Sunday, May 28, 2017

Reading Through the Book of Lamentations

LamThis week I am reading through Lamentations accompanied by, Jeremiah/Lamentations, College Press NIV Commentary, by Timothy M. Willis. Lamentations is a collection of 5 poems that mourn the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and subsequent exile of its Jewish population. 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 my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Lamentations is a collection of five lament poems that were written soon after they Babylonian exile and destruction of Jerusalem. Four of the five poems are written in acrostic form, in which each line begins with the succeeding letter of the alphabet. These poems read like an eyewitness account of the destruction and grief that is felt in the aftermath of the wrath of God. Because of Jerusalem's rejection of the Covenant, God had taken his hands off of the city and its people and allowed the Babylonians to completely decimate and burn the city to the ground. The poems recount a walk through the city in which the authors mourn what has become of the once-great city.

Laments like these reflect the true feelings of individuals when they are hurting deeply. God does not want such feelings ignored, pushed aside, diminished, or belittled in any way. He is a God who “weeps with those who weep.” He is “the God of all comfort,” accepting these expressions of grief, and then responding to them in a way that will bring comfort to those currently suffering. Even the questions raised at such a traumatic time are welcomed by him. Lamentations, 397

Chapter 1 is written from the perspective of the city of Jerusalem, pictured as a recently widowed and ravaged wife. The suffering Jerusalem is graphically described. The city cries out in grief to God, her husband. YHWH's response is that it has has been decreed for Jerusalem to suffer. Jerusalem acknowledges the justice of this decree and warns others to not rebel against God. Jerusalem then asks that God would bring justice to those who have oppressed her. Chapter one is a graphic picture of what happens when God gives over a rebel to the consequences of their actions.

A once great lady has become a widow, a queen has become a servant girl; her friends … have become her enemies, her rivals have gained the upper hand, her children have been carried off, and her many possessions have been lost. What makes it all the more horrifying is the absence of any comforting hand. Lamentations 1.1-7, 404

Poem 2 is written from the perspective of the people of Jerusalem. The people mourn the ferocity of the destruction of the city that was once so dear to the Lord. But it is recognized that in the midst of this, God himself feels grief as that of a mother who has lost an infant child. People ask God to remove their suffering and to remove the oppressor who is gloating over their misfortune and making every day a terror to them.

This had been his dwelling, his place of meeting (v. 6), his altar, his sanctuary, his house (v. 7). Sadly, this “dream home” had turned out to be a disaster, so the owner has been forced to demolish it completely and start over. All the memories, good and bad, of life in that first home now lie in a heap of rubble at his feet. Lamentations 2, 410

In poem 3 the prophetic voice speaks. This poem is even more intense as the poet makes three acrostic lines for each section instead of just one. This poem refocuses the people back on the fact that it is a God of mercy, justice and love who has disciplined them. The same God who rescued them from Egypt will also rescue them from this situation. The purpose of the punishment is to humble them to get them to repent and renew their covenant loyalty. Because God is compassionate, their suffering is not eternal. They need to realize that their suffering is deserved, but also that, when they repent, God will restore them. So now the prophet urges the people to repent and wait for the coming deliverance from exile. God's character in covenant guarantees that he will come to their rescue.

The speaker declares that, in spite of his suffering at the hand of the LORD, he still believes in the ultimate mercy and goodness of the LORD. These qualities reside at the heart of the LORD’s character. Lamentations 3, 416

In poem 4 the prophet recounts the devastated situation of the survivors in Jerusalem. Those who once lived in luxury are now living life on a level lower than animals. He acknowledges that the people deserve this because they used their former privileges to indulge themselves at the expense of others. Even in this situation the people respond (17-20) and lament that their allies let them down. They still refuse to trust God. Nevertheless, the prophet responds that someday God will restore them from exile and punish their enemies. 

The speaker now responds to the mocking applause of Edom over the Babylonian victory. She had better celebrate while she can, because she will soon have to “taste” the bitterness of defeat herself (v. 21)...Edom is taunting Jerusalem for what has happened, not realizing that the same fate will soon befall her. Perhaps Edom would have been more sympathetic, if she had realized this.  Lamentations 4, 425–426

Poem 5 is the only one in Lamentations that is not an acrostic. It is a communal lament, but with a half-hearted response of faith at the end. The community lifts up their suffering to the Lord and recognizes their guilt, but fail to fully take responsibility and repent. They wonder if God will stay faithful to His covenant. It will be another 50 years, when God raises up a new more faithful remnant in exile, before they will find out that He will. Jeremiah was right after all. 

First, there is a momentary turn toward repentance (v. 16b). There is a general admission of guilt, but the absence of any specification makes one wonder how clearly they see their sins. Rather than focus on that, they return to the suffocating suffering they endure. Lamentations 5.1-18, 429

If they are truly honest with themselves during this long and painful exile, the people will have to wonder whether they had even exhausted the mercy of the God of all mercies. When they do experience his blessings again, after such a spiritual drought, they should finally understand the truly merciful and gracious nature of those blessings. Lamentations 5, 431

Saturday, May 27, 2017

A 38th Wedding Anniversary Medical Update

20170526_101201 (1280x960)Today is a big day for Joyce and I. It is the 38th anniversary of our wedding here in Placerville. Today was a lot cooler than that 105 degree day back in 1979. 20170526_101148 (960x1280)Our big plan for today was nephrostogram at Marshall Hospital to see if I would be able to get rid of the kidney bag I have been wearing for the last three months. The oncologist would like us to get rid of the bag because it creates extra infection risk with the hole in my back. For me, life would just be a little easier without it. So, the doctor injected dye into my kidney (left, above) to see if it would go through to the bladder which would indicate everything is working the way it is supposed to. However it seems that there is some blockage in my ureter20170526_095707 (960x1280) (In the picture on the right, what looks like the Nile River is my ureter and you can see the blockage at the bottom of it) which will need to be taken care of before the bag can come off. We will see the urologist to discuss the next steps on June 5 after the next round of chemotherapy. It is likely that another minor procedure will be needed to unblock the ureter. It was a big disappointment for the day, but we will keep moving forward.

We also went in to the infusion center in Cameron Park to have a blood draw in preparation for my next chemo session next Tuesday. Yes, Joyce and I know how to party on our anniversary! Everything seemed to go well there. We’ll get results next week, but we seem to be proceeding on schedule for that. We still have a long hard road to recovery and healing, but we keep moving forward in faith. Thank you for praying for us.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom, Ben Witherington III, #1

WitheringtonThe latest book I am reading for my New Testament devotions and study is by Ben Witherington III, Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom.  In this book Witherington looks at the influence of Jewish wisdom on the teachings of Jesus and how He develops and expands the wisdom tradition. I am posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

Witherington sees Jesus as a sage who operates, not only in the Jewish wisdom tradition, but who is an innovator who develops wisdom thinking into what will become the wisdom of the New Testament. To fully understand what Jesus is saying we need to be familiar with the Jewish wisdom tradition.

This book then is not only about the pilgrimage of Wisdom but also about Jesus the sage as one who contributed to the growth and development of Jewish Wisdom and, for the community of his own followers, charted a course that they would follow in further developing Wisdom ideas and forms. xi

Chapter 1 looks at the wisdom tradition in the Old Testament. This tradition is more international in scope (borrowed proverbs from Egypt for example) and relies a great deal on tradition and human observation, although both must be interpreted through the revelation of God in the Torah.

The sage reflected on what the world and ordinary human and animal affairs can reveal about God but especially about how as a human being one ought to live in order to rightly express reverence for God in accord with the moral structure of the universe God set up in the first place. 11–12

Proverbs provides an earlier example of the wisdom tradition. The proverbs tend to be general observations about the way God has set up creation and gives advice about how to function most successfully within it. Generally the way one acts has consequences that follow and wisdom knows and does those acts that bring success. This tends to work because God has set up the universe according to wisdom.

Rather than trying to offer Truth with a capital T, perhaps in some cases the function of a proverb was either to provide a general rule of thumb, not an exclusive rule, or the maxims were meant to aid the listener to discern the proper context in which to illuminate the human situation. 23

Wisdom, which begins with the idea of reverence for Yahweh, is seen as the key to the good life. Wisdom teaches the art of steering through life’s difficulties and how to live long, live well, and live in an upright fashion. 49

Ecclesiastes and Job provide the later counter-wisdom to the conventional, conservative wisdom of Proverbs. Sometimes things don't work out according to conventional wisdom. We don't always know the wise thing to do because we don't have God's perspective on proper timing or on the foolish actions of others. We don't always know what God is up to, so wisdom does not always bring success.

Qoheleth was still seen as a sage who stood within the Wisdom tradition, even if as the “loyal opposition” he offered a fundamental rethinking of various Wisdom generalizations about life. 52

Qoheleth has provided a great service by showing the hopelessness of such a view of life. Qoheleth stands at the ragged edge of a world gone wrong and sees it for what it is. A Wisdom philosophy under such circumstances, especially if there is suffering, persecution, oppression, and poverty is frankly inadequate and this book proves it, however accurate certain maxims may be under certain limited good circumstances. 57–58

In chapter 2 Witherington looks at intertestamental Jewish wisdom literature, in particular The Wisdom of Ben Sira and The Wisdom of Solomon. Ben Sira lived during the Hellenistic period in Israel under the Seleucids. He presents a more traditional, back to Torah and Proverbs type, view of wisdom while updating and applying it to the new situation in which the Jews found themselves. He also recognized that, while wisdom goes back to creation and is international in scope, it has taken up particular residence in Jerusalem in the Torah, prophets and temple priesthood and ritual.

Ben Sira first identifies Wisdom with God’s oral word, which spoke the universe into being and ordered it, and then suggests that God’s Wisdom has taken up particular location in Zion in the form of the Book of the Covenant, God’s written word. This means that while Torah expresses Wisdom for Israel, it does not exhaust it. 86

Ben Sira regards wisdom as belonging to the divine world and available to humankind only as a gift. There is therefore a close parallelism between wisdom and the Spirit, and correspondingly, between one endowed with wisdom and the prophet. 89

Ben Sira’s work represents the apex of the development of the Hebrew Wisdom tradition prior to the time of Jesus. But it is well to say in closing that Ben Sira was no Gnostic; he did not affirm that knowledge was the way to salvation...he stressed that obeying the Lord and living in a way that pleases God is the most critical thing of all. 99

Witherington concludes the section on intertestamental development of wisdom literature by looking at the Wisdom of Solomon. This book was probably written during the late Greek or early Roman period by an unknown sage taking on the persona” of Solomon. Some important developments would include the inclusion of Greek ideas, especially Platonic, into the Jewish idea of wisdom, development of a view of the soul pre-existent and separate from the body, a doctrine of after-life where injustice would be made right, and further personification of wisdom into a "hypostasis," an actual entity, emanating from God.

It is also not clear that our author affirms the idea of bodily resurrection, though 5:1ff suggests this. Especially crucial is Wis. 8:19–20 where one not only sees the idea of body-soul dualism enunciated but probably also the idea of the pre-existence of the soul...Fundamentally the kind of immortality he is commending to his audience is “Immortality … not rooted in the human makeup, but in one’s relationship to God.”  105

For the sake of clarity, I will call what is being expressed in the Wisdom of Solomon an hypostasis, not merely a personification of an attribute, because it now entails the new element of Wisdom emanating from God. This idea is closely linked with the idea of Wisdom as light or even more radiant than mere light (cf. Wis. 7:10). 109

It may be that in the Wisdom of Solomon there is a hypostasis of Wisdom. It is striking that what happens to personified Wisdom is what happens in general in Ben Sira’s book and the Wisdom of Solomon, for in both these books one sees a drawing on the particularistic traditions of Israel’s history and a focus on God’s elect people and their future direction. This trend of particularization takes a further and dramatic step in the New Testament Wisdom material. 116

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

10 Positive Things About Having Cancer

20170522_141628 (960x1280)This has been running through my head lately. Beware: There is some sarcasm and maybe some silliness here.

There are 10 things about cancer that are surprising, yea 11 that are a blessing. The So-Called Wisdom of Dave 3.16

  1. Not having hair to comb saves me a lot of time every day.
  2. I have more time to read and study.
  3. I have made many new friends in the medical profession.
  4. I get to spend more time with Joyce. She really is an amazing person… AND since my right foot has been numb for the last 6 months she has had to drive me wherever I needed to go. I have always wanted a chauffeur.
  5. If the zombie apocalypse happens tomorrow, the zombies will stay away from me. (See the movie World War Z for the reason why – Really you should watch it. After all Brad Pitt is in it)
  6. I think I may have got my limp. (This comes from a Tim Keller Youtube sermon illustration from Genesis 32 where Jacob and God wrestle. His point was that God must "give you a limp" - something that is so far beyond you that it beats the @$#^&*@ out of you (my definition not his) - that raises your relationship with God and ministry to a whole new level because now you realize it was all about God, not you, all along anyway.
  7. This island boy got to enjoy the "coldest winter we can ever remember in this county." Actually I mostly watched it from inside a comfy heated house with everything I need provided for me. Wait, was I complaining about something?
  8. My digestive system is no longer boring. I will not go all Martin Luther on you here with a graphic description. You are welcome.
  9. I have learned more about the lymphatic system than I ever cared to know.
  10. I have been able to experience the tremendous creative power of prednisone in my brain and body. I am not on prednisone as I write this. I will need to come up with another excuse for what I am writing here.
  11. and….. (this number wisdom saying genre is designed to focus the attention on the real point which is…) I am blessed and overwhelmed by the very real outpouring of love, help, gifts, prayers from friends all over the world. Thank you!

Reading Through the Book of Ecclesiastes

JobThis week I am reading through Ecclesiastes accompanied by , The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary – Ecclesiastes, by Tremper Longman III. Ecclesiastes, along with Job, provides an alternative view to Proverbs. Wisdom does not always bring success. It has limitations. Something more is needed to give ultimate meaning to life. 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 my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

The main theme of Ecclesiastes is that life lived without God is futile. Longman thinks the Book of Ecclesiastes containing two voices. One is the voice of an anonymous wise man. That voice is heard in the prologue and epilogue of the book. The second voice is the teacher who is being refuted, or sometimes clarified, by the wise man. The "teacher" is portrayed in terms of Solomon, a very unsuccessful wise man, whose investigation of "life under the sun" finds that it is meaningless, difficult, and futile. But the anonymous wise man, in the end, returns to the basic idea of Proverbs that meaning in life is found in the fear of the Lord and keeping His Commandments.

Apart from God, life is meaningless. This warning serves to undermine the tendency of all God’s human creatures to create their own meaning for their lives. Wisdom, relationships, power, money, influence, and other areas are all put under a microscope, and the conclusion is that “all is meaningless” without God. Ecclesiastes, 255

At this point, Jesus experienced the meaninglessness of this world in a way that Qoheleth could not imagine. Jesus did this in order to break the curse of that meaninglessness in our life. His resurrection infuses life with new meaning. In short, Jesus, the Messiah, is the answer to the problem expressed by the Teacher’s cry, “meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.”  Ecclesiastes, 260

In the prologue (1.2-11) the anonymous wise man refutes the idea that any meaning and purpose in life can be found apart from God. He uses the wind and the evaporation cycle as examples of how things in this world just go round and round and never get anywhere. If we are trying to create our own meaning in life we will find none.

The tone is somber and expresses the conclusion that while there is a lot of activity in the world, it is tedious. To use a modern image, we are like rats on a wheel, running constantly but getting nowhere. Ecclesiastes 1.2-11, 264

1.12 begins the section in which the teacher begins his search for meaning "under the sun." He wants to investigate a way to find meaning apart from God. In chapter 2 he investigates pleasure, work projects, and wisdom as things that could give his life meaning. He finds that pleasure-seeking only complicates life. Wisdom and work are good things, but all their benefits are negated by death. They may create good outcomes in life, but there is no guarantee that they will continue to the next generation. His advice to enjoy life and work are thin consolation to the meaninglessness that death brings.

Modern pleasure seekers need to listen closely as the Teacher announces his intention to investigate pleasure for possible meaning and then tells us his sad conclusion: the “good things” in life turned out to be meaningless. In the final analysis, they are useless. While there may be a momentary thrill in pleasure, there is no lasting significance. Therefore, pleasure is not ultimately satisfying. Ecclesiastes 2.1-11, 268

The unit ends with a strong expression of the Teacher’s exasperation (2:17). It says that he came to “hate life” because it is full of trouble and ultimately meaningless. Not only will death come to both wise and foolish, but both will be ultimately forgotten (2:16), a fate that is equally tragic to the Teacher. Ecclesiastes 2.12-17, 271

He reaches his negative verdict for a reason similar to that of the previous section. Death renders one’s work worthless. In the light of death, there is no ultimate meaning to one’s work...He cannot control his wealth beyond the grave. Ecclesiastes 2.18-26, 271

In chapter 3 the teacher bemoans the fact that, though God has given us a glimpse of eternity, we do not have enough of a glimpse of it to make it meaningful in our lives. Wisdom depends on knowing the right time to do something, but we don't have sufficient knowledge to be able to understand the times and act on them. He continues on that lack of justice in this world removes meaning from life. Even if one tries to set things right, who knows if that will be continued after one's death? Thus, in chapter 4, he despairs that it would probably be better to never have been born. He consoled himself that relationships make life better. It's better to have many friends, but even that does not make life meaningful. One can gain power in order to try to change the world, but even that will be forgotten.

This is why the Teacher refers to the “burden” that God has placed on humanity. Having a sense of something beyond us, but no ability to get at it, is exasperating to the TeacherEcclesiastes 3.1-15, 276

When the Teacher sees the oppressed, it does not prompt him to action; rather, he concludes that death is better than life. As a matter of fact, he says that it would be best not to have been born. Non-existence is preferable because one wouldn’t have to experience life at all. Ecclesiastes 4, 279

In chapters 5-6 the Teacher makes several observations about the hopelessness of finding real meaning "under the sun." To him, even God is distant and dangerous, and not much help. Oppression is everywhere and makes this difficult life even harder. One could live life for money, but money creates worry, extra responsibility, and parasites who try to live off of the one who has it. Ultimately we all die and can't take it with us anyway. His conclusion about life seems to be, "Life is hard and then you die."

When a hierarchical society like Israel’s goes haywire, the consequences can be more than frustrating. Everybody, from lower functionaries to the king himself, seeks their own good, and the common person gets the short end of the stick. The Teacher brought up this issue to remind us again just how difficult life is. Ecclesiastes 5.1-10, 287

Even if someone dies with lots of money, they can’t take it with them to the grave (5:15). It will do them no good there. In 5:16–17 the Teacher comes to the conclusion that hard work for the purpose of earning money or amassing wealth is pretty much a hopeless endeavor. People end up with nothing one way or the other. Ecclesiastes 5.10-6.9, 290

It is a sad tragedy when, after nine long months of expectation, a baby is born dead; but the Teacher says that that loss is nothing compared to the plight of the person who lives without finding meaning. The stillborn would have no consciousness of its loss, but the struggling long-lived person would not only ultimately die but also have to experience the sadness of life. Ecclesiastes 6, 292

In chapters 7-8 "a confused and struggling Qoheleth" (308) strings together some proverbs about how to navigate through this meaningless and difficult life "under the sun." He urges a realistic look at life that recognizes that death is coming, we all act foolishly, the world is not fair and we cannot control the outcome of our actions. He advocates not getting overly committed to anything, including goodness and wisdom, because you can't do it well enough and it does not guarantee success anyway. When one eliminates relationship with God from the equation the best we can do is distract ourselves.

Exactly what would constitute a good reputation for Qoheleth is not clearly stated, but we might imply from his own behavior that it means, at least in part, taking a long, hard look at reality and living in the light of the fact that everything is meaningless under the sun.  Ecclesiastes 7, 295

Wisdom is indeed hard to find, indeed impossible for unaided humans. However, wisdom can be found if one finds God. Qoheleth’s frustration does not lead him to recognize and express such a sublime truth. Qoheleth remains a confused wise man. Ecclesiastes 7, 302

The search is intense, but the discovery is disappointing. No matter how much wisdom one has, that person does not know everything. This limitation is a great disappointment to Qoheleth. Ecclesiastes 8.16-17, 308

In 9-10 Qoholeth observes that death comes to all no matter how they live life. He sees life, and maybe God, as being unfair because the same end comes to all and good deeds and wise actions are not always rewarded. Accidents and the foolish actions of others can negate wise plans and actions. Nevertheless, it is better to be wise and not make life unnecessarily hard on oneself. Qoholeth does point out here than any worldview that cannot provide ultimate meaning in the face of death is worthless.

Qoheleth describes death as the ultimate end for everyone, an end that renders every accomplishment in life without value. In addition, he talks again about human inability to control one’s fate and determine the right time for an action...Why do the righteous, those who follow God, get no better treatment than sinners who ignore him? Ecclesiastes 9, 310

No matter how much good or benefit can be achieved by the wise, it can all be undone by the presence of just a pinch of sin. Ecclesiastes 10.1, 314

Qoheleth has repeatedly acknowledged the providence of God. God knows the times (3:1–15). He is in charge of how events work themselves out. On the human side, however, we are ignorant. Time and chance rule all (9:11). We do not know what God has in store for us now or in the future (9:1). In such a world (“under the sun”), our good, constructive intentions can turn disastrous, and wisdom is of limited value as we struggle with the “accidents” of life. Ecclesiastes 9-10, 317

In light of death and the unfairness of life, Qoholeth advises us to diversify our actions, work hard and make our wise investments while young. He recognizes that God will judge all our actions, but does not seem to see anything beyond death. He concludes, sadly, that life has no ultimate meaning.

The Teacher is skeptical about life to be sure. From a human perspective, all of life is random and uncontrollable, but that should not lead to passivity; it should lead to action. Ecclesiastes 11, 324

While a person ages and grows near death, the world still goes on. The most catastrophic event of our lives—its end—will, Qoheleth imagines, have virtually no effect on the world. Ecclesiastes 12.1-7, 329

Fortunately, this is not the conclusion of the book. The narrator takes us back "above the sun" to the revelation of the Torah and prophets. Real wisdom is found in relationship with God. He will provide the "tree of life" to those who trust Him in His coming kingdom. Death will be defeated.

The frame narrator, who is the controlling voice of the book of Ecclesiastes, concludes the book. He has exposed his son to the “under the sun” thinking of a confused wise man in Israel. He has not written him off by any stretch of the imagination. Qoheleth rightly understood the frustration of a world under the effects of the Fall. Life is hard, and then we die. However, the frame narrator has not let the story conclude with an affirmation of the meaninglessness of the world—he has rather reaffirmed the need for a good relationship with God and in so doing has reaffirmed the entire body of authoritative literature that we today know as the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament.  Ecclesiastes 12.8-14, 334

Ecclesiastes forces us to take a realistic look at the things that we use in life to give us meaning. Anything that passes away with death cannot provide meaning. We have a better look at what is beyond death than Qoholeth did because Christ has won the victory over death. Ultimate meaning is found in relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This, only, gives meaning to our lives "under the sun."

Because of his death and resurrection, we may indeed find meaning in life in this world, even though we experience its hard knocks. Even though death still affects our lives, we know that Jesus has defeated death so it no longer holds us forever. He died so that we may live. 334

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Follow Up with the Oncologist

This week I had my follow up appointment with the oncologist to discuss the PET scan and go over the next steps in my treatment. He was quite pleased with the results of the scan, but cautioned that there is still a long road of treatment ahead. To use an NBA draft lottery analogy, my team’s first ball has come out of the hopper and dropped into the hole, but we need several more balls to do the same thing before we can pronounce me cured. This type of cancer is normally quite persistent, and usually recurs, necessitating multiple rounds of chemo and other procedures. So the next step will be to finish the first round of chemotherapy, which will be done by the end of June. Then I take 6-8 weeks of rest for my body to recover. In early to mid-August I will get another PET scan and a bone marrow biopsy. If these are clear the plan would then be to harvest some of my bone marrow for storage in case there is a recurrence of the lymphoma.  This would allow for a more intense second round of chemo, after which they would do a “bone marrow transplant” if needed. I will be monitored regularly through the Fall here so that any recurrence could be dealt with quickly. Honestly, this was not what I was hoping to hear, but was not surprised since the Stanford doctors told me we would not be leaving here until at least next January. 20170509_142756 (1024x768)I am thankful that my future is all in God’s hands. I hope to go back to Guam next year, but if that does not happen, I know He has something for me and for Joyce. I am hoping that I will be feeling well enough in the Fall to teach some on-line PIU courses, travel to see our supporting churches and friends, and do some Bible teaching seminars in the Stateside Micronesian communities. We appreciate your prayers as we move forward.

The picture is of me working on my computer with my new computer platform. Thank you Frances! It makes my life a little easier.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Weekend at Stanford

20170512_153748 (1024x768)20170512_155718 (768x1024)Here a few pictures of our weekend at Stanford. The drive from El Dorado took us about 2 hours and we managed to not get lost! I had my PET scan appointment at 2pm last Friday, so we got my blood-boosting shot in Cameron Park at 9AM and then headed down to Palo Alto. I laid in the back seat to try and keep my edema from swelling me up too much. We got there about 1 1/2 hours early and just hung out in the waiting area until the appointment. We couldn’t get lunch since I had to fast for the test.

20170512_141851 (1024x768)The test itself took about two hours. 20170512_141823 (768x1024)After the nuclear substance was injected into me, I had to wait about 45 minutes to an hour on a recliner in a quiet room for it to work its way through my body. I was radioactive for about 2 hours so Joyce could not wait with me. I spent about 20 minutes in the scan machine wrapped up in warm blankets like a mummy.. It was not painful and I didn’t feel claustrophobic at all. The scan made me feel kind of warm and tingly – I guess because I was radioactive. Then I was done and we fought the Friday afternoon traffic down to Scotts Valley.

20170514_180132 (1024x768)20170515_094536 (768x1024)On Sunday afternoon we headed back up to San Jose. We spent Sunday evening with Joyce’s niece, Randie Miller. (Pictured on left) She manages an apartment building near Levi Stadium. It was a very nice place. Monday morning we headed to the Stanford Cancer Clinic for our doctor’s appointment. We went over the scan and the ongoing and future treatment program. We have a long way to go with our treatment, but are happy that the first part has gone well. We are still in need of lots of prayer. This is a very persistent cancer and we need to be patient and make sure that we completely kill it. Thank you for praying. .

Friday, May 19, 2017

Weekend at Scotts Valley

20170513_175627 (1024x768)Last weekend Joyce and I were able to spend Saturday and Sunday in Scotts Valley, in between appointments at the Stanford Cancer Center. We were able to see several old friends. Joyce saw more than me since she attended Sunday services at Gateway Bible Church. I am still unable to go because of my compromised immune situation and edema. 20170513_140257 (1024x768)We enjoyed spending time with Eric Kvamme and family. Eric and I were able to do a little work on the church’s missionary web page (Right). I also appreciated the church elders coming over Saturday afternoon and praying, visiting and anointing with oil. We had dinner with Jo and Chuck Romaniello Friday night and Janet and Naomi brought over Togo’s for dinner on Saturday (Left). We are hoping to go back later in the summer when I am finished with chemotherapy.

Reading Through the Song of Songs

JobThis week I am reading through the Song of Songs accompanied by the commentary, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary – Song of Songs, by Tremper Longman III. This is a very difficult book to interpret. I wrote my dissertation on this book, but have changed my mind on several issues since then. One thing has not changed, and that is my opinion that the Song provides wisdom about human love. It is a wonderful gift from God but very dangerous and damaging when when not lived out as God intended. 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 my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

The Song of Songs is about love (23 love poems acc. to Longman) between a man and a woman and needs to be read in context with Genesis 2-3, Ephesians 5.21-33, 1 Corinthians 7 along with other relevant passages. Married love, both physical and spiritual, is a beautiful thing created by God for a man and woman to enjoy within the marriage relationship. Love is a very powerful thing and must be treated with care and wisdom. Misuse of this powerful gift can cause great pain and damage and has destroyed many lives. 

The Song makes a statement about the redemption of sexuality. A good relationship is possible, even this side of heaven. However, the negative passages remind us that it cannot be a perfect relationship. 344

Chapter 1 is a series of 6 short intimate poems in which the lovers express physical and romantic desire for one another. 

Love in the Song has a very physical side; it is expressed unabashedly through the union of two bodies. Song of Songs 1, 348

Chapter 2 consists of two love poems. In verses 1-7 she compares herself to a common flower, but he counters that she is a "flower among thorns." She then compares him to a fruit tree with especially sweet fruit. In 8-17 the lovers remind one another that it is springtime, a time for love. However, she does have concern about the "little foxes" that complicate love and she has warned her friends (6-7) not to indulge in love before the proper time.

They have just heard her speak of a beautiful, wonderful relationship filled with sensuality. She warns them not to jump into this type of relationship. As we will see elsewhere in the Song (2:15; 5:2ff), love is beautiful, but painful as well. It is not to be treated lightly. Song of Songs 2, 355

The first part of chapter 3 (1-5) is a dream sequence in which the girl expresses her loneliness and fear in finding her lover gone. She takes the initiative to go out and find him and takes firm hold on him. The second part (6-11) describes the wedding procession of Solomon and his carriage. Marriage is to be celebrated, but again there is some hesitancy and danger expressed. Marriage is never to be entered into lightly.

The mood is ebullient; the talk is about a wedding. This is indicated by 3:11, which refers to Solomon’s wedding day. Reading this reference back, the entire poem seems to be a happy remembrance of Solomon’s wedding. The opulence and grandeur of the occasion reflect the honor and glory of the institution of marriage. Song of Songs 3.6-11, 360

I call 4.1-5.1 the "honeymoon section" of the book. In this poem the man praises the beauty of the woman in a very intimate way, not just visually, but including the smells of her perfumes and taste of her lips. He invites her to come closer for lovemaking and she opens herself to him completely. 5.1 comments on the beauty and rightness of married love.

The poem encourages us to utter our own poetry of love. We may not be as articulate or as powerful in our imagery, but that is not what is important. What is important—and it is something that most of us need to be reminded of—is to find those points of beauty in the one we love and to express them. Song of Songs 4.1-5.1, 365

The next poem is another dream sequence reflecting the increasing insecurity of the bride. In her dream her lover comes to her bed, but she responds too slowly causing him to leave. She searches for him in the city but is abused by the city guards. She then enlists the female chorus to help her find him and gives a very intimate description of her lover.

This fourteenth poem tells a story of misread signals. However, it also attests to the power of love to break through obstacles and achieve a desired relationship. Love is hard; but in the end, at least in this poem, the lovers are victorious. Song of Songs 5.2-6.3, 370

What is the poem saying? It is saying that not even social custom and the culture’s idea of what is “right” will stand in the way of her pursuit of love. Song of Songs 6.3-12, 372

This poem is another intimate descriptive praise of the bride. There is a lot of repeat from chapter 4, but this poem adds the idea of being "overcome" by her beauty and sexual attractiveness. This could be positive or negative depending on how the woman responds to it. It is difficult to interpret this section and depends on how much the reader wants to bring the Solomon back-story into it. This kind of "overcoming" love can make a man vulnerable to the woman, just as male power can make a woman very vulnerable to the man in this sinful world.

As Adam felt Eve looking at him, he became aware of his imperfections and sought to hide them from her. Perhaps as the poem reflects the common human experience of being uncomfortable in another person’s gaze, it picks up on this idea. However, we should not miss the main, positive point the man is making: her beauty is so great that he needs a break from it so that he does not faint from overexposure! Song of Songs 6.1-12, 375

6.13 begins with the chorus asking the bride to dance. Her dance elicits another round of praise from the man, even more intimate, proceeding from the feet to the head. He ends the praise with another invitation to love which the woman responds with enthusiastic consent (7.10-13) and wishes she had more freedom to publicly express her love to him (8.1-4)

Both Solomon and Shulammite are names derived from the Hebrew root shalom, meaning “wholeness” or “peace.” It is no accident that these names contain the meaning of the word that expresses the consequence of the union between the man and the woman. In their intimacy, they achieve a wholeness that brings great peace or contentment. Song of Songs 6.13-7.9, 381

8.5-7 express the conclusion to the Song. Marriage is a matter of committed love in which each partner submits to the mutual ownership of the other (the seal). This kind of love overcomes the chaos (stronger than death) of this evil world and must be protected by a holy "jealousy" to protect the relationship. Love is the "flame of YHWH," a fire of passion which is amazingly good when used as God intended, but very dangerous when misused.

Modern men and women sometimes find this image of “ownership” objectionable because it treats a man or a woman as an object. This is not the woman’s perspective. She rejoices in the thought that she might belong to the man, most likely because she understands that his desire is to be equally owned by her. That the seal would be pressed on heart and arm is surely a way of saying on his whole person, both inner and outer—thoughts and actions. Song of Songs 8.6-7, 387

The epilogue begins with a humorous exchange between the wife and her brothers (8.8-12). The brothers are concerned about protecting the honor and purity of their little sister, but she responds that she is a woman now and has protected her own honor. She now has "shalom," wholeness with her husband. The Song ends with the woman's assertion that love, "her vineyard," cannot be bought. It must be freely given and she responds to his request to "come away with me" by doing just that. She is willing to take the risk of this love commitment and she becomes the example of how to love wisely in this world. 

The final poem makes a very important point about love. It is never satiated, never completely fulfilled. If the Song wanted to say otherwise, it would end with a final love scene where the man and the woman would melt into each other’s arms and feel perfect contentment and satisfaction. But that would not be honest or true to reality. Nowhere this side of heaven do men and women reach the point of ultimate and complete fulfillment in relationship. Song of Songs 8.13-14, 390

Love is a powerful emotion, a potent physical act. At first, we are surprised that God has guided his people to acknowledge such a book—one that celebrates the joys of the flesh—as worthy to be included in Holy Scripture. On further reflection, however, we find we must rejoice and thank God for the good gifts he has given us on earth, which, in a shadowy manner, anticipate the utter bliss that we will have in heaven. Song of Songs 8.13-14, 391

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Medical Update: Really Good News!

20170515_104109 (1024x768)I am back in El Dorado after our weekend at Stanford, Scotts Valley and San Jose. I will post more on our weekend soon, but I wanted to post the good news about the results of my PET scan that we got yesterday. Monday morning Joyce and I met with our doctors at Stanford (pictured right with me) to go over the scan and to discuss further treatment. The news could not have been better!! The doctors could see no T-Cell lymphoma cancer in my lymph nodes in the scan. Now, I still need further testing and treatment but the doctor said, “the result could not be better.” We will continue the final two rounds of chemo in May and June and then I get 6-8 weeks to recover before we do a final PET scan and a bone marrow biopsy in August to make sure the cancer is really gone. I am not out of the woods yet, but this is a major “YES” answer to our prayers.

20170515_102512 (1024x768)On the left, you can see a screen shot of my two PET scans. The picture on the right is the scan from February and the one on the left was taken Monday. The black areas in the pictures are organs or the cancer. It is easy to see the difference the chemotherapy has made. This is not the final analysis but the doctors were already high-fiving Joyce and I because of this result. Way back at the beginning of this process I felt like God was leading/telling me to trust the doctors because they were doing His work in this process. We are overwhelmed with gratitude for the caring health professionals we have met through the treatment process and to God for the way he has worked out this outcome. There is still a ways to go, but we are happy to be where we are now.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Medical Update, Testing, Trip to Scotts Valley

Thank you for praying for my previous prayer requests. Again I have had some side effects from the chemotherapy, but they have been fairly mild. My main concern was the edema. My body has swelled up somewhat, but it is nowhere near as bad as it was in the last round of chemotherapy. That's an answer to prayer. Tomorrow morning Joyce and I will drive down to Stanford for my PET scan. We are praying and hoping for good news that the lymph nodes have shrunk and I'm getting better. We know this is all in God's hands.

After the test at Stanford we will drive down to Scotts Valley on Friday evening. We will be staying in the missionary apartment at the Kvamme home. We won't be very mobile but we would love to have visitors at the apartment a few at a time.I was hoping we would be able to attend church at Gateway Bible Church on Sunday, but it looks like that won't happen because of my still-compromised immune system. I can’t have contact with anyone who is sick or even may be sick. Nevertheless, we would still like to see as many of our Scotts Valley friends as we can. We will head back up to Stanford on Sunday evening for a doctor's appointment on Monday morning. After that we will head back up to El Dorado.

Thank you for your prayers for us we appreciate them very much.

Reading Through the Book of Ruth

51GLrgYiexL._SX313_BO1,204,203,200_For the book of Ruth I am staying in the same commentary series I used several months ago for Judges (I thought it was very good) so I am reading through Ruth accompanied by the commentary, Ruth, The College Press NIV Commentary, by Mark S. Ziese. 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 my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

The book of Ruth is a beautifully crafted story about ordinary people who trusted God in very difficult times - the "days of the judges." Ruth and Boaz are examples of faithful, heroic "people of valor/strength," who live lives of integrity, loyalty and responsibility in a time where those were very rare. Boaz is rewarded with success for reaching out and caring for the Moabite outcast, Ruth. This will have much wider results, as their descendant, David, will be God's means to rescue the nation from the anarchy of the judges. Even more significant will be Ruth's role in the Davidic covenant, fulfilled by Jesus Christ, and acknowledged by Matthew in his genealogy introducing his Gospel.  

The message of the book of Ruth may be considered from at least two vantage points. Viewed in strictly human terms, it underlines the importance of persistent relationships in moments of crisis. Viewed from a faith perspective, it communicates confidence in the ongoing work of God to fill the empty, to protect the vulnerable, and to bring joy into a broken world. In a small way, Ruth’s story anticipates that which is only fully realized on this side of the cross. Ruth, 322

Chapter 1 sets the scene for the rest of the story. Naomi moves from Bethlehem to Moab and loses her husband, sons, and all her means of life and support. When she decides to return, her daughter-in-law Ruth chooses to remain loyal to her and to YHWH, even though this does not seem to be to her advantage. Ruth, the Moabite is more faithful and loyal than her Hebrew mother-in-law. When they return to Bethlehem, Naomi shares her story and mourns her hopelessness. But, the barley harvest is a sign that better things may be around the corner.

Naomi is reduced to the most vulnerable of characters. She is a widow living without progeny in a foreign land. Hence, in this crisp, staccato-like cadence of narrative delivery, she is tragically and systematically deprived of her home, blood-family, security, a decade of life, and quite possibly, the blessing of Yahweh. Her future could not be bleaker. Ruth 1.1-5, 334

In the end, there is no turning back for Ruth...The task ahead will require that she muster “all her physical and mental resources.” When Naomi recognizes Ruth’s resolution, possibly at the level of personal relationship as well as faith commitment, she stopped urging her, or more literally, she simply falls silent. Ruth 1.6-18, 340–341

The long famine that initiated the flight of Naomi and her men has now given way to harvest. Similarly, Naomi’s life is about to change yet again, as a result of events in a harvest field and the actions of Ruth, still identified as the Moabitess. Ruth 1.19-22, 343

Ruth then goes out to a "random" field to glean barley and just "happens" to go the field of Naomi's relative, Boaz, who also "just happens" to be there that day. What he witnesses is a heroic effort from Ruth, as she harvests a portion equal to the wage earned by a female worker over a four-week period (357) in one day. Boaz is impressed by her and offers her the full hospitality of his operation. God is already starting to bless Ruth's faithfulness.

Just as Naomi’s people have welcomed Ruth, the blessing of Boaz invokes Yahweh’s welcome, and correspondingly, Ruth’s admittance into the people of God. The border between Moab and Israel is seemingly more porous than expected.  Ruth 2, 355

Naomi then makes a bold plan to have Ruth meet Boaz while he is sleeping on the threshing floor and goad him into taking action as her kinsman-redeemer. Ruth follows Naomi's instruction to the letter until Boaz wakes up. Instead of waiting for him to act, as instructed, she assertively makes the marriage proposal herself. Boaz is thrilled to accept because Ruth's character and devotion to Naomi were well known in Bethlehem, but there is the legal problem of a closer relative. Again Boaz gives a generous gift for Ruth to take to Naomi.

Those who are in the gate know that Ruth is a “mighty woman.” The NIV’s rendering, “woman of noble character,” is a good interpretation given the larger context, but it still misses the nuance. In order to capture it, it must be remembered how other men are described in the book as “young,” or “choice”; but only Boaz is “mighty” (2:1). Clearly, the alert reader cannot escape the conclusion that the pairing of this “mighty man” with this “mighty woman” makes perfect sense. It may even explain why Ruth has not pursued others. No one else was her match! No one else was her equal!  Ruth 3, 373

The next day Boaz takes care of the legal problem. He finds the closer relative, called "Mr. Whatever" by the author of Ruth, and brings him into the village court. Understanding the text and customs here is difficult, but Ziese sees Boaz' words as a challenge to the man to redeem the property, knowing that Boaz will marry Ruth and possibly father a child who could make a claim on the property. "Mr. Whatever" bows out at that point. Boaz then marries Ruth and they have a child, Obed, who will be the grandfather of King David. Thus, this has much wider implications than rest and blessing for Boaz, Ruth and Naomi. The blessing of the women reflects the wording, "build a house," of the Davidic covenant. Ruth's faithful actions become a key event in the salvation history of the whole world leading to the birth of another, greater, more important baby, Jesus Christ.

The end reveals that this small story, opening with the smell of death, is really about the triumph of life, and that the feelings of hopelessness associated with the annihilation of a family name, will grow into the celebration of a dynasty. Ruth 4, 379

A temporary and local fulfillment, to be sure, is seen in the image of what must have been regarded as a miracle baby, resting in the arms of widowed Naomi. However, an eternal and worldwide fulfillment is recognized in the image of another miracle baby, likewise born in Bethlehem, some thousand years later. Through his teachings and actions, this son will offer the final and fullest meaning to the expression gō’ēl-redeemer. Ruth 4.13-22, 398

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Reading Through the Proverbs #3 (Chapters 22-31)

ProberbsWe complete this reading through the Book of Proverbs, accompanied by the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes & Song of Songs, The College Press NIV Commentary, by Dave Bland. The final sections of the book of Proverbs include “the sayings of the wise,” “proverbs of Solomon collected by Hezekiah’s men,” the “words” of Agur and Lemuel, and closes with a poem of praise to the “wisdom woman.” 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 my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Proverbs 22.17 begins a new section (22.17-chapter 24) of the book entitled The Sayings of the Wise. It contains "30 sayings" designed to train young leaders in ethics, wisdom, and prioritizing their lives in accordance to what YHWH wants them to be. It describes the pitfalls of wealth and greed, laziness, pleasure etc. and how to minister to the needy and use wealth and power wisely. 

The process of growing in wisdom...is subtly embedded in verses 17 and 18. The initial phase involves the ear: “pay attention and listen,” says the teacher. Then the student engages the mind, apply your heart to what I teach. That which is reflected on is also committed to memory, keep them in your heart. Finally, the lips are brought into service: and have all of them ready on your lips. Wisdom involves hearing, memorizing, reflecting, and speaking with rhetorical sensitivity. Proverbs 22.17-18, 204–205

The goal of the punishment is not the venting of parental anger and frustration but the saving of a youth’s life from untimely death. In Proverbs, the rod is always administered in the context of a loving family environment (13:24b). This admonition to parents should be read in light of the succeeding instruction in verses 15–16, which speaks of the affection a father has for his son.  Proverbs 23.13-16, 210

All through Proverbs, those who are wise learn to respect their enemies (17:13; 20:22; 24:29). The enemy must not only be respected, he is to be treated with kindness (25:21–22). This is a principle taught in the Old Testament (Exod 23:4–5). Proverbs 24.17-18, 217

Chapter 25 begins a section of proverbs of Solomon collected and edited by the "men of Hezekiah." 25-27 are a collection of analogical proverbs which encourage us to observe life closely to better understand how to apply words and actions of wisdom. Wisdom is built on the foundation of God's revelation, but is worked out practically in daily life through research, observation, hard work, developing good habits, listening to good advice and figuring out how God's creation works. 

The more fundamental difficulty in this couplet, however, is not the meaning of burning coals but the admonition to actually practice doing good to those who hate you. To love one’s enemies is a recurring theme found in Proverbs. Proverbs 25.21-22, 230

These verses describe the contextual nature of words and actions. According to Van Leeuwen, such a concern is a hermeneutical one: “Wisdom, to a very large extent, is a matter of interpreting people, events, situations, actions in relation to norms for existence.”  Proverbs 26.1-12, 234

Human life is lived in a constant state of change. The sages, however, did not respond with a fatalistic attitude; they did not live in a state of anxiety, wringing their hands in despair. Instead they offer a vignette of a hard-working farmer who goes about his task responsibly and carefully in the face of an uncertain tomorrow. The farmer cares for the creation over which God has placed him. He cares for his family and loved ones. Through such responsible caring, he finds wisdom, satisfaction, and fulfillment in life. Proverbs 27.23-27, 251

Chapters 28-29 contain antithetic proverbs which contrast thinking and behavior of wise and evil, righteous and wicked people, and the outcomes of those lifestyles. The qualities of the wise and righteous include humility, confession of sin, openness to rebuke and advice, hard work, generosity to the poor, fair treatment of others, integrity, resistance to greed, self-control, gentle in words and actions, and submissive to God's revelation. Societies with this kind of people, especially that are led by wise, righteous leaders, will be healthy and productive and tend to last longer.

The lines are clearly drawn between those who contribute to society and those who dehumanize society. There is no middle ground. In a pluralistic culture, such clear demarcations do not sit well, but to make such distinctions is essential to the health of the nation in which one lives. God calls his church to represent these qualities of righteousness in its body life. Proverbs 28, 252

The evil find themselves entrapped by their own destructive lifestyle. But the righteous face the snares and temptations of life confidently, knowing that they will overcome. Proverbs 29.6, 262

Proverbs ends with four sections. First the words of Agur show that wisdom takes into account the limitations of humans and the limitlessness of God. Chapter 30 the concludes with several numerical sayings that contain wise observations about human behavior. The words of King Lemuel (31.1-9) recall his mother's wise advice about how a righteous king should rule. Finally, Proverbs concludes with an acrostic praise song to wisdom personified as a woman. If one "marries" wisdom they will tend to have a prosperous and successful life.

Verses 1–9 reflect a worshipful reverence to God. In the face of the uncertainties of life, the worshiper comes to rely on God’s word (vv. 5–6) and on God for the necessities of life (vv. 7–9). Trusting in God enables the worshiper ultimately to accept human limitations. Proverbs 30.1-9, 273

The virtue highlighted in this instruction is central to the life of the wise, and that is self-control. The specific thought is that foolish behavior, especially uncontrolled speech, will produce nothing but negative consequences. Trouble follows those who create it. Proverbs 30.10-33, 280

The queen mother calls for her son to take action for the cause of the poor. He must speak out for the rights of all who are destitute. Once again, the focus of the admonition is not on the privileges the son receives as king, but on his responsibilities. Proverbs 31.1-9, 282

Chapter 31:10–31 complements the Woman Wisdom described in chapters 1–9...Placed at the end of the book, the “woman of noble character” represents the culmination of a life lived by wisdom. She is wisdom incarnate. The house she builds is the goal toward which all strive (cf. 9:1; 14:1; 24:3–4). Proverbs 31.10-31, 283

Brief Medical Update and Prayer Request

18268673_10213411193182063_8146934783509632611_nI made it through my fourth round of chemotherapy yesterday. I am experiencing some side effects, including some minor queasiness and I'm lit up and red faced from hot flashes. After heading to the doctor’s office this morning and getting my granix shot, I am taking it easy the rest of the day and resting. I weighed in at the doctor's office this morning and realized that in less than 24 hours I've already gained 4 pounds in water weight. This is not good, especially when we need to travel down to Stanford for testing and to Scotts Valley this weekend. My prayer request is that I would not balloon up with edema this week like after the 3rd round. I have some pills that would help with that, but the downside is that they have some negative effect on my blood count. So, as always, I would appreciate your prayers for lessening of the side effects of the chemo, especially the edema. Also be in prayer for my PET scan that's coming up on Friday. I'm hoping and praying that we get some good news from the scan. We would appreciate it if you can join with us in that prayer. Again, I’d much rather post a picture of a grand-daughter than one of me, so here is Leila with her new glasses.

Taking God Seriously: Vital Things We Need to Know, J. I. Packer #3

Packer2This is the third and final post looking at the book by J. I. Packer, Taking God Seriously: Vital Things We Need to Know.  In chapters 6-8 he discusses the Holy Spirit, Baptism and Communion.I am posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

In chapter 6, Taking the Holy Spirit Seriously, Packer looks at the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit, and urges the church to re-emphasize his role in it. He laments that institutionalism, formalism, moralism, and traditionalism (I would add bibliolatry which substitutes biblical knowledge and doctrinal precision as the main goal for the church, instead of that being the means by which the Spirit produces Christ-likeness in the individual and unified effective ministry in the church) have removed emphasis on the Spirit in many evangelical churches. Renewed emphasis on the Holy Spirit is absolutely critical, because he is the Divine Person who strengthens and empowers the church to be what Christ called it to be. He is God working inside us, renewing our hearts, causing faith to spring up, convicting us of sin leading to repentance, and connecting us to other believers. He maintains the unity that Christ has provided for the church. If we want to be what Christ has called us to be we must take the Holy Spirit seriously.

As we Christians are upheld by the Holy Spirit in the life that we live with God and for God, so was our Savior before us. As we live in a simultaneous relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who are always together and never apart from each other, so were the Father and the Spirit together with the Son when he was on earth, as they are still and always will be. 114

The Spirit, using the Word of God as both scalpel and exercise machine, straightens out our inner crookedness and energizes us for spiritual understanding, spiritual response to God, and spiritual, love-led, Christlike, God-honoring behavior as our lifestyle henceforth. 116

The unity of the church embraces all believers—Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox—while paid-up church adherents everywhere who lack personal faith in Christ are still outside the church as God discerns it, however zealous for their own denomination they may be. Packer, 122

Next, in chapter 7, Taking Baptism Seriously, Packer says that the average church member does not really understand the significance of baptism or value it the way we should. As one of the two rites commanded by Christ it is critical for the Christian life as the symbolic entrance into the relationship with Christ. It is a mystery (there is more to it than the mind can grasp), a sacrament (a pledge of loyalty from God and to God) and an ordinance (a covenant ceremony). It represents that we are now "under the new management" of the Trinity, "plugged into" Christ and all his benefits, and joined in unified discipleship to His church. Baptism is significant and should always remind us of our identity in Christ, our supernatural holiness through Christ and our loyalty to Christ.

The symbolism of first going under water as a sign of saying good-bye to the style of life one is renouncing and then coming up from under as a sign of starting a new life pattern is clearly expressed, and that evidently is what is important. The washing symbolism shows that this commitment is conceived within the frame of an absolution from the past that sets one free for the new beginning. The rite is thus one of termination, initiation, and commencement. J. I. Packer, Taking God Seriously, 128

Paul wants us to know what has happened to us through our faith-union with Christ: namely, that within our unchanged personal identity, the power that made the world has made us into new creations (2 Cor. 5:17), terminating our old, self-centered, naturally sinful mode of existence and, to borrow again Paul’s elegant horticultural image, grafting and implanting us into our risen Lord—plugging us into him, as we might less elegantly put it—with new desires, new powers, and new joys directly resulting. 138

Loyalty to Christ requires that we seek to make a difference by being different; and as in baptism the Father, the Son, and the Spirit pledge loyalty to us, so we the baptized must see ourselves as having pledged our loyalty to Christ categorically, without any ifs or buts, and as committed here and now to live out that loyalty every day of our lives. 144

In chapter 8, Taking the Lord's Supper Seriously, Packer accuses the Western evangelical church of devaluing the ordinance/sacrament of the communion/Eucharist. He says it should be the "twin" in the worship service with preaching and should be observed every Sunday. It is a symbolic ritual where we remember what Christ's death and resurrection accomplished for us and a covenant ceremony in which we confess sin, express our faith and publically pledge our loyalty to Him. God engages with us as we approach Him at the communion table. The communion table is also a place where we commit to help our needy brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.

The words instituting the sacrament have shown us that remembering our Lord should mean both calling to mind his sacrificial death for us and embracing his covenantal commitment to us. And the act of actually taking the food and drink as from him should express the renewal of our trust in him and our ongoing dependence on him as our Savior, Master, discipler, friend, and our life itself. 154–155

So as we share in the Supper, we should be asking ourselves, and asking the Lord Jesus to show us, what human needs we should devote ourselves to serving once our Eucharistic service is over and we have scattered back into the wider world. 157

It is the presence of the triumphant, sovereign Savior, who is there in terms of his objective omnipresence and here in terms of being always alongside each believer with a sustaining and nurturing purpose. Clarity requires us to say, then, that Christ is present at, rather than in, the Supper. Though not physical, his presence is personal and real in the sense of being a relational fact. Christ is present, not in the elements in any sense, but with his worshippers; and his presence is effected, not by the quasi-magic of ritual correctly performed by a permitted person, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, who indwells believers’ hearts to mediate Christ’s reality to them. 161–162

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Reading Through the Proverbs #2 (Chapters 10-21)

ProberbsWe continue through the Book of Proverbs, accompanied by the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes & Song of Songs, The College Press NIV Commentary, by Dave Bland. The middle section of the book of Proverbs is a collection of the “proverbs of Solomon.” 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 my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Chapters 10-15 begin the Proverbs of Solomon. These chapters mainly focus on the differences between the righteous, wise lifestyle and the wicked lifestyle by means of antithetic parallelism. When one thinks, speaks, acts righteously one develops good character which generally leads to success. Wickedness, deception, manipulation and other acts that proceed from sinful character generally lead to disaster. The wise life is worth living.

These proverbs emphasize that the choice one makes has far reaching consequences. There is an intrinsic order to the way in which the universe runs. Actions have consequences. For the wicked, there is poetic justice; the punishment fits the crime. In contrast, the lives of the righteous stand secure. This is the “elementary” teaching of wisdom. Proverbs 10, 117

In Proverbs, pride is the fundamental sin of the fool. Humility is the fundamental virtue of the wise. These proverbs speak of the results of living a righteous life. According to verse 3, the internal character of the upright governs their life (cf. 6:22–23). Character is viewed not as a single act, but as a habit. Proverbs 11, 119.

The righteous are individuals who treat all of God’s creation with care. In contrast, the wicked make it a practice to exploit others. The proverb in verse 11 highlights an essential quality of the wise person, and that is discipline. The wise one exercises diligence in all that he does. He is not fickle, pursuing worthless dreams. Proverbs 12, 127

With emphasis on diligence and discipline, the sage is cautious about anyone who gains wealth quickly. This is the basis of verse 11. Get rich quick schemes usually involve fraud. On the other hand, wealth that is slowly acquired will last. Proverbs 13.11,  132

The majority of antithetic sayings in these chapters express a simple belief: God rewards those who choose the right path, but he punishes those who deliberately choose another way. Choices in life are clear and simple. The sages seem to oversimplify life. Yet in the midst of what appears to be a dogmatic perspective, the sages themselves acknowledge their limitation (v. 12). Anyone can be misled by what appears to be the right path. Humans cannot always know what is appropriate. Proverbs 14.12, 137

Wisdom expresses its fundamental character in saying and doing the right thing at the right time (cf. 16:24; 18:13; 25:11, 15; 24:26). Proverbs 15, 148

With Proverbs chapter 16 we move into a different style of Proverbs. 10-15 has given us the basics with antithetic proverbs contrasting good and evil. The next few chapters tend more toward synonymous parallelism and "better than" sayings. These bring out the ambiguous nature of life and the need for wisdom in navigating life in a world where corrupt officials or unexpected events may negate the good rewards that come from wisdom. One emphasis is that good character, wisdom and righteousness are their own reward, and a better reward than wealth, honor or power.

Typically humans plan and then work the plan. However, here the process is inverted. Humans work, but their plans fail unless God establishes them...The proverb is not a formula for unfailing success but only a reminder that success does not ultimately lie in human hands. Proverbs 16.3, 153

Quarreling is a major enemy of the community. Like water, it erodes the foundations upon which relationships exist. It undercuts the mutual respect necessary to hold a people together. Proverbs 17.14, 164

Gossip is compared to junk food. It is quite tasty. Nonetheless when absorbed into the blood stream, it remains a permanent part of the person. Once absorbed, it destroys character. Proverbs 18.8, 169

When internal desires and external actions are not informed by reflective thought (wisdom), they will not achieve their goals. This is a fitting proverb for an anti-intellectual climate, which sometimes exists in the church (cf. also 17:16). Proverbs 19.2, 174

Wisdom is realistic about human nature. On the one hand, it sees humans with great potential accomplish much through wise planning and implementing. On the other hand, wisdom sees every human involved in sin. No one escapes its clutches. Proverbs 20.9, 182–183

Life is more ambiguous than at first glance. The righteous do not always prosper. This proverb pair acknowledges human limitation and calls on the wise to accept such limitations. Such is the nature of true wisdom...The proverb concludes, in the second line, with the element of surprise. A third party enters the picture, Yahweh. He is the one who really determines the result. Proverbs 21.30-31, 196–197

Saturday, May 06, 2017

PIU Graduation 2017

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18157407_1320156814705036_6753639926118029857_nHere are a few pictures from the Pacific Islands University graduation last Saturday. I have to be honest, it was hard to look at these pictures because we were not there. This is the first-ever PIU Guam graduation has ever taken place without Joyce and I there. Looking at the pictures made us miss the place so much, especially our colleagues and the students that it was actually hard to post this. But I took some pictures from students Facebook pages and some pictures that were sent to me and present them here. We are so proud of the students’ accomplishment and thankful to God for what He has done in their lives. I look forward to seeing what these grads do next. Congratulations to the Pacific Islands University graduates 2017.

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The faculty and board wait for the graduates to march in

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Left: Trans-world Radio missionary Mike Sabin receives his Master of Arts in Religion degree; Right: Mayson Red and Liann Stae receive their Bachelor degrees

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The venue looked great. I heard things went well. Good job guys!