Friday, July 31, 2015

Chuuk Trip

SAMSUNG            I just got back from Chuuk yesterday. I went down there with Rev. Iotaka Choram who will be directing PIU’s Chuuk Teaching Facility operations starting this Fall. PIU will offer classes at our partner school Faithwalk Christian College this Fall and we also plan to offer classes at Berea Christian School on Weno as well. SAMSUNG            We are working on getting things set up and getting students enrolled for classes. I met with several church leaders and am planning on returning to Chuuk again to teach my Old Testament Survey course this Fall. I could have posted pictures of us in meetings but I thought it would be more interesting to see some pictures of the island beauty of Chuuk. Way better than pictures of me right? These two pictures I took from the plane’s window as we were coming in for landing.

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I took these two pictures from the deck of the Truk Stop Hotel where I was staying

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There was a party at the hotel on Wednesday night for a leadership conference.

An Old Testament Theology of Individual Spirituality and Character

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. Though the OT has more to say about the ethics of the community, individual responsibility, ethics and character are also its concern. So let’s have a good discussion about Goldingay’s view of the life of wisdom out of this post on Facebook.

In chapter 6, Spirituality and Character, Goldingay looks at what the Old Testament says about "the individual in general." How does the individual relate to God? Ethics flow out of character and God created humans, "in the image of God" which would imply that our character is to be like God's. On the other hand we are not God so part of who we are involves submission to God and his plan for us. We are also created as social creatures, so this cannot be understood or lived out in isolation from our communities. Thus, the greatest commandment is to love God and love others. This comes out in a sinful world in compassion and patience for those who have needs and forgiveness of those who wrong us, even to the point of caring for enemies. This involves a passion for doing right and an anger/disgust toward what hurts others. We are called to be people of integrity whose whole life reflects the character of God. This sometimes means that we have to stand apart from the crowd who is going in a direction away from God. In this situation love can involve rebuke.

I am called to be a person of similar character to Yhwh: committed, compassionate, patient, peaceable. forgiving, caring for my enemies, faithful, passionate, angry, disgusted. I am called to be a person of goodness and integrity, independent of the faithless and honored by the faithful community. 586

Individualism lies at the very core of American culture. Our only ultimate obligation is to our own well-being. But the divorce of the individual from the community has generated "the empty self." A first fruit of God's liberation of people is that we are drawn out of solitariness into fellowship, drawn into commitment. 591

Instead of being a whole person, a person of integrity and commitment, it is possible to be a divided person (Ps 119.113), one who will not make up his or her mind whether or not to live by Yhwh's commands and promises, whether to follow Yhwh or the Master (Baal-1 Ki. 18.21). Such people have to make up their minds before coming in to Yhwh's presence. 600-601

The second section deals with Israel's call to Holiness and Purity. This call had to do with Israel being distinctive from the nations because Yhwh is distinctive and separate. Holiness has less to do with morality (although there are moral implications) than with being totally devoted to Yhwh. Moral purity is an important part of the concept but does not fully explain the purity laws in the OT. Goldingay proposes that these laws have more to do with living within the order God has placed into creation. We need to live in harmony with the way God intended creation to be and follow its rhythms and order. Living within God's moral standards is only part of that.  Israel was to live in a way that did not "Clash with who Yhwh is." This was to help Israel in their mission to draw the nations to God. Goldingay advocates that the church embody some rituals (along with the main distinctive of a Jesus-following lifestyle) that would also "embody" this distinctiveness.

Purity is thus expressed not by withdrawal from the world but by the way we live in the world...The principle of living by the structured and ordered nature of the created world illumines other regulations in the Torah...A hallmark of the holiness of God is a reverence for and participation in the order of the cosmos. 612-613

God's missional purpose lay behind the purity system. It was designed to keep Israel in a way the world could see. It is then in this same connection that the system is abolished (Acts 10). After Jesus' death, resurrection and commission to take the gospel to the world, there are no purity rules. Yhwh's concern to reach the nations will now work itself out in a different way. 619

Such (ritual) practices indeed fulfill a missional function. In the West they do so by raising questions, by making people ask whether there might be more to life than meets the eye. In traditional cultures with their emphasis on ritual and the way it shapes people's lives and religion, Christian faith might enable the gospel to get home by working with ritual rather than reckoning that the gospel has no place for it. 621

Section 3 discusses living in light of creation in issues Relating to Life and Death. In the OT, "Life involves living in accordance with the way God created the world and fulfilling our role there." (624) Even in a broken world in which we kill and eat other life, the Israelites were to show reverence for the fact that God created it and breathed life into it by not eating the blood. There was a sense of ritual atonement to every meal in which meat was eaten. The normal daily act of eating and drinking was to reflect holiness and reverence for God. Many of the OT laws were there to "safeguard the distinction between life and death." God does not die and his purpose is to remove the "stain of death" from creation. Thus, while the OT forces us to acknowledge the fact of impending death for all of us, we have hope in God's purpose for all his people who we will join in bodily resurrection.

The food regulations thus encouraged reverence for life as well as respect for the order of creation, and once again raise questions about the identity of Western Christian lifestyle with that of the surrounding culture and reiterate the call to visible holiness. 628

You cannot go straight from death to worship. The stain of death needs to be removed from people if God is to have anything to do with them. Sacrifice does that because it presents something that gives up life and accepts death, and thus changes places with the person who has given up life and been affected by death. 633-634

Looking forward to resurrection is a matter of looking forward to the consummation of God's purpose for Israel and thus for the church. 638

Another way holiness, acting as the image of God, is shown by God's people is in the way we handle things Relating to Time and Stuff. In the OT context this mainly related to Sabbath and tithing. Sabbath was a "stopping day" a day of rest "that marks God's people out" as different from those around them. Tithing encouraged contentment and "relativizes the importance of acquiring stuff." Sabbath encouraged the people to live in harmony with the created order and keep work and business in the proper perspective. Time belongs to God and, though there are times we need to work hard, we must also take time to enjoy relationships and God's world. This shows our faith and contentment in what God provides. Tithing is designed to show the same thing, although it could be misused by the wealthy to avoid giving generously to God. Tithes were not only for maintaining the religious structure in the OT, but were even more focused on helping the poor and needy.

Sabbath links with the fact that in the land Israel enters into God's rest. Because God has completed that work, human beings can afford to take time for feasting, hospitality, the nurture of children and care for the sick and disabled. 640

The First Testament is not big on frugality or self-denial in themselves, though it implies an approach to such questions while coming at them from another angle. It emphasizes indulgence in the context of generosity and hospitality, which imply self-denial and frugality; what one shares with others, one is denying oneself. 651

There is no basis for saying that tithes must be paid to the church. Indeed, instead of using tithes to pay pay pastors and keep church buildings ambient, we might use them to offer nourishment, education, basic health care and health education for people in the Two-thirds world. 655

Wisdom, or Insight, is also critical for the spiritual person and it is a prominent subject throughout the OT, especially in the Wisdom Books. Goldingay defines wisdom, "the application of the heart and mind, under the influence of the spirit, to living life in accordance with the way the world is and for the sake of what is good, in reverence for Yhwh and acknowledgment of Yhwh." (656) This is learned as human beings relate Yhwh's revelation to human experience. Tradition is good, but we need to recognize the source of the tradition and be discerning. We also need to realize our limitations and that there is much in the world we do not understand. The Wisdom books are full of riddles, enigmas and seeming contradictions to illustrate this. Job's debate is an example of what happens when this is not taken into account. Discernment allows us to navigate this ambiguity and the OT gives the freedom to question and face facts honestly. The key is "mindfulness," keeping in mind Yhwh's covenant and commands and teaching them

In Israelite wisdom there is no attempt to achieve a theoretical, self-contained picture of the world or of human nature, but rather a notable caution with regard to comprehensive attempts at explanations; in contrast to this there is an unfinished and unfinishable dialogue about man and the world. 660-661

Yhwh's commands are the key to understanding (Ps. 119.98-100, 104) Christian meditation is not transcendental meditation. It is meditation on an object. Such meditation or mindfulness or active remembering is key to First Testament spirituality. 666

Biblical spirituality also involves careful attention to what we say. Our speech is an indicator of our love and devotion for God, His word and His people. This requires a mind focused on God's word. When it is, our words become the means to give life and blessing to ourselves and ourselves and others. Words can be death-dealing when they reflect our selfishness and ignorance of God's ways. Ywhw's words are powerful and life-changing and when we speak them out to the world and pray them back to God they provide powerful blessing, or judgment on evil and evil people. True relationships are characterized by honest, but life-giving, loving words.

Ideally speech combines insight and authority: it does so if Yhwh's teaching is written into the mind. A mark of commitment to Yhwh's teaching and expectations is to talk about them. 669

Words of blessing are life-giving words...Blessing someone is a way of praying for them or is related to praying for them. 672

It is through speech that we express our wisdom and convey wisdom to other people, and also express our stupidity and encourage folly in others (Prov. 15.2). There is thus something to be said for silence. 675

In the West the issue of Suffering results in the conversation about theodicy, "why do bad things happen to good people?" In the OT suffering was just assumed to be part of life in this imperfect world and the question was "What (and when) is God going to do about it?" This life is a life of testing and challenge that prepares us for the next one (with NT further revelation). Suffering can turn us toward God and his mercy as we realize our vulnerability and weakness, and increase our motivation to hold on to God and hope. Suffering can also become the "vocation" from which we do ministry. The bottom line is that we just do not have enough information (Job and Ecclesiastes to know why we suffer in each situation.

Suffering issues from our vulnerability to life and death and other people. It can then be a challenge to be met or an argument to be engaged in or a spur to penitence or a vocation to be accepted. The question it raises is whether we can hold on to God and hold onto hope. 681

Facing suffering is part of the challenge of being human that emerges from God's not having created the world a place that was finished. It is a place that is ordered and good, indeed very good, but a place that requires subduing by humanity...Testing is integral to human experience. 683

Our sinfulness means we can let fear and rage express themselves in inappropriate forms, such as self-defense or revenge or preemptive attack, but this too does not mean we should avoid expressing them at all. (Psalm 35) models how to channel them into prayer. 697

In the Old Testament the spiritual life is not just one of moral development, although that is important, it is dependent on Transformation by Yhwh, a conversion that leads to repentance. Yhwh's teaching produces this change. We need Yhwh to "write his laws on our hearts" and then we respond with commitment to them. Transformation also involves imagination. Despite the evil in the world we "imagine" the world of God's promises to be so true (this is not vain hope because God's promises are so sure they are spoken by the prophets in the past tense) that we live and make decisions now as though they are assured outcomes. So we live a life now based on the reality of God's promises and teaching as the ultimate reality in our lives. 

So there is a subtle relationship between God's grace and our commitment. I must be committed to walking in God's way, yet I appeal for God's help in order to do so. 700

Imagination remains at the core of moral reflection. Moral imagination generates the world of what ought to be, thereby making moral living possible. It does not exactly make the world; objectively the world exists. But subjectively it makes the world for us. It also makes moral living possible through driving us out of our own world into the world of others. 704

God makes Israel the object of love and takes Israel through tough experiences of the kind that can shape its character. And then God sits back and hopes that this will all work, high on expectancy but sometimes experiencing disappointment; what Yhwh hoped and thought they would do, they do not do. 706

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday Reading “The Lord and His Prayer” by NT Wright #6

15830Today we finish the book, 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 have been looking at one chapter and praying through the book as well, each Sunday focused on one phrase of the prayer. This week, we focus on the concluding doxology to the prayer, “Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory.” I have already posted some quotes from this chapter on my Facebook page and this weekly chapter summary will continue to appear 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.

Wright recognizes that this phrase is not part of the original text of the prayer in either Matthew or Luke. He does think that it is “it is actually inconceivable, within the Jewish praying styles of his day, that Jesus would have intended the prayer to stop simply with ‘deliver us from evil’. Something like this must have been intended from the beginning.” (81) He sees the ending as an appropriate summation of the prayer contrasting the violent, selfish, power-hungry kingdoms of this world with the gracious and peaceful kingdom of God. Jesus vs. Caesar is the allegiance choice every generation must make. Sadly, most1st century Jews and most manifestations of the church chose the wrong kingdom.

(“Glory to God and Peace on Earth”) becomes a fairly clear statement of two kingdoms, kingdoms that are destined to compete, kingdoms that offer radically different definitions of what peace and power and glory are all about. 80

When you look at the Word become flesh, you don’t see the sort of glory that Augustus Caesar and his like work for. You see the glory that is the family likeness of God himself. Caesar’s glory is full of brute force and deep ambiguity. God’s glory—Jesus’ glory—is full of grace and truth. 82

This is the ultimate redefinition of the kingdom, the power and the glory. Caesar’s plans for his own glory are turned by God into the establishment of the true Kingdom. 86

Wright makes three applications of the conclusion to the prayer. First, “this is the prayer of mission and commission.” Praying this prayer commits us to submit to God’s kingdom vision and be part of bringing this kingdom about. Second, “this is the prayer of incarnation and empowerment. That is we realize that we do our kingdom actions with the authority of Christ and with the power of the Spirit. Finally, “this is the prayer of confidence and commitment.” We can pray the whole prayer with confidence that God will answer and he will bring about his kingdom for this world.

If the church isn’t prepared to subvert the kingdoms of the world with the kingdom of God, the only honest thing would be to give up praying this prayer altogether, especially its final doxology. 87

The church should be active within the world as the people of the true King, as the Christ-people, and should be prepared to justify that action by appealing to her royal, anointed status. To pray this prayer is therefore to invoke the power of the Spirit of Jesus, as we work for the glory of God in his anointed son. 87

To pray in Jesus’ name is to invoke the name of the Stronger than the Strong; it is to appeal to the one through whom the creator of the world has become king, has taken the power of the world and has defeated it with the power of the cross, has confronted the glory of the world and has outshone it with the glory of the cross.  88.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

PIU Solar Power Project

SAMSUNG            Our PIU solar power project has begun. When the project is done we anticipate to have about 60% of the school’s power needs taken care of this way. Up front it should save the school about $1,000 per month in power costs and, over the next 20 years, much more than that. Inverter (1)Our Library and men’s dorm will be covered by 228 solar panels and the project should be done before the students arrive mid-August. We are thankful to partner with Pacific Solar and Bank of Hawaii to make this happen. I will keep posting updates as the project moves forward.

 

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The panels are going on the roof this week. The housing for the electrical box is almost done

Inverter (3)Tpanels (3)Inverter (4)

Here is the inverter and supports for the panels

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Reading Through Philemon

indexI am continuing to read through the New Testament accompanied by the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today, edited by John R. W. Stott. Philemon is discussed in the volume of the series 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.

Paul most likely wrote the letter to Philemon at about the same time as Colossians from a Roman prison. Philemon probably lived in the city of Colossae where he hosted a house church and its is likely that Apphia was his wife and Archippus his son. They were probably converted through Paul in Ephesus or by one of Paul‘s co-workers who was sent from Ephesus to start the church in Colossae. Philemon was wealthy enough to own at least one slave and to have a home large enough for a house church. It appears that Philemon’s slave, Onesimus, had robbed Philemon and run away to Rome. While there he was recognized by one of Paul’s co-workers or came to Paul for help in returning to Philemon. Paul led him to salvation and then sent him back to Colossae with this letter accompanied by Tychicus.

The letter was written to show that the obligations of relationships within the body of Christ override other obligations and to teach that those who receive grace are obligated to be gracious to others and to do what they can to right wrongs and restore relationships. The message of Philemon is that "The grace of Jesus Christ, and the gracious ministry of others to us, obligates us to give grace and forgiveness to others and to do what we can to maintain peace and good relationships with God‘s people." Basically, Paul graciously subverts the Roman institution of slavery through the gospel.

Once we grasp something of the miraculous transformation of human affairs brought about by the gospel in these young churches of the New Testament, we are better able to appreciate the patterns and priorities of apostolic involvement in society’s problems. What was being achieved everywhere was the establishment of little oases where an alternative way of life was being practiced and could be observedPhilemon, 188

Philemon ChartGrace obligates us to committed relationships which allow Jesus to minister through us to others. We are obligated to a higher level of commitment in relationships based on what Christ has already done to provide us relationship to God. Faith applies what we have in Christ so that Jesus ministers to others though us. A Christian’s acts of love should encourage others and bring them joy and refreshment.

We can be sure that Philemon would now receive from this new man in Christ the true and willing service that is demanded of a servant of Christ (verse 11). It is necessary to see this side of the equation as well. It is not simply that Christianity has bestowed on a man a new freedom: it has also radically altered that man so that he is able to exercise it aright. Philemon 11, 188.

Grace has the authority to command forgiveness and restoration of broken relationships. Love, ministered through Christ and through His church, and the new spiritual relationships created demand forgiveness and restoration. Redemption and forgiveness restore meaning and purpose to the lives of those we forgive as we allow them to flow from God‘s heart through us to the hearts of others. When we forgive others and restore relationships we make allies and helpers for God’s work. This only makes sense because God is sovereign enough to use the hurts that we receive to make us grow and to bring others into deeper relationship with us. When we forgive we allow ourselves to experience these blessings.
 
When we forgive and love as Christ did we experience the blessings of deep fellowship and receive love and grace. We welcome relationship with those who have wronged us based on the truth that Christ has welcomed us. Because Jesus relates to us based on His righteousness we should relate to others based on what we owe Christ, not on what they owe us. A true understanding of love and grace should motivate us to go so far as to take the penalty of the one who has committed the wrong, if that would restore the relationship. Gracious people are peacemakers.  Grace through faith expressing itself in love never is never satisfied with doing the minimum necessary to maintain relationship. It loves and forgives as Christ did.

For Paul, there is a clear line of demarcation between the world and the church: to him the world is essentially unchanged and unchanging, for in every generation the seeds of decay and disruption are born again...In short, Christians must live and suffer in an evil world...To live in this evil world Christians cannot avoid living within social structures that are unjust and unequal, though their presence within it as salt and light should help to change structures. Yet, whether one is born an ‘Onesimus’ or a ‘Philemon’, one can find in Christ the secret of spiritual freedom: in addition, ‘Philemon’ has the power, the opportunity and the responsibility to liberate the captive in more material and practical ways. If this perspective is correct, the narrowness of Paul’s aim becomes of fascinating significance. A burning appeal to an unknown house-church in Phrygia is his way to begin to change the world! Philemon, 189

Monday, July 20, 2015

Stuff Tourists Do on Guam





This is the latest video (July 19th) from the Guam Visitor’s Bureau publicizing Guam as a
tourist destination. Tourist numbers are up big time on Guam lately and a new 6 star hotel just opened. In our 22 years
here we have done many of the events and been many of the places pictured in the
video. We do enjoy living on Guam.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sunday Reading “The Lord and His Prayer” by NT Wright #5

15830This is the next-to-last week for my Sunday reading series on the book, 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 have been looking at one chapter and praying through the book as well, each Sunday focused on one phrase of the prayer. This week, we focus on the 5th petition in the prayer, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” I have already posted some quotes from this chapter on my Facebook page and this weekly chapter summary will continue to appear 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.

Do not let us be led to the Test! Deliver us from Evil! This is part of the prayer for the Kingdom: it is the prayer that the forces of destruction, of dehumanization, of anti-creation, of anti-redemption, may be bound and gagged, and that God’s good world may escape from being sucked down into their morass. It is our responsibility, as we pray this prayer, to hold God’s precious and precarious world before our gaze, to sum up its often inarticulate cries for help, for rescue, for deliverance. Deliver us from the horror of war! Deliver us from human folly and the appalling accidents it can produce! Let us not become a society of rich fortresses and cardboard cities! Let us not be engulfed by social violence, or by self-righteous reaction! Save us from arrogance and pride and the awful things they make people do! Save us—from ourselves … and Deliver us from the Evil One. 74–75.

Wright began the previous chapter by showing how the story of the “Running Father” illustrates the petition for forgiveness. He begins this one by using Mary the mother of Jesus as an example of how one lives out the petition, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Mary willingly took on the task of giving birth to Jesus, despite knowing the hardships, sorrow, opposition and spiritual warfare it would bring, because she knew that she would play an important part in bringing in the eternal kingdom of God that would vanquish all evil and pain. This petition again is mainly about the kingdom of God. We are asking God for deliverance from the Tribulation and for daily victory over the forces of evil that will bring it about.

To say ‘lead us not into temptation’ does not, of course, mean that God himself causes people to be tempted. It has, rather, three levels of meaning. First, it means ‘let us escape the great tribulation, the great testing, that is coming on all the world.’ Finally, it means ‘do not let us be led into temptation that we will be unable to bear’ (compare 1 Corinthians 10:12–13). Finally, it means ‘Enable us to pass safely through the testing of our faith’. 73.

To pray ‘deliver us from evil’, or ‘from the evil one’, is to inhale the victory of the cross, and thereby to hold the line for another moment, another hour, another day, against the forces of destruction within ourselves and the world. 72

Interestingly, when Jesus prayed this prayer, it was not answered “Yes” by the Father. He went through the full force of evil at the cross but triumphed over it. Now, when we pray this prayer, we must pray with a willingness to follow King Jesus in this battle. We recognize that evil is a formidable power, but that Jesus has already won the battle and we join the victory as we live by the Spirit. We fight the daily fight that he won at the cross and will consummate at his return.

You can only pray them when you are saying Yes to God’s Kingdom coming to birth within you, as Mary was called to do; when you are saying Yes to the call to follow Jesus to Gethsemane, even when you don’t understand why; when you are saying Yes to the vocation to go to the place of pain, to share it in the name of Jesus, and to hold that pain prayerfully in the presence of the God who wept in Gethsemane and died on Calvary. 75

The call to pray this clause of the prayer is therefore the call to be Annunciation-people; Gethsemane-people; and, yes, Calvary-people. We are called to live and pray at the place where the world is in pain, so that the hopes and fears, the joy and the pain of the whole world may become, by the Spirit and in our own experience, the hope and fear, the joy and pain of God. 76

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Reading Through Titus

51yRNhigr7L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I am continuing to read through the New Testament accompanied by the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today, edited by John R. W. Stott. This post quotes from the book Guard the Truth: The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus, written by John Stott. My analysis of the letter to  Titus is below. 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.

Titus was a Gentile convert who served and traveled with the apostle Paul. He had been sent by Paul to work with the Corinthian church. Paul had left Titus in Crete to pastor the church there and appoint and train leadership. Titus is last mentioned in Dalmatia (Yugoslavia). Paul and Titus planted the church in Crete soon after Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. It is likely that Paul wanted Titus to join him for a missionary trip to Spain in the spring of 64. According to tradition, he later returned to Crete and lived the rest of his life there. Titus is mentioned 13 times by  Paul in his letters and this letter fits well with those situations. 

Paul wrote the letter to tell Titus to organize the work in Crete and supervise the appointment of church leadership, to exercise his authority to oppose false teachers and dissenters and rebuke immoral behavior, and to arrange for Titus to come to Nicopolis to prepare for the next missionary journey. Paul reminded Titus that receiving God’s grace obligates us to be devoted to Jesus Christ and to show it with our gracious lifestyle. The overall message of the letter is "The church must be trained and organized to teach and live out God‘s grace before the world."

Titus Chart ColorFirst, the Church must be organized to minister God’s Grace. The basis of ministry is God’s gracious calling through faith in Jesus Christ our Savior and all ministry must rest on God’s Word and promises which are absolutely reliable. God entrusts his message to people who must preach it at His command and live in right relationship with God and with other believers. The task is to organize and train the church to grow and minister in God’s grace. This requires mature leadership who are above accusation in their family relationships and the character of their ministries, and are gracious in the use of their homes and in their relationships.  Leaders must hold to biblical truth and be able to teach and defend it by resisting false teachers who do not preach the Gospel of God’s grace.

Three valid tests to apply to any and every system...First, is its origin divine or human, revelation or tradition? Secondly, is its essence inward or outward, spiritual or ritual? Thirdly, is its result a transformed life or a merely formal creed? True religion is divine in its origin, spiritual in its essence and moral in its effect. Titus 1.14-16, 183.

The key institution in the church is the seminary or theological college. In every country the church is a reflection of its seminaries. All the church’s future pastors and teachers pass through a seminary. It is there that they are either made or marred, either equipped and inspired or ruined. Therefore we should set ourselves to capture the seminaries of the world for evangelical faith, academic excellence and personal godliness. Titus 1, 184.

Secondly, Titus was to teach people in the church the godly behavior that must result from applying God’s Grace. Each group was to act appropriately so that their behavior is in agreement with God’s Word, are examples of a respectful Christ-like lifestyle, and focuses on honoring Jesus. Reception of God’s grace obligates us to be eager to do what pleases God because it assures hope for the future and freedom from the past, and if we really understand that we belong to Jesus we will want to be like Him. So, we are to teach one another to live godly lifestyles through our gracious words and example.

Christian pastors and teachers are called first to teach both doctrine and ethics; secondly to teach them in relation to each other and show how they ‘fit’; and thirdly to relate duty to doctrine, not in general principles only but in detailed applications. Titus 2.1-15, 186

Christian doctrine is salvation doctrine, a jewel called ‘the teaching about God our Saviour’ (10). So either we give no evidence of salvation, in which case the gospel-jewel is tarnished, or we give good evidence of salvation by living a manifestly saved life, in which case the gospel-jewel shines with extra lustre. Our lives can bring either adornment or discredit to the gospel. Titus 2.1-10, 191–192.

Grace disciplines us to ‘renounce’ our old life and to live a new one, to turn from ungodliness to godliness, from self-centredness to self-control, from the world’s devious ways to fair dealing with each other. Titus 2.11-12, 193.

We need to say to ourselves regularly the great acclamation, ‘Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.’ For then our present duties in the home will be inspired by the past and future epiphanies of Christ. Titus 2.13-14, 196

Finally, Titus was to work hard TO ACT according to what God‘s grace had made him TO BE. He was to remind people that their lifestyle must show Christ’s character to the world and reflect who they are by God’s grace, not who they were in their own flesh. He was to oppose and avoid anyone who demeans God’s grace by teaching or lifestyle, while working hard to give God’s grace to others as He has given grace to us.

The only reason we dare instruct others in social ethics is that we know what we were once like ourselves, that God nevertheless saved us, and that he can therefore transform other people too. It is not enough to affirm that the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men (2:11); we must be able to say that he saved us (3:5), even he saved me. Titus 3.3-8, 200–201.

Doctrine inspires duty, and duty adorns doctrine. Doctrine and duty are married; they must not be divorced. 3, 213

True teaching of Grace never leads to license. It leads to devotion and sacrifice.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Reading Through 2nd Timothy

51Tk81jYk L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I am continuing to read through the New Testament accompanied by the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today, edited by John R. W. Stott. This post quotes from the book Guard the Gospel the Message of 2 Timothy, written by John Stott. My analysis of 2 Timothy is below along with quotes from the commentary. 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 was possibly written from a Roman prison during Paul‘s final imprisonment. Timothy was still in Ephesus where Paul had left him to provide pastoral leadership. The reference to Tychicus (4:12) and Onesiphorus (1:18) in Ephesus would imply that Timothy was there too. Troas (4:13) would have been on the normal route from Ephesus to Rome. This is a very personal letter from a spiritual father to his spiritual son. It is full of 1st person references and other personal references which correspond to the life of Paul. In many ways, 2 Timothy is Paul‘s last will and testament as it alternates between pessimism about circumstances to optimism because of God’s promises.

Paul wrote to encourage Timothy to endurance, courage and faith in his ministry and to take a stand against false doctrine. He wanted to instruct Timothy to pass the faith on to the next generation by training leaders and to summon Timothy to Rome to visit him before he was killed. He encouraged Timothy that ministry for Christ requires hard work, difficult service and painful endurance but the reward is worth it! The Message of 2 Timothy is "Endure in loyalty to the Lord and to His people, in faithful hard-working ministry despite difficulties, and in resisting false teachers, because the Lord will reward you in his Kingdom."

First Paul encouraged Timothy to be loyal to God, the gospel, good doctrine and to those who minister to you. He thanked God for Timothy’s loyalty to the faith passed down from past generations. He charged him to witness and minister boldly because of God‘s calling, power and authority given to him, because God has saved us by His grace alone, because the gospel is based on the power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection and because we have been appointed by God to do it. We can endure in loyalty to the truth because we know Jesus will be loyal to us. Even when we suffer, we can trust because the character of Christ guarantees our salvation and with the help of the Holy Spirit as Onesiphorus was loyal to minister to Paul despite difficulty and the disloyalty of others. 1

However much (or little) we may have received from God, either directly in natural and spiritual endowment or indirectly through parents, friends and teachers, we must still apply ourselves in active self-discipline to cooperate with God’s grace, to keep fanning the inner fire into flame. Otherwise, we shall never be the men and women God wants us to be, or fulfil the ministry he has given us to exercise. 2 Timothy 1.2-8, 31–32.

We are called to guard the gospel, keeping it pure whatever the cost, and preserving it against every corruption. Guard it faithfully. Spread it actively. Suffer for it bravely. This is our threefold duty vis-à-vis the gospel of God as expounded in this first chapter. 2 Timothy 1.12-18, 47

Then Paul commanded Timothy to endure as a faithful minister, working hard, focused on the prize of God’s approval. He used 6 examples: 1) Discipler: Teach what you have learned to faithful men so that the truth will be passed on, 2) Soldier: A good soldier endures hardship because he is solely focused on pleasing His commander, 3) Athlete: An athlete endures the rigors of competition without short cut because he wants to win the prize. 4)Farmer: Today’s hard work of witness will pay later because God’s faithfulness guarantees reward, 5) Approved Workman: Do your best to know, teach and apply scripture accurately, 6) Vessel: Pursue righteous character so that you are fit and useful to serve God,  and 7) Servant: Gently persuade those who disagree with you with the truth of scripture and kindness.  2

For the understanding of Scripture a balanced combination of thought and prayer is essential. We must do the considering, and the Lord will do the giving of understanding. 2 Timothy 2.7,  60.

As good soldiers, law-abiding athletes and hardworking farmers, we must be utterly dedicated to our work. As unashamed workmen we must be accurate and clear in our exposition. As vessels for noble use we must be righteous in our character and conduct. And as the Lord’s servants we must be courteous and gentle in our manner. Thus each metaphor concentrates on a particular characteristic which contributes to the portrait as a whole, and in fact lays down a condition of usefulness. 2 Timothy 2, 80

2 Tim ChartHe then warned Timothy to watch out for the great coming apostasy and withstand it with God‘s Word. A great apostasy is coming which will look godly, but will actually oppose God and His people. Timothy is to oppose, and endure the persecution of, this apostasy by knowing and using God’s Word.  3

Only the gospel offers a radical solution to this problem. For only the gospel promises a new birth or new creation, which involves being turned inside out, from self to unself, a real reorientation of mind and conduct, and which makes us fundamentally God-centred instead of self-centred. Then, when God is first and self is last, we love the world God loves and seek to give and serve like him. 2 Timothy 3.2-4, 86

Let the word of God make you a man of God! Remain loyal to it and it will lead you on into Christian maturity.’ 2 Timothy 3, 104

Finally, he tells Timothy to endure in service by never stopping preaching the Word or ministering to one another. We are to preach the word, even if people don’t want to hear it, because God will judge our ministries, complete our calling, give our all and hang on to the end because the reward is worth it, be faithful to minister to one another as God is faithful to His Word and to protect His people. People will often disappoint us with their lack of endurance but Jesus will stay with us until the end brings victory. We need to be quick to take ministry opportunities before it is too late. 4

We have no liberty to invent our message, but only to communicate ‘the word’ which God has spoken and has now committed to the church as a sacred trust. 2 Timothy 4.2, 106.

Now these three truths—the appearance, the judgment and the kingdom—should be as clear and certain an expectation to us as they were to Paul and Timothy. They cannot fail to exert a powerful influence on our ministry. For both those who preach the word and those who listen to it must give an account to Christ when he appears. 2 Timothy 4.1, 110.

So then, knowing the sacred deposit entrusted to him, the imminence of his own martyrdom, the natural weaknesses of Timothy, the opposition of the world and the extreme subtlety of Satan, Paul issues to Timothy his fourfold charge regarding the gospel—to guard it (because it is a priceless treasure), to suffer for it (because it is a stumbling-block to the proud), to continue in it (because it is the truth of God) and to proclaim it (because it is good news of salvation).  2 Timothy 4, 126

Don‘t give up! The church can never surrender because Jesus has won the battle.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Stuff We Do on Guam

WeekendJuly (12)SAMSUNGThis past weekend was another active one. We were happy to not have the threat of a typhoon hanging over us. The weekend included basketball, yard sales, beaches, church, meetings and spending time with friends. We did work a little too. It is usually a beautiful day on Guam. This picture was taken from the window of my car as I entered our neighborhood – yes I took it while the car was moving - very slowly. I almost got it just as the sun went beneath the horizon. On the left, Courage demonstrates a cheer she learned at “cheer camp.”

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Before the weekend began there was a Guam Ministerial Meeting on the Navy base. I enjoy very much our monthly meeting where we fellowship and think through ways we can minister together and demonstrate the unity and love between God’s people which Jesus commanded.

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PIU had a yard sale in the classroom Saturday morning to raise funds for the 2015-16 PIU yearbook.

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Titus’ team continued their undefeated season. They got their uniforms Saturday and so we took a team picture. Titus’ coach was one of his uncle Matt’s high school basketball teammates.

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Our church met at our house Sunday morning.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

An OT Theology of City and Nation

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. The issue in this section (society and government) was so different in the ancient world that it can be hard to see how it applies in the 21st century. So we will continue to wrestle together with the biblical text and can have a good discussion of this post on Facebook.

Section 1 deals with what the Old Testament says about the City. The Bible is somewhat ambivalent about urbanization. The original move to the city (Cain's family and Babel) is seen as a way of being independent of God and a part of the process to make Israel a "nation like other nations," yet God takes Jerusalem as his holy city and the eternal state is portrayed as a New Jerusalem. The city offers an opportunity for wealth but tends to create a greater economic disparity than agricultural life. Wealth then becomes a "moral issue" as the well-off have responsibility to help the poor. Those with insight and faith realize that there are dangers to being wealthy and try to avoid them by using wealth to help others. Too much focus on wealth can make one waste their life and destroy relationships. Better to use wealth to live well and include others in one's happiness.

Proverbs does not imply that the mere existence of economic disparity between different people is an evil. "The Old Testament does not present equality of wealth as an ideal." Its emphasis lies on the wealthy being generous and the faithless stopping being faithless. The social ideal the prophets project is that of a benevolently hierarchical society, indeed a benevolently patriarchal society. 482

There really is such a thing as moral evil, and causing or allowing needy people to remain hungry and thirsty is not merely, for instance, one of those regrettable features of life that result from the fact that everyone has to accept responsibility for their own destiny. 485-6

Wealth makes it possible to have a really good time. And the First Testament likes the idea of people having a really great time. It enthuses over festivals where people enjoy and eat their fill of the good things God has given them (Deut 26.11-12). It is less enthusiastic about the idea of some people having a great time while others are excluded. 489

The city is a place of trade and opportunity for wealth. This often leads to a loss of reliance on God, loss of accountability for honesty and justice, and a refocusing of religion on "what makes me feel good." The temptation is to use people instead of serve people. The city then becomes a place of exploitation, greed and dishonesty as condemned in many of the prophetic books. To make wealth the rich exploit the weak and needy instead of helping them. Corruption grows as the government and the wealthy connive rather than defend and enforce God's principles.  The biblical system was designed to provide freedom to make wealth while at the same time protecting the workers' rights within the relationships in the community. This, of course, was all based on the individual's and community's righteousness in submitting to God's instruction.

There is nothing inherently wrong with prestige, plenty of food and security - these are God's good gifts. But they put a temptation before people who receive them. They can tempt people into self-centeredness. The test of whether they have done so is the community's behavior toward the weak and needy. 496

It is a very challenging task to combine a concern about profitable business dealing with devotion to God, humanness and honesty, as both capitalist and socialist systems show in contrasting ways. But corruption has the most devastating affect on a society. In the Two-thirds World it is  decisive factor in holding back the development of well-being. In the West it is a decisive factor in the ongoing collapse of society. 498

The key to understanding the biblical model is that the production and sale of goods is almost entirely left to the unfettered operation of market forces, while the laws governing the use of labour, the allocation of land and the role of finance are tightly drawn so as to ensure a minimum level of income and wealth for all...the rough equality of wealth, income and opportunity are encouraged without the need for a large centralised state; and that the interests of "finance" are made subservient to those of interpersonal relationships. 501

The 2nd section is focused on what it meant for Israel to be a Nation. Israel existed to be a distinctive, unique nation through its trust in Yhwh, and the compassion and integrity that would result from that. Abraham's blessing, in his calling out to be a nation, was to come as Israel became an example of commitment to God within the nations of the world, which God loved. So they were exclusive, but not superior. Israel was to be different from other nations because of their trust in Yhwh and their care for their people. So the nation was based on trust in Yhwh. Israel was not a powerful, rich, conquering power. They were the "losers" in the global power game. They only "won" when they totally depended on God without playing the political power games of the nations around them. The nation fails because it does not learn from its history that only Yhwh delivers.

Israel was thus designed to be an alternative community...it then embodied a social revolution that reasserted the autonomy of a decentralized community in which power was diffused, carrying on their life so as to do for themselves what states claimed to do for them and thus free from paying taxes, rent or interest on loans when they were in need. 511

Even Zion and the temple can become falsehood and deception, in the absence of an attitude of steadfast trust in Yhwh...Judah thinks that strength and deliverance depend on taking responsibility for its destiny and taking sensible political action. Isaiah says it lies elsewhere, in an irresponsibly relaxed trust in Yhwh that things will turn out all right 518-520

A marker of folly is the incapacity to see when one is acting against one's own interests. 525

Israel went into exile because of self-deception. They believed Yhwh's promises of blessing for faithfulness, but not the promises of judgment for rebellion. Their worship did not reflect what they truly desired in their hearts and did not extend to their daily lives. Israel was only fooling themselves that they could control their success through military might or clever alliances. They were subject to the superpower nations that God had called them to minister blessing to, and these nations were used by God both to bless and discipline Israel. Israel's safety and success was entirely dependent on their adherence to their covenant God. After the exile, their success depended on accepting their role as an underling (Jer. 29.7) and disperse God's blessing as they were dispersed among the nations. This is the same mission as the church has. The oppressive superpower nations are a result of sin and will be removed by the hand of God. Our role is to pray for them, work to bless them and be a voice for witness to and for Yhwh (Jesus) and his ethic.

Pride means a majesty that can express itself in self-confidence and self-assertiveness rather than submission to God and to other people... The problem with their attitude is not pride in the sense of self-congratulation and an expectation that others will acknowledge them, but a sense of having the means to control their destiny. 530

Israel must not fall into the trap of trusting other nations as resources, but neither must it fall into the trap of thinking that Yhwh is interested only in Israel or that it can despise them. It is invited into compassion for them and anticipation of their coming to worship Yhwh. Alongside and standing in tension with the will to exclude is the will to embrace. 533

Our task is not to think that by taking the helm of international history we can contribute to bringing in God's kingdom, but to witness to the fact that a superpower will never do this. 540

Section 3 of chapter 5 discusses Israel as a Kingdom in the Old Testament. Interestingly Israel existed as a nation before it had a centralized government, or really could be classified as a "state." Kingship was a relatively short blip in the history of the nation. The kingship came into being because of the chaos of the Judges period and for defense against the encroachment of the Philistines into Palestine. Of course the problem is that when a people amass a strong central government and army for defense, that can be turned into an army of conquest or the state's power can be turned against its own people (as Solomon did). "The more power grows, the more values disintegrate, so that there is a tension between the state's vocation and its necessary way of operating." (545) Having centralized states naturally leads to war, or at least makes the wars bigger and more devastating. The OT pretty much assumes the reality of war (and God sometimes wages war) and gives instruction about how to manage it rather than encourage or ban it.

There was thus little correlation between the state structure and the reality of Israel, as there is little correlation between the separate denominations that we call "churches" and the Church. 542

A major reason why states exist is so that the people who belong to them can maintain themselves and assert themselves over against other states. War is the means whereby they do so. 548-9

It is doubtful if the dynamic of any of the wars of, say, the past six centuries involved peace-inclined peoples suddenly realizing that the scriptures encouraged war and therefore deciding to start one, or even feeling free to fight a war they would otherwise have hesitated to fight. 556

The reality of war is taken for granted in the Old Testament. It is seen as something God will remove in the age to come, but something we just need to deal with in this age. Goldingay says that we need to be careful evaluating what the Bible says about war within the Enlightenment categories our culture uses to discuss the question today. The Israelite monarchy under David and Solomon used war to extend the (little) Israelite empire, with God's seeming approval (See Psalm 2). However, at no time did either king pursue their conquests according to the limitations of the Deuteronomic covenant - this Kingdom of God methodology did not work. In fact, one could say that they started Israel down the path that led to exile and perhaps this is why Jesus was reluctant to use, and redefined, the title "Messiah." Pacifism also does not seem to be advocated even in the New Testament. Jesus says "blessed are the peacemakers" but does not counsel soldiers, even from the occupying Romans, to lay down their arms. War seems to be a necessary evil in this age. Perhaps Christians need to be a prophetic voice (Separation of church and state is not a biblical concept. This doesn't mean it is a bad idea in the modern world, it just isn't in the Bible like the morality of organ donation is not in the Bible) within their nations reminding their rulers that going to war is not something that should be done if there are other options. Goldingay advocates the Mennonite proposal for peace, "Let the Christians of the world agree that they will not kill each other." 568

Society and rulers have different destinies; the former is to be transformed, shaped in conformity to God's purpose; the latter are to disappear. renouncing their sovereignty in the face of his. In a sense they have no alternative; their subjects have already withdrawn their recognition from their rulers. 558

Neither Moses nor Jesus rejected the state. Both rejected - in the sense of refusing to acknowledge the authority of - the empire...The Christian church and Christians individually in the United States or Britain are not in a position analogous to that of 1st century churches in relation to the Roman state, because they are themselves citizens of a past or present superpower. Further, because their countries are democracies, they share in responsibility for its actions. 562

We might well see the church as having a prophetic role in relation to the state, but the church would have to become prophetic in its life. 563

The remainder of the chapter deals with the thorny issue of "But What About the Canaanites?" How could a good God order the destruction of all the Canaanites? Goldingay points out the important fact that Israel never carried out herem on the Canaanites the way they were told to in Deuteronomy, and never were rebuked or condemned for failing to do that. This could mean that they knew that they were to understand to understand that command as "hyperbole" for the destruction of the evil moral and religious lifestyles of Canaan, which they adopted and ended up being destroyed in the same way as the Canaanites. Perhaps it is best to see the stories of Rahab and Jericho as paradigms of the way things could always have been in this situation. Nevertheless they did apply holy war in some instances. This needs to be seen as a "one-off," "non-repeatable" event, not as a paradigm for how nations should act. God does have a right to judge the nations (including the "innocents" that are caught up in that judgment). Perhaps what we see in this case is a prophetic perspective on how God judges all oppressors of history and a warning of how our nations will be judged. The New Testament is quite clear that judgment is coming for all nations and all individuals, and both testaments are quite clear that God knows how to separate the good from the wicked in His judgment.

Deuteronomy sees the nations as responsible to God for their behavior, reckons there are certain sorts of behavior that every nation should know is wrong, and presupposes that God cannot be assumed simply to tolerate wrongdoing, but may act in judgment on it. Perhaps this is one reason why Western Christians do not like the story of Yhwh using Israel to put down the Canaanites...We are more in the position of the Canaanites than in that of the Israelites. 577

The New Testament also affirms frequently how Jesus is prepared to act violently as well as being concerned to bring peace and forgiveness...There is a tough side to God and to Jesus as well as a merciful side. That is again bad news for major power such as Britain and the United States, but good news for many peoples, as Mary's song assumes (Lk 1.51-55) 578-9

Scripture is not merely a revelation concerning what are the right things for human beings to do and the wrong ones for them to avoid; to a great extent, people know that. Scripture is a revelation concerning what God has been doing in events, which can help us see what God might be doing now in events and align ourselves with it. 581

Sunday Reading “The Lord and His Prayer” by NT Wright #4

15830This is the fourth week for my Sunday reading series on the book, 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 4th petition in the prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” 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.

So the Lord’s Prayer contains, at this point, a most unusual thing: a clause which commits the pray-er to actions which back up the petition just offered. ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ Prayer and life are here locked indissolubly together. And, please note: this isn’t saying that we do this in order to earn God’s forgiveness. It’s a further statement of our loyalty to Jesus and his Kingdom. Claiming this central blessing of the Kingdom only makes sense if we are living by that same central blessing ourselves. 54–55

Wright begins the chapter on this phrase with a discussion of the story of the Prodigal Son. The Father runs to the son (a most undignified act) who betrayed him, and welcomes him back into his home. This is a picture of how God welcomes sinners into the kingdom. Christ, at the cross, opened the door for a complete forgiveness, a fulfillment of the Jubilee in Israel when debts were forgiven and slaves and prisoners were set free. When we come to God, we come because we are already forgiven, can be honest about our sins and fully experience God’s forgiveness.

This prayer was supremely answered when Jesus was crucified. In the light of the resurrection, they came to see that the cross was indeed the great act of liberation, of forgiveness, for which they had been waiting, even though it certainly didn’t look like it at the time. 56

The Lord’s Prayer clears away the paranoia and gets us down to business. The sequence of thought in the Prayer is designed to clear our eyes to see which bits of our guilt are purely imaginary, and which bits are real—and how we are to deal with the latter. Once we face up to real guilt, we can deal with it: by confessing it frankly and honestly, and by waking up again to the forgiving love of God as we see it in the life and death of Jesus. 61–62

Praying this prayer also obligates us to action. If we have truly received God’s forgiveness we are obliged to offer it to others on both an individual and corporate level. One of the key indicators that we in the church are really redeemed and that the Spirit is active among us, is that the church becomes a forgiving community. Our job is to live this out in front of the world as a witness that the kingdom of God is among them.

The second clause in the prayer is, therefore, a prayer of commitment to live in love and peace with all our Christian sisters and brothers. It is the prayer that should both undergird the ecumenical movement and remind us daily of the need to be reconciled within our own communities. 59.

We are now called to be the people through whom the unique victory of Calvary and Easter is implemented in and for the whole world. The church is to be the advance guard of the great act of Forgiveness of Sins that God intends to accomplish for the entire cosmos. Justice and peace, truth and mercy, will one day reign in God’s world; and the church, who could almost be defined as the people who pray the Lord’s Prayer, is to model and pioneer the way of life which is, actually, the only way of life, because it is the way of forgiveness. 57

This obligation is a little scary to me because I know how hard it is to forgive. But I have seen God break through my hard heart to move me to forgive and I have seen him do it in individuals and groups. I think that praying this prayer has a part in that. It is joy to be forgiven. It is love to offer forgiveness to others the way Christ has offered forgiveness to us.

In particular, having received God’s forgiveness themselves, they were to practice it amongst themselves. Not to do so would mean they hadn’t grasped what was going on...Failure to forgive one another wasn’t a matter of failing to live up to a new bit of moral teaching. It was cutting off the branch you were sitting on. 54.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Reading Through 1 Timothy

51yRNhigr7L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I am continuing to read through the New Testament accompanied by the commentary series The Bible Speaks Today, edited by John R. W. Stott. This post quotes from the book Guard the Truth: The Message of 1 Timothy & Titus, written by John Stott. My analysis of 1 Timothy is below. 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.

Timothy probably became a Christian during Paul’s 1st missionary journey trip to Lystra. Acts 14:6 and joined Paul’s ministry team during the 2nd missionary journey. (Acts 16:1). After release from imprisonment, Paul and Timothy revisited the Asian churches. Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to provide leadership to the church. This letter provides guidance for him in this role. Timothy seems to have been, by nature, passive, timid, shy and easily intimidated. (1:3, 4:12, 2 Tim 1:7)

The letter possibly was written from Macedonia while Paul was visiting the churches east of Rome. Paul probably visited Ephesus after writing 1 Timothy (3:14) and wrote to Titus from there. The letter was written to explain his delay in coming to visit Timothy in Ephesus, to correct false doctrine and encourage Timothy to confront false teachers. (1:3-10, 19-20, 4:1-7, 16, 6:12), and to instruct about doctrine, leadership and administrative policies and practices in the church. (2-3, 4-6) The message of the letter is “Be faithful to fulfill your ministry by protecting the church from false doctrine, by leading the church‘s ministry effectively, by being an example of godliness and by teaching and leading others to the truth.” Ministry for Christ is something worth giving your life for and to!

1 tim chartPaul begins by urging Timothy to take a public stand against false doctrine and for the gospel of God‘s grace to sinners. Timothy has the authority to take this stand because Paul states with apostolic authority that Timothy is accurately teaching the gospel. Paul charges him to make a public stand against false teachers who teach a gospel of works instead of grace. Paul is an example of how God can deliver a false teacher from reliance on works to God‘s grace. Paul commands him to complete the calling from God to defend the faith by resisting false teachers.

In fact the conversion of Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road has proved to be just that. It remains a standing source of hope to otherwise hopeless cases. Paul seems to speak to us across the centuries: ‘Don’t despair! Christ had mercy even on me, the worst of sinners; he can also have mercy on you!’ 1 Timothy 1.12-17, 55

In this first chapter, which concerns the place of doctrine in the local church, Paul gives valuable instruction about false teaching. Its essential nature is that it is heterodidaskalia, a deviation (heteros) from revealed truth. Its damaging results are that it replaces faith with speculation and love with dissension. Its fundamental cause is the rejection of a good conscience before God. What then should Timothy do in such a situation? Paul does not tell him to secede from the church, which would have been one extreme reaction. But neither may he remain silent in the face of heresy, let alone compromise with it, which would have been the opposite extreme. Instead, he was to stay at his post, and to fight the good fight of the faith, both demolishing error and contending earnestly for the truth. 1 Timothy 1, 58

Timothy is to lead the church by prayer, administration and example so the church can effectively minister truth. (2:1-3:13) His responsibility is to pray for everyone, especially those in authority because it pleases God, who desires everyone to be saved and because of the Gospel. Proper prayer attitudes are peaceful holiness and submission before God. Men’s prayers are most effective when their actions are holy and attitudes are peaceful.  Women’s prayers are most effective when they dress modestly and make themselves beautiful with good works instead of vanity. Women should not be hindered from learning but that freedom should not upset the social order (gender differences are still important) to the extent that it harms the spread of the gospel. 

Worship takes precedence over evangelism, partly because love for God is the first commandment and love for neighbour the second, partly because, long after the church’s evangelistic task has been completed, God’s people will continue to worship him eternally, and partly because evangelism is itself an aspect of worship, a ‘priestly service’ in which converts ‘become an offering acceptable to God’. 1 Timothy 2, 59.

The universal concern of the church arises from the universal concern of God. It is because there is one God and one mediator that all people must be included in the church’s prayers and proclamation. It is the unity of God and the uniqueness of Christ which demand the universality of the gospel. 1 Timothy 2.7, 73

Qualifications for church leadership are high because it is an important and honorable work. Church leaders must be people of integrity in their family, church, job and community reputation so that the ministry of the gospel is not hindered. Deacons are to be men of respect and dignity in control of speech, habits and family life. The purpose of this letter is that we might know how the church is to fulfill its mission to be God’s family where Jesus’ life is lived out and to defend and uphold the truth.

The pastorate is a noble task, a beautiful undertaking, a laudable ambition (1). It involves giving oneself to the service of others. Besides, the words episkopos and diakonos are both applied to the Lord Jesus in the New Testament. Peter called him ‘the Shepherd and Overseer (episkopos) of your souls’, and he applied to himself the verb diakonein. Could there be any greater honour than to follow in his footsteps and share in some of his episkope and diakonia which he is willing to delegate to us? 1 Timothy 3.8-13, 102.

The mystery of godliness which the church proclaims, the truth of which the church is the foundation and pillar, is the historic yet cosmic Christ. 1 Timothy 3.14-16, 108

Paul tells Timothy that the best way to fight false doctrine is by pointing out error in the church and by teaching and living out the truth. Hypocritical, legalistic doctrines come from demons and are taught by lying, hardened false teachers. Timothy is to expose this false teaching and cling to the truth of the Gospel which provides the real power to live and confidently set an example of Christian lifestyle, public ministry, spiritual gifts and good doctrine

The doctrine of creation has wide ramifications, as we have seen. It is the secret of developing a positive, world-affirming, grateful attitude to life, and of having a strong conscience which liberates us to enjoy the good gifts of the good Creator. 1 Timothy 4.6-10, 116

The Christian leads by example, not force, and is to be a model who invites a following, not a boss who compels one. 1 Timothy 4.11-5.2, 120

It is fatally easy to become so busy in the Lord’s work that we leave no time for the Lord himself, to be so concerned for the welfare of others that we fail to keep a watchful eye on ourselves. It is only by careful discipline that Christian leaders achieve a balance, determined not to neglect either duty for the other. 1 Timothy 4.11-5.2, 124

Timothy is to gently administer church ministries as though he was caring for his own loved family members. (5:1-6:2) The needy in the church should be cared for by the church if they are truly in need and have served others in the past. Families are obligated to take care of their own needy relatives in order to please God so that the church can help the truly needy. Meeting social obligations is honoring to God. Timothy is also to be careful in choosing elders because, though character will show, it isn’t always seen immediately. Good elders should be supported. Sinning elders should be rebuked.

Two lasting principles of social welfare seem to emerge from these apostolic instructions. The first is the principle of discrimination...the church’s welfare provisions are to be limited to those in genuine need. If there are any alternative means of support, they should be used... Secondly, there is the principle of dignity... Indeed ideally, health and strength permitting, the supported and the serving widows should be the same people...Christian relief should never demean its beneficiaries, but rather increase their sense of dignity. 1 Timothy 5.9-16, 135

Here are five qualities which are needed by Christian leaders in their dealings with others for whom they are responsible: appreciation (affirming outstanding performance), fairness (not listening to unsubstantiated accusations), impartiality (avoiding all favouritism), caution (not reaching hasty decisions) and discernment (looking beyond the outward appearance to the heart). Whenever these principles are in operation, mistakes will be avoided, the church will be preserved in peace and love, and God’s name will be protected from dishonour. 1 Timothy 5.17-25, 141–142

In contrast to greedy false teachers, Timothy was to be faithful in ministry and focus hope on God, not money. (6:3-21) False teachers can be recognized by their tendency to be conceited, greedy and manipulative. They pervert the gospel for financial gain. True teachers understand that godliness itself is valuable and trust God for their basic needs. A man of God fights for the faith by pursuing the righteous example of Christ to the glory of God and shows that he trusts God instead of money by a generous lifestyle which stores up eternal wealth. The key is to guard your privilege of ministry by not getting sidetracked from what is true and important. Your calling from God is one of your most valuable possessions. Guard it and use it well!

Paul has given us three practical tests by which to evaluate all teaching. We might put them in the form of questions. Is it compatible with the apostolic faith, that is, the New Testament? Does it tend to unite or divide the church? And does it promote godliness with contentment, or covetousness? 1 Timothy 6.3-5, 148

It is not possible to pursue truth and money, God and mammon, simultaneously. People either renounce avarice in their commitment to the faith, or they make money their god and depart from the faith. 1 Timothy 6.9-10, 153

Against materialism (an obsession with material possessions) he sets simplicity of lifestyle. Against asceticism (the repudiation of the material order) he sets gratitude for God’s creation. Against covetousness (the lust for more possessions) he sets contentment with what we have. Against selfishness (the accumulation of goods for ourselves) he sets generosity in imitation of God. Simplicity, gratitude, contentment and generosity constitute a healthy quadrilateral of Christian living. 1 Timothy 6.18-19, 162–163