Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Christian Doctrine of God, One Being Three Persons, Torrance

(Note: It is Monday in California and we are waiting for phone calls from doctors. Please pray that we will be able to get in for the needed tests as soon as possible.)

TorranceThis month I have been reading through the very insightful and almost devotional, theology, The Christian Doctrine of God, One Being Three Persons, by Thomas F. Torrance. This book is a meditation on the great truth and mystery that God is a Trinity. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

Torrance introduces his work on the Trinity with the assertion that God cannot be known apart from his historical, personal and relational revelation of Himself through Jesus Christ and His Word. There is nothing about God that is different than Jesus. The revelation of God that comes through Jesus, ministered by the Spirit is true both in the physical and spiritual/cosmic worlds. Thus, because God is revealed as Trinity it is essential to our understanding of God to understand Him as Trinity.

Statements made about God, apart from his active personal self-revelation, as many ancient and modern philosophers would have it, are non-cognitive—they are at best of no more than tangential borderline significance. 3

It is precisely as this living, loving, and acting God that he has come to us in Jesus Christ and unites us to himself by his one Spirit, interacting with us in creation and history, and in our human and physical existence in time and space, all in order to be our God and to have us for his people. 5

The ‘Trinity’ is not just a way of thinking about God, for the one true God is actually and intrinsically Triune and cannot be truly conceived otherwise. There is in fact no real knowledge of God as God except through his revealing or naming of himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for the three Persons are the one true God–apart from them God cannot be known in the truth and reality of his Being. 12

The Christian perspective of theology is that our knowledge of God and the uniqueness of his "one and three, three in one" nature comes only from revelation from outside our cognitive world. That is, the Trinity can only be known through God's revelation of Himself which is ultimately through Jesus Christ. This is why the Gospel is so foreign to normal human thinking. Thus, Christian revelation is at heart Trinitarian revealed through  Christ and the Spirit. All Christian talk about God, theology, must be founded in the Trinity, with Jesus Christ as the central revelation.

The Christian doctrine of God is formulated not in some abstract metaphysical way apart from God’s relation to us, but in strict accord with the way which God has actually taken in his self-revealing purpose, not only in naming himself ineffably to Israel and in making himself known to mankind through Israel, but also and supremely in becoming man in the midst of Israel in order to assume our human nature upon himself and become one with us in Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, the incarnate Son of God. 14–15

Revelation is not the revealing of something about God, but God revealing himself out of himself in such a way that he who reveals and he who is revealed are one and the same. That is to say, God is at once the Subject and the Object of revelation, and never the Object without also being the Subject. 22

The ultimate ground and controlling centre of our knowledge of God is, therefore, not simply his Being but his spoken Word, God clothed in Christ with his Word, not God without the Word nor the Word apart from God. 30

The biblical frame for the Trinity depends on Bible study that does not reject rigorous historical/grammatical/literary exegesis, but also views the scripture as God's living breathing word to us that is made alive in our understanding and response by the Holy Spirit. The New Testament interpretation must be holistic (in light of the context of the whole NT) and Christological and Trinitarian.

We penetrate through the literary surface of the Scriptures, without divorcing them from their historical actuality, to the truth content of their contents, the dynamic objective reality of the living Word of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. 37

In the incarnation God did not just come into man but actually made our human nature his own in such a way that he came among us precisely as Man, without ceasing to be God...It is thus that Jesus Christ is himself as God and Man, the Word of God become man in the fullest sense, for he is the Word of God not only spoken to man, but the Word of God faithfully heard by man and uttered by man in response to God. 40–41

Monday, January 30, 2017

Reading Through the Psalms

(Note: It seems like this year my reading of Psalms came up at a great time. I have been receiving a lot of comfort and a little rebuke from reading through Psalms 1-42 over the last couple weeks. In Psalms, faith is shown by active waiting on God and giving Him public praise for who He is and what He has done. If you don’t know what to pray in a situation, just praying the words of the Psalms can be very affective.)

PPsalms volume 1salms is the hymn book of the Old Testament and the beginning of the Writings section which closes the OT. We will read through it accompanied by Psalms, vol. 1, The College Press NIV Commentary, by S. Edward Tesh and Walter D. Zorn. I am 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…

Psalm 1 and 2 form the introduction to the whole book of Psalms and make the point that a wise person submits himself to the way that the Creator has formed the universe (torah) and to the rule of the Creator's representative, the king. Rebellion brings destruction, while submission brings blessing.

The state of blessedness or happiness in life finds its source more in what a person does than in what he refrains from doing. The wise man refuses to walk in the way of evil, not because he is bound by an oversensitive conscience but because he has chosen to walk a better way. Psalm 1, 88

Israel, though a small people, had the promise of God, existed as the covenant people of God, and would become the instrument of God, through whom Messiah would come. There was a divine purpose invested in this people, and any attempt by even the most powerful of the earth to thwart that purpose could only give rise to divine amusement and, towards the unrepentant, to divine wrath. Psalm 2, 94

Psalms 3-7 deal with living "confidently" in an evil, oppressive world. These psalmists understand that God settles accounts in His own time, is close in relationship to the oppressed and suffering, but will make things right in the end. Whether our troubles are caused by others or by our own sin, they should be brought to God in regular prayers of faith. God has our long term best interests at heart and we can trust His character.

God was his glory. To know such a God is true glory or boasting, lasting honor, not to be compared to any honor the world might offer. And although the world might call him wretched, even the least child of God has a glory and an immeasurable honor that cannot be taken from him. Psalm 3, 102

With a prayer on his lips and heavenly joy in his heart, he was sustained by his God. His was an experience of genuine security that comes from faith in one who is reliable. We are not told that the cause of his distress was taken away. Who knows? But in any event, it could not negate his security in the Lord. Psalm 4, 109

Whatever his need—whatever our need! What better way to start the day than to direct one’s thoughts, one’s praise, one’s prayers to God, and look up? Is it not better to face every day, whatever the circumstances, with God than without him? Psalm 5.3, 111

ḥesed is absolutely essential where any meaningful relationship is to exist between parties, since it signifies active, responsive love. It is a giving of oneself in kindness, as opportunity affords. No wonder the psalmist relied upon this as the basis of his plea to God. He could depend upon the Lord’s steadfastness in mercy towards the penitent (see Num 14:18), and for this reason he would call on him to deliver him from the death that threatened. Psalm 6, 119

When evil continues unabated and unchecked, the victims of that evil are distressed by God’s apparent unconcern. It is sometimes difficult for even the most patient soul to suppress the cry for God’s immediate justice to fall upon his enemies. Psalm 7, 127

Psalms 8-10 call us to live "expectantly" because God rules over all His creation and he has designated human beings as his representative rulers over it. Of course, as the writer of Hebrews points out, this has been skewed by human sin and will not be set completely right until we rule with Christ. We should not despair about oppressors and troubles now because history has shown that they all will pass off the scene. Only God's kingdom will be eternal.

The surpassing majesty of God is celebrated, both on earth and in heaven. Further cause for wonder beyond that of God’s own glory is the place he has accorded man in his design. In view of the greatness of God and of his creation—this illimitable universe—how insignificant man appears. Yet God has created him in his own likeness, giving him dominion over all the earth and its creatures. Psalm 8, 129

The eternal nature of God fills us with wonder. Kingdoms come and go. Despots arise upon the earth and pass away. Blasphemers rant and rave, shouting obscenities against God, but years hasten by, and soon they, too, are dead and buried. And God’s throne is just as secure when they have passed as if they had never existed. Psalm 9.7-10, 138

With this triumphant cry of faith the psalmist is ready to leave the matter in God’s hands. Whether deliverance would come or not, he would continue his earthly pilgrimage secure in the knowledge that God was present in his life. He did not walk alone. Psalm 10.16-18, 145

Psalms 11-15 are all about living "victoriously" as a believer in God when all around us evil seems to be in control and suffering seems to be everywhere. The Psalmists were besieged with those who mocked their faith, spoke against it, denied it and attacked it. They were tempted to give up faith to get themselves out of trouble. However, the psalmists knew that God rules and would set things right and committed themselves to relationship with God by living truthfully, loving neighbors and living as representatives of God (15).

The only escape from the danger threatening the land was in the Lord. And so, with resolute confidence, he responds to the situation, not with a lament addressed to God, but with words of encouragement addressed to the fainthearted and unbelieving around him. It is a psalm of trust, closing with a warning to the wicked declaring the fate that would surely befall them from the hand of a righteous God. Psalm 11, 146

The psalmist had no illusions. He knew that so long as vileness is exalted in a land, the wicked will continue to multiply, and evil will increase. This is an alarming reality of life. But he also knew that neither the boastful words and deceptions of men nor their deeds could negate the word of God. This, too, is a reality. Psalm 12, 153

The Lord is the living God. This distinguishes him from all others that are called god. Little wonder, then, that the psalmist was moved to direct his petition to him. Nor is it any wonder that he was blessed in so doing. We may rejoice that God still lives and that we also may address our prayers to him. Psalm 13, 155

The battle between belief and unbelief is the only significant warfare in the history of the world. All else depends upon the outcome of this battle! To believe that God lives, and that he sets standards of moral and ethical behavior for humankind, and to believe further that we are ultimately responsible to him, provides meaning, purpose, and direction to life. Psalm 14, 158

Here the requirements of those who would walk with him are ethical in nature. The emphasis is upon right conduct toward others. It is not fluency in prayer nor a tongue gifted in praises that will commend one to God, but a life that is in harmony with his righteous will. And harmony with God is to be demonstrated in one’s treatment of his fellow man. Psalm 15, 163

Another Medical Update

The word is still :”WAIT!” We are referred to WIN_20170130_02_47_18_ProStanford, but first we have to wait to get a lymph node biopsy and they have not yet figured out whether that should be done here or at Stanford. We are hoping to hear early this week. We did spend Friday night in the ER in Placerville, because my swelling was getting worse. We were there almost 8 hours. I got a bed and slept most of that time, but Joyce didn’t.  I got an ultrasound which was clear. The doctor had lived on Guam before so he knew the potential for finding some parasites inside me. They drew a lot blood but, as of yet, have not found any of the little beasties in there. The bottom line is that it appears that swelling will not be dealt with until the skin lymphoma is treated. We’d appreciate your prayers that the testing would move forward quickly, doctors would find the precise diagnosis and, that I would be healed.

I’d also appreciate your prayers for Joyce on two issues. Her driver’s license expired on her birthday and it has been almost impossible for her to get renewed on Guam or get a new one here in California. Our friends are working on something on Guam and we are hoping to the get Guam license renewed. Secondly, she needs to get a refill on her medicine this week. This is a medicine she has been taking for a long time and it is hard to get. Hopefully, the pharmacy on Guam can mail some to us. We certainly have not been able to get it in California.

We value your prayers. We know people all over the world are praying for us and we are thankful. I’ll try to keep everyone updated.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Reading Through Malachi

(NOTE: We are still waiting to hear from Stanford about upcoming testing and treatment. In the meantime, I would appreciate prayers for the ongoing edema that is very uncomfortable and forces me to lie on my back most of the day. I had to one-finger type this post laying on my back in bed this morning.)

Ham HahlenMalachi is the final book of the prophetic section of the Old Testament and warns Israel to be ready for His coming. We will read through it accompanied by The Minor Prophets vol. 2, The College Press NIV Commentary, by Clay Ham and Mark Hahlen. I am 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…

Malachi is the final one in the line of writing prophets in the Old Testament. He bases his message on the covenant in Deuteronomy and basically sums up the message of the prophets. YHWH is coming to save His people from oppression, but He will judge His own people first to purify them for His coming kingdom. Thus, His people should commit themselves fully to the LORD and show it in their holy lives and their love for others.

The coming of the day of Yahweh has been delayed, but Yahweh reaffirms the certainty of its promised coming. Yahweh, in time, distinguishes between the righteous and the wicked (2:17–3:5). Nevertheless, on that day, the faithful righteous escape the destructive wrath of God and are purified by Yahweh’s refining fire (3:2–4). Only through and after that purification does Israel experience restoration in the day of Yahweh that the coming of Elijah heralds. Malachi, 518–519

The book consists of six disputations and a conclusion. The first three disputations deal with the people's lack of love for God, the priests' failure to honor God in their duties and the people's unfaithfulness demonstrated by their divorces and marriages to idolatrous women. The people measure God's love for them by their circumstances rather than God's promises. They are urged to remember past blessings and look to future glory. The priests dishonor God by providing inferior sacrifices and their lack of study of torah resulting in teaching error. The divorces reflect the people's lack of concern for God's covenant. If they do not repent they will find God "divorcing" them.

In Malachi, the failure of Israel to recognize Yahweh’s covenant love for them leads to their failure to demonstrate covenant love toward Yahweh (1:6–2:9) and others (2:10–16). Malachi 1.2-5, 529

(The priests) are treating the service of Yahweh with contempt (1:6, 12) and are causing many to stumble through their failure to instruct the people properly (2:7–8). Yahweh grants life (perhaps an image for the lasting priesthood of Phinehas) and peace in return for reverence and awe. Indeed, life and peace are the natural outcome of complete commitment to Yahweh. Malachi  2.6-7, 545

2:10–16 urges the people to abandon the two practices related to marriage, the intermarriage with women who worship other gods and the divorce of couples already married, by showing proper concern for fidelity in their own marriages. Malachi 2.10-16, 549

The final three disputations deal with God and his just administration of the covenant. The people are accusing God of breaking covenant because he is not blessing them. Instead they have hardship. God responds that he is coming to take care of this and the people need to purify themselves and be ready. In the second discussion God points out that it is actually the people who are not keeping covenant. They are withholding the tithes that support the priests, Levites, system of worship and provide support for the poor and needy. God challenges them to fully obey covenant and see the blessings flow. Finally, they accuse God of not differentiating between the righteous and the wicked and claim that it does no good to serve God. Again God reminds them of his imminent coming.

The accusation that Israel is robbing Yahweh in the tithes and offerings indicates that the people have rejected Yahweh as the nation’s benevolent provider (Deut 6:10–12) and have repudiated the worship of Yahweh financed by the tithe (Num 18:21–29). Malachi 3.8, 566

The prophet affirms Yahweh’s love and care for the people. Yahweh listens (קָשַׁב, qāšab) to those who fear him. Malachi 3.16, 572

The prophecy of Malachi ends with an announcement of the coming of Elijah and the coming of YHWH to his temple. All the questions of justice and blessing will be answered then. The post-exilic prophets emphasize that this coming is imminent and the need to make oneself ready is urgent. Blessing and cursing will be dependent on the response to God's messenger and to God Himself.

The announcement of Elijah’s coming (vv. 5–6) refutes the previously expressed view about the prosperity of the wicked, for only a united community who returns to a proper observance of the covenant will avoid divine curse. Malachi 4.4-6, 578–579

Sunday, January 22, 2017

And He Dwelt among Us: Teachings from the Gospel of John #4

TozerWith this post we conclude our reading through the New Testament devotional book, And He Dwelt among Us: Teachings from the Gospel of John, by A. W. Tozer. This book is a meditation on the great truth and mystery that God became a human being. Here Tozer is especially concerned that we know God as He really is. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

The Eternal Christ is Both Judge and Savior John 5.22-29

In this section Tozer meditates on the fact that John presents Jesus as both judge and savior. Ultimately judgment is not made by society, government or even ourselves. It is made by Jesus Christ. He will judge with empathy because he is one of us and had been through what we have been through. He will also judge with full knowledge of us and with impartiality. His judgment of our deeds will be perfect. But, he is also our Savior and has taken our rightful judgment on Himself. Tozer closes with an plea to take Jesus as Savior rather than wait for Jesus to be our judge.

The basic concept of judgment is simply that human beings are morally accountable. The basis of this accountability is the fact that we have life derived from another and not from ourselves. Because our life has come from another, we have a moral responsibility to that one who gave us life. 155

For the judge to be the judge of humanity, He must be one of them. Jesus said, the Father hath given the Son power to execute judgment because He is a Son of man. Because He is a Son of man, He not only can be their advocate above, the Savior by the throne of love, but He can also be their judge to sit upon the throne. John 9.39, 164

For the Christ that we deal with has eyes as a flame of fire. And His feet are like burnished brass; and out of His mouth cometh a sharp two-edged sword (see Rev. 1:14–16). He will be the judge of humanity. You can leave your loved ones in His hands knowing that He Himself suffered, knowing that He knows all, no mistakes can be made, there can be no miscarriage of justice, because He knows all that can be known. 166

The Wonder and Mystery of the Eternal Christ Identifying with Man John 6.1-13

Tozer answers the great question, "Where is God?" with "God is with us." He is always involved with His creation. Jesus, the 2nd person of the Trinity, took on full humanity (without sin) and became one is us without diminishing His Deity in any way. He took our sin upon Himself and died for it; our choice is to die for our sin in Christ and rise with Him or die for our sins alone. God is with us through our "older brother" Jesus who seeks and saves his needy people.

When God made the heavens, He made the earth, and the same mark of God is on the earth that is in the heavens above. The God who made the world above made the world below; and though sin has entered and man fell and the shadow fell over the earth, there is still similarity, there are still some of the fingerprints of God all over His wonderful world. 173

The simple fact is there never was made a transfer of moral responsibility from one personality to another in atonement. But in Jesus Christ Himself, we became part of Him and He became part of us and took us up into Himself so that in one sense, when He died, as Paul said, we all died...The sinner dies alone and the Christian dies in Christ. But every man dies for his sins. He either dies by joining his heart to Jesus Christ, and is tucked up under the wings of Jesus and dies in the body of Christ, or else he dies alone in his sins. 181

The Bible says that He is the firstborn among many brethren (see Rom. 8:29). And the brethren were lost, and so the firstborn went and found them; or changing the figure, the shepherd was here for His sheep. 184

Living Victoriously in Two Kingdoms John 5.24

Tozer here laments the loss of emphasis on the supernatural in modern churches. He states that most Christians, though they would not call themselves materialists, live as materialists. We don't really believe in the spiritual world of angels, demons and other spiritual beings. We see faith as assent to a creed or a formula instead of deep belief. There is a danger that we will see assenting to certain doctrines and doing certain actions as what Christianity is all about when it is about a deep spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship must lead lead to the actions, etc. but is not the essence of Christianity. We need to return to that understanding the physical and spiritual world are very close together.

It is not what a church believes that matters so much as what that church believes enough to emphasize. It is not what a preacher will admit theologically when you pin him down and make him talk; it is what he believes with sufficient urgency to make it a living, constant part of his message. 187

I am an experientialist in that I believe that everything I hold as true should be mine in living, vibrant experience—what is really mine, that in which I have experience. Not that which I have believed strongly enough to write into a book of creed, but that which I have believed strongly enough to enter into and experience. 188

The kingdom of God coexists with the kingdom of man, and the two are together. One is inward and one is outward. One is internal and one is external. One is of the spirit; the other is of the flesh. 191

The Importance of a Proper Concept of God

Tozer closes this book with what is really the theme of most his writings: One must know God as He has revealed Himself in scripture. The climax of this revelation is the incarnation of Christ. "Christ is God acting like Himself." (212) Our view of God must always be controlled by what is revealed about Jesus Christ. If this is not the case our expression of faith will be deficient. The purpose of Christian faith is for us to become children of God by becoming more like Christ.

Personal faith cannot rise higher than a person’s concept of God. 205

Whoever knows Christ knows God. Whoever knows our Lord Jesus knows the Father, and whose eyes look upon Jesus look upon the Father. It may be said that whoever knows God can know God through Christ, and must know God through Christ. And it can be said that God does always act like Christ, and Christ always acts like God, because Christ is God walking among men. It may also be said with certainty that increasing knowledge of Christ means increasing knowledge of God. 212

Nobody ever comes around stoves when the fire’s gone out in them. Jesus had love in His heart, and love is always warm. Love is always attractive. People come to the churches where there is warmth. They come to Christians that are warm. 215

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Another Medical Update

WIN_20170121_06_43_07_ProJoyce and I went to see the hematologist today to get his evaluation of the medical tests I have been taking over the last couple weeks. We did get a diagnosis, and the bottom line is that I have a T-Cell Lymphoma in the skin. However, this is not a complete diagnosis so I have been referred to the specialists at Stanford. The reason is that I also have enlarged lymph nodes. The most likely explanation is that they are enlarged from fighting the skin lymphoma. But, there is the possibility that the lymphoma is now in the lymph nodes as well.  (He thinks I have had the skin lymphoma for some time.) So, next week we will find out when I will go to Stanford for a bone marrow biopsy and consultation on the next steps. My hematologist said he has seen this only twice in 20 years of his medical practice. This means Joyce and I will be in California for at least the month of February for this treatment.

How do I feel about this? Hmm. I am in God’s hands which is a good place to be, but I am still not very happy about it. Like Paul, I desire to stay in my fruitful ministry, but it is God’s ministry and he can relocate or terminate me at will. I trust in his love for me, and for the people Joyce and I have the privilege of working with, which gives me some confidence. There is no such thing as certainty in this life. We must walk by faith. We appreciate your prayers as we walk out into the next steps of this adventure.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Reading Through Zechariah

(NOTE: The waiting continues. I am two days away from my appointment with the hematologist and, hopefully, some clarification on what the blood and other tests show. I am still struggling with edema and need to stay horizontal. Meditating on the Trinity and the idea that God is both “three and one.” To fill my mind with that idea puts me in a different and better place.)

Ham HahlenZechariah is an apocalypse that encourages Jerusalem, that despite their difficult present situation, God has a glorious future planned for them. We will read through it accompanied by The Minor Prophets vol. 2, The College Press NIV Commentary, by Clay Ham and Mark Hahlen. I am 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 book of Zechariah is written to a poor people, dominated by the Persian empire, and later the Greek empire. Zechariah encourages them that the nations who have oppressed them will be judged and removed and the promises of the previous prophets will be fulfilled. As they are faithful, God will live with them and bring them the promised blessing.

Zechariah calls the faithful to persevere and to live faithfully even if, at present, such action does not appear to be rewarded. Although the frustration of their earthly existence is very real, another reality exists. The supernatural reality and purposes of the King, the LORD Almighty (14:17), summon the readers to live as the people of Yahweh within and often in spite of their historical circumstances. Zechariah, 346

The first six chapters encourage the people to show their faithfulness by finishing the work they began on the temple. They are unlike their ancestors in that they have responded to Haggai's prophecy with  obedience. Zechariah's eight apocalyptic visions in 1.7-6.8 assure them that God knows their situation and is already working to deal with it. The promises of a great Davidic kingdom will be fulfilled some day but in the meantime God's Spirit will work in Zerubbabel and in the people to complete the temple. The Spirit will work among the nations to judge and remove Babylon through the Persians.

Likewise, Zechariah 4:6 asserts that human strength cannot accomplish the rebuilding of the temple, but its completion comes only through the Spirit of Yahweh. The oracular formula says the LORD Almighty further highlights the contrast between human and divine strength. Zechariah 4.6, 382

The picture of Yahweh’s Spirit at rest gives the people of Judah encouragement to continue their work of reconstruction without fear of outside interference. The former conflicts and tragedies associated with the land of the north have been resolved. The Persian policies that have subjugated Babylon and liberated the exiles manifest the sovereignty of Yahweh. Zechariah 1.7-6.8, 395

Zechariah 6.9 begins a transition to a new subject in Zechariah and concludes the previous one. The priest, Jehoiada is crowned and the crown left in the temple as a symbol that God will crown a "sprout" from the Davidic line to bring in His kingdom and set things right. Chapters 7 and 8 answer the people's question about continuing the fasts that remember the destruction of Jerusalem, now that the temple is almost rebuilt. The prophetic answer is that the people need to set their  hearts on seeking God and keeping the covenant stipulations about loving their neighbor and maintain a total devotion to God. God will then bring in His idyllic kingdom and turn their fasting and mourning into joyous celebration.

The magnificent promises in the preceding verses are contingent on Israel’s diligent obedience to Yahweh, an obedience enjoined upon Israel’s ancestors with the same or nearly identical verbal and syntactical construction (Exod 15:26; 19:5; 23:22; Deut 15:5; 28:1–2) but an obedience which they have failed to render (Josh 5:6; Judg 2:2; 2 Kgs 18:12). Zechariah 6.9-15, 401

Implied here is the notion that, if eating and drinking have no impact on Yahweh, then neither does fasting alone. The community has fasted for themselves just as they have feasted to themselves. Thus, in their fasting they have lamented their own personal loss and political humiliation rather than grieving over their own sin and abuse of the covenant relationship with Yahweh. Zechariah 7.4-7, 406

The prophet has recognized that the question essentially asks whether the community’s present is unalterably conditioned by its past. Although their past informs their present, they live in the present in light of their hopes for the future. If the people observe Yahweh’s commands, then Yahweh will bless them and cause the pain associated with the fasts to cease. Instead, the fasts are to be transformed into times of joy. Zechariah 8.18-19, 421

Zechariah 9 begins a final section of the book which contains two oracles (9-11, 12-14). In 9-11 God reassures the people that he will reverse the present oppressed situation in the future. He will judge and destroy the oppressive foreign powers. He will regather the people and give them back the fertile portions of their land. He will restore the Davidic king. However, he also warns the people that they must trust God alone, not their military or other gods, and be ready to accept his prophet and king when they come. They must quit oppressing and hurting one another. Sadly the nation will reject God's prophet and king (30 pieces of silver) and the blessing will be delayed again.

Zechariah 9–14 shows that Yahweh is transforming the leadership that oppresses the people and the situations that threaten their existence, by depicting the demise of Judah’s present leadership, the purification of the people through their present experiences, and the divine intervention that results in the universal recognition of Yahweh. Zechariah 9, 424

The choice of a donkey rather than a horse to portray the coming of the king also subverts militaristic notions. The horses and chariots that belong to Israel, Persia, or any other nation cannot secure for them the kingdom of Yahweh. Zechariah 9.9, 431

The lack of divine pity indicates that Yahweh holds responsible to some degree both the people (at least those who reject the prophet) and the leaders, a notion found also in verse 8. The flock experiences oppression from local circles (“neighbor”) and from the ruling class (“kings”). Zechariah 11.4-5, 449

The final oracle in 12-14 widens the prophecy to the nations. Jerusalem will be destroyed and its people exiled but God will then step in to defeat and judge the nations, purify Israel and unite the nations in the exclusive worship of YHWH as God.

Jeremiah uses māqôr to portray Yahweh as a fountain or spring of living water that has been forsaken by Judah (2:13; 17:13). The gravity of this image cannot be overemphasized, for this fountain cleanses even those who have pierced Yahweh. Zechariah 13.1, 468

Yahweh establishes once again with the people the covenant relationship articulated in the Torah and in covenant declarations found throughout the prophetic literature. The covenant language with which the passage ends is significant given the passage’s beginning; through the slaying the shepherd, Yahweh has effected a redefinition and refinement of the people. Zechariah 13.9, 475

Zechariah 14 challenges the reader to consider the eventual destruction of Jerusalem as part of Yahweh’s larger purpose and to act accordingly, assured that the victorious intervention of Yahweh results ultimately in the universal worship of Yahweh as king. Zechariah, 478

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Medical Update #2 (and grandkid pictures)

It has been about a week since I last posted an update on what has become a medical leave for me from my work on Guam. Pictures of that would be boring so I am also posting a couple of pictures of Joyce with some of our grandchildren.

DSC08879 (1024x768)I have now completed the first round of tests to determine what is causing my various and strange symptoms. These have included tests of various body fluids- some of which come out of the body and others which are supposed to stay in the body – including multiple blood tests. I also had a skin biopsy and a CT scan. I don’t have an explanation of the results as yet. My appointment with the hematologist is on the 20th and then with the GP on the 23rd. Hopefully, we will find out something then. Until then we must do what God has asked the faithful to do for thousands of years: We must wait!

A lot of people have asked two questions: “How do you feel?” and “Are you getting any better?” The answer to the first is, a bit bored but too tired to do anything about it. I am supposed to be laying down, completely horizontal with feet up, most of the day which precludes doing much of anything. It’s not so bad because I am sleeping 10-14 hours per day. This was better during the vacation time when football was on TV all day but it does get a bit tiresome now.

DSC08849 (1024x768)The answer to the 2nd question is “no.” I have not yet started any treatment except trying to get rid of the edema (only a symptom) and that is not working fast enough in my opinion (written with a bit of a smile). I am hoping that after the 20th the doctors will have a handle on what is wrong and treatment can begin. If not, I begin a 2nd round of testing that will be looking for the more nasty stuff. My prayer request is that the doctors can find something in that first round of testing and get me back on my feet again (literally). My other prayer request is that I can stay positive, despite the circumstances, and use this valuable sick time to cooperate with what the LORD is doing in my life right now. So again, we must wait!

Finally, nobody wants to see pictures of a sick person so I am posting some pictures of Joyce with our grandkids here. Missy and Leila came to visit us at Christmas at my parents’ house. Joyce also got to go down to San Diego for a few days and see Matt and his family. It was the first time she had seen Meika our newest grand-daughter.

And He Dwelt among Us: Teachings from the Gospel of John #3

TozerWith this post we continue reading through the New Testament devotional book, And He Dwelt among Us: Teachings from the Gospel of John, by A. W. Tozer. This book is a meditation on the great truth and mystery that God became a human being. Here Tozer is especially concerned about our response to this truth. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

What Really Matters to God John 3.16

What really matters to God are individual people. Though all are in sin, he loves each one enough to send His Son to take on the forces of evil and overcome the forces of death for each one. While God does have a kingdom agenda, it includes love and relationship with each individual too. The idea that God created some people just to send them to hell is not a biblical one. God has proved his love for all people through what He did for each one in Jesus Christ.

When I read those words “God so loved the world,” it means in personal terms that I mean something to God. God has His eyes upon me and is emotionally concerned about me. If this simple message could rise above the confusion of the religious world, it would offer hope to those who embrace it. 109

During His ministry, Jesus dealt in individuals, not in statistics. The Christian message reflects that. God does not love masses, He loves people; He loves them individually. 112

But no matter how bad or how far away from God you are or how often you have failed Him or how many lies you have told Him—how terrible you have been or how no good you feel you are—I have the word for you: You do matter. God is concerned; God is not happy about you; He says, “Come and let whoever hear it say come and whoever will let him come.” 120

The Personal Application of Christ's Coming Into the World John 3.17

Tozer calls John 3.17 the "proclamation extraordinary." The idea that God would enter his creation as a human being to save us, and not give us the judgment our rebellion deserves, should be the truth that provides the center and motivation for our lives. Sadly, most people, including church people, greet it with apathy and indifference. Jesus' does not want to condemn us. He wants to reclaim us for His Kingdom and make us what we were meant to be. He knows all about us and refuses to judge us. He won't coerce us, but calls us to come to Him.

The world is too much with us. We have wasted our powers in getting and spending. 129

The proclamation extraordinary is simply, He sent His Son into the world, but not to judge the world. That was not His purpose at all. He came that men might be saved. He did not come to condemn, but to reclaim. That was the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ. He came to reclaim that which was rightfully His by creation. 133

Single yourself out, not somebody else, but you. Jesus Christ came not to condemn you but to save you, knowing your name, knowing all about you, knowing your weight right now, knowing your age, knowing what you do, knowing where you live, knowing what you ate for supper and what you will eat for breakfast, where you will sleep tonight, how much your clothing cost, who your parents were. He knows you individually as though there were not another person in the entire world. He died for you as certainly as if you had been the only lost one. He knows the worst about you and is the One who loves you the most. 136

Perfect Harmony and Unity in the Trinity John 5.17-26

In this section Tozer is teaching about the mystery of the relationship between the Three persons of the Trinity. He sees the unity of the One Godhead as being expressed in the three persons co-equally. Thus, when one honors the Father they  honor the Son and the Spirit. When one prays to the Father or in the Name of the Son they are praying to the whole Godhead.

The ancient mystic theologians taught that the Godhead goes back of and beneath any of the three persons of the Trinity. They teach that there is the underlying Godhead and that the Godhead expressed Himself as Father, Son and Holy Ghost, in three personalities. That is what I believe. I believe that the Father is the ancient Godhead expressing Himself as the Father, and the Son is the ancient Godhead in expression as the Son, and the Holy Ghost is the ancient Godhead—all of one substance and of one eternity. One, without beginning and without creation. And so we have the triune God. 143

He never emptied Himself of any attributes of deity; rather, He emptied Himself of the accoutrements of deity. He emptied Himself of the evidences of the deity, covered the deity in a cloak of opaque flesh and walked among us as though He were a man. He was God in overalls, living on the earth, wearing the common denim of humanity and covering over His deity. 145

God knows that the most mature of us still need coddling sometimes, and so He is quick to overlook our ignorance, but He is never quick to overlook our sins. 150

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Reading Through Zephaniah and Haggai

(NOTE: I am headed in to the lab today for a cat scan to take a look at my abdominal organs to check for damage. I am on the 6 hour fast before the scan and will be drinking the “barium oral suspension” in a couple hours to prepare for the scan. Some of you have been though this before. This should end my first round of testing and I am hoping and praying that it will reveal one of the less lethal possibilities for the origin of my symptoms. We are still at least a week away from getting any real answers on that.)

Ham HahlenZephaniah and Haggai are two short prophecies that encourage Jerusalem with God’s judgment and restoration. We will read through them accompanied by The Minor Prophets vol. 2, The College Press NIV Commentary, by Clay Ham and Mark Hahlen. Zephaniah looks ahead to the Day of the LORD as an undoing of creation to prepare for a new one. Haggai encourages the people, that despite their poverty and powerlessness, their service to God will have worldwide implications. I am 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…

Zephaniah

Zephaniah's theme is the Day of the LORD and he gives a more detailed description of it than any other writing prophet. He writes to the rebellious of Judah during the reign of Josiah. Zephaniah sees both the judgment of redemption of God going to all the nations and then to Judah. God's judgment and the nations' repentance are both motivation for Jerusalem's humble return to covenant with YHWH.

Zephaniah announces that Yahweh will act decisively in human history to implement aspects of the divine plan. In that day, Yahweh will judge the sin of the people and the nations, be victorious over enemies, and deliver the people. Yahweh must punish the sins of Judah, but this punishment is not simply punitive; it is redemptive. In spite of the onslaught of divine fury, Yahweh’s faithfulness and mercy to the remnant will prevail. The divine purpose in choosing Israel will not be frustrated by judgment, but it will be realized in an elect remnant. Zephaniah, 183–184

Zephaniah sees the Day of the LORD as an "undoing" of creation another version of Noah's flood. Creation will be undone in anticipation of a new one. Judah should respond with sincere repentance if they want to be part be part of God's redeemed people.

As a whole, Zephaniah 1:7–18 calls for the readers to prepare in silence and with lament for the unexpected yet inevitable consequence of their religious idolatry and economic corruption, a consequence Zephaniah calls the day of Yahweh. Zephaniah 1, 199

The nations are judged, and then redeemed, as an incentive to encourage the people to repent and accept Josiah's reforms wholeheartedly. The nations they fear, that oppress them will be overthrown. They need to trust God exclusively and quit combining true worship with idol worship.

The nations are no longer merely the recipients of divine judgment, since Zephaniah 2:11 describes their conversion and thereby possible inclusion in the remnant of Yahweh’s people (2:3, 7, 9); in chapter 3, the promise of salvation to the nations (3:9–10) actually precedes the promise to Israel (3:12–18). Zephaniah 2.12, 219

Two prophecies of restoration in 3.8-20 encourage Jerusalem to trust God now. Surprisingly the nations around Israel, who are judged severely, are now redeemed and Israel is invited to join them as God's redeemed people.

Here in Zephaniah, a rebellious and apostate Judah has been purified, leaving a meek and humble remnant that trusts in Yahweh and lives in obedience (2:3; 3:12–13). This transformed people are once again treasured by Yahweh and are honored among the nations. Zephaniah 3.20, 245

Haggai

The prophet Haggai challenges the tiny, powerless post-exilic community of Judah to rebuild the temple, the symbol of God's presence and power under the Old Covenant. It provides reassurance that, despite the present circumstances, God has not forgotten the covenant, and the community's obedience in building this little insignificant building will have worldwide implications because the God who will occupy it will "shake" and re-order all the governments of the world.

Haggai challenges the early postexilic community of Judah to look beyond their meager resources and difficult circumstances in order to believe daringly the ancient promises of Yahweh. The rebuilding of the temple in the hope of Yahweh’s presence among them and of eschatological messianic blessing requires an act of faith. The community must not fear. They must be strong and give careful thought to the power of Yahweh Almighty whose glory will fill the temple in but a little while (2:4–7). Haggai, 268–269

The first chapter is a call from God to quit neglecting Him and rebuild the temple. The people are obedient and God begins to bless them with the productivity promised in the Mosaic covenant.

The purpose for building the temple is so that Yahweh might take delight in it and the presence of Yahweh might enter the temple...The particular verb form...may emphasize that Yahweh attains glory through the people’s obedience to Yahweh’s own command to rebuild the temple. Haggai 1, 283–284

Chapter 2 contains three prophecies that tell the people that God is renewing the Davidic covenant, and its blessings and  promises, and that what they are doing to obey God will have tremendous worldwide significance. God can make very small acts of obedience to Him have tremendous and far reaching results

Haggai reminds the people rebuilding the temple that the Spirit of Yahweh is present with them just as Yahweh has been present with their ancestors, with whom Yahweh made the covenant after bringing them out of Egypt, when they build the tabernacle...Haggai admonishes the people not to fear because Yahweh will cause a cosmic upheaval that will bring a greater glory to the present temple. Haggai 2.6–9, 295

The language of the section shows that Haggai likely sees Zerubbabel as a messianic figure, one who represents a hope for political independence under a restored Davidic dynasty and one who, like the Davidic monarchy, represents Yahweh the heavenly king on the earth. Haggai 2.20-23, 313

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

And He Dwelt among Us: Teachings from the Gospel of John #2

(Note: I will be completing the first round of medical tests this week. On the 20th and the 23rd I will meet with my doctors and go over the tests. Won’t know much until then. Please keep praying.)

TozerWith this post we continue reading through the New Testament devotional book, And He Dwelt among Us: Teachings from the Gospel of John, by A. W. Tozer. This book is a meditation on the incarnation, the great truth and mystery that God became a human being, focused on the Gospel of John. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

The Tragic Side of Christ Becoming Flesh John 1.11

The most amazing thing that ever happened is summed up in the words of John 1.11, "He came." The Creator came into the world that He made and the creation sang for joy. The tragic thing is that the crown of that creation, the majority of humanity, did not welcome him. Tozer points out that we do the same thing today because receiving Jesus means we must change our priorities, habits, and life direction, and wholeheartedly trust Him to clean up our lives and provide our needs.

I cannot get away from the wonder of these words, “He came.” The story of pity and mercy and redeeming love are all here in two words: “He came.” All the pity that God is capable of feeling, all the mercy that He is capable of showing and all the redeeming grace that He could pour out of His heart are at least suggested here in two simple words: “He came.” All the hopes and longings and aspirations and dreams of immortality that lie in the human breast had their fulfillment in those two words. John 1.11, 62

Christ does not need our patronage and He needs no one to act as His public-relations man. He is not a guest, He is the host and we are the guests. We are here by His sufferance. We are here by His kindness. We are here because He has made us and brought us here. And this world is His world, and He can do what He will with His world, and no one can upbraid Him. He can do what He wills with life and death and nature. And He can do what He wills in that mighty cataclysmic time that we call judgment. 65

The world around us sang when He came and will sing again when He comes in glory, but our hard hearts say no. The tragedy is that we have rejected Him from our hearts because we want our own way. 75

The Mystery of the Word Made Flesh John 1.14

In this section Tozer looks at the mystery of the incarnation: that which was and is God became something that is created, human, not God, without ever losing the essence of being God. The infinite God became man and showed the glory of God in human form. The miracles, especially the resurrection, were an important part of this, but the real glory was seen as Jesus lived out the character of God in human flesh. The connection between human beings and God was made for all eternity.

What God thinks about a man is more important than what a man thinks about himself. As far as God is concerned, what a man is always is more important to God than what that man does. We judge a man by his performance, by what he can contribute. But God sees deeper inside and bores to the very core of what that man really is. God is looking for goodness. It is his character and personality that God looks for. God is never impressed by anything a man can do. 83–84

Jesus Christ, the eternal Son, is the only medium in which God dispenses His benefits to His creation...Because Jesus is the eternal Son, because He is of the eternal generation and equal with the Father as pertaining to His substance, His eternity, His love, His power, His grace, His goodness and all the other attributes of deity, He is the channel. He is the medium through which God dispenses all His blessings, all His fullness of all that we receive. 85

The Old Testament Messiah versus the New Testament Messiah John 1.29-37

Tozer next makes the point that Jesus was Messiah predicted in the Old Testament. His identity was revealed to John the Baptist but it was also proven through Jesus' fulfillment of OT prophecy. Jesus was the fulfillment of the sacrificial lamb who completely removes the sin of the world. He has the power (he baptizes in the Holy Spirit) to change the sinful person/society into something new that is fit to enter His eternal kingdom and can being to live out the kingdom now.

God works silently, quietly and modestly and is turning a world over, for He does it so quietly that no one notices. 98

So the church of God on earth is simply a sample of the new race; that is all. If we are a redeemed people and samples of the new race, we ought to live like the new race and think like the new race and act like the new race of people. 104–105

The Lamb of God, the seed of Abraham, David’s greater son, the Lamb that was slain—He specializes in hard cases and He takes away sin—yours and mine. He forgiveth iniquity and pardoneth sin. You confess it; He forgives it. You name it; He destroys it. You expose it; He removes it. You own it; He takes it out. John 1.29, 106

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Medical Update (and Snow!)

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Snow (4) (1024x768) (1024x768)Joyce and I are here in El Dorado California, still getting tested to find out why I have such a high eosinophil count in my blood. So this week I have been getting a chunk of skin and several vials of blood removed along with some other tests. Next week I am looking at a cat scan and other tests. The edema is slowly getting better but I am still a bit swollen and need to stay horizontal for a good part of the day. We hope, with the tests this week and next week, to find the culprit messing with my blood, or to eliminate 75% of the possibilities. My prayer is that this first round of tests finds the problem and we can begin the process to take care of it. If it does not find the culprit, the next round of tests are designed to reveal more serious causes. Again, it is all in God’s hands.

PIU has begun the new semester without me. It is a little hard to even write that last sentence. I have been leading the school for the past 14 years and it is a little weird to be on the outside. Our board chairman, Howard Merrell, is there to fill my seat until I can return. I appreciate he and Kathy changing their plans for 2017 to meet this need. Please continue to pray for Howard and for all the faculty, staff and students at PIU. That is what I am doing.

Snow (10) (1024x768)Finally, earlier this week we had a light dusting of snow. It was beautiful, but made even more beautiful by the fact that I did not need to go out into the cold. We are bracing for another big storm this weekend, but it is unlikely to bring snow according to the weather man. I am hoping to be well enough to go to church tomorrow but we will see. So far, I have only been going out to see doctors and do lab testing. Thank you for praying for Joyce and me.

Reading Through Nahum and Habakkuk

Ham HahlenNahum and Habakkuk are two short prophecies that deal with God’s judgment and justice. We will read through them accompanied by The Minor Prophets vol. 2, The College Press NIV Commentary, by Clay Ham and Mark Hahlen. Nahum predicts the fall of Nineveh the capitol of the violent Assyrian empire and sees it as a comfort to the oppressed people of Jerusalem. Habakkuk dialogs with God about the issue of delayed judgment and the justice of using a more evil nation as the instrument of justice against Jerusalem. I am 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…

Nahum

Nahum is a prophecy of comfort to Jerusalem, who was in constant peril from Assyria, and a warning to the oppressor that their judgment was coming soon. Nahum assures the oppressed that their oppressor will not last forever and that justice will be served. It serves as a warning to anyone who tries to benefit from taking advantage of the weak and a comfort to those suffering under injustice, that God will eventually remove those who hurt them.

The joy of those who have suffered under the hands of Assyria (3:19) reveals the wickedness of Nineveh rather than any faulty attitudes within the oppressed peoples. One could no more expect them to mourn over Nineveh’s fall than one could regret the fall of a Hitler, Stalin, or Idi Amin. The book reminds the reader that the God of Israel is just, and evil will not have the final word. Nahum, 43

Nahum uses ancient near Eastern imagery to portray YHWH as being in charge of the tornado, thunder, lightning, drought and fire. No human nation can stand up to these destructive forces, including Assyria. God will bring on them devastating, appropriate and complete judgment for what they have done to the other nations, especially Israel. Jerusalem should take comfort and trust in God's declaration of the anticipated deliverance and peace.

The section presents a theological description of Yahweh, drawing on language from Exodus and images of Yahweh as warrior, and poses a kind of prophetic confrontation. Based on the implications of Yahweh’s nature, the readers are asked to remember that opposing Yahweh is futile, to reconsider what constitutes an enemy of Yahweh, to reaffirm their trust in Yahweh, and to rejoice at the defeat of Nineveh. Nahum 1.1-15, 50

Theologically vengeance relates to Yahweh’s holiness, which cannot allow sin and rebellion to go unpunished. In this sense, vengeance is the action that measures out justice. Without divine justice, divine mercy would lose its meaning. Nahum 1.2, 53

In the next section Nahum is a "prophetic sentinel" describing and explaining the destruction and devastation of Nineveh as though it has already happened. Chapter 2 describes the attack on Nineveh while chapter 3 gives the reasons for it. Nineveh seduced the nations with their wealth and intimidated them with their military. Now their military is destroyed and their wealth becomes booty for their attackers. The Assyrian "lions" become prey. Nahum also reminds them that Jerusalem and Judah will continue far beyond them. Nahum serves as a warning to all oppressive empires, whether they are financial or national, that a time of reckoning is coming and the humiliation they served to others will be justly served to them.

Yahweh will consume Nineveh’s military might and vigorous army. The picture here of the young lions being devoured reverses one of the favorite metaphors the Assyrians use to portray themselves; they no longer prey on others, but they are prey themselves. No more will the Assyrian messengers threaten, as the field commander threatens king Hezekiah of Judah; their voices will no longer be heard. Four uses of “no more” (1:12, 14–15; 2:13) point to a coming, decisive deliverance for Judah. Nahum 2, 76

Both Nahum and Jonah draw upon Exodus 34:6–7 to comment on the character of God. Jonah is troubled by Yahweh’s compassion (Jonah 4:2), but Nahum is comforted by Yahweh’s justice (1:3). Yahweh now reverses the Assyrian domination originally intended to punish the people of Yahweh. The image of clapping hands is an act of derision (Job 27:21–23; 34:37; Lam 2:15; Ezek 25:6). Those who hear about the destruction of Nineveh rejoice that Yahweh has made an end of that great city. Nahum 3.19, 92

Habakkuk

Habakkuk is a unique book among the prophets as it contains 2 dialogues with God about His justice and a prayer of Habakkuk acknowledging God's ability bring justice to this world. Habakkuk complains to God about His apparent lack of commitment to covenant justice in allowing the evil of Jehioakim's reign. God surprisingly announces that God will judge the whole region through Babylon which concerns Habakkuk even more. God assures him that covenant justice will come but judgment must come before salvation.

The worshiper of Yahweh must wait in faithfulness for the time Yahweh has appointed for the judgment of the wicked and the deliverance of the righteous. This appointed time may not come as rapidly as the righteous would prefer, and the righteous may suffer in the interim, but Yahweh is to be trusted since deliverance is sure.  Habakkuk, 109

In the first dialogue God's lack of judgment on Israel is questioned, but in the second God's means of judgment is questioned. How can God use evil idolaters to judge his people? Habakkuk is concerned that Marduk will be glorified rather than YHWH. God reassures Him that God will insure that He receives the glory due to him. Habakkuk's role is to actively wait, by actively keeping the covenant, through the judgment for God's salvation.

But the righteous will live by his faith. The noun “righteous” (צַדִּיק, ṣaddîq) refers to one who conforms to an ethical standard (Gen 6:9; 15:6; Ezek 3:21); accordingly, the “righteous” is one who serves Yahweh (Mal 3:18), obeys the commands of Yahweh (Deut 6:25; Ps 1:1–6; Ezek 18:9; Hos 14:9), remembers the covenant with Yahweh (Isa 51:1–8), cares for the poor and needy (Job 29:12–15; Ps 37:21; Prov 29:7), and lives according to the spirit of Yahweh (Isa 32:15–17; Ezek 36:25–27. Habakkuk 2.4, 144

The glory of Yahweh entails the reality of Yahweh’s presence and the manifestation of Yahweh’s character (Exod 29:43; 40:34–35; 1 Kgs 8:11; 2 Chr 5:14; 7:1–3; Ezek 11:23; 43:4–5). Therefore, the entire earth will acknowledge the reputation for greatness that belongs to Yahweh (Hab 3:3). That the knowledge of Yahweh’s glory fills the earth counters the Babylonian claim that Marduk, the god of their city, rules over creation. The phrase as the waters cover the sea amplifies both the certainty and the extent of this display. Habakkuk 2.14, 150

The close of chapter 2 contains several key contrasts with the opening of the chapter. Whereas verse 1 portrays the prophet at his post upon a rampart waiting, verse 20 depicts Yahweh in the heavenly temple poised to enact justice (Ps 11:4–7). In 2:1, the prophet prepares himself to give answer to Yahweh when Yahweh responds to his concerns and complaints. However, in 2:20, all the earth remains silent; the time for questions or rebuttals has ended.

Habakkuk closes with a prayer in which he pictures God as the Divine Warrior at Sinai giving the covenant and driving out Israel's enemies, and in battle with the forces of chaos bring his order and beauty as he defeats the forces of evil. Habakkuk resolves to continue trusting God as he experiences the devastation of Jerusalem's judgment, knowing that God will keep his promises and set things right when the times comes.

The vision for the “appointed time” then anticipates the “day of calamity.” The confidence displayed in anticipation of the day of calamity corresponds to the assurance that the vision will certainly come in 2:3 and to the declaration in 2:4 that the righteous will live by faithfulness. Habakkuk 3.16, 167

Thursday, January 05, 2017

And He Dwelt among Us: Teachings from the Gospel of John #1

(Note: I began the first of many medical tests yesterday. I look forward to several more later this week. I probably won’t know any results for a couple weeks. Please keep praying.)

TozerWith this post we begin reading through the New Testament devotional book, And He Dwelt among Us: Teachings from the Gospel of John, by A. W. Tozer. This book is a meditation on the incarnation, the great truth and mystery that God became a human being, focused on the Gospel of John. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

From Everlasting to Everlasting John 1.1

Here, Tozer focused on one of the greatest truths there is: that the Creator God became a human being so that human beings could live with Him for all eternity. Jesus bridged the gap between that which is God (the Trinity) and that which is “not God,” everything else.

Whereas the apostle Paul presents Christ in a theological setting, John uses the mystical setting. In doing so, John does not disregard theology, for there is plenty of theology in his Gospel; rather, he uses theology as a ladder to climb to the heights of Christ’s nature15

Man was created to soar into the heights of eternity and fellowship with God. God made him to look back on the everlasting vanishing point that was, and on into the eternal vanishing point that will be and feel no age nor count birthdays, but like God, live in God.  22

The life that God offers us is not a question of duration. It is a question of quality, and the quality of life that God gives us is His own life in your heart. That takes care of the duration and everything else. God created our souls to be satisfied only with the divine everlastingness of the Word made flesh.  28


A Time Before Time Began John 1.3-5

Tozer focuses on Jesus' Self-sufficiency and self-existence in chapter 2. There was a time when God existed when there was no creation, no world, no space, no other beings, not even a "void." God was everything, filled everything and had no need of anything. It was this one and only God who created the spiritual and physical universe. Thus, God has no need of anything from us. He is the giver who is never diminished. He created time and space for us to live in and he enjoys our fellowship, but he is never dependent on us, but we are always dependent on Him and on the universe he created. That is a God worth worshipping.

So we have: “in the beginning,” “at the beginning,” “since the beginning” and “from the beginning,” and they all mean the same thing. They refer to a time when God dwelt alone and lived alone in uncreated majesty and glory. The Father in love with the Son; the Son in love with the Spirit; and the Spirit and the Father and the Son dwelling in the tranquility that had no beginning and can have no end. That marvelous, uncreated beauty of divine unity. 38

Some people’s idea of God is quite disturbing to me. Somehow, they have the idea that God is like them only, of course, much better. They take their human attributes and project it up into God. As a result, they have a God, much like themselves, but a God I could never fall on my knees and worship. A God who does not deserve worship. 40

Leave the morning newspaper unopened; just let the thing lie there. Do not turn the radio on to see who assassinated who; do not bother. Just think a little bit and say to yourself, before God, “I’m glad I’m alive. I am delighted that I was ever created. I am delighted that I was ever born. I am delighted that God ever thought of me before the beginning. I am utterly and completely delighted that God ever made me.” 42

The Beauteous World as Made by Him John 1.10

John 1.10 celebrates Jesus, the Word, as the Creator. He created everything for his his pleasure and enjoyment. He created a world of beauty and order with everything in its place and time. This is why we know that any time confusion reigns sin is having its way in the world. In addition, he holds it all together. We may be able to observe the world and see the formal and practical causes of things, but the final cause is seen spiritually and in the Word.

You are a profane man until you have awakened to the fact that you are not alone in this universe, but He is here. That there is a presence and a voice that lights every man, and you realize the basis of your life is not physical but spiritual, and you owe it to God to turn to Him with all your heart. 57

The all-permeating Word, which is in the world, is the adhesive quality of the universe. That is why we do not fall apart. He is to the universe the mortar and the magnetism that holds it together. He holds up His universe. That is what He is doing in His universe. That is why He is here. Colossians 1.16, 54

When we come to God and His outlook on the world around us, what He sees is beautiful. The reason is simple. Everything God created, He created with purpose, and that purpose brings pure pleasure to Him. God looks at His marvelous creation and, in a sense, sees Himself. 49

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Christmas “Vacation”

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Joyce and I began our Christmas vacation on December 17th as we boarded our flight through Japan to San Francisco and then on to Redding and El Dorado to spend time with family. The plan was to go on to San Diego on Christmas night, and to Cincinnati on New Years Day to visit Matt and Mike and their families. Our plans were aborted when I arrived in San Francisco with a “serious” (Doctor’s word to  describe it) case of edema. We went to urgent care and discovered that I have a “serious blood condition” called eosinophilia which, as the doctor said, “you must take very seriously or it will kill you.” So we took it seriously and planted ourselves in El Dorado where we have access to excellent medical and, hopefully not necessary, university hospitals  that can handle serious illnesses. I am now awaiting a month of tests that will determine what is causing and what must be done about it. Joyce and I would ask you to pray along with us as we move through this.

Christmas Family (11) (1024x768)Christmas Family (14) (1024x768)

Christmas Family (16) (768x1024)Christmas Family (2) (1024x768)Though our plans were changed we were still able to celebrate Christmas with my family in El Dorado. Our daughter Missy and grand-daughter Leila were able to fly from Texas and spend a few days with us. My brother and his family came up from the Bay Area and most of my sister’s family was there with us. We enjoyed the usual Owen conversational repartee and had a good afternoon together. The white elephant gift exchange was a lot of fun. My sister Jayne’s gift to my brother Doug was unanimously acclaimed as the best white elephant of the night (right). I am sure we will see it again. The picture above, top, is my parents with some of their grand and great grand children.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Reading Through Micah

(I saw the hematologist yesterday and now have a testing regimen set up for the next couple weeks. I am thanking God that we can get the testing done so quickly. I am hoping that the tests will reveal an issue that can be dealt with fairly quickly. We shall see. I appreciate your prayers)

Hosea to MicahMicah is one of the best known books of the Minor Prophets because of its prophecy of the Messiah being born in Bethlehem. We will read through it accompanied by The Minor Prophets vol. 1, The College Press NIV Commentary, by Harold Shank. A contemporary of Isaiah, Micah follows him in warning Jerusalem of God’s judgment through Assyria and encouraging them with a vision of the future coming kingdom. I am 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 book of Micah is a difficult book to organize. Shank organizes the book around three questions that deal with God's judgment, God's presence and God's requirements for relationship. Jerusalem had failed to understand these questions and so was facing God's judgment. Micah preached as the Assyrians began their invasion of Judah and besieged Jerusalem. Hezekiah responded to Micah's prophecy with repentance and reform and the exile was delayed almost 100 years. Micah also prophecies a return and golden far future for Israel.

Presenting a God who both punishes and forgives, Micah explores the nature of the sin that brings judgment, the way God communicates—or refuses to communicate—with humanity, and what the people must do to receive his forgiveness.
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Chapters 1 and 2 answer the question “Is God responsible for the destruction we face?” Micah asserts "yes he is." The false prophets counter with the idea that God gives only good but forget that good comes only within the bounds of the covenant and trusting in God's provision. Judgment, generally, comes from the sin of the people who willingly remove themselves from God's protection and receive the consequences of their unfaithfulness.

The LORD’s kingly duties, however, include both blessing and cursing. Someday the LORD will lead his people home from exile; here it is also the LORD who takes them into exile. Israel will not be taken into exile because of the LORD’s inability to prevent it; rather the judgment and exile they experience is the work of their own God. Micah 2.13, 402

Chapters 3-5 answer the question, “How do we know God is with us?” The answer does not come from having many idols or temples, but from a daily walking with God. This is when we see God working in both discipline and blessing. Micah looks forward to a day when God's presence will be clearly seen in a world that keeps covenant. Chapter 5 climaxes the section with God's promise of a future strong Davidic king who will lead the nation to complete its role of bringing blessing to the nation and purging the world of sin and its effects. This ultimately points to Jesus, but each generation in Israel would have been hoping that each new king would fulfill this prophecy.

In Micah’s vision, however, Israel will know that God is with them because they will be walking with him. The other nations can walk with their false gods; Israel will know the true God. Micah 4.5, 413

Whether it is the secular society building its faith on a negative answer to the question, “How do we know God is with us?” or the faith community wondering if their positive answer is correct, Micah’s response is relevant: God does exist. At the moments when we least expect God, Micah confirms God’s presence. Micah 4.11-13, 417–418

The dominating theme of these verses is that the victory comes not from Israel’s military power, but from their king. Their king will seem as powerful as seven shepherds appear to a flock of sheep, as dominating as eight leaders would be to one nation. Micah 5.2-6, 423

Micah 6-7 replies to the last question, “What does God want from us?” (428) In chapter 6 God puts the nation on trial regarding their covenant justice, loyal love (hesed), and humble submission to covenant boundaries (6.8), and finds them guilty. He then calls them to confession which would lead to forgiveness. However, the nation refuses to respond. Micah, in chapter 7, looks around him and sees nothing but deceit and oppression. However, the book ends with Micah reminding himself of God's care and promises for the nation and commits himself to active waiting and trust in God's plan.

With the entire world watching, the LORD puts both himself and Israel on trial in the case of the LORD v. Israel...If anything, the LORD’s words in 6:1–5 are the summation before the jury, but, unlike a trial which ends with sentencing, this judicial scene ends with a call for rehabilitation. Ultimately, the LORD is not interested in punishment; he wants people who will be like him and walk with him. The LORD will punish, however, if Jerusalem does not obey (6:9–16). Micah 6, 428

Even when our attempts to seek and save the lost, to show mercy, or to be servants meet resistance or simply fail, we find comfort in knowing that we travel Micah’s road. Beyond that, we learn from him how to commit our waiting to the mission, to prayer, and ultimately to God. We readily join him at his watchman’s post, seeking the salvation of God. Micah 7, 439