and consummated at his 2nd coming. It is a call for God to become king over all creation and for God to become king over own lives right now. It then becomes a commitment for us to live in the way Jesus did (be a servant and give up ourselves for others) as we live a kingdom servants now. This OT prophetic vision that the king is coming “there will be a new Exodus: the evil empire will be defeated, and God’s people will be free” must be the principle we live by.

The Kingdom did indeed come with Jesus; but it will fully come when the world is healed, when the whole creation finally joins in the song. But it must be Jesus’ medicine; it must be Jesus’ music. And the only way to be sure of that is to pray his prayer. 30

This is the risky, crazy prayer of submission and commission, or, if you like, the prayer of subversion and conversion. It is the way we sign on, in our turn, for the work of the kingdom. 32.

Jesus life and message pushes back on both wrong extremes the church has taken throughout history: 1) the kingdom is just spiritual and something that happens inside of us 2) or the kingdom is political and we fight for it by taking over the reins of power in this world. No this prayer deals with the material world and works itself out through our physical bodies. We fight sin, injustice and poverty, but we do it Jesus’ way: demonstration of Jesus’ ethic within the church community, bold prophetic announcement of the Gospel and its implications, and through loving engagement that reaches from the bottom up, not the top down.

Think of the vision at the end of Revelation. It isn’t about humans being snatched up from earth to heaven. The holy city, new Jerusalem, comes down from heaven to earth. God’s space and ours are finally married, integrated at last. 24-25

We can do this becauseJesus spoke and acted as if he was called to embody not just the return from exile, not just the defeat of evil, but also, astonishingly, the return of YHWH to Zion.” (29) Then He proved it was so by rising from the dead. He now calls us to be people of prayer and action until he returns to set things right and complete the kingdom plan. Let’s draw people into this prayer the way Jesus did.

You see, if it was part of Jesus’ task to teach his followers to pray in this way, it is in a sense our task to teach the world to pray in this way. How might we get the opportunity? In Luke’s gospel, Jesus waited until his followers asked him for a prayer; and the reason they asked was because they saw what he was doing. 35.

.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Another Beautiful Weekend on Guam

SAMSUNGIt was a beautiful warm sunny Saturday on Guam…again. We had a fun weekend. Titus stayed with us last night – - I watched him play video games with a trip in the middle to McDonalds for a Mcflurry (Oreo). We then headed out early in the morning for another basketball game. Titus’ team won again and are undefeated this season at 3-0. It is evident that he enjoys winning. After the game we headed to the PIU car wash at the Lutheran Church of Guam. The students are raising money for a yearbook. It was a perfect day for a car wash, only a little drenching in the morning. We enjoyed spending some time there and then headed into Agana for a Mexican lunch at the Caliente Restaurant. My California burrito was great and was big enough so that it will provide lunch tomorrow too. After a quick stop at Home Depot for some potting soil we headed home for a relaxing time of reading and a nap. Joyce is now potting her new plants and I am posting this. I like these kind of days.

SAMSUNGSAMSUNG

I figure an Oreo McFlurry is a good pre-game meal for an 8 year old.

SAMSUNGSAMSUNGSAMSUNGSAMSUNG

The students did a great job on my car. I think this is the first time it has been clean since February.

Friday, June 26, 2015

PIU at the Small Business Expo

SAMSUNGYesterday afternoon and evening we went down to the Hyatt Regency to represent PIU at the Guam Chamber of Commerce Small Business Expo. We saw several friends there and were able to make many new friends. Our booth was right next to our friends and PIU partners at Triple J Enterprises. Nino, Samantha, Jamie and I had a good chance to raise community awareness about PIU and how we can help with some of the businesses’ educational needs. As a small private college we have some flexibility in how we can work to meet needs in the business and wider community. This was a SAMSUNGgood opportunity to get that word out.

There was interest in all our programs, including the biblical and religious training. Samantha was able to distribute several of our brochures and student applications and, even, one faculty application packet.  We especially focused on our experience in working with remedial English and acculturation training for people coming to the island for employment or higher education. We also mentioned our non-academic lifelong learning programs. We made a lot of good contacts and I am hoping that we will be able to work with many of our new friends.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Reading Through Philippians

Iindex am continuing to read through the New Testament accompanied by the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today, edited by John R. W. Stott. The eleventh volume of the series is Jesus Our Joy: The Message of Philippians, written by J. A. Motyer. 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.

The Philippian church was founded on Paul’s 2nd missionary journey in 51 AD. It was the first church founded in Macedonia. He also visited the church on the 3rd journey. They had helped Paul financially and by sending helpers along with him on his journeys and he had a close relationship with this church as reflected in the personal and practical tone of the letter. The letter was probably written from Rome during his imprisonment there. The Philippian church had sent Epaphroditus with a financial gift for Paul during his imprisonment. After recovering from an illness Epaphroditus returned to Philippi carrying this letter from Paul to the church. Paul may have been awaiting the sentence of the court of Caesar as he wrote the letter.

Paul wrote the letter to thank the Philippians for this love gift and help to the ministry, to deal with the problems in the church of rivalry, personal ambition, legalism and hedonism and to encourage believers to live a life of unity, holiness and joy. Paul wanted them to understand how to live in this world as "citizens of heaven." So the message of Philippians is: As citizens of heaven, we must rejoice and endure in the struggle because Jesus’ strength goes beyond any difficult circumstance or suffering we may face.

God, in Christ, will accomplish His plan in His people, His church and in the world despite present circumstances and struggles. The growth in the Philippian church is an example of how God can accomplish His plan. The Gospel message is that God will complete what He began in His people, it will produce brotherly love and concern in Jesus Christ and will grow believers into deeper relationship and imitation of Jesus. Paul’s experience shows that adverse circumstances (imprisonment and opposition) cannot stop the Gospel. His conviction was that everything done for and through Christ will be meaningful and successful. God will enable His people to glorify Him and even death cannot stop Christ from being glorified through his faithful people. Therefore, no matter what the struggle, persecution or circumstance, live according to the gospel.

Leaders (must) see themselves first as members of the body, and only then as ministers. In this way they face every situation from within the local body of Christ and not as people dropped in from outside (or even from above!). It involves patiently waiting for the Holy Spirit to grant unanimity to the church in making and executing plans. It involves open relationships in which the leaders do not scheme to get their own way or play off one against another, but act with transparent integrity. It involves willingness to be overruled, to jettison role-playing and status-seeking, to be ready to cast a single vote with everyone else.34 It involves putting the welfare of the body of Christ before all personal advantage, success or reputation and it involves co-equal sacrifice for the Lord and his gospel. Philippians 1.1-2, 41.

The Lord Jesus Christ is thus the central, controlling factor for Paul—and for all who would live in the apostolic mould. Our faith in the Father of the Lord Jesus is such that we know that all things are working towards the day of Christ, whether they seem so or not. Our Lord is the key of all history and of personal history, and he must be made the deciding factor in every Christian choice. Pre-eminence belongs to that which advances the gospel and proclaims the Saviour.   Philippians 12-26, 67.

Paul called the church to follow the humble and sacrificial examples of Jesus, Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus. He urged them to have the humble, servant and self-sacrificing attitude Jesus had in His incarnation by being unified by a humble attitude and service in the power of the Spirit. The example is Jesus, God in the flesh, did not grasp his rights. Instead, He gave them up which resulted in the Father exalting Him to the ultimate position of power and authority. He urges us to allow Christ to work in you so that you can live peaceful, holy and contented lives. He then urged the church to have the Christ-like attitude and actions of Paul’s joyful self-sacrifice for Christ and His people, Timothy’s concern for God’s people and the work of the gospel and Epaphroditus’ willingness to risk his own life for the gospel.

Unity is not just a useful weapon against the world, but rather it belongs to the very essence of Christian life, for it is the way in which Christians display outwardly what the gospel is and means to them. Unity is the gospel’s hallmark; it says to all who examine it, ‘This life is worthy of the gospel.’...the life worthy of the gospel is a life of unity; the life of unity matches the apostolic ideal for the church. Philippians 2.1-4, 102.

This was the ‘mind of Christ’. He looked at himself, at his Father and at us, and for obedience’ sake and for sinners’ sake he held nothing back. Philippians 2.5-11, 118.

This is the balance and testimony of the verses: the Christian life, growing in the likeness of Christ, is a blend of rest and activity—not alternating from one to the other, but a blend in which, at one and the same moment, the Christian is both resting confidently (for example, on what God is doing within) and actively pursuing (for example, the duty of being blameless). Philippians 2.12-18, 126.

Putting this positively, a Christian displays his pre-eminent devotion to the Lord Jesus by seeking the true welfare of others...just as verses 20–21 identified seeking the good of other Christians with giving the prior place to the interests of Jesus Christ, so verses 21–22 identify giving the prior place to the Lord Jesus with being a slave for the gospel’s sake. And this, in consequence, is the portrait of the pre-eminent Christian, cast in the apostolic mould and useful for the work. He puts the Lord first by seeking the spiritual good of others through a sacrificial gospel ministry.  Philippians 2.19-30, 140–141.

The confidence and focus of the successful Christian life is relationship with Jesus Christ. The wrong basis for confidence is one’s own life, legalism, righteousness and rituals. Even Paul’s strict legalistic righteousness as a Pharisee was not enough. The right confidence is Jesus’ righteousness found in a growing relationship with Him. Our goal should be to experience who we are in Jesus Christ. We must focus on the heavenly goal and work hard to be what He calls us to be. Maturity  is seen as, in Christ, we live up to the image of Christ.  To focus on the present and live for one’s lusts results in destruction. You are destined to be a citizen of heaven. Live like one now.

May we be like Paul in seeing Christ alone as our wealth, and in being determined to evaluate everything else in the light of the full satisfaction only he provides. Philippians 3.4-8, 162.

Paul’s desire to be ‘found in Christ’ means the same: he wants whoever looks at him, to see him as a man in Christ; whatever his experiences should turn out to be, he wants to face them as a man in Christ. Jesus is his permanent address. Paul may be in Rome, Philippi, Jerusalem; he may be healthy, sick, worried, free of care—but he will always be in him. Philippians 3.9-12, 164.

Thus, there are two aspects to the life modelled on the apostolic pattern. On the one hand it is a life of personal commitment, effort and determination (verses 13–14); on the other hand, it is a life resting upon great certainties, in particular the abiding truths of the cross (verses 18–19) and the coming (verses 20–21) of the Lord Jesus. It is a life, therefore, of consecration and conviction.  Philippians 3.13-16, 173.

Only in relationship with Jesus Christ can we find power for heavenly living on earth. Relationship with Christ gives power to stand firm and live in peace and unity with one another. Relationship with Christ brings joyful, peaceful, pure and righteous thoughts and actions and allows you to live above the circumstances of life. Circumstances do not matter because God can supply what is needed for any situation. God often provides through the generosity of His people and rewards them for it. Thus, the grace of God brings us together to bring glory to God.

If we are, as a church, to stand fast in the face of the world, then we must attend first and foremost to our personal sanctification, the state of our own heart and thoughts. If, however, we are to enjoy the power of God at work in our inner being, then we must give attention to these outward laws which God imposes upon us. We must model our relationships on Christ, surround our circumstances by prayer, drill our minds in godly thinking, and subject our life to the Word of God. Do this, ‘and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus … and the God of peace will be with you’. If we ignore the laws we must be prepared to forgo the blessings. Philippians 4.4-9, 213.

Paul’s experience of the trustworthiness of God can therefore be ours. We too can find ability to do all things (meet all circumstances with contentment) ‘in’ him who infuses us with dynamic power—if we attend to the preposition ‘in’. Power arises by constantly and restfully enjoying the benefits of the atonement, constantly and deliberately taking refuge in his proffered security. This sort of trust produces that sort of victory. Philippians 4.10-20, 220.

We have allowed the church to lose its distinctiveness as the new humanity; we have identified it with nationalistic causes; we think nothing of it when Christians take up weapons of war, prepared in principle to kill their brothers and sisters in Christ; we have lost our love in denominations which blandly unchurch those who own the same Saviour and owe their eternal security to the same precious blood. There is a shame and a pity here that go beyond words to express. Is it any wonder that, as we look around at the poor, fragmented, inadequate thing that passes for the church of Christ, we find it powerless against worldly assault and doctrinal error? We have lost the unity without which a resolute stand is impossible. Philippians 4.21-23, 224.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

An OT Theology of Family and Community

IGoldingay3 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 how Goldingay wrestles with the text and is willing to let the textual tensions remain without simplistic resolution. So let’s wrestle together with the biblical text and have a good discussion of this post on Facebook.

Chapter 4 of Volume 3 is entitled Family and Community. Goldingay warns us that we need to be careful to not assume that the Torah reflects what Israel actually did since it is laws were designed to deal with problems. He draws heavily from the instruction about community in wisdom literature. He also emphasizes that the real concern in the OT is with what God is doing and the OT teaching on family and community is designed mainly to reveal God, not a “how-to” for family life.

The first section of chapter 4 deals with the question of how do we discover what the Old Testament has to say to us about Thinking About Life With One Another. First we must think theologically, that is we must hear the voice of God in the text, not our own. We must read the OT attentively, noting its tensions, and exegetically letting its agenda inform our own. We also need to read hermeneutically and paradigmatically setting up a dialog between the text, which did not have our situation in mind, and our contemporary situation to get to the best application within our culture. We need to read critically recognizing the tensions and chronological development in the scriptural story. We need to allow the canon to comment on the canon and have the whole context of scripture guide the interpretation of each part. We need to allow scripture to critique us and our communities. Finally we need to read scripture in the light of who Jesus is and what he has done for us. 

It is not we who decide what is right in life situations. It is God, the God who commands...We need to "discern" what God's will is. It is not a matter of pure intuition without reflection. "The voice of the heart is not to be confused with the voice of God." 327

We can spot our agenda by noting the "isms" that preoccupy us. An "ism" will be a preoccupation of ours that may find more or less confirmation or disconfirmation of elaboration in scripture, but by definition it constitutes our agenda rather than scripture's. 331

The torah is both the agent of divine order and the locus of underlying tension. It is the nature of law to involve such compromise, and being divinely inspired does not change this. 337

Yhwh is always concerned to pull Israel toward realizing the vision of how things were at the beginning, but is always starting where people are. The torah's vision is not so much eschatological as restorative; the fulfillment of God's final purpose, the arrival of the reign of God, comes about through the realization of God's creation purpose. 339

If we assume the scriptures might have a positive ethical contribution to make to our understanding and lives, this opens us to change and ethical development. "None of us should lose the suspicion that our sophistication concerning the cultural and theological qualifications about 'biblical morality' often hides a profound unwillingness to have our lives guided by it." 347

The First Testament is the first story of the building; the New Testament is the superstructure. It is no wonder that Christians get into trouble because they try to live in a second story that has no first story. 349

Section 2 provides an Old Testament theology of Marriage. He defines marriage as "a relationship of lifelong mutual commitment between a man and a woman whereby they take on a shared, egalitarian vocation in connection with subduing the earth and serving and enjoy a romantic and sexual relationship." (350) Of course this is damaged by sin and much of the OT describes God's protection of the exclusivity of the sexual relationship and the woman in the relationship. The OT talks little about what is involved in a wedding (the word is used only once in the OT) but reports the different ways the husband and wife are bound to each other. The emphasis is that marriage is a shared vocation in which the genders have some overlapping and some specific roles. Romance is a factor in marriage, and can also be a great danger in relationships, but mutual commitment is seen as the greater factor. The OT "demythologizes" sex as a religious act, although it is still under the rule of God. The OT also focuses on marriage in the context of the whole community. Unfaithfulness, not only damages the couple, but also the community while faithfulness is a blessing and concern of both and need to be safeguarded by both. This was true of both male and female unfaithfulness. Divorce and polygamy are allowed in the OT, but only because of human "hard hearts" and reflect realities in a human culture that has fallen far away from the Genesis 1-2 ideal. 

Men and women are thus involved in a relationship of authority, yet it is not an authority they exercise over each other but one they exercise together over the world. 356

God's command...sanctifies us by including our sexuality within our humanity, and challenging us even in our bodily nature and therefore in our sexual lives to be true people: "to be a body, but not only a body," to be also the spirit-impelled soul of our body and to be in spirit-impelled bodily relationship with this other person in his or her totality. 364

In Western marriage the starry-eyed couple starting a new family "is being left alone on hard and unforgiving terrain. Only the strong or lucky will survive." Israelite marriage had more chance of realizing the ideal of Christian marriage, which makes sense only on the assumption that it "is not a whole communion of two, but a particular kind of grace-filled friendship within the fellowship of the church. 368-369

Circumcision suggests the cutting down to size or disciplining or surrendering to Yhwh of the part of the body that will be the means of begetting progeny...One thing circumcision represents is "a controlling of sexuality." Genesis has already made clear that male sexuality needs such discipline; the sign of the covenant underlines the fact, and succeeding stories involving circumcision will emphasize it further.  375

Same-sex marriage parallels divorce/second marriage and polygamy in the way it falls short of the ideal that emerges from Genesis 1-2, that monogamous lifelong heterosexual marriage is the context for sexual activity. All fall short of that ideal at some point, and all might thus be reckoned to have parallel theological and moral status. 382

Section 3 deals with the Old Testament presentation of the Family. The household or the "kin group" was the basic structure for life in traditional cultures and provided the way to deal with economic and cultural issues, and thus, needed ways of "safeguarding its stability" when it became dysfunctional. The family is seen in the OT as much wider than the nuclear family and a household would include multiple generations and people like servants who were dependent on the household. The family is seen as the main structure for accomplishing God's mandates to serve and bless the world. There was no separation between work, ministry and family life. The family was expected to be the main worshipping and teaching unit to develop the world view of its members. It also provided the structure and organization for work and economic stability as well as being a place of generosity and hospitality for the poor and needy. Though the OT makes it clear that the traditional family was just as dysfunctional as our modern families, Goldingay advocates that modern society would benefit from a more holistic view of family in society.  Though all the land belonged to Yhwh, the family unit (clan) was responsible for it and were to work together to use it for feeding each other and to help those who had needs. Thus, the land was to be kept in the family and the jubilee laws were designed to inhibit land speculation that enriched some at the expense of many. Though this was never really practiced in Israel it becomes the vision for the messianic kingdom. Family could be the place of conflict though it was designed to be the place of safety and support for the weak, poor and strangers.

What we are as individuals depends for better or worse on the community in which we are nurtured...The household celebrations are the context in which the community's story is told, dramatized and sacramentally expressed, and thus shapes who the people are; family life is the chief countercultural educational agent. 391

The point about work is not merely that it should be creative or fulfilling for the individual but that it is a way of serving the earth and serving other people. Family is then the context in which human beings fulfill that creation commission and thus can be themselves, because work is integral to being human. 395

The integrity of the household is the key to the nation's integrity and its relationship with God; regulations relating to children and parents are "safeguards of the national well-being." 400

Leviticus recognizes that human selfishness means people would resist the jubilee principle. They would be tempted to try to make a profit out of other people's need...The jubilee regulations constitute the fullest exposition of the Tenth Commandment...Leviticus 25 thus remind them to keep God in mind, to "revere God." 410

The Torah assumes that sexual activity is not merely private, "between consenting adults"; it has social implications. Many of Yhwh's expectations with regard to sexuality focus on the integrity and stability of the family. 414

Someone who oppresses a migrant has forgotten or has never understood the nature of their own story and thus their own identity, and certainly cannot tell anyone else about it. 420

A major theme of the OT is that God designed people to live in Community. This often extends beyond the family unit as villages join multiple kin groups and urbanization produces highly structured communities. All of these assign authority and responsibilities for the well-being of everyone in the community. Beyond that "neighborliness," taking care of the needy in your community, including enemies, is a core value of the OT. Friendship, mutually committed relationships outside the family group, are also advocated and celebrated in the OT, although one must be careful in choosing friends. Another major theme of the OT is the responsibility to help one's neighbor economically by lending to the needy without interest and forgiveness of debt in the Sabbath and Jubilee years. While commercial lending at interest was approved, growing rich at the expense of the needy through usury was seen as a despicable evil. Goldingay advocates a "third way" between capitalism and collectivism "in which more responsibility and power rest with the local community, the kin group and the household, than with the state or the individual." We have a responsibility to care for each other and for each other's property. 

In the First testament the community needs to be one where people live in proper relationships with one another, support one another when they get into difficulties, handle property questions, resolve conflicts and deal with wrongdoing in their midst. 420-421

The family had responsibility to support someone when they got into difficulty; Deuteronomy (15.11) extends this to the nation...The result will be that there are indeed no needy among the people. The responsibility lies within the community, with the family. 432

The Western world came to make scientific progress, economic growth and technical advance the ultimate social goods, with everything subordinated to these; they are "their own justification." But this practice looks like our worship of a false god. 438

The second half of the section deals with the issues of involving foreigners in the community and resolving conflict and crime. Outsiders were regularly assimilated into the community and Israelites were encouraged to do business with them. The response to crime focused on redress for the victim and restoration for the offender. Execution was a maximum penalty that was rarely carried out in history, even God does not carry it out with Cain or David. Nevertheless, murder defiled the land and the "one (or culture) who lived by the sword" often "died by the sword." Ultimately, the OT is not there so we can emulate the structures of ancient Israel's society; it didn't produce a stable, just society, but its principles: care for the needy, local community participation, equal application of the law, concern for restoration, peace and order should be goals for us today.

Deuteronomy's ethnic concern was much more establishing of a sense of ethnic kinship among Israelites and Judeans than it was in the excluding of foreigners from participation within the community, as is indicated by its willingness to include foreigners who wanted to be fully part of the community. 440

A second significance of the prescription in Exodus 21.22-25 is that it does put the emphasis on the offender making restitution to the offended person rather than the offended person's getting revenge. Human justice seeks to mirror God's justice, which "redeems, reconciles and restores." As well as making decisions fairly, it requires restitution that will restore the victim and contribute to reconciliation. 446

Yhwh is not merely predicting the consequence of murder (in Gen. 9.5-6) but affirming it, because it unwittingly affirms the enormity involved in murder, the attack on God's image. Murderers will pay for their deed with their life, but this can come about in more than one way, and Yhwh is not laying down a law for capital punishment for murder. 452

The final chapter in this section on Living With One Another deals with the issue of Servanthood. We often read the passages about this in light of the more Western institution of slavery and misunderstand. This kind of slavery was rare in ancient Near East and the passages in the Torah are meant to limit and regulate what the master's could require. The master-servant hierarchy was not the original intention of creation but is part of the post-Edenic curse. The vision of restoration is that each household "works its own piece of land." Israelite servants were to be released every seventh year and could only become permanent servants voluntarily. That the nation mostly ignored this regulation was one of the reasons for the exile. Servanthood could provide a way to get out of debt or become a means of economic security and was supposed to be regulated to insure the human rights of the servant. It was often a means of honor to work for an honorable master. In many ways it was less oppressive than modern "wage slavery." Foreign servants has less rights but their well-being was also provided for in the Torah. That this instruction was ignored and abused is a revelation about the hard hearts of human beings and the need for Jesus. The New Testament provides less instruction about this issue (Goldingay attributes this to the "allowance for the hardness of Christian hearts.") on a societal level but, in my opinion, totally undercuts any kind of slave-owner mentality in Christians with its emphasis on love, unity and equality on a personal and church community level.

The First Testament ideal is that the family is the structure for work and that servanthood is all humanity's vocation. The notion that some people become other people's servants in a long term or one-way fashion is thus an odd one, but it provides ways of dealing with some problems that arise in the real-life world, and it can work in a satisfactory fashion for servants and masters. Such servanthood is very different from slavery as modern readers understand it, but it is open to abuse, and it requires safeguards. 458

The situation with people is the same as with the land. Both belong to Yhwh. They therefore cannot belong to someone else, except on a temporary basis. They can be leased but not sold. 464

It is once again typical of the Torah's instructions that they start from how things work out in the real world. They focus on the practicalities of the compromise between the interests of the impoverished and the interests of the people who might help them. So they allow servitude, even on the part of wives and children, because this can be in the interests of both the impoverished and the master. 470

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father’s Day

SAMSUNG

Mike, Samantha and the grandkids delivered an ice cream cake for Father’s Day. Happy Father’s Day. We are truly blessed.

Another Fun Family Saturday

SAMSUNGYesterday was another fun day on Guam with the family. We headed out early in the morning (well at 9.30) to watch Titus’ 2nd basketball game. You can see himSAMSUNG sitting on the end of the bench in the picture on the right. We enjoy the game and getting to spend time with our co-worker at PIU, Celia Atoigue and her family. Her grandson Michael and Titus enjoy playing together. They have some very interesting conversations. In the picture on the right Celia is watching Serenity and Chloe working together on a coloring book. And our team won again. We are 2-0

MV5BOTgxMDQwMDk0OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjU5OTg2NDE@._V1_SX214_AL_After the game we all headed to Guam Premium Outlets to the movie theater to see the movie Inside Out which just opened on-island this week. When we first arrived on Guam 22 years ago there were only a few movie screens on island, but now we have three multi-screen movie outlets in the malls. I enjoyed this movie more than any kid’s movie I have seen since Up. It is a story about a little girl growing up from the perspective of the emotions that are personified in her brain. I laughed all the way through it and I thought it had a good message – that life is made up of happy and sad events and we should not try to over-shield children from sadness that comes from failure or changing circumstances. We should teach them to deal with it so they can grow into responsible adults. I would recommend this movie even if you don’t have grandchildren to take with you.

Sunday Reading, “The Lord and His Prayer” by NT Wright

15830Today I began a new book for my Sunday reading, The Lord and His Prayer, by N. T. Wright. The book was a result of a series of sermons preached in 1995 for Advent and published in 1996. In this book Dr. Wright looks at the Lord’s prayer phrase by phrase in six chapters. Each week we will look at one chapter. My plan is to pray through the book as well, each Sunday focused on one phrase of the prayer. This week, of course, we open with, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be your name.” I will also be posting some quotes on my Facebook page and a weekly chapter summary here on my blog. I welcome comments on my Facebook page. It would be cool to hear from you as you pray the prayer along with me. Quotes from the book are in blue.

Father; Our Father; Our Father in heaven; Our Father in heaven, may your name be honoured. That is, may you be worshipped by your whole creation; may the whole cosmos resound with your praise; may the whole world be freed from injustice, disfigurement, sin, and death, and may your name be hallowed. Tom Wright, The Lord and His Prayer, 21–22

This prayer starts by addressing God intimately and lovingly, as ‘Father’—and by bowing before his greatness and majesty. If you can hold those two together, you’re already on the way to understanding what Christianity is all about. 7

Wright begins by pointing out that none of us have the right to say this prayer. It is a goal, something we are striving to grow into. We can only say it because of the boldness we have to enter the throne room of God (Hebrews 4) based on what Jesus has done. As our older brother, he connects us to the Father, and as Wright illustrates we “put on the clothes of our older brother” and “impersonate him” and in doing so  we understand more of what it means to be him and really become more like him. In doing that we also commit to taking on his mission to serve God as we get to know our Father better.

That’s why calling God ‘Father’ is the great act of faith, of holy boldness, of risk. Saying ‘our father’ isn’t just the boldness, the sheer cheek, of walking into the presence of the living and almighty God and saying ‘Hi, Dad.’ It is the boldness, the sheer total risk, of saying quietly ‘Please may I, too, be considered an apprentice son.’ It means signing on for the Kingdom of God. 19–20

Calling God our Father is also a statement of hope. Wright points out that God is first pictured as “father” in the Old Testament in Exodus 4.22-23 when he liberates Israel and changes their status from “slave” to “son.” The Messiah was to be the “son of God” (1 Sam. 7.14) and Jesus at his baptism is announced with “this is my Son.” (Psalm 2.7) Asking our Father to “make holy your name” is to enter into His kingdom plan for the world through prayer, calling on Him to set the world right; now as we walk around in this world as emissaries of the kingdom, and ultimately, when he sets everything right.

Most Jews knew in their bones, because they celebrated it at Passover and sang about it in the Psalms, that freedom would come when God gave them the new, final Exodus. Many believed that this would happen when the Messiah came. The very first word of the Lord’s Prayer says: Let it be now; and let it be us. Father … Our Father … 17

Our task is to grow up into the Our Father, to dare to impersonate our older brother, seeking daily bread and daily forgiveness as we do so: to wear his clothes, to walk in his shoes, to feast at his table, to weep with him in the garden, to share his suffering, and to know his victory. As our Saviour Jesus Christ has commanded and taught us, by his life and death, even more than by his words, we are bold, very bold,—even crazy, some might think—to say ‘Our Father’. 23

God as my Father lifts my mission in a tiny school on this little island of Guam to a worldwide scope. Significance and meaning does not come from doing something big, it comes from being in close relationship with a big God. Every small task of service to the seemingly insignificant thus takes on cosmic, eternal and kingdom-wide meaning. When we serve and honor our Father, we also shine with His glory, Can’t think of anything more important than that.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Reading Through Ephesians

I a51ZzjuWANiL._AA160_m continuing to read through the New Testament accompanied by the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today, edited by John R. W. Stott. The tenth volume of the series is God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians, also authored by John R. W. Stott. 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.

Ephesus was visited by Paul on his 2nd missionary journey (Acts 18:18-21) and the church was established during Paul’s 3rd missionary journey (Acts 19:1-20:30). Paul ministered three years in Ephesus and the city became the base for the outreach to the province of Asia. Later, Timothy was one of the pastors of the Ephesian church. It is likely that the letter was a circular letter to all the churches of Asia Minor as in Revelation 2-3. Ephesians was probably written early in his Roman imprisonment, 60-62 AD(Acts 28:30), and the letter, along with Colossians, was probably delivered by Tychicus to the Asian churches. Thus, it is important to read Colossians and Ephesians in parallel to fully understand their messages.

Ephesians Structure Chart colorEphesians was written to deal with false teaching that would break up the God-given unity of the church. It stresses the importance of the love of,and for God and the love of believers for one another as the basis for the unity of the church and to show that the unity of the church is based on a common salvation and a common calling from God. Thus, the message of Ephesians is The Church is a unity, with diverse members, formed by God’s eternal plan, with a shared salvation in Christ and a shared mission to glorify God, in the power of the Spirit, by demonstrating this unity through lifestyle, relationships, and in the battle with the forces of darkness. 

The basis of the unity of the Church is a common salvation in Jesus Christ. (1:1-3:21) Because of God’s grace and peace the church is God’s “holy ones” through faith and salvation is a blessing from God that we can only experience “in Jesus Christ.” (1:3-23) The entire Trinity had a part in giving salvation to the Church: The Father chose us to receive every blessing and to be His children who look like Him; The Son lavished God’s riches on us by redeeming us from sin and bringing us into His kingdom and the Spirit seals us and guarantees our full inheritance in the coming Kingdom. We can have the full experience of all of God’s blessings through the power of Jesus Christ.

How blinkered is our vision in comparison with his, how small is our mind, how narrow are our horizons! Easily and naturally we slip into a preoccupation with our own petty little affairs. But we need to see time in the light of eternity, and our present privileges and obligations in the light of our past election and future perfection. Then, if we shared the apostle’s perspective, we would also share his praise. Ephesians 1.3-14, 45.

Thus, God has revealed his power objectively in Jesus Christ, and now illumines our minds by his Spirit to grasp this revelation. Divine illumination and human thought belong together. All our thinking is unproductive without the Spirit of truth; yet his enlightenment is not intended to save us the trouble of using our minds. It is precisely as we ponder what God has done in Christ that the Spirit will open our eyes to grasp its implications. Ephesians 1.15-23, 67.

Salvation unites people who are diverse and at odds with one another into one unified body. It is the one common means of entry into the church. Because everyone had a common predicament, all were spiritually dead without hope of relationship, Everyone must enter by a common solution: Sharing in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Everyone now is a new creation - a new person to do God’s work. Thus we all have a common basis for peace with God and with each other. We all are included in the promises through the blood of Christ and are reconciled to one another as we are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.

(Paul) began this paragraph with a faithful portrayal of man as subject to three terrible powers, namely ‘sin’, ‘death’ and ‘wrath’. Yet he refused also to despair, because he believed in God. True, the only hope for dead people lies in a resurrection. But then the living God is the God of resurrection. He is even more than that: he is the God of creation. Both metaphors indicate the indispensable necessity of divine grace. For resurrection is out of death, and creation is out of nothing. That is the true meaning of ‘salvation’. Ephesians 2.1-10, 85.

Of course there are barriers of language and culture in the world outside, and of course new converts feel more comfortable among their own kind, who speak and dress and eat and drink and behave in the same way that they do and have always done. But deliberately to perpetuate these barriers in the church, and even to tolerate them without taking any active steps to overcome them in order to demonstrate the trans-cultural unity of God’s new society, is to set ourselves against the reconciling work of Christ and even to try to undo it...I am not saying that a church must be perfect before it can preach the gospel, but I am saying that it cannot preach the gospel while acquiescing in its imperfections. Ephesians 2.11-22, 111.

Salvation brings a common purpose to life: To glorify God before all creation. (3:1-21) God’s wisdom is made known through his glorious plans for the church. This mystery was not made known until revealed by the Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel and this will reveal God’s wisdom to all the spiritual beings and bring glory to God and us. Then Paul prays that we might experience everything we have in Jesus Christ; That we together would experience through God’s strength, the love and knowledge of Christ. Paul is certain that God is able to bring about this experience and will do to bring about His glory.

The good news of the unsearchable riches of Christ which Paul preached is that he died and rose again not only to save sinners like me (though he did), but also to create a single new humanity; not only to redeem us from sin but also to adopt us into God’s family; not only to reconcile us to God but also to reconcile us to one another. Thus the church is an integral part of the gospel. The gospel is good news of a new society as well as of a new life. Ephesians 3.1-13, 128–129

It is the power of the resurrection, the power which raised Christ from the dead, enthroned him in the heavenlies, and then raised and enthroned us there with him. That is the power which is at work within the Christian and the church. Ephesians 3.14-21, 140

The Church must be unified because all its members share a common calling, power and mission. (4:1-6:24) All Believers have a common responsibility: Preserve the unity of the Church. This unity is based on the Unity in the Trinity, common hope and common calling. The church is made up of diverse members who work together with a unified mission as Christ apportions diverse gifts to the subjects of His kingdom. The common purpose of these diverse gifts and offices is that the church might become like Christ.

There is room for differences of conviction among us as to the precise form or forms in which God wants Christian unity to be expressed. But we should all be eager for some visible expression of Christian unity, provided always that we do not sacrifice fundamental Christian truth in order to achieve it...Authentic Christian ‘unity’ in truth, life and love is far more important than ‘union’ schemes of a structural kind, although ideally the latter should be a visible expression of the former. Ephesians 4.1-16, 154–155

Believers should have a common lifestyle goal: to live like Jesus. (4:17-5:2) We must live as a new creation by putting on the new man and putting off the old. Practically, we must renounce the deeds of the old way to live the way Jesus would. We must be careful to live a lifestyle that accurately reflects Christ and pleases the Lord.

To ‘learn Christ’ is to grasp the new creation which he has made possible, and the entirely new life which results from it. It is nothing less than putting off our old humanity like a rotten garment and putting on like clean clothing the new humanity recreated in God’s image. Ephesians 4.22-24, 180

We are God’s new society, a people who have put off the old life and put on the new; that is what he has made us. So we need to recall this by the daily renewal of our minds, remembering how we ‘learned Christ … as the truth is in Jesus’, and thinking Christianly about ourselves and our new status. Then we must actively cultivate a Christian life. For holiness is not a condition into which we drift. We are not passive spectators of a sanctification God works in us. On the contrary, we have purposefully to ‘put away’ from us all conduct that is incompatible with our new life in Christ, and to ‘put on’ a lifestyle compatible with it. Ephesians 5.3-4, 193

We have a common power to live like Christ: The indwelling Holy Spirit (5:15-6:9) Control by the Spirit provides power to live thankfully and submissively as Jesus lived. Spirit control is measured and most clearly seen seen in Christ-like relationships that overturn the effects of sin. Spirit control produces husbands who love like Christ and wives that respect their husbands Spirit control produces obedient children and parents who raise children well.  Spirit control produces conscientious workers and masters who treat their workers as brothers and sisters.

Now to lose oneself that the other may find his or her self—that is the essence of the gospel of Christ. It is also the essence of the marriage relationship, for as the husband loves his wife and the wife submits to her husband, each is seeking to enable the other to become more fully himself and herself, within the harmonious complementarity of the sexes. Ephesians 5.25-33, 236

Almost nothing causes a child’s personality to blossom and gifts to develop like the positive encouragement of loving, understanding parents. Indeed, just as a husband’s love for his wife is expressed in helping her develop her full potential, so parents’ love for their children is expressed in helping them develop theirs. Ephesians 6.1-4, 246.

All believers are in a common battle against spiritual darkness and spiritual attack. (6:10-20) We must be ready for battle by actively using what Christ has provided and the main offensive weapon in the spiritual battle is prayer. Paul closes the letter by reminding us that unity brings fellowship, peace and grace (6:21-24). Tychicus and Paul typify the encouragement and fellowship that a unified church provides. Peace and grace are the results of the love of Christ to the faithful lived out in community and taken out to the world.

Clarity and courage remain two of the most crucial characteristics of authentic Christian preaching. For they relate to the content of the message preached and to the style of its presentation. Some preachers have the gift of lucid teaching, but their sermons lack solid content; their substance has become diluted by fear. Others are bold as lions. They fear nobody, and omit nothing. But what they say is confused and confusing. Clarity without courage is like sunshine in the desert: plenty of light but nothing worth looking at. Courage without clarity is like a beautiful landscape at night time: plenty to see, but no light by which to enjoy it. What is needed in the pulpits of the world today is a combination of clarity and courage, or of ‘utterance’ and ‘boldness’.  Ephesians 6.13-20, 286.

Hence Paul’s wishing of peace to ‘the brethren’ (verse 23), who belong to each other as brothers and sisters in the family of God, and of grace to ‘all’ those who love Christ, without discrimination, whatever their race, rank, age or sex. It is a wish, a prayer, that the members of God’s new society may live in harmony as brothers and sisters in his family, at peace and in love with him and with each other, together with a recognition that only by his grace can this dream come true.  Ephesians 6.21-24, 291.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Another Fun Weekend on Guam

SAMSUNGThis last weekend was a busy, but fun, one here. Often we work on Saturday and relax on Sunday (unless we have some church responsibilities – and we enjoy those too) but this week we were pretty busy with fun things. Friday night we went to a concert at the Lutheran Church of Guam by a gospel group from Russia – they were really good. Then we headed back to campus to meet Eric and Karyn Sorenson who were on their way to SAMSUNGYap to do some ministry with a group from their church in Santa Barbara. It was good to see them again. Saturday we headed to Titus’ basketball game as I posted earlier. After the game we headed to the Agana Mall to see Titus and Courage get their A – Club award for their good grades in school. Then on Saturday evening we went to the Micronesia Island Fair. This year there was only a little rain this time. It had been rained out by Typhoon Dolphin. We enjoyed all the Micronesian arts and crafts and Joyce bought some plants. There is always a lot to do on this little island.

SAMSUNGSAMSUNG

I didn’t know there was Gospel music in Russia. It was interesting to hear Russians singing African-American style Gospel music with a bit of a Russian accent. I was even more surprised when they said their songs were mostly written by a guy from Sweden. They were really good. They had performed at Disney World. I had a good chat with the male singer, who was on Old Testament teacher at St. Petersburg Christian University

SAMSUNGSAMSUNG

I have never before had our picture taken with a bottle of Tabasco Sauce and a jar of peanut butter and jelly

SAMSUNGSAMSUNG

Even though there was a lot of cool stuff for sale, Joyce only bought a couple plants

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Fellowship of Differents–Final Post

41EvRIDnBvL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Today I finish up reading through Scot McKnight’s new book A Fellowship of Differents: Showing The World God’s Design for Life Together. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is trying to figure out what the essence of the church is and what is its mission. I think many of us have lost our way as we try to build churches that are comfortable for us, homogenous, and “meet our needs.” I often wonder if the desire for consumer oriented, business-model churches like this have produced the severely declining moral influence of the church in the West and the lack of emphasis on God’s mandate to disciple and bless the world. I have been going through the book two or three chapters 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.

In the last two chapters McKnight concludes his vision of what a flourishing church looks like. He then closes with an appendix on the life and writings of Paul. We need to have the heart of Paul which McKnight sums up as

Paul’s entire gospel: Jesus is the center of it all, and in Jesus Christ, in the body of Christ, God’s people are one: both Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ. 244

In the chapter entitled Teacher with the Big Fancy Hat (a reference to Henrietta Mears the author of very influential Sunday school curriculum) McKnight’s point is that the church must connection flourishing, not with power and influence, but with suffering. We need to experience suffering, both persecution and the natural suffering living in this world brings, “through the eyes of faith,” living as “Jesus Christ lived out his life in weakness.” As we experience suffering as Jesus did, we gain endurance, character, hope and joy. As we participate in the suffering of others, and they in ours, we learn to be other-oriented and love others. The church cannot be what it is supposed to be without suffering.

…a flourishing Christian experiences suffering through the eyes of faith. Instead of looking at how Paul explained suffering as “lessons about suffering,” I suggest we see his explanations as expressions of a flourishing Christian in the midst of suffering. 221

I want to suggest that working for this kind of fellowship entails suffering, some of it emotional and some of it physical. That, too, is what the church is about. Flourishing in this new community is what God wants for us, and when we let that work of God shape us, we will discover something that transcends what anyone could expect. 228

In the next chapter, On a Walk with Kris, McKnight closes his book with the key result/characteristic of this kind of church: joy. Paul “wants the whole fellowship to be intoxicated with a God-shaped joy.” We tend to look for “happiness” which is about avoiding suffering and having more than others. He suggest we “forget happiness and go for joy.” Joy comes in the midst of suffering because it allows us to participate in the gospel and share the ministry of the Spirit in our life with others. Joy comes as we experience life together in the Spirit with God’s people, the church. “Joy is about sharing our lives, from the ordinary and routine to the sublime and special. Joy marks the gospel-shaped flourishing Christian.”

So suffering and joy are not incompatible. Getting rid of suffering is what happiness studies are all about, but the Christian sense of joy counters all that. For Paul, those who experience suffering in a gospel-shaped way are those who know the meaning of joy. 231

Paul’s theory of joy is exercising the gift God has given you, experiencing the gospel in suffering if such occurs, knowing that God is still at work, and sharing that joy with others in the fellowship of the church. What is joy? Joy is the inner satisfaction that comes from understanding our location in life in light of who God is and where God will eventually bring us — his kingdom. 232

Joy for the apostle Paul was not about his station in life or realizing his dreams or resting sure in his financial situation. Joy for him was about participating in the fellowship of differents because he was part of God’s plan for the world. Joy, to put it directly, is a church-shaped disposition. Only folks in the church can experience what Paul means by joy  234

The appendix, The Graces of Paul’s Life, is a brief, basic study of the life and writings of Paul. We can only understand Paul in terms of his life changing experience with Jesus on the Road to Damascus. Building this “church of differents” for Jesus became Paul’s life mission. We need to see Paul’s writings, not as a systematic theology or autobiography,  or an abstract church manual, but as a series of letters in which Paul responds to real 1st century issues in the churches to whom he ministered and people he loved. His mission was that the gospel of Jesus would produce, through the power of the Spirit, churches that reflected God’s kingdom of a united, restored humanity (which also was the creation, and OT covenant vision). This is what we are supposed to be doing as well.

Paul did not change religions on the road to Damascus, but he was converted from being a Christ-opposing Pharisee to a Christ-honoring Pharisee…What is most notable about Paul’s conversion outside Damascus was that he was graced with a new, special mission in life: to gospel Gentiles in the Roman world. 239

Paul had a strategy, not an easy one to accomplish, but it was gospel-centered: they were to die to self and to live unto others, and they were to do this by loving one another, by living a life of constrained freedom, and by living a holy life. This would lead to what happens when God’s good hand of grace takes over — unity in the fellowship of the Spirit. 243

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Titus’ First Game

SAMSUNGSAMSUNGThis summer Titus is playing in a summer basketball league. This is the first time that one of my grandchildren has been involved in organized team sports so it was a big family event to go to his first game. He has never played before so this will be a learning experience for him. His team name is the Warriors and he is coached by a high school teammate of his uncle Matt. Titus enjoyed the game and we all enjoyed watching him play. I really appreciated how his coach got all the kids involved in the game. Titus was also happy that his team won 35-11. Looking forward to next week.

SAMSUNGSAMSUNG

Layup drill on the left and getting ready for jump ball on the right

SAMSUNGSAMSUNG

Titus gets ready to play some D (left). Looks like he is going the wrong way on the right

SAMSUNGSAMSUNG

More defense and the final score