Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Reading Through 1 Corinthians #1 (1-4)

schenk 1 CorinthiansThis post will begin a read through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians accompanied by 1 & 2 Corinthians: A Commentary for Bible Students, by Kenneth Schenck. This commentary approaches the text from a Wesleyan perspective. The read through will be pretty quick (2-3 chapters in each sitting) and will focus on the main points in the letter. If there are questions we can go into more detail on the Facebook discussion. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Paul writes to the Corinthians to deal with some problems in the church there that have come to his attention. It is important for us to always read this letter, and all of Paul's letters, with their original audience in mind, and to not read them as abstract theological treatises. The big problem that the church had was that it was not unified and was divided into factions. Paul first deals with the big issue: the church must be unified because of its loyalty to Christ alone. Paul then deals with several issues that were causing the disunity. The bottom line is that the church becomes unified when we, together, imitate the self-giving of Jesus' cross and give up our "rights" for those of one another and the gospel. We can do this because God is faithful and will use our service to accomplish his plan for the resurrection (as Jesus rose) and renewal of all creation. 

God’s church is much bigger than any lone individual or even a particular denomination. Paul will drive us again and again to read the truths of 1 Corinthians together as a body of Christians rather than as individuals. 1 Corinthians 1.1-3, 33

The thanksgiving section thus both begins and ends with God’s graciousness. It is the gracious God who has enriched the Corinthians in speaking and knowledge (1:5). It is the gracious God who has dispensed gifts on the community, confirming their calling (1:7). This same gracious God would be faithful to see them through to the end so that by His power they would be blameless when Christ returned to the earth. God has accomplished all these things by bringing the Corinthians into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:9). 1 Corinthians 1.4-9, 37

Paul lays out the basic issue in 1.10-17. The church's unity must be based on its absolute loyalty to Jesus Christ. Ultimate loyalty is not to anyone but Jesus. Any leader that is followed must be followed only as he/she follows Christ. There is no room for pride or human power because everyone comes into the Christian family on the basis of Jesus' death on the cross. This is totally contrary to world's way of accomplishing things. The world works on the basis of power and status. God works through self-sacrifice, admission of weakness and humility. This does not seem wise in a human sense, but this is how God changes the world. Thus, Paul calls the Corinthians to a cross-shaped life that submits its power, status, abilities, positions to God and to serving God's people and the gospel. We can trust that God will be faithful to accomplish his plan and use our service to glorify him and renew his creation.

1 Corinthians 1:10 is arguably the “proposition” of the letter, the basic point Paul was trying to make. If the church would only learn to be united in their attitudes, their problems would be solved. 1 Corinthians 1.10-17, 39

Did Paul really mean to suggest that God’s messiah showed His victory by dying on the Roman tool of shame and humiliation?...We may not always understand what God is doing in our lives and in the world. At times it may seem like we are in a position of weakness and that we are defeated. It is at this point we must remind ourselves of God’s priorities. 1 Corinthians 1.18-31, 49

Paul ends this section where he began it: with a reminder that the Christian gospel is about God’s power (2:3–5) and wisdom, not ours...Paul reminds the Corinthians that it is not eloquence or philosophical wisdom that counts, but the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2.1-5, 50–51

In chapters 2-4 Paul continues to apply the principle that the church must be unified around Jesus and his mission for the church. It seems that one group in the Corinthian church, possibly led by Apollos, was claiming superiority as Christians to the rest of the church based on their standing in the community and, perhaps, on an over-realized eschatology that saw themselves as already ruling with Christ and free from the moral restraints of Torah. Paul counters this with the idea that true wisdom comes only from the Spirit who teaches us that, in this age, the self-sacrifice of the cross provides our standard for living. The divisions in the church demonstrate this group's lack of spiritual wisdom and maturity. Those who strive for status and rely on worldly power show that they are not connected to the Spirit. Thus, to emphasize human leaders, placing oneself above others, and other arrogant actions betray the spirit of the world in action rather than the spirit of Christ. While we are called to judge words and actions (for the purpose of redemption and in concert with the whole church), judging motivations, condemning others, and dividing over non-essential issues betrays a lack of spirituality and immaturity. The church belongs to Jesus, not to any person, human theology or denomination.

Suffice it to say we often find Christians today who think themselves more spiritual than others, “holier than thou.” It is exactly this attitude that Paul was combating at Corinth. As soon as you have this attitude, you are beginning to think according to the wisdom of the world, for it is worldly thinking that thinks in terms of superiority and higher status. 1 Corinthians 2.6-3.4, 56

God’s wisdom is a hidden wisdom discerned by the Spirit. The truly spiritual grasp the wisdom of the cross and the power of weakness. Our weakness underlines God’s strength. The factionalism at Corinth indicated that the problem Corinthians were not spiritual at all, but carnal, mere infants in Christ. 1 Corinthians 3.5-23, 61

Paul clearly believed that there was a time to pass judgment on the immoral actions of others, particularly other believers. But God is the one who ultimately passes judgment on hidden human motives...In general, it is best to err on the side of compassion than on the side of judgment, for this is the attitude God and Christ have modeled for us. 1 Corinthians 4, 71–72

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Psalm 19 Message and Outline

Psalm 19 1-6 parallel elements

Outline of 19.1-6

Creation is overwhelming evidence of God’s wonderful character, power and universal care for his creation and His people.

  • Creation is a constant, universal and non-verbal evidence to God’s character and power
    • The creation is evidence to God’s glorious character and work.
    • The evidence of the creation is constant.
    • The evidence provided by the creation is non-verbal
    • The evidence provided by the creation is universal
  • The sun is evidence of God’s glory, power and universal control and care
    • The brightness of the sun is evidence of God’s glory
    • The scope of the sun’s influence is evidence of God’s power
    • The sun is evidence of God’s universal control and care

Psalm 19.7-11 parallel elements

Outline and Message of 19.7-11

Torah (God’s wise instructions for life) is desirable and enjoyable because it shows and leads to the practical and eternal benefits of righteous living within God’s creation.

  • The Word of God is absolutely reliable to produce the eternal and practical benefits of righteous living
  • Living by God’s Word brings meaning and joy to life.
  • Living by God’s Word protects from evil and brings reward

Psalm 19 12-14 parallel elements

Outline and Message of 19.12-14 (A Prayer)

When combined with a desire for for God and pleasing him, the Word of God can guide us toward discernment, victory over and forgiveness of sin, and produce a lifestyle pleasing to God.

  • God can use his word to provide discernment
  • God can use his word to deliver one from the power and guilt of sin
  • God can use his  word to make our thoughts and actions acceptable to Him

Monday, May 14, 2018

Reading Through the Letter to the Romans #4 (12-16)

Romans KeenerThis post concludes my reading through Paul’s letter to the Romans accompanied by Romans, New Covenant Commentary Series, by Craig S. Keener. In the final section of the letter Paul explains how the church, based on a common salvation by grace through faith, lives together in unity. I do recommend this commentary for pastors as a good resource for sermon preparation and teaching. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

In chapter 12 Paul turns to practical behavior that will demonstrate to the world that, because of Christ, believers of different cultures and backgrounds can live in peace, unity and love. This is only possible when the basis of life is viewed as relationship with God empowered by the Spirit. First, the believer must be willing to sacrifice self (one's own body and desires) for the greater body, the body of Christ. Each one must be willing to humbly use the gifts God has given to love and serve each other and God's kingdom mission. This means that each one must honor the other more than oneself. In response to government this means that Christians should be model citizens, though with a higher allegiance to God. The proper response to persecution is love and service to the persecutor. Within the body, freedoms should be used to "build up one another" and we should be sensitive and tolerant of differences in custom and perspective in non-essential areas. The bottom line is that loyalty to Christ, love for His body and commitment to His kingdom should overrule any other allegiance. When the church models this kind of unity its witness is very powerful. 

Paul will show that believers can choose in their minds to present their bodies for the service of a greater “body,” the body of Christ with whom they have been united (12:4–5). When believers offer themselves as sacrifices, they imitate Jesus, whose death Paul has already presented as a bloody sacrifice (3:25; 5:9; 8:3). Nevertheless, believers offer themselves not only by sometimes being martyred (cf. 8:36), but while alive (“living”). Romans 12, 143

Paul cooperated with the Jerusalem church’s identification with their culture (which was also his culture, Acts 21:20–26), but not to the extent of honoring such nationalism above his commitment to the Gentile mission (Acts 22:21–22). When Christians are more loyal to our ethnicity or nation than to Christ’s body, when nationalism or racism corrupts our love for fellow believers, we have gone beyond giving Caesar what is Caesar’s to giving Caesar what is God’s. Romans 13, 157

For Paul, then, sin is not only a matter of behaviors, but of motives. A weak conscience with weak faith would be healthier if it were strong, but such maturation must come by persuasion regarding what is God’s will, not by simply changing behavior without regard for motives. By appealing to the larger principle that “anything not ‘from faith’ is sin,” Paul also returns to his emphasis on faith as a relationship with God in contrast to mere regulations. Romans 14, 168–169

Paul concludes the body of the letter with a summary encouragement to not just tolerate each other across cultural lines, but to serve one another and demonstrate the unity that their common salvation brings in practical ways. This is why Paul was returning to Jerusalem to bring the monetary gift from the Gentile churches to serve the poor in the Jewish church in Jerusalem. Another way this unity would be shown was by the churches providing the support for Paul's mission to bring the gospel to Spain. Paul closes the letter with greetings to the church in Rome from Paul and his fellow believers in Corinth. Significantly, most of Paul's commendations go to women who served prominently in the Gentile churches. Paul concludes the letter with a blessing that the church would continue to go out and bring the gospel, which brings both Jews and Gentiles together into relationship with God, to all the world.

Believers should again follow Jesus’s example by accepting one another as he accepted all of them (15:7). This expectation climaxes the section’s opening exhortation to accept one another (14:1) because of God’s acceptance (14:3). That Christ accepted believers to the Father’s “glory” (15:7) fits the exhortation to “glorify” God together (15:6), a model relevant for Gentile believers (15:9). Romans 15.1-13, 171–172

Paul’s mission of laying foundations for the unevangelized (15:20) coheres with his mission of keeping the new Diaspora churches in spiritual unity with the Jerusalem church despite all their differences. It also provides a model for the unity of the culturally different Jewish and Gentile believers in Rome. Romans 15.14-33, 178

Paul’s frequent concern for God’s honor and name in this letter climaxes in a final praise to God for the wise way he has arranged history so that Gentiles as well as Jews may come to obey Israel’s God through faith in Jesus the Messiah. Romans 16, 193

Friday, May 11, 2018

Family Stuff in California

20180507_182834 (1024x768)

989 (768x1024)We really do miss our Guam and PIU families. It was pretty hard for us to not be there last weekend to see so many of our students, that we spent so much time with, graduate. But, one of the benefits of being in California is that we are able to participate in family events that we missed while overseas. We enjoyed doing that twice this week. Early in the week we celebrated my sister’s 20180510_175650 (1024x768)birthday with several family members. (Above: Nate, Joyce, Jayne, mom, Jonah) The Mexican food was good but the conversation and laughter was even better. Then last night we got to be “grandma and grandpa” at Leila’s kindergarten open house. Again it was an enjoyable time and she was very pleased to guide us around her classroom. She then chose pizza to celebrate so we ended the evening at Round Table. What a blessing for us!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Chart and Message of the Psalms

Psalms Chart

Message of the Psalms

God's people need to focus their entire being (mind, emotions, body and will) on God's character, attributes and actions so that they can properly worship Him and live their lives in a way that pleases Him and brings glory to Him.

The Psalms celebrate the unchangeable nature of God's character and attributes (compassion, grace, faithfulness, patience, power, omnipresence, love, justice et. al) so that His people will put trust in his consistency and practice covenant love with Him and others.

  • Psalms were meant to be sung. God is to be worshipped with emotion. They involve strong feeling, anger, life, love, joy etc. They are not just information.
  • The hymn psalms praise God's character and attributes. Knowledge of and relationship with God is the key to understanding and handling life correctly.  8
  • Pilgrimage Psalms were designed to be sung by travelers on their way to Jerusalem for festivals and celebrate the joy of worship. 133

The Psalms recount God's great acts of creation and redemption in the past to encourage worship, prayer, and praise and to encourage those in difficult situations that He will act in the future in the same way to deliver those who are faithful to his covenant.

  • The thanksgiving psalms celebrate God's acts of deliverance and give examples of praise. 9

The Psalms celebrate the hope of redemption and righteousness, both spiritual (forgiveness) and physical (national deliverance, resurrection), to encourage God's people to have faith in God's promises. 

  • The Lament Psalms express faith in the midst of difficulty. The distress is faced realistically but the psalmist prays and hopes in God. The difficulty is seen as a chance for God to act.   3
  • Penitential Psalms expressed the confession of the psalmist for sin.  51
  • Psalms of Victory and Confidence express the psalmist’s faith that the LORD will bring covenant   blessing. 23

Some Psalms celebrate the Kingdom of God both in its manifestation in God's present rule over all creation and in the future coming kingdom in which God will be present in His fullness to encourage His people to submit to Him now.

  • Enthronement psalms celebrate the rule of God over creation and His people.  93
  • Imprecatory psalms called down a curse on the enemies of God. 58

The Psalms emphasize the coming of the Davidic Messiah as God's instrument in extending God's kingdom throughout the earth, fulfilling all the covenant promises and fulfilling God's purposes for the Davidic dynasty, Israel, and mankind.

  • The Royal psalms celebrate God's rule in Israel and look ahead to the coming Messiah  2
  • Prophetic Psalms reveal God's future plans, usually about the Messiah. 110
  • Messianic Psalms describe the Messiah and his life usually in typological form. 22

Some Psalms emphasize the wisdom that God's people should display in their response to His revelation by seeking Him, maintaining the correct perspective on the ups and downs of life, and living faithfully.

  • Wisdom psalms teach the reader to live righteously and wisely. 1       
  • Torah psalms celebrate God's revelation in the Law and urge obedience to it.  119

The Psalms are the heart cry of God's people to God that speak to God's people of all ages.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Reading Through the Letter to the Romans #3 (9-11)

Romans KeenerThis post continues my reading through Paul’s letter to the Romans accompanied by Romans, New Covenant Commentary Series, by Craig S. Keener. In this important section Paul argues that the Gentile mission was always in the plan of God. However, this does not mean that the Gentiles displace the Jews. The church will always have a Jewish remnant and. before Christ returns, there will be a great return of Israelites to God. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Paul returns to the issue of Jew and Gentile in the church in chapter 9. First, he shares his concern for his Jewish countrymen who have not believed in the One who fulfills their scriptures and God's purpose for them. First, he again answers the objection to the gospel that most Jews have not believed with the fact that not all ethnic Jews or sons of Abraham were in the covenant. God has always worked through a chosen remnant. The Hebrew scriptures show that God is free to choose His people and show mercy to whomever He pleases. Keener sees Paul as using the Exodus story here as a paradigm of how God works in saving and preparing a people. God "raised up" pharaoh, an evil man, to show His power over evil to save the nation and even lead Egyptians to join with them. Paul's point is that what is happening in his time is consistent with the way God has worked in His people in the past.

Because Scripture often associated God’s righteousness with his covenant faithfulness to Israel, the failure of some Israelites to believe could appear to some as a sign of God’s unrighteousness (9:14, essentially repackaging the objection in 3:3, 5). But the very question is misplaced, Paul shows, for God is right to do as he pleases, and what he pleases will always be what is right. Humanity merits punishment, but God shows mercy and compassion where he wills (9:15), graciously saving some though he is obligated to save none (cf. 3:23). Romans 9.1-15, 118

Paul can infer that God cares about Gentiles as well as Jews (9:24). Just as the new exodus of salvation evokes the pattern of how God saved Israel in the first exodus, so is the pattern in this passage. In 9:22–23 the wrath against the Gentile Pharaoh prefigures the eschatological wrath (cf. 2:5; 5:9), but the mercy (evoking 9:16–18 and especially the text in 9:15) involves salvation, for both Gentiles and ultimately Israel (11:30–32; 15:9). Romans 9.16-30, 120–121

Paul continues his discussion of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the church in 9.30-11.36. First he deals with the issue of so few Jews receiving the message of Christ. He says that the reason so few Jews have followed Christ is the same as in the OT (and the same reason most people in general don't respond): they refuse to trust God for their righteousness and want to establish it on their own terms. This is why the true people of God have always been a "remnant." The problem is not with God because salvation has always been readily available to everyone by faith (chapter 10). In chapter 11 he responds to the idea that God has rejected the Jews. Paul's presence, along with a Jewish remnant, in the church is present proof that God has not rejected the Jews. Paul sees Jewish "disobedience" as temporary, which allows the gathering of the nations into God's family. He thinks that the massive influx of Gentiles in the church will "provoke the Jews to jealousy," and in the end, there will be a great Jewish movement to turn to Christ and God's plan will be complete. The big point is that Jew and Gentile should humbly serve together in the church and love one another because all of us are in God's family by God's grace. Nobody is righteous before God because of their ethnic origin or their own good deeds.  

Just as God prefaced the Ten Commandments with a reminder of redemption (Exod 20:2), so now salvation from sin was by grace through faith, expressed by right-doing. God’s way of saving through the newer historical salvation event in Christ is analogous to the way he saved through the law. Romans 9.30-10.10, 127

As Christ’s death produced reconciliation, so did Israel’s loss (5:10; 11:15). But just as Christ’s risen life will produce even greater benefits than his death (5:9; 8:32), so also Israel’s restoration will produce greater blessings than their failure (11:12). Romans 11.1-24, 133

Paul expects the obedience of a number of Gentiles from all nations to the God of Israel to provoke Israel to jealousy, hence to turn to Jesus, bringing about the promised restoration (11:11–15). This observation suggests Paul’s expectation of the second option: the completion of the Gentile mission in 11:25 would in turn lead to the Jewish people trusting in Christ, precipitating his return. Romans 11.25-36, 138

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Chart, Message and Outline of Malachi

Malachi Chart

Message of Malachi

Repent NOW from your spiritual apathy and show your commitment to God with your words and actions because the Messiah is coming soon to judge and bless.

Preaching/Theological Outline of Malachi

The message is URGENT because God’s soon arrival means judgment is coming soon.

  • The message is a “burden.” Something is wrong and needs to be fixed. 1:1
  • God will separate the wicked for judgment and the righteous for blessing when He comes. 4:1-4
    God’s messenger will give a final opportunity to repent before judgment. 4:5-6

LOVE: God reaches out to you in love so respond to His love. 1:2-5

  • Charge: God reached out in love to Israel with covenant and promises and they have not responded.
  • Proof: God chose them to be His special people and gave them a wonderful inheritance. 
  • God has given the church special blessing and privilege (Ephesians 1:3-5). Our response should be loving, passionate commitment.

HONOR: Give God the respect He deserves. 1:6-2:9

  • Charge: God is not getting the respect He deserves as Father and Master  1:6
  • Evidence:
    • Sloppy half-hearted worship; giving their “leftovers.”  1:7-10
    • They gave less than their best, as little as possible. Worship was a tiresome duty 11-12
    • The priests despised the privilege of service. 2:1-9
  • We need to serve God in a way fitting to His character and to the Kingdom privileges He gives us.

FAITHFULNESS: Keep covenant with God if you want to experience blessing. 2:10-16

  • Charge: Israel was treacherous and had broken the covenant. 2:10
  • Evidence:
    • Idolatry: Their idolatrous marriages were a compromise with sin.   11-12
      • Those who compromise with sin shouldn’t expect to experience God’s blessing 13
    • Divorce: Divorce is treachery against a spouse and against God who is the witness. 14
      • God views divorce as violence; It makes Him sick 15-16
  • Solution: Guard faithfulness in all your relationships. Keep your commitments.  16b

HOPE: Trust God for the future. His character guarantees His promises. 2:17-3:6

  • Charge: God is tired of people acting and talking like He doesn’t keep His promises. 2:17
  • Warning: God is coming to His temple to purge out sin completely. 3:1-6
    • God will send warnings but His coming will be sudden (Be ready!!)
    • The character of  “God with us” guarantees salvation but also guarantees purging of sin.  5-6

OBEDIENCE: Our obedient use of money is a good measure of our commitment. 3:7-12

  • Charge: The people have not turned to God and in fact, are robbing God. 7-8
  • Evidence: The people were not paying the tithe commanded in the Mosaic Covenant. 8
  • Solution: Bring the whole tithe. Complete obedience will yield complete blessing. 10-12
  • Application: Our use of money is a good measure of our commitment under the new covenant

REVERENCE: God wants heartfelt worship that leads to committed service. 3:13-18

  • Charge: Arrogance against God 13
  • Evidence: The way the people talk to each other.  14-15  They say....
    • “It is useless to serve God” - There are no absolutes.
    • “No reward for obedience” - Self centered
    • “arrogant blessed” - Wrong, present oriented, value system.
  • Solution: Encourage one another that God has a “book of remembrance” and He will never forget faithful sacrificial service. Christians should act in the now and be motivated by the future

Do your words and actions show that you are ready for Messiah to come suddenly?

Monday, May 07, 2018

Chart, Message and Outline of Zechariah

Zechariah Chart

Message of Zechariah

Repent and obey because God is working out His purpose now and in the future God’s King is coming to rule over His people

Outline of Zechariah

Learn from the past (Repent!). Previous judgment on the nation happened just like God said it would. 1:1-6

  • Repentance must come before experience of relationship with God 1:3
  • God is very serious about dealing with sin and evil in His people. The past proves it

Be confident. Obey God. Repent of sin. Do the work God has called you to do (rebuild the Temple) because God is in control, He judges and removes sin, He gives His people power and He is preparing Messiah to come to rule and provide for His people. (God is at work now.1.7-6.15

  • Angelic Patrol: God knows what is happening and will punish sin and bless faithfulness. 1:7-17
  • 4 Horns/Craftsmen:God raises and destroys nations to work out His plan for His people. 1:18-21
  • Measuring Line: Our present worship has eternal value because of God guarantees His purpose to live eternally with His people and bless them.  2:1-13
  • Cleaning of the High Priest: Messiah (Branch) is coming to bring peace and forgiveness. Obey now and you will rule with Him. 3:1-10
  • Lamp stand & Olive Trees: God’s anointed, empowered by God’s Spirit accomplish great things. 4
  • Flying Scroll: Repent, because persistent sin will be judged according to God’s covenant. 5:1-4
  • Woman in a Basket: God will remove evil from His people and send it away for judgment. 5:5-11
  • 4 Chariots: Powerful judgment is coming on the world. God’s wrath will be appeased. 6:1-8
  • Crowning of Joshua: Messiah is coming to finish the work and be our priest and king. 6:9-15

God expects character change & obedience now to prepare for the coming of His Kingdom 7-8

  • Rebuke: Hypocritical ritual is of no interest to God 7:1-7
  • Reminder: True worship is expressed in justice, mercy and compassion to others 7:8-14
  • Restoration: The faithful few can expect full restoration of every promised blessing 8:1-17
  • Return: We sacrifice (fast) now so we will feast when the LORD returns 8:18-23

God is coming to His people. He will be rejected by them leading to great hardship and destruction. Later His people will welcome Him, repent and be saved even though every nation will be against them. 9-14

  • God is coming to shepherd His people. All who reject the true shepherd will be slaughtered 9-11
    • The king will come with judgment and salvation and in humility and power. 9:1-10
    • God will come offering blessing, deliverance, victory, compassion and regathering. 9:11-10:12
    • Most of the nation will reject the true shepherd and follow a false shepherd. 11:1-17
  • The nation will repent of their earlier rejection of God's Messiah and He will save them from the nations gathered against them, He will make them holy and rule over them as king. 12-14
    • An attack by all nations against Jerusalem will signal the end of the old age and beginning of the new. 12:1-9
    • Israel will repent, receive the Spirit and be saved. 12:10-13
    • Israel will be cleansed and made holy by their wounded shepherd. 13:1-9
    • The final battle of the Day of the LORD battle and its results are described 14:1-21
      • God will gather all nations to Jerusalem for a final battle 1-2
      • The battle will end when Messiah touches down on the Mount of Olives (3-6) and destroys His enemies  (12-15)
      • The Messiah will rule over a blessed, fertile, secure kingdom 9-11
      • God’s people will celebrate and worship. 16-19
      • Even the most common parts of life will be holy to the LORD. (Everything will be “Holy of Holies” 20-21

Reading Through the Letter to the Romans #2 (5.12-8.39)

Romans KeenerThis post continues my reading through Paul’s letter to the Romans accompanied by Romans, New Covenant Commentary Series, by Craig S. Keener. In this section Paul focuses on the supernatural nature of the Christian life. The believer is joined to God and enabled to live out God’s righteousness by the Spirit. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

In 5.12 Paul transitions from talking about entrance into the family of God and into righteousness, to how a righteous life is lived within the family of God. This new life of righteousness is a gift from God, based on Jesus' righteous life and death and confirmed through his resurrection. It is bestowed on the believer through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Thus, the believer no longer is a slave to sin, but to righteousness, and is enabled from within to choose to serve God and practice righteousness. Believers must recognize (reckon) and live within this new identity in Christ. The believer is now obligated to Christ rather than the law. Rather than being controlled from the outside by the law, which was insufficient to produce God's righteousness, we are now transformed from within by the Spirit. Thus, as the believer trusts in what Christ has done and yields to the Spirit and is connected to the whole body of Christ, God's righteousness is produced.

Paul elsewhere defines Jesus’s obedience in terms of humbling himself to the point of shameful execution on a cross, perhaps in contrast to Adam seeking divinity. Adam, by seeking greater life, brought death, whereas Jesus by dying brought life. Just as Adam introduced sin, Jesus now introduces true righteousness (5:19) that stems from solidarity with his obedience. Paul’s understanding is not that Jesus merely reverses Adam’s punishment (although his accomplishment includes that), but that Jesus came to form a new basis for humanity, enabling people to serve God fully from the heart. Romans 5.12-21, 77

For Paul identity is determined by being in Christ, but the believer must still choose to believe the eschatological reality sufficiently to live accordingly. Through faith one receives a new identity, and through faith one must also continue to embrace and live in that new identity, so that obedient works become expressions of living faith. Romans 6, 82

For Paul, the law is good (7:12, 14); the problem is not the law but flesh, which law was designed to control, not transform (8:3). Nevertheless, the regulations of the law pointed God’s people to his righteousness. When approached the right way, as God’s message and witness rather than a standard to achieve, the law supported the truth of the gospel (3:31; 10:6–8). Thus the law must be approached by faith rather than works. Its content must be inscribed on the heart by the Spirit rather than depending on efforts of the flesh (8:2–4). Romans 7, 88

Paul sums up his argument by contrasting the life lived by the external motivation of the law with the internal transformation of the life lived by reliance on the indwelling Spirit. The life that can live out the revelation of God's character in the Torah is a supernatural life produced by the indwelling Spirit, who connects the believer relationally to the Trinity, enables the believer to be involved in God's mission and goals, and works in the believer, through the external circumstances (especially suffering), to prepare believers for glory. The Spirit, who has intimate knowledge of God's will, prays for and with the believer to accomplish God's purpose. Therefore, the believer can be confident that nothing in all creation can stop the accomplishment of God's plan for the renewal of creation and completion of God's glorious image in humanity.

Western Christendom today has imbibed the radical Enlightenment’s skepticism of the supernatural, suspicious of miracles and other divine interventions. For Paul, however, the genuine Christian life is “supernatural” (i.e., divinely empowered) from start to finish, a life by God’s own Spirit. Apart from acknowledging and embracing the Spirit, the best imitations of Pauline religion are just “flesh.”  Romans 8.1-12, 104

Whatever the other benefits of the Spirit’s intercession (8:26–27), the Spirit works within believers during their sufferings to prepare them for conformity with the image of the crucified and resurrected Christ (8:28–29), i.e., to share his glory (8:30)...Believers never have to worry about the efficacy of this intercession, because it is born from God’s own presence within them (8:27), working to bring about his purpose (8:28). Romans 8.13-30, 107–108

Paul in 8:37 declares that believers “prevail completely” (BDAG ὑπερνικάω), experiencing utter victory. This is because even the harshest circumstances cannot dislodge believers from God’s love and the incomparably greater hope of glory that awaits them (8:18; hope made firm through affliction, 5:3–4). They are special to God; he is with them and has a purpose for them, working even their sufferings for eternal glory (8:28). Romans 8.31-39, 112

Friday, May 04, 2018

Chart, Message and Outline of Haggai

Haggai Chart

Message of Haggai

If you make your relationship with God, commitment to God’s work, and pursuit of God's Holiness, your highest priority, God will come to you, encourage you, fill your work with glory, and give you blessing.

Theological Outline of Haggai

Renew your commitment to God and to His work.   (Rebuild the Temple!) 1:1-15

  • The people’s problem was that they valued their own interests above God’s. 1:2-3, 9b
    • Your actions and the way you spend your time show what you really love.
  • God disciplined them by removing what was coming between them and God (prosperity) 6a, 9-11
  • We need to constantly evaluate our lives and actions to see if they are pleasing God. 1:5,7
    • “Set your heart” Give careful consideration to your priorities and actions.
    • You should do everything you do to please and honor God.  7
  • God desires complete and active obedience.  12, 14-15
    • Basis: They feared God. They had respect and honor for God and His Word.
    • They heard the Word, respected and then acted quickly and actively. James 1:22-25
  • God responded to their commitment by coming to them and stirring them up for action 14 
  • We are God’s temple. We rebuild the temple today when we renew commitment to worship and serve God. We need to build our own relationship with God and help others to build their own relationships with God.

Renew your courage by focusing on God’s promises, not present circumstances. 2:1-9

  • The people are disappointed and discouraged as they look at themselves and what they have done. 3
    • “Remnant” They are an insignificant people under the thumb of the mighty Persian empire.  2
    • The temple they have built is small and ugly compared to Solomon’s.
  • We become courageous when we honestly face our problems, but draw our strength from God. 4-9
    • God’s presence with us guarantees our success and blessing. 4
    • God’s promises and Spirit guarantee deliverance and salvation. 5
    • God is going to judge and destroy the powers and problems we fear. 6
  • God’s presence in our lives fills our insignificant works with power, meaning and glory.
    • Their insignificant temple would be the one that Messiah was to enter and minister in.
    • God evaluates our works on a different standard (Faithfulness, not results) 8
    • The purpose of everything we have is that it be used to bring glory to God. 8
    • God gives seemingly insignificant acts eternal glory and significance.
  • Courage comes from knowing God and gaining the Divine perspective.

Renew your cleanliness. Service must come from clean heart.  2:10-19

  • Holy work does not make an unclean person clean.  12
  • An unclean person makes a holy work unclean. 13
  • God does not accept work or sacrifice that comes from impure people.  14
  • Solution:  Holiness only can be gained from relationship with God. 15-19
    • He brings discipline to alert us to sin in our lives. 15-17
    • God offers forgiveness and blessing when we commit to relationship with Him.
  • Our holiness never comes from a person or act. It can only be given by God.

Renew your Confidence. God is in control of the future.  2:20-23

  • God is in control of nature and will use it for His purposes. 21
  • God is in control of nations and will use them to bring about his purposes. 22
  • When we become “God’s servant” the power of God is behind us. 23
    • Zerubbabel will be the signet ring. He was a Son of David and God will fulfil all his promises to David through Zerubbabel, overcome the curse (Jeremiah 22:24-25) and rule together forever.
    • Imagine what you could do as a “ring on God’s hand.”

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Reading Through the Letter to the Romans #1 (1.1-5.11)

Romans KeenerThis post begins my reading through Paul’s letter to the Romans accompanied by Romans, New Covenant Commentary Series, by Craig S. Keener. In Romans Paul focuses on God’s righteousness as it is seen in the gospel which includes Jews and Gentiles in the family of God, by grace through faith without partiality. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

The introduction to Romans follows the pattern of ancient letters. In it Paul greets the Roman church and talks about his plans. This makes us aware that even Romans needs to be understood in its immediate cultural context and is dealing with issues faced by people in a certain time and place as we gain the timeless and authoritative principles it teaches. Keener sees several ways of stating the main theme- gospel, God's righteousness, the "obedience of faith" - all of which point to the same idea. Paul is sharing the good news that the righteousness of God is available to all from Christ, as a gift which is received through faith (trust, "dependence," and "loyalty") in Christ. This restores and transforms believers into what God created him/her to be: the image of God and incorporates them into the worldwide kingdom of God.

In Romans, righteousness is a transforming gift. It is a divine gift rather than human achievement (Rom 5:17, 21), but God’s gift also enables obedience (cf. 1:5; 2:8; 5:19; 15:18), i.e., right living (6:16–18; 8:2–4; 13:14). In theological terms, justification is inseparable from regeneration. 29

The first part of the book argues that all people, Jew and Gentile, are equal before God and come into God's kingdom in the same way - faith in Christ. The Gentile should have been able to see God in creation, but instead remade God in the image of creation and debased themselves with the natural results of their worship. You become like what you worship. The Jew had the law and should have known better, but failed to live as God instructed. They would be judged by a higher standard based on superior knowledge. What God wants is heartfelt devotion to His covenant, relationship with God based on trust. Without that all outward religious observance is hypocritical. Thus, everyone enters into God's kingdom in the same way, through faith, and all are in equal in their need for grace and faith and in their status within God's people. 

Humanity “knew” God, but because they refused to “glorify” him (1:21), they ended up exchanging his “glory” and image for that of mortal, earthly creations (1:23). They were God’s image (Gen 1:26–27), but by corrupting God’s image in worshiping things other than God they gave up and lost his glory (cf. Rom 3:23). God punished their failure to act according to the truth by delivering them to their moral insanity (1:21–22). Romans 1.18-32, 34

While Paul is focusing on God’s ethnic impartiality rather than on believers here, when he later addresses such issues he seems to assume that it is believers in Jesus who are able to fulfill the role of the righteous. Christ comes not merely to forgive unrighteousness but to empower for righteous living. Romans 2, 45

Presumably by twisting Paul’s argument about justification by faith, some had insisted that Paul essentially taught that one may as well sin—a perversion of the doctrine also popular today. This conception entirely misses Paul’s point, as his letter will go on to make clear: one truly “righteoused” by faith is not only put in right relationship with God, but now has new power to live righteously (by faith that God has made them share Christ’s victory over sin. Romans 3.1-8, 53

Paul reveals the solution to the universal problem of sin and death in 3.21-5.11. God's grace has provided Jesus as a "mercy seat" (the place where the blood was spread on the day of atonement to atone for sin and to provide access to and relationship with God and inclusion in his covenant for the nation each year) which provided access to God and the blessings of the new covenant to both Jew and Gentile. This was available to all who would place their "loyal, obedient faith" in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. Paul provides scriptural backing for this with the examples of Abraham and David in chapter 4. Neither received righteousness or forgiveness based on the law. Instead God accounted their trust in God and his promises as righteousness, despite their weaknesses and subsequent sins. The result of this is full reconciliation with God now and the gift of the Holy Spirit who provides growth in righteousness and makes sure the hope of life in God's eternal kingdom (5.1-11). Hope is sure because sin has been paid for and the growth in righteousness depends on God. Assurance comes as we trust God and see His work in us as we patiently endure the troubles of this life.

Believers are set right and made righteous as a gift by grace. For an ancient audience, the mention of either “gift” or “grace” (favor or generosity) would imply benefaction; their coupling here underlines the emphasis on the divine initiative on which believers can depend. The content of the benefaction involves “redemption,” a term denoting the liberation of slaves, as in the exodus. This experience of redemption is completed in the future, but here involves what Christ has already done, filled out in the freedom from slavery image of 6:6–23. Romans 3.21-31, 58–59

Abram’s faith is much greater years later when he offers up Isaac apparently without question (22:2–3), but this initial, somewhat rudimentary faith is sufficient to be reckoned righteous, analogous to even those initially entering the Christian faith...God was not paying Abraham his due for righteous deeds, but “reckoning” his faith as if it were righteousness (4:4–5). Romans 4, 64

In 5:11 Paul may summarize his point in this paragraph: believers can boast in God because Jesus’s death has reconciled us to him. We also boast in God alone because proven character and hope come by God’s Spirit in our hearts rather than our own work (5:2–5). “Through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:1, 11) frames the paragraph. Romans 5.1-11, 73

Scholarship Award Dinner: “Proud Parent Moment”

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20180502_180118 (768x1024)Joyce and I had a very enjoyable evening last night celebrating with our daughter Missy. Missy was awarded the El Dorado Center Patrons Club Scholarship at an award dinner at Folsom Lake College. She is back in school working on her degree in psychology. It was a special night for us. We have been to many scholarship dinners on Guam for our PIU students and it was very special to us to celebrate with them. But this was the first time we were able to participate in one of these with our daughter. We are very proud of how hard she has worked to get 20180502_180048 (2)herself back in school, apply for scholarships and maintain an “A” average in her classes; and doing all this while working a part-time job and being a full time mom. It was also fun to be hanging out in an educational environment again. We had a chance to talk with the president of her college, some of her teachers and directors of the scholarship foundations. It was great to be out and a good night for all of us.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Chart, Message and Outline of Zephaniah

Zephaniah Structure

Message of Zephaniah

A great and terrible Day of the Lord is coming soon in which all nations will be judged. Turn away from sin and seek the Lord now so you will receive grace, protection and peace instead of destruction.

The Day of the LORD is coming soon! Are you ready?

Outline of Zephaniah

Repent now because total and terrible judgment is coming soon.  1:1-2:3

  • Judgment will be complete and will totally wipe out all creation. 1:1-3
  • Judgment will divide between God’s true people and those who only call themselves God’s people.
    • God’s true people (invited to the banquet) are the silent and consecrated.  7
      • Silent: They have recognized God’s authority and submitted to Him.
      • Consecrated: They have trusted in God’s mercy, asked for forgiveness and are made holy.
  • False believers (the sacrifice) have no heart relationship with God. 6b, 4-13
    • Rebels. They reject God and worship someone else. Idolatry  4
    • Compromisers. They try to worship the true God and other gods at the same time. 5, 9
    • Defectors: They give up following God when it gets hard or too demanding. 6
    • Worldly: They choose money and power over God.  8, 10-11.
    • Indifferent: They do not take into account the spiritual. 12-13
  • The judgment will be a terrible military conflict which is coming soon and unexpectedly. 14-18
    • Usually God’s judgment is a removal of his protection so that the full consequences of sin are experienced.
  • Repent now because total and terrible judgment is coming soon.  1:1-2:3
    • We need to gather as a group (church, nation) to repent. 1-2
    • We need to personally seek relationship with the LORD.  3
      • Humility: You must recognize your own inability and need to trust God.
      • Obedience: Submit to God’s plan for your life and prove it by your actions.
      • Righteousness: Recognize that God’s standards are right and commit to them.

Small days of the LORD warn of the danger of rebellion & hypocrisy 2:4-3:7

  • God’s judgment on Philistia, Moab, Ethiopia and Assyria totally destroyed them and they disappeared from the face of the earth.  2:4-15
  • Judgment of the world should promote self-examination, not smugness, in God’s people. 3:1-7
    • Those nations surrounded Judah. The main judgment will hit God’s sinning people. 3:1
      • God’s presence in a place means a higher standard of judgment for that place 5
      • We are responsible to draw near to God when He gives an opportunity. 3:2

Be ready for the Day of the LORD so that God will relate to you with gracious blessing instead of judgment. 3:8-20

  • Be ready because the Day of the LORD is coming.
    • Wait: Have a trusting, patient, hopeful attitude as you faithfully do what God has called you to do right now. 3:8a
  • If you are not ready God will deal with you in judgment. 3:8b, 10-11
    • No one will get away with sin. It will all be punished. 8b
    • The proud, the greedy and the self-sufficient will be wiped out. 11
  • It is much better to receive grace and  have God relate to you based on blessing. .
    • He removes sin, guilt, fear, punishment from those who humbly trust and seek Him. 12-15
    • He brings people together in fellowship. Babel is reversed in Christ. 9
    • He gives people the ability to serve and worship Him.  10
    • God your Savior is happy to have a loving, protecting relationship with you. 17-20
    • Relationship with God should be full of joy and fulfillment not a drudgery. If it is a drudgery, something is wrong!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Chart, Message and Outline of Micah

Micah Chart

Message of Micah

God's righteous character requires that His forgiven people should live out his character with the power and help of his Messiah.
God giving us His righteousness obligates us to live righteously.

Theological Outline of Micah

Covenant relationship by faith should produce social and personal righteousness.

  • Old Testament believers entered into relationship with God (Covenant) by humble response to God's mercy, trust in His promise and acceptance of His gift of forgiveness. 7:17-20
  • Works are the evidence and result of covenant relationship (true saving faith).   6:6
    • "What is good" - The things that benefit us and others in our relationship with God.
    • "Act Justly" - Be fair in our dealings with others; live out the "Golden Rule"
    • "Love Mercy" - Carry through on commitments to God and to meeting the needs of others.
    • "Walk humbly"- Modest, grateful, fellowship with God. Living by the power of the Spirit.
  • Ceremonial or traditional religion is not sufficient. 6:6-7
    • Worship is important, but without inner life change and commitment, it is meaningless.
  • God will not protect and bless those that are unfaithful. They will be disciplined. 2:9-12
    • Those whose worship does not result in practical righteousness will be disciplined 6:9-16
    • Leaders of God's people will be judged more severely. 2-3

The standard by which covenant loyalty was judged in Micah’s day was God's character as revealed in the Law

  • The basis for Israel's relationship with God was the Mosaic Covenant
  • The basis for God's response to Israel was the blessings and curses of Deuteronomy 28      6:14
  • God uses the prophetic covenant lawsuit (6-7) to condemn Israel.
    • God brings a charge against his people which questions their motives and actions   6:1-3
    • He charges His people by contrasting His character to theirs   6:4-8
    • The people are guilty and the sentence of destruction is pronounced   6:9-16
    • The only hope is repentance and throwing oneself on God's compassion and mercy
  • A “lawsuit” against the church would be judged by the New Covenant
    • Kingdom entrance is determined by the presence of Christ indwelling the believer and the acceptance of Christ's payment for sin
    • The believer's works will be judged on how the character and works of Christ were lived out in the power of the Spirit. 1 Cor. 3:10-17, 2 Cor. 5:10

The motivation to repent and return to God and His standards is the blessings of Messiah and His Kingdom   4-5

  • Eternal God has intervened in history to defeat evil and its effects so we can live as God wants us to     5:2-4
    • Those that oppose God's plan will glorify God in their judgment and their ill-gotten wealth will ultimately be used for His kingdom  4:11-13
  • Messiah is seen as coming as a military leader 2:13, teacher and judge 4:2-3, Ruler 5:2, Shepherd 5:4, 7:15, Peace-Maker  5:5, Redeemer 5:6, 7:18-19, Avenger 5:10-15
  • The kingdom will bring both judgment and blessing for nations and individuals
    • To reject the merciful offer of God results in destruction
    • The remnant who throw themselves on God's mercy will be forgiven and enjoy the blessings of God's eternal promises
  • You cannot meet God's character standards without the help and leading of the Messiah

Friday, April 27, 2018

Short Medical Update: The “Thank You” Post

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Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song. Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful. Psalm 149:1 NLT

I have been praying the psalm above quite often in my personal prayer times lately. Like the psalmists of old I have been promising God that when he delivers me, I will give him public praise “in the assembly of the faithful.” So to all that assembly on line (I’ll do it in person if I see you!) here goes my report on the new thing God has done for me.

20180424_130303 (1024x768)Joyce and I headed to back to Stanford for my PET scan on Tuesday (that’s my lovely chauffeur on the left). We got caught in a traffic jam on the way in and almost did not make it on time to the appointment. Traffic was better on the way out (above). The scan went well and we drove home to wait for the results on Thursday. We drove back to Stanford on Thursday for a blood test and to hear the scan results. I was pretty nervous, but through the past month of waiting we had a real experience of God’s peace. After the nurse went though the preliminaries, the doctor came in and delivered the verdict. My scan was “good,” which meant20180426_140941 (1024x768) that the spots had receded which would indicate that the lymphoma was gone.  The spots indicate some kind of inflammation which the doctor would like to keep an eye on. This means I will get the normal 6 month follow up scan in 3 months, in July instead of November.  There is a lot of follow up to this treatment, but it seems that we have come through the crisis. Our verbal response in the doctor’s office was “thank you doctor” and “thank you God.” God led us through this process and kept His promises to “be with us” and we are thankful.

In this process I am also thankful for ….

  1. The long series of “coincidences” that put me in the best place to receive treatment, in the perfect timing, exactly as I needed it. If any one of them had not happened I would not be here to write this.
  2. Everyone who contributed to the expenses of our travel, medical care, and other ongoing needs. This was truly generous and showed God’s mercy to us.
  3. All our mission partners who continued supporting what we are doing, although we have been unable to work for 16 months now.
  4. God’s people at Gold Country Baptist Church who have provided housing and other physical needs for us.
  5. People all over the world who have been praying for us, encouraging us, messaging us, coming by the house to visit and ministering to us in various ways. You don’t know how many times you have been a profound encouragement to Joyce and me.
  6. Our merciful God. The traditional prayer for healing ends with “Lord have mercy.” God has truly been merciful to us and we are blessed in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

We would appreciate your continued prayers for us as continue through the follow up treatments and the physical therapy for the lymphedema. Our plan-making is still tentative but we are looking more seriously at what the next step God has for us might be. So we ask for God’s direction there. Thank you for your prayers and friendship!

Blessings, Dave and Joyce

Praise the LORD!

Sing to the LORD a new song.

Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful.

2O Israel, rejoice in your Maker.

O people of Jerusalem,a exult in your King.

3Praise his name with dancing,

accompanied by tambourine and harp.

4For the LORD delights in his people;

he crowns the humble with victory.

5Let the faithful rejoice that he honors them.

Let them sing for joy as they lie on their beds.

Reading Through the Acts of the Apostles #8 (21.17-28.31)

Larkin ActsThis post concludes my reading through the book of Acts accompanied by Acts, vol. 5, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by William J. Larkin Jr.. 21.17-28.31 record Paul’s return to Jerusalem and the persecution (assassination plot) he received there. Luke focuses in on Paul’s speeches before the Sanhedrin and Roman governors to show that faith in Christ was the logical conclusion to the hope of the Hebrew scriptures and that Christianity was legal and should be protected in the Roman Empire. He also portrays Paul as being successful, despite opposition, in accomplishing the task Jesus had given him.   I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

21.17 records Paul's arrival in Jerusalem and begins the last major section of Acts. This last section provides a parallel to the passion account in the Gospels. When Paul arrives in Jerusalem he is warmly greeted by the leadership, including James, and gives a report of the Lord's work among the Gentiles which is received with praise. To head off Jewish objections and quell rumors, James asks Paul to participate in a temple ritual. When Paul does so it precipitates a riot in Jerusalem because Paul is falsely accused of bringing Gentiles into the temple. Paul is saved from death when arrested by Roman soldiers. He then has an opportunity to defend his actions to the crowd. His main point is that Jewish piety is compatible with devotion and service to Jesus and his mission to the Gentiles. When Paul recounts his vision of Jesus commissioning him to take the gospel to the Gentiles the crowd riots and the Roman soldiers need to bring Paul into the barracks to preserve his life.

There is a large measure of freedom, but that freedom is to be used to promote (1) the advance of the gospel and (2) the unity of an ethnically diverse church. So long as our conscience is not bound by non-Christian traditions and practices and the Christian gospel is not syncretized with the thought behind non-Christian practice, our pre-Christian religious past, properly cleansed, may move into a transformed spiritual future. Acts 21.17-36

Jesus of Nazareth, in his resurrection power, is the key for distinguishing between proper and misguided zeal for God. And it is the same today for Jew and Gentile alike. Jesus is the litmus test. Any zeal for God that turns a person against the followers of Jesus is misguided. Acts 22.1-21

The tribune then interviews Paul and decides to interrogate him with torture. Paul asserts his rights as a Roman citizen and avoids torture and instead is just questioned and protected. The tribune decides to hold a trial before the Sanhedrin to determine charges. When Paul give his testimony and again asserts that what he believes is compatible with the Hebrew scriptures the high priest orders him to be slapped on the mouth and the court becomes disorderly. when Paul shouts that he is on trial for the "hope of the resurrection of the dead," the court divides along party lines, a riot breaks out, and the Roman soldiers again must save Paul. The Jews form an assassination plot, which gets back to Paul, who informs the tribune, so the tribune decides to send Paul to Caesarea to be tried there accompanied by a large armed guard. Through several “coincidences” God works to save Paul, bring him to Caesarea and then on to Rome, to keep the promise he made that Paul would testify before rulers in Rome.

Paul’s confession focuses on that aspect of the gospel that will be central to his apologetic throughout his trial witness (24:15; 26:6–8; compare 28:20). It tells the truth about the ultimate reason for his arrest by the Jews. For Paul and Luke, resurrection, especially the resurrection of Messiah Jesus, is the key issue that determines the nature of the continuity and discontinuity between Jews and Christians as part of the true people of God. Acts 22.22-23.10

The might of Rome’s legions willingly deployed to protect one witness to the Lord Jesus is silent but powerful testimony to who is really Lord in that world and in ours. Acts 23.11-35

In Caesarea Paul is given the opportunity to testify before governor Felix. The Jewish leadership accuses Paul of insurrection, "disruptive heresy," and defiling the temple. Paul responds that he did not have time to foment rebellion in Jerusalem and that there is no proof of any of their accusations. He then uses the opportunity to explain the gospel of resurrection, God's goodness and the judgment to come. Paul's point is again that "the Way" is the fulfillment of scripture and not illegal by Roman law. Felix, hoping for a bribe from Paul, delays judgment on the case.

Paul’s introduction models the bold, yet respectful, demeanor that Peter counsels us all to adopt when we stand before civil authorities and are required to “give the reason for the hope” that is within us (1 Pet 3:15–16). Acts 24.1-9

For Jewish seekers and believers in any age, Paul’s confession gives an encouragement that Christianity is, in the end, not a betrayal but the fulfillment of the Old Testament faith. The challenge is that this fulfillment will radically transform the Jewishness of those who step onto the “Way” inaugurated by Messiah Jesus. Acts 24.10-27

Chapters 25-26 record Paul's defense before Festus and Agrippa. The Jewish leadership had requested a change of jurisdiction back to Jerusalem (with a plan to ambush Paul on the way there) and Festus had planned to grant it as a "favor" to them. Paul understood what was happening and used his right to appeal to Caesar and this was granted by Festus. When Agrippa II visits, Festus uses the opportunity to get help in writing an explanation of the situation for Caesar. In Paul's longest recorded defense he emphasizes his past life as an enemy of Christians and his changed life as a result of meeting the resurrected Christ. The chief persecutor of the church had become one of its most faithful witnesses. Paul emphasizes that at the center of his conversion was the reality of Jesus' resurrection. It is very important to Luke to emphasize the Festus' and Agrippa's private conclusion that Paul was innocent of the charges. Nevertheless, because he had appealed to Rome the full resources of Rome would be available for Paul to finish the mission to which he had been called; to bring the gospel before the rulers in Rome.

Luke capsulizes his conviction about first-century Christianity’s two defining relationships. As to Judaism, it has not betrayed its religious roots. It stands in direct continuity with the Old Testament faith in its ethics and worship. The Jews can find no apostasy here. As to the state, Christianity is no revolutionary disrupter of the civil order, though in its own way it will produce a radical transformation of society, one heart at a time. Acts 25.1-22

When persecutors use the state to further their ends and the result is a failure in the administration of justice, Christians must live in such integrity that even then their innocence before the laws of the state will be apparent to all. Acts 25:23-26:8

The point is clear. Without the resurrection of Christ, the defining moment in human history, there is no future hope for anyone. But when we let Christ’s resurrection be our defining moment, the lights come on for our past, present and future. Acts 26.9-32

Chapters 27-28 conclude the book of Acts. 27 records the disastrous sea voyage to Rome. It takes place, probably, in October, a time of potentially very dangerous weather and Paul warns the captain that disaster is coming. Despite the warning, they set out and encounter a violent storm that requires all the expertise of the sailors just to stay alive. When they get to the point of despair, Paul receives a message from God that they will all get through the experience alive. The soldiers decide to rely on Paul's revelation rather than the sailors' expertise and all the people on the boat are saved. On the island of Malta (28) the gospel is introduced with two powerful signs: Paul is bitten by a poisonous snake with no ill effect and he heals the governor's father and many others. This provided a very receptive environment for Paul to preach the gospel. The rest of chapter 28 relates Paul's arrival and stay in Rome. Luke portrays the event as a triumphal procession. God keeps his promise and Paul will preach in Rome. He begins with a defense of his ministry to the Jewish leadership and then spends two years as a prisoner, under house arrest, preaching and teaching Jew and Gentile, whoever will come to him. The gospel cannot be stopped by natural disasters, persecution or even imprisonment by the greatest world power of that time. It will go out to all the world and bring the blessings of God's kingdom to all nations. Like Paul, we must be faithful to do our part.

The comforting prophetic word had been fulfilled to the last letter (27:22, 34). The strongest of natural forces threatening Paul’s existence had been unable to thwart God’s providential purposes for him. Solidarity with Paul meant physical life. Acts 27

The islanders’ about-face shows the power of a worldview for interpreting experience—and how a non-Christian worldview often won’t “get it right.” Those who have a non-Christian worldview and observe a “witness in sign” are likely to misconstrue what is happening unless an interpretation, a “witness in word,” is Luke calls the “signs and wonders” movement to reckon with this ambiguity and aim to make the Spirit-empowered, Spirit-illuminating proclamation of the gospel message central to any “power encounter.Acts 28.1-10

More that just a shorthand way of referring to the gospel message (1:3; 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 28:31), the kingdom of God was the eschatological highway into the heart of the pious Jew (Lk 13:28, 29; 14:15; 19:11; 23:42, 51; Acts 1:6). And the good news was that God’s reign was in their midst in the victorious life, death and resurrection-exaltation of Messiah Jesus and his salvation blessings. Acts 28.11-31

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Chart, Message and Outline of Jonah

Jonah Chart

Message of Jonah

God is a compassionate God who desires all the world to come to Him. He shows compassion to His people so that they can take His compassion to the world. If God is compassionate to save us we must be compassionate to the world by taking the message of salvation to them.

  1. God is a sovereign and compassionate God who does great things to help his people serve Him and draw the world to Him.‏
    1. God is a great God who does great things to show His compassion for people.
      1. The word "great" is used 14 times in the book to describe Nineveh, Nineveh's response, God's means of compassion (wind, storm and fish), Jonah's anger and Jonah's joy
      2. God overcomes great obstacles with great provision to provide great repentance and joy
    2. God is in control and proceeding in His plan to reach the world
      1. God was in control of the storm, the lot, the fish, the vine, the worm, the heat and the city
    3. The goal of God's sovereign power is the reclamation of sinful people
      1. God moves the sea and everything in it to discipline Jonah
      2. God provides the pagan sailors with evidence that He is the One they should worship
      3. God uses the fish to save Jonah so he could preach to Nineveh
      4. God uses the vine and worm to provide an illustration to explain compassion to Jonah
      5. All of the events lend credibility to Jonah and his message leading to Nineveh's repentance
  2. The essence of God's character in his relation to humanity is His GRACE  4:2
    1. Gracious: God wants to give us what we do not deserve; relationship with Him
    2. Compassion: God cares very deeply for all people. He desires us strongly
    3. Slow To Anger: God does not overlook sin, but He is patient and gives people plenty of opportunity to repent
    4. Abounding In Love: There is no limit to God's love for His people. Love is what He is. It is part of his unchangeable character
    5. Relenting From Calamity: God does not desire to punish anyone. It hurts God to punish people.
  3. Jonah is typical of the believer who is willing to apply God's mercy to himself (because he thinks he deserves it) but not to anyone else.
    1. Jonah felt that he deserved mercy, but the Ninevites did not
      1. His prayer assumes that God will forgive him. He does not ask. He just thanks God
      2. Jonah refused to go to Nineveh because he did not want the Assyrians to be saved    4:2
    2. Jonah was more concerned about his own comfort than the need for the world's salvation
      1. His own difficulty immediately drove him to prayer but he never prays for the Ninevites
      2. Jonah cares more about his shade and cool comfort than the darkness of the Ninevites
      3. Jonah's anger was selfish. God was angry at the pain and ignorance of hurting people. We need to get angry at the things that make God angry and care about the things God cares about
    3. Jonah had an attitude of racial and spiritual superiority 1:9
      1. Jonah thought that Israel had been chosen because they were better instead of God’s mercy
      2. Jonah applied a tough standard of judgment to everyone except himself.
  4. The believer who has received and experienced God's mercy and love is obligated to show God's mercy and love to others
    1. The Abrahamic principle is "I Will Bless You, so Be a Blessing"
    2. God saves us so we can serve Him.
    3. We are obligated to forgive others just as much as God has forgiven us. Lack of forgiveness is an indication that you have not received God's love and forgiveness

An experience with the heart of God obliges us to show His heart to the world

Monday, April 23, 2018

Reading Through the Acts of the Apostles #7 (18.23-21.16)

Larkin ActsThis post continues my reading through the book of Acts accompanied by Acts, vol. 5, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by William J. Larkin Jr..18.23-21.16 record Paul’s 3rd missionary journey. Most of this journey is spent in the strategic city of Ephesus and also includes Paul’s follow-up on the work of previous missionary journeys. Paul did not seem to draw a great distinction in his work between preaching and teaching or evangelism and discipleship. Each of these were always part of what he was doing wherever he was.   I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Luke recounts Paul's 3rd missionary journey in 18.23-21.16. Though the journey begins with Paul revisiting the churches planted previously, this journey focuses on Paul's work in Ephesus. Paul's work includes bold preaching, extended times of teaching (2 years in Ephesus), powerful miracles that confronted occultic Gentile magic and syncretistic Jewish magic, and, as always steadfastness in the face of persecution and suffering. Paul's work produced a powerful response, positively, of repentance and changed lives and, negatively, of public resistance and opposition. We see Paul work through all of these as he listens to the Spirit and moves forward in his vision to take the gospel to Rome.

Today the temptation is still present to syncretize a newfound faith with pre-Christian ways of using “power” to cope with life. Whether it be worship and manipulation of the new power levers of secularization—money, education, science, technology—or the traditional practices of occult magic in their time-honored or New Age form, those who live under Jesus’ lordship must sooner or later come to terms with any compromise in these matters and follow the Ephesian Christians’ example of making a clean break with their “power” past. Acts 18.23-19.22

Demetrius’s appeal to economic, patriotic and religious motives for a defense of paganism against the gospel shows how interrelated are these cultural aspects. Any Christianity worth its salt will be a challenge to the pocketbook, the flag and the shrine. Acts 19.23-41

What principles for Christian worship is Luke teaching us through this narrative? The first day of the week, the Lord’s Day, is when Christians should consistently gather for worship. The sermon, the exposition and application of the Word of God, is an integral part of worship. The Lord’s Supper, the “visible Word,” is just as important as a means of spiritually strengthening the church gathered. Acts 20.1-12

The 3rd missionary journey ends with Paul's calling to return to Jerusalem. On the way he stops at Ephesus to give one last charge to the leaders of that church. Paul urges them to follow the model he gave them of self-sacrificing, spirit-led and empowered, relational ministry. He warned them to guard their congregations from those who would use ministry personal gain or bring in false doctrines of legalism and syncretism. On the way to Jerusalem Paul also meets and fellowships with groups of believers in Caesarea and Tyre. Everywhere he goes he is warned of severe persecution coming in Jerusalem, but stays true to his calling to go there. Paul provides an excellent example of the commitment, humility and willingness to endure required of anyone who would be a minister of the gospel.

For Luke, orthopraxy—in this case the messenger’s character and manner of ministry—is just as important as orthodoxy, the message. One effectively says goodby by reminding those left behind of a model life lived before them. Acts 20.18-38

The fellowship Paul enjoys at many stops on his journey illustrates Barclay’s maxim “The man who is in the family of the Church has friends all over the world.” For Paul “the church has become a countercultural, global network of communities caring for their own subversive missionaries who are now traveling to and fro throughout the Empire.” Acts 21.1-16