Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Reading: The Big Picture: Building Blocks of a Christian World View #3

HarrisThis week I am continuing to read through The Big Picture: Building Blocks of a Christian World View, by Brian Harris. Chapter Three is entitled, Culture as Friend, Culture as Foe and is the last chapter of the first section which outlines the basics of the author’s main point. I will be posting some quotes on my Facebook page and you are welcome to discuss the posts there. (The numbers after the quotes are Kindle locations not page numbers).

The subject of chapter 3 is the relationship of culture to our understanding of the Christian faith. Some of what we consider “biblical faith” is more shaped by our culture than by the Bible itself. This can be either good or bad. It may be that the image of God in humanity and the influence of the Spirit in culture produces a setting which helps us follow Christ or, it may be that the culture, influenced by the human sin nature and demonic sphere, hinders us in our walk with Christ. All cultures are a mixed bag in this respect. The problem is when we naively assume that our worldview is not influenced by our culture. As an example, the author points out that we tend to read the Bible through the eyes of our emphasis on the individual rather than, as is it usually addressed, to a gathered community.

Because all humans are created in the image of God, life’s more significant questions are relevant regardless of our cultural grouping, albeit that our culture might see us frame these questions in a slightly different way. 1070-1071

If asked if our culture’s emphasis on the individual is divine or demonic, it is not possible to answer in one word. There are many shades and subtle emphases that need to come to the fore. 1103-1105

Every culture reflects, in some ways, the forces of evil that are at work in the world, and these forces produce what Harris calls “cultural idols.” It is important to identify what these are so we can be aware of the powerful seductive influence they have on us and we can resist because “any which claims a greater allegiance than Christ represents a threat to genuine Christ following.” He points out two cultural idols of the past, “the quest for power, by military means if necessary” and “the quest for the quiet ordered life, rather than the just life.” I am not sure these idols are still in the past. I think they are still a reflection of the “money, sex and power” idol which is quite current.

Embracing the cultural assumption that power should be accorded unquestioning respect, the church often glossed over the risk of the demonic that so easily entraps power holders. 1147-1148

The status quo, rather than the pursuit of a new heaven and new earth, often proves seductive. 1151-1152

I think Harris is correct that the church each culture must take a close look at itself (and listen to the voices that come from outside the culture) to discern its own idols that distract from following Christ. He lists the obvious ones in Western culture “money, sex and power.” I tend to think these idols are universal but the prosperity of the Western world has brought them to the forefront.

Obedience to Jesus’ instruction to accumulate riches in heaven rather than on earth proves difficult when you live in a society that attaches so much importance to financial security. 1200-1201

Work becomes a means to earn a living, rather than part of the way we seek to answer God’s call to build a world with a better name. 1203-1204

The fact that our Lord embraced singleness and a celibate lifestyle is an inconvenient truth in an era where an exploration of our sexuality is often classified as one of life’s nobler journeys. 1219-1221

The quest for leadership is often a search for power and the ability to control and shape a group’s agenda. 1238-1239

Culture can also be our friend. As any missionary should know, part of the missionary task is finding where the culture has elements of continuity with Christian message and practice to gain an open door to help them with the areas where there is discontinuity. A good missionary is aware of both. Harris would see the cultural shift toward post-modernity as an opportunity for the church and new barriers to the gospel of which we must be aware. Of course the first scrutiny must be turned on ourselves in the regard.

We should approach every culture, including church subcultures, with both openness and suspicion. At times we will find signs of God’s presence in unexpected places. 1299-1300

To me the key insight is that we never have a pure gospel or totally biblical worldview. We must always be allowing the Spirit to work within us, through the Word and through the body of Christ to change us into his image, and this includes refining of our worldview and, sometimes, jettisoning dearly held cultural idols. We are helped in that process by developing relationships with people who are from different cultures and listening to people who see things differently than us. The chapter ends with this quote, “Hold to Christ, and for the rest be totally uncommitted.” (1348)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

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DSC07588 (1280x960)Today was our annual PIU Thanksgiving Day Feast and Hike. The PIU family gathered to eat, sing, fellowship and, this year, we added the Marshallese custom of throwing candy at the audience. I think that is a custom we will continue. Joyce did a great job organizing the program, DSC07579 (1280x960)Cel’s ham was great as usual and a good time was had by all. We were blessed to have Vice President George of the Federated States of Micronesia as an honored guest, (pictured left). I always enjoy having time to sit with students, staff and faculty with nothing on the agenda except enjoying one another’s company. Here are a few pictures of the event.

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Got to pose for pictures with family and friends

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Singing before we ate and singing with candy being thrown at us after we ate

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Then there was a hike to the Pagat Cave

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Jonathan and Nikki, Courage and Joyce

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Courage posing with friends and knives

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

PIU Thanksgiving Chapel

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2015-11-24 11.33.022015-11-24 11.50.06Yesterday we enjoyed our annual PIU Thanksgiving chapel. Students, faculty and staff had an open microphone to share why they are thankful in word or song. Mayson Red and Mike Owen staged a poetry battle with two original poems each. Even though I have been sick the last week it was an encouraging hour. I am looking forward to our Thanksgiving celebration on Thursday. L to R above: Mayson and Mike slam us with some poetry, Howard Merrell tells us to be thankful for the little things, like toes that move, Liann was thankful to be back in PIU another year and Janny, right, was thankful for rides to school and that God used this semester to get a vision for her future ministry. Jackie, left, was thankful for a couple insights God has shown her over the last few months.

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There was some excellent singing. Some students that I had not heard from before sang beautifully. I am always amazed each year at the musical talent and beautiful voices displayed by our students

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Arie made her first appearance at chapel. She delivered the main expository message; uh not really. Samantha shared a little of what God is doing in her life and I got a picture of Addy holding the baby after chapel..

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Reading: The Big Picture: Building Blocks of a Christian World View #2

HarrisThis week I am reading reading through chapter two of The Big Picture: Building Blocks of a Christian World View, by Brian Harris. Chapter Two is entitled Beyond Proof Texts: Knowing and Living the Story. I will be posting some quotes on my Facebook page and you are welcome to discuss the posts there. (The numbers after the quotes are Kindle locations not page numbers).

Chapter 2 deals with how we understand the Bible and put it onto practice. How do we practice “all of the Bible,” including the difficult passages? First, and this is a given, we have to know the Bible well from “cover to cover.” I find this to be very rare, especially when we are not just talking about the ability to understand the different genres of the Bible and being able to put its stories together into a coherent whole.  This is critical because the Bible is “inspired” and “definitive” for understanding God, and our relationship with Him

One reason that the emperor appears naked is that many Christians profess a deep commitment to the Bible that is in no way matched by their knowledge of its content, meaning or relevance. 624-625

Harris suggests that we put the Bible together with 15 “orienting passages” by which we interpret the rest of the Bible. I think we all do this, maybe somewhat unconsciously, and it is a good idea to think through our reasoning behind this. I like his 15 and would suggest 3-4 more that are critical, especially Matthew 28.19-20 and maybe Proverbs 1.7 or similar. My other criticism (which I am guessing the author would agree with) would be that, rather than verses (I would get rid of verse and chapter numbers completely if I could) I would look for “idea trajectories” that run through scripture, that is running themes through scripture. I do think he has chosen passages that reflect these running themes.

What are orienting, or line in the sand passages? They are passages that give us a clear portrait of where the larger picture is heading … the vision that can sometimes be buried in the messiness of the unfolding story. 703-704

Briefly, here are his 15 orienting scriptures (well 16 since he sneaked John 3.16 into the introduction)…

  1. John 3.16: God is working towards a plan that has been shaped in love and is for the good of all who are willing to open their hearts to it. 712
  2. Genesis 1.1: God’s existence is the only reason for our own existence, and a failure to grasp this results in a radically different world view. 755
  3. Genesis 1.26-28: Not only does our imago Dei status force us to be a little tongue in cheek when we talk about gender differences, it also requires us to rethink all class and cultural distinctions, indeed, all distinctions made on the basis of education, wealth, intellect, physical stature … the list could go on and on.768-770
  4. Genesis 2.19-20: The fact that God is content to act as an onlooker whilst Adam performs this key task shows how seriously God views humanity’s role in world-shaping. 779-780
  5. Genesis 12.3: Election is not about privilege but responsibility. We are blessed to bless. 787-788
  6. Genesis 50.20: richly suggests the redemptive way God works in broken and fallen situations. This is seen with even greater clarity at the cross of Christ…Again we see the principle – what humans intend for evil, God is able to work for good. This underlying hopefulness at the heart of the Christian faith is liberating. 805-808
  7. Exodus 1: (This was the one most surprising to me but I do see the concept all through scripture) It shows that the Bible recognizes that we live in a world where we sometimes have to choose between bad and worse – put differently, a world where we sometimes face conflicting moral obligations. 829-831
  8. 1 Chronicles 22:6– 10 and 28:1– 3: We must conclude that whilst God agreed that the brokenness of David’s time required tough military action, God was unwilling for warrior imagery to be associated with the temple. In short, God makes it clear that warfare is a tragic consequence of human evil, and that it will never have the last word. 846-848
  9. Matthew 5.21-48: Punishment was not the underlying vision behind the law. Creating circumstances in which people flourish in relationship with God, with others and with creation, was. 868-869
  10. Mark 12.28-33: Genuine love for God will always lead to and be linked to love for others. Rather than faith being an escapist journey of disengagement with the issues of this world, a robust and holistic love for God – a love which engages our heart, soul, mind and strength – brings us face to face with every other human, and requires us to explore and enact whatever genuine love for them will mean. 879-882
  11. Romans 3.23: Our failure to live up to our core identity is the essence of our sinfulness. Made for relationship with God and to reflect something of what God is like, we usually reflect something quite different. 892-893
  12. Romans 5.8: It speaks of a God of compassionate justice. The goal of this judgement is not their destruction, but a path that will ultimately lead to reconciliation. 920-921
  13. 1 Corinthians 13.13: When we use faith, hope and love as an orienting motif we remember to ask of each endeavour, ‘Does this flow from faith? Does this flow from hope? Does this flow from love?’ If we answer in the negative, we should remember that we are chasing after that which will not endure. 928-930
  14. Galatians 3.28: Those who are shaped by a Christian world view should refuse to think of people in narrow categories that inevitably divide. Being in Christ trumps all other realities.942-944
  15. Colossians 1.15-20: Ultimately Christ’s death will lead to the reconciliation of all things. We can hope for a universe that is fully in harmony. The scope of the reconciliation will even impact realities which are currently invisible to us. 956-958
  16. Revelation 21.1-4: God met regularly with Adam and Eve in the first garden. Their desire to stake their independence from God set in motion a cascading chain of brokenness. This is now reversed. Heaven and earth, two spheres which previously seemed irreconcilably separate, are now united, God’s presence no longer something we can only fleetingly be aware of, but now part of our settled, permanent reality.968-971

Do you agree with these 16? Which would you add, subtract? Do you think these cover all the major themes of scripture?

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Reading in Leviticus This Week #1 (Chapters 1-10)

RossThis post will begin a discussion on the book of Leviticus, with the commentary, Holiness to the Lord: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus, by Allen P. Ross. When I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary I missed having Dr. Ross as a prof by a year or two, but we were still using his materials in Hebrew language and Hebrew exegesis classes. His commentary on Genesis, Creation and Blessing, is still one of my favorites, so I have been wanting to read this one for a while. His style is to give an exegetical and homiletic statement and outline on each preaching section along with commentary on the text. I find his commentaries very helpful for preaching and teaching through a whole OT book. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

The message of Leviticus is focused on the holiness of God and how human sinners can have relationship with a holy God:

God set about to restore the human race to the place of blessing. He began by graciously calling people into covenant with himself, providing the means of forgiveness and purification for them so that they might maintain their relationship with him, and preparing them to be the messengers of his grace and peace. 49–50.

Thus the purpose of the book of Leviticus in its original context was…

The Book of Leviticus, then, contains practical instructions for priests as they lead the corporate and individual worship of Israel at the sanctuary and as they develop the collective and personal holiness of the nation, so that the holy LORD God might dwell in peace with them and bless them. 43–44

The first section of the book provides instructions for the many sacrifices that Israel was to make. The most important sacrifice was the regular "whole burnt offering." This sacrifice was the basis by which people were able to come into the presence of God who lived in their presence in the Tabernacle. It symbolized both the sacrifice that initially allowed them into the presence of God and the provision of ongoing holiness that maintained the relationship. Leviticus begins with good news that all people may have access to God. As Ross states the message, "The LORD accepts with pleasure whoever comes into his presence by substitutionary atonement through the shedding of blood."

Everything that believers do, then, must be based on the firm conviction that by the shed blood of Jesus the Messiah, and by his blood alone, they have free access to the Father, now and in the world to come. Believers must be reminded to retain this doctrine as the foundation of their meditation and worship. And then praise will naturally spring forth from those who truly understand what it means to be accepted by God—with pleasure. Leviticus 1, 97

The "meal offering"" in chapter 2 is a sacrifice of dedication to God and a acknowledgment that they owe everything to Him. "The LORD expects his people to offer themselves and the best they have as a token of their dedication and gratitude."

Once believers offer themselves and their possessions to the LORD, everything in that dedication becomes holy, separated from the world of sin and set apart to God’s service. Though the LORD returns it to them, they must remember that it is most holy; and though it can be used by them, it must be used for holy and not for ungodly or sinful purposes. This is what dedication at the altar is all about. Leviticus 2, 108–109

The "peace offering" was a sacrifice that led to a shared meal that represented the effects of the atonement and celebrated the benefits of relationship with God. This is the thanksgiving that we Christians celebrate in the regular observance of the Eucharist. It celebrates what Christ has accomplished for us and reminds us of our obligation to serve him. Ross summarizes, "Those who surrender their hearts to God and come before him on the basis of the shed blood of the sacrifice may celebrate being at peace with God (in a communal meal)."

All of the effects of the atonement speak to us that we are at peace with God. All the promises of God that come to us through him enable the peace that passes all understanding to reign in our hearts. All the daily benefits of his goodness as a loving God speak words of peace to remind us that we belong to him. Such bounty must be publicly acknowledged and shared in the congregation. But the passage reminds believers that (1) in all the enjoyment of his benefits they must never forget that the best they have should be given to him; (2) in offering their praise to him they must never forget that the blood atonement is the basis for the benefits; and (3) in their celebration of his bounty they must remember to surrender their lives to him. Leviticus 3, 121

Leviticus 4 describes the "purification offering." This offering emphasizes the seriousness of sin and that it separates from the presence of God. It also negatively affects the entire community. Sin must be dealt with by a blood sacrifice for both initial and continued access into God's presence. It also assures that God will grant access, "God will restore the sinner who appeals to him for forgiveness on the basis of the purifying blood of the sacrifice."

Because his holy and undefiled life was sacrificed for us, we who are defiled sinners by nature and practice have been purified and reconciled to him forever...Thus, the blood of Jesus shed for our sins has a continual cleansing effect in our lives just as the repeated purification offering did for Israel. Leviticus 4, 136

Chapter 5 extends the provisions of the purification offering to make it available to the poor and to those who have hidden their sin for a long time. It extends the provision to the overlooked sins, the sins of omission. Ross summarizes: "Anyone who becomes aware of obligations left undone or impure contacts left unpurified must make confession and find forgiveness through God’s provision of atonement." (144)

The law reminds people of sin—not just the major sins, but sins that are often overlooked, like not keeping one’s word, failing to do what is right, or living in a defiled world and never considering what that does to the spiritual life. These things also defile the holy place and bring guilt that has to be dealt with, even if they have been let go too long. But the good news is forgiveness. Leviticus 5.1-13, 144–145

The "reparation offering" dealt with "defrauding God" or "defrauding others of their possessions." The emphasis was that for some sins more was required than just remorse and confession. The guilty must make things right with God and with the people they have hurt. Thus, this offering required both a sacrifice and reparations to the victim. Ross summarizes the section, "Anyone who violates the covenant by defrauding the LORD or another person must confess the sin and make full restitution in order to find full forgiveness and restoration."

To put it in the language of the cultic law, not only are we sinners, we are sinners who have defrauded God of his due and his service, who have committed sacrilege in the holy things; we are “lepers” who need to be restored; we are Nazirites with broken vows; we are the ones who defraud one another. When Jesus gave his life a ransom for many, the fullest satisfaction was made to God. What Jesus paid on the cross was more than the penalty for sin; his death was sufficient to make reparation for all that had been defrauded by the human race. And upon his offering for sin, God the Father could say, “I have all back, and more!” Leviticus 5.14-6.7, 153

Chapters 6,7 repeat much of the material on the offerings from chapters 1-5. However, the emphasis is more on the practical aspect of what the priests do with each of the offerings and how they use them to teach the people. There is a large emphasis on the responsibility and privilege of the priests to represent God and to make their living from the offerings brought to God. The priest was to represent God in his offering of atonement, forgiveness and presence to the people and represent the people, in sacrifice, praise, giving, loving one another, to God. The sacrifices emphasize the responsibility to offer our best to God in recognition that all we have comes from him.

When people give themselves, their time, their talents, or their money, ministers must find ways to affirm to them that God is pleased to receive their offering and that it, or they, will be greatly used in the life of the church. Confirmation must go beyond mere expression of appreciation; it must begin some development for usefulness or service in the church. Leviticus 6.19-23, 66

If ministers seldom emphasize forgiveness, are insincere, or are themselves unforgiving, then their words to those who are burdened with guilt will be far less than convincing. Ministers have to live what they proclaim; they have to be forgiving themselves. The body of believers functions in this priestly work: they are a kingdom of priests after all. It undermines the teaching of the church on forgiveness if the people themselves do not forgive and accept. Leviticus 6.29-30, 172

It is the privilege of the minister to play the role of arbiter and mediator on such occasions, not just between God and the people, but between the people themselves. Where reconciliation is at work, one can see the Spirit of God at work. Leviticus 7.1-10, 177

Rather than gain a good price at the market, the devout worshiper saved the best for the LORD. And even then the actual fat of the animal was designated as the LORD’s—no doubt a symbolic gesture that what represented the best and the healthiest was given to God. To eat the fat was an encroachment on divine property. Leviticus 7.22-25, 187

Chapters 8-10 deal with the laws of priesthood. The first two deal with the cleansing and ordination of the original priests of Israel and chapter 10 deals with how sinning priests are to be disciplined. The point is that priests are responsible to show God's way to bring people into the presence of God. The whole goal of the ritual was for God to appear to the people. This is a blessing to the faithful, but quite dangerous to those unwilling to obey God and worship his way. The order of the ordination emphasized that the priests had to be cleansed from their own sins before they could help others with theirs. It also emphasizes that it is up to God to choose leaders. Our role is only to recognize those whom God has chosen.

Because these men had spiritual authority over the people, it was imperative that the congregation witness their consecration as priests in order to be convinced that they were made priests by God. This is the point of all ordination services: it is God who calls people and consecrates them to his ministry. Both the one entering ministry and the congregation must acknowledge this from the outset if ministry is to function correctly. Leviticus 8, 209

The striking thing in this chapter is the threefold emphasis on this goal of worship—that the LORD (or the glory of the LORD) would appear to the people. Leviticus 9, 221

Many ideas and practices may appear to harmonize with the faith, but in fact violate what the LORD has actually commanded. And since the tempter is able to change himself into an angel of light, one should not be surprised to see in the professing church today “strange fire” that the LORD has not commanded—a softening of the offensiveness of the blood, a proposed way to God that is not biblical, false teachings and practices that only confuse and turn people away from true worship, or modern ideas that in fact are pagan. Leviticus 10, 238

Last (Hopefully) Post on Typhoon In-Fa

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I woke up this morning to a rainy, breezy day. Typhoon In-Fa has passed by Guam to the South. It appears that the typhoon followed the path between Guam the Yap outer islands that I asked everyone to pray for. Thank God! Of course it is always possible that the storm will take a sharp right or left turn, or even a U turn – we have seen that before – so keep praying. But it appears that Guam is out of major danger. We still are seeing some very brisk winds and are under a tropical storm watch (the picture is from the 1am report – it is 7.30 as I write)…

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR GUAM. TROPICAL STORM
CONDITIONS INCLUDING DAMAGING WINDS OF 39 TO 73 MPH ARE EXPECTED TO
CONTINUE...MAINLY IN SOUTHERN GUAM WATERS...UNTIL LATER THIS MORNING.
Thank you for your prayers and, if anything changes, I will let you know. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Typhoon In-Fa Update and Preparation

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2015-11-20 14.18.21At the end of chapel today we went into Typhoon Condition 2 which means we are less than 24 hours away from possible destructive winds. This also means that classes and all school activities (including tomorrow’s 2015-11-20 14.48.32children’s day) were cancelled through Saturday. Staff, faculty and students worked to secure the campus and then headed to where they will stay for the night. The on-campus students will all be secure under a concrete roof tonight. The windows are boarded and anything not waterproof is wrapped in plastic. Again, we ask for prayer that all of us stay safe and the roofs stay on. Above is the latest projected typhoon track. Guam is still in the possible dangerous winds track as of early Friday afternoon

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It is very important to make sure one has stored enough carbs to make it through the storm

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The windows and classroom are secure

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Hopefully the admin/academic building and the library will still look like this on Sunday

Friday Morning Typhoon In-Fa Update

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In-Fa went through Chuuk yesterday as a tropical storm with 65 mph winds. We have not heard yet about any damages the storm may have caused. Last night the storm regained strength and is a typhoon again. According to the Guam Pacific Daily News,

Typhoon In-Fa is on track to pass south of Guam Saturday. As of 5 a.m., the typhoon was located about 405 miles southeast of Guam, according to the National Weather Service. Maximum sustained winds were 85 mph, and it was moving west-northwest at 13 mph.

It looks like most Saturday events will need to be canceled. Right now, as you can see from the 1am National Weather Service predicted track above, the storm is expected to track right between most of the inhabited outer islands between Chuuk and Yap and miss them. This would be good news, as many of them were hit pretty hard by typhoon Maysak last year. Please pray this storm will not turn to the north or south. If anything new happens I will post again.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Typhoon In-Fa Update

This morning’s update is one of those “good news-bad news” situations with a really bad news added in. The bad news is that the storm has intensified faster than expected and is now officially a typhoon with winds at about 65mph. The good news is that it has tracked a little further South and is predicted to miss Guam, the Marianas and Yap. However, this is really bad news because it looks like this means it will be (and may already be) hitting the lagoon islands and outer islands of Chuuk. Please keep the people of Chuuk in prayer, especially PIU coordinator there, Iotaka and Vivianne Choram and family, along with our partners at ECC, FCC, BCS and many friends and colleagues there. They are still recovering from the last typhoon. Typhoon tracks can change drastically so I will post updates as I can. Pray for Chuuk!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Tropical Storm In-Fa

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It looks like we have another tropical cyclone heading our way. Tropical Storm In-Fa is making its way to the South-West of Pohnpei right now with 45mph winds. It will move toward us this week and is expected to pass by to the south of Guam on Saturday as a typhoon with 100mph winds. Right now it coming toward us at about 18mph. We will keep you updated as these storm tracks and forecasts are always changeable. This picture came from the National Weather Service Guam web page. You can follow the progress there or at the Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center or at the Pacific Daily News Site.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Reading in Exodus This Week #6 (32-40)

51ChsiH46qL._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_This post will conclude our discussion on Exodus, with the commentary, Exodus: Saved for God’s Glory, by Philip Graham Ryken, The final section of Exodus records the disobedience and then the obedience (at last!) of Israel to build the tabernacle and worship God with the result that God himself “moves in” to the camp and lives with Israel as their king. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

The Israelites were on the cusp of having the very presence of God in their midst, but they could not wait and let God do it his way. They did not trust God and chose to do it their own way and disaster resulted. The golden calf was supposed to represent YHWH but broke the 2nd commandment by making an image of God. Instead of bringing their culture under the authority of God and his word, they reinterpreted God and how to worship him by their culture

Rather than waiting on God or trusting their God-given leader, the Israelites decided to take matters into their own hands. And this is how sin happens. We fall into sin when we fail to trust that God knows what he’s doing and try to work things out on our own. Exodus 32.1-6, 977

Chapters 33-34 of Exodus deal with the aftermath of Israel's sin with the golden calf. Because the people have rejected God by worshiping the gods of Egypt and/or worshiping God in the way he said not to, God has decided not to go with them to the promised land. He will continue bless them but will not live with them in the tabernacle as a visible presence. The people and Moses are devastated by this news. They realize that God's presence is the only thing that distinguishes them and makes them a viable people. Thus, Moses negotiates with God to continue his presence with them. God agrees to do this and renews the covenant with the nation based on Moses' acts as mediator and his covenant promises. God then shows his goodness to Moses and gives the reason he is willing to do this: His character is to be a God of compassion, mercy, patience, covenant love, forgiveness who is jealous to maintain this unique and privileged relationship. This revelation is a key insight into God's character that is referenced over and over in subsequent scriptures. Israel's responsibility would be a commitment to regular corporate worship, resting in God and giving their best to Him.

This is what happens when we worship other gods, especially gods that we can see and touch. Rather than bringing us closer to God, our idols take us farther away...What preoccupies our thoughts? What do we treasure in our hearts? God wants to fill our lives with his presence. But when we carry other things around with us, pursuing them by day and thinking about them at night, there is no room left for God. Exodus 33.1-11, 1020

As we study the history of salvation, we see God always moving in the direction of closer intimacy with his people. He is always seeking to restore the intimate fellowship we lost through sin. All through Exodus he is trying to find a way to dwell with his people. He can’t do it in Exodus 33, but he hasn’t given up yet either. He is still meeting with Moses. Soon he will go ahead with his plans for the tabernacle. And by the end of Exodus he will come down to dwell with his people in glory. , Exodus 33.1-11, 1026–1027

(God) proclaimed in word what he had already demonstrated in deed, that he is “the LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Exod. 34:5–7a). This is the God who saved Israel. He is the only God who could have done it. No other god could have saved people like them. Exodus 34.1-7, 1045

Moses made a new set of tablets (Exod. 34:1). Then, under the inspiration of God, he rewrote the Ten Commandments, putting the same words on new tablets (Exod. 34:28). This was all very reassuring because it meant that God remained committed to his people. He still wanted to have a relationship with them, even after they had sinned. And the way to reassure them of all this was to remind them of the covenant. Whenever we have any doubts about the love of God, all we need to do is go back to the promises he has made to us in the covenant.  Exodus 34.8-17, 1053

To love is to give. Thus it is not surprising that when he was teaching the Israelites how to love, God told them to give him the very best they had to offer, starting with their livestock. Exodus 34.18-28, 1067

Meeting with God had a remarkable effect on Moses. Every time he had an audience with the King of kings, he came away glorious. This shows that it is possible for sinners to shine with the rays of God’s reflected majesty. Being with God has a transforming effect on people. No one who meets God by faith is ever the same again, because when we see God as he is, we become like what he is. Exodus 34.29-35, 1075

The final section of Exodus records God fulfilling his plan to visibly live in the midst of Israel in the tabernacle. "As Tremper Longman writes in his book on Old Testament worship, “the symbolism of the entire structure revolved around one central idea: the Holy God was present in the midst of the camp.” (1107) The section repeats much of the earlier sections of Exodus because the Israelites build the tabernacle exactly as God revealed it to Moses. The people come together to provide the materials and labor for the tabernacle as God has gifted them and they give far beyond the need. This is a pattern for how the church, the modern tabernacle, should live out Christ's presence.

If God had wanted to, he could have dropped a tabernacle from the sky, but this is not the way he works. He invites us to get involved with what he is doing in the world. In this case God made the plans, but the people did the work. He initiated the tabernacle, but they participated in its construction. Exodus 35, 1083

The Bible gives many warnings about the dangers of wealth. Large sums of money tempt us to be selfish and proud. But when financial prosperity is combined with personal godliness, wealth becomes a powerful force for spiritual good...This is why God has made us rich: so he has more money to use for ministry! As our income rises, so should our commitment to making more and more costly sacrifices for the kingdom of God. Exodus 35, 1088

This was God’s plan: to make his dwelling place in the church. Just as God once filled the tabernacle, the temple, and the physical body of Jesus Christ with the radiance of his glory, so now he fills the church with the glorious presence of his Spirit. God is living in us, both individually and corporately. Where is God’s dwelling place today? In the church. We have become the tabernacle of God. Exodus 36, 1108

All of the furniture inside the tabernacle was designed to show God's character. The ark was the place where heaven met earth. The mercy seat was where the blood of the day of atonement was poured annually to remove the national guilt of Israel and keep them in covenant with God. The lampstand showed that God was the light and life of the nation. The table of bread showed that God was their king who provided for his people. All of these pointed forward to Jesus and the cross as the ultimate atonement for the world, the bread of life, the resurrection and the life and the light of the world.

The ark was a portable wooden box covered with gold and measuring roughly four feet long by two feet wide and two feet high. Three sacred things went with it...Who is God? According to the manna in the ark, he is a faithful provider. The second item in the ark was Aaron’s staff...Who is God? According to the staff by the ark, he is the ruler of his people. The third item was the one that gave the ark its name. It was God’s covenant with Israel, written in stone...Who is God? According to the covenant inside the ark, he is both Savior and Lord. Exodus 37, 1112–1113

The courtyard furniture was designed to show the method of approach to God. He is a great and holy king and can be approached only on his terms. The altar showed the necessity (met completely by Christ at the cross) for sacrificial atonement. The amazing fulfillment of this is that Jesus' death, which fulfills this, is done completely by God - our role is that of the murderer as our sins nail Christ to the cross. The sacrifice is the picture of what Christ has done, in forgiving his murderers, to bring us access into relationship with the Trinity. The basin symbolizes the ongoing need for daily cleansing as we serve God.

The altar of burnt offering was only a temporary arrangement. God was teaching the Israelites that the price had to be paid in blood, and at the same time teaching them to wait for the full and final atonement that only he could provide...This is the amazing fact of our salvation. The debt for our sin needs to be paid in blood, but God does not make us pay the price; he was willing to pay it himself! Exodus 38, 1127

First came the altar of atonement, followed by the basin for cleansing. First, justification, then sanctification. First came the atoning blood sacrifice that made sinners right with God by paying the debt of their sin; then came the pure cleansing water that made sinners holy before God by washing away the remaining corruption of their sin. Exodus 38, 1129

The priests represented God to the people and the people to God. They were chosen by God and outfitted according to his instructions. The amazing thing here is that Aaron is allowed to continue after leading the people into sin. Right from the beginning God is showing that he will be served by forgiven people. All of us, as a nation of priests, serve God only because he has given us grace and mercy and are called to share that mercy and grace with the world.

Why was a sinner like Aaron allowed to serve the holy God? He was able to serve because although he was fallen, he was also forgiven. In preparation for the priesthood, Aaron’s body was washed with holy water (Exod. 40:12), symbolizing his consecration to God. Then he confessed his sins, placing his hands on the head of a bull and two rams, which were sacrificed to make atonement. Through the cleansing water and the sacrificial blood, Aaron was set apart to serve. Exodus 39.1-31, 1133–1134

Exodus ends with God placing his glory in the tabernacle in the very midst of his people. This is clearly not based on the people's goodness but with grace, mercy, and forgiveness, God places His holy presence at the center of the camp. By the way, this will put some of those, who do not accept his mercy and trust his forgiveness and care, in a very dangerous position. The bottom line is that God's default position is love, mercy, forgiveness and fully committed relationship. Condemnation comes only when this is rejected.

The tabernacle was God’s dwelling place on earth. God called it “my dwelling place among you” (Lev. 26:11). As a replica of Heaven, it taught the Israelites that their God was not some tribal deity, but the Lord God of the universe, who “stretches out the heavens like a tent” (Ps. 104:2). It also taught them about God’s character. It taught them that he is a mighty God, attended by angels. He is a holy God, shrouded in mystery. He is a loving God who wants to have a relationship with his people. Exodus 39.32-43, 1144

Here we see both God’s immanence and his transcendence, his nearness as well as the greatness of his glory. God did not just rescue the Israelites from Egypt and then dump them in the wilderness to fend for themselves. On the contrary, he was with his people for good. He wanted to do something more than simply save them; he wanted to have a relationship with them.  Exodus 40, 1161

Ryken's restatement of his view of the message of Exodus...

This is the message of the exodus, as it is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Once we were in bondage to sin, enslaved by its tyranny. But through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—our Passover Lamb—God has delivered us from the Egypt of our sin. Now he is leading us through our earthly wilderness, with all its difficulties and dangers. The great God of the exodus will never leave us or forsake us. In the church he has set up a sanctuary where even now we may enter his presence for worship. And one day soon Jesus will come down in glory to take us up into the glory that will never end. Everyone who trusts in him will be saved for the glory of God. 1164

FSM Independence Day

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2015-11-14 12.27.392015-11-14 13.59.23The PIU family enjoyed participating in the 2015 FSM independence day celebration at Ipao Beach on Saturday. The PIU students sang and joined in the games and festivities with people from all the different ethnic groups on the island. It was fun to see a lot of people that I haven’t seen in a long time. (Joyce and PIU alumna Jafflyn Poll left) How does that happen when we live on a small island? The food was great, the music and dancing were fun, and the fellowship was enjoyable. It was a good day and Olin almost won the musical chairs competition.

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We enjoyed watching the singing and dancing from many different Micronesian groups

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…and the food too. The PIU guys approve of the barbecue